Sri Lanka isn’t usually a destination high on people’s bucket lists. But with it’s magnificent landscapes, elegant wildlife and heavenly food, it really should be! Spend 10 days in Sri Lanka and discover how to see this enchanting country.
Previously known as Ceylon, and situated just south of India, Sri Lanka is often overlooked as a holiday location. Spanning only 65,000 km² (compared to the United Kingdom’s 240,000 km²!), you’d be forgiven for thinking that you might be stuck for things to do on the island.
However, you can spend more than a week here and have a completely full Sri Lanka itinerary. Start in Colombo, and make your way round so that you can truly experience the diverse and captivating Sri Lankan culture!
We spent 10 days in Sri Lanka, and although we didn’t explore the whole country, we felt that we saw plenty!
We’ve included some recommendations for places to stay too, as well as the best companies to book your trips with.
Our trip began and ended in Colombo. We lived on a budget of around 12,000 Sri Lankan rupees per day between two of us (not including accommodation).
When Should You Visit Sri Lanka?
You can visit the island all year round, but remember that there are changing seasons and they all affect the various cities differently!
There’s usually rain in the southwest and west of the country from April to September. From October to March, the north and eastern parts experience their monsoon season.
The temperatures tend to stick around 26 – 30 degrees pretty much all year round, however if you decide to hike up a mountain or two then the heat will disappear!
The higher you go, the colder it will get, especially at night time. Just don’t forget your pyjamas!
What To Pack For Sri Lanka
You might find it difficult to pack light for this trip as there are varying weather types across the island. If you’re following this itinerary then you’ll want to bring beach wear, hiking gear AND safari clothes, let alone all of the usual everyday items you need.
On the beaches, be prepared for hot sunny days and incredible sunsets!
Girls, a shawl, beach cover up or a lightweight scarfto protect you from any evening winds whilst watching the sun go down is always a good idea. You can also use it to cover up your top half if you visit any temples.
In the hills, however, it gets pretty chilly at night so a long-sleeved shirt will come handy. You’ll be glad you have it when the temperatures drop to below 10 degrees Celsius!
Bring a bottle or two of hand sanitiser. Train stations and public toilets anywhere in the world tend to be icky, so at least try to keep yourself germ-free! The little bottles that clip onto your bag are so handy – you don’t have to think about bringing something extra every time you leave your hotel and they smell nice too!
Decent hiking shoes are essential in Sri Lanka. You could just pack trainers but chances are you’ll climb a mountain or two and your brand new Converse just won’t cut it.
Choose boots that you can wear everyday if you wanted to (we even used to wear ours to work when we taught in China – nerds alert) but that can handle a lot of hardcore movement.
How To Spend 10 Days in Sri Lanka
You only need to stay in Colombo for 1 night. There’s not much to do, but you’ll more than likely fly into Bandaranaike International Airport. Take a simple wander around Colombo or check in to your hotel and chill out before an early start tomorrow.
Whether you’re travelling Colombo with kids or backpacking Sri Lanka solo, you’ll want to be refreshed and ready for your adventures!
TIP: Colombo airport is actually closer to Negombo, but as you take the early morning train to Kandy which leaves before 9am, it’s best to stay closer to Colombo town centre.
Day 2 – 3
Famous for historical Buddhist attractions, Kandy is the perfect place to learn about the local culture. It’s also home to the Ceylon Tea Museum, where you can be guided round. There’s a cafe at on the top floor – choose a tea and enjoy a free cup here.
Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake.
Day 4 – 5
Journeying on the train from from Kandy to Ella is meant to be one of the most gorgeous in the world! Depending on the time of year, you’ll encounter some unbelievable views.
Unfortunately, if your trip falls in the winter, the mist might ruin the scenery so think about that when you’re planning! It takes around 6 and a half hours, and prices start from £3 for a second class seat.
The train time table in Sri Lanka can be found on the government website here.
TIP: A second class seat is better than a third because you get given a seat number. It’s also better than first because you can open the windows and get great photos!
There are a few shops and restaurants in the centre, but be careful about travelling back to your hotel. Tuk-tuks don’t tend to run too late into the night – the restaurant owners had to give us a lift when we lost track of time!
Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock are the most popular hikes in Ella. Enjoy an authentic Sri Lankan breakfast and then spend a morning climbing.
Day 6 – 8
Have you ever seen a wild leopard? We definitely hadn’t before we went to Sri Lanka, but we were incredibly lucky and saw THREE! Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world, but you still usually have to look really hard to spot one.
Book a private tour – our advice would be to take a 12 hour safari. It sounds very long but the time just flies when you’re seeking out new animals every minute!
TIP: Book with Shehan Safari – we had a brilliant time and the lunch was incredible too!
You’ll probably arrive in the evening so relax and prepare for the long day and early start the next morning. Catch a bus or get a private car – share it with other travellers if you can. Leave early on Day 8 as you’ll need to get another bus to Mirissa!
Day 8 – 9
The bus from Tissa to Mirissa stops in Matara, so jump off at the station and ask for directions for the right bus. Once you’ve arrived, put your bags down and head on down to the beach.
Sri Lanka has some very pretty beaches all over. Mirissa is more of a resort area where you can grab a coconut cocktail, sunbathe on loungers and eat the famous Sri Lankan curry.
One of the best things to do on your Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary is to go whale watching! It’s best to pick the early morning slot, as the whales are the most active then. You’re likely to see huge blue whales, sperm whales and maybe even some playful dolphins.
Take a sea sickness pill an hour before your boat leaves – the sea does get quite rough! Be aware though – the tablets can make you very drowsy so you might need to return to your accommodation for a nap!
A cooking class is the perfect way to get involved with the local culture. Considering how tempting and delicious Sri Lankan food is, you’d be mad not to sign up!
We took a class at Dewmini Roti Shop, which is rated number 1 on Trip Advisor. We had some amazing food but it wasn’t the best class we’ve ever been to.
Do your research but be aware that everyone has a personal preference of how a class runs. Think about if you want a private class, or somewhere a bit more social.
For more accommodation options, read this post on the best budget, mid-range and luxury hotels in Mirissa!
Take a train from Mirissa to Negombo, changing at Colombo. There are lots of taxis outside Colombo train station but they are priced incredibly highly and it’s not that much of a shorter journey.
TIP: Ask the station manager for a key if you need to use the toilets – they’re often for foreigners only so they’re locked up!
There isn’t much to do in Negombo but it’s a nice enough beach town to stay in before you fly home.
Rent a bicycle (usually for free) from your hotel and take a trip along the beach. Grab a few bottles from one of the many many beer shops around, and enjoy one the best sunsets you’ll ever experience on the sand.
There are a few sellers trying to make a living – they weren’t too pressing though and we actually bought a beautiful bowl from one guy!
TIP: Enjoy this Sri Lanka itinerary in January and enjoy sunny beaches, cool evenings and a higher chance of spotting a whale!
Our Sri Lanka itinerary didn’t cover everything but we certainly had a wonderful time. If you’re going to backpack Sri Lanka, give yourself at least 10 days to explore it. Fantastic food, friendly people and gorgeous animals – there are so many fun things to do in Sri Lanka that it’s the perfect destination for your next holiday! Spend 10 days in Sri Lanka and we guarantee that you’ll enjoy every minute!
Not into planning so much? Take a 10 day Sri Lanka tour and let your guides take charge!
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