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In 2013 or 2014, I spent some weeks in Sri Lanka. It was during monsoon and tourism was at its lowest. The prices were low and the were crowds less. Though I faced some rains, especially on the coast, most of my days in Sri Lanka were clear and sunny. My itinerary was focused on the pure exploration of the island and it had no fixed route. I just went wherever I wished, stayed as long as I liked, and followed my heart particular and our itinerary was focused on beach and culture. It was a very budget-friendly visit and I stayed in hostel dorms, ate at local places, and availed public transportation. So, this itinerary is a combination of public transport especially trains, public buses, and tuk-tuk rides. My maximum trip money was spent on entrance fees and both Sigiriya and Horton Plains National Park were not cheap places. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I would do it all over again without any second thoughts. Presenting my 3 weeks Sri Lanka itinerary. This one is for keeps, especially if you love slow traveling.

The celestial beauties of Sigiriya

The celestial beauties of Sigiriya

Let’s begin the Sri Lanka itinerary with a few FAQs

1. Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka?

Security issues have raised concerns in Sri Lanka, especially after the deadly terror attacks on 21 April 2019. Life, however, is returning to normal on the island with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.

2. When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka? 

The weather in Sri Lanka is complicated due to its two separate monsoons. This also makes the island a year-round destination. Generally, the best time to visit the west and south coasts along with the Cultural Triangle is between December and April. The east coast the climate is at its finest from May through to October.

3. We are planning for 8 days, would these be sufficient for covering the major ‘must see’ spots or we need more days? How many would you advise? 

Although because of the small size of the island, an 8 days Sri Lanka itinerary would suit most people, I suggest you make a 10N/11D visit to enjoy your stay to the fullest. The Cultural Triangle (Sigiriya-Dambulla-Polonnaruwa) along with a stay in Kandy will itself take 4 days if you don’t want to rush about.

Tea gardens near Nuwara Eliya

Tea gardens near Nuwara Eliya

Highlights of my 2018 Sri Lanka Itinerary

  • Arrival into Colombo (stayed at CityRest Fort near the Dutch Hospital)….3N
  • Train to Mirissa (4 h 34 min 171 km)…. 4N
  • Local bus to Koggala (45 minutes 23 km)…1N
  • Shared mini-van to Galle (45 minutes 23 km, stayed at Galle Fort Hostel)… 5N
  • Train to Kandy (223 km 5 hrs via Fort station in Colombo)…7N (on and off)
  • Bus to Kotabakina in Dambana via Mahiyangana (101 km 2.5 hrs)…1N
  • Tuk-tuk to Sigiriya (92 km 2.5 hrs)
  • Tuk-tuk to Dambulla from Sigiriya (18 km 45 minutes, stayed at Dambulla)…1N
  • Tuk-tuk to Polonarruwa from Dambulla (68 km 1 h 20 mins)
  • Polonarruwa to Kandy (135 km 4 hrs, stayed at Kandy)….2N
  • Tuk-tuk to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy (81 km, 4 hrs)…7N
  • Nanu Oya to Colombo (165 km 4.5 hrs, stayed at Colombo)…2N
  • Return Home
devotees at temple of tooth in kandy

The holy pilgrimage site in Kandy

Sri Lanka itinerary in a nutshell

Colombo – Mirissa – Koggala – Galle – Kandy – Dambana – Kandy – Sigiriya – Dambulla – Polonarruwa – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Colombo

Things or activities I did on this trip

  • Colombo – City Walk, Photo Walk in Pettah, Fort Area and the historic Kollupitiya Market, Eating Sri Lankan food
  • Koggala – Seen the stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka and visited the Yatagala cave temple
  • Galle – Visited the moonstone mine and mask making center at Ambalangoda
  • Kandy – Visited the Vedda village in Dambana and the Cultural Triangle of Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Polonnaruwa
  • Nuwara Eliya – Visited tea gardens and hiked through the Horton Plains National Park

Destinations and sites visited in this Sri Lanka itinerary

  1. Colombo
  2. Mirissa
  3. Koggala
  4. Galle
  5. Kandy
  6. Dambana
  7. Sigiriya
  8. Polonnaruwa
  9. Nuwara Eliya
  10. Horton’s Plains National Park
Enjoy some Sri Lankan culture on your Kandy travel

Enjoy some Sri Lankan culture on your Kandy travel

Overnight Stay Points on this Sri Lanka Itinerary

  • Colombo
  • Mirissa
  • Koggala
  • Galle
  • Kandy
  • Dambana
  • Dambulla
  • Nuwara Eliya
Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transportation in Galle

Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transportation in Galle

Sri Lanka itinerary Travel Facts

  • Start Point – Colombo
  • Finish Point – Colombo
  • Duration – more than 30 Days
  • Theme – Culture, Beach, Hill Station, Nature
  • Suitability – For all ages
  • Optional Add-ons – Hiking at Horton Plains National Park, Koggala Cave Temple, Visiting a Moonstone mine near Galle, visiting a Vedda village in Dambana
  • Visa Facilities – Sri Lanka has an e-visa facility for tourists. Check the official website for more information.
  • Sri Lankan currency is the Sri Lankan rupee.
  • Although on paper, Sri Lanka has two international airports, almost all airlines fly into Bandaranaike International Airport. It is located outside Colombo.
stilt fisherman of koggala

See the practice of stilt fishing

How to customize this Sri Lanka and make it shorter

  1. Reduce the number of days at each destination.
  2. You can skip Koggala and make it Colombo-Mirissa-Galle
  3. Dambana can be totally skipped and Sigiriya-Dambulla-Polonnaruwa can be done comfortably with either a small group tour or by taxi in 1N/1D.
  4. Nuwara Eliya stay can be reduced and Horton Plains National Park can be completely skipped.

In that case, the itinerary would be Colombo – Mirissa – Galle – Kandy – Cultural Triangle – Nuwara Eliya – Colombo. This Sri Lanka itinerary can easily be done in 8D.

The reclining Buddha at Yatagala cave temple near koggala

The reclining Buddha at Yatagala cave temple near Koggala

Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo

Colombo is a cool city

Dambulla painted caves

a chief of the veddas

The Vedda village chief near Dambana

Wildlife spotting in Sri Lanka

Wildlife spotting in Sri Lanka cannot get better than this

A stunning sunset by the beach in Mirissa

Sri Lanka offers great hikes at Horton Plains National Park

sri lanka cultural triangle

Pollonarruwa

sri lanka pepper crab in colombo

Sri Lankan pepper crab at the Ministry of Crab

Follow the rest of the Sri Lanka series here

NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE