Gorgeous views at Little Adam's Peak in Ella
My husband and I visited Sri Lanka back in 2018, spending two weeks over Christmas and New Year there and we absolutely loved it. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country and there's so much to see. So to help you plan your perfect trip to Sri Lanka, here is my 14 day itinerary, with all the best places to visit and the top things to see and do along the way.
Contents & Itinerary overview:
The perfect 14 day Sri Lanka itinerary
Day 1-2: Colombo
You are most likely to land in Colombo airport, so this is where most trips to Sri Lanka will begin. Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka and is often overlooked in favour of Sri Lanka's beautiful beaches or tranquil hill country plantations, but it you have a day or two spare, Colombo is worth visiting.
We stayed at Cinnamon Red, a great value modern hotel featuring a rooftop pool and bar, located near Galle Face Green. Colombo is a mixture of bustling narrow streets, high rise hotels and temples. By the time we arrived at the hotel from Colombo airport it was midday, so we spent the afternoon in the rooftop pool, with great views over the city. In the evening, we visited the Buddhist temple Gangaramaya, which consists of several temple buildings, each containing a myriad of shrines, relics and artefacts.
Day two in Colombo, we explored on foot, however there are plenty of tuk tuk drivers desperate to pick you up if you don't fancy walking. There are several parks, temples, museums and points of interest in Colombo, but in my opinion 1-2 days is enough here. It was great to see the city, but we were ready to see what else Sri Lanka had to offer.
Beira lake (l) and the Clock Tower (r) in Colombo
Day 3-4: Nuwara Eliya
We were originally planning to catch the train from Colombo - Nuwara Eliya, however it was fully booked being so close to Christmas, so we hired a driver to take us there instead. (This isn't as posh as it sounds! Hiring a driver in Sri Lanka whether it is for a single trip or for the full duration of your trip is very common - see more about this at the bottom of this post).
Nuwara Eliya is often referred to as ‘Little England’ due to the climate, landscape and colonial-style buildings. The wet and mild climate in Sri Lanka's hill country makes it perfect for growing tea, so there are numerous tea plantations surrounding Nuwara Eliya. It is also a great area for walking and, due to the rain, there are several waterfalls in this area too. If you like being outdoors, then Nuwara Eliya could be a good option for you, but the town itself is not particularly pretty and there's not lots to do here. 1-2 days is plenty of time - I would say that it was my least favourite place on our two week trip in Sri Lanka.
The view from ‘The World’s end’ hike at Horton Plains National Park, near Nuwara Eliya
Day 5-7: Ella
We travelled by train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella as this section of Sri Lanka's famous Kandy - Ella train line is said to be the one of the best train journey's in the world. (Make sure you check out my post on The truth about Sri Lanka's most beautiful train journey for details of our experience).
If you were to ask me where is the best place to go in Sri Lanka?, one of my answers would definitely be Ella. Ella was one of my favourite places in Sri Lanka, The main street in Ella has a really laid-back traveller vibe to it, with cafes serving great brunches, coffee and smoothies in the day and chilled out cocktails and live music in the evening.
Ella is also popular with hikers and the surrounding countrywide is beautiful. One of the most popular things to do in Ella is to hike Little Adam's Peak - if you only did one thing in Ella, do this! It's a relatively easy hike but the views are amazing. See my post for how to combine the hike to Little Adam's Peak with visiting the Nine Arch bridge - another of Ella's top attractions.
Another great hike is to Ella Rock - this one is a little more strenuous, but again, the views are worth it.
Leaving Ella behind, we headed for Udawalawe National Park. On the way out of Ella we stopped at the Ravana Falls, which are just off the main road, about 7km outside of Ella. Despite being quite busy, you can get close to these waterfalls and even go for a dip if you fancy it!
Ella's famous Nine Arch Bridge
Day 8-9: Udawalawe national park
From Ella, we travelled 2 hours south to Udawalawe national park, where we had two nights at Elephant Trail – a hotel just outside of the national park, complete with a pool, restaurant and bar.
On the way into the national park, our driver stopped by the side of the road where, to our surprise, there were a couple of elephants! They had cleverly discovered that if they travelled to the edge of the national park, where the park meets the road, they will get fed by passing tourists. Our driver bought us a bunch of bananas to throw to the elephants – we were a bit cautious and later found out that this is really bad for the elephants as they become accustomed to people feeding them and also get too used to being close to humans, so we felt bad and should have really known better.
For the rest of the afternoon, we lazed by the hotel pool and got an early night, ahead of our early start the next day for our elephant safari. We had pre-arranged a private jeep safari tour of the Udawalawe national park via the hotel beforehand and it was an amazing experience. This was definitely was of the best things we did in Sri Lanka. To see wild elephants up close in their natural habitat was incredible.
Read Post: Visiting Udawalawe National Park
The Safari we took at Udawalawe National Park was just amazing!
Day 10-11: Mirissa
There are so many great beach towns to choose from along Sri Lanka’s southern coast. We picked Mirissa as it has one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, with soft white sand, palm trees and safe swimming conditions.
It is well located to explore the surrounding coastal towns on a scooter, but if you don't fancy being very active, then Mirissa is also the perfect place to sit back and chill out.
Mirissa was the first place we actually stopped and did nothing. For two whole days, we enjoyed the gorgeous beach, taking in the amazing views and just relaxed. This was one place we really wished we had more time in! From Mirissa, we hired a taxi to drive us to our final stop, which was Galle Fort.
Read Post: Top 6 things to do in Mirissa
Mirissa is known for having gorgeous sandy beaches
Day 12-14: Galle Fort
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Galle Fort, but it definitely took me by surprise. Galle Fort is the old walled town which sits within the larger city of Galle. The fortified city of Galle Fort goes back to the 16th century and was founded by the Portuguese but later expanded by the Dutch. The towns heritage is reflected in the many Dutch colonial-style buildings and architecture around the city.
Galle Fort is famous for it’s lighthouse, but there is more than just the lighthouse here. It is full of boutique shops, spa’s and restaurants serving delicious local food. Simply put, Galle Fort is charming and is definitely worth including in your Sri Lanka itinerary.
The Galle Fort walls and the famous Galle Fort lighthouse
What would I have changed about our itinerary?
So that was my two week itinerary for our trip to Sri Lanka. Would I have done anything differently?
In hindsight, I would have had just one day exploring the countryside surrounding Nuwara Eliya and instead spent more time exploring the towns along the southern coast. I would also have spent less time in Galle, instead either staying for longer in Mirissa, or travelling up to Hikkaduwa for a stop here on the way back to Colombo Airport, but all in all, I was pretty happy with this itinerary. It offered a bit of everything; city, countryside, wildlife and beaches - showcasing just how beautifully diverse Sri Lanka really is.
Lee and I at Ella Rock, Ella
When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has two distinctive seasons, which influenced the locations we visited; the northern and eastern regions are best visited between May – September when it is sunny and dry (the south east has its rainy season during this time). Whilst the southern and western regions are best visited between October to February when the monsoon season hits the east and north. As we were travelling in December, I stuck mostly to the southern and western parts of the country, (though this sadly meant that we missed seeing the Sigiriya Fortress, which is north of Kandy).
What's the best way to get around Sri Lanka?
Initially we were planning to use a mixture of public transport and taxis to get around Sri Lanka, however after failing to secure a train ticket for the first leg of our journey (great start!), we spoke with a local tourist agent in Colombo and decided to hire a driver for the duration of our trip. This is quite common in Sri Lanka as public transport is scarce and unreliable once you get away from the cities. It works similar to a private tour – we already had our itinerary planned, which we shared with the driver and he followed our route, he also took us to any tourist or hiking spots we wanted to visit along the way, meaning we could be really flexible with our plans. On the days where we didn’t require driving anywhere, we simply arranged to see him the next day and if we wanted to change anything, we just text him. If you have the extra budget to spend, this is a really great way to get around Sri Lanka.
If hiring a driver is not possible for you, at least not for the whole trip, then the trains are the best method of getting round. This website is a great tool for planning and booking train travel in Sri Lanka.
Is Sri Lanka expensive?
This does depend on the accommodation you stay in, activities you do and transport you use. Sri Lanka can cater to all budget levels - from shoe-string backpackers to luxury travellers.
You could have definitely done it much cheaper than we did – if we were backpacking for a longer period of time, we would have used more public transport, however as this was a two week holiday, we had the extra budget to spend on a private hire car and taxis. We also stayed at more mid-range hotels and guest houses, rather than hostels – but there was accommodation to suit all budgets everywhere we visited.
I hope you found this guide useful and it has helped you to plan your own Sri Lanka itinerary. I would absolutely visit Sri Lanka again to explore more of this beautiful country.
Make sure you pin this post for later!
All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.