This relaxed 10-day itinerary around Sri Lanka is a treat for nature lovers. Along the journey, you'll see turtles hatching eggs on the beach, spot rare birds in the wild, hike to incredible vistas, and learn about the spices of Ceylon. There's a cultural element to the trip, too: you'll visit temples, learn to meditate with a Buddhist monk, dine in a Sri Lankan home in a small village, and ride an antique train route established by the British in the 18th century.

Highlights

  • Go turtle-watching at night on Rekawa Beach
  • Follow Kandy's Spice Trail to learn about local culture and lifestyle
  • Enjoy the epic train ride from Kandy to Ella
  • Dine on traditional Sri Lankan food in a local home
  • Swim and sunbathe on Tangalle Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore "Little Rome" in Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Visit the Fish Market in Negombo Kandy
Day 3 Explore the Spice Trail & Meet a Buddhist Monk Kandy
Day 4 See the Famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic  Kandy
Day 5 Train Trip to Ella Ella
Day 6 Hike to Little Adam's Peak Ella
Day 7 Look for Turtles in the Wild in Tangalle Tangalle
Day 8 Spot Wildlife at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary Tangalle
Day 9 Free Day in Tangalle  Tangalle
Day 10 Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore "Little Rome" in Negombo

A canal in 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. 

Day 2: Visit the Fish Market in Negombo

Negombo Fish Market
The catch of the day at Negombo Fish Market

Local fishermen have been harvesting lobsters, crabs, and prawns in Negombo for centuries. You'll learn about it firsthand when you visit the Negombo Fish Market early this morning (the market is held every day of the week except Sunday). This colorful and traditional market is a great place to observe the local fishing trade in action and see the amazing variety of fish and seafood that is offloaded from the boats.

In the afternoon, transfer to Kandy, an important city in Sri Lanka's history. You'll start sightseeing here the next day, so there's time to just relax at the hotel this evening.

Day 3: Explore the Spice Trail & Meet a Buddhist Monk

A massive Buddha statue, Sri Lanka

Inhaling the aroma of Ceylon spices is a must for cooks and tea enthusiasts. Today, you'll explore the Spice Trail in the suburbs of Kandy. This local experience first takes you to a home garden (rather than visiting a so-called "spice garden" designed for tourist shows). You'll also get to enjoy a home-cooked meal in a Sri Lankan home.

After lunch, venture to the ancient temple of Bahirawakanda to meet a Buddhist monk. You'll learn about the tenets of Buddhism and learn to meditate alongside a master. 

Day 4: See the Famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic 

Temple of The Sacred Tooth Relic

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Today you'll visit Kandy's main attraction, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). It's a 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: Train Trip to Ella

Riding the train to Ella

After breakfast, proceed to the Kandy Railway Station. You'll spend the better part of the day traveling from Kandy to Ella on one of Sri Lanka's famous old trains. This particular train journey was first created by the British in the 19th century. Its main purpose was transporting goods, mainly tea from the area's plantations. After enjoying a day's worth of magnificent scenery, you'll arrive in the sleepy mountain village of Ella. The town, located in the central highlands, has a wonderfully cool climate. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the south coast of Sri Lanka. Ella is also a perfect base for relaxing, with lots of fantastic walks that lead through tea plantations to temples and waterfalls. 

Day 6: Hike to Little Adam's Peak

Breat-taking views in Ella
A bird's-eye view of Ella

After a restful night in Ella, you'll hike to Little Adam's Peak and Nine Arch Bridge. The mountain was named after the holy mountain of Adam’s Peak because of its similar shape, and it is fairly easy to climb, with a well-marked path all the way up. At an easy pace, and with breaks for taking photographs, the trek takes about two hours. The view from the top allows you to look out over the gorgeous scenery of the highlands. In the afternoon, return to Ella and enjoy some free time or a self-guided walk on one of the walking trails that starts in town.

Day 7: Look for Turtles in the Wild in Tangalle

Beach in Tangalle

Leave for Tangalle, a small fishing port with reminders of the Dutch colonial era of the 18th century. Its beautiful villas look out over the shimmering beach of Seenimodera. Protected from the ocean by a reef, the palm-fringed bay and pristine coves are a natural treasure. Five species of marine turtles come ashore to nest here, and they can be observed throughout the year in their natural habitat. Unlike the turtle hatcheries on the west coast, the eggs are left undisturbed in the sand here. Even though there is no guarantee that the marine turtles will come ashore every night, you'll have fun waiting for them on one of the world's most beautiful beaches.

Day 8: Spot Wildlife at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Birdwatching at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary
Birdwatching at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Board a boat in the morning and make your way to Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in Sri Lanka. It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. Your catamaran ride takes you around a beautiful lagoon and mangroves, home to 150 species of birds, 20 species of mammals, 41 species of fish, and 38 species of reptiles. In the evening, head to Rekawa Beach once more to look for marine turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

Day 9: Free Day in Tangalle 

Tangalle Beach
Walking on Tangalle Beach

Today is yours to enjoy in the low-key beach destination of Tangalle. Swim, sunbathe, and walk along the coast, exploring charming coves and quiet beaches, or opt for a half-day excursion to one of many interesting attractions nearby. These include the plateau at Ussangoda, the Hoomaniya blowhole, the Buddhist shrines of Wewurukannala, and the rock temples of Mulkirigala. Take in the sunset on your last night in Sri Lanka.

Day 10: Depart 

Boats in the harbor, Tangalle, Sri Lanka

The trip has come to a close. You'll head to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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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