Skip to Content

How to Plan an Epic Sri Lanka Itinerary

This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking and making a purchase through the links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my disclaimer for more information. This and display ads allow me to keep the site up to date and give back.

Planning the perfect itinerary for Sri Lanka can be overwhelming. Despite its size, the island is densely packed with several incredible attractions that can make it difficult to know where to start!

Without an itinerary, you might miss out on some of the incredible experiences this destination has to offer, such as world-class surfing, witnessing wild elephants, or exploring ancient ruins.

As a full-time traveler who has explored over 70 countries solo, I understand the challenges of crafting an itinerary that captures the essence of Sri Lanka. This guide is tailored specifically for adventurous spirits like you, looking to embrace everything from the spicy flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine to its incredible wildlife.

In this comprehensive Sri Lanka travel guide, I’ll take you through the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, things to do, and essential travel tips, including safety and budget considerations.

Whether you’re planning a quick week-long escape or a detailed month-long adventure, you’ll find everything you need to create an incredible Sri Lanka itinerary.

This itinerary is based on my experience traveling solo in Sri Lanka for one month in 2018, and a press trip with the Sri Lanka tourism board in 2024.

Sri Lanka South Coast Itinerary

If you only have 1 week in Sri Lanka, a great idea is to visit the beach towns on the Southern Coast.

Unawatuna & Galle (1-2 days)

Just two hours south of Colombo, you will start to hit many of the best beach towns on the South Coast. If you take the train South from Colombo, you will follow along the coastline, with palm trees and ocean right outside the door.

My favorite town on the South Coast is Unawatuna, a small but lively beach town where you can swim, surf, relax, or party. A big part of the reason I loved Unawatuna so much is because of Camp Kush hostel.

This eco-friendly hostel is in the middle of the jungle, yet minutes away from town. They offer unique accommodation options in Tipi houses. It has a super welcoming atmosphere – you’ll feel at home as soon as you walk in.

Camp Kush Hostel in Unawantuna, Sri Lanka
Camp Kush Hostel in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Unawatuna is close to Galle, a popular city on the South Coast. The city is known for Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and fortified old city founded by Portuguese colonists.

sunset in galle sri lanka
Sunset walk in Galle, Sri Lanka

It’s only a 15-minute drive if you want to visit Galle Fort, which can be done in one day. On my most recent Sri Lanka trip we had a fascinating tour of the fort, and spent some time walking through the town of Galle afterwards.

It’s come a long way in the last few years, with many cute boutiques and cafes. I would love to spend more time there during my next trip in Sri Lanka!

Where to stay: Oynise Beach Cabins are tranquil beach huts next to the ocean close to the town of Galle. There are only five beach huts in total, so it’s a quiet accommodation option but a perfect place to stay if you want to relax for an affordable price.

View of the beach at Oynise Beach Cabins in sri lanka
View of the beach at Oynise Beach Cabins

Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery

lora holding a baby sea turtle in sri lanka
Getting ready to release this little guy into the ocean – that smile didn’t leave my face all day.

A great place to visit between Unawatuna and Weligama is the Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery. It can be done as a day trip from either town.

It was my first time taking part in a baby sea turtle release, and I will never forget how incredible it felt to be part of this wildlife experience. I actually felt my heart grow 20x bigger as the little guy walked toward the open sea!

Even though the turtles we released were only born the day before, they instinctively know to head toward the direction of the ocean.

I was skeptical about visiting a turtle hatchery in Sri Lanka as I’d heard negative things about them keeping turtles captive for tourism, but felt Koggala was genuine in their efforts to protect and conserve sea turtles in Sri Lanka.

All of the older turtles there had been brought in by fishermen because they had injuries, and Koggala was trying to rehabilitate them so they could go back into the ocean.

All of the sea turtle eggs at the hatchery were found on the nearby beach and kept there to hatch. The chance of survival in the wild is only 1-2%, but when released from the sanctuary, the odds of survival increase to 15%. Additionally, all of the profits from tours go back towards turtle conservation in Sri Lanka.

Weligama (1-2 days)

A surfer heading out to the ocean in Weligama, Sri Lanka
A surfer heading out to the ocean in Weligama, Sri Lanka

Weligama, on the South Coast of Sri Lanka, is the perfect place to go if you want to learn or brush up on your surf skills. 

The surf in Weligama bay is perfect for beginners, but if you paddle further out, there are some bigger waves for the more advanced surfers.

Weligama is a great base to stay if you only have a week or so for your itinerary but want to visit other places in Sri Lanka due to its proximity to many of the major tourist attractions on Sri Lanka’s South Coast.

Just half an hour to the west is Mirissa, and half an hour east is Galle. You can even do a day tour of Udawalawe National Park from Weligama.

Mirissa (1-2 days)

Mirissa is one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka. If you want to party, this is the place to be. The beachfront is full of lively beach bars and restaurants.

During the day, Mirissa Beach is a good place to work on your tan or hit the waves. Plus, it’s home to one of the most Instagramable spots in Sri Lanka.          

Whale watching in Mirissa is another popular activity in the area. The whales are usually there from October to March.

Akumal Bay

As an alternative route,  if you prefer to stay along the coast, you can visit Akumal Bay after Mirissa. Akumal Bay is a popular surf town in Sri Lanka, with its peak season running opposite the South Coast (from March-September).

I didn’t visit Akumal Bay as I was in Sri Lanka just after the season ended, but I’ve heard great reviews from other travelers.

If you have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s possible to include both the beaches on the South Coast and the beautiful mountainous area of Ella and Kandy which I’ll go over in the next section.

Central Sri Lanka Itinerary

This central Sri Lanka itinerary in Sri Lanka takes you to several of the most popular places in Sri Lanka, covering both wildlife, culture, nature, and cities.

Colombo (1 day)

Aerial view of a cityscape with numerous high-rise buildings, overlooking a green-colored lake and the ocean in the background beneath a partly cloudy sky.

When you fly internationally into Sri Lanka, you’ll land near Colombo, the capital city. During my first time in Sri Lanka, I skipped over Colombo but had the chance to visit it on my more recent press trip with the tourism board. I was surprised how much I liked it!

We did a sightseeing bus tour around the city which highlighted how diverse the architecture is, ranging from European style buildings to modern to, showcasing Sri Lanka’s history.

The tour ended at the Lotus Tower, which definitely has the best views of the city. This iconic tower is the tallest in South Asia, with a stunning revolving restaurant, luxury suites, and a 360-viewing platform.

For something off-the-beaten path, check out the Angampora martial arts school which is about an hour drive from the city. We visited in the afteroon to watch a demonstration of their fighting which was super impressive. Some of the guys have been training here for over 40 years are quite impressive to watch!

Where to stay: We were hosted at Cinnamon Laka which is a lovely resort. I ate way too much from their huge buffet which has everything from traditional Sri Lankan cuisine to Thai and Japanese. The rooms were comfortable and the pool was great for cooling off from the heat!

Hurulu Eco Park

On our journey from Colombo to Sigiriya, we decided to break up the trip with an afternoon safari at Hurulu Eco Park, and it couldn’t have been a better start to our Sri Lanka itinerary.

This lesser-known national park offers a more tranquil alternative to the busier wildlife parks in Sri Lanka, providing a much more intimate experience with nature. We took a jeep through the rugged paths of the park, and encountered several groups of elephants.

It was truly special to see the younger elephants playfully interacting with their mothers, a sight that brought a lot of smiles and excitement to everyone in the group. It’s a perfect spot to appreciate Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and witness the majestic elephants that roam freely within the park.

Sigiriya (1 day)

lora looking over lion rock in sri lanka
View of lion rock from Pidurangala rock.

Sigiriya rock, also known as Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress of historical and archaeological significance. You can climb Sigiriya, but as there’s an entrance fee, many backpackers choose to hike up Pidurangala Rock instead. From there, you get great views of Lion Rock.

I’ve hiked up Pidurangala Rock for sunrise rwice, and it was breathtaking, literally and figuratively. The hike is challenging as you need to go up steep stairs and climb over rocks in the dark, but it takes less than an hour.

Sigiriya is also near the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. There, you can visit an archaeological park, which has hundreds of ancient temples, tombs, statues, and stupas. It’s a beautiful place to walk around, but I’d recommend going in the early morning as it gets extremely hot during the day.

ruins in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Exploring the ancient city of Polonnaruwa

There are other things to do in Sigiriya and in the nearby town of Dambulla, but two days is enough time to see the best things in Sigiriya.

Where to stay

Budget: Fresco Lion Villa is an awesome hostel in the middle of the jungle. It only has room for about 12 guests, which creates this lovely, homey atmosphere. The staff cook an amazing buffet supper every night, making it easy to meet new friends to explore with.

For a more luxurious experience, I HIGHLY recommend Aliya Resort and Spa. It was the highlight hotel of my most recent trip to Sri Lanka with the tourism board. The elephant theme throughout the hotel is so cute – and the rooms are gorgeous! Howeve, the best part about this hotel is the stunning infinity pool looking towards Sigiriya.

Kandy (1-2 days)

Inside the temple of the tooth
Ceremonial performance inside the temple of the tooth in Kandy

As you head farther up North, you will enter Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. This area is named so because it includes three major sites that form a triangle. Anuradhapura to the north, Polonnaruwa to the east, and Kandy to the southwest.

On my first visit to Kandy, I explored the most popular sites like the Temple of the Tooth and White Buddha statue.

However, it was my second visit that truly deepened my appreciation for Kandy. Venturing out into the Knuckle Mountains, I discovered a side of Kandy that was wildly different but equally mesmerizing.

lora hiking in sri lanka knuckle mountains. she is smiling with a backdrop of green rolling hills behind her.

The rugged terrain, and panoramic views provided a refreshing contrast to the city traffic, and there was almost know one else on the trails.

Hiking through these mountains showed me why Kandy is not just a historical hub but also a launch point for exploring the nature of Sri Lanka. Find out more about why Kandy is worth visiting in this post!

Where to stay: We were hosted at the Grand Kandyan, which is perched on a hill boasting spectacular views of the city (especially from the rooftop pool). It definitely has an older style decor which isn’t my thing, but it’s popular with locals.

Nuwara Eliya (1 day)

View of Little World's End in Horton Plains National Park
View of Little World’s End in Horton Plains National Park

Nuwara Eliya is between Ella and Kandy. I visited Nuwara Eliya because I wanted to see the ‘end of the world’ viewpoint in Horton Plains National Park.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy that day, so I didn’t get the best view. Regardless, the park was beautiful to hike through, and I loved meeting the friendly local deer.

The deer came right up to our van on arrival to greet us and was even there to say goodbye!

deer in Horton Plains National Park
Friendly deer in Horton Plains National Park

Nuwara Eliya is close to Adams Peak, a famous hike in Sri Lanka. 

Every traveler I met who hiked Adam’s peak was met with disappointment, as the sky was completely clouded over, so I opted not to do it at that time.

That being said, if you do get a clear view, it looks like a spectacular one. Just another excuse to go back and visit Sri Lanka, right? There’s a reason why the tourism board slogan is ‘you will come back for more’ – you just can’t fit it all into one trip!

Vedda Tribe

Our drive from Kandy to Ella took us along the winding 18 Bend Road, a route that lives up to its name with dizzying twists and turns but offers incredibly scenic views. It’s a long drive, but the lush landscapes and occasional glimpses of rural life made it worth it.

One of the most memorable stops along the way was a visit to the Vedda tribe, Sri Lanka’s last remaining aboriginal tribe. Witnessing the challenges facing this community was eye-opening, especially learning how the younger generation is moving away in search of better opportunities.

In response, the tribe has opened its doors to tourism, offering cultural showcases like traditional dances and a small museum to educate visitors about their heritage.

The experience was profoundly unique, not just for the cultural immersion but also for understanding the impact of modernization on indigenous communities.

If you find yourself traveling along this route, I highly recommend taking the time to visit and engage with this community—it’s a meaningful way to practice responsible tourism while gaining a deeper appreciation for Sri Lanka’s history.

The location of the tribe and museum is here, or alternatively you can arrange a visit through a Mapakada Village Hotel (we had lunch here and it was so lovely).

Ella (1-2 days)

Hiking on Little Adam's Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka
Hiking on Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella is a small town in Sri Lanka surrounded by mountains and lush green fields of tea. It is the type of place I could get stuck for weeks, as there are so many wonderful things to do and endless hiking trails to explore.

It’s the kind of place where you can really connect with nature, whether you’re hiking up to Ella Rock for incredible views, walking the trails to Nine Arch Bridge, or just enjoying a leisurely breakfast with a view of the mist rolling over the hills.

I loved the accessibility of activities here, from the leisurely walks through tea plantations to more challenging hikes and the warm, welcoming local cafes where I could unwind after a day of exploring.

Ella is an essential stop for anyone’s Sri Lanka itinerary. For more information, check out my guide to the best things to do in Ella.

Where to stay in Ella

Luxury98 Acres Resort & Spa. This resort is located right next to Little Adam’s Peak. Even if you can’t afford to stay here, you can visit the restaurant which offers great food with a stunning view of Little Adam’s Peak.

Unique: We spent a night at the Ella Jungle Inn, which was quite the experience. The roads are in bad condition, so you have to take a 25-minute truck ride to get there – followed by a cable car (or hike) through the jungle.

The rooms are massive, and you truly are in the middle of the jungle, which means you may have some visitors at night. This place has a lot of potential to be amazing, but it’s still working out some kinks.

Udawalawe (1 day)

elephant in udawalawe national park
An elephant we saw on safari in Udawalawe National Park

Sri Lanka is home to the highest density of wild Asian elephants in the world, and going on an elephant safari is one of the top things to do here.

There are several national parks in Sri Lanka where you can see elephants, but Udawalawe National Park is considered to be one of the best.

The park is beautiful with the backdrop of mountains and is full of wildlife. We saw many elephants on our safari, as well as water buffalo, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys, and various bird species. If you’re really lucky, you may even spot a leopard.

There’s also the Elephant Transit Home, which provides a home to orphaned elephants in Sri Lanka until the are old enough to be rehabilitated back into the wild.

There’s not much else to do in Udawalawe, but I highly recommend having lunch or dinner at Craft Tunnel. This was one of the tastiest meals of my trip, and you can pick up some beautiful pottery there to take home.

If you only have a week in Sri Lanka, you can visit Udawalawe as a day tour from Weligama or Mirissa if you’re staying in the south. But if you come from Ella, it’s only a two-hour drive.

Where to stay: For an overnight stay, Udawalawe Safari Resort has everything you need. It’s close by to the national park, and has a lovely elephant theme throughout. We really enjoyed the pasta bar at the buffet and chilling in the pool during our downtime.

Northern Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura (1 night)

Anuradhapura is the capital city of the Central Northern Province. It’s one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, with a well-preserved archeological site you can visit.

Wilpattu National Park (1 night)

Elephant in Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu National Park is world-renowned for its leopard population, and is the only national park in Sri Lanka where you can see sloth bears, so I had to go. It’s also the largest park in Sri Lanka at an impressive size of 1,317 square kilometers and one of the oldest national parks! If Yala National Park is closed, this is a good alternative to see leopards.

On my 12-hour safari, I saw black and red-faced monkeys, large groups of deer, mongoose, peacocks, storks, lizards, crocodiles, hares, tortoises, wild pigs, elephants, eagles, and sloth bears! Sadly, I wasn’t so lucky to see leopards.

The 12-hour safari made for a long day, and I wouldn’t recommend it. A better way would be to do two half-day safaris or book a 2-night/3-day trip to maximize your chance of seeing wildlife at certain hours of the day.

A sloth bear in Wilpattu National Park
A sloth bear in Wilpattu National Park

A unique feature of Wilpattu National Park is the “Willus”, which means natural lakes. These are natural, sand-rimed water basins that fill with rainwater and attract wildlife. There are nearly sixty lakes throughout Wilpattu!

Where to stay

For an epic glamping experience, check out Leopard Trails Wilpattu, which offers all-inclusive tents, including a private bathroom.

For a more budget-friendly option, check out Wilpattu Tree House, which is just outside the park entrance. Sometimes the elephants even roam by the tree houses at night!

Trincomalee (2-3 days)

Trincomalee is a great beach to visit in Sri Lanka
View of the main beach in Trincomalee

Trincomalee is a beautiful, small town on the east coast of Sri Lanka that boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You can easily rent motorbikes from town, which allows the freedom to go and explore the secluded beaches nearby.

During the high season (April-September), whale watching is a popular activity in Trincomalee. What makes it unique is that you can also see blue whales here! Trincomalee is also one of the best spots to go diving in Sri Lanka, offering colorful reefs and shipwrecks.

Swimming with sea turtles in Trincomalee
Swimming with sea turtles in Trincomalee

During my dives in Trincomalee, I saw an abundance of marine life, including sea turtles, stingrays, cuddle fish, moray eels, lionfish, and colorful fish and coral reefs.

Trincomalee also has some underwater ruins you can see as one of the dive sites is below a temple, and sculptures sometimes get thrown into the water.

For non-divers, head to Pigeon Island for some of the clearest snorkeling in Sri Lanka, where you can swim alongside reef sharks and sea turtles.

Jaffna (2-3 days)

If you have enough time, head to the capital city of the Northern province of Sri Lanka. I wasn’t able to make it to Jaffna, but I’ve heard wonderful reviews from the few other travelers I met. It’s not a popular place to visit, so you will likely only see a few other tourists there.

From 1983 to 2009, the entire region was engulfed in a civil war. The region was settled by Tamil migrants from southern India, and as a result, they have a unique character and culture from the rest of the country.

Sri Lanka Suggested Itinerarys

default

Sri Lanka itinerary 5 days

Use these short Sri Lanka itineraries if you have limited time.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Negombo, continue south if time allows
  • Day 2: Unawatuna
  • Day 3: Weligama
  • Day 4: Mirissa
  • Day 5: Return to Colombo or Negombo

OR

Day 1: Arrival in Negombo, continue to Kandy if time allows
Day 2: Kandy
Day 3: Ella
Day 4: Udawalawe
Day 5: Return to Colombo or Negombo

sunset in Weligama beach Sri Lanka

One Week Sri Lanka Itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrival in Negombo, continue south if time allows
  • Day 2: Unawatuna or Galle
  • Day 3: Mirissa
  • Day 4: Mirissa
  • Day 5: Ella (visit Udawalawe on the way)
  • Day 6: Ella
  • Day 7: Retturn to Negombo

Sri Lanka 10 Day Itinerary

This is the exact itinerary I went on with the tourism board, and it really showed the highlights of this beautiful country.

  • Day 1: Arrive in Negombo, go to Colombo
  • Day 2: Explore Colombo
  • Day 3: Head to Sigiriya, visit eco park on way
  • Day 4: Sigiriya hike, stay overnight
  • Day 5: Go to Kandy, visit aboriginal tribe along way
  • Day 6: Explore Kandy, go hiking
  • Day 7: Drive or take train to Ella
  • Day 8: Explore Ella, drive to Udawalawe
  • Day 9: Udawalawe safari
  • Day 10: Drive back to Colombo via Galle in the south

Sri Lanka Itinerary 14 days

  • Day 1: Arrival in Negombo, continue south if time allows
  • Day 2: Unawatuna or Galle
  • Day 3: Unawatuna or Galle
  • Day 4: Weligama
  • Day 5: Mirissa
  • Day 6: Mirissa
  • Day 7: Udawalawe National Park
  • Day 8: Ella
  • Day 9: Ella
  • Day 10: Ella
  • Day 11: Kandy
  • Day 12: Sigiriya
  • Day 13: Anuradhapura
  • Day 14: Return to Negombo

Sri Lanka 1 month itinerary

  • Day 1-2: Arrival in Negombo, go to Colombo
  • Day 2: Colombo
  • Day 3-4: Unawatuna/Galle
  • Day 5-6: Weligama
  • Day 7-8: Mirissa
  • Day 9-10: Akumal Bay
  • Day 11-12: Udawalawe National Park
  • Day 13-15: Ella
  • Day 16: Train from Ella to Kandy
  • Day 17-18: Kandy and area
  • Day 19-20: Sigiriya
  • Day 21-22: Anuradhapura
  • Day 23-24: Wilpattu National Park
  • Day 25-27: Trincomalee
  • Day 27-29 : Jaffna
  • Day 30: Return to Negombo

Check out Sri Lanka holidays with Original Travel for fantastic tailor-made holidays around the country.

Getting Around Sri Lanka

Aerial view of a winding, mountainous road surrounded by dense greenery and forested hills.
default

Sri Lanka is a small island which makes the travel time pretty short between places. Still, it’s a developing country, and delays are common.

I took public transport most of my time there in 2018 and found it easy and safe to get around. In 2024, we had the luxury of a private drive which definitely makes getting around A LOT easier.

Taking the train in Sri Lanka

people hanging out of train in sri lanka
Train from Ella to Kandy

Taking the train is a quintessential Sri Lanka experience and one of the best ways to get around the country. It doesn’t go everywhere, but it does cover a large area of the country, including many of the places mentioned in this post. Not only is it scenic, but it’s one of the most affordable methods of transportation.

The Ella to Kandy train is Sri Lanka’s most famous train journey, one that’s known to be the most beautiful in the world. This breathtaking train route passes through rolling hills full of bright, green tea plantations. The journey takes about seven hours in total.

You don’t need to book railway tickets in advance unless you want to travel first class. I bought my tickets at the counter right before the train arrived but was only offered second and third-class tickets. You can reserve tickets online in advance and see the prices.

You don’t have to worry about train tickets selling out because I don’t think it’s possible. It seems they will just keep selling tickets, and people will squish in and hang out the doors in order to get on the train. ou will probably be hanging out a window, but it’s all part of the experience.

In my experience, the best time to take the train is midday as fewer people travel then. Learn from my mistakes, and avoid traveling on any local holiday!

The most amazing part of being on a jam-packed train in Sri Lanka is seeing the local vendors walk through the sea of people carrying massive baskets of food on top of their heads.

There are no activities on the train, but the locals are social and friendly. They will be happy to have a chat with you on the train and tell you about their country,  and if you’re lucky, they’ll share some arrack (local whiskey).

Other than that, bring a book or just enjoy the scenery. The coolest part about taking train travel in Sri Lanka is that the doors and windows stay open. It’s a paradise for photo opportunities!

lora on a train in sri lanka
Train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

Search here to find train tickets in Sri Lanka.

Uber

Uber is different in Sri Lanka. Instead of using it for short trips within cities, you can only book rides for longer distances. For example, I used Uber to get from the airport to my hostel in Colombo (over an hour).

It’s more expensive than getting public transport but cheaper than taxis. It can be useful for getting places not well-connected by transit, especially if you split the cost with others.

Ride Share

There are several Facebook groups you can join where people can post to ask if anyone wants to share a private car between destinations in Sri Lanka.

I did this with a group of girls from Mirissa to Ella. It’s not the cheapest option, but can be a good one if you aren’t comfortable taking public transit alone. These groups are also good for finding people to travel Sri Lanka with!

Private drivers

We had a private driver for my press trip to Sri Lanka, and i have to say, it was very comfortable. Hiring a private driver in Sri Lanka is cheap than you might think, especially if split with a group of friends or family.

Bus

The bus network in Sri Lanka is well-connected throughout the country, but the bus drivers are crazy. So if you’re a nervous passenger, it can be a bit tense. That being said, I survived many bus rides in Sri Lanka, and it’s a very affordable option.

Busses within the cities are usually crowded with locals. Still, if you’re only going a short distance, it can be an entertaining option as they blast local music, and each is uniquely decorated.

Search here to find bus tickets in Sri Lanka.

Tuk Tuk

Within the cities/towns, getting a tuk tuk is the easiest way to get around. You just need to barter and negotiate the price before the ride starts; otherwise, the driver will try and overcharge you at the end.

If you are feeling really adventurous, you can rent your own tuk-tuk and take it for a road trip around Sri Lanka. I drove a one for about 10 minutes, which was enough for me!      

PickMe

There is an app called PickMe commonly used in Sri Lanka. It works the same way as Uber does, except you can actually use it for short distances.

drone shot of ocean and palm trees

FAQ: Sri Lanka Itinerary

How many days do you need for Sri Lanka?

If you want to see all of the places mentioned in this guide, I recommend spending one month in Sri Lanka. My first time in Sri Lanka I had a month and I still didn’t cover every place I wanted to. It’s also the length of the visa, so it makes sense.

If you only have 1 to 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, I suggest sticking to the South Coast, East Coast, or Central Area rather than trying to cover the entire country.

In this guide, I’ve suggested a one to four-week itinerary you can use and some shorter itineraries at the end if you have limited time.

drone shot of Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Mirissa, Sri Lanka

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Surfers in Weligama
Surfers in Weligama

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, with two different monsoon seasons affecting different parts of the island at different times. This is actually a positive because it means it’s dry somewhere on the island at any time of year, so Sri Lanka really is a year-round destination.

If you want to visit the South Coast, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from October to March when it’s the dry season. If you want to visit the East Coast, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is from April to September.

Diving is a year-round activity in Sri Lanka. From October – March, you can dive on the southern coast, and from April- September, you can dive on the East coast.

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers?

lora Watching elephants up close on a Udawalawe National Park Safari
Watching elephants up close on a Udawalawe National Park Safari

As a solo female traveler, I felt safe while I was in Sri Lanka. The biggest problem for me was some unwanted attention from men, but I certainly never felt in danger.

Sri Lanka faced more problems since I last visited in 2018 with a terrorist attack in 2019. The country was then hit by Covid-19 like the rest of the world, and tourism was struggling to recover.

However, I recently visited Sri Lanka again in April 2024 and felt just as safe as before. Tourism is growing rapidly – in just the first quarter of 2024, they’ve received the same amount of tourists as 2023.

Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Petty theft is less common here than in many other parts of Asia, though you should still take care of your belongings. Keep your bags close by in crowded areas, and lock your belongings in a safe or locker while away from your accommodation.
  • Never leave drinks unattended in a bar. I’ve heard stories of drinks being spiked at bars in Sri Lanka, so take care. I never went out to a bar alone while I was in Sri Lanka. The men can be persistent, especially under the influence of alcohol, so it’s much safer to go out with a group of friends.
  •  Be careful when walking near busy roads and especially near buses. As I said, the bus drivers are crazy drivers and do not have respect for pedestrians.
  • Currents can be strong in the ocean, so be careful when swimming. There are not always lifeguards, so ask a local for advice before going in the water anywhere that is not a recognized swimming spot.
  • There are some low-level scams where a stranger will approach you seemingly friendly and then try and pressure you to stay at their guesthouse or visit their shop. Use your judgment accordingly. The vast majority of people in Sri Lanka are well-intentioned and will simply approach you to have a chat and ask where you’re from.

How much does it cost to visit Sri Lanka?

My total expenses for one month in Sri Lanka in 2018 were 288,325 Sri Lanka Rupees (2,100 CAD/1585 USD). Note that 100,000 (480 Euros) of this was for a week of Surf & Yoga camp, which made my overall costs more expensive.

Total by Category:

  • Food (including water): 34820 LKR (253 CAD/190 USD)
  • Accommodation: 50,180 LKR (365 CAD/272 USD)
  • Transport: 22,840 (165 CAD/125 USD)
  • Alcohol: 6,600 (50 CAD/25 USD)
  • Tours: 56,775 (415 CAD/310 USD)
  • Other*: 17,100 (125CAD/90USD)
  • Surf Camp: 100,000 (730CAD/550USD)

*includes SIM card/data, laundry, gifts, souvenirs (mostly clothing) & ATM fees. Not including the week of surf camp, my average cost per week was 62,775 LKR (457 CAD/345 USD).

Sri Lanka is an affordable country to travel in. This is more of a flashpacker budget. I often stayed in private rooms and did many tours, including two safaris and four dives. I also ate out almost every meal.

You could easily get by on a shoestring budget if you’re willing to stay in dorms, take public transportation, and cook for yourself sometimes.

Final thoughts: Sri Lanka itinerary

Whether you’re going for one week or one month, you will fall in love with Sri Lanka – and want to come back for more!

Exploring Sri Lanka is truly an adventure, and this itinerary is designed to help you capture the essence of what makes this country so special. From navigating the scenic twists of the 18 Bend Road to experiencing the cultural richness of the Vedda tribe and encountering majestic elephants at Hurulu Eco Park, each stop has been chosen to enrich your journey with unforgettable moments.

This guide isn’t just about seeing the sights; it’s about deepening your understanding of Sri Lanka’s diverse landscapes and traditions. Whether you’re sipping tea in the hills of Ella or learning about ancient customs, these experiences are meant to inspire and ignite a deeper connection with this beautiful island.

sri lanka itinerary pin

Author

  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach.

    View all posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Sri Lankan says:

    It’s one of the best guides I’ve ever read about Sri Lanka. I would like to remind those who are planning on visiting Sri Lanka soon that there has been a drastic increase in the price of everything from food to train tickets in Sri Lanka in the recent months.

  2. […] During mid-day the falls are busy but if you wait around you might have some pools all to yourself, as this was the case for us. Visiting Diyaluma falls was one of my best memories while visiting Sri Lanka! […]

  3. Ed Croghan says:

    Hi Lora, I went in 2018 and loved the place. I did the same or Almost the same trip and areas by train and driver. I didn’t make it to Jaffna either but head the temples are beautiful. One thing I did notice is that if I wanted to get a train ticket I had to be there 1 he before and hope that I could get one. I think maybe once I had to stay over night because of that so just be careful or have a backup plan. I’m hoping to go back sometime but the SriLankan government locking down people landing (covid) it might be awhile before I return. Once again excellent write up and some good tips.

  4. […] There are also several quieter beaches nearby if you want to get away from the crowds. The best way to do that is by renting a motorbike, which allows the freedom to go and explore when you want. Nivali beach is one of the prettiest beaches to visit, which has miles of perfect white sand to sunbathe on. Whether you want to relax or explore the underwater world, the beaches around Trincomalee are an excellent addition to any Sri Lanka itinerary. […]

  5. Amazing Itinerary!!! Thanks for this itinerary. I am an absolute travel freak and I enjoy making some exotic trips. Thanks for sharing this post. I am sure this would have helped a lot to decide what to visit in Sri Lanka and when.

  6. […] spent a month traveling through Sri Lanka and was spending about an average of $50 USD/day, and this was “flashpacking” i.e. staying in […]

  7. Philipp Mueller says:

    Useful content you got Lora. Thanks for sharing such an impressive post about Sri Lanka.

  8. Emily W says:

    This post is so useful thank you! I am planning a one month trip to Sri Lanka in July and now have much more idea of where to go. What safaris did you do and were they expensive ?

    Thanks again for such a great post !

    • lora says:

      Hi Emily! So happy to hear that you found the post useful for planning your trip. You are going to love Sri Lanka, It’s an amazing country. I did two safaris, one at Udawalawe and one at Wilpattu National Park. The price depends on how many people you have in the jeep, as the price is fixed. So in Udawalawe we only paid 5000 LKR each because the jeep was full, but in Wilpattu I paid almost double that because there was only two of us. Finding a group of people to go on safari with will make the prices significantly cheaper, but overall they are still affordable. Enjoy your trip!

  9. Nandih A. says:

    Hi,

    You write an useful and informative post!! Thanks.

    I have never been in Sri Lanka and you post makes me motivated to visit that wonderful country one day by using your tips and tricks.

    Best regards,

    Greeting from Madagascar

    • lora says:

      Hi Nandih,

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and checking out the article. It makes me very happy to hear it inspired you to visit Sri Lanka. Madagascar is high on my list of places to go next!

      Take care,

      Lora