This 10-day itinerary around Sri Lanka features outdoor activities and cultural attractions for all ages, including a dolphin-watching boat tour, a Sri Lankan cooking class, and multiple Jeep safaris around national parks. Marvel at massive Buddha statues, spot elephants and leopards in the wild, and go snorkeling in the clear waters of Pigeon Island National Park — you'll have plenty to do and see on this lively trip!

Highlights

  • Learn to cook Sri Lankan cuisine at a safari camp in Wilpattu
  • Visit world-famous temples and UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Go on a dolphin-watching boat tour in Trincomalee
  • Observe the Sri Lankan Leopard and other endangered animals in the wild

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Waikkala Waikkala
Day 2 Explore Wilpattu National Park Wilpattu
Day 3 Go on a Jeep Safari Around Wilpattu Wilpattu
Day 4 Sightsee in Anuradhapura Trincomalee
Day 5 Tour the Coast Near Trincomalee on a Boat Trincomalee
Day 6 See the Rock Fortress at Sigiriya Sigiriya
Day 7 Visit Temples in Dambulla & Kandy Kandy
Day 8 Learn About Tea in Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya
Day 9 Discover the City of Colombo Colombo
Day 10 Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Waikkala

Catamaran in Ginoya
A traditional Sri Lankan sailboat

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Located on the west coast, Waikkala (also spelled Waikkal) offers a charming mix of sandy beaches, delectable seafood, and lush mangroves along its river and lagoon. With a dazzling array of native butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles, the unique mangrove ecosystem provides an ideal location for boat rides and birdwatching. More than sixty species of birds can be observed here, too, such as the common sandpiper, little ringed plover, purple coot, painted stork, stork-billed kingfisher, and many others. 

Day 2: Explore Wilpattu National Park

Wild buffalo in Wilpattu National Park

This morning, you'll visit the rural village of Sirambiadiya in Puttalam, where you'll have the chance to interact with local Kaffirs. This Sri Lankan ethnic group, descended from a mix of enslaved Africans and Portuguese colonials, has a unique cultural history. You'll learn about it while listening to stories and watching traditional music and dance performances. 

Continue on to Wilpattu, where you'll check into a safari camp. Then you'll go on a Jeep safari around Wilpattu National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park has an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna: it's home to over 30 mammal species, including leopard, sloth bear, Sri Lankan elephant, and spotted deer. Various wetland bird species also live here, such as the pintail, whistling teal spoonbill, and white ibis.

Day 3: Go on a Jeep Safari Around Wilpattu

The rare Sri Lankan Leopard 

Wake up early for a second Jeep safari around Wilpattu National Park. Keep your eyes open for the Sri Lankan Leopard, currently the largest species of leopard living in Asia. Wilpattu National Park is known for its numerous opportunities to film and photograph these wonderful animals. In addition, Wilpattu is home to Sri Lankan Sloth Bears, best seen during June and July. You'll take a break back at camp for lunch, learning how to make a traditional Sri Lankan meal with the resident chef. Then relax in the afternoon before going out on another game drive in the evening. You'll barbecue under the stars at night before getting some rest.

Day 4: Sightsee in Anuradhapura

Stupa's in Anuradhapura
A stupa (Buddhist shrine) in Anuradhapura

Continue on to Anuradhapura, a city with a large number of ancient monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is a great place to learn about the great Sinhala civilization that flourished in this region when Anuradhapura was the seat of power over 1400 years ago. Architectural and engineering marvels range from historical palaces, temples, monasteries, and ceremonial baths to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This sacred bo tree was grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Later, you'll move on to Trincomalee and overnight at Nilaveli Beach Resort.

Day 5: Tour the Coast Near Trincomalee on a Boat

Dolphins off the coast of Trincomalee

Outdoor adventures await today. Trincomalee is one of the finest natural deep-water harbors in the world, home to beautiful white sandy beaches and clear waters. You'll go for a dolphin-watching boat tour in the morning — whale-watching tours are also an option from March to September — then enjoy a leisurely lunch. Later, go snorkeling in the waters of Pigeon Island National Park. You'll return to Nilaveli Beach Resort to spend the night.

Day 6: See the Rock Fortress at Sigiriya

Families in Sigiriya
Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Have breakfast at the hotel, then head 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. 

Day 7: Visit Temples in Dambulla & Kandy

Pagoda in a Cave
The Cave Temple in Dambulla

Continue to Dambulla. It's 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 8: Learn About Tea in Nuwara Eliya

Workers on a tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya

Continue onward to Nuwara Eliya this morning, often referred to as "Little England." Colonized by the British, Sri Lanka’s highest town still retains an old-world grandeur. You'll see old colonial-style hotels, a golf club that dates back to 1889, and abundant rose gardens. The climate here is unlike anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Due to the high elevation, it offers a cooler, invigorating atmosphere that makes for a pleasant journey as you travel to a tea plantation in the afternoon. There, you'll learn about Ceylon tea, one of Sri Lanka's main exports. Observe colorfully dressed tea leaf-pickers hard at work on the sloping hills. With incredible dexterity, they fill several sacks of tea leaves each day. You'll get to see the entire process, from tea bush to teapot, on this dedicated tour. Then return to Nuwara Eliya to spend the night. 

Day 9: Discover the City of Colombo

Galle Face Green in Colombo
The colorful coastline of Colombo

Take some time today to explore Colombo, a lively city rich with cultural sights and Buddhist temples. Go on a drive through the city's commercial center, where grand colonial-era buildings stand alongside modern hotels and office structures. Explore the vibrant markets and bazaars in Pettah to pick up some last-minute souvenirs. Then dine on Sri Lankan specialties at a local restaurant on your last night of the trip.

Day 10: Depart 

Colombo cityscape

The trip has come to an end — this morning, it's off to the airport to catch your 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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