10 days in Sri Lanka - Itinerary From my Sri Lanka Holidays 2017

23rd Dec 2017
Photo of Sri Lanka by Soumi Datta
Photo of Sri Lanka by Soumi Datta
Photo of Sri Lanka by Soumi Datta
Photo of Sri Lanka by Soumi Datta

Let me begin by saying that 10 days is not even close to being enough to explore this stunning country! But if that is all the time you can afford to be out of office, then let us read this article to make the most of those time offs, shall we? Sri Lanka tourism has been booming and there is a good reason for it!

So when I made up my mind that I have to visit Sri Lanka, frankly I was starting with a blank slate, and did not have much idea about all that the country has to offer. Well, I knew Sri Lanka beaches are the best in the world and Sri Lanka tea is world famous. When I did more research I got to know there will be beautiful train journeys, elephants and a lot of history. But it is only when I got to actually framing my itinerary it hit me hard – Gosh! 10 days is too less!

Major FOMO caught up and sort of compelled me to build my Sri Lanka itinerary such that I get all the flavors in these 10 days. Which meant seeing the best of Sri Lanka while still letting our vacation be a vacation. We did not want to commit to doing too much and in the process, exerting ourselves and coming back home more tired than when we left off! Which also meant a lot of research. So I thought why not share the wisdom, and save you guys some of your valuable time! So here we go…

Day 1

Land in Colombo. Checkout some key tips and tricks here for some must do things before leaving the Colombo airport. Once you are ready, take your cab and drive to Sigiriya. It is a 3-4 hour drive. There is a good chance that you have landed at the airport early in the morning, so you would probably reach Sigiriya in the afternoon just in time for a late lunch. Oh, and if you feel hungry before, grab some snacks and bottled water on the way. What snacks to buy you ask? Sri Lanka has these amazing not-to-miss ginger biscuits! Oh and catch some sleep in the cab!

Once in the hotel, take an hour or two to have lunch and freshen yourselves up a bit. Head straight over to Minneriya National Park after that and make sure to reach maximum by 4 PM. You might feel tired, but I promise the herds of elephants drinking water from the breathtaking lake in the middle of the park will more than make up for it. It is peaceful beyond what my words can describe, so I will not even try. This should take you till about 6:30 PM and by 7 you can be back to your hotel for an early dinner. Not much goes on in the city after sunset. Make use of this to catch up on some sleep and invigorate yourself for a busy Day 2!

Day 2

Ready to climb 1200 stairs to reach the top of the Sigiriya rock? Well, don’t blame me – I told you to get good rest yesterday night! You will need all the energy you have today – so start with a carb heavy breakfast, before you start the climb. And brace yourselves to fight with some serious human traffic if your Day 2 happens to be on a weekend or a holiday. The trick here is to start as early as possible. Hating me already? Well don’t yet. I will give you enough reasons throughout the rest of the day J

If my estimations are right, you should be back from the rock by lunch time. Feel free to grab a small bite, because guess what, I am making you climb another 200 stairs to go checkout the Dambulla cave temple! Remember I told you I will give you enough reasons to hate me? This was a unique experience, to see so many idols of Gautam Buddha lined up within these small caves. On your way down from here, you might want to help yourself to some coconut water or some raw mangoes – it can get really hot during this time of the day in Sri Lanka.

I will leave the rest of the day to you to roam around and enjoy the small town vibe in Sri Lanka. But wait! Would strongly recommend you check out the sunset from the Habarana lake. I am still perplexed why this lake is NOT as commercialized, but that is what makes it really peaceful out here – the mud brick roads, some tourists taking an Elephant ride, the solitary boats parked somewhere on the shore – the serenity of this place is overpowering, and a welcome change from the crowded touristy places of Dambulla and Sigiriya Rock.

If you have a spare day after this, would be great to spend the day checking out the ruins of Pollonaruwa or Anuradhapura. We did not have that extra day, so we moved on to our next

destination – Kandy!

Day 3

The drive from Sigiriya to Kandy should take about 2-3 hours. The two major tourist attractions in Kandy are the Temple of Tooth Relic and the Kandy Botanical Garden. There is also the Big Buddha statue. We were not very enthusiastic about the Botanical Garden, so instead we took our time strolling around the Kandy lake, walking around the city, looking for some nice eating places instead, after we were done with the Temple of Tooth Relic. But I will let you take a call on how to spend the day in this city! Walking around the Kandy lake is a must. Some western tourists might also find a cultural program show in the evening interesting!

Day 4

Today you will be train traveling through some of the spectacular tea plantations, almost flying with the clouds to Ella or Nuwara Eliya. Keep an eye out for a lot of greenery, some waterfalls and some more majestic views of the tea plantation valleys on the way! Ella and Nuwara Eliya sort of have similar things to offer. Ella is more of a hippie small town, where as Nuwara Eliya is more of a family holiday kind of place. While I think including both in your Sri Lanka travel would be ideal, but we might have to stick to just 1 if we are restricted by a 10 day itinerary.

The train ride to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy takes about 4 hours and it is another 3 hours from there to Ella. I have loads of tips and tricks on what to do and what not during this train journey, but I will save those for another dedicated post. However, let me tell you here that we ended up going to Ella, because I am and will always be a small town girl!

It will probably be almost 4 PM by the time you reach Ella. So take some time to check into your hotel, freshen up a bit, before you head out to the city center for some dinner and just soak in the bohemian vibe of the place. Ella is a really small town and there is a good chance you will be able to cover everything on foot. Although, if you need there are ample Tuktuks available around.

Day 5

Does the stunning views of the green valleys around you give you that mushy feeling already? J Well, today might be another hiking day. So time to have a carb heavy breakfast again! My research tells me there are two main hikes in the town. One – Little Adam’s peak and two – the Ella Rock. Well the climb to Ella Rock is for the adventurous and takes about 6 hours in total. The climb to Little Adam’s Peak is relatively easier and for people like me. No points for guessing which one we chose!

On the way back from the Little Adam’s Peak, take a detour to check out the Nine Arches Bridge. If you time yourself well, you might even be able to see the train crossing by – gave me serious Harry Potter feels J Well, over here, I will refrain from sharing the train timings, because the truth is, on asking different sets of people we got different answers. Sometimes the Sri Lanka train is late as well, but there are a lot of local shops around and they should be able to help you with the next train to be crossing by.

You might have to go down some weird ways to reach the viewing point for the train. But don’t even think about coming back up. I would strongly recommend you go down to the rail tracks, click loads of pictures, and then walk along the rail tracks back to Ella. Sounds fun, right? It is a 40 minute walk, and should build up enough appetite for lunch, by the time you reach the city center.

The rest of the day is for you to relax and unwind, but I would recommend you visit the Halpwethatha Tea factory if you can. If not for the extra knowledge and demonstration of how tea is made, for the spectacular views from up there! This one is slightly far from the city and a Tuk Tuk should cost you around

Okay, enough hikes for one holiday. I promise, now on, it will just be beaches, good food, some sunlight and a lot of chilling!

Day 6

On our way to Mirissa today, we can have a quick pit stop at the Ravana Falls because it is right on the way. If you are visiting in summers, budget some time to take a dip into the Fairy Pools here. We however, were there in December, so we chose to start slightly late instead!

Let me take a moment here to specify that there are a couple of other beach towns you could choose to stay in – Weligama, Matara, Tangalle, Bentota. However, we chose Mirissa because not only it has one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka but also for its close proximity to whale watching. And boy! Are we not glad we did that! Actually our resort was in Matara which is 10 KM away from the main Mirissa beach town.

The drive from Ella to Mirissa should take you around 5 hours with a short lunch break in between. Spend today to just stroll around, probably grab some coconut water, have a few drinks in one of the many beachside shacks.

Day 7

Let us start the day with some whale watching, shall we? The tours will leave the shore at 7:30 AM sharp, so better be on time. Good thing is, they serve breakfast for you in the boats, so you can save some time there! You should have pre-booked tickets for this, especially in the busy seasons of Dec to March, or else everything might just be sold out. And trust me, you don’t want to miss out on those gorgeous Blue Whales diving into the ocean flaunting their tails high!

The whale watching tour gets you back to the shore by say 11. The rest of the day is for you to go into the water, soak in the sunlight, cool yourself with some coolers, and basically just do nothing! This has finally started to sound like a vacation, hasn’t it!

Day 8

Another day to relax and chill and have some nice Sri Lankan food, may be some ice cream later in the day. How does THAT make you feel? J Oh and make use of this time to do some snorkeling – you might be lucky enough to spot a turtle or swim with the fishes if you manage to hit the water by 9 AM!

Day 9

This day is for us to explore the Galle Fort. This is a residential fort along the beach. Gorgeous views of the lighthouse and the watchtower. You will also find some local handicrafts being sold inside the fort here and there. While roaming around, if you feel the need to rejuvenate yourself amongst the heat, try to unwind in one of the cute cafes!

The drive from Mirissa to Galle is around 2 hours and budget 3-4 more hours to explore the Galle fort. After that, head back directly from Galle to Colombo. I am guessing you should have checked into your hotel by 3 PM. If not, try to by starting early!

Well, there are definitely a few touristy things to do in Colombo. But mostly it is a city. You know what you should NOT miss out on while in the city? Some shopping at the ‘House of Fashion’. Well, I would not usually associate Sri Lanka with fashion, but this place is crazy. I found some amazing skirts for 500- 600 LKR. My husband got branded shirts (Van Heusen, Zara) for 1,900 LKR. Beat that?

Talking of shopping, don’t miss out checking out one of the many ‘Barefoot’ stores in the city. Well, it is a designer store and everything is priced pretty steep. But you don’t need to buy anything if you don’t want to – just stroll around to check out the marvelous pieces, each of which are eye candy to say the least! I have never seen a shop so colorful. You could also while away some time in their cute café. God, this place just had me! Not the best food, but the vibes?

If you have some more time at hand, try to check out the Galle Green Face. Don’t let the name fool you, it is in Colombo and not in Galle. It is somewhat like Juhu beach with a lot of street vendors selling Sri Lankan snacks and food, and bustling with people, both tourists and locals whiling their time away!

Day 10

Well, every good thing comes to an end. If your flight is slightly late in the day, you could let some of the activities from previous night spill into today. Because let’s be honest here. I DID make last night pretty tight for you, didn’t I?

If you have an early flight on the contrary, just reflect on all the memories you created. And I am sure you will be left wishing the trip did not have to end so soon. But hey, never too soon to plan your next trip already!

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