Sri Lanka, a small island-country located in the Sea of Bengal, is a popular destination for travellers because of its historical World Heritage Sites and breathtaking natural landscapes. One of my best friends from university is Sri Lankan and I have been meaning to visit her for years. Finally spending two weeks in Sri Lanka was a travel dream come true for me!
Sri Lanka is the convergence of religion, history and nature, forming this beautiful country that has many secrets waiting for you to discover.
While it is impossible to explore every tourist attraction in Sri Lanka in two weeks, this Sri Lanka two-week itinerary will give you a detailed day-by-day breakdown with suggestion on what to do, where to stay, what to see and more.
- 1 How to spend two weeks in Sri Lanka
- 1.1 Day 1: Arrive in Colombo
- 1.2 Day 2: Explore Colombo
- 1.3 Day 3: On to Dambulla & Sigiriya
- 1.4 Day 4: Visit Dambulla Rock Cave & Polonnaruwa
- 1.5 Day 5: Travel to Kandy
- 1.6 Day 6: Ride the train from Kandy to Ella
- 1.7 Day 7: Hiking in Ella
- 1.8 Day 8: Waterfall chasing in Ella
- 1.9 Day 9: Udawalawe National Park elephant safari
- 1.10 Day 10 – 12: Mirissa & Weligama
- 1.11 Day 13: Unawatuna & Galle
- 1.12 Day 14: Back to Colombo & fly out
- 2 Essential info for two-weeks in Sri Lanka
- 3 What to pack for two-weeks in Sri Lanka
- 4 Where to stay in Sri Lanka
How to spend two weeks in Sri Lanka
Two weeks in Sri Lanka sounds like such a short time to uncover all the beauty this country has to offer. But if spent wisely, it will be enough to enjoy this stunning island. This Sri Lanka two-week itinerary is based on my own experience and trip to Sri Lanka.
Day 1: Arrive in Colombo
After your long flight, you will want to chill and relax for your first day. But you can still do some non-strenuous activities while relaxing, like walking around and exploring the colonial buildings. When we were there, we stayed at Jetwing Colombo Seven. It had a very good rooftop pool that was perfect for chilling after the long flight.
Day 2: Explore Colombo
A lot of people often overlook Colombo in favour of exploring more of Sri Lanka, and while I wouldn’t spend too long there a full day there will give you enough time to enjoy the Sri Lankan capital.
You can start your day in Colombo by going to the Red Mosque. The Red Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo and is a popular tourist destination. The main feature of this mosque, aside from being a historic place of worship, is its distinguishable red colour. It is painted red and white – almost like a candy cane. From the outside, it looks like one of those fancy castles in the game of Wreck-It-Ralph.
Just a few streets across from the Red Mosque are the street markets of Pettah. You could wander around these street markets for hours, buying about almost anything that they offer in Sri Lanka. It is also a food paradise for all those foodies out there.
Day 3: On to Dambulla & Sigiriya
From Colombo it is a four-hour drive to Sigiriya, so you want to set off nice and early on day 3. Sigiriya is when you get a little bit farther away from the city and a bit closer to the nature of Sri Lanka. It is an ancient rock fortress located near the town of Dambulla in Central Province, Sri Lanka. You will be spending the next two days exploring Sigiriya and Dambulla.
Sigiriya is a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters (660ft) high and is a site of historical and archaeological value, it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. For 1,500 LKR, you can do a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) tour around the base of Sigiriya. You can’t do it by car as the roads are small and most of them are dirt tracks, so jump on a tuk-tuk and experience driving in Sri Lanka like the locals!
It’s a pretty cool experience as you drive around all over the base and see both Sigiriya and Pidurangala rock (a rock that you can climb to see Sigiriya) from different angles. Finish your tuk-tuk tour by disembarking at the Pidurangala rock, where you can hike for sunset. Once you get on top, you can see the massive rock column that is Sigiriya against the setting sky.
The Pidurangla hike is around 30 to 45 minutes. It is a fairly easy hike from start to finish, with just a short section of climbing over rocks required at the end. Aside from Sigiriya, there are stunning 360 views of all the surrounding countryside. Entry to Pidurangala costs around 3 USD, much less than the 30 USD than they charge for entry at Sigiriya! The view from Pidurangala is actually better as Sigiriya is more iconic, so we decided to save ourselves some money and only hiked Pidurangala.
In Dambulla, we stayed at the New Peacock Resort Hotel. It was pretty basic and simple – nothing fancy – but it was cheap and we absolutely loved the breakfast and dinner they served us.
Day 4: Visit Dambulla Rock Cave & Polonnaruwa
For Day 4, start the day at the Dambulla Royal Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. It is a temple built inside the rock with hundreds and hundreds of golden Buddhas.
It was a pretty amazing sight as it’s incredible to think that all these Buddhas were made and placed here since the first century BCE. In 1991, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once you’re done with the temples of Dambulla, get ready to drive 1.5 hours to Polonnaruwa, one of the ancient cities of Sri Lanka.
It’s pretty interesting to view this architectural piece of history and the details that make the city. The ruins are in pretty good condition so there is no need to worry about accidents (none have been heard of, so far). It was also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Golden Temple of Dambulla.
When you arrive at the visitor centre you can get a guide for 1,500 LKR to tour you around this ancient city. The visitor centre also has a small museum where you can learn about Polonnaruwa and see a map of the ruins before venturing out in the city itself.
Day 5: Travel to Kandy
You might be a bit knackered by yesterdays driving but bear with me a little longer, as the drive from Dambulla to Kandy can take 3+ hours depending on traffic.
Exploring Kandy will include exploring the Temple of the Tooth – a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple of the Tooth is located in the palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which holds the politically-significant relic of the tooth of Buddha.
From the Temple of the Tooth, visit the Kandy Lake, which boasts clear and still waters amongst beautiful and relaxing scenery. Not far from Kandy Lake is the Kandy Market, popular for selling a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
If by now you’re like me and need a break from the heat you can relax at the Theva Residency, a serene resort in the city of Kandy. We spent one night here and loved relaxing on poolside while enjoying the view over the hills.
Day 6: Ride the train from Kandy to Ella
Wake up early for Day 6 and start your train ride from Kandy to the small laid-back town of Ella. The train ride usually takes six to seven hours. Make sure to reserve a ticket on Day 5 or you might have to stand for the entire ride! It will be slightly more expensive, but it definitely is worth it. Trust me, you do not want to stand for a seven-hour long train ride.
Third class reserved is much better than second class not reserved. Additionally, you will be placed in the back of the carriage so you have all the opportunity to take cool shots out of the windows with all the train carriages snaking behind you.
There isn’t an official Sri Lankan rail travel website where you can book your ticket but you can purchase one online at 12goAsia. Don’t worry if it shows as sold out on your desired date, this isn’t actually the case. The sold out is only referred to the tickets available on 12goAsia, you can still buy them at the station or through a Sri Lankan agency (ask your hotel for a contact, they should be able to help).
During the train journey street food vendors will come onboard selling their homemade samosas, rotis and water. However, just to be sure, it is advisable to bring your own snacks in case you don’t like any of the food of the food vendors or there are none when you get hungry.
Finish the day by sleeping at Hangover Hostel, a cool and friendly hostel which is only a short five-minute walk from the Ella train station. Hangover Hostels is also close to the Main Street in Ella where you can find plenty of food choices and book onwards travel for the following days. Rest early as you will have an early day tomorrow.
Day 7: Hiking in Ella
Wake up early on day 7 and get ready for a 4:30 AM sunrise hike to Little Adam’s Peak. Make sure you bring water and snacks!
The hike is only about 30 to 40 minutes. It is easy terrain and the whole trail is littered with signs; it is fairly easy to navigate your way around.
The view on top is absolutely breathtaking. It is a stunning 360-degree view of the neighbouring mountains. The mountain peaks are quite high which means the sky will lighten before the sun actually peaks over the mountaintops. This makes the trekking even easier as there is enough light to see where you’re treading.
From Little Adam’s Peak, it’s super easy to get to Nine Arch Bridge. There are signs that will point you there and it’s a direct hike instead of going back to Ella and then round the other side. I recommend going straight away before the day heats up and it will be much less crowded. Plus, who doesn’t want to go and visit the Bridge of the Sky that is Nine Arch Bridge?
If you go during the day, there will be tons of other people and it will get too hot to be walking under the sun. The hike to get to Nine Arch Bridge from Little Adams Peak is another 40 minutes or so, and you will arrive at it from a beautiful viewpoint as opposed to from the train tracks.
After hiking and seeing the beauty of the Bridge of the Sky, just follow the train tracks until you get back to the Ella train station. Just be aware that this is a functional railway so the train might come at some point! If it does, just walk off the track in the surrounding grass. You’ll be able to hear it coming.
When you get back to Ella, you are bound to be tired from all the hiking that you have done. Get some food at one of the many cool restaurants in town and chill for a bit. By this point you will have done two epic hikes and it’s not even lunch time!
You can spend the hottest hours of the day relaxing and cooling down at the pool of Mountain Heavens. Even if you are not a guest, you can use the pool for 550 LKR per hour. We stayed longer than one hour and nobody complained or approach us to ask for more money.
If you’re game for a third hike, from Mountain Heavens, you are already on the way to Ella Rock. You will want to wait for it to get a little bit cooler before you start your hike, but make sure you don’t start too late as you might miss the sunset or end up walking in the dark. It is a three to four-hour round trip hike. We set off our hike at 3PM.
The hike is challenging but very rewarding in the end. Most of the difficulty lies in the fact the route isn’t marked very well and it is quite difficult to navigate. In terms of terrain it’s a fairly easy hike until the final section, which is quite steep. Reaching the peak is very satisfying. The peak of Ella Rock is high enough that you can see the clouds kissing the tops of the mountains.
The way back took less than the hike up and we got to Ella in time for an early dinner. You can enjoy a kottu for dinner and then hit the hay early, as you’ll probably be tired from all of this hiking. Kottu is a special type of Sri Lankan roti savory dish.
You can easily do this day and these activities alone, however if you prefer to have a guide you can visit Little Adams Peak, Nine Arch Bridge and Ella Rock all together in a Ella 3 Icons one day tour.
Day 8: Waterfall chasing in Ella
Start Day 8 by renting a car with driver for the day to take you to Diyaluma and Ravana Falls. This will cost you 7,000 LKR. There are a lot of car in the streets of Ella. You can arrange it directly with the drivers there on the day and set off at 9:30AM.
Diyaluma Falls is about one and a half-hour drive away. I was actually quite afraid that it will be a lengthy trip just for an “insta-spot” but it actually ended up being one of my favourite days in my two weeks in Sri Lanka.
The driver will ask you if you want to do the one and a half-hour hike from the bottom to top of the waterfall or the shorter 20 minute one. We ended up taking the shorter route.
When you get there, you can try hiking alone, but the trail isn’t marked at all so it will be very difficult for you to navigate your way. At the parking area is a small shack that sells water and snacks. There we found a guide for 2,000 LKR.
The first place we went to was actually the final pool, just by the 220-meter drop. There are three small rock pools in total that you can swim in and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the views are absolutely insane!
From there, we made our way back up the river and to three more waterfalls and swimming spots. The first one we chose not to swim in and just enjoyed the views. The second one has a seven-meter jump right next to the waterfall that you can dive from into the pool below. The final one is a very tiny waterfall that has a small rock slide where you can let the water slide you down and into the pool. It’s basically a natural waterpark!
On the way back, we stopped at the Ravana Falls but didn’t get the chance to swim as it was getting quite late. They’re beautiful but after Diyaluma were fairly uneventful.
Day 9: Udawalawe National Park elephant safari
There’s lots of driving planned for Day 9 so make sure to get a good driver! We negotiated with the same driver that took us to Diyaluma the day before and he charged us 11,000 LKR for a drive from Ella to Mirissa, with a three-hour stop to Udawalawe where we did a safari. We set off early at 5AM for the morning safari. The total drive was four to five hours.
The safari starts at 7AM. We paid 3,000 LKR for a private jeep, which I can highly recommended as you can seat hop so you are always in the shade and you can get closer to the animals. Entry to the national park changes depending on the number of people you have in the jeep. We paid around 8,000 LKR for two heads.
Prepare yourself as you will see lots of animals during this safari. There are also crocodiles, pumbas and buffalos during the trip. We saw so many elephants we soon lost count, with the first one showing itself before we had even entered the park gates!
We arrived in Mirissa by lunch and spent the rest of the day relaxing by the beach. We loved Hangover Hostels in Ella so much that we stayed at the Hangover Hostel in Mirissa for the next few nights. It has a cool rooftop lounge area with seafront view and very nice, clean rooms with very good AC.
Day 10 – 12: Mirissa & Weligama
After the cultural and action packed itinerary you’ve had so far you’ve deserved to spend the next three days of your trip by relaxing and enjoying the beautiful beach in Mirissa. White sand, blue clear skies and swaying palm trees – it is a nature paradise.
The next three days of your two-week in Sri Lanka itinerary will be relaxing but not boring, as Mirissa offers a wide variety of things to do. It’s one of the best places to stay along the South Coast as there are lots of shops and good-quality restaurants along the beach. Mirissa also offers a fun nightlife; every night there is a party scheduled at a different beach bar, just look out for the light beam (you’ll easily see it from the beach) as that is where the party will be!
In terms of surfing, however, Weligama is a better option. The waves are just more cooperative in Weligama than in Mirissa. I recommend you stay in Mirissa and take a tuk-tuk to Weligama if you ever want to surf around. The tuk-tuk ride will cost you 300 LKR and you can rent a surf board in Weligama for 200 LKR for one hour. Most of the surf schools have sunbeds and cabanas you can use for free if you surf there. Weligama has some of the easiest waves I’ve ever surfed, they’re long and slow and perfect for beginners.
You can also do some snorkelling with turtles in Mirissa for 1,500 LKR. We organized it with a stall on the beach and they came to pick us up by tuk-tuk the following morning to take us to a turtle beach 15-minutes away. I thought we’d have to sail for hours to see them but they are actually super easy to spot as they are close to the shore where the water is very shallow.
In Mirissa there is also a famous sunset viewing spot. A short 15-minute walk along the beach will take you to coconut hill, where you can enjoy the sunset framed against the slender palm trees.
Day 13: Unawatuna & Galle
The drive from Mirissa / Weligama to Galle is around one and a half hours. We spent most of the morning by wandering around Galle Fort, where there are lots of nice shops and restaurants. The colonial architecture is also very unique and Galle had a chill vibe that none of the other Sri Lankan cities we visited had.
After walking around in the heat we then went Dallawella Beach in Unawatuna to relax and cool down. Here you’ll find the famous palm tree swing where you can snap that perfect instagram photo at sunset. Unawatuna has a similar beach set up to Mirissa with lots of bars and restaurants along the beach, the perfect place to enjoy your last evening in Sri Lanka.
Day 14: Back to Colombo & fly out
Day 14, and you finally made it! It is now the last day of your Sri Lanka two-week itinerary. Depending on what time your flight is you can spend the day relaxing by the beach until it’s time to fly out.
I wouldn’t spend any more time in Colombo so just drive straight to the airport from Unawatuna for two hours. We paid 9,000 LKR for this drive.
Essential info for two-weeks in Sri Lanka
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Sri Lanka two-week itinerary! I’ve listed below some important information that you should know before your Sri Lankan trip.
The local currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). At time of visit the exchange rate was around 1 USD = 176.85 LKR. You can check out the latest exchange rate here.
Sri Lankan cuisine is very similar to its neighbouring country, India. The majority of food is rice and curry, with different types of spices added to the curries or a different main emat. You can find rottis and samosas almost everywhere as a sort of street food on-the-go. My personal favourite dish in Sri Lanka was the Kottu, a special type of rotti tossed with sauce, vegetables and chicken.
Public transport in Sri Lanka is fairly good. Buses and trains go around almost everywhere but are just a bit slow, you might also have to change buses or trains if they don’t run direct.
You can also get private cars with a driver for reasonable prices. If you keep your driver for more than one day, do not worry, as a lot of hotels provide driver accommodation. We were quoted 50 USD a day for a car with driver for one week. You can rent a private car for your time in Sri Lanka here.
For short distances, get a tuk-tuk instead of renting a car!
What to pack for two-weeks in Sri Lanka
The following are must-haves to bring for your trip to Sri Lanka.
- Fast drying towel: If you’ve read any of my packing lists you know I carry one of these everywhere I go. Whether it’s to use in a hostel that doesn’t provide towels or to take to on a day at the beach, lake or waterfalls I love these. They dry quickly, take up very little space and get the job done.
- Temple and heat-appropriate clothing, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts made out of breathable fabrics.
- Power bank, as there are a lot of power cuts during the day in some towns in Sri Lanka!
- Sunscreen to combat the sun.
Where to stay in Sri Lanka
During our two weeks in Sri Lanka we stayed at a variety of different types of accommodation, ranging from hostels to luxury boutique hotels (all about that balance). The ones I can recommend are the following.
- Hangover Hostels: We stayed at the Hangover Hostel in Ella and loved it so much that we ended up changing our plans and staying at the Hangover Hostel in Mirissa too. Both were clean, had good-sized lockers and have a very friendly sociable atmosphere for backpackers.
- Jet Wing Colombo Seven: This was the first hotel we stayed at and after a long flight, it was exactly what we needed. The rooftop pool was also the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the views after wandering around in the heat of Colombo.
- Theva Residency: After spending a few days hiking and exploring the inland areas of Sri Lanka like Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa we absolutely loved staying at the Theva Residency. It was the perfect place to escape the heat and relax on poolside, with beautiful views over the hills of Kandy. The food was all amazing as well.
- Hotel Tri: We ended our two weeks in Sri Lanka with 2 nights at Tri Lanka and it was the perfect ending to an incredible trip. After staying in hotels for the previous week and having some very action packed days, it was the perfect place to unwind and relax, while pampered by the friendly staff.
Have you been to Sri Lanka before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! This was a two-week comprehensive travel guide on how to spend your two weeks in Sri Lanka wisely, based on my own two-week trip to Sri Lanka.
With UNESCO World Heritage Sites, pieces of history and religion alongside breathtaking beaches, your two weeks in Sri Lanka is bound to be worth every single minute.
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