Marvel at the diverse scenery and wildlife of Sri Lanka during this compact six-day trip. Start by exploring the beaches of Negombo before heading east into the misty mountains of Nuwara Eliya. Visit a nearby tea plantation, where you'll learn about tea and, of course, taste it. Go on an evening safari in Udawalawe National Park and get up close to its elephants and other wildlife. Witness baby elephants being bottled-fed at a local sanctuary before getting lost in the frenzy of the vibrant city of Colombo.


  • Enjoy the beaches of Negombo as you explore its colonial architecture and wildlife
  • Visit a tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya to discover the production from bush to pot
  • Head to Udawalawe National Park to see its resident elephants and other wildlife
  • Witness baby elephants being fed before leaving for the vibrant city of Colombo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Kandy, Explore Kandy Kandy
Day 3 Transfer to Nuwara Eliya via Thalawakele Nuwara Eliya
Day 4 Transfer to Udawalawe, Evening Jeep Safari Udawalawe
Day 5 Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, Return to Colombo Colombo
Day 6 Depart Colombo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo

Negombo's Hamilton Canal

Welcome to Sri Lanka! After a meet and greet at the airport in Colombo, you'll transfer 9 miles (15 km) north to the coastal fishing town of Negombo. Get settled into your hotel and then spend some time exploring Negombo's charming blend of meandering canals and colonial architecture. Known as "Little Rome" for its strong Catholic influence, the town transitioned through Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial rule. Dutch and Portuguese buildings are a reminder of Negombo's highly lucrative cinnamon trade.

Walk along the canals to reach a lagoon abundant with marine life. Fishermen have been harvesting lobsters, crabs, and prawns for centuries here. Take a stroll on the beach and stop by a lively and very photogenic fish market. Go for a boat trip around the Negombo Lagoon. You might spot monkeys, flying fish, and herons while passing mangroves, prawn farms, and beaches. Or, take a boat ride along the Hamilton Canal, built by British colonists in the early 1800s. Start or end the night at Lords, a restaurant and bar that serves some of Negombo's best dishes and creative cocktails.

Day 2: Transfer to Kandy, Explore Kandy

Views over Kandy, Sri Lanka's "cultural capital"

Today your driver will take you east to reach Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka's Central Province. Gateway to the famed Hill Country and cultural capital, the city holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll find historical museums and numerous Buddhist temples. Kandy also has abundant natural beauty, with a peaceful lake in the heart of downtown and shaded parks for connecting with nature. Kandy's markets are good places to browse for locally-made crafts, textiles, and artwork, and you can cap the day with a sunset meal at a rooftop restaurant. 

Once checked in at your hotel, you could discover Theravada Buddhism on a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sri Dalada Maligawa ("Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic"), an elaborately decorated complex and place of pilgrimage. Take a stroll around Kandy Lake with its tree-shaded promenades, which have scenic views of Kandy. Head out of town for a visit to the Ceylon Tea Museum. Set on a former tea production facility, the museum gives an overview of Sri Lanka's favorite drink, and you can sample a variety of teas at the top-floor café.  

Day 3: Transfer to Nuwara Eliya via Thalawakele 

A train winding through tea fields near Nuwara Eliya

Transfer south into the misty mountains of Hill County and the highland village of Nuwara Eliya. Known as "Little England" for its colonial architecture and temperate climate, it's surrounded by lush tea fields that produce the country's famous Ceylon tea. On the way, stop at a nearby village that makes drums, followed by a visit to a tea plantation. See the tea-making process from tea bush to teapot with a tour of a working tea estate. Watch the tea pickers hard at work on the sloping hills, and learn how leaves are chosen, sorted, and rolled. You'll also taste the finished product.

After your visit, you'll board a train in Thalawakele and make the 90-minute trip to Nuwara Eliya, where you'll stay for the night. Once you've arrived, take a walk to see colonial architecture, lush rose gardens, and manicured green spaces like Victoria Park, where you can often spot endemic bird species like the Kashmir flycatcher. South of town, the Horton Plains National Park is a highland reserve of lofty peaks and cloud forests with waterfalls, gorges, and abundant biodiversity. You could also stroll the flower-lined paths of the Hakgala Botanical Gardens.

Plan your trip to Sri Lanka
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Day 4: Transfer to Udawalawe, Evening Jeep Safari

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park
Elephants in Udawalawe National Park

It's an early start today as you begin your four-hour journey south to Udawalawe National Park. On your way, stop in the town of Ella to enjoy panoramic views and snap photos of majestic Ravana Falls. 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 wildlife species, such as sambar deer, monkeys, water monitor lizards, and water buffalo. In the evening, you'll ride in an open-sided 4WD on the edge of grasslands and bush forests in search of the park's resident elephants. The lack of dense vegetation makes wildlife spotting easier, and you might encounter jackals, sloth bears, peacocks, and perhaps a leopard in addition to a dozen or more elephants. When the safari is finished, head back to your campsite for dinner. 

Day 5: Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, Return to Colombo

Feeding time for the calves
Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home cares for approximately 35 orphaned baby elephants with minimum human interaction. The transit home provides food, medical care, and everything a baby elephant needs. When the elephants are old enough, they are released into the wilderness and start living a "normal" life. This morning, you'll visit the home and observe bottle feeding the babies. Afterward, bid the mountain air farewell as you head four hours west to Colombo. A melting pot of cultures and commerce, Sri Lanka's capital is a lively city with a fascinating history.
Scattered throughout town, you'll find an impressive mix of cultural sights, Buddhist temples, and Hindu kovils that highlight the diversity of religion, ethnicity, and customs. After checking into your hotel, set out on an evening driving tour to see the city lit up at night. Wind through the commercial center, the Fort, where grand colonial-era buildings stand alongside modern hotels and offices. Explore Pettah's vibrant markets and bazaars, then discover museums and galleries with fine collections of antiques and artifacts. Celebrate your final night with a memorable dinner of Sri Lankan delicacies. 

Day 6: Depart Colombo

Goodbye, Sri Lanka!

After an early breakfast, you'll say goodbye to Sri Lanka as you check out from the hotel and head to Bandaranaike International Airport for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Discover Sri Lanka's Wildlife & Nature: 6 Days
Map of Discover Sri Lanka's Wildlife & Nature: 6 Days