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A 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary may seem like a short amount of time…and it is! This guide will show you how to do it INCLUDING 14 amazing things to do.
- Day 1 – Travel down to Mirissa by car, stopping at turtle beach in Hikkaduwa. Spend the rest of the day relaxing on Mirissa Beach and having dinner by the waves and sunset on Veragalle Point
- Day 2 – Whale watching in the morning, Secret Beach in the afternoon and travel to Tissamaharama in the evening.
- Day 3 – 12 Hour Yala safari and travel to Ella in the evening.
- Day 4 – Watch the sunrise at the top of Little Adam’s Peak, zip-line to the bottom, visit the Nine Arch Bridge, tour a tea plantation, go souvenir shopping and have dinner at the best restaurant in town. Click to book an all-day Ella tour.
- Day 5 – Early train from Ella to Colombo. This is rated one of the best train journeys in the whole world. Take a taxi from Colombo Fort train station to the airport.
- 5 Days In Sri Lanka
- Day 1 – Swimming With Turtles & Mirissa Beach
- Day 2 – Whale Watching In Mirissa, Secret Beach & Tissamaharama
- Day 3 – 12 Hour Yala Safari & Travel To Ella
- Day 4 – Exploring Ella
- Day 5 – Ella To Colombo Train
- Itinerary Table
- When To Start This 5 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary
- Tips For Travelling Sri Lanka In 5 Days
- Frequently Asked Questions
5 Days In Sri Lanka
Luckily for you, 5 days in Sri Lanka is enough to see the absolute best that the island has to offer. However, you’re going to have to have some early starts and be absolutely ready for this packed-out 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary. If you think you might be able to push your time to 7 days then make sure to also check out our epic 7 day Sri Lanka itinerary here.
This 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary assumes that you are flying in early on the first day and flying late on the 5th day. If this is not the case then you may have to adjust the schedule for yourself.
However, I highly recommend that you always fly early on day 1 and late on the last day of any trip as it significantly increases the amount of time you have in the country; especially when you only have 5 days to begin with.
Anyway, enough of the chitter-chatter, let’s get right into it!
Day 1 – Swimming With Turtles & Mirissa Beach
Before you even leave for Sri Lanka, install the Pick Me app on your phone (android/apple). It’s the best app in Sri Lanka for arranging transport and will guarantee that you don’t get ripped off for some of these long car journeys.
This is when you could buy a sim card at the airport. There will be a huge queue outside the Dialog kiosk as everyone has heard they are the best, however, just walk to the Airtel kiosk where no one ever seems to be. We used it for 2 months and it was perfect and you don’t have to wait.
Jump on to the Pick Me app and get a taxi down to Turtle Beach in Hikkaduwa. I recommend that you get a car as this is just over 2 hours and anything else may be a little uncomfortable for this amount of time.
Make sure that you ask the driver to take the toll roads. They are not a lot of money and will significantly decrease the amount of time of the journey.
You can also hire a car in Sri Lanka if you’d prefer to explore the country on your own terms!
Turtle Beach – Hikkaduwa
Time – 2 hours
This beach is very aptly named as huge sea turtles come up to the beach and into the shallows to graze on the seagrass that grows there. They get so close that you can literally paddle with them without even needing to change into a swimsuit.
They have always used this beach to do this but years of tourism have eroded the coral that used to grow in abundance here at the beach. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how they are attempting to not completely destroy this area for the turtles.
The locals-only hand out seagrass for you to hand feed the turtles and have not set up any obstructive buildings or encourage anything that would/could cause damage to the turtles. They have actually banned touching of the turtles and there are wardens who collect any eggs that are laid on the beach to protect them from poachers.
Book your favourite hotel hereWhere will you go?
This is not to say that you will not see morons doing moronic things. We didn’t like some of the behaviour and surrounding of the turtles coming in so we walked away from the crowds and found a turtle in the shallows that we could observe in relative peace.
Either way, these are truly majestic wild turtles and there are very few other places in all of Sri Lanka where you can see these beautiful creatures so easily. I recommend bringing some water shoes as if the tide is out you may have to walk a little over some sharp ground to get to the turtles.
What an immense way to start your first day in Sri Lanka!
Mirissa Beach – Mirissa
Time – Until 5 pm
Whenever you have finished with the turtles at Hikkaduwa, jump onto the Pick Me app and grab a cab to your accommodation in Mirissa (check the accommodation section below for the best location for this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary).
Book your favourite hotel hereWhere will you go?
Drop off your bags and head down to Mirissa Beach. Depending on what time your flight came in, I reckon this will be around 1-2 pm. This is a great time to set down on Mirissa beach and have a sunbathe and swim until around 5 pm.
I recommend getting a spot bang in the middle of the long stretch of sand. This area is the best for swimming and has some of the best restaurants/bars to grab a drink whilst you relax. Most of these places will have sunbeds outside and offer them for free if you buy a drink from the bar.
Considering you won’t be arriving until early afternoon, I would think that these sunbeds will be taken, but, don’t despair! There is so much space available on the beach and the sand is super soft.
What makes Mirissa Beach so darn good for swimming is the waves that constantly crash just off the coast. I, personally, have the time of my life playing in the waves on Mirissa Beach; and when you are there you will realise that I’m not the only one!
Parrott Rock Sunset
Until sunset is finished
At around 5 pm, head back to your accommodation and get ready for dinner and sunset. The sunset will be around 6:20 in Mirissa but double-check that as this can change slightly throughout the year. You need to plan to be at Parrot Rock for sunset at around 6 pm so adjust if you need longer or less time to do this.
Parrot Rock is the absolute best place in Mirissa to watch the sunset (we did visit a villa called Villa Vista which was better but that’s a whole different story). Parrot Rock is the huge rock that sticks out at the east end of the beach and it is extremely hard to miss.
There will also be loads of other people walking over to it to get a premium spot for sunset so if you’re unsure then follow the crowd. Find a nice place to sit and watch the sunset across the bay. If you don’t mind a beer then make sure you take a couple of cans to have a drink as you watch.
Read More: We Visited The Best Villas In All Of Mirissa
Dinner On Mirissa Beach
You will have noticed by now that all of the restaurants along the beach have removed their sunbeds and have placed loads of tables and chairs next to the lapping waves along the whole beach. During our month in Mirissa, we ate at nearly all of these restaurants and can recommend each and every one of them.
I, therefore, recommend having a walk down the beach and trying to find a table next to the sea as this is by far the best place to sit. If all of the best tables are taken then don’t worry and jump into any one of the restaurants; the prices are all very similar and the food is all great.
I think I lost count of the number of bottles of wine me and Jade enjoyed as the sky turned from deep orange to black and the waves lapped close to our feet. It’s a truly gorgeous place to enjoy the evening.
If I was being picky then I would recommend going for one of the restaurants in the middle of the beach as the ones at either end tend to have much louder music playing (probably to get customers) and I think that it can be a bit loud, but that’s totally up to you!
Oh and remember! Tomorrow is a 5.30 am start so don’t get sucked into the party atmosphere! The plan is also to go out onto the Indian Ocean tomorrow so… it’s not just because I’m a buzzkill. This is really not the day to be hungover.
If anyone does end up having a few too many then let me know how it went in the comments; I love a funny story.
Accommodation In Mirissa
Usually, I give a few decent options but this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary is so packed that you’ll hardly be at the accommodation throughout the whole trip. Therefore I am only recommending a hotel with decent rooms and A/C but nothing special so you don’t waste money on something that you’re not going to use!
Salt – This hotel is right bang in the middle of Mirissa Beach and is literally on the seafront. It is actually one of the restaurants that I would recommend eating at in the evening of your stay so it ticks so many boxes for this itinerary. Check availability and book here.
Check Out The Reviews Of Salt
Day 2 – Whale Watching In Mirissa, Secret Beach & Tissamaharama
Mirissa is one of the best places in the entire world to go whale watching. It is extremely affordable compared to other areas in the world and also has a year-long residency of these incredible creatures.
We have been whale watching twice in Mirissa and highly recommend booking with Eagle Eye Whale Watching. You can also check out our entire article about whale watching in Mirissa here or check out the video below to know what you can expect.
Either way, I’ll give you a quick run-down here. Any of the whale watching companies will pick you up from your accommodation in Mirissa at around 6 am and drop you off at the boat about 10 minutes later (depending on where you booked).
The boat leaves the harbour at around 7 am so I recommend taking any seasickness tablets an hour before (when you get picked up in the morning is a good time to do this).
You will then spend around 4 hours trying to find whales and anything else that may be available to see (dolphins, whale sharks, etc). Therefore, you can expect to be back at around 11 am.
The chances of seeing whales here are very high and the staff on the boat will make sure that they do everything they can to get you to see as much as you can.
Secret Beach – Mirissa
Getting back at 11 am is a very convenient time to be able to walk up to Secret Beach and enjoy some time there before you make the journey to Tissamaharama. As you are pushed for time, I recommend grabbing a tuk-tuk so you can make the most of the trip.
For all the information about Secret Beach that you’ll ever need, check out our full article here and watch the video below.
Travel To Tissamaharama
The journey from Mirissa to Tissamaharama takes about 2 hours so plan your beach day at Secret Beach around this. Also, you may not be able to use the Pick Me app to arrange this journey as it didn’t currently work when we were in Mirissa.
You can organising a taxi with your accommodation in Mirissa when you arrive on day 1. A good tip is to put the journey into the Pick Me app as it will still give you a quote even if there are no drivers. This means that you will know what a competitive price looks like and can make sure that you are not being ripped off.
I recommend leaving for Tissamaharama at around 5 pm as this will give you time to grab a bite to eat in Tissamaharama and get an early night. Yes, you have another early start tomorrow.
Accommodation In Tissamaharama
Hotel Birds View – This is in a great location to be picked up for the safari tomorrow, has great rooms and has breakfast included. Although it will probably be too early to make the most of that! Check availability and book here.
Check Out The Reviews Of Hotel Birds View Here
Day 3 – 12 Hour Yala Safari & Travel To Ella
Yala is definitely the best safari park in all of Sri Lanka. There are so many others but few can rival the size and variety of animals that Yala has to offer, all whilst being in a really good location for tourists to get to.
We have been with Shehan Safari on this exact tour twice and both times have been absolutely incredible! Have a look at our full article on Yala safaris here and check out the video below for more information.
For me, this is the highlight of the whole trip so if you’re looking at this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary and thinking that you might make some changes then I highly recommend that this is not it. We have this safari in every one of our Sri Lanka itineraries.
After 12 hours you will arrive back at your accommodation (in reality I think this will be closer to 6 pm, so 13 hours). Before you go on the safari, speak to your accommodation about leaving your bags there during the day and arrange a taxi to your Ella accommodation with the hotel.
Remember to use the Pick Me app to get a quotation before you arrange with anyone so you don’t get overcharged.
Travel To Ella
This journey will take just under 2.5 hours and I recommend getting some sleep in the car if you can. The sights aren’t all that spectacular for the majority of the journey and it will also be dark. This could be a decent opportunity to get some sleep before the next early start tomorrow.
Accommodation In Ella
Green Paradise – This is really close to the town centre which means it is in a great location for the walk to Adam’s Peak tomorrow morning. Also, if you end up having a couple of drinks at chill then you won’t have to walk very far back home!
Remember this is a 2-night stay. Check it out and book here.
Check Out The Reviews Of Green Paradise Here
Day 4 – Exploring Ella
Ella is an absolutely stunning little mountain village and is a super popular place for tourists to come due to its plentiful things to do and sights to see. This is the only place where you have a 2-night stay! Although this does only come with one full day’s worth of exploring.
All of the activities I am about to go into are in our things to do in Ella post and video so for more information about each individual thing make sure you check that out and watch the video below.
Sunrise At Little Adam’s Peak
I think you are starting to realise that this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary has a lot of crazy early starts, but that’s only because the best things to do in Sri Lanka dictate that you have to get up early. If I had any choice, I would stick in some lie-ins but as you only have 5 days in Sri Lanka this isn’t an option!
We woke up at around 4.30 am as we wanted to get to the top before the sun had even begun rising, however, it takes around 40 minutes from the centre of town to walk up to the top so find out when sunrise is and look to leave around 40 minutes before this. That will probably mean waking up at around 5 am.
If you are concerned about walking up to the peak in the dark then I understand but there will be many other groups of people making the same trip so do not worry too much. You could also join a tour that includes this hike so you’ll have a knowledgable local guide with you.
When we did it, we felt pretty safe as there were many other people walking along the road near us. Also, you could give yourself a lie in and walk up to the summit a little bit later. This would also work with the ziplining as this doesn’t open until 8.30 am which means you will be waiting for a little time after the sunrise.
However, you would miss these types of incredible views so the choice is up to you!
Flying Ravana Mega Zipline
What a name and what a zipline! This zipline is located near the summit of Little Adam’s Peak and actually has 2 zip lines in tandem next to each other going all the way to the base of the hill. This ride will take you over the tea plantations and through the mist and is an absolute must not miss.
I recommend you pre-book as you don’t want to be waiting around if there is a big queue in front of you, especially because by this point there will be many people up at the summit. Pre-book your tickets here.
If you do not have a GoPro and want to film, be sure to hire that as well as they can provide all of the camera equipment necessary for your ride.
Nine Arch Bridge
The Nine Arch Bridge could well be the most iconic and highly photographed bridge in all of Sri Lanka and you can see why. You can pose for pictures, walk across the beautiful bridge or wait for a train to come across and wave at the passengers.
It is roughly a 30-minute walk to the bridge from the bottom of Little Adam’s Peak and that’s exactly where you should be if you took the zipline. There will be some tuk-tuks at the bottom if you are not feeling like the walk but be aware that this will only save you half of the time as half of the journey you have to alk as tuk-tuks cannot get there.
Halpewatte Tea Factory
You can’t come to Sri Lanka without checking out something to do with tea and I was very pleasantly surprised with the Halpewatte tea factory in Ella. We jumped on one of the frequent tours of the facility which starts with a decent overview of the process that happens in the factory; this is pretty usual for this sort of tour.
However, they then take you into the active working factory and you get up close and personal with the employees and the machines that are hard at work. I have not had this level of immersion before on a factory tour and I was really impressed.
After the tour, I recommend grabbing a pot of tea and enjoying the view on the veranda at the top of the factory. It will be the best pot of tea you’ve had in a while.
Book your favourite hotel hereWhere will you go?
Ella is the best place on this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary to have a look for some cool souvenirs. If you have a walk down the main strip, you will find quite a few fantastic souvenir shops as well as some decent clothing stores.
This is going to be your only option to pick up something to remember your trip and I recommend checking out the ‘I Love Ceylon Gallery’. This small shop has some cool vintage posters of the old tourist advertisement for Sri Lanka and I reckon they look pretty good.
Dinner At Chill
There are quite a few decent restaurants in Ella but none quite as good as Chill. This is definitely the best restaurant in town and the price is pretty competitive too. I recommend booking in advance as Chill gets extremely busy at all times throughout the year. We went on our anniversary and managed to get the last table in the whole place which was just pure luck.
Day 5 – Ella To Colombo Train
You’ve made it to the final day and it’s time to sit back and enjoy one of Sri Lanka’s most well-known attractions; the Ella to Kandy mountain train. You will actually be taking the train all the way to Colombo but this includes the famous stretch of track that is widely seen as one of the greatest in the whole world.
There are a few options for this trip and it depends on what time your flight is in the evening. I recommend getting the 6:39 am train as this will get you into Colombo the earliest and you may have a little time to wander around Colombo before having to get a cab to the airport.
You can check the latest train times here as they are subject to change.
I recommend getting 1st or 2nd class reserved. It is VERY important that you book your tickets in advance for this trip as there is a strong possibility that you will be stood up or on the floor for the full 9 hours if you do not.
We took a train from Nanoya train station recently and ended up on the floor for the whole trip and this is in the same area as the Ella to Colombo train. You can book your train tickets in advance here or use the ticket booking entry below.
This trip will take you through the Sri Lankan mountains and give you simply outrageous views of the valleys and peaks throughout the journey. Make sure you have a camera ready as these views are probably going to be the best you will see in all of Sri Lanka.
When you get into Colombo Fort, it will be getting into the late afternoon/evening. This would be the time you use the Pick Me app to book a taxi back up to the airport for your flight out of Sri Lanka and this is the end of our 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary.
|1||Airport – Mirissa||Swimming With Turtles & Mirissa Beach Day||Salt||1|
|2||Mirissa – Tissamaharama||Whale Watching & Secret Beach||Birds View||1|
|3||Tissamaharama – Ella||12 Hour Yala Safari||Green Paradise||2|
|4||Ella||Sunrise Peak, Nine Arch Bridge, Halpewatte Tea Factory, Souvenir Shopping and Dinner At Chill|
|5||Ella – Colombo Fort||World #1 Train Journey|
When To Start This 5 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary
If you want to do this entire 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary then you will have to go to Sri Lanka between November and April. This is because whale watching in Mirissa will not run during the monsoon season for obvious reasons.
If you are happy to take the whale watching off the list then you can do this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary throughout the year. However, to make the most of your trip, I recommend going between November and March. During April the rains start to come in and this may absolutely ruin a few things on this list, like the train journey and the whale watching.
Packing List Essentials
Tips For Travelling Sri Lanka In 5 Days
Take A Decent Point & Shoot Camera
Decent Zoom Camera – We constantly update this camera to make sure you get brilliant shots as well as have a great zoom range in order to capture everything far away as well as close by. This is a must! It happens to currently be the Panasonic LUMIX ZS70K which is a fantastic all-around camera that will fit into small spaces and do you well throughout all your travels.
Reserve Seats On Trains
If you’ve read the whole itinerary then you already know the importance of this one. You only have one train journey in this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary and it is absolutely imperative that you book your tickets in advance and book reserve seats. There is nothing worse than having the entire 5th day of the itinerary on the floor of a train.
Tips For Using ATMs In Sri Lanka
If you have a decent international card (we use Starling) then using the ATMs in Sri Lanka is a very good way to get money. It is actually considerably cheaper to do it this way than to get foreign currency before you travel. There is an ATM in the airport so just use this.
If your ATM is charging you a withdrawal fee then cancel and go to a different ATM. Just look for an ATM that is associated with one of the Sri Lankan banks and you will not be charged a withdrawal fee.
Eventually, the ATM will ask you if you would like to use the ATMs conversion fee for your foreign exchange. ALWAYS say no. If you’re using a decent international card then it will always be ridiculously cheaper to use your bank’s conversion fee.
Use Pick Me
The Pick Me app is a decent taxi service app in Sri Lanka. It will offer you different options and will always be a decent and competitive rate. You may struggle to find drivers the further away from Colombo you get but you should still use the App wherever you are in Sri Lanka.
This is because the app will still give you a quotation even if there are no drivers available. This will give you a good figure to go on when negotiating a taxi price with a local driver or your accommodation.
Always Agree On Prices Before You Go
This isn’t just for Sri Lanka but anywhere you travel. If you are using a local tuk-tuk, driver or activity then agree on a price before the journey or activity starts. It is a very easy way for people to be dishonest and scam you out of a lot of money when they tell you the price at the end of the trip. If you only have 5 days in Sri Lanka then you will need to be getting taxis quite often so make sure to follow this advice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are 5 Days In Sri Lanka Enough?
As you can see from this itinerary, if you want to see the best that Sri Lanka has to offer, it is going to be a jam-packed 5 days with lots of early starts. But is it enough time? Just.
What’s A Good 5 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary?
Day 1 – Hikkaduwa Turtles and Mirissa Beach
Day 2 – Whale Watching and Secret Beach
Day 3 – Yala Safari
Day 4 – Exploring Ella
Day 5 – Greatest Train Journey In The World
Can I Visit Sri Lanka In 5 Days?
Yes, I think this is enough time to visit Sri Lanka but there are going to be very early starts and lots and lots of activities.
Is This 5 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary Suitable For Families?
Absolutely! There are loads of activities that the children would absolutely love and nothing would need to be changed for them to love it.
Is This 5 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary Suitable For Couples?
Definitely. there are loads of chances for romantic evenings and fun activities for two throughout this whole 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary.
So, if you only have 5 days in Sri Lanka do you think you would be able to get all of this done? If you have decided to do this 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary then please let us know in the comments section below how it went! Also, let us know if you have any other ideas that could make this itinerary even better.