Sri Lanka is a small giant. Despite its relatively small size (Sri Lanka is about four times smaller than the United Kingdom), the island packs in a lot of punch. The most popular attractions in Sri Lanka range from paradise beaches to tea plantations and from colonial history to ancient Buddhist temples. We’ve put together a two-week Sri Lanka itinerary that gives you a taste of the best the country has to offer: culture, beaches, nature and of course, tea!
Day 1-2: Colombo
The international airport where you’ll most likely be landing in is located in the capital city of Colombo. This is a bustling city of some 750,000 people. While it’s not really a tourist destination as such, spending the night here gives you a vibrant glimpse of modern day Sri Lanka – and a chance to rest after a day of travel.
Day 2-4: Galle Fort
After a good night’s sleep, make the drive down to Galle on the southwest coast. You can make the journey by rented car, bus or train. Each option has its pros and cons. Car is the most comfortable way to travel, but also the most expensive. Taking the train is very scenic, but takes some planning beforehand. Not all trains have a first class, which usually means you can’t book seats and might face standing up the whole 130-kilometre journey.
Galle Fort is a UNESCO protected colonial fort city which was originally built way back in 1588. Walking down the cobbled streets and visiting the historic buildings feels like taking a step back in time. There are also plenty of spots for scenic dining and souvenir shopping inside the fort walls. Some people might suggest only visiting Galle Fort for the day, but in our opinion there is something magical about spending a night or two within these century old walls. Besides, you probably need the rest after the long drive over!
Galle Fort offers some of the most unique accommodation in Sri Lanka, as some of the colonial buildings have been restored into beautiful private villas. While visiting Galle Fort, our team stayed at 39 Galle Fort and loved the historic charm of this three-bedroom villa.
Day 4: Handunugoda
Once you’ve had enough of the historic charms of Galle, it’s time head to the beach. On your way down the southern coast, stop to visit one of the most acclaimed tea plantations in Sri Lanka. Because let’s face it – no Sri Lanka itinerary is complete without sipping some Ceylon tea! The Handunugoda Tea Estate is located between Galle and Mirissa. You can tour the plantation for free and finish your visit off with a tasting of Sri Lanka’s finest. A very refreshing way to break up the drive from Galle to Mirissa.
Day 4-8 Mirissa & Tangalle
This just might be the best part of your Sri Lanka itinerary: beach life. Most of Sri Lanka’s best beaches are dotted across the southern coast line, where both Mirissa and Tangalle offer a good home base for exploring the beachside wonders.
Each village has its own charm and you could either split your time between the two or settle for just one of them for a few days. Mirissa is known for whale watching and while Tangalle tends to be less crowded, the swimming conditions there might be rough at times. If you’re staying in Tangalle for a few days, you could include a daytrip to one of the nearby national parks, Bundala and Yala, into your Sri Lanka itinerary. As for accommodation, there are some amazing beachside villas on the south coast – we love Pointe Sud in Mirissa. This five-bedroom villa is shaded by palm trees and offers epic ocean views from its vast infinity pool.
Day 8-10: Ella
The gorgeous nature of Sri Lanka is not just limited to the beaches. Nestled in the heart of the island, the hill-country village of Ella is the place for admiring the tropical scenery and enjoying Sri Lanka’s lush nature to the fullest. Ella is a very popular destination for hiking and the landscape varies from luscious forests to sweeping tea plantations, all surrounded by majestic mountains. To get the best possible views, hike up to Little Adam’s Peak, which is an easy hike but offers some amazing photo-ops.
While it is possible to DIY your hiking trip in Ella, to be on the safe side and to make the most of the experience, we recommend hiring an experienced local guide. The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka are a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site and you can enjoy the amazing vistas by visiting the Horton Plains National Park.
Day 10-13: Kandy
Next, we’re off to Kandy and this time around, you really need to take the train. The reason? The train ride between Ella and Kandy is often mentioned as one of the most beautiful on the planet. So sit back, relax and enjoy the views!
Once you make it to Kandy, the views don’t disappoint, either. Kandy is a charming hillside town with picturesque colourful buildings and plenty to see and do. This is a prime spot for absorbing Sri Lanka’s rich culture. The attractions you really don’t want to miss while in Kandy are the Royal Botanic Gardens and Temple of the Tooth. The gilded-roof temple houses the most revered relic in Sri Lanka – the tooth of Lord Buddha. The beautiful temple is set by a lake and you can grab a free audio guide at the ticket stand.
The Botanic Gardens are located about six kilometres outside of Kandy in Peradeniya. The gardens were the first place where tea was planted in Sri Lanka back in the 1820s and today, they’re one of the most Instagrammable spots in Sri Lanka.
Day: 13-14 Colombo
Alas, it’s time to return to Colombo and leave your teary goodbyes to Sri Lanka. The drive from Kandy to Colombo takes about three and a half hours. If you prefer to take in the views and absorb some local colour while you still can, you can also make the way over by train. The advantage of taking the car is that you can easily stop along the way – we made one final pitstop on the way to Colombo to visit a tea factory. To be on the safe side, you might want to arrive in Colombo the day before and get one last good night’s sleep in the capital before your flight out.