This eight-day adventure will take you to Sri Lanka's must-see highlights. Learn about Negombo's colonial past, climb Sigiriya's rock fortress, wander through Dambulla's cave temples, and explore the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy. Then take a scenic train ride and transfer to Nuwara Eliya, where you'll learn about tea production and enjoy spectacular views. Look for elephants, monkeys, and other wildlife at Udawalawe National Park, then relax in Tangalle and keep an eye out for sea turtles.


  • Climb to the top of Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Explore Dambulla's cave temples and Kandy's Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
  • Enjoy an evening Jeep safari in Udawalawe National Park
  • Spot sea turtles nesting on Rekawa Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Sri Lanka, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Sigiriya, Explore the Site Sigiriya
Day 3 Explore Dambulla & Kandy Kandy
Day 4 Train Ride to Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya
Day 5 Transfer to Udawalawe, Evening Jeep Safari Udawalawe
Day 6 Transfer to Tangalle, Turtle Watching at Rekawa Beach Tangalle
Day 7 Day at Leisure in Tangalle Tangalle
Day 8 Depart Sri Lanka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sri Lanka, Transfer to Negombo

Negombo is famous for its sandy beaches & fishing industry
Negombo is famous for its sandy beaches and fishing industry

Welcome to Negombo! After arriving at Bandaranaike International Airport, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day exploring at your leisure, and enjoy your first dinner in this historic port city. Due to its influence from the Catholic Church, Negombo is often referred to as "Little Rome." Its lagoon is famous for lobster, crab, and prawn harvests. The fish auctions that regularly take place on the beach are worth a look, as are the many canals which meander through the area.

Negombo has a checkered and colorful past: the Dutch, Portuguese, and British all laid claim to it at different times. The town features several colonial buildings dating back to the Dutch and Portuguese periods. Negombo was also one of the most important sources of much-coveted and highly profitable cinnamon during the Dutch era.

Day 2: Transfer to Sigiriya, Explore the Site

Transfer to Sigiriya & Explore the Site
Sigiriya rock fortress

Enjoy a tasty breakfast at your hotel in Negombo, then prepare to transfer to your next destination: Sigiriya. The drive takes approximately three hours. Once you've arrived, head out to explore the site. Sigiriya rock fortress is one of Sri Lanka's top ecotourism destinations and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982. It is sometimes called the "eighth wonder of the world."

The name Sigiriya translates as "lion rock" and refers to the way visitors used to begin their climb to the top—through the throat and jaws ("giriya") of a lion ("sinha"). Unfortunately, all that remains of this lion figure today are its giant paws, which are sculpted into the side of the rock. The massive rock formation juts up an incredible 600 feet (183 m) from the lush jungle below, making for a striking sight.

Day 3: Explore Dambulla & Kandy

Dambulla cave temple
Dambulla cave temple

After breakfast at your hotel, begin your journey to Kandy. On the way, stop to visit Dambulla, famous for its painted cave temple. This stunning site includes many impressive mural paintings and 157 statues, including a 47-foot (14 m) long statue of a reclining Buddha. Dambulla's cave temple complex—the largest and best-preserved in Sri Lanka—is both a UNESCO-listed heritage site and a place of sacred pilgrimage. The history of its five caves, containing over 150 images of the Buddha, goes back to the first century BCE when King Valagamba of Anuradhapura took refuge here. 

Once you've wandered through the cave temples and taken in the stunning view outside, hop back in the car and continue to Kandy. Check into your hotel and then explore the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This impressive temple complex is also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa and dates back to the 16th century, although most of the present buildings were built in the 19th century. One of the Buddhist world's most important relics, the relic of Buddha's tooth, is stored in the temple's Inner Chamber in a golden casket. 

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Day 4: Train Ride to Nuwara Eliya

Train Ride to Nuwara Eliya
Tea pickers in the fields near Nuwara Eliya

Head to Kandy Railway Station for a scenic seven-hour train ride to the picturesque village of Nanu Oya. This trainway was built by the British in the 19th century. Its main purpose was transporting goods and tea from the surrounding plantations to the upcountry areas. You'll see many special historic features on the train, including a unique "electric train tablet" signaling system that is rarely seen outside museums today. Once you arrive in Nanu Oya, a private driver will transfer you to the nearby city of Nuwara Eliya.

Set in the heart of the tea country, 6,200 feet (1,890 m) above sea level, Nuwara Eliya has a cool and invigorating climate. The town retains a British colonial feel and is often referred to as "Little England." After checking into your hotel, head out for a tour where you'll learn about the production of Ceylon tea, one of Sri Lanka's main exports. While driving through the plantations, you'll see the colorfully-dressed tea pickers hard at work on the lush, green hills. With incredible skill, they fill several sacks with tea leaves every day. Visit a factory where you'll see the entire production process, from bush to teapot.

Day 5: Transfer to Udawalawe, Evening Jeep Safari

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park
Elephants in Udawalawe National Park

Have breakfast and begin your journey to Udawalawe National Park. On your way, stop in the town of Ella to enjoy panoramic views and snap some photos of majestic Ravana Falls. Then, when you arrive at Udawalawe, check in at your safari tent camp and prepare for an evening Jeep safari.  

Udawalawe National Park is located between Sri Lanka's dry and wet zones and is one of the best places in the world to see wild elephants. About 400 elephants live within the park's boundaries, and large herds frequently gather by its watering holes to feed and bathe. The park is also home to many other species of wildlife, such as sambar deer, monkeys, water monitor lizards, and water buffalo, which you can look out for on your safari. Afterward, head back to your campsite for dinner. 

Day 6: Transfer to Tangalle, Turtle Watching at Rekawa Beach

Sea turtles on the beach in Sri Lanka
Sea turtles on the beach in Sri Lanka

Leave your campsite in the morning and transfer to Tangalle. This small fishing port features 18th-century Dutch colonial architecture and stunning villas overlooking the beachfront of Seenimodera, one of the largest and most beautiful bays in Sri Lanka. The palm-fringed bay and its pristine coves are enclosed by a reef and protected from the ocean, making the area a natural wonder. 

After settling into your private villa and enjoying some downtime, head to nearby Rekawa Beach at night for a turtle-watching excursion. Five species of marine turtles come ashore to nest here and can be observed throughout the year in their natural habitat. The eggs are left undisturbed in the sand and protected on site, unlike the island's turtle hatcheries on the west coast. Keep an eye out for turtles—even if none come ashore tonight, you'll still enjoy a lovely nocturnal adventure on the peaceful beach. 

Day 7: Day at Leisure in Tangalle

Tangalle Beach
Tangalle Beach
Spend today enjoying Tangalle Beach at your leisure. Savor a tasty breakfast in your private villa; sunbathe, swim, try water sports, or relax. You could also opt for a half-day excursion to one of the many interesting attractions nearby. These include the plateau at Ussangoda, the Hoomaniya Blowhole, the Buddhist shrines of Wewurukannala, and the rock temples of Mulkirigala. In the evening, take in the sunset as you enjoy your last night on the island. 

Day 8: Depart Sri Lanka

Elephants in Sri Lanka
Return home with unforgettable memories of Sri Lanka
Say goodbye to Sri Lanka! After checking out of your accommodation in Tangalle, catch a private transfer back to Bandaranaike International Airport. Have a safe and pleasant journey home or to your next destination! 

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Map of Best of Sri Lanka: Negombo to Tangalle - 8 Days
Map of Best of Sri Lanka: Negombo to Tangalle - 8 Days