Twelve days allows you time to visit six to seven destinations if you keep pace. First-timers can hit the highlights, like Sigiriya, on a nature, culture, and architecture-focused trip. Families and couples will find bonding activities, such as stargazing in Kalkudah, on a summer tour. At the same time, wildlife enthusiasts and high-end travelers will enjoy the safaris and elevated experiences on a luxury getaway. Those that want to spend time surfing or learning to surf can stick to the coast on a "big wave" focused itinerary.

Itinerary #1: Sri Lanka Nature, Culture & Architecture

With a balance of cultural experiences, outdoor activities, and historic sites, this itinerary is ideal for travelers visiting Sri Lanka for the first time. You'll have a chance to hit the highlights, including the ruins of Sigiriya, a train ride through Hill Country, and a walking tour in Galle, in addition to some unique experiences, such as a mask-making workshop. 

Visit cultural sites in Sri Lanka
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Tour Negombo, Transfer to Sigiriya & Stop in Kajugama Sigiriya
Day 3 Tour Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Visit Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy, Matale Spice Garden & Temple of the Tooth  Kandy
Day 5 Transfer to Ella, Visit Historic Nazareth Chapel Ella
Day 6 Train Ride Over Nine Arch Bridge, Zipline Tour Ella
Day 7 Transfer to Tangalle, Hike to Diyaluma Falls Tangalle
Day 8 Tour Mulkirigala Rock Temple, Visit Sea Turtle Hatchery Tangalle
Day 9 Transfer to Galle, Visit Japanese Peace Pagoda Galle
Day 10 Sri Lankan Mask Carving Workshop, Visit Galle's Dutch Fort Galle
Day 11 Transfer to Colombo, Architecture Tour Colombo
Day 12 Depart Colombo  

Start with a tour of Negombo and the surrounding area, where you'll see Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences as well as the local culture at the forts, temples, fishing villages, and churches. Head for Sigiriya on Day 2, stopping in Kajugama to taste cashews and chat with the villagers. Climb 1,200 steps to the rock fortress and former palace of Sigiriya, where you'll wander the ruins and enjoy panoramic views. Then, continue to Polonnaruwa to see the palaces, shrines, and statues around Parakrama Samudra. On Day 4, travel to Kandy, the cultural capital, with a stop at Dambulla to explore the cave temple complex.

Tour Kandy's Royal Palace and learn about Sri Lankan gastronomy at the National Spice Garden in Matale. Continue to Ella, where you'll take a scenic train through Hill Country and over the Nine Arches Bridge. Drive to Tangalle, with a stop to swim at Diyaluma Falls. Next, hike to the white stupa at Mulkirigala, then visit the Rekawa Turtle Watch hatchery. Head to Galle on Day 9 for a mask-making workshop, a walking tour of the sites, and a visit to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Enjoy an architecture tour en route to Colombo on your final day, then do some souvenir shopping before departure. Learn more 

Itinerary #2: Sri Lanka Summer Tour

Adventurous travelers will appreciate the variety of engaging and exciting activities, such as a zipline excursion in Ella and a safari in Minneriya National Park, on this summer tour of Sri Lanka. It's also a great option for couples to enjoy romantic experiences, including stargazing and relaxing on the beach in Kalkudah and stunning views (with plenty of photo ops!) at Ambuluwawa Tower and Little Adam's Peak.  

Enjoy mountain views from Adam's Peak on a summer trip to Sri Lanka
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Optional Activities Colombo
Day 2 Transfer to Kandy, Tour the Sacred City Kandy
Day 3 Tower of Ambuluwawa & the Three Temple Loop Kandy
Day 4 Train to Ella & Nine Arches Bridge Ella
Day 5 Day Trip to Ravana Falls, Hike Little Adam's Peak & Zipline Ella
Day 6 Transfer to Kalkudah, Stargazing Experience Kalkudah
Days 7-8 Free Days in Kalkudah Kalkudah
Day 9 Transfer to Dambulla, Polonnaruwa & Cave Temples Dambulla
Day 10 Safari at Minneriya National Park Dambulla
Day 11 Transfer to Negombo, Sigiriya Rock Fortress Negombo
Day 12 Transfer to Colombo & Depart  

Visit some of Colombo's sites, including the Gangaramaya Buddhist temple and the Jami Ul-Alfar mosque, via tuk-tuk. On Day 2, head to Kandy, where you'll take a walking tour with stops, including the Royal Palace and Sri Dalada Maligwa ("Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic"). Climb the spiral staircase of Ambuluwawa Tower, then visit significant spiritual sites on the Three Temple Loop. On Day 4, take the train to Ella through lush Hill Country and over the Nine Arches Bridge. Visit Ravana Falls, then hike Little Adam's Peak and snap some photos from the lookout points before soaring over the tea estates on a zipline excursion. 

Travel to coastal Kalkudah and enjoy a stargazing experience in this serene place. Spend a couple of days relaxing at the beach; if you love coconuts, check out the nearby Coconut Cultural Park, where you can sample coconut products. On Day 9, explore the ruins of Polonnaruwa and marvel at the murals and statues of the Dambulla cave temple complex. Take a 4WD safari in Minneriya National Park, where you might spot Asian elephants, Sri Lankan leopards, langur monkeys, and more. End on a high note as you pass through Sigiriya's rock-carved lion paws and climb 1,200 steps to the stunning fortress ruins. Learn more 

Plan your trip to Sri Lanka
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Itinerary #3: Sri Lanka Luxury Getaway

The private tours and Champagne breakfasts on this luxury getaway suit travelers looking for an elevated experience. With safari excursions in Nuwara Eliya and Yala National Park, as well as tours and tastings at tea estates, this itinerary is also great for tea lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Stroll the beaches of Tangalle


Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Explore the Commercial Capital Colombo
Day 2 Private Transfer to Sigiriya, Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress Sigiriya
Day 3 Champagne Breakfast at the Hotel, Discover Ancient Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 4 Private Transfer to Kandy via the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex
Day 5 Discover Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 6 Private Transfer to Nuwara Eliya, Tour a Sri Lankan Tea Plantation Nuwara Eliya
Day 7 Wildlife Spotting in Horton Plains National Park, High Tea in the Evening Nuwara Eliya
Day 8 Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate, Private Transfer to Yala Yala
Day 9 Yala National Park Jeep Safari Yala
Day 10 Private Transfer to Tangalle via Galle Dutch Fort Tangalle
Day 11 Champagne Breakfast at the Hotel, Relax on Tangalle's Beaches Tangalle
Day 12 Private Transfer to Colombo & Depart  

Ease into your journey with free time in Colombo to explore the markets or indulge in a spa treatment before sitting down to a Sri Lankan feast. Your private driver will take you to Sigiriya, where you'll climb the 1,200 steps to find frescoes, fountains, and dramatic views from the fortress. Start Day 3 with a Champagne breakfast, then take a private tour to Polonnaruwa to see the heritage sites, including the Gal Vihara temple complex, in the former capital. Check out the murals in the Dambulla cave temple complex en route to Kandy on Day 4, then visit the Royal Palace on Lake Kandy, followed by a cultural show.  

Stop by a tea plantation in Giragama for a tour and tasting, then continue to Nuwara Eliya, where you can enjoy a cooler highland climate, colorful gardens, and an old-world vibe. Watch for wildlife, including elk and leopards, in the forests and grasslands of Horton Plains National Park. On Day 8, check out sweeping vistas of the tea estates from Lipton's Seat before heading for Yala National Park, where you'll embark on a Jeep safari in search of Sri Lankan elephants. Spend your final days sunbathing on the beaches of Tangalle. Cap off the trip with a surf lesson or a private dolphin watching excursion. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Sri Lanka's Big Waves & Sandy Shores

Stick to the coast on this active itinerary meant for those who want to learn to surf or work on their skills. It can be tweaked to accommodate all levels, from beginner to expert. The trip also includes a few dry land options, such as elephant spotting in Lahugala National Park and experiencing nightlife in Arugam Bay. 

Enjoy a sunrise surf session
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Galle & Peace Pagoda Galle
Day 2 Transfer to Arugam Bay, Optional Activities Arugam Bay
Day 3 Surfing Arugam Bay Arugam Bay
Day 4 Surfing Whisky Point Arugam Bay
Day 5 Surfing Main Point Arugam Bay
Day 6 Surfing Pottuvil Point Arugam Bay
Day 7 Transfer to Weligama & Stilt Fishermen Weligama
Day 8 Weligama Surf Day 1 Weligama
Day 9 Weligama Surf Day 2 Weligama
Day 10 Weligama Surf Day 3 Weligama
Day 11 Weligama Surf Day 4 Weligama
Day 12 Transfer to Colombo & Depart  

Get acquainted with Galle on a walking tour followed by a hike to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Take a scenic ride past rainforests and rice paddies to Arugam Bay, one of the most famous surf destinations in the country. Spend a full day in the water—beginners can take a lesson, and experienced surfers can find their favorite break—then refuel with a seafood dinner. Take a break and go elephant spotting in Lahugala National Park and visit the ancient monastery of Kudimbigala. On Day 4, head north to Whisky Point, where you'll find more waves suited to beginners (larger swells are possible during storms). 

Day 5 is reserved for Main Point, another popular spot; beginners will want to stick to the "mini point" here. On Day 6, take a tuk-tuk to Pottuvil Point, a beautiful location between the Indian Ocean and a lagoon, where surfers of all levels can enjoy 2,624-foot (800 m) rides. Head for Weligama on Day 7, stopping to see the stilt fishermen and their unique traditional fishing method en route. Your remaining days in Sri Lanka are dedicated to surfing in Weligama. Plan to start early each day—the conditions tend to be calmer in the morning, and fewer people are in the water before 8 am. Learn more 

More Great 12-Day Sri Lanka Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other 12-day Sri Lanka itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 12 Days in Sri Lanka - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Sri Lanka - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas