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. 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 and to visit a certain surf coach *ahem*. Oh and have I mentioned that Sri Lanka has some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed anywhere in the world?
Over the past few months, 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 over time I’ve developed a 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. Read on for the perfect Sri Lanka 2 week itinerary!
Helpful things to know before you go to Sri Lanka
- 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. From August 1st 2019 to February 2020, if you are a national of one of the approved countries your visa fee of US$35 will be waived. 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 exchange rate varies from approximately 165-180 LKR: 1 USD. 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 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. 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, a one-way 3-4 hour car ride can cost anywhere from US$100 to $140, but may be worthwhile if you have a large group of people. Hiring a car and driving around yourself is not really a thing in Sri Lanka; you can probably find car rental places in Colombo, but your best bet is to take a train or hire a driver.
- Traveling around by bus is also dirt cheap, but not highly recommended because they drive like absolute mad men!
- Sri Lanka is unlike some other Asian 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.
- Sri Lanka has a few different climates so you may 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. However, a small tip is always appreciated by people in the service industry (such as porters, housekeeping staff, waiters etc.) and tuk tuk drivers.
- 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 decor and warm hospitality when I travel – click here for some of the best boutique and luxury hotels to stay at in Sri Lanka.
Safety in Sri Lanka
The vast majority of visits to Sri Lanka are trouble free, and tourism is a major source of revenue for the country. Following the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, authorities have implemented additional strict security measures. You can read more about important precautions to take when traveling to Sri Lanka here.
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). The most common scam 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.
I have traveled around Sri Lanka as a solo female traveler on many occasions, and have experienced some issues including catcalling, verbal harassment and lewd comments. If you are a solo female traveler in Sri Lanka, I recommend not engaging/responding, and 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
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. Take a stroll along Galle Face Green, a long park on the waterfront that often has food stalls and tons of kite fliers, and wander around Pettah Market.
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 in the afternoon as the temperature cools, and staying for the sunset once you’re at the top.
Close to the rock fortress is Dambulla’s cave temples which are worth a visit also, and the ruins of Polonnaruwa are about an hour away.
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 done 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!
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. 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
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 in Kandy. Click here to read more about what to see in Kandy.
If you have time and are up for an excursion, the aptly-named Knuckles mountain range can also be found here and offers great hiking trails and waterfalls for people who love the outdoors.
Instead of staying in Kandy city, look into staying 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!
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 hang out (CAREFULLY) of the train carriage to feel the wind in your face. 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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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. Read my full guide to Ella by clicking here.
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!
If you are looking for something a little more budget-friendly, I would recommend The Bamboo, a Sri Lankan family-run boutique guesthouse that is convenient located in the heart of town.
The room rates are reasonable and the room is massive and tastefully decorated, but because of its location you will hear some street noise, so bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper. Click here to check current rates and room availability at The Bamboo!
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 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 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.
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.
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 Zephyr Talalla, a beautiful boutique 4-bedroom beachfront villa serving up the best food & cocktails.
Alternatively, independent travelers who are looking for a boutique luxury experience and privacy should look into Sam & Lola’s (my 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 check availability and rates here, or book via AirBnb here and here.
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!
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 but you can always check to see if it’s open to the public again.
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, whale watching, visiting spice gardens and even touring some tea plantations.
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.
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 Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna for coastal views.
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
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 and Stolen Paradise Clothing, 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.
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 cheap airport transfers on your behalf. click here to check current rates and room availability at Villa Dominikku!
Day 14: Head to the airport
It’s time to end your 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. Head straight to the airport for your flight and start looking into flights for your trip back to Sri Lanka next time!
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 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 or the northern regions such as Jaffna. I told you Sri Lanka was massive!
Depending on what kind of holiday you’re after, I would say that 2 weeks in Sri Lanka 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.
What are some other must-visit spots in Sri Lanka? Tell me about them in the comments section below!
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