I have been to Sri Lanka twice before and still for the third time I was doing things on this itinerary I had never done before here! I will outline a two week itinerary, as this is what I did on my latest trip there but I would recommend spending longer there if you have the time! I will add a few extra destinations at the end of this itinerary that I have been to on previous trips that you can add if you have more than two weeks in Sri Lanka.
How to get around Sri Lanka
There are some parts of Sri Lanka, particularly along the sea that there are good train connections. However, from Colombo to Kandy this is difficult. If you are feeling brave, there are plenty of buses that will take you around but be prepared for a bit of a squeeze. If you can I would recommend getting a car with a driver for Colombo through to Kandy. From Kandy get the train to Ella. After this you can also get a car that will take you from Ella to Mirissa via Udawalawa. I think we paid 11,000 Rupees for the car to take us the whole way. From there on there are buses or you can also take a car around, and it is still affordable.
What to do in Colombo
I would say one night in Colombo is actually enough to see some good spots and get over any jet lag. It’s a very hot and sticky city so I would say if you can just stay here for one night.
What to See
Jami Ul-AlFar Mosque
Just wander around!
Where to Stay
I stayed at Jetwing Colombo. After a hot day exploring Colombo it was the perfect spot to come back to and use the rooftop infinity pool overlooking the whole of Colombo and watching the sunset over the skyscrapers in the distance.
There is not much to do in Dambulla itself, but it’s a good base to have to explore. From here you can get to Sigiriya Rock and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa as well as Anaradhapura, although this is a bit further away.
Sigiriya Rock – I have climbed Sigiriya twice before and each time it is getting much more expensive and busy with tourists! If you want to climb up and see the ruins of the Kings Palace, it now costs 30 Dollars and make sure you get there as early as possible. Also because it gets very hot, standing in a queue of people making their way up the staircase attached to the rock is a bit disconcerting! What you can do though is get a tuk tuk to take you around the grounds of Sigiriya and take you to some incredible viewpoints and then to the base of Pidurangala. And there are the cutest puppies!
TIP – Do not fly your drone here it’s a no drone zone! You will get in a lot of trouble.
Pidurangala Rock – In my opinion the much better alternative. Costs just 2 Dollars and if you climb it at sunset, has the most incredible view over Sigiriya. It’s quite a climb though so take plenty of water. The last part is climbing up fallen rocks so wear good shoes and don’t carry too much! Then head down before it gets very dark as there are no lights to guide you. Also there is a temple on the way up so make sure you take something to cover your shoulders and be prepared to take off your shoes.
Polonnaruwa – a huge an ancient city. You need to have a car here to be able to see it all or you can brave it on a bicycle if it’s not too hot. Lots of ruins and Stupa’s to see. A Stupa is a temple that is used as a place to meditate.
What to do in Kandy
Temple of the Tooth – there are many temples in Sri Lanka with various parts of Buddhas body. This is a beautiful white temple. But again make sure you are wearing long trousers and covering your shoulders.
Botanical Garden – This is a huge and stunning botanical garden a short drive away from Kandy. Lovely to wander around for at least a few hours. I didn’t actually go on this trip but I would recommend going as I have been before and it was great.
Traditional dancing – Fire dancing, fire breathing and traditional dancing. It’s a great evening and very popular while you’re in Kandy.
Where to Stay
Theva Residency Kandy – a gorgeous boutique hotel tucked away in the lush greenery and mountains. About a 20-30 minute drive away from Kandy town centre. The perfect location to watch the sunset. It also has a stunning infinity pool overlooking mountains. My favourite part about staying here was the breakfast. A traditional Sri Lankan breakfast. This consists of Egg Hoppers, String Hoppers, Rice and three different types of curry. String hoppers are a bit like noodles but in a round shape. As well as this you get a delicious fresh juice. It was divine!
Kandy to Ella
This train journey deserves its own section! I had seen photos of how beautiful the views are but it’s even more amazing in person. 6 hours have never gone so fast for me. Everyone says the best thing to do is book well in advance. But this is hard as you can’t book online, only once you are there. To avoid disappointment, try and contact the hotel you are staying at and see if they can organise it for you. Also if you want the classic picture hanging out of the train make sure to get the second or third class as the first class has air conditioning and you can’t open the windows. I sat in the third class reserved carriage which was very comfy and everyone had an allocated seat. I heard that the unreserved carriages get very busy so try and book before to avoid having to stand for 6 hours. I had perfect weather on my trip and then right at the end it started pouring with rain which was still the most stunning view. But make sure your bags aren’t on the floor as the rain floods the inside of the carriage!
What to do in Ella
Ella is a great base to explore so many places. Below I will outline what to do in Ella for three days.
Day 1: Little Adams Peak followed by Nine Arches Bridge
Wake up at 4:30, get your phone torch on and head to Little Adams Peak. It’s a short walk away from Ella Town to get to the base of the peak. It’s only a 20 minute walk to get up and has the most amazing views over all the mountains around.
After this if you are not yet starving, head to Nine Arches Bridge as this is on the way back down from Little Adam’s Peak. This is a beautiful spot surrounded by tea plantations. Make sure you watch out on the tracks though as the trains go past.
After a busy start to the day I would recommend going to chill at any infinity pool after breakfast. For a few hundred rupees you can relax at an amazing infinity pool for the afternoon.
If you’re feeling brave and restless like me, do Ella’s Rock on the same day for sunset! This is a bit harder to get to but also somewhere you don’t have to pay and can go and explore on your own! To get there you follow the train tracks up past Kital Ella train station. From there you walk for about 30minutes along the tracks until you at some point turn left. This path will take you down and over a bridge. From there, the signs say go right but if you go left up through the tea plantations this is the correct way to go! Then keep wandering up! It’s a harder hike so again make sure you have good shoes on and water and snacks before you set off.
Dinner – Jade Green for a proper Sri Lankan rice and curry.
Diyaluma Falls – absolutely HUGE waterfalls! The drive from Ella is about an hour by car. I would recommend getting a guide when you get up here to the parking area as it’s not really a marked path! The walk is right through the jungle and the best way is with a guide. The first stop is the top rock pool where to waterfall then goes over the edge of the cliff. One of my favourite spots to drone in Sri Lanka. From here, you walk further up the waterfall and explore all the other rock pools and jump off into the water below.
Where to Stay:
Hangover Hostels – has lockers, a locked room with access only with a swipe card. Daily yoga sessions and 5minutes walk from the train station.
From Ella to Weligama via Udawalawa National Park
It’s a long day and an early start but worth it to get to the safari as early as possible! I have done safari at Yala before but Udawalawa was also great. Before we had even officially entered the park we had seen two elephants. The entrance is 5,000 rupees each and the jeep with a driver was extra on top. You can do either an evening safari or a morning one to see the most animals. I started he safari at 7am and the light was stunning for photography. Apart from elephants I saw a monitor lizard, Pumba!!!!, crested head hawk, mongoose, crocodile, buffalo and a Serpent eagle. I would definitely recommend it!
What to do in Weligama
Weligama is best for surfers, as the beaches aren’t actually that nice, Mirissa is better if you are going for some beach time! But Weligama is great if you want to surf.
Where to Stay – The Spindrift Hostel was right by the beach with a very friendly vibe. There are hostel activities each night to get everyone together! And breakfast in the morning is provided and you can make your own eggs and sit all together and eat.
Where to Eat – There is a TINY restaurant but it is so good. Called Zam Zams it has the best rice and curry. They also do takeaway which is a bit nicer to eat back at the hostel with a fan when it’s so hot. But it’s delicious and so cheap! Pop by if you love rice and curry.
What to do in Mirissa
Mirissa I found much prettier than Weligama. Also a great surf spot but with much nicer beaches if you’re not a surfer! It also has great views of the sunset. One of my favourite spots was Coconut Tree Hill, although it gets a bit busy it was a stunning spot for the sunset!
My favourite activity here was body boarding! Be ready to get seriously bashed by the waves and don’t wear your best swimsuit but it’s so fun!! The waves take you right up the beach.
Where to Eat
Anywhere along the beach has amazing seafood! My favourite place was Rumba mainly because of the reggaeton music they played. The food is a bit pricier due to the location but still delicious. Although it does take a while to arrive.
Where to Party
If you’re looking for a night out, Mirissa is the place. There are lots of restaurants on the beach and each night one of them has a light beam coming from it so you can see where to go for a dance.
Day Trip to Galle and Unawatuna from Mirissa
From Mirissa, you can get a tuk tuk to take you to Galle for a day trip. Galle is an old Dutch Fort Town. The old town part of it is within the walls and has plenty of old Dutch architecture and is so peaceful and lovely to wander around! The lighthouse is also a lovely spot to wander to and jump in the sea if you like.
Where to Eat: Pedlar’s Inn – An expensive cafe but yummy food and a lovely atmosphere.
If you want the classic Sri Lanka shot hanging from a rope on a palm tree head to Dalawella Beach. There is a small place to eat and sit and you pay a small fee to swing there! It’s also a nice place to walk up and down the beach.
The last stop on my trip was to Koggala Lake. This was a 40 minute drive from Mirissa and cost about 4,000 Rupees in a car. The driver insisted on taking us in a tuk tuk, and although to get to where we stayed – Hotel Tri – was a bit of a bumpy road, it’s fine to go by car!
Hotel Tri is a little oasis right in the jungle. Right on the lake, each room faces the lake and you don’t feel like there is anyone around. It was such a peaceful way to end a Sri Lanka trip and I would recommend spending two nights here if you want a bit of luxury at the end of your trip! The food was divine, all home grown and all the spices picked fresh from the gardens. We managed to have a little tour with one of the main chefs to see where everything grows and learn about the medicinal properties of all the plants. Really one of the most fabulous places I’ve ever stayed.