Sri Lanka is a more and more popular destination. And it surely has a lot of things to offer, from stunning historical places, interesting culture to gorgeous beaches. Everyone who wants to taste tropic vibes can enjoy this country. 10 days in Sri Lanka might seem like a short time but here is my itinerary on how to make the most of it.
Sri Lanka itinerary for 10 days
It might sound crazy, but it is a relatively big place. You can surely travel around Sri Lanka for a whole month and keep finding new places. But let’s face it, not everyone has time or money to travel for that long. Perhaps if you have a gap year, Sri Lanka can be a great destination to discover for such a long time. But a lot of us have just a couple of days. So this is itinerary for people who want to see most of Sri Lanka in just three days. Don’t worry, you will still see a lot. I tried to include the most interesting places and how to get around and see most of them.
Day 1: Colombo or Negombo
I’m guessing that you have suffered a long flight so a good thing to do would be to enjoy and relax the first day when you don’t have to run around. Both Colombo and Negombo offer a lot of cultural places to go, eat, and enjoy the beach. In both places, you can see the typical fisherman view from Sri Lanka, enjoy the beautiful sunset and eat the local food until you feel like you are completely full.
How to decide between two of those? Well, there is a lot of things to see in Colombo, but the beach is not so great here. On the other hand, it is easy to travel from here to your next destination.
On the other Negombo is really good if you arrive early in the morning and need to revive on the beach. There might not be too many things to see but there is still a lot of culture around, great cuisine, and amazing beaches.
How to get to Colombo from the airport?
By bus – There is a possibility to hop on the bus that would get you to the central station in Colombo. It is a very cheap way of travel – it cost only one dollar. But you will need to have cash and pay it directly on the bus. The problem with this way of getting to Colombo is that it is very stressful. The bus station is very close to the arrival place, but prepare yourself to be screamed at by taxi drivers and taxi company operators.
The last regular bus comes at 8 after that there are some buses but there are not really regular. Make sure you ask around the airport staff to find them.
By taxi – Taxis are also quite cheap and much more comfortable. You will pay around 13-19 dollars to get to your hotel. So all in all, very cheap. Here is a tip for getting a taxi at the Sri Lankan airport – order it from the company inside. Otherwise, you will face very pushy taxi drivers right upon the arrival hall. Also if you choose to get the ride from one of the guys in front of the airport building, the chances are that you will need to haggle, which is not the option when you talk to the people in the airport hall.
By Uber – Hurray for Uber works in Sri Lanka. You will need to have the app on your phone before you arrange the ride of course, but the good news is that it is working. If you go by Uber, you have comfort and a relatively cheap price. The prices for Uber are about 11-13 dollars.
Why not a shuttle from your hotel?
I had this experience from my hotel, that other than that was really great. But when it comes to riding, they asked me for 40 dollars. I get that I have to pay for their ride there and back but still, when you compare the prices, it is ridiculously expensive.
How to get to Negombo from the airport?
By shuttle bus – Very popular and cheap way of getting there. Negombo is closer to the airport than Colombo, so you will be there in 30 minutes and it cost only about 50 rupees (less than a dollar).
By taxi – Taxi is still very cheap there. And perhaps faster. That way you can get to your destination in 15-20 minutes and it costs about 10 dollars.
by Uber – Praise to Uber. The travel time is similar to the taxi, and the price is just around 6 dollars.
Where to stay in Colombo and Negombo?
Colombo – I stayed in Yoho White villa, which is located relatively close to the beach and about 7 km from the railway station. It is in the center of Colombo, all the rooms have A/C and it is a very nice and comfortable place to stay. The price for two people per night is just 15 USD. So it is actually fairly cheap. You can also order breakfast here.
Negombo – In Negombo, I would recommend staying at Marshal Beach Guesthouse. It is a very nice guest house with cozy and clean rooms and very nice personnel. As a bonus, they have a great breakfast and are located very close to the beach – which is particularly great if you come in the morning and really want to just enjoy the beach after difficult travel to Sri Lanka.
Day 2 – 4: Kandy and day trips
Kandy is one of the towns in the cultural triangle and one of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka. You can visit here the local Buddhist temple that was featured in one of the Indiana Jones movies, an absolutely gorgeous botanical royal garden with thousands of species of plants, and a great little tropical forest that will offer you a lot of animals to explore. Besides that, there is one of the biggest statues of Budha to visit.
And I also mentioned a day trip. I have two of them in my mind. The first one and you really shouldn’t miss it is to Sigirya and Dambulla. Both of these towns are also part of the cultural triangle. And those cities are cultural for sure. The Sigiriya is also known as a Lion Rock, to climb it or to climb the close-by rock is surely one of the lifetime adventures. Just be prepared that the entry fee to the Lion Rock is relatively high. I wrote a detailed post about how to make the day trip to Sigiriya and Dambulla reality. You’ll get there all the prices and all you need to know about this day trip. But long story short – you can do it by yourself even by bus!
And for the third day – very close to Kandy is an elephant orphanage that you can visit. If you love these big gentle giants, it is definitely worth to visit it. It will take you only about half a day. The rest of the day you can spend by visiting places that you didn’t see on your first day and complete the ultimate Kandy bucket list.
How to get to Kandy?
By bus – There is a direct bus between Colombo and Kandy. It goes three times a day and it costs about 300-400 rupees. However, it is not the most comfortable way of traveling to Kandy. The buses have very little luggage space and are very ofter filled up way too fast. So think about this option twice when you are going, because it will take you about 4 hours to get to Kandy.
By train – One of the most comfortable ways of how to get to Kandy from Colombo and for a good price. There are about ten direct trains every day going to Kandy. The price is from 190 rupees to 500 rupees, depending on the train and the class. If you like some comfort I would recommend you reserve a seat a day before you go by train with A/C.
By Taxi – I get it, it is the most comfortable option after all. The taxi ride from Colombo to Kandy costs around 9000 rupees, so it is relatively expensive but it is worth it, especially if you travel with a group and just want to enjoy the ride.
Where to stay in Kandy?
Perhaps my most favorite choice is Kandy Rock View Bungalow. You got an amazing view of the town, the staff is really friendly and happy to help with anything and at the same time, the rooms are climatized and clean. You will also get a nice breakfast – they have both local cuisine and American style breakfast. The hotel charges 12 dollars for a couple per night.
Prices in Kandy and day trips
Entry fee to Temple of Tooth – 1500 rupees
Entrance fee to Royal botanic garden – 1500 rupees
Entry fee to Buddha statue temple – 200 rupees
Udawatta Kele sanctuary fee – 570 rupees
Pinnawala orphanage fee – 3000 rupees
Entrance fee to Dambulla – 1500 rupees
Entrance fee to Lion Rock – 30 dollars
Day 5-7 Ella
Ella is one of the pearls of Sri Lanka and it should definitely be on your 10 days itinerary. Ella is in the middle of the tea country and it is one of the best places for hiking in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the most scenic places in Sri Lanka that you can visit. If you don’t come to Ella it is almost like you haven’t been in the country.
This little village has a lot to offer. From visiting the tea factory to plantages to hiking the Little Adams peak or hiking the Ella rock. You can also visit the amazing waterfalls nearby and enjoy a little bit of bathing there too. Even though it might not sound like a lot there is enough to do for two days full of adventures and hiking.
How to get to Ella?
Of course, you can go from Kandy to Ella by bus, there is a couple of them going every day. But where is the fun in that? A bus is a nice option and relatively cheap too, but that way you would completely ditch the option of going with the famous train.
The train ride takes about 6 hours so make sure to have food with you. The train will also take you through a couple of highlands so have a jacket with you otherwise you will get cold. Also, make sure that you reserve a seat on the train a day or two before. You can do that at the Kandy train station. There are three classes – first, second, and third. So the prices can vary a lot. The trains go at 8.47 am and 11.10 am. Make sure to take the earlier one to see as much from Ella as possible.
Where to stay in Ella
One of the best places to stay in Ella is Mount Breese Homestay. The rooms are very basic but also very cozy. Even in the budget room, you would get your own bathroom and a really nice breakfast too. As a bonus, you would get an amazing view of the local plantages and hiking areas. The price for this hotel is 12 dollars per night for 2 people.
Day 7-10 Beach hopping
From Ella, you can travel south to amazing beaches. There are several of them that you should consider. Besides all of them, you can do the day trip to Galle – the colonial historic town with a great atmosphere that is super picturesque. But let’s get to the beaches!
One of the most memorable beaches and also the most popular beach in Sri Lanka. White sand beach with palms all around it, some iconic places that you might have seen on Instagram. You can also meet here elephants bathing in the sea or go whale watching.
In Mirrisa I would recommend staying at Panora Garden – it is only 350 meters from the beach and the rooms are very nice, clean, and modern. The price for them is 12 dollars per night.
Relatively off the beaten path beach on the south coast. But it is the closest to Ella. In fact, there is a direct bus from Ella to Tangalle. So it is easy to get there. The beaches there are very family-based, it is a nice beach and a very nice city center with great cuisine. It is also quite close to Yalla national park if you want to make a trip from here for a little safari.
In Tangalle I would recommend the Parei Beach Inn hotel, it has a beach on the front so you can spend the whole day here if you like. The rooms are modern and clean besides 15 dollars per night you will also get an A/C, breakfast, and private bathroom.
This little village is like a beach town for Galle. It is only 5 minutes from it by tuk-tuk, so it is ideal for the Galle day trip. It is also relatively close to Mirrisa, if you feel bored with this beach, I guess you can try another.
Here is my favorite pretty clear – Unawatuna Backpacker Lodge would give you a deluxe room with a balcony and garden view. Even though it states that it is for backpackers, it has the spa, so it is a very nice place to spend a couple of days. One night here is for 14 dollars.
Another village that is just about 30 minutes by bus from Galle. It is also one of the main places in Sri Lanka to learn how to surf, so there is plenty of activities around it. You can also taste here delicious seafood or meet wild tortoises.
Comfort Guesthouse is an amazing place to stay if you are searching for accommodation with breakfast and a nice room and even a pool outside of the hotel. You would pay only 20 dollars per night.
How to get around beach towns?
What I would recommend to go and spend one day in Tangalle. It is the only beach town in the south where you can catch the direct bus from Ella. The bus costs around 300 rupees and it takes about 4 hours to get there. You can spend there one day, see the local beach, and then decide to go to the next one.
The buses are the main thing here in the south of Sri Lanka and they are pretty cheap. Between some of the towns, you would have to switch to another bus but it is not too difficult.
Here is an extra tip – If you decide to get an accommodation in Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa, you can catch the train back to Colombo on your last day of the trip. From the bus station, it is easy to find a bus directly to the airport.
Practical info about Sri Lanka itinerary for 10 days
Are 10 days in Sri Lanka enough?
Sri Lanka is more and more popular and you can spend here even a month and see all kinds of things. This way you might not see all on your Sri Lanka bucket list but I would say that you would see most of it. During these 10 days of Sri Lanka itinerary, you get to see cultural and historical places but also you can go hiking and enjoy the beach. I guess it is a little bit in a hurry, but it is the way I made the most of my 10 days in Sri Lanka.
Getting around Sri Lanka
This country has one of the biggest advantages – there are plenty of ways of how to get around and everything is relatively cheap. Of course, you can pay for a tuk-tuk and get everywhere on your own terms. But if you like adventure trains and buses will be your best friends. And the best thing about the local buses and trains is the fact, that you can sort of deciding the price yourself. There are very local buses that don’t have any A/C and are kind of uncomfortable but very cheap. But you can also see here buses that are more tourists and have all kinds of A/C and even Tv. The same goes for the trains.
Besides that, Sri Lankan nature is really beautiful, so don’t worry about being stuck on the bus or train for some hours, there is a lot of things to see either way.
When to go to Sri Lanka?
Considering the weather, perhaps the best time to go to Sri Lanka is in the winter months from November to March. During that time, the sea is very calm and there is no rain. In April and May, it can get very rainy and the south coast will have a lot of currents. If you feel like going in the shoulder season, I would recommend going in July or August. That is when I went to Sri Lanka. The weather was perfect and there weren’t too many tourists. The only downfall of it is the fact, that the current on the south beaches is still pretty strong, so don’t go too far to the sea.
Tips for 10 days Sri Lanka itinerary
Get the visa online – You can ask for the visa online on this website. It cost 35 dollars and it will last 30 days from your first entry. The visa will be mailed to you a couple of days after.
Regarding vaccination – You don’t really need too much vaccination in Sri Lanka. You will need a Typhoid and Hepatitis. Because of other diseases in the country, it is a good idea to have a bug spray because you can still catch a Dengue fever here.
When you go through plantages – There are some snakes in Sri Lanka that are venomous they are quite typical for the tea country so make sure you know where you are stepping.
Sunscreen – It is a must. You cannot live without it in Sri Lanka. Don’t be too worried to use 40 volumes.
Haggle – I don’t like haggling at all, but here it is a part of the business deal. You need to haggle in every market, tuk-tuk, and basically everywhere where you can see that the prices are not really set.
Vegans and Vegetarians – Because most of the country is Buddhist, you can enjoy vegetarian and vegan food all around. People are quite used to it.
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