In July 2017 I spent a month exploring the beaches, temples and mountains in Sri Lanka– I had the best time and saw some absolutely amazing places. I feel as though I had an amazing itinerary and would love to share it with you!
Before October, the best way to get to Sri Lanka took us three flights, 20 hours and an unexpected stopover in Bali, which we only found out about when we were actually descending into Bali. I don’t mind all too much about long distance travel and going the longer route to save money but now thanks to Sri Lankan airlines, you can fly DIRECT from Melbourne to Colombo.
I know that my itinerary is pretty top notch so I am here to share my 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary so you can best utilise your time and get the most out of your travels.
Colombo (2 nights)
The capital city of Sri Lanka and understandably so. This is one busy city with markets packed into unimaginable tiny spaces and a local to westerner ratio that’ll have you straight out of your comfort zone. A great spot to dive head first into Sri Lankan cuisine with the street food scene excelling.
Sigiriya (4 nights)
A World Heritage town with a very impressive, and climbable rock called Sigiriya Rock. The rock fortress was built by King Kassapa thousands of years ago and although is now in ruins and unoccupied, it is an absolute must see sight in all of Sri Lanka. Tip: Get up early and wait in line at 6:45am to be one of the first to enter at 7. Once it hits 8 it gets crowded, and trust me, the steep steps on the side of the rock are not where you want to be standing in queue. Accommodation: Back of Beyond, Deligha Ela.
Arugam Bay (4 nights)
Arugam Bay is a laid back, colourful beach village on the east coast of Sri Lanka which attracts both wannabe & professional surfers from all over the world. The village is made up of one strip, which is overloaded with surf-shops, roadside yoga signs and thatch roofed smoothie and juice bars.
Udawalawe National Park (2 nights)
Udawalawe National Park is home to many animals, but the Asian Elephant is what people flock to see and you sure won’t be disappointed. Over the 6 hours we were lucky enough to see around 40-50 elephants as well as a dozen Estuarine crocodiles, multiple gangs of water buffalo, chameleons, monkeys and hundreds of different bird species.
Ella (3 nights)
A gorgeous, chilled out hilltop town in a sea of tea plantations. Ella is a very photogenic spot and was by far one of my favourite destinations in Sri Lanka. There are plenty of mountains to hike, hidden cave temples to discover and a bridge to view that will bring on all the Harry Potter feels. Jump on the train and head to Kandy, just be sure to have your camera battery charged and card cleared. This is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.
Food recommendation: You have to dine in at Matey Hut. If I was to walk past it without knowing what it was, I never would have gone. They only have a few tables – but the wait is so worth it. This was where I had one of the best meals in Sri Lanka. Here we are patiently waiting at Matey Hut for our meals. We were so excited after reading all of the reviews on TripAdvisor. It definitely did not dissapoint.
Kandy (3 nights)
An unexpected buzzing city with chaos and character. Kandy is the religious and cultural centre of Sri Lanka, famed for the Temple of the Tooth and the annual Perahera festival. Being a bigger city, we were excited for the food options but were left slightly underwhelmed by most cafes and restaurants. On day two we discovered Cafe Secret Alley which became our go to spot for breakfast and lunch.
Cafe Secret Alley whips up a tasty avocado smoothie bowl. We unknowingly timed our trip to Kandy with the Perahera festival. We were lucky enough to be able to sit above and watch the parade from a restaurants balcony. It was definitely a night I will never forget.
Suggestions to extend to a 4 week itinerary
- 3 nights in Nallathanniya to climb Adams Peak (Best to travel here after Kandy). You can read about it here.
- 4 nights in Galle (Best to travel here after Arugam Bay): a UNESCO World Heritage Site influenced by the Portuguese and the Dutch.
- 3 nights in Mirissa (Best to travel here after Arugam Bay): a southern beach lined with bars and restaurants along the shore. Here you can find your inner zen and do some yoga and meditation classes. I highly recommend the hilltop temple yoga.
- 3 nights in Trincomalee (Best to travel here after Sigiriya): Significantly further north and honestly very far away from anything else note worthy of a 3-4 week itinerary. The beaches here are however pristine and you can even catch a little boat out to Pigeon Island to go snorkelling.
You can use the public transport system to get from A to B, which will not only save you a whole lot of coin (we paid approximately $3 for a 5-hour journey once) but open you up to more of a local experience. Otherwise, you can organise a private driver at each destination, just expect to pay a high price (ranging from $40-70). I’d highly recommend trying out both and maybe keeping the busses for the shorter, more manageable distances.Hayley on board our first ever locals bus in Colombo. This photo is very deceiving. We took this on the toilet break when every one hopped off, before then, the bus was loaded and very sweaty.
Sri Lanka was full of happy surprises and I left feeling in complete awe of the beautiful country I got to explore. For once I wasn’t excited to return home and have a western meal. Turns out I actually love having curry for breakfast and dahl can still taste amazing cold. The people are so warm, welcoming and giving – their hearts are just filled with so much compassion.
I’d love to hear from you if you do head over to Sri Lanka as I am certain you will have an absolutely incredible time. Happy to help with any questions you may have regarding travel to Sri Lanka i.e. itinerary, best time to go, must see things etc.
All the love in the world,