In nine days, you can visit multiple regions and experience many cultural highlights of Sri Lanka. This includes trips to the famous Cultural Triangle of ancient Buddhist cities as well as highland tea plantations and the golden coast of the country's south. You can also include some wildlife spotting in national parks, hikes up rock temples, and cultural exchanges with local artisans.

Itinerary #1: Sri Lanka Highlights: Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Yala & Galle

This nine-day intro to Sri Lanka covers the major highlights, both manufactured and natural, from the temple fortress of Sigiriya to highland tea plantations and unspoiled national parks. 

The ancient rock fortress at Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka's highlights
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Sigiriya Sigiriya
Day 2 Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Explore Ancient Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 3 Transfer to Kandy, Visit the Temple of the Tooth & Matale Spice Garden  Kandy
Day 4 Scenic Train Journey to Ella Ella
Day 5 Explore Ella: Demodara Bridge, Little Adam's Peak & Tea Factory Tour Ella
Day 6 Transfer to Yala National Park, Search for Leopards on Safari Yala
Day 7 Transfer to Galle, Sunset at the Japanese Peace Pagoda Galle
Day 8 Explore Galle's Dutch Fort, Whale Watching Excursion Galle
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo & Depart  


From Sri Lanka's capital of Colombo, you'll travel north to Sigiriya. Before hiking up this ancient rock fortress (which dates to the 5th century CE), you can head to Minneriya National Park, the world's largest meeting place for Asian elephants. There are estimated to be upwards of 700. Then you'll continue south to the highlands and the city of Kandy, a cultural center of Sri Lanka and gateway to the tea plantations of Hill Country. Here you'll tour the 14th-century Royal Palace and the Temple of the Tooth, an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists with a relic of Buddha's left canine tooth. 

After a fragrant tour of the National Spice Garden, you'll take a train to Ella, in the heart of tea country. There are many highlights here, from visiting the Nine Arches Bridge (a marvel of colonial engineering) to hiking mountain peaks. Then take a Jeep safari through Yala National Park, which protects 278 sq miles (979 sq km) of tropical forest and savannas home to leopards, elephants, and crocodiles. A hike up to a pagoda built by Japanese Buddhists reveals incredible views out to the Indian Ocean, then you'll head to the Dutch colonial town of Galle to do some offshore whale watching. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Flavors of Sri Lanka

This nine-day culinary adventure through Sri Lanka includes browsing Colombo's markets, sampling Jaffna's spicy curries, enjoying tea at plantations in Ella, and devouring fresh seafood on the coast.

Enjoy a cup of tea in Ella
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Explore the City & Jaffna Dinner Colombo
Day 2 Transfer to Giritale via Dambulla Cave Temple Complex Giritale
Day 3 Rural Habarana Village Trail, Minneriya National Park Elephant Safari Giritale
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy via Sigiriya, Sacred Tooth Temple & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 5 Kandy Food Trail Kandy
Day 6 Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate Ella
Day 7 Transfer to the Beaches of Ahangama via Galle Dutch Fort  Ahangama
Day 8 Free Day at the Beach, Sri Lankan-Style Seafood Lunch Ahangama
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  


This gastronomic odyssey begins in Colombo. Visit the Pettah Market and stroll its open-air bazaars, where vendors sell everything from fresh produce to meat and seafood. Then travel to the northern tip of Sri Lanka and Jaffna, a city famous for its golden Hindu temples and curry powder at once spicy and aromatic with coriander, fennel, and cumin. Stop at food stalls and eat like a local on your way inland to Gritale, which is next to the ancient Buddhist city of Polonnaruwa, part of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. Here you'll explore cave temples dating to the 1st century BCE. 

Enjoy an elephant safari through Minneriya National Park on day three, plus take a bike ride through village backroads along rice paddies. Hike up to the fortress at Sigiriya, then continue south to Kandy for a food tour of the city that reveals the cuisine's Buddhist and Hindu influence, focusing heavily on vegetarian delights. Then you'll visit Ella to hike up to rocky viewpoints, visit romantic waterfalls, and enjoy a cup of world-class Ceylon on a tea estate. Eventually, you'll arrive at the palm-lined beaches in Unawatuna, where fresh seafood awaits. After a trip to colonial Galle, you'll return home. Learn more

Itinerary #3: Active Sri Lanka: Rivers, Mountains, Wildlife & Beaches

Strap on your hiking boots for a nine-day outdoor adventure in Sri Lanka that includes everything from trekking and safaris to snorkeling and rafting. 

If you're lucky, you might spot the rare Sri Lankan leopard
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Kitulgala Kitulgala
Day 2 Whitewater Rafting & Abseiling Adventure in Kitulgala Kitulgala
Day 3 Transfer to Ella, Horton Plains National Park Hike Ella
Day 4 Visit Ella's Nine Arch Bridge, Hike to Lipton's Seat Ella
Day 5 Climb to Little Adam's Peak, Transfer to Yala Yala
Day 6 Jeep Safari at Yala National Park Yala
Day 7 Transfer to Bentota via Galle's Dutch Fort Bentota
Day 8 Snorkeling in Hikkaduwa, Visit a Turtle Hatchery in Bentota Bentota
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  


Like the other itineraries, you'll arrive in Colombo, but this time you'll transfer to the fertile rainforest region of Kitulgala, in the west of the country. It sits on the Kelani River and was the shooting location of the film "Bridge on the River Kwai." Here you'll brave whitewater rapids and hike up to plunging waterfalls with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Then swap the jungle for the plains at Horton Plains National Park, in the central highlands. On a hike through this high-altitude protected area, you can spot exotic animals like sambar deer, wild boars, and (rarely) the Sri Lankan Leopard.

Spend some time in Ella and visit the Nine Arches Bridge, which is 78 feet (24 m) high and runs 298 feet (91 m). Here you'll hike through the trails of tea plantations right along the pickers, then head toward the coast and Yala for a safari tour of its national park. On this outing, you'll see everything from peacocks to elephants to the occasional big cat. On day seven, you'll head east to Galle and tour its 17th-century Dutch Fort. Then hit the water for a snorkeling trip in Hikkaduwa National Park, a coral sanctuary and marine reserve. You'll also visit a turtle hatchery to release some baby turtles into the wild. Learn more

Itinerary #4: A Taste of Sri Lanka

Spend nine days getting to know the culture of Sri Lanka through its food and history, from enjoying home-cooked meals in local villages to enjoying tea service in the highlands and touring spice gardens. 

Learn the art of making the perfect curry
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Galle Galle
Day 2 Secrets of Sri Lankan Curry, Explore Galle's Dutch Fort Galle
Day 3 Transfer to Nuwara Eliya, Afternoon Tea Party Nuwara Eliya
Day 4 Horton Plains National Park, Tour a Tea Plantation & Factory Nuwara Eliya
Day 5 Scenic Train Journey to Kandy, Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic Kandy
Day 6 Discover the Matale Spice Garden, Transfer to Sigiriya Sigiriya
Day 7 Cycling & Lunch at Hiriwadunna, Minneriya National Park Safari Sigiriya
Day 8 Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Transfer to Colombo via Kajugama Colombo
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  


From Colombo, you'll transfer down the coast to Galle. Then head to a country village and a traditional mud-hut kitchen where your hosts will teach you how to cook the perfect Sri Lankan curry. On day three, continue north to Nuwara Eliya, in Sri Lanka's gorgeous tea country. Here you'll visit Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya for a traditional afternoon tea service complimented with scones, cakes, sandwiches, and plenty of Ceylon tea. The next day, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Horton Plains National Park to explore its montane forests and afterward enjoy a guided walking tour of a historic tea estate.

On day five, you'll visit the cultural hotbed of Kandy and tour its Royal Palace and Temple of the Tooth. Then take a stroll through the botanical section of the National Spice Garden and enjoy the aromas of fresh clove, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, pepper, and much more. Then venture further into the backcountry as you pass rice paddies and hidden lakes on a cycling tour, followed by a stop to see elephants at Minneriya National Park. After climbing the Sigiriya rock fortress on day eight, you'll return to Colombo and head home on day nine. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Arts, Crafts & Culture in Sri Lanka

Get to know the artistry and artisans of Sri Lanka on a nine-day deep dive into a craft culture that includes everything from intricately carved lacquerware to ceremonial masks and hand-woven textiles.

Learn to make ceremonial masks in Sri Lanka
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Sigiriya, Discover the Hand-Woven Textiles of Divulapitiya Sigiriya
Day 3 Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Explore Ancient Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy via Dambulla, Matale Spice Garden & Temple of the Tooth  Kandy
Day 5 Discover Dumbara Weaving, Art & Philosophy in an Artist's Home  Kandy
Day 6 Transfer to Galle, Sunset at the Japanese Peace Pagoda Galle
Day 7 Sri Lankan Mask Carving Workshop, Discover Galle's Dutch Fort Galle
Day 8 Transfer to Colombo, Visit a Colombo Artist's Home Colombo
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  


You'll head right from the airport in Colombo a few miles north to Negombo, a coastal town with Dutch colonial roots. On day two, you'll transfer inland to Sigiriya, stopping along the way in the village of Divulapitiya, home to a creative community that has been hand-weaving textiles for generations—an art form that dates back 2,000 years. After hiking up the 1,200 steps to Sigiriya, you'll visit Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka whose height of power was between the 11th-13th centuries. You'll see impressive Buddhist shrines and statues here, including the Gal Vihara rock temple.

On day four, you'll transfer to Kandy, stopping at Dambulla, a town dating to the 2nd century BCE. Visit cliffside cave temples to see religious art, then tour Kandy and the National Spice Garden. On day five, head to Dumbaragama Valley, famous for its Dumabara cloth, once created for Sri Lankan monarchs. Spend time with artisans who create textiles on free-standing looms and visit the home of local artists to see their private collections. On day six, participate in a mark-carving workshop in Galle, then head to Colombo and another artist's home to tour their personal gallery. Learn more

More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries

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

Map

Map of 9 Days in Sri Lanka - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 9 Days in Sri Lanka - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas