Sri Lanka trips & itineraries

10 days in Sri Lanka – our itinerary

Lots of planning and asking questions on CouchSurfing forums went into putting our itinerary together. We managed to pull it off and here it is, our “Taste of Sri Lanka in 10 days” itinerary.

We went for a trip at the end of March 2013 and it worked out really well. We tried to have a bit of relax on the beach, to see the hill country, tea plantations and local life. And that’s pretty much what we experienced in those 10 days. So I decided to share our itinerary with the world. It comes with lots of photos, the prices we paid and the map. If you have any questions please ask.

Day 1 – Colombo to Galle

It’s 2.30am, what should we do? – A couple of airlines that we considered for our flight to Sri Lanka land around 2am. There are no buses or trains at this time, it’s dark and if you’re on savings then private transport or taxi may not be an option. We decided to wait until 4.30am and then take a taxi to Pettah (bus station near Colombo Fort) since A/C buses to Galle start running at 5-5.30am. Waiting at the airport wasn’t fun. Big hall full of sleeping and snoring people and 80s hits in karaoke version from the speakers. I’m surprised we managed to wait 2 hours. Taxi cost: 2640 LKR = 22 AUD. Time to Pettah: just under 1 hour.

A/C bus? – air conditioned buses are a bit more expensive, but they don’t stop as often as the regular ones. When we arrived in Pettah (it was still dark at 5.20am) and started to ask people where we can find “air conditioned bus” they had no idea what we were talking about. Then we learnt the trick – ask for “AC to Galle” and suddenly everyone is able to help. Our first encounter with Sri Lankan style of driving, taking over and honking all the time was scary, that must have been the craziest ride in our lives. Bus cost: 300 LKR per person = 2.5 AUD. Time to Galle: 2.5 hour.

Can I sleep now? Short walk from Galle bus station to our hotel (Deco on 44) in the Fort and we found ourselves trying to check in at 8.30am. To my surprise the staff was very accommodating and it wasn’t a problem to give us a room that early. What was even better – there was no extra charge for it. Quick breakfast, shower, few hours of beauty sleep and we were ready to explore. Bring it on Sri Lanka!

What’s going on Galle? I was quickly charmed by the tiny streets of the Galle Fort but it was the spectacular sunset that made this place so special. It lasted for over an hour, starting with a little bit of orange and gold colours to finally showed us its best pinks and violets. We had a great spot to watch it from a rooftop bar tasting our first Lion beers. Then we noticed something else – What’s going on here, why are those people carrying black and yellow flags? we asked our waiter. – There will be a Big Match tomorrow. Cricket match. But they party already. And can you see that blonde girl? That’s actually a guy! – and he giggled. – Who are you going to cheer for tomorrow?  – we asked having no idea who’s playing. – Mahinda! Richmond is cool, but Mahinda is cooler! And the next day when we were walking around Galle there was so much excitement in the air. People were gathering around, wearing blue colours for Richmond College and yellow or black for Mahinda College. If we weren’t leaving that day for Tangalle, we would certainly go to see the Lovers’ Quarrel even though we know nothing about cricket.

Day 2 – Galle to Tangalle

You want me to jump in? We went to the bus station to catch a bus to Tangalle (number 32). After having a look at all of them and asking people where we can find the right one, the best answer we got was pointing (literally) at the street. When we went back to the street we noticed some buses just go slower in this area instead of stoping at the station. There is always a person in Sri Lankan bus that sells tickets and shouts citiy names. So we asked one of them if they go to Tangalle, he said yes and pointed at back door… Now imagine the bus moving slowly and two tourists with huge backpacks, carrying smaller backpacks in their hands, trying to jump in. For the first time ever. That must have been in our blood, because we made it without any problems. Bus cost: 150 LKR per person (as we later found out ricket were “semi luxury”) = 1.25 AUD. Time to Tangalle: 2 hours.

22 km in a tuk tuk, why not? – Do you know Turtle Bay hotel?Yes Kalamatiya. 22 kilometers, 1500 rupees. We were a bit surprised it’s that far, but we didn’t check the distance before. – Are you sure? – we needed some confirmation, before taking that crazy tuk tuk ride. – Yes, yes, 14 kilometers main road, 8 kilometers south road. – where the “south road” came out to be the 8 kilometers of potholes horror. Tuk tuk cost: 1500 LKR = 12.5 AUD.

Day 3 – relax in Turtle Bay

The worst and the best? It started to be a rocky road for me, getting sick – runny nose, cough and feeling feverish and topping this with a painful period, wasn’t the best way to spend holidays. But being prepared with my supersize first aid kit helped a lot. I felt like staying in bed for the next few days, but on the other hand, I wanted to see as much as possible. So I played strong and somehow managed to survive the worst. Fortunately for me, we had 2 days in a very remote location, with a long beach strip for walks and a surprise waiting for us a couple hundred meters from the hotel… I will write a blog post about it soon, all I can say is – the most amazing thing we did in Sri Lanka was fishing with locals and doing it in a very traditional way.

Day 4 – Tangalle-Kalamatiya to Nuwara Eliya

Up and down – I couldn’t imagine myself being so sick and going for such a long ride by several buses. So we let ourselves for a bit of comfort this time and took a hotel car to Nuwara Eliya. What can I say, the trip was awful. Going up and down, turning left and right for 4 hours was making us nauseous. Can you imagine being on a roller coaster  for 4 hours? Headache was the least we could get from that. Gorgeous views, waterfalls and enormous wild monkeys were a nice addition, but we felt too sick to even think about taking any photos. Hotel car cost: 15000 LKR = 123 AUD. Time to Nuwara Eliya: 4 hours.

Baby it’s cold outside! While in Turtle Bay it was steaming hot 30C, Nuwara Eliya welcomed us with grey skies, rain and 12C. During the day it was getting up to 20C but still I was happy we packed our warm hoodies. Despite such a different weather conditions, it was beautiful and reminded us a bit of the views in Poland, when you’re getting closer to Tatras. Magnificent.

Day 5 – Nuwara Eliya

Tea time – One of the reasons of staying in Nuwara Eliya was a visit to a tea plantation. I wanted to see a factory and learn more about the process, but more than that I wanted to see the lush green fields. Pedro Tea Estate  was the closest one and we found pretty good opinions about it on the Internet. Monday morning is not the best time to visit the factory as it’s not working. We had an exclusive tour around, as there were just the two of us and then we spent hours walking around the fields, looking for the “Tea ladies” – Tea ladies are in the field, but I don’t know where exactly. If you want to see them, you’ll have to look – was the only instruction from the estate staff. But we were lucky and managed to find them (read more ). Factory tour: 200 LKR per person = 1.65 AUD. Tuk tuk from Nuwara Eliya centre, one way: 300 LKR = 2.5 AUD.

What else (NOT) to do while there?  – Victoria Park is one of the “attractions”. It was green, with some flowers blooming and nice for a short walk, but it was nothing special and not worth the time in my opinion. The other thing this region is famous for are strawberries. Adma Agro was recommended to us as a go to strawberry place. We tried a pancake and milkshakes, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as the place looked quite dodgy and again wasn’t worth the time and money. After that we wanted to take a lovely walk by the lake. There is a path alongside the lake, you can rent a swan-boat or bikes and it seemed to be a good idea until we reached the end of the pathway… The exit was closed, not only with a chain and padlock, but also with barbed wire all around it. We had to walk back, to the middle exit thinking for the first time why would you do this Sri Lanka, why? Victoria Park entrance ticket: tourist price 300 LKR per person = 2.5 AUD. Lake walk: 200 LKR per person = 1.65 AUD.

Where for a dinner? We enjoyed our meals on both evenings at Grand Indian. Really nice atmosphere and flavoursome food.

Day 6 – Nuwara Eliya to Kandy

Can I have 2 first class tickets, please? – We rushed to the Nanu Oya station early in the morning, just to discover the 1st class tickets to Kandy are sold out and the best we can get is 2nd class. Hey, it’s an adventure, right? And not sure how bad it’s going to be (everyone heard stories about those Indian and Sri Lankan trains) we bought them. To our surprise, the cars were modern and really comfortable. We found seats quickly and were able to enjoy our 3,5h journey through the hills. Tuk tuk from Nuwara Eliya to Nanu Oya station: 600 LKR (the road is very bad, sir) = 4,95 AUD. 2nd class ticket from Nanu Oya to Kandy: 160 LKR per person = 1.30 AUD. Tuk tuk from Kandy Station to Thilanka hotel: 300 LKR = 2.5 AUD.

Day 7 – Kandy

Beware of monkeys. Keep all doors locked – A sticker on our balcony doors warned us. Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to see those monkeys! And I didn’t have to wait long. At one moment there were at least 10 of them, all very keen to break into our room and steal the red capped can of mosquito repellent. They had their eyes set on it all the time and I had my chance to take some close up pictures. What a great cooperation.

What’s the local price? Big part of our shopping in Sri Lanka was done on the Kandy Market. Very friendly local man showed us where to buy the best and cheapest scarf, pants and spices. At first we were suspecting he’s not doing it just from the kindness of his heart, but to our surprise he was. He guided us through the market, showed the spices stand and made the owner to let us buy a bunch of vanilla pods for a local price (which was 5 times lower than the “tourist price”). It was less than 10 australian cents per pod. What a bargain.

Day 8 – Kandy to Colombo

ExpoRail – luxury travel?  No, thank you – would be my answer now, after I took that ride. It wasn’t worth it. Snacks, movie, WiFi, air condition and the “luxurious” car itself were laughable. Paint was chipping off, air condition was leaking, only one TV at the front worked, windows were scratched and dirty so weren’t able to see anything. Fail-Rail. Tuk tuk from Thilanka hotel to Kandy Rail: 300 LKR = 2.5 AUD. Kandy – Colombo ExpoRail ticket: 1300 LKR per person = 10.75 AUD. Tuk tuk to Casa Colombo from Colombo Fort: 400 LKR = 3.3 AUD.

Day 9 – Colombo

Are you telling me everything is being renovated?There is a lovely park, and according to Lonely Planet it should be blooming now, let’s go there. – we weren’t lucky, it was one big construction site, with all paths removed and lots of sand around. – Ok, so let’s see the Old Town Hall – nope, no luck, guess what? It’s being renovated. We went back to the hotel and started looking on the internet what else can we do in Colombo – Let’s try National Museum. – no, we didn’t go. Why? the day before staircase in the museum collapsed. Colombo didn’t want to show us anything.

Day 10 – Colombo and homebound in the evening

As the previous day proved, there was nothing interesting for us. So we did some shopping (Paradise Road – foodie props heaven), spa treatment in the hotel and we even went to a cinema and called it a day of relax, before the long flight to Australia.


View 10 days in Sri Lanka in a larger map

The only thing I would change in the itinerary after doing the whole trip, would be adding 1 day in Ella before Nuwara Eliya (and then the train ride to NE) and reducing Colombo time to just 1 day.

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachi
    September 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I loved this post Aga! I was born in SL but left there when I was 10. I go back for a holiday once every few years but I have NEVER caught a bus anywhere. You guys are brave to do so considering the crazy driving and the slow buses! I hope you had a good holiday. Reading this made me want to plan my next holiday to SL! 🙂

    • Reply
      Aga
      September 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you Rachi. Sri Lanka was a great experience, something crazy/unexpected was happening almost every day. I loved it!

  • Reply
    Asif
    October 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks a lot Aga 🙂 I am from Bangladesh & planning to go to Srilanka on October 11th. I was working on the trip plan & found your blog. Your blog helped me to get a clear picture of where to go, costing & the required time. It is really detail & will help any person to plan for the trip. Next time i go to a new country, i will check your blog first 😀
    Thanks Again & you are invited to our country 🙂

    • Reply
      Aga
      October 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Thank you Asif! Have fun in Sri Lanka 🙂

  • Reply
    Rohit
    November 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Hi Aga, great post! It would be great if you could also mention the cost per night of staying at the hotels/guesthouses you stayed at. Thanks!

  • Reply
    eat shop party
    February 23, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Hey aga…thanks so much for this post. We’re planning a trip to SL and found your blog during my search. Im glaad I did.

    Can you also recommend what were the best beaches according to you?

  • Reply
    Kenneth Surat
    March 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I will be visiting Sri Lanka this weekend! I am excited!

    • Reply
      Aga
      March 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      Enjoy! Which part of Sri Lanka are you going to?

  • Reply
    Nitha
    May 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Will be visiting Sri Lanka in July. Would like to find out if Hilltop hotel in Kandy alright to stay in?

  • Reply
    Rosie
    May 6, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Trying to plan a trip to Sri Lanka in a few months and came across your blog! Thanks for the info and your photos are gorgeous, what camera did you use? I’m also from Aus and was wondering if you had any issues bringing anything back through customs? 🙂

    • Reply
      Aga
      May 6, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Rosie. I use canon 60d and in Sri Lanka I was travelling with 50mm lens. No issues bringing tea, vanilla and other food-souvenirs.

  • Reply
    Candy
    June 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Hi! I’m so happy to come across this! I’m going to Sri Lanka next month for about 9 days and am just mind-boggled by all the places I want to go to! I’ll mainly be travelling alone after leaving Colombo to explore – did you find it was quite easy to get around and travel without a tour? THANK YOU!

    • Reply
      Aga
      June 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Candy, yes it was easy to travel without a tour (once you decide WHERE you want to go). Locals are very helpful, even if they don’t speak English, so just ask them for directions if you’re ever lost.

  • Reply
    Serendivus
    July 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Truly nice post Aga. Thanks for sharing your experience . I hope this will be one of the best memories you will ever have . Sri Lanka is truly a wonderful place to be .

  • Reply
    Chandana
    October 10, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I am Sri Lankan. living in Galle area.
    It is not hard to travel alone. You should have clear idea where you want to go. For long journey, such as hill country area, train is the best option. You can start from colombo fort station. for short distance, bus or three wheeler is ideal.

  • Reply
    paper boat sailor
    October 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Great route! I did something very similar on my first trip to Sri Lanka. My second one took me to the northern province of Jaffna and the east coast (Trincomalee et al). What an amazing country.

  • Reply
    My top 10 travel wish list | a matter of taste – food & travel blog
    February 22, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    […] also two places I visited not so long ago, but would go back to in a heartbeat: New Zealand and Sri Lanka. I didn’t get enough of them during our trips and I know if someone told me […]

  • Reply
    LRE
    March 6, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Its amazing what you can get done in 10 days. If you’re a history buff then I would suggest reserving few days to explore the Sigiriya rock fortress and the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. All 3 of them are world heritage sites.

  • Reply
    Ceylinks
    March 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Hi Aga, Thank you for visiting Sri Lanka and thank you for this wonderful blog. I hope you left with more good memories than bad. I don’t know how much you can achieve in 10 days as I being a Sri Lankan, I am discovering new areas to visit frequently. Hope you come back soon.

  • Reply
    robert ronning
    April 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Nuwara-Eliya is more about cooler climate relaxing getaway from the busy hectic hotter Colombo life or any other busy life Sri Lanka cities.. Not to mention that is offers many other things like Beautiful greenery hills, Fresh vegetable farms, dairy farms, Delicious fruits and beautiful flowers, lots of tea plantations, best of the hotel accommodations and cuisines, and many detours to find some history.

  • Reply
    Angel marth
    June 12, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks for the awesome tip! Great recommendation 🙂

  • Reply
    Terry Yeo
    July 11, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Nice post!! thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Kavita
    July 31, 2015 at 4:14 am

    Hey nice post Aga. I am planning a trip to Srilanka in december for 9 days and am super confused how to manage all the places i want to travel. Your blog did give soem good option 🙂
    Nice clicks too

  • Reply
    Indrani
    August 29, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Loved reading this post Aga. It brings many fond memories of trips i have done as a child through Sri Lanka.

    • Reply
      Aga
      August 29, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      thank you! 🙂

  • Reply
    Joel Dsouza
    September 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    I was in two minds to visit Sri Lanka, your post has rather motivated me to such an extent that now without a doubt I have to do a road trip in Sri Lanka. Thank you so much & pls do let us know about any other issues that you’ll faced while road tripping. I would like to get in touch with you about your entire journey as well
    Regards,
    Joel

  • Reply
    nick
    December 2, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Perfect! I need to do a Visa run from India in January and have 10 days in Sri Lanka. THANKS! 🙂

  • Reply
    EG III
    December 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Great post Aga. I’m heading to Sri lanka for a long weekend (just three days) and trying to decide between Galle and Kandy at the moment…decisions, decisions.

  • Reply
    Vi
    January 11, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    Thank you for the post. very informative

  • Reply
    anjali
    March 18, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks for posting the blog. It was really helpful.

  • Reply
    Blue
    July 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Great blog. I love the layout and style of your blog. It’s gave us some ideas for our own 10 day adventure in August! Thanks

    • Reply
      Aga Kozmic
      July 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

      cheers! Enjoy your adventure 🙂

  • Reply
    Vasudha S
    July 11, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks for giving us idea about Sri Lanka. We are travelling in Oct 2016 mainly to Colombo and Kandy for 3-4 days. So we know a little about what to expect.
    Cheers. Vasudha

    • Reply
      Aga Kozmic
      July 12, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Enjoy your trip! Kandy is beautiful!

  • Reply
    Ted
    July 21, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    Thankyou so much!!! I have learnt a lot from your article. I’m going their in late August and I can’t wait.

  • Reply
    JM Kayne
    August 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for the ideas…
    We’re heading to Sri Lanka this September, this one gives me something to look forward to!

    God bless!

    JM Kayne | http://www.iamjmkayne.com

  • Reply
    JM Kayne
    September 29, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Visited your site before we left and got some ideas… Thank you for the tips.
    Sharing some of our activities on day 1 .

    http://www.iamjmkayne.com/2016/09/sl-day1-kandy.html

  • Reply
    Sarah
    October 5, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Hi,

    Just wondering where you stayed in kandy and Ella 🙂 Loved your blog!

  • Reply
    Shachar
    November 9, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    than you for this post.
    I think that 10 days in Sri Lanka isn’t enough, but if you have limited time to travel so this is a great itinerary.

    Shachar
    Shachar recently posted..8 Reasons Why You Should Travel To Sri Lanka!My Profile

  • Reply
    Asanka Miah
    December 14, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    Apart from the layout of the blog, I also loved your images.
    Its an ultimate travel guide for those who are planning their next vacation in Sri Lanka.

  • Reply
    neha
    December 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Wow I love the details of your post. I have been looking for a 10 days Sri Lanka itinerary. Yours looks like the one I can go with. Bookmarked!!

  • Reply
    claudia wentworth
    February 17, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    This looks amazing, I am going in April 2017 for 12 days and will use this as a guide.

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