See Sri Lanka: A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean – Yoga, Wine & Travel

See Sri Lanka: A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

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*. 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 visit. 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! Oh and have I mentioned that Sri Lanka has some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed anywhere in the world?

Hirikiteya Sri Lanka

Things to know before you go to Sri Lanka

  • The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (different from the Indian Rupee), and the exchange rate varies from approximately 135-145 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 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 45 days before the trip and scenic routes fill up FAST. Train travel through tea country is an amazing experience!
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
Visiting Sri Lanka? Click here for the full list of 12 things you should know before your trip!


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). 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. Take a stroll along Galle Face Green, a long park on the waterfront that often has food stalls and tons of kite fliers. A good hotel option is OZO Colombo, which has a great rooftop bar facing the ocean and incredibly comfortable rooms. Click here to book your stay at OZO Colombo!

Day 2: Head to Sigiriya

Sigiriya 15

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. 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). 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 book your stay at Zinc Journey Sigiriya, or click here for more accommodation options around Sigiriya!

Sri Lanka Sigiriya Lion Rock

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. The aptly-named Knuckles mountain range can also be found here and offers great hiking trails and waterfalls for people who love the outdoors. 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 book your stay at Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge!

Madulkelle Sri Lanka 15

Madulkelle Sri Lanka 2

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.

Train Travel Through Sri Lanka 2

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 book your stay at Unique Cottages!

Days 7 and 8: Take the train to Ella

Madulkelle Sri Lanka 11

Just east of Nuwara Eliya is Ella, a small town in the highlands of Central Sri Lanka. Ella is surrounded by tea plantations that you can visit and tour, and 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. 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 book your stay at Ella Mountain Heavens!

Sri Lanka Ravana Falls_small
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Ella Gap Sri Lanka_small

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.

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 – 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.

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 plan to do a day trip to Yala/Udawalawe, your best bet is to stay in the southern province.

anantara-tangalle-sri-lanka-14
strength-serenity-yoga-retreat-sri-lanka-march-2017_4_small

Yala National Park 2

Days 10 and 11: Beach time!

The southern coast has beautiful stretches of beach and you have tons of options for places to stay. The Anantara Tangalle, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort, Anantara Kalutara 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.

Sri Lanka Shangri La Hambantota Rooms 1
Anantara Tangalle pool_small
strength-serenity-yoga-retreat-sri-lanka-march-2017_4_small

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.

Sri Lanka Dondra Lighthouse

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

Sri Lanka Beach

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, spice gardens and sea turtle sanctuaries. If you’re in Matara, definitely stop by the Paravi Duwa Temple (featured photo at the top), a beautiful island temple connected to the mainland by bridge.

Day 13: Visit Galle Fort

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 the Galle Fort Spa, sip on a cup of tea at the Amangalla, visit the old Dutch Hospital, do some shopping at Barefoot Gallery and Salt Clothing, spend some time strolling through the town, see the iconic Galle Fort Lighthouse and walk along the fort wall for panoramic coastal views. 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 book your stay at stay the night 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.

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 book your stay at Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions!

jetwing-ayurveda-pavilions-3_small

Option 2 is situated about an hour and a half away from the airport in a lakeside down 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 book your stay at Anantara Kalutara!

Day 14: Head straight to the airport

On your way back, skip Colombo and head straight to the airport for your flight!

This is a lot of ground to cover in two weeks, and we haven’t even covered Trincomalee or the northern regions such as Jaffna. I told you Sri Lanka was massive! What are some other must-visit spots in Sri Lanka? Tell me about them in the comments section below!

For more Sri Lanka travel tips and destination guides, head on over here!

Sri Lankan Sunset

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Yogawinetravel.com: See Sri Lanka - A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Yogawinetravel.com: See Sri Lanka - A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Yogawinetravel.com: See Sri Lanka - A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Yogawinetravel.com: See Sri Lanka - A 2 Week Itinerary for the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

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46 Comments

  1. JASCHEN says:

    Such breathtaking views! This makes me want to travel so bad. Definitely adding Sri Lanka to my bucket list and going to bookmark this post for future references.

    Jasmine,
    http://www.mysuitcasejourneys.com

  2. Soraya says:

    Sri Lanka is on my bucket list, as I have heard it’s absolutely beautiful. I have definitely noticed more and more people posting about visiting there. Your photos look beautiful and I think you have put together a fantastic itinerary. My Hubby is a keen surfer so I know he’s looking forward to surfing in Sri Lanka. The tea plantations are also definitely something I would love to do. Will pin this – thank you for sharing!

    • Flo says:

      Soraya I think you’d love it! And it seriously seems like every single person went this year haha. Should definitely plan a trip there before it gets too busy! Please let me know if you make it over 🙂

  3. Not sure I could cope with the buses either haha but very tempted by that amazing train ride, safari with elephants and the grandeur of the lighthouse. I genuinely didn;’t know Sri Lanka had so much to offer!

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read through, Danni! There are so many different climates in Sri Lanka – it’s really amazing! Let me know if you ever make it over 🙂

  4. Meg says:

    I am Pinning this article to refer back to in the future as it’s so useful! Thank you for sharing your hints and tips and this has encouraged me to add Sri Lanka to my bucket list for sure! Your photographs are stunning – loved the photo of the elephant creeping out of the jungle and train travel at sunset. Heavenly!

  5. This is fantastic! Sri Lanka is somewhere that I’ve been considering visiting for some time, and this post will be so useful when I do get around to planning a trip there (hopefully in the next few years!) 🙂

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read this article, Kiara! Definitely head there sooner rather than later, it’s still relatively less crowded compared to places like Thailand and Bali 🙂

  6. Linda says:

    Love your itinerary! I really want to visit Sri Lanka! Do you think it’s safe to travel alone?

    • Flo says:

      Hey Linda! I absolutely do – much like other places it’s still wise to exercise caution and common sense, but it’s easy to get around and people there are extremely friendly.

  7. So well summarised. Pictures are fabulous too

  8. Oh Sri Lanka is on my top 5 places to go within the next two years, especially whilst we are in the Middle East making travel times so much more manageable. It looks incredible and you post only makes me want to go more. My hubby is a geek when it comes to trains and would love that trip! I’ll definitely bookmark this post for reference when we finally plan it #FlyAwayFriday

    • Flo says:

      Absolutely! It’s only 4-5 hours from Doha and there are lots of Qatar/Emirates flights to Colombo. Please let me know if you make it over! The train journey is really spectacular.

  9. So beautiful! I didn’t expect Sri Lanka to have such amazing sceneries around, your post opened up my eyes! On another note, hope you enjoy more trips to visit your coach *winks*

  10. Sabrina says:

    When I was in India last year at the beginning of my long trip around the world, I was considering Sri Lanka, but opted for the Andaman & Nicobar Islands instead. Your pictures and itinerary have inspired me to add it to my “long-way home”. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Emily says:

    So beautiful! If it wasn’t already on my list it certainly is now.

  12. Chloe says:

    Once again, killin it with the pictures!!! I’m DYING to go here!! Ahh!! Thank you for the itinerary idea, I def will find a way to make this trip happen 🙂 Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday and can’t wait to see your next post!

    • Flo says:

      Thank you so much Chloe! Really loving the #FlyAwayFriday community 🙂 You have to make the trip over to Sri Lanka! Let me know when you do 😉

  13. I keep hearing a lot about the beauty of Sri Lanka and I would love to visit one day. I’m saving this link for when I plan my trip – thank you for sharing all your tips!

  14. Kim says:

    Having just been, this makes me want to go back!! Aweso,e you get to go every 2-3 months…just a bit jealous of that 😉 Great itinerary!!

    • Flo says:

      I still don’t feel like I’ve done and seen enough in Sri Lanka! I’d love to head to the north to experience Jaffna!

  15. This is a great itinerary. I would particularly like to visit Ella and also the Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge looks awesome.

  16. Jamie says:

    Great post! I didn’t know much about Sri Lanka, but I feel like I learned a lot about it today 🙂

    • Flo says:

      Yay! Thanks for taking the time to read through, Jamie 🙂 I didn’t know much about it before my first trip there in 2015, it has completely blown my mind!

  17. Kreete says:

    These photos are great and what a fantastic itinerary too! I have pinned this for a future reference. Thanks for sharing! #flyAwayFriday

  18. Kana says:

    I always comment on your Instagram – “so dreamy!” but know that it’s not a canned comment, I REALLY mean it! Your photos are just always so dreamy! I’ve never known too much about Sri Lanka but I’m certainly learning just how beautiful it is there! Thanks for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday – hope to see you again this week! xo

    • Flo says:

      Thank you so much Kana! You know how I feel about your Instagram 🙂 If you ever make it to Sri Lanka please let me know!

  19. Julian says:

    Great itinerary! We took more or less the same route with a Tuk-Tuk and absolutely enjoyed it. An amazing country, thanks for sharing and bringing it out there 🙂 Nice blog btw, love your style and design. Enjoy your upcoming travels.

    • Flo says:

      WOAH you did all of this in a tuk tuk? It must have taken ages on the roads! Well done for surviving the ride haha. Thanks for checking this out 🙂

  20. Indrani says:

    That is a good itinerary for 2 weeks! I am yet to visit this pearl of Indian Ocean!
    Anuradhapura fascinates me the most because of the history!

  21. 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 🙂

  22. 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!

  23. Akiko says:

    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.

    • Flo says:

      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.

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