First time in Sri Lanka, What to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka?

What to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka?

What to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka?

This blog post going to serve you as a guideline to find a solution to the question “what to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka?”. This article is a little bit longer than most of my previous articles because I want to give you a full picture of the key phrase “what to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka“.

Table of Contents

This is a type of question I get often from my readers and I answer very often to questions like this. Some other forms of these questions that we are getting from the readers are “What can we do in Sri Lanka?”, “where should we travel to on our Sri Lanka holiday?”, “What are the places to visit on a Sri Lanka trip”.

I want to write a comprehensive article to answer all these questions that’s why this article going to be longer than most average blog posts. In order to give you a clear picture of “what to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka”, I’m going to include it in a 10-day Sri Lanka trip and discuss all the places, activities and places to stay parallel to the proceedings of the tour.

Useful reading

What can I visit on the Sri Lanka trip?

If it is a 10 days tour, in my opinion, it should include beaches, a Sri Lanka jungle tour to explore a wildlife reserve, rain forest, a bit of adventure (optional), cultural and historical monuments as well as the Sri Lankan Rockies. I’m mainly concentrating on western, and southern Sri Lanka as well as hill country and cultural triangle cities. I had been to those places many times and have a very good knowledge of those places, but I have not much experience travelling to northern Sri Lanka. Therefore, I’m going to leave it completely from this guide.

I’m talking about a few places that can be used as your accommodations during the trip. Same time you come to know about the tourist attractions that you come across along the: beautiful beaches, elephant safari, historical monuments and rainforests.   

I suggest you few Sri Lanka trips towards the end of the article and you can book them with Seerendipity tours if you wish to, those are customizable, private tour packages and allows you to see many interesting parts of the island. 

Leopards inYala

First of all, I’m going to address 2 important questions that almost every traveller asks me, “Is Sri Lanka worth visiting?” and “Is Sri Lanka safe to visit?“.

Is Sri Lanka worth visiting?

I have written a lengthy article on this subject and it gets a lot of clicks every day, it is a very popular blog post. My answer to this trivial is, Yes, Sri Lanka is worth visiting, there are many reasons why Sri Lanka worth visiting some of them are endless pristine beaches, an endless number of water sports, national parks teeming with wildlife, the green-capped mountain with breathtaking scenery, adrenaline-pumping adventure sports… the list goes on.

I have written a blog post under the exact title “Is Sri Lanka worth visiting?” I suggest you read it and the article highlight 19 reasons to justify why you should visit the island.

Is Sri Lanka safe to visit?

Sri Lanka worth visiting the most reason testimony for its safety was given to Sri Lanka by USA Today and they have chosen Sri Lanka as the best winter holiday destination for 2019. There had been a terrorist attack on the island on 24th April 2019, and it was an isolated incident like many other attacks in the world recent past. However, the island is safe and secured.

Where to stay in Sri Lanka and what to do?

Where to stay in Sri Lanka is largely depends on your taste, because different areas of Sri Lanka offers different places and attractions to visitors. E.g. if you like water sports and beach hopping, sunbathing you should be heading to beach areas such as Bentota beach and Unawatuna beach. In this blog post, I’m going to point out many interesting places and what they share with you, thereby you can choose the best places to stay in Sri Lanka.

Where to stay in Sri Lanka on the first night

Usually, most travellers, who had a long flight opt to have a rest on the first of the Sri Lanka trip that knows it by experience. Therefore, I thought of suggesting the first night stay in Negombo and have a rest. Negombo is the perfect spot for a couple of night because it dons not only offer pristine beaches but also a couple of historical and natural attractions.


Negombo is one of the most popular beach resorts on the island and it is located very close to the international airport. Negombo is a small city, Negombo beach far away from the city and therefore it is very quiet and calm you don’t feel hustle and bustle of the city. If you had a long flight before landing in Sri Lanka it is well worth having a good rest before starting the tour, I think. Negombo is a perfect spot for a rest, its wide and sandy beaches are an appeal to anyone.

Where to stay in Negombo

  • Camelot beach resort
  • Sooriya resort
  • Paradise village resort

What to do in Negombo

  • Boating in the Negombo lagoon
  • Fishing
  • Boating in Muturajawela wetland
  • Exploring temples and churches
  • Enjoy sun, sea and sand

Negombo is mainly a beach holiday destination, however, it does not mean that it is lack of activities for travellers. There are many Portuguese, Dutch and English built churches around Negombo. Negombo is a fishing village and if you can drop into the fishing market early morning (04.00 am) it will be an unforgettable experience for you because the overnight catch of most fishermen is arriving the market early morning.

Boat tours in the nearby Negombo lagoon and boat tour at Muthurajawela wetlands are also popular activities for travellers in Negombo, both tours offer perfect opportunities to spot a wide range of Fauna and Flora including many species of Mangrove plants.

Negombo beach

Heading to Colombo after a rest at Negombo

I have Chosen Colombo as the place explore after Negombo because Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and also home to many tourist attractions. Colombo is the hub of Sri Lankan economy and mistakenly some people think Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka, the capital of Sri Lanka is Sri Jayawardena Kotte. Colombo is the biggest city on the island with a population of 2 million people. 

Usually, our Sri Lanka trips include a 1-night stay in a Colombo, if the client request, we accommodate them 2 nights in Colombo. However, there are instances that we make just a Colombo city tour and proceed to the next station, without an overnight stay in Colombo. If you do not have much time it is recommended to avoid Colombo overnight stay because it is not necessary to do so.

Where to stay in Colombo

If you do not intend to spend many days in Colombo and also there is no particular place to stay, I would like to recommend Colombo 2, where you find many leading hotels. However, the number of hotels in Colombo exceeds many hundreds as for my knowledge and almost all of them give you easy access to important tourist places in the city. I recently wrote a comprehensive blog post about Colombo accommodation under the heading “Where to stay in Colombo for the first night”.

  • Hilton hotel
  • Taj hotel
  • Cinnamon grand hotel
  • Grand oriental hotel
  • Hotel mirage
  • Pegasus reef hotel (a little bit off the town)
  • Hotel Galadari

What to do in Colombo

  • Shopping
  • Fine dining
  • Visiting Zoo
  • Visiting temples and historical monuments
  • Visiting museums and art galleries

Colombo is a nice place to explore and there are many colonial constructions dates back to 15s, they are well preserved and have historical value as well as commercially important even today. Cargill’s building, grand oriental hotel, Dutch hospital are some such important colonial construction in Colombo. Independent halls, Gangarama temple, Old Parliament, Galle Face Green, Townhall, Vihara Mahadevi park are also noteworthy here.

Some travellers opt to stay in Colombo after landing on the island it is also a viable option and thereby you can avoid the overnight stay in Negombo.

Colombo museum

Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka

The cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is an important tourist attraction and, in a nutshell, it is the essence of Sri Lankan history. In the cultural triangle, you will find a large number of historical monuments dating back to 3rd century BC.  Some of the monuments are still in very good condition and important evidence of Sri Lanka’s rich historical past. Huge dagobas (pagodas), multi-storied places, landscaped gardens, centuries-old paintings, large lakes and reservoirs (some of them are as big as big football ground), granite structures are among them.

Where to stay in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka

If you fail to visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, you will miss some vital information about Sri Lanka’s history. The island had been a very advanced country in the past pertaining to the engineering skills, artistic capabilities and farming. The stupendous lakes and canals had been the lifeblood of agricultural society, which flourished from 3rd century BC to 18th century AD, of course, there had been few hiccups due to the foreign invasions during this period.  

I do like to recommend you to stay in Habarana or Sigiriya in the cultural triangle, then you position yourself in the middle of the triangle, means you can visit all important tourist attractions on short trips from your hotel.

If you plan a trip to Anuradhapura it will be about a 6 hours trip with up and down journeys from Habarana or Sigiriya.  If you make a visit to Polonnaruwa it will another 5 hours trip from your hotel in Sigiriya/Habarana and other places such as Sigiriya and Dambulla. If you drive to Sigiriya, you just have to spend 15 minutes on the journey and it will tale around 30 minutes to drive to Dambulla cave temple.

Some of the hotels to stay in the cultural triangle

  • Sigiriya Village hotel
  • Oak ray fresco villa
  • Palvhera village hotel

What to do in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka

Visit these tourist hotspots on the cultural triangle tour


You drive in the clockwise direction in this Sri Lank trip, that’s how we plan most Sri Lanka trips. And you will end the tour in a Beach resort such as Bentota, Kalutara or Hikkaduwa. Therefore, travellers have the option to extend their holiday after visiting important tourist attractions and have some leisure on the beach. Seerendipity tours organize multi-day Sri Lanka sightseeing tour as well as beach holiday packages as well, please get in touch with us if you need any kind of Sri Lanka trip.

What to do in Kandy Sri Lanka

Kandy is a leading holiday destination on the island and a large number of travellers heading to Kandy on a daily basis. Kandy is about 115 km away from Colombo. Kandy has a fascinating blend of History, Colonial presence and modern city life and it is a fast-developing city with a multicultural society.

Kandy harbours a large number of tourist attractions some of the historical places, some of them are religious places while some others are natural attractions. You need nearly 1 week if you are going to visit all of them, therefore it is best to restrict your visit to tooth relic temple, Royal botanical garden, city tour (shopping area), Pinnawala elephant orphanage and Kandyan cultural show.

Below is a list of places included in most Sri Lanka trips and Kandy city tours. Most of these Kandy tourist places are located within easy reach from Kandy city centre. They are easy to visit from most hotels in Kandy and no need to drive long hours to visit them. However, it is advised to plan a Sri Lanka 2 days trip to Kandy visit these places and one day Sri Lanka trip to Kandy may not give you enough time to explore all the tourist places.

  • Visiting tooth relic temple
  • Visiting Peradeniya botanical garden
  • Kandy market and shopping areas
  • Visiting Kandyan cultural show
  • Boating in Kandy Lake
  • Visiting international Buddhist museum
  • Visiting Spice garden
  • Visiting Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • A trek to Hantana
  • A trek to Udawattakele forest reserve
  • Visiting tea museum
  • Visiting historical places such as Embekke, Gdaladeniya
  • Exploring knuckles mountains

Where to stay in Kandy

The opportunities are endless with regards to accommodation in Kandy, due to the large demand. The travellers can find from luxury accommodation such as villas to very cheap accommodation varieties such as dormitories, the prices ranging from USD 10 per night to many thousands a night. Here are a few places that you can consider for your overnight stay.

  • OZO hotel
  • Cinnamon citadel
  • Grand Kandyan hotel
  • Senani hotel
  • Oak ray regency
  • Mahaweli reach hotel
Tooth relic temple

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is the most popular hill country holiday resort and sits 1800 meters above sea-level. Sitting at the elevation of 1800 meter above sea-level, it has a very unique and mild climate that you will not encounter in any part of the island.

The temperature hovering around 15-30 degrees Celsius during the day while it may be cool in the night with temperature receding down to -2 degrees Celsius. Nuwara Eliya is a small and laid-back city and most striking feature of Nuwara Eliya is its breathtaking scenery across the mountains, tea gardens, patches of forests, streams and valleys.

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

  • Grand hotel
  • Galway forest lodge
  • Oak ray hills
  • Alpine hotel
  • Tea factory hotel

What to do in Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is more like a family holiday destination and offers many interesting activities for Kids. The rocky outcrop of Nuwara Eliya offers many places for trekking, hiking, and mountain climbing.

  • Visiting Horton plain national park
  • Visiting Ambewela farm
  • Boating and water sport in Gregory Lake
  • Horse riding
  • Golfing
  • Visiting temples
  • Visiting the tea factory
  • Exploring waterfalls
  • Trekking through tea gardens
  • Visiting Galway forest

Usually, the next destination immediately after Nuwara Eliya on a Sri Lanka trip that revolves in the clockwise direction is either Yala, Udawalawe or Ella.

Ella and Nuwara Eliya both are similar holiday destinations with similar kind of weather, geographical characteristics, as well as activities. However, Ella is in the infancy stage of the tourism industry and it does not attract as much tourist as Nuwara Eliya does. Ella offers many interesting places for trekking, rainforest exploration and hiking, visiting waterfalls.

Nuwara Eliya

Yala National Park

Today you are heading to southern Sri Lanka and ended up In Tissamaharama which is the gateway to Yala National Park. Yala national park is about 23 km from Tissamaharama but most hotels are located in Tissamaharama, not in Yala, therefore the travellers who visit Yala national park choose a hotel in Tissamaharama for their overnight stay.

Usually, the jeep drivers provide free pick up for their customer, who visit Yala national parks from Tissamaharama and the drive take around 30 minutes. By far Yala is the most popular national park on the island and it is a place to see a large number of animals such as leopards, sloth bear and Elephant. You can do a full day safari or a regular 3 hours safari.

If you go for the regular safari you can do it on the same day because the drive from Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama does not take more than 4 hours. It means you can start the safari tour in the afternoon. Thereby you can reduce the number of nights to be spent in Tissamaharama to 1. If you opt to full-day sari you need to spend at least 2 night in Tissamaharama

Where to stay in Yala / Tissamaharama

  • Oak ray wild Yala
  • Kithala resort
  • Hibiscus garden resort

What to do in Yala

Wildlife exploration tours at Yala national park is the most important activity here. Apart from exploring wildlife, there are several historical places and temple to visit in Tissamaharama and Yala.


Bentota is the king of Sri Lankan beach resort and home to a large number of hotels and resorts. about than half of Sri Lanka’s beach holiday lovers anchoring in this west coast beach.

Where to stay in Bentota

  • Eden Resort and spa
  • Muthumuni beach resort
  • Avani Hotel Bentota
  • Citrus hotel
  • The palms beach resort
  • Tangerine beach hotel
  • Kamili beach resort

What to do in Bentota

Being primarily a beach resort Bentota predominantly a place to do various water sports. However, there are many interesting places about a few kilometres away from the beach. Having a private vehicle local driver allows you to visit most of them within 30 minutes of drive.

Bentota beach and other beach resort on the western and southern coast of Sri Lanka are the end station of most Sri Lanka trips. Usually, the gusts relax a few days here before heading to their home. The journey from Bentota and the west of Sri Lanka to the airport take around 1 hour 30 minutes via the highway.

Best 10 days Sri Lanka tour with things to do and places to stay

  • Day 1: Airport to Negombo (rest)
  • Day 2: Negombo to Colombo
  • Day 3: Colombo to Sigiriya (rest)
  • Day 4: Sigiriya to Anuradhapura   
  • Day 5: Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa
  • Day 6: Sigiriya to Kandy
  • Day 7: Kandy
  • Day 8: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
  • Day 9: Nuwara Eliya to Yala
  • Day 10: Yala to Bentota

The above-discussed Sri Lanka trip package is an ideal program to explore cultural triangle, Sri Lanka mountains, the southern coast and west coast of Sri Lanka including Colombo and Negombo.

This Sri Lanka tour itinerary is planned after carefully studying the pattern of monsoons and thereby avoids the torrential rain, which can dampen your holiday. It is very important to avoid monsoon especially if you heading to a beach resort. Because I know that you don’t like to see the red flag on the beach depriving you all the fun-filled saltwater activities.  

What to do and where to stay in Sri Lanka during monsoon

If you hit the beach during the monsoon the sea is rough and dangerous, the underwater current pulls you deep into the sea. The water clarity is very low and not good for diving and snorkelling. Usual afternoon rain restricts you to the resort. Even the local fisherman keeps away from the sea during this period, so as a foreigner nothing to talk about.

If you plan to travel to Sri Lanka from November to April this is a very optimized package for you. If you travel to Sri Lanka from April to November you better twist the program little bit by switching the beach resort from Bentota to Arugam bay, Pasikudah or Kalkudah on the east coast.

If you are a surfer you better head on to Arugam bay or south coast beaches such as Weligama, Narigama and Mirissa.

If you don’t like to travel much and like to have leisure holiday in beach resort you can choose either east coast (from April to November) or western and southern coast (from November to April) as you base, and you can make few days trips to tourist places such as Galle fort, Sigiriya and Kandy.

If you like a bit of nightlife (Casino, night clubs, party) it is recommended to stay in Colombo, where you can experience the bit of nightlife, and other parts of the country do not serve you much.    

Sri Lanka is an all-year-round holiday destination and very safe and secure. At the moment Sri Lanka attracts nearly 3 million travellers a year. In Sri Lanka case it is a big number because Sri Lanka is a small island. I strongly recommend you to book your hotels before heading to the island in order to avoid difficulties. The hotels can be very crowded due to a large number of tourists especially from November to April (peak holiday season), making it difficult to make last moment booking.

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