How to see everything that you want to see in Sri Lanka in 2 weeks.
*I left room on this itinerary to factor in travel to and from Sri Lanka
Day 1- Kandy
Don’t waste any time and head straight for Kandy. Trust me, with only 2 weeks in this beautiful country you wanna get as far away from the airport as soon as possible. Kandy is part of the cultural triangle- but don’t get your hopes up too high. A lot of people were let down by this city but since it’s central it is at least a good place to stopover. That being said there were some people who did enjoy the city and here are some things that you can do to make the most of it.
Day 2- Dambulla
Dambulla is in the cultural triangle and is famous for it’s rock temples. These temples recently changed ownership and are now free to enter (not sure if it will stay this way). Yay for free things!
Day 3- Sigiriya/Kandy
Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya is one of the main attractions in Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are not many options for staying in Sigiriya but the rock is easily accessed by a short bus trip from Dambulla. Your best option is to leave Dambulla on the first bus at 6:30 a.m to beat the crowds and the heat. The price is quite a lot at about $30 so if you would like to avoid this high tourist price you can always climb the small rock instead while still getting a great view of Sigiriya rock.
After climbing Lion’s rock head back to Kandy. Either relax from your long day of climbing or refer back to my list of things to do in Kandy. A great thing about stopping over in Kandy is if you stay at Monkey Hostel it’s only about $5 per night- the cheapest accommodation I found in Sri Lanka.
Day 4- Travel to Dalhousie (For Adam’s Peak)
To Reach Adam’s Peak you take the train for about 4 hours from Kandy to Hatton and then a 1.5 hour bus ride to Dalhousie. The bus ride is a bit crazy but it also is beautiful as you drive past tea plantations and a beautiful lake.
Once you arrive in Dalhousie it is a tiny town (and I mean tiny) where you can easily walk around to find accommodation- I heard Grand Adam’s Peak was a good place to stay. Also, Dalhousie is a great place to buy some souvenirs and bracelets as I was able to negotiate cheaper prices here than anywhere else.
Day 5- Climb Adam’s Peak/Travel to Ella
Don’t hit that snooze button! It’s 2 a.m and time to go hiking. In the middle of the night it might be hard to get yourself up to climb 5,200 steps to the top of a mountain- but trust me the moment that you see the beautiful sunrise all of your exhaustion will melt away. Find out more information by reading here about my experience completing this pilgrimage climb.
Since you will finish the climb around 9 a.m you still have the whole day ahead of you! Use this day to travel to Ella. Hop on the most beautiful train ride of your life as you let your limbs recover.
Day 6- Ella
Ahhh Ella. The love of my Sri Lankan life. To be honest half of the reason I was so in love with Ella was because of my amazing train journey there. I guess it’s true when they say it’s about the journey and not the destination…except the destination was pretty amazing too. Still not convinced? Read about what there is to see and do in Ella and you will be sold.
Day 7- Tissamaharama (Yala National Park)
Tissamaharama is famous for it’s national park where you can go on a safari to see leopards and elephants. However, I think that it should be famous for more than just its safaris. Tissamaharama was honestly one of the most beautiful places that I saw in Sri Lanka. Read here to find out how it blew me away- and will blow you away too.
Day 8- Yala Safari/ Travel to Tangalle
The safari through Yala National Park begins when you are picked up at 4:30 a.m. and goes until about 11:30 a.m. It is an expensive trip at about $50 per person so it depends how badly you want to see leopards. On the day that I went I didn’t see any leopards- but 6 other jeeps did. I did see an elephants, crocodiles and other smaller jungle animals. It is also paradise for bird watchers.
Since the tour ends early in the day you can easily head to Tangalle when you get back (about 1.5 hours away by bus). It was surprising to me that this beach was so close to Tissamaharama, yet seemed so far. One moment you are in the jungle and the next you are on the beach. This is a nice place to wind down after waking up early to explore the jungle. There are a lot of options for accommodation so no need to worry about booking ahead. The beach is walking distance from the bus station.
We found the ocean to be super rough when we went- which is why I would only recommend staying for the day. However, I’m sure that it depends on the day. Also if you walk farther along the beach eventually you can find calmer waters.
Day 9~10- Mirissa
Mirissa has calm and clean water that is great for swimming in. I used this destination as a place to relax after all the hiking and jungle trekking I had done over the last few days. There are a lot of beautiful restaurants lining the beach but if you are on a budget it’s best to avoid the beach area- you can find options for less than half of the price around town.
If you are anything like me and get restless after sitting on the beach for too long Mirissa is famous for whale watching. This is another early start at 6:30 a.m but after Adam’s Peak and the jungle safari it will seem like you’re sleeping in.
As well, you can rent bikes for about $3 for the day and ride past Weligama (next on the itinerary) and farther along until you reach a desired beach of your choice. The bike ride is fun and beautiful along the coast line and there are many places to stop for lunch or fresh fruit along the way.
Day 11~12- Welligama
Weligama is about 15 minutes by bus from Mirissa and less than $0.25 to get there. This beach is less desirable for swimming but is an awesome spot for learning to surf. Surf board rentals are about $2 an hour and you don’t have to feel intimidated surfing here because all of the real surfers are at other beaches with bigger waves.
Across the road from the beach is a cheap restaurant that everyone eats at (although the service isn’t the fastest so don’t show up to hungry). As well there is a hostel called Hangtime that is the coolest hostel that I have seen in Sri Lanka. You might enjoy hanging out there so much that you might not even visit the beach.
Day 13- Galle
When I arrived in the Galle Fort I almost felt like I had left Sri Lanka- except for the constant bombarding of tuk-tuk drivers asking me if I needed a ride. This fort was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 but was later influenced strongly by the dutch. To this day the European influence is still strongly felt with the European style buildings and churches. As a lover of Europe I found this city both beautiful and romantic. If you are European, however, you may find it less interesting.
The fort is small and doesn’t require more than a day to wander around (and is within walking distance from the train and bus station). The one downfall is that it is more touristy and so prices inside the fort tend to be very high. I wandered outside of the fort and found some wonderful fruit vendors and so had a delicious, fresh pineapple for lunch that cost about $0.50.
Day 14- Negombo/Fly Home
Either head straight to the airport from Galle if you have a late flight. If you have an early morning flight spend the night before in Negombo.
Tip: Make sure that you leave Galle the next day about 6-7 hours before your flight departs to be on the safe side. And ALWAYS ask for the highway bus when you are traveling to the airport- it will save you a couple of hours.