Sri Lanka

7 Days in Sri Lanka: The Best Itinerary You’ll Ever Need

With beaches perfect for swimming and surfing and spiritual places ideal for hours of meditation, Sri Lanka is more than just an island country!

This gem of a neighbor is too good to be skipped. If you’re wondering where to travel next, consider exploring this gorgeous country! Covering an area of just 65,000 square kilometers, Sri Lanka offers an exciting mix of cultural sights, wildlife, and sweeping beaches bathed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

If you’re planning a week’s trip to Sri Lanka, you should definitely explore the pristine beach towns in the South and West, hike in the Central Highlands, enjoy a scenic train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, visit a turtle hatchery, spend a day amidst the wilderness, and much more!

7 Days in Sri Lanka: The Best Itinerary For You:

I’ve traveled to Sri Lanka twice, and it’s a place that never fails to amaze me. While you can choose to spend more days, embracing slow travel and soaking in the Sinhalese vibes, a week in Sri Lanka will be a good enough time to see some of the best places.

Here’s what I covered in 7 days in Sri Lanka:

Day 1: Arrival in Colombo & exploring the capital city

I landed at Bandaranaike International Airport and took a shared cab to Colombo, the largest, busiest, and most vibrant city, where modern life blends seamlessly with colonial architecture. After checking into my hotel and dropping off my luggage, I stepped out to explore the capital. My first stop was the Dutch Hospital, a colonial center now transformed into a paradise for travelers with boutique stores and restaurants, where I headed straight to the Ministry of Crab for lunch.

ministry of crab sri lanka

Later, I hired a tuk-tuk for a half-day trip (2000 LKR for 5 hours). The driver took me to several iconic sites: the Red Mosque, Gangaramaya Temple & Beira Lake, Old Parliament House, the National Museum, and the Colombo Lotus Tower. He finally dropped me at Galle Face Green, one of the city’s biggest malls, overlooking the ocean. After enjoying a sumptuous Sinhalese meal at a restaurant called Curry Club, I walked back to the hotel, calling it a day!

Day 2: Traveling to Sigiriya via Dambulla Caves

The next morning, after having breakfast, I checked out and booked a tuk-tuk through Pick Me, a popular app in Sri Lanka that’s cheaper than Uber. The journey from Colombo to Sigiriya typically takes about 3 to 4 hours, but I decided to stop midway in Dambulla to explore the ancient caves.

sigiriya sri lanka

Perched above the countryside, the Cave Temples at Dambulla are a series of ancient caves dating back to the 2nd century BC. Initially a refuge for Buddhist monks, these caves were later inhabited and abandoned by kings from Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, who funded renovations and expanded the collection of artworks over different periods. Evidence suggests that the caves served as shelters in prehistoric times. The most recent repainting, in the Kandyan style, dates back to the 17th century.

I reached Sigiriya by evening and checked into my accommodation, aptly named The Thick Forest, situated right in the heart of the jungle.

Day 3: Sunrise hike to Pidurangala, climbing the Lion Rock of Sigiriya, and driving down to Kandy

My day started at 4 o’clock in the morning because I had decided to climb Pidurangala Rock. Not many people know about it, but thanks to a few travelers I met in Colombo, I got the inside scoop. Climbing Pidurangala Rock not only offers stunning views of Sigiriya but also completes the historical narrative of King Kasyapa’s reign. It provides an opportunity to explore a more natural setting, visit cave temples, see what was once the largest brick reclining Buddha in the world, and experience history without the crowds.

7 days in sri lanka

After breakfast, I headed to Lion Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 400-meter-high rock looks scenic from afar, but the real adventure lies in the climb. With 1,000 stairs to conquer, it certainly promises an effective workout. The fort on top, abandoned since the 14th century, is a sight to behold.
By late afternoon, I hopped on my tuk-tuk and left Sigiriya for my next destination—Kandy!

Day 4: Exploring Kandy

I stayed at an amazing hostel called Clock Inn Kandy, which was right in the center of the city and just a 5-minute walk from Kandy Lake. I enjoyed a morning walk around the lake before having breakfast and taking a tuk-tuk to explore the city. My first stop was the Botanical Garden, home to more than 10,000 varieties of trees. Then, I visited the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, also known as Dalada Maligawa by the Sri Lankans, which is a significant site for Buddhists worldwide. I also visited the peaceful Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue and the Rangala House Art Gallery.

kandy sri lanka

In the evening, I went to Kandy Railway Station to book my train ticket for the next day, feeling super excited to experience the scenic journey ahead.

Day 5: Train journey to Ella

I had heard a lot about the train ride in Sri Lanka, and finally, it was time to see what the hype was all about! Trust me when I say this, it was indeed a ride worth cherishing.

Traveling by train is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore Sri Lanka, and the picturesque route from Kandy to Ella is renowned as one of the most scenic train routes in Southeast Asia.

train in sri lanka

As I looked out of the window, the scenery gradually changed from subtropical spice and banana trees to pine and eucalyptus forests. The landscape was dotted with tea plantations, and if you watch carefully, you can spot waterfalls cascading down the hillsides.

Day 6: Morning safari at Yala National Park & drive to Mirissa

The day started really early! I left Ella at around 4 AM and reached Yala National Park by 6:30 AM, eagerly anticipating the safari. Yala National Park is known for having the highest leopard density in the world, but I wasn’t very hopeful, as spotting wildlife depends entirely on luck. However, within 15 minutes of entering the park, we spotted two leopards lounging on the tracks! We also saw numerous elephants, deer, and a variety of birds.

leopard at Yala in Sri lanka

After the safari, we headed to Mirissa, the gorgeous beach town in the south. Upon checking into my hotel, I quickly dropped off my luggage and walked down to the beach for a swim. The shoreline is lined with numerous shacks where you can grab a beer and spend hours gazing at the ocean. Alternatively, you can head to Weligama, a surfers’ paradise.
In the evening, I hiked up Coconut Tree Hill, one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in Mirissa, and watched the sky change colors at dusk.

Day 7: Exploring Galle & back to Colombo

It was the last day of my trip, and I planned to explore Galle before returning to Colombo. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle is primarily known for Galle Fort, first built in 1588 by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch in 1649.

The colonial charm still lingers in the Fort Complex, where boutique cafes, souvenir shops, and more await. If you plan to stay overnight in Galle, staying at one of the heritage hotels within the fort is a must! Also, Galle is a paradise for foodies and there are some great cafes where you can try local cuisine.

The National Maritime Museum, also located within the fort, offers fascinating insights into the country’s maritime history, with some objects believed to be over 800 years old! Walking around the city and catching the sunset are among the top experiences in Galle.

The drive from Galle to Colombo took about 2 hours, marking the end of my epic adventures in Sri Lanka!

Galle in Sri Lanka

What is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a tropical country with consistently hot weather throughout the year. However, its climate is strongly influenced by monsoons, leading to significant variations across the country. At almost any time of the year, there will be some part of Sri Lanka experiencing rainfall. Therefore, choosing where to visit and when is crucial.
Generally, the best time to visit the west and southwest coasts, as well as the hill country, is from December to March. The East Coast is best visited from April to September. My first trip to Sri Lanka was in December, when the days were typically hot but the evenings were pleasantly cool.

What to pack for 7 days in Sri Lanka?

Given the variety of sights in this itinerary, you need to be ready for both beaches and temples. Speaking from my own experience, Sri Lanka is a little conservative when it comes to dressing code in temples – and you need to cover your arms and legs before you enter a sacred space.

But otherwise, the country is pretty chill – especially alongside the beaches, you can simply wear anything! Make sure to carry slippers, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Also, a sunscreen that’s SPF 50+ is essential.

If you’ve been thinking of taking a break, then this can be your perfect getaway! Whether you seek adventure in wildlife safaris, serenity in ancient temples, or relaxation on sun-kissed shores, Sri Lanka has it all. From the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura to the pristine beaches of Mirissa, and from the bustling markets of Colombo to the tranquil tea plantations of Ella, this island nation won’t fail to mesmerize you.

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