On this 10-day tour of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, you'll enjoy an excellent mix of cultural sightseeing and relaxation. Start in Negombo on the tropical island of Sri Lanka, touring various destinations to learn about the country's history at temples, palaces, forts, and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Then hop on a quick flight to the Maldives, where you'll enjoy swimming and sunbathing on idyllic beaches, snorkeling in a lagoon, and spotting dolphins from the boat deck on a sunset cruise.

Highlights

  • Experience the pristine beauty of the Maldives' lagoons
  • Climb to the top of the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress
  • Tour ancient temples in the hill city of Kandy
  • Get acquainted with contemporary Sri Lanka in the vibrant city of Colombo 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sri Lanka  Negombo
Day 2 Visit Medieval Yapahuwa Girithale
Day 3 Tour Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa Girithale
Day 4 Explore Dambulla Cave Temple Kandy
Day 5 Tour Buddhist Temples in the Region Kandy
Day 6 Shop & Relax in Colombo Colombo
Day 7 Fly to the Maldives & Enjoy the Beach South Male Atoll
Days 8-9 Discover the Beauty of the Maldives South Male Atoll
Day 10 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sri Lanka 

The beautiful beaches of Negombo

Welcome to Sri Lanka! You'll start in Negombo, known as “Little Rome” for its strong Catholic influence. The town transitioned through Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial rule, and remnants of those cultures remain today. The city's intriguing past will reveal itself as you meander past colonial architecture and quiet canals to reach a lagoon abundant with marine life. Local fishermen have been harvesting lobsters, crabs, and prawns here for centuries. Take a stroll on the beach, then stop by a lively fish market before you take a break for dinner. 

Day 2: Visit Medieval Yapahuwa

The ancient citadel of Yapahuwa

Depart from Negombo after breakfast and travel to Girithale, stopping along the way at the ancient citadel of Yapahuwa, located midway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. The citadel was built around a huge granite rock that rises high above the surrounding lowlands. In the early 1200s, Yapahuwa was the capital of Sri Lanka. Later abandoned, the fortress was transformed into a monastery by Buddhist monks. Tour the citadel to see the caves at the base of the rock — shelter for the monks — and the Bodhi tree on the top. Afterward, continue on to Girithale and check in to your hotel for the night.

Day 3: Tour Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa

Views from the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

This morning, have breakfast at the hotel, then transfer to the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Some say the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to the way visitors traditionally began their final ascent to the top of the monument, passing through the open jaws and throat of a lion. Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure today are the gigantic paws sculpted into the side of the rock. The fortress, rising up high from the jungle, is an incredible sight to see. 

Next, continue to Polonnaruwa. The second-largest city in the province, UNESCO-listed Polonnaruwa is full of ancient monuments. It's also home to the huge Parakrama Samudra reservoir, which consists of five separate reservoirs connected by channels. The Thopa reservoir is the oldest, developed during the reign of the city's greatest ruler, King Parakramabahu. 

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Day 4: Explore Dambulla Cave Temple

The green hills of Kandy

Continue to Dambulla, known for its Cave Temple, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Featuring impressive mural paintings and 157 statues, including a massive Buddha monument, it's a sacred pilgrimage site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the place dates back to the first century BCE, when King Valagambahu took refuge here. Today, it's worth visiting not only for the cave temple but also for the beautiful view over the countryside.

Next, it's onward to Kandy, strategically situated between three mountain ranges, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The impressive temple complex, dating back to the 16th century, is made up of numerous buildings decorated with paintings and carvings depicting Buddha. As the name suggests, it's home to an important relic, the tooth of the Buddha, which is carefully guarded by security night and day. 

Day 5: Tour Buddhist Temples in the Region

Gadaladeniya Temple
A glittering Buddha statue at Gadaladeniya Temple

Today you'll visit three important temples: Gadaladeniya, Lankathilaka, and Ambekka. The Gadaladeniya Temple, with an ancient monastery, is located on a flat rock at Diggala. According to an inscription there, this temple was built in 1344 and is South Indian in style. The Lankatilaka Temple dates back to the Gampola Kingdom of the 14th century and extends in four directions, in the shape of a cross. What you see today is just part of what once existed. The Ambekka Temple was also built in the 14th century. The shrine consists of three sections: the sanctum of Garagha, the dancing hall, and the drummers' hall. The splendid wood carvings, ornate pillars, and high pitched roof of the drummers' hall make it a particular must-see.

Day 6: Shop & Relax in Colombo

Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo

Today you'll travel to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is a beautiful city with modern high-rise buildings beside older colonial architecture. Galle Face Green in Colombo, a favorite hangout spot for locals and tourists alike, overlooks the Indian Ocean. Colombo is also a shoppers’ paradise, with stylish shopping malls and the famous Pettah Market, a great place to shop for souvenirs. You'll take a city tour and sample Sri Lankan street food, then get some rest before the next day's flight out.

Day 7: Fly to the Maldives & Enjoy the Beach

Welcome to the Maldives
Arriving on South Male Atoll in the Maldives

After breakfast, head to the airport for your short flight to the Maldives. For the rest of the trip, you'll be based on the island of South Male Atoll. Check in at a resort located beside a gorgeous lagoon and white-sand beaches. You will have the rest of the day to spend at leisure. Relax by the resort pool or go for a sunset cruise that offers the chance to see dolphins from the deck.

Days 8-9: Discover the Beauty of the Maldives

White-sand beaches on the Maldives
White-sand beaches on the Maldives

Spend your days relaxing in a little piece of paradise. Take a dip in the expansive turquoise lagoon, snorkel around a coral reef, visit nearby islands, and experience the warmth of Maldivian people and their culture. You can opt to take a calm canoe trip out onto the water, arrange to swim with dolphins, or even try some windsurfing. The vast lagoon can accommodate a range of activities and interests. In the evening, sample freshly caught seafood and tropical cocktails. 

Day 10: Depart 

Farewell Maldives
Looking down at the Maldives from above

It's time to say goodbye to the Maldives. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight back home. Safe journey!

More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other 10-day Sri Lanka itineraries, with active adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Discover Sri Lanka & the Maldives - 10 Days
Map of Discover Sri Lanka & the Maldives - 10 Days