Sri Lanka is a relatively small island and easy to move around in. Whether you are taking public transport or have your own vehicle, the distances can usually be covered in a day’s trip. We travelled around Sri Lanka in our own Tuktuk for 4 weeks, which was great for seeing the country and getting around. In this guide we include the main tourists destinations as well as the best routes for driving and cool off the beaten track stops you can make on the way between main destinations.
The route can be done in approximately 4 weeks depending on how fast you want to travel and how much time you want to spend by the beach. We will mention where it’s worth to consider staying a bit longer. The itinerary is based on weather in March-April.
Day 1 – Colombo
Colombo is a nice city that can be explored in a day. Staying any longer than that would be to just get more of a feeling of the city. You can either hire a Tuktuk taxi to explore or walk around, but it can get quite hot and the sites are not so condensed.
Day 2-3 – Anuradhapura sacred city
Anuradhapura is the capital of Sri Lanka’s North Central province as well as the home to the ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It is a World Heritage Site and was the home for Theravada Budhism for many years, which means you can see many ancient Budhist temples. It is nearly 200KM from Colombo, so plan a day of travelling there and a day of visiting the sites. Entrance to the ancient site is $25 per person, however there are some free temples you can visit as well.
Day 4-6 – Trincomalee
On day 3 afternoon head over to the east coast town of Trincomalee for relaxing beach time, some awesome snorkeling, and see whales and dolphins. You can either stay at Uppuveli Beach or Nilaveli Beach, both are great and have many restaurant options. If you go around March / April, it is considered low season, but the weather is still great! This means great accommodation for cheap! Stay an extra 2 days if you have time; this beach was one of our favorites!
Day 7-8 – Sigiriya
Head over to Sigiriya, climb to great view points, and see many elephants. You can visit any of the national parks in the area, including Mineria and Eco national parks. Check with locals on where the most elephants are when you are there as they move around between the parks. Hike up Lion Rock ($25) or Pidurangala Rock ($3) for some amazing views of the Sri Lankan jungle landscape. We only did Pidurangala rock from where you can see the Lion Rock, which provided an amazing 360 degree view!
Day 9 – Wasgamua National Park
Wasgamua National Park is less touristic, yet still has a large diversity of animals and many many elephants. We would advise going there if you have your own vehicle as otherwise it might be difficult reaching it. When we were there we saw many elephants and were the only jeep in the park.
Day 10-11 – Kandy
From Wasgamua to Kandy it is about 100KM through a mountain area, so plan sufficient time for the trip. On the way to Kandy you will pass the famous 18 bends road, which is essentially 18 sharp and steep curves going up a mountain with spectacular views. Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, and is quite a busy one too. You can visit the man made lake, the Tooth Relic Temple, and enjoy a large diversity of restaurants. If you have time, take day trip to Ambuluwawa temple (see below).
Kandy to Adam’s Peak route
The route from Kandy to Adam’s Peak is quite scenic and there are plenty of things to do on the way. If you have time, you may want to stop for a night on the way to be able to do all of the following:
- Ambuluwawa – a tower temple that is very steep on the mountain. Climb up a high staircase. 300 Rs entrance fee PP.
- Laxapana falls – very beautiful waterfall. However not easy to access, the road leading up to it is quite run down and the staircase down from the road is also not well maintained. You can swim a in the pools in front of the fall, but not directly under the waterfall. Entrance is free.
- Aberdeen falls – nice waterfall with an option to swim.
- Kabragala Rock – hike up to the rock for some amazing views.
Day 12-13 – Adam’s Peak
Adam’s peak is the famous pilgrim hike up the highest climbable peak in Sri Lanka (2,443 meters above sea level). The hike is free, but requires a motivated hiker to wake up at 3.00am to see the sunrise. Avoid going there on weekend as it is packed with local pilgrims.
How long does it take to climb up Adam’s Peak?It is not an easy 3 hours hike up approximately 5,500 steep stairs. There are many stops on the way for food and tea.How long does it take to descend Adam’s Peak?We did the way down in 1.5 hours.
With public transport the closest train station is in Hatton, after which you need to take a 1.5 hours bus. The closest town to sleep in is Dalhousie
Route Adam’s Peak to Nuwera Eliya
On the way from Adam’s Peak to Nuwera Eliya we suggest to stop at some waterfalls if you have your own vehicle. Pass by Devon falls, a large waterfall visible from the road. There are 2 viewpoints from the road where you can stop your Tuktuk or car. Shortly after that you can pass by St. Clair Major Falls, which during rainy season is the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka. Navigate to St. Clair Viewing point & Restaurant for the best view. The rice and curry in the restaurant is great, so it is a good stop for lunch.
Day 14-15 – Nuwera Eliya
Nuwera Eliya is hill station town and probably the coldest town in Sri Lanka. If you want to escape the heat for a few days, Nuwera Eliya is the place. It is nicknamed little England due to the climate and the architecture. The main attraction in Nuwera Eliya is tea. There are many tea factories that can be visited by tourists for a tour and a nice cup of tea.
Route from Nuwera Eliya to Ella
On the way from Nuwera Eliya to Ella we recommend passing by Bomburu Ella Falls if you have your own Tuktuk or car. It is about 25 minutes out of Nuwera Eliya and requires you to make a small but worthwhile D-tour on the way to Ella. The nearby village maintains the fall and the entrance is 50Rs pp. It is a short 20-30 minutes hike from the parking spot. You can see the fall from below and above, and even dip in a small pool!
Day 16-17 – Ella
Ella is probably one of the more touristic spots besides the beach side in Sri Lanka. With plenty of accommodations and restaurants you can surely feel comfortable here. You can visit Little Adam’s Peak fro sunrise or sunset, the 9 arches bridge, Ella’s Rock, and some tea plantations nearby. If you have more time extend your stay here by a day or two so you can take it easy visiting all those places and enjoy the scenic views of Ella.
Route from Ella to Katagamuwa Yala National Park – B35 road
We would recommend leaving from Ella in the early afternoon on day 17 to reach Katagamuwa before the evening. On the way from Ella to Katagamuwa, check that you set your directions to go through B35 road, which is the famous road that passes through parts of Yala National Park. SPOILER ALERT: wild animal encounters guaranteed! We passed by 2 wild elephants standing on the road, and heard from others that they also saw a leopard crossing the road.
Day 18 – Yala National Park
It is the most famous national park in Sri Lanka, known for its leopards, bears, and crocks. This park is considered the busiest as well; nonetheless it depends on when you go and where you enter. Avoid weekends and go early in the morning, we entered the park when gates opened at 6.00 am. We encountered perhaps 5 other jeeps. The Katagamuwa Entrance is the less busy entrance, and that means only 10% of jeeps enter through there. We booked the jeep through our accommodation; the park entrance was 8200Rs for 2 people and 5000 for the jeep.
Day 19-20 – Tangalle
Tangalle is a laid-back beach town with some relaxing beaches where you can be lazy and digest all those great experiences of the last days.
If you are in season, stop by the Hummanaya Blowhole that can shoot water up to 10 meters. However it is a seasonal thing and depends on the tide. When we were there in March, it only spat up a few drops of water. Entrance fee is 250Rs pp whether it blows water or not. Be careful with the parking, we parked our Tuktuk nearby the entrance in the backyard of a house, and when we left an older lady was hanging on to our Tuktuk requesting 100Rs for parking.
For an even more secluded experience drive your Tuktuk (or scooter / car) to the nearby Silent Beach. This is a beautiful natural white sand beach with palm trees and a cool swing to take some Instagram photos for free!
Day 21-22 – Hiriketiya Beach (Dikwella)
Stop for some beginners surfing at Hiriketiya Beach. It is a nice U shaped beach with several restaurants and surf schools on shore. A surfboard is 500Rs (2.5 Euros) per hours or 1500Rs (7.5 Euros) for a day. It is also a children friendly beach. Dikwella beach is a un-commercialized beach.
Day 23-24 – Mirissa
Head over to one of the south coast’s most popular beaches – Mirissa beach. It is a good place to base yourself to visit other nearby beaches. Mirissa beach is a long stretch of whit sandy beach, ideal for the ones who want to relax with a cocktail in the hand and catch some suntan. Visit Polhena in the early morning to snorkel with sea turtles in shallow water. Masks are 300Rs, but you don’t even need a mask to see them since the water is so shallow! There are so many turtles in the morning that you can have a turtle or two all for yourself.
Secret Beach Mirissa
Check out Secret Beach for a spectacular sunset, but be careful driving your Tuktuk / car / scooter there. The road is quite broken, and it was quite a task for us to get there and back with the Tuktuk. Walking from Mirissa center is uphill and then downhill for about 20 minutes.
Weligama surf turf
If you are looking for a more active beach, check out Weligama beach. It is a great spot to learn surfing and has the cheapest board rentals we found! The cost of a surfboard is 250Rs (1.25 Euros) for 1 hour and 1000Rs (5 Euros) for the entire day. The beach is also very long, the water is shallow, no rocks, and has very frequent waves so you can get a lot of practice in 1 hour.
Day 25-26 Unawatuna and Galle
Unawatuna is another popular beach town with options for snorkeling and diving. The main Unawatuna beach is very long and wide with turquoise water, and has many restaurants. Although, access to the water is not very easy, it starts with small stones and then a big drop that you just have to swim or float. Check out Jungle Beach as well! It is quite a walk (25mins) through the jungle from Unawatuna main road, but is definitely worth it! The water starts shallow and goes deeper gradually. There are some nice coral reefs and sheep wracks nearby for scuba diving. The price for 2 dives is $60.
Drive your Tuktuk / scooter/ car to nearby city Galle in the late afternoon to see sunset from the Dutch fort. This town does not look anything like Asia, but more like Croatian forts by the sea.
Day 27-28 Hikkaduwa
Last beach stop before heading back to Colombo airport – Hikkaduwa beach. It is a small beach with natural shade from the palm trees. It is quite crowded even during low season and the beach is small, so you will be seating cozy with your head by other tourists’ feet :-p Nonetheless, there is an upside! Next to Hikkaduwa beach is Hikkaduwa Coral Beach, which is a rocky shallow coral area where you can snorkel and see sea turtles once again. The experience here is different than in Polhena though as there are much more tourists per turtle. If you have to choose, go for Polhena.
Hikkaduwa’s neighboring beach, Narigama beach, is a very long and wide stretch of white sand. Yet, if you are a bad swimmer, we would not recommend entering the water. It is quite wavy and rough. Stay in the shallow waters and near other swimmers. There are many cafes and restaurants along the beach for lunch or dinner.
Day 28 – Colombo International Airport
Plan sufficient time for the trip from Hikkaduwa to Colombo International Airport. The road passes through many busy towns, and you will need to cross Colombo from south to north, which can include some hefty traffic jams.
We hope you enjoyed reading through our 4 weeks itinerary to Sri Lanka. Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite parts or any suggestions you have.
If you are interested in renting a Tuktuk, check our article about our experience. If you would like to rent a Tuktuk from Tuktuk Rental, use our promotional code: ‘generationnomads’ for a 5% discount!