2-Week Itinerary in Sri Lanka – Natural Wonders Guide

itinerary in sri lanka

This 2-week itinerary in Sri Lanka starts and ends at the international airport near Colombo. Our key destinations include Sigiriya, Ella, Tangalle, Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Galle.

Sri Lanka will captivate you with its natural wonders and diverse experiences for all travelers. From the breathtaking highlands full of hikes and waterfalls to golden beaches perfect for relaxing, surfing, and underwater exploration, immerse yourself in the pearl of the Indian Ocean.

If you have more time available, then turn this 2-week itinerary into a longer adventure by slowing down the travel pace and always going for the additions and extensions we mention in our itinerary.

Is Sri Lanka Worth Visiting?

Convince yourself of Sri Lanka with our YouTube video.

Where is Sri Lanka located?

Sri Lanka is an island located in South Asia to the southeast of India.

Sri Lanka and the Maldives are neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean connected by a short and affordable flight, giving you the perfect chance to visit the budget-friendly local islands in the Maldives right after your itinerary in Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka on Map

Best Time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, being a tropical destination, experiences both dry and rainy seasons. The unique aspect of Sri Lanka is that it undergoes two monsoons, resulting in two distinct rainy seasons in different regions of the country.

  • Southwest Monsoon: This monsoon affects the southwestern part of Sri Lanka, including Colombo, Sigiriya, Ella, Tangalle, Mirissa and Galle, from May to September, bringing heavy rainfall.
  • Northeast Monsoon: This monsoon affects the northeastern part of Sri Lanka and occurs from November to February.

The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on the region you plan to explore. For the places in this itinerary, the optimal time to visit is during the dry season in Southwest Sri Lanka, which runs from December to March. The weather during this period is generally dry and pleasant.

However, the shoulder seasons, from April to May and October to November, can also offer pleasant weather with fewer crowds. As always, if you want to avoid crowds and get better deals, consider visiting during weekdays or/and throughout the shoulder seasons.

6 BEST Hotels in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many amazing places to visit, each with its best places to stay. Here are some handpicked recommendations.

How Long to Stay in Sri Lanka?

Pidurangala Sigiriya Adventure
Sri Lanka Train Adventure

For our itinerary in Sri Lanka with the destinations Sigiriya (Pidurangala), Ella, and the coast from Tangalle to Galle, we highly recommend staying for at least 2 weeks.

However, if you want to see more of the country, a visit of 3 or 4 weeks is even better, as Sri Lanka is big, and there are lots of things to do and see. In this case, you can turn this 2-week itinerary into a longer adventure by slowing down the travel pace and always opting for the additions and extensions we mention in our itinerary.

How to Get to Sri Lanka?

To get to Sri Lanka, you can take an international flight to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. Check now for direct flights or connecting flights depending on your location.

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IMPORTANT: Make sure to check the visa requirements before you book your flight.

How to Get Around in Sri Lanka?

Getting around Sri Lanka is relatively easy and there are several transportation options available. It depends on your preferences and budget.

Long Distances (from one destination to the next):

  • Public buses were our favorite transportation option in Sri Lanka, despite the train ride to Ella, we did everything with the local bus. It was an adventure, traveling with the locals, and it was incredibly cheap and fast. We never had to wait long to catch a bus, and their system covered all parts of the country we visited. However, public buses can get very crowded and uncomfortable with no AC.
  • Sri Lanka has a scenic train network, especially through the central highlands. If you’re heading to Ella, taking the train from Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, or Haputale for a picturesque journey through the hill country is a must for travelers. Tickets for reserved seats often sell out in advance. Check for availability on 12go and read our complete guide about Kandy to Ella Train Ride in Sri Lanka.
  • Renting a car with a driver or self-driving is an option for more comfort and flexibility, as you can stop as often as you want on the way and explore. Keep in mind that roads can be busy and traffic rules may differ. Check out prices for renting a car on Discovercars.
  • Renting a tuk-tuk is another way to travel around Sri Lanka. It gives you the chance to explore while driving and is an authentic and adventurous way to experience the country. Find out more about renting and driving a TukTuk in Sri Lanka.

Short Distances (for driving around in one area):

  • Taking tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis) is a common and affordable mode of transportation for short distances within cities and towns. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey. It should be around 100-150 LKR per km.
  • Renting a motorbike is a good idea to have some freedom and visit attractions further away, costing 1500-2000 LKR per day.
  • Tours or private drivers are the best option for a guided and stress-free experience, with pick-up and drop-off at your accommodation included.

We loved the mix of taking the public bus and the scenic train to move between destinations, renting a scooter at each place to get around, and booking some highly-rated tours in Sri Lanka. Buses in Sri Lanka are very fast and very cheap. The experience was very budget-friendly, authentic, and adventurous.

Best Tours in Sri Lanka

Check out our handpicked tours in Sri Lanka and tick off some must-see attractions.

  • Ella Sightseeing: Join the All-Inclusive Day Trip and experience Ella Rock, Nine Arch Bridge, Ravana Falls & Little Adam’s Peak in just one day!

Best Accomodations in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many amazing places to visit, each with its best places to stay. Here are some handpicked recommendations.

2-Week Itinerary in Sri Lanka

This 2-week itinerary in Sri Lanka starts and ends at the international airport in Negombo, near Colombo. Our key destinations include Sigiriya, Ella, Tangalle, Mirissa, Unawatuna and Galle.

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo & Transfer to Dambulla/Sigiriya

Airport Arrival

The International Airport is located 1 hour away from Colombo, in Negombo. If you land late, consider staying for the night in Negombo at Belmont Boutique Hotel and visiting the beach.

If you arrive at the airport before or around midday, like us, use the day to travel to Dambulla or Sigiriya, both perfect for visiting Pidurangala and Sigiriya Rock.

Transfer to Dambulla/Sigiriya/Habarana

You can organize a private transfer to pick you up at the airport and take you to your accommodation in Dambulla/Sigiriya, or if you’re on a budget like us, take local transportation.

First of all, take a tuk-tuk from the airport to the Minuwangoda Junction. It took us 15-20 minutes and cost around 1000 LKR. Negotiate the fare before starting your journey. Tuk-tuk fares in Sri Lanka should be around 100-150 LKR per km.

If they try to rip you off with the prices at the airport, walk outside and try again on the main road.

At the Minuwangoda Junction, take the bus to Kurunegala. After a 1-hour ride, you will arrive at the Kurunegala Central Bus Station, where you can get some food. Make sure to ask when the next bus to Dambulla leaves, which also takes around 1 hour.

The total journey from the airport to the Dambulla Central Bus Station takes around 4-5 hours. If your final destination is Sigiriya, continue your journey by taking a tuk-tuk from Dambulla to your accommodation in Sigiriya.

Colombo to Habarana by Train

Colombo Train Railways

If you decide to head first for a few days to Colombo City, you can opt for the train ride from Colombo to Habarana, which is only 20 minutes away from Sigiriya.

Train journeys in Sri Lanka are a very authentic and adventurous experience. Make sure not to miss the famous Kandy to Ella Train Ride, which will be explained in detail below.

Hotel & Scooter in Dambulla/Sigiriya

We stayed for the next 2 nights at the beautiful White Land City Hotel in Dambulla, which was within walking distance from the bus station. On the first evening, we organized a scooter for 1500 LKR per day, as we wanted to leave early in the morning for a sunrise hike to Pidurangala.

If you prefer staying closer to the attractions in Sigiriya, we highly recommend the Sigiriya Hotel for your stay.

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MONEY-SAVING TIP: Change only a small amount of money at the airport, where you get a bad exchange rate. We found way better rates in Dambulla City.

Best Hotels in Dambulla

Best Hotels near Pidurangala in Sigiriya

Day 2: Sigiriya, Pidurangala & Elephants

Sunrise Hike to Pidurangala Rock

Sigiriya Rock Sunset

We left Dambulla early in the morning and rode with our rental scooter to the Pidurangala Rock entrance. There, we parked, bought our entrance tickets, and hiked up for 30 minutes.

We made it for sunrise, and it was magical and worth the early wake-up call. From the top of the Pidurangala Rock, you can see 360-degree panoramic views, including the famous Sigiriya Rock.

Best Tour

Sunrise Pidurangala Hike with Pickup from Sigiriya

Best Hotel

Breathtaking view of Sigiriya Rock at Sigiriya Village

Alternative: Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Walking Trail

As an alternative or addition, visit Sigiriya Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if you’re interested in historical sites and cultural heritage. You will explore an ancient fortress with many abandoned palaces, gardens, and waterways on top of a rock island.

However, the entrance fee for Sigiriya at USD 20 per person is high for budget travelers like us. This is one reason why we opted to visit Pidurangala. Many people choose to visit both rocks since they are close to each other, enjoying, for example, sunrise at Pidurangala and sunset at Sigiriya.

Sigiriya and Dambulla Day Trip with Village Tour by Tuk-Tuk or Car.

Encounter with Wild Elephants

Sri Lanka Wild Elephant in Jungle
Sri Lanka Wild Elephant

In the afternoon, we highly recommend visiting one of the nearby National Parks, Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park, for a guided safari experience. You may encounter many wild elephants. Check out this top-rated tour.

If you choose to drive around on a motorbike like us, please be careful. There are wild elephants everywhere in this area. When you see them crossing the street, maintain a BIG DISTANCE, so big that you have time to drive away if they come towards you. They can be very fast.

If you see them next to the road, don’t stop for pictures. It can be dangerous, as they are known to be very aggressive towards tourists, and many people have died. You can also ask your accommodation how to stay safe when driving around on your own. Don’t bring fear, but a lot of respect.

Day 3: Transfer to Kandy

Dambulla/Sigiriya to Kandy

Book a private transfer or take the bus from Dambulla to Kandy. Bring snacks with you and use the day to observe local life and re-energize for the next days.

We don’t think there is a lot to see in Kandy, but it’s the place where the famous and scenic train journey to Ella usually starts. If you have time, take a stroll around the Kandy Lake.

Hotel in Kandy

We stayed for one night at Selyna Sky Terrace, the perfect hotel because of its location within walking distance of the Kandy Bus Station and the Kandy Train Station.

Best Accommodations in Kandy

Train Tickets

Sri Lanka Train Journey

We recommend booking your train ticket from Kandy to Ella in advance to ensure you have a reserved seat, as the trains can get very crowded and seats sell out fast. Check out options and prices online on 12go.

Day 4: Kandy to Ella Train Ride

Train Ride

Kandy to Ella Train Ride in Sri Lanka

The next day, we embarked on the famous train ride to Ella in the morning, known for its scenic beauty while slowly moving through Sri Lanka’s highlands

This train ride is not just a mode of transportation but an adventure in itself. It’s a must-do experience in Sri Lanka to witness the most beautiful landscapes and to immerse yourself in local Sri Lankan life.

Find here 12 tips that will help you get the most out of your train journey in Sri Lanka. Booking in advance on 12go is highly recommended.

Our Experience

We took the long Kandy to Ella train ride and quickly realized how crowded the third class can be, how difficult it is to move on the train with all of your baggage, and how long the train ride is. This is why we decided to arrive in Ella without caring too much about the landscapes and taking pictures.

Two days later, we decided to take the earliest train from Ella to Haputale and back, which takes 2 hours each way. We loved the early, less crowded, shorter ride, which was perfect for enjoying the scenic landscapes. 

We went without any baggage, we had nothing with us besides our phones, making it much easier to walk around the train and take pictures. We stopped in Haputale, where we visited the Haputale viewpoint.

Popular Stops

Nuwara Eliya Tea Farmer
Nuwara Eliya Tea Fields

If you have some extra days, we highly recommend stopping on the Kandy to Ella train journey, allowing you to explore different parts of the region and breaking down the long journey. Some popular stops are:

  • Hatton is the gateway to the famous Adam’s Peak, a mountain with stunning views from the summit. Check hotel options in Hatton
  • Nuwara Eliya (the train stops nearby at Nanu Oya), often referred to as the “Little England” of Sri Lanka, is a picturesque hill town known for its colonial architecture, tea plantations and waterfalls. Check hotel options in Nuwara Eliya
  • Haputale is a train stop located 2 hours before Ella, and it has a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the stunning landscapes. Check hotel options in Haputale.

Hotels in Ella

In the following 4 days, you will experience some of the best things to do in Sri Lanka, all reachable from Ella. Make sure to book yourself a nice hotel to rest between adventures. We highly recommend staying at Guest Inn Avendra for an unforgettable stay.

Best Accommodations in Ella

Best Accommodations near Ella in Nature

Day 5 - 8: Enjoy the best of Ella

Spend 4 full days in Ella. There are 15 breathtaking best things to do in Ella, and some of them even rank among the best activities in Sri Lanka, all conveniently located in one region, making Ella our favorite destination in all of Sri Lanka.

Best Tours in Ella

Ella is surrounded by some of the most iconic Sri Lanka landmarks and incredible hikes. Here are some highlights you just can’t miss:

Diyaluma Waterfall

Diyaluma Falls Beneath
Diyaluma Upper Cascade

Hiking to Diyaluma Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Sri Lanka at 220 meters, was our favorite best thing to do in Ella. We recommend dedicating a full day for the ultimate experience.

Start by viewing the waterfall from below, park your vehicle, and embark on the hike. Afterward, take a refreshing swim in the natural pools, capture pictures of the various waterfall levels, and enjoy a picnic under the trees.

Best Tour

Explore Sri Lanka’s second-highest waterfall, on a day tour from Ella, Bandarawela or Haputale.

Best Hotel

Stay at Living Heritage Koslanda near Diyaluma Falls for a peaceful countryside experience.

Nine Arch Bridge

Arial View Nine Arch Bridge

The Nine Arch Bridge is unquestionably another best thing to do in Ella. The combination of impressive architecture, a 91-meter-long and 30-meter-high bridge made of stones featuring nine arches, and the picturesque surroundings of green tea plantations and dense jungle makes it a breathtaking sight.

Best Tour

Join the All-Inclusive Day Trip and experience the best Ella Sightseeinging.

Best Hotel

Best hotel view of the Nine Arch Bridge at The Cabin Ella

Little Adam’s Peak

Top of Little Adam's Peak

Want to enjoy some of the best 360-degree panoramic views in Ella, Sri Lanka? The Little Adam’s Peak Hike offers you phenomenal mountain views, tea plantation surroundings, and the perfect place for a sunrise or sunset after an easy and short trail.

Best Tour

Join the All-Inclusive Day Trip and experience the best Ella Sightseeinging.

Best Hotel

Enjoy the mountain view from CHILL VILLE, VIEW POINT HOTEL.

Ellawala Waterfall & White Forest

Ellewala Falls, Ella
White Forest Ella

After Diyaluma Falls, we loved Ellawala Waterfall the most. It’s located in the middle of the jungle and requires a short hike to reach its base. We visited in March, and the powerful waterfall created a lot of mist, together with the sun’s rays, it was magical.

On the road to Ellawala Waterfall, you will pass by a lake with white trees. The contrast of the trees and the water was very impressive. It was definitely worth a stop.

Safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Encounter diverse wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and exotic birds, on an exciting safari adventure. Yala and Udawalawe National Parks both offer safari experiences in breathtaking landscapes.

Supporting these safaris contributes to the conservation of Sri Lanka’s natural habitats and endangered species. Check out this top-rated tour starting from Ella.

Best Tour

The most popular safari tour is the Full Day Safari in Yala National Park

Best Hotel

Stay near Yala National Park in a Tent Lodge at Yala Wild Hut – Yala

Extension

If you have some extra days available, consider staying at Yala Wild Hut near Yala National Park after visiting Ella.

Near the National Park you can find accommodations with lake views where you can observe water buffalos refreshing in the water. Additionally, there is a “Fruits Bats View Point” where you can observe them at sunset.

Day 9: Transfer to Tangalle

Ella to Tangalle

After spending an unforgettable time in Ella, head to the south. We recommend going to Tangalle as the first destination on the coast and visiting the most beautiful beach in Sri Lanka, Silent Beach.

You can organize a private transfer or take local buses from Ella Bus Station to Tangalle. You will have to change buses once, the bus driver will let you know when.

Hotel in Tangalle

We came to Tangalle because Silent Beach. That’s why we wanted to stay near the beach, instead of in Tangalle town. 

Our stay at Tanzanite Place ($) was perfect and within walking distance of Silent Beach. Another option is the Igabara Hobbit House ($$), or if you wish to stay directly at the beach, the Amanwella Resort ($$$).

Day 10-13: Discover the South Coast (Tangalle - Galle)

Spend your last 4 days exploring the south coast of Sri Lanka. We recommend starting from Tangalle when coming from Ella and discovering the coast all the way to Galle. This coastal section offers many different stunning locations with unforgettable experiences.

Spend your time on the coast depending on what you’re interested in. You can move easily by public bus or by private transfers. The distances between places are usually short.

Itinerary in Sri Lanka

Hotels on the South Coast

Best Accommodations in Tangalle

Best Accommodations in Hiriketiya

Best Accommodations in Mirissa

Best Accommodations in Unawatuna

Best Accommodations in Galle

Silent Beach in Tangalle

Silent Beach, Tangalle

As mentioned above, we recommend heading to Tangalle to visit Silent Beach, an untouched paradise with golden sand and azure waters. After seeing many beaches in the south, we felt like it was the most beautiful beach in Sri Lanka. It’s the perfect destination to escape the crowds and reconnect with nature.

Surfing

Surfing in Sri Lanka is an incredible experience for improving skills, staying active, and enjoying nature. The south coast offers many beautiful beaches with waves for all levels. You can book surf camps with accommodation, take single lessons, or rent equipment easily.

We had some of our first surfing experiences at Hiriketiya Beach, Weligama Beach and Dewata Beach and loved it very much.

If you’re into surfing and have enough time, consider booking a surf camp. It’s the best way to improve your surfing skills quickly, and you get to meet many like-minded people from the surfing community coming from all around the world.

Best Surf Lesson

Take a Surf Lesson at the Ride a Wave Surf School in Weligama

Best Hotel

Enjoy your stay at Villa beachfront weligama

Beaches

Discover some beautiful beaches like Hiriketiya Beach and Unawatuna Beach.

Turtles

Visit Turtle Point near Dickwella to see wild sea turtles.

Sunsets

Two breathtaking places to enjoy sunset views are at Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa and at the famous Rope Swing in Dalawella Beach.

Rope Swing on Palm Tree, Unawatuna
Itinerary in sri lanka
Sri Lanka Itinerary Unawatuna

Whale Encounters

best things to do in sri lanka

Mirissa is one of the best places in the world for whale encounters, including blue whales, sperm whales and humpback whales. The best time is during the dry season, from December to March when the seas are calm and the whales come closer to the Sri Lankan coast.

Best Tour

The Morning Whale & Dolphines Watching Tour is a must-do activity! Observe a range of animals, like blue whales & dolphins

Galle

If you’re interested in history, discover Galle, a charming colonial town with Portuguese, British, and Dutch influence. The buildings will make you feel like you are in Europe.

5 BEST Tours in Sri Lanka

Check out our handpicked tours in Sri Lanka and tick off some must-see attractions.

  • Ella Sightseeing: Join the All-Inclusive Day Trip and experience Ella Rock, Nine Arch Bridge, Ravana Falls & Little Adam’s Peak in just one day!

Day 14 Transfer to the Airport

On your last day, head back to Negombo to catch your flight. There is a bus going from Galle directly to the airport, but you can also arrange a private transfer.

If you have time and are interested in Colombo, the country’s capital, a chaotic and vibrant destination, we recommend taking the train from Galle to Colombo.

Packing for Sri Lanka

Depending on when you visit Sri Lanka and which regions you plan to explore, check the weather, as there are two different rainy seasons. It’s best to always be prepared for unexpected rain.

We always travel with our Deuter 40+10 liter backpack, which is light, usually accepted as hand luggage, and perfect for trekking or motorbike trips.

We love to travel light. Check out our highly recommended travel essentials you should consider packing for your trip to Sri Lanka.

Travel Tips for Sri Lanka

  • Cash: We changed a small amount of money at the airport, enough for the first two days. Once arrived in Dambulla, we visited 2-3 banks and asked for the exchange rates to find the best one. We opted to exchange euros, as we didn’t want to pay fees when withdrawing multiple times.
  • Safety: For health purposes, we recommend you drink only bottled water and use mosquito repellent (as there is a risk of malaria or dengue fever).
  • Respect: It’s very important to respect the culture and religion in Sri Lanka. When visiting religious sites like Pidurangala, where you will pass through a temple complex, dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees.
  • Local bus: The local bus has been our favorite transportation option in Sri Lanka. It was adventurous, authentic, extremely cheap, and fast. We never had to wait long to catch one. Even near the airport, a short tuk-tuk ride away, there are bus stations for the local bus system.
  • Tuk-Tuks: Tuk-tuks are a common way of transportation in Sri Lanka, but tourists should be careful when taking one. It’s important to negotiate prices before starting the ride to avoid scams. It should be around 100-150 LKR per km.
  • Trains: The trains are not as cheap, fast, and convenient as the buses, but when you’re heading to Ella, we recommend taking the train from Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Haputale for a scenic journey in the hill country.
  • Wild elephants: There are wild elephants in Sri Lanka. When you see them crossing the street, keep a BIG DISTANCE, so big that you have time to drive away if you see them coming towards you. They can be very fast. If you see them next to the road, don’t stop for pictures. It can get dangerous, as they are known to be very aggressive towards tourists.
  • Local Cuisine: Try local dishes like different curries, hoppers, and kottu roti. Be cautious with spicy food if you’re not used to it.
  • Sim card: Buy a SIM card for translation, communication, navigation and emergencies. You can either buy a local SIM card once you arrive or use the e-SIM Card from Airalo to be connected upon arrival.
  • VPN: A VPN is essential for travel, but what exactly does it do? A VPN changes your virtual location, hiding your real location and offers you many benefits:
    • Privacy: no hackers, no government surveillance.
    • Data Security: when paying online or using public Wi-Fi.
    • Access Blocked Content: such as social media & streaming services.
    • Save Money: access exclusive prices available only in specific countries.
    • Affordable: cheap protection compared to the provided value.

Costs for Sri Lanka - Travel Budget

Sri Lanka is one of the cheapest places we have ever visited and perfect for all travel budgets. Low-budget travelers should definitely put this country on their bucket list.

The currency used in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee. You can either exchange money, such as dollars or euros, at banks and money exchange shops or withdraw money from ATMs. We highly recommend using a travel credit card such as Wise for the best conversion rates and no worldwide withdrawal fees.

Usually, both exchanging money and withdrawing cash are better done away from the airport. If you need cash upon arrival, just get a small amount and later more at your first destination.

These were some prices we noticed while traveling in Sri Lanka.

  • Homestay: 10-20 USD per night for a double room with a private bathroom
  • Hotel: starting from 20 USD per night for a double room with a private bathroom
  • Tuk-Tuks: 100-150 LKR per km
  • Local buses: Starting from 50 LKR per way
  • Trains: Starting from 100 LKR per way
  • Street food: Starting from 100 LKR per meal
  • Local restaurants: Starting from 500 LKR per meal
  • Western restaurants: 4-20 USD per meal
  • Airalo SIM Card starts from 4.5 USD

Where to go after Sri Lanka?

Rasdhoo Sandbank, Maldives

We highly recommend combining your trip to Sri Lanka with the Maldives if you have at least 3 weeks of time. These two neighboring countries are easily accessible by a short and affordable flight, making them perfect to visit on the same trip.

Check out the 10 best local Maldives islands for a budget-friendly experience in the Maldivian paradise.

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