Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone – Culture, safaris and golden beaches await in this diverse and exciting country. Two weeks is plenty of time to get a good feel for the country, but anything from 10 days to 4 weeks and beyond can be spent here! 

Sample itinerary


  • Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
  • Local time: GMT +5.5
  • Language: Sinhala, Tamil, English

Kandy

My trip started in Kandy, which is in the Hill Country and around a three hour drive from Bandaranaike International Airport. We checked into Randholee Resort & Spa, just outside of Kandy. It had an incredible infinity pool with incredible views over Kandy and the hills beyond. The hotel offered dinner on site which was a huge bonus for us as we didn’t arrive until 8pm and after a long flight didn’t fancy exploring the city that night. The next day we took a tuktuk tour of the city, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Temple of the Tooth, Kandy Lake and Kandy viewpoint. We then left our driver and wandered around the town, stopping for food in a local restaurant called Kandyan Muslim Hotel which turned out to be amazing and one of the cheapest meals I’ve ever eaten! Drinking is not huge on the agenda in Kandy; its a very religious part of the country and many places are not licensed. If you’re after a cold post-dinner beer though, head to The Pub, where good snacks and drinks are served – just don’t expect to find any locals in there!

Ella

From Kandy, we took the train to Ella, which I highly recommend! Often named as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, it’s easy to see why almost immediately after you depart Kandy. Opt for second class to ensure you have the authentic experience of open windows & doors – first class may have air conditioning, but you may as well be on the Eurostar and most importantly, you won’t get that classic ‘hanging out of a door’ shot. We stayed at The Secret Ella during our time in Ella, and it was incredible. The service was impeccable (every room comes with its own butler) and the food at the restaurant was divine. It was the best Sri Lankan curry we had on the whole trip! As for things to do in Ella, the list is long. You can’t leave without seeing the nine arch bridge (walking distance form The Secret Ella) and for the more adventurous, tackle Ella Rock. The views from the top are incredible and totally worth the climb, but make sure to set off early so you avoid the peak sun and take plenty of water. Expect to spend at least two hours climbing to the top, and note that the last 30 minutes are steep and rocky – trainers/walking boots essential! In the evenings, Ella town comes to life. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you entertained, many offering live music. Particular mention to Matey Hut, which served authentic local food at a very cheap price – just be prepared to queue!

Udalawawe

Moving on through the country, we hired a driver (a tuktuk driver we had met in Ella who also ran a taxi service) to take us to Udalawawe National Park. We had booked a room at Private Organic House for the night, which we knew in advance was able to organise a safari for us the next day. The accommodation was basic but clean and the staff friendly. There are only three huts on site and a communal dinner is served each evening, which is a lovely way to meet other travellers. We set off at 5.30am for a safari run by the owners of the accommodation, and with only four of us in the truck we all got a window seat. It was an amazing experience, getting so close to the elephants in the park without any barriers, and we also saw plenty of exotic birds and smaller wildlife, including jackal, mongoose, jungle cat and deer. It cost the equivalent of around £60 for two people, including all park entry fees and was added to our bill on departure.

Unawatuna

On arrival in Unawatuna, it quickly became clear we had arrived in paradise. Thaproban Pavillion Waves is easily one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in, and oozed luxury from the moment we checked in. The infinity pool takes centre stage here, and the rooms boast balconies/patios with views directly over it. Sundown drinks are also served on the decking beside it, and at the end a small private beach can be found. The rooms were large and spacious with incredible air conditions and luxury products replenished daily. The breakfast in the restaurant (included in the room rate) was great and the lunch menu by the pool also very good and a reasonable price. Unawatuna itself is a lively beach resort, with countless restaurants and bars right on the beach. Sweeping round the bay, there is always somewhere offering happy hour, and the fish and seafood served at many of the restaurants is some of the freshest I’ve ever eaten.

Hikkaduwa

Our final destination of the trip was the gorgeous beach destination of Hikkaduwa. Our hotel, Sapphire Seas, was located right on the beach and had stunning views over the pool and out to the ocean. The rooms were all fitted with air conditioning and every first floor room had a balcony that overlooked the pool and the sea. In Hikkaduwa itself, there are plenty of restaurants in town to choose from – particular mention to Home Grown Rice & Curry and Thambili Cafe who served exceptional food – as well as a large selection of beach bars to keep you entertained in the evenings. If you aren’t content to laze by the pool all day, the turtle hatchery is a lovely way to spend an hour, and not only does your entrance fee go towards keeping the turtles of Hikkaduwa safe, you learn a lot during your visit too!
From Hikkaduwa we took a taxi to the airport, which took around 3 hours (including rush hour traffic) and boarded our flight to London (via Doha). We had an evening flight so left the coast late afternoon, but if you have a morning flight, I’d recommend staying closer to the airport the night before as traffic can be very unpredictable!

11 Comments on “Sri Lanka

  1. This is brilliant such good info. We are going for honeymoon in March and pretty much doing exactly what you done. Staying at waves in Unawatuna for 8 nights. Can’t wait. Any suggestions on packing essentials? Esp walking shoes?

    Thanks

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    • Hi Fiona,
      Such a great choice for honeymoon – you’ll have a brilliant time!!

      As for packing, take LOTS of sunscreen. I tan well and generally don’t burn, but found myself wearing factor 50 a lot of the time. The sun is super strong! Walking shoes/good trainers will be essential if you want to climb Ella Rock/explore the railways – I wouldn’t have stood a chance in flip flops! You’ll need something that covers shoulders & knees if you want to visit any of the religious temples in Kandy.

      Take some good bug spray (I found Jungle Formula very effective) as you’ll need it in the evenings, and something slightly warmer for your time in hill country (Kandy/Ella) as it gets much cooler in the evenings.

      Have an amazing time!!

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  2. What a fantastic blog, thanks so much for sharing. My wife and I leave on the 11/2 for 3 weeks in Sri Lanka for our 1st visit. ❤️. We would like to do lots of what you describe but also perhaps a stay in an eco tree lodge ( any suggestions) also perhaps a 3 day yoga retreat ( again, any suggestions? ) hope to hear from you . Thanks Gary and Kim

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    • Hi Gary & Kim,
      I’m sure you’re both very excited about your trip – It’s an amazing country and I’m sure you will have an incredible time.
      A friend recently stayed at Saraii Village in Sri Lanka, which I believe is eco-friendly. They stayed one night in a treehouse and said it was amazing! It’s near the South coast & Yala National Park, so you could do a safari in the park, go to Saraii Village for the night and then head to the beach.
      As for yoga retreats, I can’t recommend any personally as I didn’t have time to fit one into the trip, but I always find the recommendations of Culture Trip to be spot on, and they have a list of wellness retreats in Sri Lanka Here: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/sri-lanka/articles/the-best-wellness-retreats-in-sri-lanka/

      Have a brilliant time!

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  3. Just found your blog via the Tripadvisor forums — excellent reviews and infos! I’m currently trying to put together an itinerary for a 2 week trip later in the year and there seem to be so many possibilities that it’s a little daunting trying to figure out where to start! (This would be our first trip to the country.) Great photos and I really liked learning about your hotel recommendations – I’m hoping to work in a few of those places! Thanks again! 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Tati,

      I’m glad the review was of some help to you!
      Two weeks is a great amount of time to have, as it means you can spend proper time in each place you visit.
      Absolutely make sure Ella is included in your itinerary, I loved it! Stunning town up in the hill country, with lots to see and do (Nine Arch Bridge, Ella Rock, Little Adams Peak) and a great nightlife – lots of restaurants in town and bars with live music in the evenings.

      A standard itinerary to follow would be Airport > Kandy > Ella > Udawalawe > South coast beaches (Unawatuna/Bentota/Mirissa/Hikkaduwa) but with the time you have you could add in Sigiriya to the early part of your trip.

      Enjoy your planning, and let me know if you have any questions!

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      • Thanks so much for the itinerary tips, that is exactly the sense I’m getting (in terms of places to see given my time)! We will add Sigiriya and nearby sites as well. Most definitely will add Ella — I had no idea there was so much nightlife! (All I mostly hear about Ella is the train that you take from Kandy, haha!) Thanks, again! So exciting! (Your photos really are wonderful!)

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  4. Hello again! As I plan my trip, I’m trying to figure out how long to stay in each place and wanted to ask for your thoughts, given your own experience:
    3 nights in Ella (too much?)
    1 night in Udawalawa (the night prior to the safari)
    After your safari, did you then head over to Unawatuna, or is that too much to do in one day?

    Hoping to stay about 3 nights in Unawatuna, before returning to Colombo for our flight. TIA!

    Like

    • Hello,
      I think 3 nights in Ella is find as long as you are wanting to do some exploring and are happy to head out into the nightlife in the evenings -I certainly would have loved one extra night there!
      Yes we went from safari to Udalawawe – We got a taxi around 2pm and were on the coast well in time for checking in and then sunset drinks by the beach!

      Like

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