The Best Sri Lanka Itinerary

The best Sri Lanka itinerary

Sri Lanka is a popular country in southern Asia. We have been to many countries in Asia but this is the first time we holidaying in a south Asian country. We first thought of going to the Maldives but my wife wanted to go to an exotic holiday destination and enjoy nature.

After having a lengthy discussion and studying the all possibilities we decided to go to Sri Lanka and Seerendipity tour crafted the below mentioned Sri Lanka travel itinerary, for my knowledge it should be one of the best Sri Lanka itinerary with a fantastic blend of history, culture and nature.

The best Sri Lanka itinerary in a nutshell

Map of the best Sri Lanka itinerary

Map of Sri Lanka Itinerary

What are the important places to visit in the best Sri Lanka itinerary?

  • Colombo
  • Sigiriya
  • Dambulla
  • Kandy
  • Minneriya national park
  • Tooth relic temple
  • Nuwara Eliya
  • Bentota

It had been a fantastic tour and our Sri Lanka trip was a great success. Our Sri Lanka itinerary was made of 2 major parts,

The first phase of the Sri Lanka itinerary was consisting of a lot of travelling and visiting historical monuments and other tourist attractions. The second part of the trip was primarily dedicated to leisure activities.

I was just sitting on the edge of the Ocean throughout the day during the beach stay. I did not want to lose any single minute of my leisure and have not engaged in any major activities. However, my wife had gone to the Ayurveda spa centre and visited the nearby market a few times from the beach resort.

The sea off Sri Lanka has warm water, the water is crystal clear

We were based in several cities during the sightseeing tours, to visit important tourist places, which was the priority of some people in the group. Towards the end of our SL tour, we were staying and relaxing in a beach resort and the beach stay was my main priority.

When I recall on our SL tour, what immediately comes to my mind is the beautiful Sri Lankan landscapes and the splendid historical sites, lush green vegetation and most of all nice clean beaches. It is being more than 6 months a trip of private 7 days in Sri Lanka, with my wife, which keep excellent memories.

Back to the best Sri Lanka itinerary

On the first day of our SL tour, we landed at the international airport of Katunayake at around 16.00 hrs of local time. Even though the lading time was 15.35 we landed a little bit late. It took a long time for us to leave the departure lounge and checkout process was really lethargic. 

Day 1 of Sri Lanka itinerary: First overnight stay of our itinerary is in Colombo

After going through the customs/formalities we managed to reach the airport arrival lounge at around 17.15 hrs, where we supposed to meet our guide. Here we met our guide, I would like to use the term companion rather than the guide because he was friendly and very nice to us, even though I heard Sri Lanka is a very friendly nation, I never thought that Sri Lankans to be this much friendly and helpful.

It seems this beautiful nation is blessed with friendliness, wherever we go we are received with warmth and friendliness. Shelton was always very helpful to us and we felt very very comfortable during the tour. I must say that Shelton is very knowledgeable and very good at his job.

Later we checked into our hotel in Colombo, our hotel was located right on the beach and we were very lucky to have a sea view room. Surprisingly it was just a 20 minutes drive to the beach hotel from the airport and we never thought that we were able to enjoy the fresh sea breeze on the very first day of our SL tour.

We enjoyed the pristine beaches of Colombo until the late night and thereby having time to relax after a long flight. We met again our tour guide just before the dinner and he briefed us about the proceedings of our SL tour.


Day 2 of the best Sri Lanka itinerary: Visiting Colombo

Once we left Colombo hotel on day 2 we have undertaken a brief Colombo city tour and we herd a lot of information about Colombo. Our guide was very knowledgable and he left hardly anything to ask. I feel he has a sense of what most tourist need to know about the places. Shelton did not talk much about the historical facts but gave priority to the present conditions of tourist attractions.

He was talking about historical facts when it is necessary or when we ask about historical facts on a particular place. That was fine with us because we did not much interested in historical information and interested in the present life of people of Sri Lanka. And whatever he says was very interesting and we never bored hearing what he said. He also had a very good sense of humour.

Visiting Colombo on the best Sri Lanka itinerary

Colombo is one of the most well-known cities in Asia and the largest city in Sri Lanka, that I knew about this beautiful green city. We were looking forward to having a very enjoyable city tour in Colombo. My impression of Colombo is that it is a beautiful and well-maintained city. It has an extensive green cover, in between the high rise building, colonial constructions and busy markets. The main elements of our Colombo city tour were.

Our Colombo city tour was a hop-on and hop-off tour with brief stops, however, we spent a lot of time at Gangarama Buddhist temple, which was a very impressive temple and has a remarkable collection of various valuable artefacts in the museum.

All visitors to these sacred places suppose to dress in a particular manner to uphold their religious values. There is a set of rules that every visitor to religious sites observes while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are? Check this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRES’s CODE“.

Important places of Colombo City Tour

  1. Gangarama temple
  2. BMICH
  3. Beira Lake
  4. Galle Face green
  5. Old parliament
  6. Independent memorial hall
  7. Viharamahadevo Park and townhalls
  8. Wolvendaal church

History of Colombo

According to Shelton “Colombo has a very vibrant and colourful history, which is a secret to most travellers around the world. According to historical notes, Colombo had been inhabited way back in 2nd century BC.

According to the historical information, there had been a tsunami in the 2nd century BC, in which a part of the city was submerged. But still, this maritime city is far bigger than most people think, since 2019 the city is got even bigger with the addition of new man-made land to the Colombo, known as Colombo port city.”

Shelton also said That ” Colombo is the home for 2 million people and it is a culturing melting pot according to Shelton. Besides the busy markets, shops, factories, banks, parks, office spaces, shopping malls and High rise condominium at the centre of the city, Colombo includes many interesting historical monuments and religious places. But Colombo does not stop there, you have to stretch over many kilometres on all direction except west. The Indian Ocean is the western border of Colombo.”

Sigiriya rock fortress

Drive from Colombo to Sigiriya

Immediately after the Colombo city tour, we were head on to Sigiriya. However, we had to make a stop before reaching our destination, which was the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.

The route that was leading to Sigiriya was really good and it had a magical surrounding with picturesque countryside, coconut plantations, rubber plantations along the way. It was getting more rural and rustic as we were increasing the distance from Colombo. The drive was straight for most of the time, less crowded road making it was an easy and comfortable journey.

There had been several cities (I don’t remember the names), where our precious time drained more than necessary I think. In several cities, we stuck for a long time, especially in cities near Colombo. But the traffic moves swiftly in all other places.

Visiting Pinnawala elephant orphanage on the best Sri Lanka itinerary

I heard that Pinnawala elephant orphanage is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. And I think it should be because never seen that much of elephants in one place ever before. It was really a nice experience for us.

We made a stop at Pinnawala elephant orphanage and it was really the most important highlight of the day. The entire group enjoyed a lot while observing the mischievous behaviour of the little jumbos. We spend about 1 hour at the orphanage. According to Shelton, the animals here are having a  good time with ample of food delivered to the footstep, a river for a refreshing bath, plenty of room to roam around and a big house to rest. Afterwards, we drove to the hotel in Sigiriya.

Sigiriya rock climb amidst the lush green forest

Day 3 of Sri Lanka travel itinerary: Sightseeing tour of Sigiriya

On the next day (day 3) we visited Sigiriya rock fortress, which is a world heritage site in Sri Lanka. It had been used as the official residence of King Kashyapa in the 5th century AD. We spent about 2 hours at the site exploring the various building, paintings, ponds, boulders, caves and a beautifully landscaped garden.

Sigiriya is one of the places that struck me the most during our SL tour. We left for Sigiriya early morning as our guide suggested in order to avoid the scorching heat of the sun. We are all done by the mid-day and we felt it was a very clever idea to avoid the climb during the mid-day.

Elephant safari Minneriya

Visiting Minneriya national park

As we had a lot of time left in the day our guide suggested a safari in the nearby wildlife reserve, known as Minneriya. After a short break with lunch, we set off on an elephant watching tour.

We came to know that Minneriya is one of the best places to spot wild elephants. We enter the park with a lot of hopes of spotting a large concentration of wild elephants! Let’s see. As we have imagined, we were able to spot wild elephants gathered at the Minneriya tank. Same times we were able to the same amount of foreign travellers, especially Europeans roam around the park. After around two hours we decided to go to our hotel in the cultural triangle to dip into the pool and have time with a real holiday atmosphere.

Day 4 of Sri Lanka travel itinerary: Heading to Kandy from Sigiriya

After breakfast, we started our trip for the day from little village Sigiriya. Sigiriya is a remote village, underdeveloped, untamed and wild. There is a lot see and do here, however, we did not have much time to engage in activities due to the time constrains. We thought of allocating more time for Sigiriya sightseeing on our next trip, which is not planned yet.

The journey was remarkable, we spent about 2 hours in the vehicle on this journey. We were heading to the south from the north and passed many little towns along the way. After about 30 minute drive from Sigiriya, which is barren and dry, we entered a very fertile region. Since then the journey was much more interesting and surrounded by lush green vegetation.

The journey to Kandy from Sigiriya was splendid a very enjoyable ride with several stops on the way. Sigiriya is much more rustic than Kandy, we felt it along the way. It was getting less rural and getting more urban as we getting closer to Kandy.

The local travel company planned 2 stops on the way from Sigiriya to Kandy, 1st one was at Dambulla cave temple and the 2nd stop at the small town of Matale to visit a spice garden.

Visiting Dambulla cave temple

The landscapes are greener towards Kandy and really uprising. We stopped at the golden cave temple of Dambulla and it was a fantastic historical site with a large number of paintings and centuries-old statues. We were able to take a very close look at troops of monkeys to hang around the temple.

Visiting spice garden

Visiting spice garden was a novel experience to us, we never been to such place before. Basically it was a garden, presumably, the caretakers have invested a lot of time and money to maintain it. A very picturesque and nicely landscaped garden, which is full of spices, herbs and many plants, trees and creepers with economical benefits. We also learned about Ayurveda, which is the native healing system of Sri Lanka.

It took well over 1 hour in the spice garden and had a small walk along the narrow footpaths in the garden. It was very enjoyable and after all, it is good to live with nature.

After visiting the Spice garden we were a little bit tired and wanted to have a rest. Therefore we drove directly to the hotel, where we planned to have our lunch and rest.

Kandy city tour

Shelton suggested to starts the city tour at 03.00 PM. I felt it was a nice time to roam in the city when the sun has reduced its force. We could even have an outside walk if needed.

During the city tour, we visited down town Kandy, Kandyan cultural show, Gem museums and tooth relic temple. We have spent a lot more time in the Gem museum than we previously planned I think. However, Shelton did not make any remark on it. My wife wanted to buy gemstones in the shop, which is attached to the museum, therefore it took lot of time to finish at the gem museum.

Day 5 of SL tour: More sightseeing in Kandy

Next day we took a day tour to witness several important places in Kandy. Peradeniya botanical garden was an important tourist attraction for the day. And we wanted to have a little bit time to walk through the garden as we like to ponder nature. Therefore, we planned to visit the garden early in the morning, before it gets hot and crowded.

We enjoyed the beautiful surrounding with a large number of tropical trees, plants, orchids and creepers. The beautiful palm groove and orchid house are really worthy of a visit. Unlike Sigiriya, the temperature in Kandy is relatively more pleasant. Otherwise, it was very hot and humid and the temperature was around 35 centigrade during the previous several days, despite we travelled in the month of September.

Visiting tooth relic temple

Visiting tooth relic temple was the last event for the day, which is an important place in Kandy. Because it awakened the spiritual side of me. There was a large gathering in the temples we arrived and every single person was holding something in the hand as offers. I feel this is one of the best places to see the spiritual side of the people of Sri Lanka. We spend about 1 hour in the tooth relic temple before head on to the hotel.

Day 6 of SL tour: magical train ride through the gorgeous mountains

According to Shelton, Kandy sits at the elevation 500 meters above sea level. Today we travel further uphill towards a higher altitude area. Nuwara Eliya was the destination, it resides at an elevation 1800 meters above sea level.

The scenic upcountry train trip

Shelton brought us to the railway station and gave us a few tips about the nature of the train journey. He also mentioned about few important landmarks that come across. Shelton helped us to find our compartment and spot the seats, which was booked by the local company well in advanced.

I had the opportunity to talk to a few foreigners in the train, who were heading to Ella, which was further south of Nuwara Eliya, they had not been able to get seats as all the seats were sold out. I felt that I was fortunate to make arrangements through a local company. They have taken care of all the little details of the trip.

As we reached Nuwara Eliya city, Shelton had already in the Station waiting for us. It took well over 4 hours to reach Nuwara Eliya from Kandy on the 79km long track.

The hill country tour was a long but landscape is fascinating, with rolling hills and cascading waterfalls. It is a nice experience as I have read on the internet. The climate in Nuwara Eliya is much cooler in Nuwara Eliya than in Kandy, We felt it straight away. The temperate had been around 15 centigrade as we getting out of the station.

Nuwara Eliya city tour

The first thing we did after the train journey was to have a refreshing bath and rest. I wanted to have a chilled beer, which reminded me of our trip to Scotland. I felt the surrounding of Nuwara Eliya has a lot of similarities to Scotland and my wife also felt the same way. Beautiful vegetation, Gregory lake, small town, parks, tea plantations, green-capped mountains in the backdrop and healing climate, I bet it takes everyone by surprise.

Later in the day, we explored the Gregory lake and the golf course, Sita Tempel and few other places in Nuwara Eliya.

Later in the day, we explored the beautiful Nuwara Eliya city. For us, there was not much to do in Nuwara Eliya, therefore we felt one overnight stay in the city was enough. We visited picturesque Gregory lake, golf course, and several temples in the city.

We had a nice time in an old pub in the city, which is located towards the northern end of the city, next to the bank of Ceylon building. Each of us sipped a couple of beer mugs before heading to the hotel. It was walking distance to our hotel from the city. It was really chilly in  Nuwara Eliya after the sunset.

Day 7 of SL tour: Nuwara Eliya to Bentota

The next day, we took the road to Bentota beach on the west coast, it was a long journey on a winding road but the landscape was really beautiful with several waterfalls, mountains, escapements and tea plantations.

We were heading to west from Nuwara Eliya and our downhill journey supposed to end at Bentota beach, a sheer drop of elevation from 1800 meters to 0 meters. As the elevation changed so was the climate and vegetation. We felt strikingly different contrast in the beach areas, it is warm, humid and vegetation is totally different when you compare with higher elevated areas.

This popular beach resort is located at the confluence of Bentota river and the sea, the beach resort is surrounded by water from three directions. Many hotels are to be found in the Bentota beach area and most of them are catering to high-end luxury travellers.

We reach the hotel at around 15.00 hrs. The entire group was heading to the beach just after getting off at the hotels, even before finishing the check-in formalities. All are very eager to find out the beautiful settings of the beach, that we hang-around during the next several days. Later we checked-in to our hotel located right on the beach just before lunch.

That was the end our SL tour

We were very happy with the tour and collected a lot of sweet memories for several days as we travelled through the country. The end of our tour marks the start of our nest interesting chapter of Sri Lanka holiday, the beach hopping. We spent 4 days on the beach, we have decided not to take any major sightseeing tour during the beach holiday.  It was really interesting at the beach resort and our beach holiday helped us to unwind our selves after a lot of work at home.

Our accommodation

We were staying only good 4-star hotels during the tour. Staying in the 4-star hotels was a common idea of all of us. We asked the recommendation of Seerendipity tours and they have suggested us several options. After reviewing their suggestion we have finalised the best properties for our tour.

We knew that sometimes you don’t get the same hotels on the tour that you are offered at the time of the tour arrangement, and we had little doubt on this occasion, but, Serendipity tours booked the same exact hotels we asked them to book. Later on, we came to know that they are not that kind of local company because they delivered all the services as per the document we finalized with them.

I’m happy to say that we’re able to make a good combination of hotels for us. All the hotels we were staying at was very very good and they provided a good service.

How to arrange the Best Sri Lanka itinerary?

We entrusted Seerendipity tour on all tour arrangement and they did it perfectly. We did not want to go for self-organizing of our SL tour, because we wanted to have a hassle-free vacation, we simply wanted to enjoy. Sightseeing tours, tour guides, transportation, accommodation all done by Seerendipity tours and we just had to enjoy our holiday.

We have done this type of tours (package tours) on many occasions earlier and we are very comfortable with it. Because it takes all the tedious tasks of tour arrangements. In fact, I think a DMC is the best way to get the tour arranged because they are the experts in a particular holiday destination. Making a holiday package through a DMC is cheap too, sometimes people think it is cheaper to organize a tour package their own but I highly doubt it.

Conclusion of the best Sri Lanka itinerary

Sri Lanka is a perfect destination to have a nice holiday, they have all the ingredients required to make your stay memorable. The country is unique in many ways and they have a fascinating blend of palm-fringed Beaches, green-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, tea garden, historical places, national parks teeming with wild elephants, forests and many other things. Virtually every traveller can find something interesting here.