Stilt fishermen in southern Sri Lanka

The Pearl of the Indian Ocean: A 2 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary for First Time Visitors

Elephant herd in Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka with text overlay Ravana Waterfall near Ella in Sri Lanka with text overlay Women walking on a beach in southern Sri Lanka with text overlay Drone photo of coastline and beach in Sri Lanka with text overlay Fishing boats on the beach in Sri Lanka with text overlay

Looking for an easy 2 week itinerary for Sri Lanka? You’ve come to the right place!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Sri Lanka has become one of the top places to visit in Asia for travelers looking for a combination of culture, wildlife and mile-long stretches of golden beaches. If for some reason you need convincing, here are 10 excellent reasons why now is the time to see Ceylon.

A few years ago, I was like, “where is Sri Lanka?” But since my first trip to Sri Lanka at the beginning of 2015, I have been back nearly every 2-3 months to explore more of the country, practice my surfing skills, opened a business there and even adopted a gorgeous stray cat. Oh, and have I mentioned that Sri Lanka has some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed anywhere in the world?

Sri Lanka Shangri La Hambantota hotel grounds

Over the past few years, friends who know that I spend a lot of time visiting the island have approached me for some recommendations for where to go and what to see in Sri Lanka, and I’ve taken some time to develop an easy-to-follow makeshift itinerary for those who are planning to spend 2 weeks in Sri Lanka.

These are just a few places I would recommend that you see in Sri Lanka, and you can add or subtract days here and there to make it work for your trip – this can easily be turned into a 10 day Sri Lanka itinerary if you’re short on time, or you can also check out this express 1 week Sri Lanka itinerary here. Read on for the perfect Sri Lanka 2 week itinerary!

Helpful things to know before you go to Sri Lanka

Planning a trip to Sri Lanka in 2022 or 2023? Read this first!

Latest update as of November 2022: Planning a trip to Sri Lanka now will require more thought and planning – do your due diligence but everyone is working hard to make sure the country is ready to welcome tourists once again. Here are some travel tips for anyone contemplating a Sri Lanka trip in 2022/2023:

💉 If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated you will no longer need to quarantine on arrival in Sri Lanka, provided that you arrive with a negative PCR test 72 hours before your flight, or negative RAT test (self-swabs disallowed) 48 hours before your flight. As before, fully vaccinated travelers can board a flight to Sri Lanka without taking a PCR/antigen test and do not need to quarantine. The health declaration is no longer required, and the insurance is no longer mandatory but can be purchased on arrival. You may be required to wear a face mask in Sri Lanka.

💻 The Sri Lanka e-visa system is still up and running but buggy – if it declines your payment try another card. Sri Lanka is currently offering extended 180 day e-visas, up from 30 days.

💵 Due to the currency devaluation you will notice that prices for goods and services have gone up – however, the dollar-amounts remain approximately the same. As a tourist, you can exchange foreign currency at the airport upon landing so that you have some cash in hand.

🥥 Local supermarkets are full of fresh produce – albeit more expensive now. Roadside market stalls also have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables on offer. Imported products are rare, and if you find them they are also more expensive than before. Restaurants in the south coast of Sri Lanka are slowly but surely reopening for the upcoming peak season.

💡 This past week we have had twice-daily 1-1.5 hour long scheduled power cuts in the south coast, typically in the afternoons and early evenings. They have been manageable but consider bringing a rechargeable USB lamp for the outages. Large hotel chains should have generators to provide uninterrupted power supply, but smaller boutique hotels and guesthouses may not have consistent access to diesel to run their generators. The power cuts may increase in length over the coming months – it fluctuates and no one is able to say for certain how long next week’s power cuts will be.

⛽️ There are no fuel lines but limited supply still, the QR code system for fuel rationing appears to be working for now and tourists can purchase a rechargeable fuel pass which we haven’t tried yet. Tuk tuks, buses and trains are still running.

💊 The economic crisis has led to a shortage in medicine, cooking gas and petrol/diesel. We brought along lots of medication just in case, but have had no issues purchasing standard over the counter meds like Panadol. Visitors who have certain medical supply needs should plan accordingly as it may not be possible to purchase required medication in Sri Lanka. Hospitals are open and we have not had long waits at private hospitals to see a GP.

🚫 Most countries have lifted travel advisories against traveling to Sri Lanka. However, it is prudent to check directly with your country’s foreign office on their advice, and ensure that your travel insurance is valid. The political tensions have eased, but public demonstrations may continue to take place from time to time in major cities.

More information and updates here or here if the previous website is down, but long story short I highly recommend that you read through all of the materials carefully as there are a number of restrictions in place that you should be aware of before traveling to Sri Lanka, and the regulations change quickly (sometimes faster than they can even update the website). Snap lockdowns, curfews, interprovincial travel restrictions and last-minute closure of tourist sites may be implemented.

The situation and rules may change quickly and without warning. You should consider whether it is appropriate for you to travel internationally at this time and have a back-up plan for if you test positive and require medical treatment, or if your country changes their inbound passenger regulations.

Read the full article here: Is It Safe to Travel to Sri Lanka Right Now? All Your Questions Answered About Sri Lanka Travel Safety (2023)

  • Most visitors will need to apply for a Sri Lanka e-visa (except for nationals of Singapore, Maldives and Seychelles) but this is easily done online. It usually takes 24-48 hours for the visa approval to come through via e-mail.
  • The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (different from the Indian Rupee), and the official exchange rate varies from approximately 350-370 LKR: 1 USD/Euro or 230-250 LKR: 1 AUD. There are plenty of places to exchange money in Sri Lanka, and there are also ATMs in cities like Colombo and Galle where you can withdraw money.
  • Local SIM cards and data packages can be purchased at the airport once you arrive, but you may need to provide your passport in order to register the number. Data is cheap and 3G/4G is fairly stable throughout Sri Lanka.
  • There is a lot of ground to cover in Sri Lanka! For such a small country there is tons to do. Getting around Sri Lanka is relatively easy and train travel is cheap and reliable(ish) in Sri Lanka, but not every train has first or even second class carriages. Seats can be reserved in person at a train station up to 30 days before the trip and scenic routes fill up FAST. Sri Lanka Railways has also recently launched an online train ticket booking system (but it may still be buggy in the early stages). Train travel through tea country is an amazing experience!
  • The best way to travel around Sri Lanka is by car, especially if you are short on time. Most hotels can help you to book a private car and driver to your next destination but do not expect the prices to be dirt cheap as fuel prices continue to rise, a one-way 3-4 hour car ride can cost anywhere from US$100 to $140 including tolls (but may be worthwhile if you have a large group of people or lots of luggage). Hiring a car and driving around yourself is not really a thing in Sri Lanka as it requires additional licensing; you can find car rental places in Colombo, but your best bet is to hire one-way, point-to-point transfers with a driver, or take public transportation such as the train or bus if you are on a tighter budget and have time (and energy) to spare. Traveling around by bus is also dirt cheap, but not highly recommended because the bus drivers drive like absolute mad men!
  • Sri Lanka is unlike some other popular Asian beach destination countries in the sense that it is still relatively modest. The primary religion is Buddhism so be mindful of your attire when you visit temples. Let me put it this way: I would not recommend that you drive shirtless on a scooter or walk around in a bikini when you are travelling around Sri Lanka. The dress code in Sri Lanka tends to be more conservative: t-shirts, loose pants and longer dresses, shorts or skirts will serve you well on a warmer day, but as Sri Lanka has a few different climates you may also need to bring a sweatshirt or two if you’re visiting hill country as it can get fairly chilly.
  • In general there is no need to tip if your hotel or restaurant has included a service charge. That being said, a tip is always highly appreciated by people in the service industry (such as porters, housekeeping staff, waiters etc.) and drivers. If you are visiting Sri Lanka in 2022 or 2023 you may want to bear in mind that the Sri Lankan Rupee was massively devalued, and consider adjusting your tip upwards accordingly. A few dollars or Euros may not make a huge dent in your holiday budget, but could make a big difference to professionals in the tourism industry.
  • There are a plethora of hotel options suiting every budget, but prices tend to be higher than in countries such as India, Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam. I personally look for comfort, beautiful décor and warm hospitality when I travel – click here for some of the best boutique and luxury hotels to stay at in Sri Lanka.

Visiting Sri Lanka? Click here for the full list of 12 things you should know before your trip to Sri Lanka as well as 15 things you should NOT do if you’re visiting the island!

Safety in Sri Lanka

Pettah Market Colombo Sri Lanka

I often get asked, “is it safe to visit Sri Lanka?” And here’s the truth: the vast majority of visits to Sri Lanka are trouble free, and tourism is a major source of revenue for the country. You can read more about important precautions to take when traveling to Sri Lanka here.

In the past, Sri Lanka has experienced protests and you may experience traffic or road diversions as a result. The majority of protests have been peaceful, but it is not advised as a tourist to participate or attend as tensions may run high. Curfews and snap lockdowns can be (and have been) implemented, though tourists tend to be exempt from these restrictions. You may be asked to provide your passport at any check points to prove that you are a tourist. Social media bans have also been implemented without warning, so you may want to consider subscribing to a VPN service if you rely primarily on Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or Instagram to communicate with family members and friends back home.

Violent crime against foreigners occurs infrequently, but petty crime is not uncommon. You should keep a close eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas. There are a number of common scams in Sri Lanka: if an offer seems “too good to be true” or overly convenient, it could very well be part of a scam.

Sri Lankan people are generally friendly and helpful people. However, you should keep your wits about you (just as you would in any other country in the world). One of the most common scams in Sri Lanka is being overcharged by tuk tuk drivers; to avoid this make sure you agree on a price before you hop in. If you run into any issues, Sri Lanka has dedicated tourist police which you can reach by calling 1912 or 011-2421052. It often does not help matters along by being aggressive or confrontational – your best bet is to stay calm and contact the local police or ask your hotel to get involved and mediate.

I have traveled around Sri Lanka as a solo female traveler on many occasions, and have experienced some issues including catcalling, unwanted attention, verbal harassment and lewd comments. If you are a solo female traveler in Sri Lanka, I recommend not engaging or responding, and to avoid walking alone late at night. I do recommend taking certain precautions such as pre-booking airport transportation, watching your drink when you are out and about, and letting friends and family know of your travel plans and hotel contact information.

How to spend 2 weeks in Sri Lanka

Ready to plan a trip to Ceylon? I’ve put together a 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary for a taste of this stunning country – read on for beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka and the best places to stay in Sri Lanka!

Day 1: Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport / Colombo

Beach Road in Colombo Sri Lanka

This is the primary international airport serving Sri Lanka and is just outside Colombo (around 45 minutes to an hour north of Colombo). This is where your 2 weeks in Sri Lanka will begin! If you’re landing in the evening, your best bet is to head into Colombo to get some rest. Barefoot Cafe serves up a mean coffee and you can explore their store afterwards for amazing vintage posters and local souvenirs, or head to Black Cat Cafe for a flat white to die for.

Red Mosque Pettah Colombo Sri Lanka

Take a stroll along Galle Face Green, a long park on the waterfront that often has street food stalls and tons of kite fliers, and wander around Pettah Market to overwhelm your senses (in a good way). You won’t want to miss the Jami Ul-Alfar Masjid or “Red Mosque” in Pettah, and stop by the famous Gangaramaya Temple, one of Colombo’s oldest Buddhist temple complexes.

Where to stay in Colombo: Good hotel options include Colombo Hotel by Ceilao Villas, a 6-room boutique hotel with spacious rooms, fantastic service and 2 pools, or OZO Colombo, which has a great rooftop bar facing the ocean and comfortable rooms. Click here to check current rates and room availability at OZO Colombo or click here to check room rates at Colombo Hotel by Ceilao Villas.

Colombo can be easily explored within 1 day. Click here for my guide to seeing Colombo in 24 hours!

Day 2: Head to Sigiriya

This rock fortress is unmissable if you’re visiting Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is an amazing ancient palace that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I would recommend doing the climb up the 200-metre-tall rock in the afternoon as the temperature cools, and staying for the sunset once you’re at the top. Alternatively, you can also hike up the nearby Pidurangala Rock which offers a view of Sigiriya.

Dambulla Cave Temples in Sri Lanka

Close to the rock fortress is Dambulla’s cave temples which are worth a visit also to see intricate wall frescoes and paintings, and the ruins of Polonnaruwa are about an hour away. Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO site featuring the remnants of the country’s ancient capital city between the 11th and 13th centuries.

Vatadage Sacred Quadrangle Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka

If you only have a day or a day and a half in Sigiriya then aim to go to Polonnaruwa in the morning (it should only take you half a day to see everything), and climb Sigiriya rock in the afternoon. The Dambulla cave temples can be visited in an hour or so on your way out of Sigiriya town as you head south. Can’t get enough of ancient cities and temple ruins? Add on another day in Sigiriya and head to Anuradhapura, about 2 hours away from Sigiriya for a separate day trip.

The Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka is home to some of the most incredible religious and heritage sites in the country including Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla. Click here for 7 places you have to visit in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle!

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

Optional: Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks are also nearby and popular safari destinations for elephant lovers (but we’ll get to Yala and Udawalawe a little later). If you are visiting Sri Lanka in August or September I recommend adding on a visit to Minneriya or Kaudulla to witness the magnificent annual “Elephant Gathering” where you can often see hundreds of elephants bathing, grazing and playing in their natural habitat.

Where to stay in Sigiriya: EKHO Sigiriya (formerly named Zinc Journey Sigiriya) is a fantastic hotel right next to Sigiriya Rock and offers beautiful, spacious rooms and excellent service. You can actually see the rock fortress from the hotel! Click here to check current rates and room availability at EKHO Sigiriya.

For nature lovers, I recommend checking out Diyabubula, located about 30 minutes by car from Sigiriya Rock. Diyabubula is a boutique hotel in central Sri Lanka that is truly one-of-a-kind with a story to tell. The jungle hideaway is perfectly in harmony in nature with cheeky monkeys and butterflies fluttering about during the day, and fireflies and cicadas making an appearance at night. Read on for my full review of Diyabubula, or click here to see more accommodation options around Sigiriya!

Days 3 and 4: Make your way over to Kandy

Temple of the Tooth in Kandy

Kandy is another major city in Sri Lanka and was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. It is home to several sacred sites such as the Temple of the Tooth, the Royal Palace and Royal Botanical Gardens.

Set aside 5-6 hours to explore the various landmarks around Kandy – the best way to get around is by tuk tuk. I recommend hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day and asking him or her to wait for you at each location, this way you don’t have to waste time trying to hail a tuk tuk or negotiate prices each and every time! Click here to read more about what to see in Kandy.

If you have time and are up for an excursion in the great outdoors, the aptly-named Knuckles mountain range can also be found here and offers great hiking trails and waterfalls for people who love the outdoors. Don’t skip the short and sweet hike to Mini World’s End, and stop by for a homecooked Sri Lankan meal at a local village set amongst lush rice paddies.

Where to stay in Kandy: Instead of staying in Kandy city, look into staying away from the hustle and bustle at Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Kandy: it’s a seriously amazing hotel and the perfect place to unwind from your first few days of traveling. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge!

Rukgala Retreat near Kandy Sri Lanka yoga retreat

Alternatively, Yoga lovers should head to Rukgala Retreat in Digana, also about 45 minutes away from Kandy. The beautiful retreat venue has 10 bedrooms overlooking the mountains and Victoria Lake, and Yoga classes are held twice daily in their beautiful open-air shala. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Rukgala Retreat!

Days 5 and 6: Take the train to Nuwara Eliya

I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful this train journey is. Wind and weave your way through acres and acres of tea plantations and even stand in a doorway of the train carriage to feel the wind in your face (hanging out of the train is not encouraged and can be very dangerousunfortunately several tourists have sustained serious injuries and even sadly lost their lives). Relax as the train slinks between tiny villages in Sri Lanka and watch the world go by.

The routes between Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella are extremely popular so it’s important to try to sort out your tickets early – it’s not uncommon for the trains to be packed to the absolute brim with standing room only. Sri Lanka Railways has recently launched an online booking website for train tickets, otherwise you will need to find someone to purchase the ticket for you in person from the train station. Alternatively you should always be able to buy a third class ticket without a reserved seat on the day.

Traveling by train in Sri Lanka is an incredibly cost-effective and picturesque way to get around, and many people believe it’s an integral part of the overall Ceylon travel experience. Click here to read more tips on train travel through tea country in Sri Lanka!

Tea plantations from a train in Sri Lanka

From Nuwara Eliya, you can do the hike to Adam’s Peak and World’s End to catch the sunrise (most guides recommend that you start early at 2 or 3 am for Adam’s Peak) and explore Lake Gregory. In the summer months the lake gets busy and offers a number of water sport activities or horse riding.

Nuwara Eliya is also particularly famous for being home to dozens of world-class tea plantations, many of which offer plantation and factory tours. Some popular tea factories in Nuwara Eliya include Pedro’s, Blue Field Tea Factory, Mackwoods Museum and Damro Tea Lounge.

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya: Unique Cottages offered a comfortable 1 night stay at a reasonable price. The staff are friendly and helpful, and can help to book transport and tours to Horton Plains/World’s End. If you are planning to stay here, try to avoid the attic room as there is only 1 small window for ventilation. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Unique Cottages!

I also highly recommend Jetwing St. Andrew’s, a boutique hotel set in a restored colonial mansion. The rooms are slightly dated but comfortable, and the on-site restaurant and bar are both fantastic. For a touch of sophistication check out their afternoon tea offering and treat yourself with a glass of champagne. Click here to book your stay at Jetwing St. Andrew’s or click here for more accommodation options in Nuwara Eliya!

Editor’s note: If you only have 10 days in Sri Lanka, you might want to consider skipping Nuwara Eliya and heading straight to Ella, especially if you don’t mind missing World’s End or Adam’s Peak.

Days 7 and 8: Visit Ella

Madulkelle Sri Lanka 11

You’re half way through your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary. Just east of Nuwara Eliya is Ella, a small town in the highlands of Central Sri Lanka. Ella is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka and is surrounded by tea plantations that you can visit and tour. If you skipped the hike to Adam’s Peak you can visit Little Adam’s Peak here, a much gentler climb that takes about an hour, or trek to Ella Rock which takes about two hours each way. There’s also a zipline course here for the ultra-adventurous who are looking for an exhilarating experience over the tea fields of Ella.

Sri Lanka Ravana Falls Ella

Ravana Falls, one of the widest falls in Sri Lanka, is about half an hour away and is seriously pretty, and you can also get to the famous Nine Arch Bridge easily from the heart of Ella to watch trains chug leisurely along the old tracks. Read my full guide to Ella by clicking here – it is one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Sri Lanka so I wouldn’t recommend skipping it!

Nine Arch Bridge in Ella

Where to stay in Ella: For amazing views of the Ella mountain gap, stay at Ella Mountain Heavens, a cozy boutique hotel high up in the hills. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Ella Mountain Heavens!

Looking to splash out and experience some of the best luxury that Ella has to offer? 98 Acres is one of the top hotels in Ella. This stunning property overlooks the tea plantations and Mini Adam’s Peak, the rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, the spa is incredible and the food is delicate and very tasty. The location is perfect as it is where the trail to Mini Adam’s Peak begins, and is also only a stone’s throw away from the Nine Arch Bridge. Click here to check current rates and availability at 98 Acres.

Optional after Ella: If you have a few days to spare and you are keen to do some surfing, Arugum Bay is a popular spot for surf aficionados and is just 3 hours east of Ella. The beaches are popular during the summer months (from June to September) when the conditions are best. I recommend spending no more than 2-3 days in Arugam Bay unless you’re an extremely avid surfer.

Day 9: Go on a safari at Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park

Make your way down to Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park in the south. Sri Lanka is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and one of the best places in Asia to go on a wildlife safari – Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world and you are almost guaranteed to spot wild elephants in Udawalawe National Park. There is no better place to see animals than in their natural habitat!

Elephant Transit Home Udawalawe Sri Lanka

There are also opportunities to see crocodiles, deer, water buffalo, boar, peacocks, mongoose and bears. If you are heading to Udawalawe then you should also make it a point to visit the orphaned baby elephants at the Elephant Transit Home. These elephants are rescued and rehabilitated before being released back into the wild to re-integrate with herds in national parks around Sri Lanka, and human contact is kept to an absolute minimum (no petting, feeding, bathing or riding – it is strictly observational for visitors) to maximize their chances of survival back in the wild.

You might also like: The Best Places to See Wild Elephants in Sri Lanka

If you are planning on staying overnight in Udawalawe, I recommend staying at Eliyanth Udawalawe, a small hotel that offered incredible value for money. The rooms were spacious and clean with a private balcony overlooking the river, and the hotel can help organize your Udawalawe National Park safari as well. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Eliyanth Udawalawe!

If you are planning on staying overnight in Yala, I recommend staying at Jetwing Yala. The rooms are spacious, the food is delicious (they have 2 restaurants and a beautiful cocktail bar), beach access as well an incredible pool. Wait for it – the pool has a swim-up bar! So you can lounge by the pool with cocktails after your morning safari. Click here to check current rates and room availability at Jetwing Yala!

You can opt to either do a day trip to Yala/Udawalawe or stay overnight if you want to go on more than 1 drive. If you only have enough time for a day trip to Yala/Udawalawe, your best bet is to stay in the southern province. Read on for my hotel recommendations in this area!

Days 10 and 11: Beach time!

You’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka in the country’s deep south, and the southern coast of Sri Lanka also offers tons of options for places to stay for all types of travel budgets. Aside from hopping from beach to beach you should also set aside time to visit one of the many Buddhist temples in the region, go whale watching off the coast of Mirissa, wander around the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort or visit the Tsunami Honganji Viharaya, a memorial dedicated to the thousands of people who lost their lives during the tsunami that wrecked the Sri Lankan coast in 2004.

In this area you will also find the southernmost point of Sri Lanka at Dondra. There is a beautiful lighthouse there that you can visit – when I was there last, you couldn’t climb to the top of the lighthouse unless you had special permission from the port master but you can always check to see if it’s open to the public again.

Cape Weligama Sri Lanka Moon Pool

Where to stay in south Sri Lanka: The Anantara Tangalle, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort and Cape Weligama are 5-star properties with amazing restaurants and service. If you’re looking for something more low key, check out Talalla Retreat, the perfect place for surf and yoga, or Villa Talay (former Zephyr Talalla), a beautiful boutique 5-bedroom beachfront villa.

Sam and Lola's Hiriketiya in Sri Lanka Villa Sam deck and room

Alternatively, independent travelers who are looking for a boutique luxury experience and privacy should look into Sam & Lola’s (our property) in Hiriketiya. The two private villas each feature a private plunge pool and you can easily access two of the most picturesque bays in all of the south – Pehebhiya Beach and Hiriketiya Beach. You can book directly via AirBnb here and here.

Surfboards in Hiriketiya bay in south Sri Lanka

The surf in the south is outstanding (warm water surfing for the win!) and many places offer board rental if you don’t have your own. The peak season for the southern province is from around November to January. Just be mentally prepared for significant crowds if you are visiting Sri Lanka in December around Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

Looking for more boutique and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka? Click here for a list of some of the best boutique and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka!

Days 11 and 12: Explore more of the south coast

The southern coast is also home to Matara, home to the second most important fort in Sri Lanka (next to Galle Fort), Mirissa, Weligama and Unawatuna. In this area you will find a plethora of hotel options and activities, including watching the famous stilt fisherman at sunset, visiting spice gardens and even touring some tea plantations.

Sail Lanka luxury catamaran in Sri Lanka

If you love being out on the open water, make the most of your time on the south coast and get in touch with Sail Lanka to see if you can hop on a half-day or afternoon cruise with them aboard a luxury catamaran. We loved our 7-hour cruise with them out in Mirissa bay and were lucky enough to spot a blue whale as well as about a dozen dolphins. The south coast cruises only operate from November to April. Read more about whale watching with Sail Lanka here.

Matara Paravi Duwa Temple Sri Lanka

If you’re in Matara, definitely stop by the Paravi Duwa Temple, a beautiful island temple connected to the mainland by bridge, or visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna for coastal views. For those looking for a quieter experience in south Sri Lanka head to Talalla, Polhena, Thalpe, Midigama and Madiha which are currently still relatively less developed than places like Unawatuna, Weligama and Mirissa.

Southern Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Click here for more ideas for what to do in Sri Lanka’s deep south!

Day 13: Visit Galle Fort

Galle Fort Lighthouse in Sri Lanka

I love Galle Fort. It’s an amazing blend of old world European architecture (Portugese and Dutch in particular) and Sri Lankan flair, and can be easily reached by train from Mirissa or Matara. Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great place to wander around: book a massage at Spa Ceylon, sip on a cup of tea at the Amangalla, visit the old Dutch Hospital, do some shopping at Barefoot Gallery, eat some artisan gelato at Isle of Gelato, spend some time strolling through the town, see the iconic Galle Fort Lighthouse and walk along the fort wall for panoramic coastal views. Read more about visiting Galle Fort here.

Vintage cars in Galle Fort Sri Lanka

Where to stay in Galle: I would recommend that you stay the night at The Fort Printers, a converted heritage hotel in the heart of Galle Fort. Click here to check current rates and room availability at The Fort Printers! If you don’t want to stay the night in Galle, other alternatives are to stay further north and closer to the airport, or head back to Colombo before your flight out of Sri Lanka.

Option 1 is located in a little seaside town called Negombo. Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions is a beautiful boutique retreat that is located just 30 minutes away from the airport and is a great place to wind down after an exciting 2 weeks in Sri Lanka! Read my full review here or click here to check current rates and room availability at Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions!

Option 2 is situated about an hour and a half away from the airport in a lakeside town called Kalutara. Anantara Kalutara is a stunning sun-filled property that offers fantastic food, a beautiful pool and amazing spa services. Read my full review here or click here to check current rates and room availability at Anantara Kalutara!

Option 3 is located 15 minutes away from the international airport in Sri Lanka. Though it is basic, Villa Dominikku is perfect if you have an early flight (or a late arrival) or need a transit hotel in Sri Lanka. The owner, Dulshan, and his wife are extremely accommodating, friendly and they have a beautiful home. If you are a solo female traveler in Sri Lanka this is a great place to stay in Negombo and the owner can organize reasonably-priced airport transfers on your behalf. click here to check current rates and room availability at Villa Dominikku!

Day 14: Head to the airport

Sadly, it’s time to end your 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. If you are booked on a morning flight, head straight to the airport for your flight and start looking into flights for your trip back to Sri Lanka! If you are booked on an afternoon or evening flight then make the most of your time and squeeze in a few more thambilis (king coconuts) and another portion of string hoppers – you won’t regret it.

Is 2 weeks in Sri Lanka enough?

Wondering how long to spend in Sri Lanka? Look, I get it – not everyone can just up and leave their home, pets or job for weeks at a time. If you’re looking for a straight forward 2 week itinerary for Sri Lanka for first time visitors, then this is the route I would recommend. However, you should be prepared to cover a LOT of ground in 2 weeks – and we haven’t even covered Trincomalee, Passikudah, or the northern regions such as Wilpattu up to Jaffna. I told you Sri Lanka was massive!

Depending on what kind of holiday you’re after, I would say that this 2 weeks in Sri Lanka itinerary is enough for a taste of what the island has to offer…but you need to be mentally prepared to keep moving every few days. If you aren’t too fussed about visiting the heritage sites in central Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle then it is possible to make a beeline for the beaches on the south coast of Sri Lanka, and vice versa. If you also want to visit the far north and east coasts of Sri Lanka, you’ll need closer to 4 or 5 weeks on the island.

If you’re planning an adventure in Sri Lanka you might also like these guides:

Did you find these Sri Lanka travel tips helpful? Join the Sri Lanka Travel Inspiration Facebook group for even more tips, recommendations and advice!

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60 Comments

  1. Hey! Working on planning a honeymoon for my surfer husband and myself! Definitely want lots of beach & surfing time but also want to explore ella and the heritage sites– I LOVE history. We live in Africa so not sure if we need as much time in the game parks– would you recommend adding a day or two on the south coast, and cutting a day from the game parks? Also would April be an okay time to go if we want to surf and enjoy good weather? I’m a teacher and I have holidays in April,August and December!

    Great post 🙂

    Sam

    1. Hi Samantha, yes you could opt to skip the game parks and spend more time elsewhere. April is a good time to visit – have a great time!

    1. Hi Natalie, it really depends on what type of accommodation you choose, what activities you plan on doing and how you plan on getting around (i.e. public transport vs. private cars). It can cost anywhere from US$30-50/night for budget, US$100-150 for mid-range and US$250 and above for luxury accommodation. Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi Flo

    Thanks for the blog, really useful and some amazing places! We’re heading to Sri Lanka in February next year for our honeymoon and this covers pretty much everything we plan to do :). What’s the best way to travel to Sigiriya from Colombo?

    Many thanks!
    Ry

    1. Hi Ry, thanks for taking the time to read this and I’m glad you found it helpful! The best way to get to Sigiriya from Colombo is by private transfer. You should get in touch with your hotel (in Colombo or Sigiriya) to ask them how much a private car + driver costs for a 1-way transfer. Alternatively you can also contact ACE taxis who I’ve used in the past, or take an airport taxi (https://www.airport.lk/passenger_guide/getting_arround/taxi_service.php).

  3. I am finally planning my trip and plan on following your recommendations. Question…how to get from Sigiriya to Kandy? I see above you told someone else to take private car from Ella to the South…is this only option? Once in the South…should I choose one location as a base and spend 3-4 days….maybe Fort Galle? I see you suggest 2 days beach time and 2 days South Coast but isn’t this al the same area? Thanks for all your help!

    1. Hi Cher, I’ll try to answer your questions:

      – best way to get from Sigiriya to Kandy is by car – it will take 3-4 hours.
      – you can also take a public bus from Ella to Matara or Galle if you are on a budget.
      – I recommend Talalla or Hiriketiya as a base as you can go east or west – Galle is on the far west of the south coast
      – the south coast stretches along more than 150 KM and it can take you nearly 3 hours to drive from end to end – on the east you even have some desert-like arid zones and national parks. There aren’t beaches all along (Galle doesn’t really have any nice beaches, for example). Even though you are on the “south coast” you might not have constant beach access. I recommend setting aside 2 days at the beach to lounge around and swim, and another 2 to “do” things like a safari, visiting Galle Fort or heading to a tea plantation.

      Hope this clears things up!

  4. Hi! Thank you so much for this – so well written and informative. I am headed there with my husband and three year old son at the end of April this year for two weeks. I am taking your itinerary ideas very seriously. Heading the advice that the North and West coasts would be best at this time of year, what can I take from your existing itinerary and then make our way up North?

    1. Hi Candice, thanks for taking the time to read this. If you are visiting in April you can pretty much follow this exact itinerary from Colombo to Sigiriya, down to Udawalawe/Yala and the south coast, then up the southwest coast back to Colombo. It will be the shoulder season and the weather should still hold up well!

  5. Hi
    Thanks for your tips, I am actually heading over and had planned out pretty much an identical trip. I have a question, is it easy enough to take Tuk Tuk’s from places like Kandy train station to Sigiriya one way?
    Also after the train ride through to Ella how would you recommend travelling down the to south coast to places like Tangalle and Mirissa??
    Thanks in advanced.

    1. Hi Jenna,

      Thanks for reading this! There’s no way a tuk tuk can drive you from Kandy to Sigiriya. A drive in a proper car would take 3 hours or so, and it would take even longer in a tuk tuk. A tuk tuk driver most likely won’t agree to drive you that far. I would recommend that you hire a driver to take you from Ella to the south coast – it should take 4 hours or so in a sedan/van. If you’re on a budget, take a bus from Ella to Matara and then take a tuk tuk from Matara to Tangalle/Mirissa.

  6. Hi! Have you visited in May? I know it’s the start of the 2nd monsoon season… do you think the south west region will be rainy? I mean the area from Galle/Tangalle southern coast all the way up to Nuwara Eliya/Kandy.

    1. Hi Akiko, yes I have been in May and it is not extremely rainy. Nuwara Eliya/Kandy are in the central province and it can get more rain but in general I have found rainy season in Sri Lanka to be much more manageable than other places like Laos.

  7. I’m planning a trip to Sri Lanka at the moment and this is so helpful! Do you think 3-4 weeks would be enough to cover everything? As I’m from the UK I can get a 30 day tourist visa so may well stay the full 30 days! Thank you for your tips!

  8. I did almost this exact itinerary over 10 years ago and it still looks as beautiful as it did back then! Beautiful story and photos 🙂

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