Make a Sri Lanka tour itinerary from northern Sri Lanka to southern Sri Lanka by train, car, taxi and plane, starting from Colombo, then head on to cultural triangle in north-central province of Sri Lanka to witness the ruins of ancient civilization, before darting to south Sri Lanka’s pristine beaches and exploring fascinating wildlife collection …
Perfect Sri Lanka tour itinerary
With one of the oldest cultures in the world, mouth-watering seafood specialities, ancient Buddhist temples, amidst evergreen rainforests and beaches of surreal beauty, undoubtedly a Sri Lanka tour itinerary is a feast for the senses.
Make a Sri Lanka tour itinerary from northern Sri Lanka to southern Sri Lanka by train, car, taxi and plane, starting from Colombo, then head on to cultural triangle in north-central province of Sri Lanka to witness the ruins of ancient civilization, before darting to south Sri Lanka’s pristine beaches and exploring fascinating wildlife collection.
Colombo: the start of most Sri Lank trips
Usually, most Sri Lank trips start in Colombo, where you find the international airport. However, the international airport of Colombo is not located within the borders of Colombo and you need to travel 35 km from the airport to reach Colombo.
Slung along the banks of the Kelaniya River, the bustling metropolis is the base for any Sri Lanka tour itinerary, which shows a fascinating blend of characters of a 21st-century modern metropolis and a colonial city of the medieval period. Make a Colombo sightseeing tour, when the streets are a little bit empty, Saturdays, Sundays and local holidays are the perfect days for it.
Colombo was the capital of Sri Lanka and it lost its importance as the capital of the island in 1979, however, Colombo is the heart of Sri Lanka and the hub of the economy. The city with the highest population on the island is resided by 2 million people.
Colombo has many important places to visit and foreign travellers hardly miss an overnight stay during their Sri Lanka tour. Colombo is a cultural melting pot and a large number of people of different races and religions are rubbing their shoulder each other in its fully packed space. With dozens of flourishing different cultures, undoubtedly Colombo has the greatest concentration of dining options in Sri Lanka, with everything from street food outlets selling wade – a rounded shape Sri Lankan snack made of deep-fried dhal – to restaurants serving rice and curry.
Usually, most travellers visit Pettah, the bustling shopping area, Galle face area and cinnamon garden during the Colombo city tour. However, most travellers fail to dip into the seaside, less crowded part of Colombo known as marine drive, where many dozens of seafood restaurants are lined up. Many modern hotels have set up their business on the marine drive in the recent past buy utilizing the panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. It makes a pleasant stay if you need to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and is a spot for an evening chat among the friends, beach stroll and family outing.
Pettah is an Oceanfront quarter of the city, which was the control room of British colonial rulers, during the British rule in Sri Lanka. The British occupation on the island ceased in 1948, but the presence of colonial rulers is very much intact with dozens of British styles colonial buildings. Queen Victoria hospital, Cargill building and many other colonial buildings are still in use, apart from the commercial benefits they add beauty to the city and colonial charm.
On the bank of Beira Lake sits the Ganagrama temple, which is one of the most beautiful temples of Colombo and place to see a large number of Buddhist paintings and Buddha statues, don’t forget to drop into the temple museum, which exhibits a large number precious and rare artefacts.
At hulfsdorf, the highest point of Colombo sits the Dutch built Wolvendaal church, which is still in very good shape and still in daily use. This is one of the imposing structures in Colombo remains from glory days of the Portuguese era. Visit the church on weekend morning, when you can join local devotees and explore the church.
Cultural triangle: Best for ruins in Sri Lanka tour itinerary
The sleeping Buddha of Galvihara is 14 meters in length and nearby standing Buddha is 7 meters in height, while the meditating Buddha next to the standing Buddha is 4 meters and sitting on the meditating posture. The face of Buddha is beatific, the earlaps of Buddha dangling almost to the shoulders.
A group of devotees enter the open temple, which has only a modern roof, kneel before the Buddha statues. Few of them lights the incense sticks and bends low to the ground in prayer. Some of the devotees place flowers in proper order on the altar and fill the entire temple with a scent. A legions pilgrim visit Galvihara, which is a part of most Sri Lanka tour itinerary due to the historical and religious importance. Galvihara temple, dating back to 11th century is located within the UNESCO world heritage site of Polonnaruwa.
The site is a part of the old city of Polonnaruwa, set amidst a jungle of historical building that is dating back to many thousands of years, most of them are partly or completely destroyed at the wrath of harsh weather and lack of maintenance. Some are vandalized by foreign invaders in the past. But the hundreds of ruined temples, palaces, ponds, and many other buildings that are scattered in Polonnaruwa testify to its former glories. From the 11th to 13th centuries, Polonnaruwa was the capital city of Sri Lanka – and the architectural, engineering and the cultural achievements made during the Polonnaruwa period continue to resonate today.
Dharmasena Mudiyanse, a local traveller came to see the gal vihara with his family, explaining that people are coming to see the temple and worship the Buddha. “There are many other temples, where you can worship Buddha but Galvihara is unique in many ways, it is a historical temple, it has stone hued gigantic Buddha statues that you rarely find in other temples,” says Dharmasena. “Sri Lankan people adore this place,” he says. “It is a reason to be proud of, to have so precisely carved gigantic rock-cut Buddha statues; it is not easy to make such masterpieces. After all, they did not have the technology that we have today” says Dharmasena.
Iconic tourist attraction Sigiriya
Sigiriya rock fortress is another important tourist hotspot in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and part of the almost every Sri Lanka tour itinerary. Sigiriya rock fortress is much older than Polonnaruwa and dating back to 5th century AD. Sigiriya is one of the most visited historical sites on the island and a UNESCO world heritage site, featuring rich engineering skills, water management techniques and artistic capabilities of ancient engineers and artisans.
Tour of Cultural triangle Sri Lanka
The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka is consisting of 5 major UNESCO world heritage sites namely Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy. Sri Lankan people are proud of its existence, it provides much-needed evidence to prove the history of Sri Lanka, and that they have managed to protect more than 2000 years of the heritage of Sri Lanka. Most Sri Lankans believe that the period from 3rd century BC to 1505 AD (beginning of colonial-era) was the pinnacle of Sri Lankan culture and history. Sri Lankan people gather to cultural triangle to witness ancient marvels of ancient Sri Lanka in the form of Palaces, temples, lakes, statues, paintings, sculptures, gardens and advanced water management system. Ancient people of Sri Lanka not only built palaces and temples, but they also invented rounded letters of the Sinhalese written language.
The dominance of old cities gently diminished over the centuries, as people moved to interior of the country from north-central province of Sri Lanka mainly due to the unceasing foreign invasions, and jungle began to reclaim the site. The cultural triangle was totally forgotten until the early 18s when British colonial historians turn their attention to the cities and the process of restoration began
The contrast between historical cities and Colombo could not be greater: instead of crowded roads and beeping, buzzing tuk-tuks, a handful of cyclists ride past, and beautiful gardens with flowering plants that gently swaying with the wind against a backdrop of stupas. The imposing nine-storied brazen palace of Anuradhapura, with thousands of room for monks, was lavishly decorated with intricate carvings, gems studded walls and gold plates. “Cultural triangle is now a laid-back city, where solitary and peace reign,” says Dharmasena. “I think this feeling remains in our mind, deep down, no matter how big or busy the country gets.”
Best of Hill country in your Sri Lanka tour itinerary with Ella
Ella, once well known as the backpacker’s paradise in the mountains has been transformed into a popular holiday destination in the mountains. Five out of every ten travellers of Sri Lanka ask to add Ella on their Sri Lanka tour itinerary now. It was popular as a cheap holiday destination, has had a change of heart. Luxurious hotels, cosy restaurants and cafes, eco clothing shops, and wellness retreats are popping up all over the hilly resort, inspired by the large extent of forest cover, mountains, waterfalls, tea plantations and trekking sites.
Visiting backpacker paradise: Ella
As the number of traveller’s increases in Ella in search of alternative experience combined with exposure to nature, it is highly possible to encounter travellers that make jungle treks, rainforest explorations, waterfall abseiling, mountaineering and rock climbing instead of basking in the sun.
The best place to start your day at Ella is the nine arch bridge, a structure stands in a valley connecting two mountains. The history of the bridge goes back to the British colonial era. Nine arch bridge is located in Demodara between the railway stations of Demodara and Ella. It had become a tourist hotspot over the last few decades and seen a sharp increase of visitors to the site due to the bridge’s architectural ingenuity and natural beauty of the surrounding hillsides.
Make a hike to the mini Adams peak that sits few kilometres away from the city centre, the green-capped mountain is the highest point in Ella and provide breathtakingly, bird’s eye view over the Ella gap. The hike takes place through the beautiful tea plantations and forested areas. The duration of the hike is a little less than an hour and the hike can be a little bit tiring. However the breathtaking scenery from the mountain is unbelievable and it is the most valuable reward for anyone, who undertakes this arduous journey.
Ella has grown exponentially, and much of its laid-back vibe is diminished over the last few years, as the tourists traffic considerably increased. Tourism is a major industry in Ella and large numbers of families live on it. Most families in Ella now offer homestays, so that they can earn extra cash, while tourist can experience the local life with them, or go trekking in the Ella gap.
Sinharaja rain forest: Best for nature
The trees and plants of Sinharaja rain forest sit in three different layers, bush, canopy and upper canopy. The two layers of the canopy and upper canopy rise up to 100-150 feet above the ground and this thick green cover in the sky block every spec of sunlight, as you walk in the jungle it feels like been to an old cathedral, which is very gloomy, silent.
This is a jungle country, deep in the tropics of western province, and every step on the trail that winds through the jungle is novel experience with a cool compress of sudden downfall. A cool consolation is an extraordinary experience: the primaeval rain forest of Sinharaja, which rise and fall with mountain peaks capped by a thick forest that stand sheer and abrupt against the sky.
Sinharaja rain forest considered to be the oldest patch of forests in Asia, dating back to 180 million years, its roots first had the grip of Gondwana supercontinent existed more than 180 million years ago. This virgin Jungle is protected with the emblem of UNESCO world heritage site, unaltered by human hand.
The topography of the thick jungle canopy, the evolutionary contest between the trees rising to the empty space in search of sunlight, is solely in the hand of nature. As the trail continues through the wilderness, there is a feeling that this is how the world must have been looked before the origin of human. Everything is supersized-giant tree trunks are many meters in diameter and tree canopy spreads over a large area that can easily cover semi-detached houses.
Sinharaja pulsated with life
Sinharaja pulsated with life, from the insect-eating plants with bottle-shaped sack, that digest small insects to the “shy plants” who snap their small leaves shut when disturbed by touch, water or even with wind, not to mention the colorful wild-cock, deer, mongoose, elephants, leopards, and millions of amphibians and insects. As the dusk approaches, the big players in the insect world such as black-winged ceconda beetle join in the chorus, and the pitch rises to that of an ear-shattering fire alarm or an industrial drill.
Hikkaduwa: Best for beaches in Sri Lanka tour itinerary
Slung along the Indian Ocean in the western province of Sri Lanka, 90 km south of Colombo, the easy-going seafront fishing village is the cradle Sri Lankan tourism industry, where a large number of backpackers gather in the early days. However, Hikkaduwa is a fully-fledged beach holiday destination now and offer not only affordable beach holidays but also the luxurious beach holidays for wealthy guests.
Hikkaduwa is included in the Sri Lanka tour itinerary as a place for a calm and quiet beach holiday, while some travellers visit Hikkaduwa on a day trip to Galle. It is conveniently located on the Galle-Colombo main highway, between Bentota and Galle.
This hippy hangout provides the largest concentration of dining possibilities for travellers in Sri Lanka, with everything from food cart selling spicy wade (deep-fried dhal) to a beach restaurant that offers seafood specialities.
Other than the sun, sea and sand, Hikkaduwa also a very popular place for authentic seafood, hundreds of beach restaurant that sit along the beach offer mouthwatering, delicious, fresh seafood for its visitors and some of them even offer cooking classes. Try a cooking class session and learn the art of making delicious tuna fish curry in Sri Lankan way.
The most spacious beachfront properties are occupied by star class hotels and serve affluent customers. But, much of the accommodating in Hikkaduwa is family-run guesthouses, bungalows and rent rooms, near the beach, most of them do not offer sea view accommodation, but the sea is only a few meters away from the rooms. Hikkaduwa still has a narrow stretch of empty beach, where a large number of sun-worshippers concentrated, while some others stroll the seashore and enjoy the sound of the waves.