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11 POPULAR SRI LANKA TRAVEL ROUTES

Finding the best Sri Lanka travel route can be a daunting task for most travellers. Because there are many travel routes to reach every tourist attraction. This article features 11 popular travel routes in Sri Lanka that leads to top-not tourist attraction on the island. The article also mentions many interesting places to visit as a venture on these routes.

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Most famous for palm-fringed pristine beaches, Sri Lanka is a tropical nation of jagged mountain peaks, millions of years old rainforests, wildlife reserves teeming with wild animals, storybook castles, ancient monuments, and medieval towns that seem unchanged by time. With fascinating ancient cities, folk museums and rustic villages showcasing the country’s traditional culture, plus walking trails for discovering Sri Lanka’s natural wetlands and wildlife, there’s plenty to hold your interest here.

We carefully scratched the annal of Sri Lanka trips and formulated this blog post with the 11 best Sri Lanka travel route/s for holiday trips in Sri Lanka. If you are considering having a Sri Lanka tour, one or several options below can be considered as Sri Lanka route/s for your trip

HOW TO FIND THE BEST SRI LANKA TRAVEL ROUTE?

Due to the ever-increasing number of questions such as what is the best travel route in Sri Lanka? and what is the best trip to Sri Lanka? we thought of writing this article elaborating several popular travel routes of Sri Lanka, that you least hit once in a lifetime.

Benefits of having the best travel route for Sri Lanka trip

Choosing the best travel route is a critical factor for the success of your Sri Lanka tour. It is very important, especially if it is a short trip such as 1 day Sri Lanka trip or 2 day Sri Lanka tour. None of us likes to waste time travelling and always try to reduce the time of travelling to spend more time sightseeing and leisure.

Having a short trip means you have only very limited time for sightseeing and saving time on travelling is very important. Even if it is a multi-day Sri Lanka trip such as 5 day Sri Lanka tour or a 1-week Sri Lanka trip, reducing the time on the road means you can add many other interesting places that are not already included in your trip.

We have already written a detailed blog post on Sri Lanka trips on a previous occasion. We carefully scratched the annal of Sri Lanka trips and formulated this blog post with the 11 best Sri Lanka travel routes for holiday trips in Sri Lanka. If you are considering having a Sri Lanka tour, one or several options below can be considered as the route/s for your trip. Most of these routes provide an easy gateway to many popular one-day trip places in Sri Lanka.

  1. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Kataragama. …
  2. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Matara – Expressway …
  3. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Nuwara Eliya via Kitulgala. …
  4. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Arugam Bay via Kandy. …
  5. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Anuradhapura via Puttalam. …
  6. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Trincomalee via Dambulla. …
  7. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Kandy via Kegalle. …
  8. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Rathnapura. …
  9. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Bandarawela via Haputale. …
  10. Sri Lanka travel route Nuwara Eliya to Bentota via Kithulagla. …
  11. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Sigiriya via Kurunegala. …

Above mentioned travel routes of Sri Lanka are most suitable for short trips from Colombo such as 1-day Sri Lanka trip or 2-days Sri Lanka trip. If you plan a Sri Lanka trip for more than 2-days like one week Sri Lanka trip or 10 day Sri Lanka tour you could combine a few above-mentioned travel routes to make a much bigger circuit.

If you plan a one-week to two weeks Sri Lanka trip we do like to recommend the below-mentioned travel route, which is one of the most popular Sri Lanka travel routes for Sri Lanka tours from 7-14 days. This travel route covers the most important tourist places such as historical sites in the cultural triangle, Sri Lanka’s hill country, southern Sri Lanka as well as west coast beaches.

The trip on this travel route starts from Colombo and goes in northward from the west coast to the cultural triangle then head to Sri Lanka’s hill country to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Afterwards, head to Sri Lanka’s south coast, and then from the south coast, the tour goes along the beaches to the west coast and Colombo.

  • Day 1: Colombo-Anurahdapura-Sigiriya
  • Day 2: Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa
  • Day 3: Polonnaruwa-Kandy
  • Day 4: Kandy-Nuwara Eliya
  • Day 5: Nuwara Eliya-Yala
  • Day 6: Yala-Galle-Bentota
  • Day 7: Bentota-Colombo

1. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo-Kataragama:

Words cannot convince the beauty of this coastal travel route from Colombo to Kataragama. It would definitely be fun to cruise along the pristine beaches of west and southern Sri Lanka.

This is one of the most popular travel routes on the island. The travel route is very popular among local travellers as well as foreign travellers as it leads to many dozens of interesting places. Sri Lanka’s south coast itinerary is a very popular trip in Sri Lanka and the travellers who book south coast tours hit this travel route.

There are many places on this route that you can’t simply ignore. So plan your tour with several hours more for the stops. This is a very popular route among foreign travellers because it brings them to some of the best beach resorts on the island such as Bentota beach, Kalutara, Galle, Hikkaduwa and many other beach resorts in Southern Sri Lanka.

Using the A-2 road on this travel route

A-2 main road from Colombo can be used on this stretch. The road from Colombo to Kataragama can be used to reach many interesting tourist places in southern Sri Lanka such as Galle, Unawatuna, Matara, Tangalle and Hambantota. However, travellers can reach south coast beach resorts from the Colombo international airport via the southern expressway and avoid Colombo city, which definitely saves a lot of time for travellers.

Using the southern expressway on this route

With the opening of the southern expressway, the travel time between south coast beaches and Colombo is reduced by around 3 hours. Being able to avoid heavy traffic in Colombo enables travellers to save a lot of time on their trip to the south coast. However, if you need to visit sightseeing places from Colombo to Kataragama you need to drive on the usual coastal road.

Road Trip Condition:: the distance of the route from the Colombo city tour to Kataragama is 284 km, it lies very close to the sea, and it has an average altitude between 1-3 meters above sea level, throughout the trip.

There are many attractions to stop at along the way from Colombo to Kataragama and beaches are the main highlight of this road trip, all the way from the beginning of the trip to the end. The road is open throughout the year and the road is in very good condition too. The journey takes about 2 days with stops for sightseeing and activities. The best time to visit is from November to April.

Places to stop on the Sri Lanka travel route from Colombo to Kataragama:

  • Kalutara: Gamgatilaka temple, Kalido beach
  • Beruwala: Kachchimale mosque
  • Bentota: Bentota beach, water sport centre
  • Balapitiya: Madu river safari, sea turtle farm
  • Hikkaduwa: Hikkaduwa beach, Hikkaduwa marine sanctuary, Mask Museum, Moonstone mines
  • Galle: Galle fortress
  • Unawatuna: Unawatuna beach, stilt fisherman
  • Weligama: Weligama beach, Kustarajagala temple
  • Matara: Polhena beach, whale and dolphin watching, blowhole, the star fort
  • Kataragama: Yala wildlife reserve, Kataragama temple
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2. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Matara – Expressway:

This is a very convenient weekend gateway from Colombo, a road trip of Sri Lanka to Matara is an activity that most local residents are fond of, which provides a perfect setting for a peaceful beach tour of Sri Lanka. Don’t forget to make whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa and beach hopping on the beaches of Mirissa. The picturesque palm-fringed beaches and shallow torque water of the Indian ocean calm those jittery nerves.

Drop into a beach restaurant and sample a fresh seafood dish, while enjoying the perfect sunset on the horizon. So if you are near Colombo or somewhere on the west coast pack yourself and set off on this memorable journey.

Road Trip Condition: The total distance of the expressway from Colombo to Matara is 158 km and the time taken for the drive is 2 hours (the time required to reach the expressway entrance is not calculated). Two-wheelers are not allowed on the expressway and the maximum speed that can be maintained is 100 km per hour. The best time to visit is from November to April.

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

Sri Lanka whale watching tour
  • Matara: Star Fort, Hummany/natural fountain, Whale watching in Mirissa

3. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Nuwara Eliya via Kitulgala:

A perfect travel route for Sri Lanka 3 days tour through the tea country. The graceful blend of the beautifully landscaped tea garden of Sri Lanka’s hill country and cascading waterfalls of perennial waterways in Nuwara Eliya are sights to behold.

The newcomers in the city are taken by surprise by its sheer beauty. When the trip is extended from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, the travellers are completely mystified by the breathtaking scenery along the way.

The winding roads, high elevation and healing climate of the hills make it a fantastic road tour of Sri Lanka and will etch a permanent spot in your heart for an eternity.

You traverse the mountain terrain and it is a challenging ride, that needs your best attention, but the beauty of this Sri Lanka trip hides the uncertainty of the terrain. If you drive to Nuwara Eliya from the airport or from Colombo this is the most convenient way of reaching your destination. The drive is long, however, it is very enjoyable as you drive along with the lush green vegetation.

Road trip conditions: The road spans 176 km through the mountains. A sharp increase in elevation of the road starts in Awissawella and it ends at an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level in Nuwara Eliya. The journey will take around 1 day with sightseeing stops. The best time to visit is from November to April.

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

  • Kitulgala: Adventure sports centre for water rafting, trekking, bird watching etc
  • Talawakele: Devon fall, St.clairs waterfall
  • Nanuoya: Horton plains national park
  • Nuwara Eliya: Ambewela farm, strawberry farm, Seetha Amman temple, Haggala gardens
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This one-day tour includes Whitewater rafting Off Kitulgala, jungle trekking of the Kitulgala rainforest, village walk, and bird watching. This private tour can be booked from Colombo as well as any other beach resort on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The tour includes entire ground transportation, all entrance, and activity cost as well as taxes.

4. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Arugam Bay via Kandy

This is one of the best roads on the island at present, and well worth your time. You start the journey on the west coast and end the tour on the east coast of Sri Lanka, at the widest point in the country.

The journey will take around 8 hours without any stops, so calculate the time required for the tour with all the stops for sightseeing and other breaks along the way. The trip to Arugambe from Colombo is one of the most popular activities among road trip enthusiasts in Sri Lanka. If you have good driving stamina, you will be able to reach Arugam Bay within 2 days with visits to important tourist attractions.

This will be a very picturesque and experience-rich road trip to Sri Lanka, you will encounter mountains, escapements, patches of forests, beaches and all other geographical conditions available on the island.

This route from Kandy to Arugambe via Bible is one of the most beautiful trips through forests in Sri Lanka, that you will ever take.  Plan your road trip on a motorbike, so that you can enjoy the refreshing, unpolluted air in this greenish area.

Road trip conditions: The road spans 329 km through the central mountain range. You start the journey at lower elevated areas on the west coast and end the journey at the east coast beaches, while halfway down the track you will touch the point, which is 500 meters above sea level.

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

  • Kandy: tooth relic temple, Peradeniya botanical garden
  • Kegalle: Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Arugam bay: beach hopping

Visiting tooth relic temple: what you need to know

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“.

5. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Anuradhapura via Puttalam

The travellers can’t put forward an awesome road trip of this nature along pristine beaches and through the untamed wilderness. This road trip will be a memorable experience due to the fascinating blend of wildlife, coastal, cultural and historical experiences. So much in a one road trip! so, get prepared yourself and hit the road.

However, it is recommended to combine your trip on this route with a cultural triangle tour, so that you can see many interesting cities in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka such as Sigiriya.

This is a very picturesque Sri Lanka travel route through some of the least populated areas in the central province, you drive the large part of your trip through the wildlife reserve, and there is a high possibility of spotting wild elephants as you travel from Puttalam to Saliyawewa.

Road trip conditions: The road spans 207 km along with northwest Sri Lanka and makes a sharp turn inland at Puttalam. The journey takes around 4 hours. Moderate traffic can be experienced between Colombo and Puttalam and the road is empty after that. Be careful as you have to travel through the forested areas after Puttalam. It is best to avoid travelling at night on this Sri Lanka travel route due to the wild elephants.

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

6. Sri Lanka tour from Colombo to Trincomalee via Dambulla

This is another popular Sri Lanka travel route to reach the east coast of Sri Lanka from Colombo. This is the most convent travel route to reach Trincomlaee from west coast and southern coast cities of Sri Lanka. The travellers avoid going through the central mountain range on this road trip and their destination is located more towards the northeast of Sri Lanka.

This is a popular travel route among foreign travellers because every year a large number of travellers head to Trincomalee beaches in the month of July, August, September and October. This is one of the busiest roads in Sri Lanka and you pass many heavily populated cities such as Dambulla, and Kurunegala on this route.

This travel route leads yo to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, a small deviation allows you to cover many mportant monuments in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Most popular tours to visit historical places in Sri Lanka eg, Sigiriya dambulla tour from Colombo and Cultural triangle mini-tour based on this travel route.

Therefore, it will take around 6 hours to reach the east coast of Sri Lanka from Colombo on this route. You will travel through the highly forested area after Habarana, which is a part of Gal Oya national park. There is a high possibility of encountering a family of wild elephants as you traverse through the forest. The entire distance you have to cover is 268 km and it will take around 6 hours for this road trip to Sri Lanka.

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

7. Sri Lanka travel route Colombo to Kandy via Kegalle

By far this is the busiest Sri Lanka travel route and one of the most popular road trips in Sri Lanka, mainly due to the ending point of the route, which is Kandy. Kandy is one of the most popular UNESCO world heritage sites in the country and there are many dozens of interesting places to visit in Landy. Kandy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the mountains and harbours a large number of tourist attractions. It is believed that every Sri Lanka tour package should be included with Kandy.

Kandy is the cultural centre of Sri Lanka and the most popular holiday destination on the island. Kandy is the most important transport interchange in the central province and connects all corners of the country and important cities. Therefore most road leading to Kandy is very busy, especially the route From Colombo to Kandy.

You have to plan the road trip with the time you lose in the traffic. This Sri Lanka road trip to Kandy is something every traveller wishes to take, and it is an easy gateway from most parts of the country. The picturesque lush green foliage can be seen for the most part of the trip and this is a trip to relax and unwind.

Road trip conditions: The distance you have to cover is 115 km. This Sri Lanka road trip requires a little bit longer than usual due to the mountain terrain, and the journey takes around 4 hours from Colombo to Kandy. This is one of the best road trips in Sri Lanka for photography, be careful, the battery of your camera will be drained, sooner than you expect.

Kandy One day tour from Colombo and Bentota

Some of the places to stop on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

  • Kegalle: To visit the Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Mawanella: to visit Embekke Devala, Gadaladeniya
  • Pilimathalawa: Tea factory
  • Kelaniya: Kelaniya temple
  • Peradeniya: Royal botanical garden
  • Kandy: Temple of the tooth relic

8. Travel route from Colombo to Rathnapura

This scenic road between Colombo and Ratnapura put most Sri Lanka western province road trips to shame; this main road is one of the most favourable among nature lovers. The Ratnapura itself is a city in the woods and claims to be a part of the most valuable patch of forest in the country known as the Sinharaja rain forest. If you are venturing on a Sinharja rainforest tour package from Colombo, this could be the best route for you.

As you get nearer to Ratnapura the foliage gets denser and can see the canopy formed by the gigantic trees on either side of the road. Ratnapura is a major city with high rainfall on the island, and therefore coming often underwater, during the monsoon rain.

Check on the weather before you start this Road trip. And plan your trip with at least 2 days of sightseeing in the area, here you get waterfalls, rainforests, trekking sites, museums, and many many more.

Road trip conditions: It will take around 2 hours to cover this short stretch of 75 km and makes an enjoyable road trip. There will be noteworthy traffic congestion at the beginning of the trip but it diminishes gradually as you drive towards Ratnapura and the road becomes very much empty once you have done with the first half of the trip.

Adventure Lanka – Sri Lanka 5 Nights Tour

Some of the places to stop on this route are:

  • Rathnapura: Bopath Ella waterfall, saman Devala temple, Sinhraja, Sri pada
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9. Sri Lanka travel route from Colombo to Bandarawela

Perfect Sri Lanka travel route for a Sri Lanka 2 days tour or a 3 days tour. Bandarawela is not a foreign word for any citizen of Sri Lanka and it is also very popular among foreign travellers, who are fascinated by the healing climate and beautiful mountains. However, Bandarawela is one of them the beaten-track tourist place in Sri Lanka for most foreign travellers.

Bandarawela is one of the most beautiful visits on the island with mountains, valleys, tea gardens, and patches of forests. Bandarawela also hides a large number of cascading waterfalls and some of them are simply difficult to miss such as the Diyaluma fall.

The most fascinating feature of Bandarawela is its healing climate, where the night temperature goes down to the freezing point sometimes. During the day the temperature hovers around 25 degrees Celcius.

This route from Colombo to Bandarawela via Ratnapura is by far the easiest road to get there. One distinct feature of this off-the-beaten-path Sri Lanka travel route is the lack of traffic compared to the other popular Sri Lanka route (Colombo-Kandy-Ella-Bandarawela) that leads to Bandarawela. The road is also in very good shape, which means you can speed up, but be careful with the bends.

Much of the road goes through the countryside and you do encounter only a very few busy cities. You also drive along the picturesque mountains and valleys means to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. A large part of the drive takes place through the lush green vegetation dominated by Tea plantations. However, this upcountry road is narrow compared to most leading travel routes of Sri Lanka and gets considerably steeper after Ratnapura.

Road trip conditions: The distance of the trip is 190 km. The traffic moves swiftly at the beginning of the trip due to the lack of traffic but it gets slower as you get closer to your destination. And you have to maintain the speed due to the sharp curves. The duration of the journey would be around 5 hours. Very photogenic route with coconut plantations, patches of forests, Rubber plantations, mountains, waterfalls, streams and rivers.

Some of the places to stop on this route are:

  • Ratnapura: Visiting a gem museum, Sman Devala temple
  • Haputale: Tangamale forest reserve, Adisham bungalow
  • Bandarawela: Tea gardens, waterfalls
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Ramboda waterfall, which cascades from the Ramboda plateau.

10. Sri Lanka travel route from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota

This travel route from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota rushes through Sri Lanka’s upcountry and is one of the most beautiful Sri Lanka travel routes and it is very popular among locals as well as foreign travellers. Usually, this is the last leg of a Sri Lankan multi-day trip that includes, cultural places in the triangle, Kandy, Tea country and west coast beach. Tea country invariably means Nuwara Eliya, you head on to west or southern coast beaches on this route.

The route starting from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota is very beautiful and you will see only the lush green vegetation throughout the trip. Travel westward from Nuwara Eliya take you to Hatton and Thalawakele. Both are popular tea producing regions in Sri Lanka offers some of the spectacular scenery with its green capped mountains, laid-back villages, waterfalls, rivers, streams and huge tea plantations. Hatton and Talawakelle are largely unexplored places in Sri Lanka they are very potential of nature tours and trekking tours in Sri Lanka. You also come across Kitulgala on this route, which is the adventure playground of Sri Lanka. Here you get to have the opportunities to do many adrenaline-pumping activities such as whitewater rafting, Kayaking, rainforest trekking, waterfalls abseiling…  

The trip on this route from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota lasts about 5 hours and 3 minutes and you will drive 215 km.

Some of the places to visit on this Sri Lanka travel route are:

  • Hatton: Devon Fall, St.clairs fall, St.clairs Tea centre
  • Kitulgala: whitewater rafting, rainforest trekking and other adventure activities
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11. Sri Lanka travel route from Colombo to Sigiriya

By far Sigiriya is the most visited historical monument on the island. This UNESCO world heritage site attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every day, especially during the peak holiday season in Sri Lanka.

A large number of foreign travellers book Sri Lanka day trip from Colombo to Sigiriya and local tour operators like Seerendipity tours offer Sigiriya trip on a daily basis. Due to the popularity of Sigiriya as a historical monument, this is one of the most popular Sri Lanka travel routes among travellers. The tour on this travel route can be extended to Polonnaruwa or further eastward to Kalkuda and Pasikudah. Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Polonnaruwa tour is a popular 1-day tour on this route, which starts in Colombo.

The trip to Sigiriya from Colombo mainly takes place via Kurunegala on Colombo-Polonnaruwa main highway, which is the best travel route to reach Sigiriya from Colombo. The road is in very good shape and less crowded except in major cities. This Sri Lanka travel route scratches the northern dry zone of Sri Lanka for the most part of its 175 km trip.

Usually, this is the first leg of Sri Lanka multiday tours because most tourists visit historical monuments lying in the northern plain at the start of their trip. The journey from Colombo to Sigiriya takes around 4-5 hours.

Few stops to make on this route are

If you wish to make any Sri Lanka road trip on the above-mentioned Sri Lanka travel route, please do get in touch with seerendipity tours by sending an email to admin@seerendipitytours.com.

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