Sri Lanka Two to Three Week Itinerary

Sri Lanka is set to be one of the up and coming travel destinations over the coming decade now that the civil war and violence are a thing of the past.  Get planning your trip to this special country that for years has been overshadowed by its overbearing neighbour – India.

Basics

Sri l Lanka has to be one of the easiest to get around and friendliest countries we have visited    The tourism industry is still developing and has not yet fallen foul of tourist money greed that some succumbed to.  A two or three week trip to Sri Lanka can be more than sun, sea, and beaches, though it has those too.  You can squeeze in mountains, tea plantations, culture, history and the opportunity to interact with the local people, especially if you choose to stay in the many family guest houses on offer here.

Travel

Sri Lanka has a great transport system and if you don’t expect modern luxury and trimmings you can get around the country for few dollars for each hop  The local buses are very frequent and will get you to your destinations in open windows buses that were built anything from 20 – 30 years ago.  There are more luxurious smaller mini vans that have air-conditioning but we tried these once and found them uncomfortable.  The trains, while not particularly frequent, with a bit of planning you can let the train take the strain for a less bumpy ride between your destinations. In particular don’t miss the incredible scenic journey between Kandy and Badulla on your way to Ella or Nuwara Eilya .

If you really want to do the tour in style you can hire your own driver and car for around $30-40  dollars per day, but you would miss out the fun of travelling on local transport.

Sri Lanka in Two or Three Weeks

Day 1 – Arrive at Colombo airport and decide whether you want to stay in the Capital Colombo or the nearby beach resort of Negombo for a day or so to settle in to the Sri Lankan life and visit the capital’s sights.   We chose Negombo and liked it so much we returned at the end of our trip.   You can explore the capital from Negombo by hiring a tuk tuk for the day or use the buses to get you there in about an hour.

Day 3 to 6 – Set off by bus to Dambulla (buses pass through Negombo for this trip but you will change about half way into your journey at another transport hub, Kurunegala ).  Dambulla should be your location for exploring the sights of the cultural triangle at Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonuwarra and you will need to spend at least three nights here to fit it all in without tiring yourself out.  The journey from Colombo to Dambulla will take around 6 hours, and an hour less from Negombo.

You will arrive in Dambulla early in the afternoon and you could squeeze in your trip to the Dambulla caves at the north of town.

Next Day set off early for your trip to Sigiriya, about an 45 minutes away by bus from Dambulla, climb the rocks and marvel at the views and the lions claw carvings and wall paintings on your way up.  Leave plenty of time to admire the gardens and terraces at the entrance to the rock.

Spend the afternoon exploring Dambulla town, introduce yourself to Sri Lankan cuisine at the many local restaurants serving curry and rice (be prepared it’s normally served cold), kothu and the wonderful platters of short eats  – samosas, fish rolls, savoury pastries and dal cakes.

Up early next morning for your trip to Polonuwarra which will take you about one and a half hours.  Form here hire a bike or negotiate a tuk tuk to whisk you round the historical sights for the next four hours.  Spend the evening in town adding to your Sri Lankan menu sampling.

Next day your final trip to Anuradhapura which will take you two hours by bus.   The tour around the sights will again take around three hours by tuk tuk or four by bike and will leave enough time for you to get back to Dambulla for dinner or hop on a bus direct to Kandy if you want to claim back a day.

Day  7 and 8 –   Take the two hour bus ride to Kandy where you will be dropped off by Kandy Lake which dominates this charming Sri Lankan city.

You will notice the temperature drop slightly as you are now on the edge of the hill country and have gained some altitude.  You can spend that afternoon visiting the Temple of the Tooth and city centre while you arrange your train tickets for the picturesque journey to Ella or Nuwara Eliyah.  The next day hire a tuk tuk or hop on a bus and go in search of some tea factories and elephants.  Don’t forget to see the unusually shaped Bible rock situated a few kilometres out of town.  Enjoy the smaller towns and villages you will pass through along the way.

Day 9 – Get up for your morning train to Ella which will take you along one of the most scenic train routes in the world.  Beauty cannot be rushed so settle in for your six hour journey as you climb into the mountains and enjoy the mountain and plantation views as you pass through the heart and major export industry of Sri Lanka.

You can save an hour on this journey if you stay at Nuwara Eliyah, but it is busier than the sleepy Ella so make your choice, or if you have time do both.  Enjoy the afternoon and early evening in the cool air of the mountains sipping tea or beer at one of the many restaurants in Ella town and plan your treks up Ella Rock or Adams Peak the following day (Day 10) .

Day 11 – Consider spending at least two (or three if you have longer) nights here as it is a pleasant way to relax after your hectic cultural sightseeing trip so far.  Hire scooters or get a tuk tuk and explore the waterfalls and temples, cute train stations and villages that litter the area around.

Day 12 – Catch the bus down to the south coast (five to six hours depending on your choice of location with a bus change at Matara) and give yourself some beach time at one of the many beautiful, quiet silver sand beaches that adorn the south coast.

You can choose from quiet spots of Mirissa and Tangalle, or the busier places Hikkaduwa, Bentota or Unawatuna.  Relax, sunbathe, watch the turtles hatching and make sure you go to watch the whales and dolphins if you are here between November and April.    Take a half day trip to see the historic fort town of Galle (45 minutes from Mirissa by bus) while you are here.

Day 14  –  If you are stuck with a two week trip get the bus (four hours) or train (three hours) back to Colombo or Negombo for your flight home.

For three weeks

If you have longer and have not used all your extra time lounging in the sand,  head East and visit Yala National park to spot some more elephants and if you are lucky a Sri Lankan leopard    You could even return to Negombo for the last couple of days and enjoy the Western beaches before your flight home.   With this extra time you have one further option from Dambulla  to visit the Eastern beach resort of Trincomalee which will add two to three days to your itinerary.

Sri Lanka Two or Three Week Itinerary – Google Maps

 


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33 Comments on "Sri Lanka Two to Three Week Itinerary"

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  1. Byropaw says:

    This post has been wonderfully helpful to me and I’m so pleased I came across it when searching for a particular section of my trip planning. Thanks heaps. Have a fantastic time!

    From “byropaw” in Brisbane Australia

  2. yuki5900 says:

    thank you for so much detailed info. it has eased my mind a LOT about speed/comfort/ease with regard to taking the bus in sri lanka. you never seemed to complain about heat…how was it? i am assuming the buses are not air conditioned!

  3. michelle says:

    So glad I stumbled on your site , we are a pair of flash packers in our 50s ,tho only get to travel for 4. Weeks at any one time, visiting Sri Lanka at the end of January , and you have given us some great ideas,

    Happy travels x

  4. Louise says:

    We just booked flights to Sri Lanka this has been reLly helpful to assist with planning. Thanks

  5. mamaoftwoboys says:

    Hi

    I have just read your post. It is great information. Could you give me an idea as to what you were paying for accommodation? We are thinking of going with the kids (aged 5 and 6) over easter for about 2.5 weeks this year. We have backpacked quite a bit with them through Vietnam and Thailand. We aren’t after anything too flash – just clean and basic will do us. Thanks!

    • Alyson says:

      I’ve got a full run down of what we paid for accommodation for a family of 4 over on my blog. It varied, between $50 and $15 I think, I have details in various posts.

  6. Alyson says:

    Hi! We just spent a month in Sri Lanka, on pretty much the same circuit as you. Mirissa and Kandy were our favourite spots, and Ella maybe. We went whale watching and saw blue whales, it was magical. LOVE Sri Lanka. We got married there 11 years ago, this last visit was my 4th, it’s changed a lot but the people remain possibly the loveliest in the world.

  7. Olivier says:

    Hi Craig!

    Thanks and congrats for your beautiful blog! Very helpful and wonderful pics. Am definitely jealous of your journeying.

    One quick question – we plan on staying at Ella, coming from the south. Taking the train to Kandy is definitely on our agenda. Now I’d also like to have a taste of the British colonial atmosphere at Nuwara Eliya and take tea or lunch in one of these old hotels.

    The question is, if we have to choose only one leg of the train ride (Ella – Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya – Kandy), which one would you recommend…?

    Thanks much for your help and enjoy!

    Olivier

  8. Connie says:

    Thank you so much, Craig, for your wonderful posts and pictures! I’ve just booked an 8-day trip to Sri Lanka and will be following your itinerary from day 1 up until Ella before making my way back to Colombo.

    I’m still a little apprehensive on accommodation because I’ll be traveling altravelingone. Could you share with me which guesthouses you stayed in at Negombo, Dambulla & Kandy? Are they quite safe for females? I don’t wish to search around via tuktuk as I’m trying to keep a low profile that I’m traveling alone.

    Would truly appreciate your help! Thanks in advanced.

  9. Shannan says:

    Amazing post mate, really helpful as I’m planning to go this September for a couple of weeks. One question though, I have emailed a car hire company with a chauffeur and a 6 seated van it will cost me $900 aus, in your post you mentioned that you can get a car with driver for around $40 a day, is that easy enough to sort out once I’m there? Also is there any need to pre book anything before arrival or is it relatively easy to just wing it once I’m there? Cheers

  10. Jack Oldham says:

    Hey! Booked a flight last week to Sri Lanka and, in all honesty, I’m going into it completely blind! This post has been mega helpful.

    I have around a month to play with – was there anywhere you’d have liked to spent much longer in? I tend to not plan much and travel very impulsively but would be good to know if there’s anywhere you’d maybe recommend spending a bit longer in!

    Thanks!

    • Hi Jack

      It depends on what you like, Ella could give you a few more days if you like to hike and explore the mountains and we only managed one beach destination, but there were a couple of others that we could have added. It depends what time you go with the weather seasons. We skipped the East coast beaches because of weather. Have a great trip, Sri Lanka is charming.

  11. Gilly says:

    Thanks for sharing all the great information. I am travelling to Sri Lanka in a months time with my wife and 10 year daughter. We are there for 3 weeks and plan to travel extensively by bus and train.
    My wife is unsure about the bus situation regarding frequency and the ability to get all her luggage on, ha! Are buses available to most destinations and are they regular enough that we can reliably use them to travel between all our stops?
    Any tips would be appreciated
    Cheers

    • Buses are frequent, but of varying quality you will always be able to get where you want. Large luggage (rucksacks) are stored under the seats with smaller bags on your laps… some of the smaller vans allow you to store at the front but will often try and charge you a bit more on the fare – resist this mini scam, the locals don’t pay extra.

  12. Nicky says:

    Thanks heaps for sharing, you made some decision making easier. We are going in December 2014 and really looking forward to it. from your reviews we can save a few days and get to the Yala safari.

    I will defiantly check out your site for my next adventures.
    I live in Malaysia at the moment, so let me know if your passing by!
    Cheers,
    Nicky

  13. Hi Boys,

    We’re using your Sri Lanka posts to plan our 3 weeks out there.

    Great stuff!

    Regards,

    Stefan and Sebastien.

  14. Catherine says:

    Hi Craig,
    We are just getting started planning a 1 month trip to India and Sri Lanka, starting in Hyderabad, India on December 4th, heading to Sri Lanka for my daughters Christmas Eve wedding, and then…somewhere…until January 10th or so.
    Any ideas for us?
    We love your 2 week itinerary in Sri Lanka!
    We find your website super helpful!
    Thanks, Catherine & Scott

  15. amarie says:

    Hi,
    This itinerary is very helpful! I just have one question once in the cultural triangle and staying in Danbulla, how did you travel to and from each sight?. Do we need to hire a driver? Or are there buses?

    Thanks a million

    Amg

  16. Lee Ridout says:

    Hi, Thanks for the info.
    Planning on a 3 week trip in August, how bad will the weather be at this time.
    Also I quite like the idea of train travel, can most the journeys you suggest be taken by train.
    Thanks in advance Lee

  17. Julian says:

    Hey.. great read! Planning a 3 week trip for November. Was thinking of starting off with Kandy, then Ella and from Ella head to Arugam Bay and move along the south coast. Would like to fit in the night hike of Adam’s Peak. At which point would you recommend this? Thanks a lot!

  18. Megan says:

    Just wanted to thank you for your great tips on Sri Lanka.

    We have just returned from a 3 week trip and we used a lot of your itinerary and also used local buses like you did.

    We had a brilliant time and I just thought I’d pass on our thanks!

    Keep up the good work! Your blog is brilliant!

    • Liz Nichols says:

      Hi I am guessing March is a good time to go there then.How was safety re pick pockets etc?? We are early 60’s reasonably fit so hope we can work out the transport. Is language a problem cheers LizN Tasmania

  19. maddoc01 says:

    hey
    i visited sri lanka this may, followed your plan, woked out very well.

    thanks so much for sharing.

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