Sri Lanka is undoubtedly the island that has it all. This first-timer’s two week itinerary to Sri Lanka just shows how much you can do during your trip. It’s a destination that is for those looking to explore a world of its own. The whimsical delights of Sri Lanka find themselves in the smaller moments, the journeys, and in each encounter with the locals. Sri Lanka is definitely the place for those looking to be swept away into both the outdoors, the beach, and the wildlife — you can do all three in one trip!
I traveled to Sri Lanka with my friend Jessica from Choosing Chia. Be sure to check out her blog for more great travel tips on Sri Lanka! (and incredible recipes, she’s so talented!) So between the two of us, we came together with this two week itinerary to Sri Lanka, one that encompassed everything we both wanted to see.
I couldn’t suggest more to take your time traveling through Sri Lanka. You’ll find out pretty quickly that transportation takes a while, and that a 30 mile transfer is more of an 1.5 hr drive. So be sure to budget your trip around this, and enjoy the ride!
Read on for the first-timer’s two week itinerary to Sri Lanka.
Good to Know Before Traveling to Sri Lanka
- Getting around Sri Lanka takes time so be sure to keep this in mind.
- Don’t drink the tap water. Drink only water that is certified clean.
- You need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Be sure to check online here the visa requirements, as I did mine in advance. Always print out copies of your return ticket as they can and will ask for it. I did mine a week or so in advance and was approved in 24 hours. I would budget at least 1-2 weeks in case.
- Arrive with some USD or currency as ATM machines can be hit or miss. Don’t count on the ATM machines being usable as many don’t accept foreign cards. I was lucky to pull most of my cash at the airport but it is advisable to carry some USD in case you can’t find an ATM.
- If a storm hits, be prepared for the wildly unprepared. I suggest traveling with a backup battery, a good raincoat and some shoes you don’t mind getting wet.
- English is widely spoken.
- Cash is king, so don’t expect small hotels to take credit cards.
- There is a lot of wildlife — keep in mind about serpents/spiders and big game when going exploring.
14 Nights: Colombo—Kandy—Ella—Yala—Tangalle—Mirissa—Galle Fort
(*This is a revised itinerary after traveling in Sri Lanka that suggests the best schedule after the trip.)
Day 1: Land in Colombo.
Though the first day can be a blur upon landing, make the most of it to beat that jet lag. Colombo has enough to see for a solid two days.
Read: The 24 Hour Guide to Colombo
Stay: Moss Bed and Breakfast
Day 2: Head to Kandy.
Take an early afternoon transfer to Kandy to budget enough time for the transfer. In Kandy, there’s a decent amount of things to do, such as the temple, the lake and the botanical gardens.
Read: Guide to Kandy
Stay: Ozo Hotel
Day 3: Kandy
You could easily spent two nights in Kandy or switch it out for Nuwara Eliya if you like. We did one night in Nuwara Eliya and felt that we could have skipped it. I’d do a tea plantation near Kandy instead of Nuwara Eliya as a day trip this afternoon.
Day 4: Scenic train to Ella
This was the one thing I wish we could have done, the world’s most scenic train ride from Kandy to Ella. We had weather issues so we had to do a private driver, but if you’re going to do it, do it here. Arrive to Ella in the afternoon and get settled in. Optional afternoon excursion: hike Little Adam’s peak.
Read: What to Do in Ella
Stay: 98 Acres Resort
Day 5: Ella
There’s plenty to do in Ella when it comes to scenery. I would suggest seeing the Nine Arches Bridge, taking a long hike to Adam’s Peak and possibly seeing the waterfalls nearby. Ella is so peaceful and the views are out of this world.
Day 6: Head to Yala National Park
It’s a few hours drive to Yala, but along the way it is super scenic. Get settled into your hotel, as that’s where you’ll spend most of your time before a game drive. Game drives are either in the early morning or afternoon, so be prepared to schedule around this. I’d suggest booking a really good hotel as there’s not much else to do around the area besides the beach.
Read: Yala National Park Story
Stay: Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
Day 7: Yala National Park
Game drive day two is worth it in case you didn’t see anything the first day. I would suggest the extra night to allow more time to see the animals — it is quite thrilling!
Day 8: Head to Tangalle
After a few days of adventure, a seaside escape is in order. Tangalle is the next stop on the loop around Sri Lanka and where else then the Anantara Peace Haven Resort. It is seriously an escape unlike no other, this hotel features incredible rooms right on a secluded beach. There are many restaurants to choose from right at the hotel, so no need to ever leave. I definitely recommend at least one night at the Italian restaurant! During your stay I would recommend to do at least one spa treatment in their incredible spa — it is incredibly peaceful.
Stay: Anantara Peace Haven Resort
Day 9: Tangalle
Another day of relaxation by the sea. Enjoy the privacy of the seclude beach at Anantara — one of the best on the island.
Day 10: Head to Mirissa Beach
Along the coast is the surf town of Mirissa Beach, and there’s plenty of action here. Whether it’s whale watching or many water sports, you can take advantage of the sunny days in the water. I’d recommend staying in Weligama to ensure privacy and a quieter place!
Read: The Ultimate Guide to Mirissa + Staying at Cape Weligama
Stay: Cape Weligama
Day 11: Mirissa Beach
Another day of sun in Mirissa.
Day 12: Head to Galle Fort
One of the best places I saw in Sri Lanka was the historic fort in Galle. It’s easily walkable and trendy with restaurants and cafes. Come here to get a taste of Sri Lanka’s past and future.
Read: The Ultimate Guide to Galle Fort
Stay: Hotel Fort Bazaar
Day 13: Galle Fort
Another day in Galle Fort is well worth it. You can take a day trip to Unawatuna which I highly recommend to enjoy the beaches here.
Day 14: Koggala Bay
One of the best gems in Sri Lanka is Koggala Lake. It is peaceful and with a stay at Tri Hotel, you will be so happy to end your trip here. I would recommend 2 nights minimum and heading straight to the airport from the hotel!
Read: Staying in Koggala Lake at Tri
Stay: Hotel Tri