Planning your trip to Sri Lanka can be a little overwhelming, with so much to see and to do. The island is huge, and you will have to be selective – I had two weeks there and ended up choosing the most popular spots to travel to. In this Sri Lanka travel guide you’ll find everything you need to know to take the most out of your trip!
#1 Getting there
You’ll probably land in Negombo International Airport. You will need a visa, which costs 35$ and takes 24h to process – you can request the visa online, it’s cheaper than at the airport and you won’t have to wait in the queue. You’ll also need to print your return flight ticket, to prove that you’re actually leaving the country.
Negombo is 20 minutes away from Colombo city center, where you can catch a train to other cities in Sri Lanka. However, at the time we arrived there were no more trains (6pm) going to Kandy, so we ended up paying a private driver we met at the airport. We paid 7.000 rupees (35€) to go to Kandy (a 3-hour trip).
#2 Know the basics
- The currency is Sri Lankan Rupee
- Many people speak English
- The best time to do our itinerary is between October and March (we went in March)
- The easiest way to travel between cities is by train or by private driver – just be sure to negotiate the price
- Be careful about what you eat and always drink bottled water
- People are very friendly, but be mindful walking alone at night, especially if you are a female
- Don’t visit the Elephant Orphanages, don’t support animal abuse!
- Don’t leave ANY trash ANYWHERE
First stop: Kandy
Kandy is one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka. We stayed there for 2 nights and got to go on a day-trip to Sigiryia and also visited a spice market, the big Buddha temple and got to see some amazing view of the river in Kandy. It’s a nice city, but I wouldn’t spend more than 2 days there.
Second stop: Nwuara Eliya
Nwuara Eliya is the tea production center and it’s beautiful! Wish lush green tea terraces, high mountains and colonial architecture, you should definitely spend a night there. We got the train from Kandy to Nwuara Eliya (about 4 hours) and spent an amazing afternoon with our amazing guide Sameera who we happened to meet outside a restaurant (you can contact him here).
Third stop: Ella
We got the same train to Ella (about 3 hours). Ella is definitely more touristy (I must say it was great to finally eat some non-spicy food and see some shops after 4 days!) – it has a lot of hiking trails and waterfalls to visit.
We spent three nights here, although I think two would be great, unless you really want to do the most hardcore hikes and waterfall climbs (we aren’t very experienced, so we sticked to the easier ones). We hiked Little Adam’s Peak – a 2h hike – it’s supposed to be the easiest one, so I can’t imagine the others! Although challenging, it felt great at the end to stand on top of the mountain, just appreciating the lush green and the sounds of nature. The greatest thing was that there was almost no one there – most tourists quit halfway because it’s too hard.
We also went to Diyaluma Falls, but we didn’t bath because the pool was not so big and it was already full of people (mostly locals). Also, the water was pretty cold and it started to rain!
Then, we visited Nine Arches Bridge – a beautiful bridge that reminded me so much of Harry Potter movies (the British built that bridge). It’s great for photos!
Finally, to relax and to relieve the muscle pain from hiking, we had a beautiful massage at 98 Acres Resort and Spa.
Fourth stop: Yala National Park
Then, we took a private taxi to Yala, where we stayed in some villas in the middle of nowhere – Rice Rice Villas. We literally had nowhere to go, so we stayed by the pool all day, drinking beer, reading and swimming. After, we treated ourselves to an AMAZING Sri Lankan curry at the hotel – it was seriously the best one we had. So delicious.
On the next day we went on our Safari trip – it cost 12.000 rupees in total (that’s around 50€), so it was pretty cheap. However, we didn’t get to see many animals – I heard there are better parks in Sri Lanka.
Fifth stop: Mirissa
Now this was by far my favorite stop – Mirissa is a little surfing village on the south coast. It’s little, there’s not much to do, but the vibe is incredible. There are many backpackers and surfers living or traveling there, so you really do get to meet a lot of people.
We had so much fun at some parties in an amazing hostel, built within some ruins – The Doctor’s House. It also had amazing food – we really loved Shady Lane, a brunch spot with beautiful smoothie bowls and toasts.
We spent our four nights in Mirissa relaxing at the beach and eating and drinking in the evening. Swimming with the turtles on that clear blue water was one of my favorite activities (makes me want to cry just thinking about it). I also saw a turtle hatching eggs!
We went on a day trip to Unawatuna, where we tried the famous swing on the palm tree – a really fun and unforgettable experience! We also visited the Coconut Tree spot, which is beautiful – you just need to be careful about the coconuts!
Sri Lanka is an amazing country, with so much to do and see. The best part is that it’s not very touristy yet, so you’ll get to enjoy their authentic, untouched culture. I’m really sad that Sri Lanka had terrorist attacks, and I’m especially sad that this will affect tourism – I met a lot of friendly locals who rely on tourism to feed their families, and I felt hopeful for them because tourism in Sri Lanka was on the rise.
I really think everyone who enjoys traveling in Asia should go there – it’s a totally different experience. Just hit me up if you have any questions!