Sri Lanka Tour Itinerary – How to explore the highlights of Sri Lanka in 7 Days
Sri Lanka is a tear drop shaped tropical island in Southern Asia, covering the total land area of 65,610 square kilometers. This tiny paradise island offers an exciting mix of cultural sites including 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, vibrant cultural festivals, abundance wildlife, breathtaking landscapes, all year around lush vegetation and sweeping beaches with warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is a well packed activity destination that offers a joy to discover its beauty with English being widely spoken friendlier locals. You can travel all around the island without any hassle and this is a perfect vacation getaway for all kind of travelers.
Sri Lanka is a tropical country that is located almost on the equator and the weather is hot all year round. The climate is influenced by country’s monsoon seasons and varies dramatically across the country. At pretty much any time of the year, there will always be some place is Sri Lanka where it’s currently raining. The best time to visit the West Coast and southwest coasts and hill country is from the months of December to March. And the best time to visit the east coast is from April to September.
Here, we bring you a perfect 07 days tour itinerary that covering Island’s main highlights.
Arrive in & Explore the Commercial Capital ‘Colombo’
Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka. Colombo has a population of 555,031 in the city limits. It is the financial center of the island and a popular tourist destination. The Bandaranayake International Airport in Colombo is located 45 minutes’ drive away from the heart of Colombo. Colombo is a perfect destination where you can recover from jetlag. Owing to a tropical climate, Colombo can be visited all year around. During the months of February to April the weather can be bit hotter than other months. So you can do the sightseeing and the city tour of Colombo in the morning or later afternoon. In this city tour, you will visit several landmarks and important sites. The tour takes approximately 4 hour.
Places to visit in Colombo:
- Old Parliament Building
- Galle Face Green & Historical Galle Face Hotel
- Independence Square Building
- BMICH Building – Bandaranayake Memorial International Convention Hall
- Gangarama Buddhist Temple
- Town Hall Building
- The National Museum
- Geoffrey Bawa’s House (Number 11 Colombo Residence)
- Dutch Hospital
- The Lotus Theater – Nelum Pokuna
- Pettah Local Market & Bazar
- Majestic City Shopping Complex
- The Red Mosque
Also you can highlight your stay by experiencing following activities;
- Dining at Minsitry of Crab Restaurant in Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex
- Barefoot Café
- Drink a coffee at Coffee Bean or London Coffee House
- Shopping at the house of Fashion & Majestic City.
Majestic “Sigiriya Lion Rock” & Traditional Ayurveda Treatment at a traditional wellness Ashram
On second day, you can travel to the most important and most visiting cultural site “Sigiriya”. The drive from Colombo to Sigiriya is approximately 4 hour drive. On the way, you are free to make breaks. You will reach to the UNESCO World heritage town Dambulla by noon and you may have a lunch break at one of a best restaurants in the area. You can try a traditional Sri Lankan lunch to start over the true authentic Sri Lankan experience. Start to explore the ancient wonder “Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress” with a professional tour guide from Traumland Tours. Sigiriya is an ancient palace located in the central Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.
Once you reach to the summit of the rock, you will be mesmerized by the 360 view from the summit. You can spot one of best sunsets view from the rock if you climb the rock in the later afternoon. Make sure you to visit the rock before 16.00hrs as the closing time is 17.00pm daily.
In Sigiriya area, travelers can find any type of accommodations according to their budget & expectations. Hotels from low budget category to five star category can be found in this area. There are plenty of home stays, back packers places and tree house also available for accommodating purposes. When you are traveling from Inamaluwa Junction up to the end of Sigiriya, there are plenty of restaurants are located beside the road where you can try Sri Lankan cuisines. You can stay your overnight stay in either Dambulla or in Sigiriya while enjoying the tranquility of the nature.
Medieval Capital “Polonnaruwa Ancient Capital” & Jeep Safari trip to Minneriya National park to see Sri Lankan Wild Jumbos.
On your third day of the itinerary, you must definitely visit the medieval capital of Ancient Sri Lanka “Polonnaruwa”. It is just a one hour drive from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa. On the way, you will travel through the Minneriya National Park where you may spot wild elephants on the road. Also you can make a stop at the man made reservoir “Girithale Tank” that was constructed in 6th C.AD.
After reaching Polonnaruwa Ancient site, first you can visit the national museum of Polonnaruwa then you will be guided by a professional tourist guide from Traumland Tours to the ancient site of Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in the North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Kaduruwela area is the Polonnaruwa New Town and the other part of Polonnaruwa, remains as the royal ancient city of Polonnaruwa kingdom between 10-12th Century AD. The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader.
The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site in 1982.
During the 3-4 hour tour of Polonnaruwa, you will visit following ancient sites that are belong to 11th Century to 13th Century.
- National Museum of Polonnaruwa
- Royal Palace of the great king Parakramabahu I
- The council chamber of Kind Parakramabahu I
- Royal Bathing Place
- Quadrangle complex
- Rankoth vehera (Golden Pinnacle Stupa)
- Baddaseema Prasada
- Ancient Hospital complex
- Gal Viharaya (Rock Temple)
- Thivanka Image House
After exploring the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, you can have a lunch break in Polonnaruwa. We would like to recommend you to try an authentic Sri Lankan lunch at a local village restaurant. There you can witness the how the all local rice and curry dishes are prepared by local village ladies.
You will be transferred to famous Sri Lankan wild elephant sanctuary “Minneriya National Park” for an adventurous private jeep safari tour after a delicious Sri Lankan Lunch. One hour drive from Polonnaruwa to Minneriya National park. The jeep safari tour of Minneriya National park takes approximately 2-3 hours. In this tour, large herds Sri Lankan wild elephants can be spotted. Apart from wild elephants, crocodiles, spotted deer and different kind of bird species can be spotted in this national park.
Your third night also in either Dambulla or Sigiriya area.
Fascinating Ancient “Dambulla Golden Rock Temple” & Discover the Sacred City of “Kandy” – The Last Capital of Ancient Sri Lanka.
On your fourth day, you will travel to the second largest city and the main city of the Central Province – Kandy. The drive is approximately 2 and half hour. On the way to Kandy, there is a temple that every tourist visits in their vacation in Sri Lanka. The second most visiting place after Sigiriya – The Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla, also called “Dambulla Cave Temple”. Dambulla Temple is just located 4km from the town center of Dambulla.
Dambulla rock is a granite outcrop, rising 160 meters above the surrounding plains. The Golden Rock temple of Dambulla is a cave temple complex which dates back to the 2nd Century BC & according to the legends, this temple was originally constructed by King Vattagamini Abhaya who was well known as the king Valagamba from Anuradhapura era. Its rock ceiling is one large sweep of colorful frescoes which depict Buddhist mythology and the tales of the Buddha’s previous births. The caves house the largest collection of Buddha statues in one place. Dambulla Golden Temple is an amazing UNESCO World Heritage site not to miss. Travelers need to walk up kind a steep hill to visit the temple that has five caves that have been converted into beautiful shrines rooms of Buddha. During the climb you will enjoy a fine green panoramic view of plains. The tour guide from Traumland Tours will explain you the historical back ground, the aesthetic value and special features of the temple in detailed. It will take one hour and half hour to explore the entire complex.
After visiting the beautiful Dambulla temple, you can proceed to Kandy via Dambulla Kandy highway (A 9 ). On the way you will pass the area of all spice & herbal gardens are located. If you are interested in Spices & Herbal, you may can have a spice tour in one of these spice garden without any entering fee.
After all these stops, you will reach Kandy by noon and you may have a lunch break in Kandy. There are plenty of good restaurants in the city center of Kandy. Kandy is the second largest city in the country after Colombo. It was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea. Kandy is both an administrative and religious city and is also the capital of the Central Province. The city is situated above 500 meters above mean sea level and surrounded by Knuckles mountain range & Hantana Mountain. Kandy is the home of The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. The sacred tooth relic temple is the home to the tooth relic of Buddha and twice a day during the special ceremony, the casket of the tooth can be seen. You can visit the tooth relic temple after lunch or you can have a nice walk in the city as well as around the man made “Kandy Lake” that is located in middle of the city. An ideal place to have a nice walk. Apart from visiting the temple, you can do and visit;
Things to do in Kandy:
- Witness the Kandy Cultural Dance Show (One hour indoor show at Kandyan Cultural Center)
- Walk in the city center
- Visit the biggest shopping complex of Kandy – Kandy City Center (KCC)
- Visit Bahirawakanda Buddhist Temple for a breathtaking view of Kandy City
- If time permits on the first day, you can have a nice walk in the Peradeniya Royal Botanic Garden to enjoy the nature and beautiful landscapes along with rare species of plants & trees.
Your fourth night will be in this beautiful sacred City- Kandy and In Kandy, like Sigiriya and Dambulla, you can easily find all kind accommodation options that suit to your budget and requirements. There are plenty of good standard home stays to five star luxury hotels are in Kandy and near by Kandy. Some hotels offer breathtaking views of the valleys and hills.
Experience of Ceylon Tea Trail, Milky Waterfalls and Journey to Little England
On your fifth day, you will travel to the hill station of Sri Lanka “Nuwara Eliya”. The drive is about 2 and half hour. Nuwara Eliya is the highest town in Sri Lanka that is located 1868 meters (6,128 FT) above mean sea level. Due to the high elevation, Nuwara Eliya has the coolest climate of the country. The average climate between 19 Celsius to 21 Celsius ( 66F – 70F). Nuwara Eliya means “The City of Lights” and this little town is well known as “Little England” & “The Kingdom of Ceylon tea” where the world’s finest Ceylon tea is cultivated. The drive to Nuwara Eliya is pretty amazing and well known as one of most scenic routes to drive in. The road to the hill station is curvy you will be amazed by the views besides the road. The drive is through the lush tea plantations with steep grounds, natural water falls & man made reservoirs can be seen in distance. The most highlight scenery is the lady tea pluckers in the tea plantations. This scenery has become one of most popular travel scenery in the world, especially on Instagram travel pages. You can make stops and you are allowed to meet this local lady tea pluckers. Make selfies with them and they will teach you how to pluck the best tea leaves out from the tea bushes. At the same time you have an opportunity to visit a tea factory to get a unique experience of Ceylon tea production. You will see how the tea comes to your cup from the plantation. Not only the process of tea production but you are free to taste world’s Number one quality tea without paying in this tea factory visit. After tasting the finest Ceylon tea, you may can buy this world’s best tea from the outlet of the tea factory. It is a perfect gift for your family, friends and your loved ones when you are back in home.
Once you reach Nuwara Eliya , there are few sites to visit;
- Lake Gregory
- The Unique Styled Post Office in Nuwara Eliya
- The Hill Club
- Victoria Park
- The Holy Trinity Church
- Sita Amman Hindu Temple in Sita Eliya
- Have a nice walk in the Nuwara Eliya town in the late afternoon while experiencing street food
Your fifth night is in Little England- Nuwara Eliya where you can relax & unwind with cool climate while experiencing a touch of British Colonial era. You can stay at a Colonial Cottage or Bungalow that goes back to early 19th Century. Also budget home stays to five star luxury hotels are available in this tiny hill station.
The Scenic Train Journey to Little Paradise in UVA Province “Ella”
On your sixth day, early morning you are transferred to Nanu Oya Train station for the country’s most scenic train ride – Nuwara Eliya to Ella’. This is an absolutely beautiful 2 hour train journey to another famous hill station in UVA Province “Ella”.
Ella is a small scenic town in Badulla District and it is approximately 200 kilometers east of Colombo and is situated at an elevation of 1,041 meters above sea level. The area has a rich bio-diversity, dense with numerous varieties of flora and fauna. Also a top popular tourist hub with full of beautiful sightseeing. The ideal place to relax while some beautiful trekking and sightseeing. Ella has become a must visit tourist destination in Sri Lanka as it is a perfect middle way hub for tourists during their exploration of the country. Especially this little town is a major hot spot for back pack travelers who are traveling via trains from Nuwara Eliya to other parts of the country such as Arugam Bay Surfing point, southern beaches, Yala National park, Udawalawe National Park and also to connect to Colombo. In Ella, there are plenty of accommodation options are available for all kind of travelers. But the most are BnB home stays and guest houses that cater budget travelers. Few five and four star resorts and villas also available for travelers who are seeking a luxurious stay. Ella has great views and also you can move with the locals a lot.
Things to do in Ella;
- Climb Little Adams Peak Mountain
- Nine Arches Bridge
- Dining at the famous “Café Chill”
- Walk in the Ella town center
- Nature trails
- Ravana Caves
The Beach call of Negombo
On your seventh day, the last day of your vacation in Sri Lanka, you will be traveling to the sandy beaches of the Western Coast, Famous tourist hotspot – “Negombo”. The drive from Ella to Negombo is approximately five hours. Better you leave from Ella after an early breakfast. The scenic road towards the famous Ella – Wellawaya Road. Just after the Ella Town, you will witness the milky Ravana Waterfall on your right side that is falling from the hills of Ella. The views on your left side will make you speechless. Once you reach to Wellawaya village, you will spot the rice, vegetable and fruit fields beside the road.
The trip will be connected to the Southern Express way (E 01) from the entrance of Mattala village. Drive up to your next stop on the way to Negombo is the famous “Galle”. In Galle, you will explore the UNESCO World Heritage site “Galle Dutch Fort”. Galle Dutch Fort An ancient city which is now a modern and buzzing town today. It was the most important sea port way back in history, where the sea faring merchants arrived to trade and barter. This is also where the Portuguese first set foot in the year 1505 and built a fortress, which was later captured and fortified by the Dutch 1640. The fortress is one of the best preserved in the island. A visit to the fortress and to watch the sunset from the rampart is an experience unforgettable. The oldest Protestant church in the country called the ‘Groote Kirk’ built by the Dutch is located inside the Fort. It is situated close to New Oriental Hotel also built by them as the Governor’s Residence in 1684.
From Galle to your final destination in Sri Lanka- Negombo is about 2 hour drive via the Southern Highway. You will reach Negombo in the late afternoon. Negombo is a perfect beach getaway with pristine sandy beaches and not far away from the Colombo International Airport. It is just a 20 minutes drive. So Negombo is a perfect to rest and take a break from the round tour of Sri Lanka before you fly back home.
Negombo is a famous tourist destination in Sri Lanka with dozens of beach restaurants, pubs, cafes as well as all kind of accommodation options are available along the beach. You can stay either super luxury five star beach resort or a budget home stay in this area. This city is an ideal and liberal place with luxury, tropical life style, for those who want quick access to and from the country’s main international airport and also to Colombo city. The 100 km long canal network running through the city is still used, and outrigger canoes and modern water-craft ply this route daily, for trade and tourist purposes. Remnants of colonization include the Dutch fort built in 1672, as well as centuries-old Portuguese and Dutch houses, Administrative buildings, Churches and the ceiling frescoes of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Negombo is also home to the country’s second-largest fish market, also locally famous as being called the “Lellama (Lel-La-Ma)”, at the north end of the town’s lagoon. There are daily fish auctions, which give tourists a chance to meet the area’s fishermen, buy fish and even organize fishing trips into the lagoon and the ocean beyond.
Things you can do in Negombo;
- Dutch Canal Boat Trip
- Visit the Negombo fish market
- Visit the Fishing Harbor
- Try fresh sea food in a good restaurant.