If you’re planning a long trip around Sri Lanka and have no idea where to start, then I’d like to share with you this Sri Lanka travel itinerary that comes with a detailed guide based on the 25-day trip that my husband and I did.
Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia. Known as one of the tea countries in the world. From watching and getting up close to the gentle giants in the Safari National Parks, the most stunning views of tea plantations to the most gorgeous beaches, this place sure will give you hundreds of reasons to coming back to!
Table of contents
- Sri Lanka travel. First things first.
- On the other hand, In Sri Lanka, meal buffets are very common. Most of the local cuisines served are vegetable and chicken curry. If you love curries, then Sri Lanka is your heaven! Be warned that they can be very spicy.
- The train to Ella, Sri Lanka. Reality vs. expectation.
- Sri Lanka travel in a nutshell
Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
Sri Lanka travel itinerary. First things first.
*For Europeans like my husband, Chris, getting an e-visa that costs $40 is necessary.
*For Filipinos like me, you can get visa-on-arrival, also for $40.
LOCAL SIM CARD
*We bought a local sim card at the airport 1,200Rupees/$7 per person
Rupees 175-180 = $1 (as of writing, note that exchange rates may change so always check the updated currency exchange).
Sri Lanka travel * DAY 1-3* Negombo
📍Negombo, 10km away from Bandaranaike International Airport, is an accessible destination in Sri Lanka, an adequate yet satisfying beach for anyone who wants to start their trip with salty hair and sands on the feet.One of the reasons we decided to go there is the beach; we wanted to go beach-bumming before heading to the north, where the climate is cooler.
🛖 *Where we stayed: Hotel J.
💲Price: 26$ per night, no breakfast included.
What to do: 🤔
- Enjoy the beach.
- Do your laundry. If you’re going on a long trip, it’s best to find a laundry place to wash your clothes. Good thing there is a laundry shop in Negombo. 💲$1 per kilo
- Eat. Dinner at Tucker’s Restaurant. Try their seafood platter for $15
- Get an Ayurveda Massage. We tried a Sri Lankan massage called Ayurveda. It’s a popular type of massage that is quite relaxing. The price is $22 for 2 persons. 60-minute session each.
Sigiriya * Day 3-5
📍 According to SigirayaTourism.com, this place is “Referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World this ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is probably the most visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka.”
Luckily, we found a good package deal that includes a driver that drove us from Negombo to Sigiriya.
⌚️ Total travel time: Negombo to Sigiriya – 5 hours by car 🚗
💲 : $80 for 2 persons, all-inclusive. Gas, Car rent, driving service & driver
🛖 * Where we stayed: Sat Nam Village
💲Price per night: $44 night, no breakfast included
What to do
- Book a Safari at Sigiri Safari National Park Adventure: Our driver recommended a travel agency where we booked our Safari National Park Adventure. We were picked up by the driver from our lodge at 5 am.
Registration is needed upon entering, but our driver was the one who did it for us. There was a long queue of safari jeeps when we got there, but if you booked a trip just like us, there is no need to worry.
- 💲Cost: $100 for 2 persons
- Safari Tour duration: 4 hours
- Tip to the driver: $6 (tipping cost depends on you)
- Visit the Golden Temple: We didn’t know that there was the entrance fee to the golden temple was expensive, but we went in anyway.
- 💲Ticket price: 3,000 Rupees/ $ 17 for 2
- Was it worth it? Well, if you’re a fan of temples, then yes.
On the other hand, In Sri Lanka, meal buffets are very common. Most of the local cuisines served are vegetable and chicken curry. If you love curries, then Sri Lanka is your heaven! Be warned that they can be very spicy.
- Go to the top of Sigiriya Rock: Sigiriya is that my husband was really looking forward to visiting one place in Sri Lanka. It’s an amazing journey to get to the top. You can see the view of the entire city plus be mesmerized by the sunset.
- 💲Ticket price: $60 for 2 persons.
- 💲Lunch buffet cost: 2,000 Rupees/$11 for 2 persons.
On a side note, our driver, who’s a local, while surprised about how many days we’re spending on this Sri Lanka trip, was also quite knowledgeable and told us some interesting things not to miss. For example, he was the one who recommended Udawalawe National Park and the trip to the Tea Plantations. Our driver offered to drive us around Sri Lanka except for the beach areas. We hired his services for a total of 13 days.
Kandy * Day 6
📍Kandy is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka, next to Colombo. Although we only chose to stay one night in the city, there are other famous attractions to do. Moreover, Kandy was one of our main targets as part of our Sri Lanka travel itinerary. Though, it’s ideal for your main base as taking the scenic and majestic train ride all through the mountains just like what we did.
⌚️ Total travel time: Sigiriya to Kandy – 1.5 hours by car 🚗
🛖 * Where we stayed: The Peppermint Homestay. The owner is a charming woman. Although we only stayed for a night, she was so accommodating to all of our needs. We wished we stayed longer.
💲Price per night: $17 for 2 persons, no breakfast included.
What to do: 🤔
- Have dinner at KCC* it’s a very famous food court where you can find International cuisines.
- Stroll around Kandy Lake.
- Drink wine at the Pubs bar* It’s 3,820Rupees/$20 for a bottle of wine.
* Note: Pick me up App: Download this app when you’re in Sri Lanka. It will help you book their local mode of transport, Tuktuk. We used it when we went back to our homestay; our fare was at 200Rupees. You can also hail regular Tuktuks on the streets, but you must negotiate the driver’s fair price.
- You can skip Kandy if it doesn’t fit your travel schedule.
Nuwara Eliya * Day 7-8
📍 Nuwaraeliya is the center of tea plantations and has been certified as the tea industry’s capital in Sri Lanka. Here you can find tea factories, where you get to tour around to some of them, taste the most refreshing varieties of tea while enjoying a scenic virescent view of some tea plantations.
⌚️ Total travel time: 1 to 1.5 hours by car 🚗
🛖 * Where we stayed: Woodside Chalet Homestay
💲Price per night: $20 per for 2 persons, breakfast included.
What to do: 🤔
- Take pictures at Tea Plantation.
- Visit a Tea Factory* Damro Tea. Free of charge. Just buy some of the tea packages as a souvenir or bring them with you along your journey in the tea country.
- Dinner at Grand India* Should you crave Indian cuisines, check out Grand India for a sumptuous Indian dinner.
- Go hike at Horton Plains National Park * Located in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, Horton Plains National Park is where you can find and witness the famous World’s End through a 4-5 hour back and forth trekking.
- 💲 Ticket price: 5,800 Rupees/$33 for 2 persons.
- Drop by to the Strawberry Farm * Don’t miss the strawberry farm on the way back from Horton Plains National Park for absolutely mouth-watering strawberry treats!
*Note: Horton Plains National Park
Don’t miss this opportunity to catch Horton National Park’s wildlife on a trip to Sri Lanka. In the early morning, you can watch some protected wild animals, such as leopards and endemic birds, as well as enjoy the green lands. So try to be as early as possible. Unfortunately, we arrived late, so we were not able to see them. At least, later in the afternoon, when we’re on the way home, we had a glimpse of the beautiful wilds.
Ella * Day 9-11
📍Home of one of the best guesthouses and lodges in Sri Lanka, Ella is probably one of the best-loved destinations by travelers. It is a small town located in the Badulla District of Uva Province, and it is very laid back while it offers a wide variety of engaging ventures.
⌚️Total travel time: Nuwara to Ella – 4-5 hours by public train 🛤.
💲 Train Ticket Price: 110 Sri Lankan Ruppees/ $6
🛖 * Where we stayed: Emerald Mirror Guest Ella
💲Price per night: $25 for 2 persons with breakfast
What to do: 🤔
- Dine-in at a restaurant or go for a drink at a bar at Ella town * Ella town has loads of bars and restaurants to check out.
- Visit Ramawa Falls * A few minutes’ drive from Ella town. You may either hire a tuk-tuk to go there or go on a leisure walk; it’s up to you.
- Drive your way up to Lipton Seat * Sir Thomas Lipton’s sitting statue is a British tea baron who used to survey his prospering empire from here. Lipton seat is overlooking a magnificent view of Sri Lanka at its tea plantation. It is best to catch the sunset on the way down. We arrived late, thus. Moreover, the roads were steep, but our driver was skillful enough to get us through. Tuktuks are available if you don’t have your own vehicle.
- Visit Dilayuma Falls. We traveled to the base of Dilayuma Falls via our rented car, but we had to hire a tuk-tuk driver who also served as our guide upon going up. Trekking took around 30minutes.
- Take pictures of Nine Arch Bridge. Probably one of the most famous spots, too!
- Local Guide and Tuktuk Fees: Rupees 2,000/$10 for 2 persons.
The train to Ella, Sri Lanka. Reality vs expectation.
If you’ve heard or seen the legendary train ride in Sri Lanka, well, you will find it going to Ella. We didn’t want to pass the chance to try it for ourselves!
However, it was not as easy a ride as we thought it would be. From Nanuoya station, where we got on to Ella, the train was jam-packed with travelers and luggage. In fact, some unlucky passengers like us didn’t get a proper seat. Imagine, we were standing the whole time to see that epic Instragrammable spot for which this train is famous. Needless to say, we weren’t able to replicate those amazing photos that we see on Instagram.
Yep, no kidding! Don’t fret, I’ll tell you later a technique on how to successfully take one! Though that will be on my next writing!
Hatton * Day 12
📍 One of the multiple places you could visit in Sri Lanka is which you can see and watch the luscious and refreshing tea plantations.
⌚️ Total travel time: Ella to Hatton – 6 hours by train
🛖 * Where we stayed: The Olive Homestay
💲Price per night: $15 for 2 persons, no breakfast included.
📌 We arrived late in Hatton via train from Ella. The next day at 2 am, we began our journey to Adam’s Peak. A total of 10,000 steps.
We basically just stayed one day in Hatton to climb Adam’s Peak.
What to do: 🤔
- Climb Adam’s Peak. Taking Adam’s Peak is no joke. You have to take a total of 11,000 steps, and you must start at dawn if you want to witness the sunset.
If you are interested in everything about Adam’s Peak, you may read my blog post here.
Udawalawa * Day 12-13
📍 Basically, Udawalawa is where the Udawalawe National Park is located. It is a place to see one of the world’s best places and top destinations and
highly recommendable to see wild elephants. Also, one of the main important ingredients of our Sri Lanka travel itinerary. On top of that, visiting the Udawalawe National park was one reason why Chris and I decided to have part 2 of our Safari Adventure.
⌚️ Total travel time: Hatton – Udawalawe – 5 hours by car
🛖 * Where we stayed: Peacock Riverside Lodge
💲 Price per night: $18 for 2 persons with breakfast.
What to do: 🤔
- Visit Udawalawe National Park (part 2) * We tried another Safari Adventure since we’re not quite satisfied with the first Safari we went to.
The Safari began at 530am.
- 💲Safari price cost: 15,000 Rupees for 2 persons.
- Baby Elephants Watching/Feeding* It was quite remorseful and pitiful after watching and going to this place.
- 💲Ticket Price: 1000 Rupees/$6 for 2 persons
- Find the Bat forest. (Free of charge) * Chris was very fascinated by bats. Our driver mentioned that nearby our lodge, there’s a bat forest, so we went to see them with our own eyes. And yes, we did see several of them. We were also offered hot tea and sweet cookies by the locals.
*Note: The baby elephant feeding in Udawalawa, Sri Lanka
Should you go? I honestly regret going there. Probably skip on your Sri Lanka trip. I personally believe that it’s some animal abuse, even when they stated otherwise. The decision is up to you.
Matara and Mirissa beaches * Day 14-19
📍 Matara beach, based on experience, is one of the less crowded yet popular beaches in Sri Lanka. It is also home to some surfers, as in the early morning or early afternoon, surfers gather and enjoy the great waves.
While Mirissa is full of bursting, especially during the daytime, you can find souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, and travel agencies that offer different types of tours such as whale and dolphin watching.
If you’re up for more adventures hence, it is one of the must-visit in Sri Lanka.
📍Matara beach was something we were really looking forward to, especially me since we’ve been up north that was cooler than any other parts of Sri Lanka from the beginning of this trip. Well, how’s our Sri Lanka travel itinerary without beach bumming?
Also, this was the last day of our car and driver rental. Beginning from Matara beach, we just took our journey and sightseeing in this tropical area by motorbike rent.
⌚️ Total travel time: Udawalawe to Matara1 – 2 hours by car 🚗
🛖 * Where we stayed: Top Secret Beach Hotel (beachfront)
💲 Price per night: $53 per night for 2 persons with breakfast.
What to do: 🤔
- Rent a motorbike * Stroll around the area.
- 💲Rental fee * 1,000Rupees/ $6per day
- Surf at Matara Beach* Yep. You can rent a surfboard and enjoy the big and inviting waves.
- Dine-in at The Dutchman’s Street
Mirissa and Galle * Day 20- 23
📍 Influenced by the Europeans, our Sri Lanka travel itinerary might be incomplete without having a glimpse of Galle. Galle is the Southern Province of Sri Lanka’s capital city, home to 300-year-old Dutch Fort and other historical constructions that you want to take pictures of. Souvenir shops and restaurants are situated in the area. Moreover, Galle was one of those lists in our Sri Lanka trip that we’re so elated to see.
⌚️ Total travel time: Matara to Mirissa – 40min by Tutktuk.
💲Cost: 1,200 Rupees for 2
🛖 * Where we stayed: Milanka Guest
💲Price per night: $19 for 2 persons with breakfast.
📌 Mirissa Beach is probably the most popular and favorite beach in Sri Lanka. We spent our New Year here by partying at the beach area, along with thousands of travelers who waited for the countdown, drinking liquors, dance to the music, and watch fireworks.
*On a personal note: I dearly love Mirissa beach as my ex-fiance, now husband Chris, proposed to me.
What to do: 🤔
- Sunbathing, dining at restaurants in the Mirissa area
- Stroll a little further and find some tranquil beaches like the one we did find. See my photos below.
- Dolphin Watching* I’m really not sure if this trip was worth it or not. The boat was bumpy due to high waves, but it was generally safe. But in the end, we failed to see the dolphins.
- Drive to Galle * The famous Tuna and crab restaurant is located in Galle. Their crab pasta is a must-try. The travel time takes 2-3 hours by motorcycle.
- Celebrated New Year and joined the countdown at Mirissa Beach
Colombo * day 23- 24
📍 Compared to the other places we’ve been around Sri Lanka, the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, is modern, hustling, and bustling, and dynamic.
⌚️ Total travel time: Mirissa to Colombo – 2 hours by train 🛤.
💲 Ticket price: $3-$6
🛖 *Where we stayed: Movenpick Hotel, Colombo
💲 Price per night: $47 for 2 persons with breakfast.
📌 Two days left for us before Chris’s flight back to Germany and me to the Philippines. On the last days of our Sri Lanka travel itinerary, we decided to spend it in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka.
What to do: 🤔
- Find your comfort foods at Sir James Pieris Mawatha, Colombo, Level 3
- Watch the sunset and have a happy hour at Movenpick’s rooftop bar.
- Go City tour ( that if you still have plenty of time )
- Have a haircut* as my husband did before flying back to Germany
- Eat at Mcdonald’s! * We’ve been so long staying in the countryside of Sri Lanka, so we sure did miss the taste of junk foods.
Our flight back is from Negombo airport. Travel time from Colombo proper to Negombo airport, 2 hours by Grab.
Good to know!
Sri Lanka is a Buddhism country, and women are highly conservative. Wear appropriate clothes, especially for women. Furthermore, if you plan to go swimming, bring your swimwear. I personally had a difficult time searching for one. In fact, we drove endless kilometers to find stores. And when I finally did, it was so expensive.
My advice? Try taking public transportation as much as you can as it is the most enjoyable way of journeying through the country. Try to get in touch with the locals. Sri Lankans are among the warmest and kindest people I’ve ever met. In fact, when I was there, I felt like I was a celebrity as every single Sri Lankan waved hi and smiled at me.
Sri Lanka travel in a nutshell
Sri Lanka is such a beautiful place; our 25 days for me wasn’t enough. I wish we could have stayed longer. For me, I immensely enjoy this Sri Lanka trip. I wish that we could stay longer!
Take your time, don’t rush, one certain place in Sri Lanka could be very magical, and you need to soak yourself in its deepest culture.
In the end, it’s all up to you on how you want to do your travel in Sri Lanka. Indeed, there are so many nice places to see and interesting things to do. The most important thing is, you have a great time and enjoy.
Above all, I hope this Sri Lanka travel itinerary helped you in your planning somehow. If you have any questions that I might answer, please leave them in the comment box below.
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