Thinking of traveling to Sri Lanka? We’ve got you covered! Relax on the best beaches and take day trips to Buddhist and Hindu temples, forest reserves, tea estates and more. Follow our 14-day itinerary and get the best out of Sri Lanka. This paradise on the Indian Ocean is small enough to let you explore a lot in very little time. Most locals speak English, so it’s easy to communicate and get around.
Day 1–2: Negombo
Just a few kilometers north of the international airport in Colombo is the beach town of Negombo. Take it easy for a couple of days on the sprawling beaches or by the pool of your hotel. Negombo is home to a very friendly and bustling fishing community. While there, visit the Dutch Canal, also called the Hamilton Canal, which used to be part of the colonial spice route used by the Dutch East India Company. The canal connects the coast with the Negombo Lagoon and can be visited on foot or by boat. It’s a great look into old colonial Sri Lanka living.
Our favorite resorts in Negombo are Paradise Beach and Goldi Sands. Both are right on the beach where you can enjoy a swim, a stroll or a chilled king coconut.
Day 3–4: The Cultural Triangle
For a few days, you should go inland and experience the ancient culture of Sri Lanka. The Cultural Triangle is an area in the Central Highlands that includes the ancient temples of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, as well as the mountain city of Kandy. From Negombo you can either drive to the Cultural Triangle or take a train from Colombo Fort. Start at Anuradhapura, the ancient temple that houses a sacred Bodhi tree and a gorgeous white stupa. Pilgrims from all over the island flock to this temple during the Poya full moon holidays for celebrations. Afterwards make your way to Sigiriya, The Lion Rock. Climb the steps to visit the ruins of an old fort and castle.
Spend your fourth day in Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka. Take a stroll around the lake and visit the Temple of the Tooth, where one of Buddha’s teeth is kept. Have a meal at the Empire Cafe and go for a walk in Udawattakele forest or the Commonwealth Cemetery. This area of the island is a bit cooler than the coast, so you might need a light sweater in the evening.
Day 5: Nuwara Eliya
Take the early train from Kandy to Nanu Oya and experience one of the most scenic train rides of your life. If you’d like to travel in the comfortable first class carriage, make sure to buy your ticket one or two days before the day you plan to travel. Otherwise you can get a second or third class ticket, according to your need of adventure or comfort. From Nanu Oya station, take a short ride to Nuwara Eliya and visit some tea plantations. Visit a tea factory to learn about all the variations of leaves produced in Sri Lanka, specially the world famous silver tips.
Nights and early mornings can get quite cool in Nuwara Eliya. There’s nothing better than a warm cup of tea while enjoying the views of the foggy mountains.
Day 6–7: Kalutara
After the highlands, make your way down south for some more epic beaches. Kalutara beach is perfect for long relaxing strolls. Sunsets are particularly beautiful and shouldn’t be missed. The Kalutara area is home of the famous mangosteen fruit. Try a few while lounging on the beach chairs of your hotel. Stay overnight at the Coco Royal Beach Resort and lounge by the pool and snack bar.
For a little cultural getaway, visit the center of town and see the Gangatilake Stupa, buy some local basketry and eat more mangosteen! Take an afternoon to discover Richmond Castle, a hidden gem of Sri Lanka.
Day 8–10: Bentota
Move a little further south to famous Bentota Beach. Set in a little bay, the ocean in Bentota is perfect for all sorts of water sports like surfing and windsurfing. Have a relaxing day on the shore and then take a 10-minute taxi ride to the Brief Gardens. Nestled in between paddy fields and coconut plantations, the Brief Gardens are home to the former residence of Bevis Bawa, brother of architect Geoffrey Bawa. The gardens surrounding the house are open to the public and are definitely worth a visit.
Enjoy a king prawn curry or fresh seafood meal at one of the beachside restaurants, and some cocktails at sunset. If you want to take a break from the beach, why not take a day trip to Sinharaja Forest Reserve. This southernmost reserve is home to lush rainforest with some great hiking trails and plenty of endemic species of birds, amphibians and insects. Spend the night at the Surf Hotel Bentota or Vivanta by Taj.
Day 11–12: Hikkaduwa
One more beach stop down the road to Hikkaduwa. This beach is famous for its diving spots, perfect for everyone, whether beginners or expert divers. Hikkaduwa is also a favorite with surfers and stilt fishermen; you’ll always catch a glimpse of both in the early morning. This place is busier than other areas of Sri Lanka, but isn’t to be missed.
Looking for a day away from the beach? Take a day trip to the Galle Fort to see the Dutch ramparts and the quaint town that still stands there, now a great tourist hot spot. Have an Italian ice cream while strolling the little streets and visit the Old Dutch Hospital for a cup of tea or a cocktail.
Spend the night at the Hikka Tranz, right on the beach. Only ten minutes away from the nightlife in the center of Hikkaduwa, this resort is a haven for the party crowd.
Day 13–14: Colombo
To finish off your wonderful holiday experience, board the train at Hikkaduwa station back to Colombo for the last two days. The capital city of Sri Lanka is more and more cosmopolitan every season. It’s a nice city to spend 48 hours in, visiting Buddhist and Hindu temples or doing some shopping for things you can only find in Sri Lanka, like cinnamon toothpicks and handwoven sarongs. Take a stroll around Beira lake and check out Gangaramaya Vihara Temple. Have lunch at the Barefoot Garden Cafe and shop for beautiful handwoven home linen. Stay at the Galle Face Hotel or the Cinnamon Red as a treat and finish it all off with a dinner at Ministry of Crab.
On the last day, drop by the National Museum and take a walk around Viharamahadevi Park. Visit Paradise Road and get some lovely hand painted mugs to take home.
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