The misty mountains of Sri Lanka's Hill Country take center stage on this invigorating five-day itinerary.  Start with touring temples in the historic city of Kandy, then head south on an unforgettable train journey through lush tea estates. After a night in the hilltop village of Nuwara Eliya, explore the flora and fauna of Horton Plains National Park before traveling to the west coast for your final night in the laid-back beach town of Negombo.

Highlights

  • Visit the Buddhist temples of Kandy
  • Experience a scenic train journey through the Hill Country
  • Discover the highland tea estates of Nuwara Eliya
  • Hike to the "World's End" in Horton Plains National Park
  • Relax on the sandy beaches of Negombo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Kandy & Sightsee Kandy
Day 2 Enjoy the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Kandy
Day 3 Learn About Tea Production in Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya
Day 4 Explore Horton Plains National Park & Negombo Negombo
Day 5 Depart Negombo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Kandy & Sightsee

The Temple of the Tooth, Kandy.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Your adventure begins in Kandy, the capital of the Central Province. Strategically situated between three mountain ranges, the city serves as a welcoming gateway to Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. After settling into your hotel, spend the afternoon visiting Kandy’s historic Royal Palace on the edge of Lake Kandy. Stroll through the palace’s shrines, temples, and gardens before visiting its crown jewel: Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). The intricate temple complex dates to the 16th century and is home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic: a tooth from the Buddha.

Day 2: Enjoy the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya

An avenue of royal palms at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya.
Lines of royal palms at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya

Day two is devoted to exploring more of Kandy and its surrounding areas. Start the morning with a visit to one of the traditional villages on the city’s outskirts. These communities are well known for making traditional Sri Lankan drums. During the visit, you’ll help villagers gather animal hides and wood from local trees, then join in the time-honored process of crafting the instruments.

Spend the rest of your day exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens, situated just outside Kandy in Peradeniya. Once reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty, the stunning gardens now welcome visitors with a stately avenue of palms. Highlights include the fragrant spice garden, extraordinary cannonball fruit trees, and a towering Burma bamboo.

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Day 3: Learn About Tea Production in Nuwara Eliya

Tea fields above Nuwara Eliya.
Tea fields above Nuwara Eliya

Today you’ll set out for the heart of tea country. After a spectacular train journey winding through lush tea fields and green hillsides, you’ll arrive in Nuwara Eliya. This magical highland town is situated high above sea level, so it has a climate unlike anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Its misty altitudes and cooler temperatures make it a haven for growing colorful flowers and exquisitely flavored teas. Colonized by the British and often referred to as “Little England,” Nuwara Eliya still retains an old-world atmosphere. It's famous for horse racing, and the town also boasts an impressive golf club that dates back to 1889. Spend the day exploring the town’s gardens, temples, museums, and tea plantations before settling in for a peaceful evening in the Hill Country.

Day 4: Explore Horton Plains National Park & Negombo

The view from World's End, Horton Plains National Park.
The view from the "World's End" in Horton Plains National Park

Day four starts with a journey south to the famous Horton Plains National Park. This pristine nature reserve is rich with rolling hills, forests, and grasslands; it's also home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. Elk, deer, wild boar, porcupines, and leopards roam the park’s high plateaus, while rare and endangered highland birds fly around its forests. The area’s best-known hike is the climb to “World’s End,” a high precipice that offers fabulous views of the distant southern coastline.

When you’ve had enough hiking, head for the west coast and the laid-back beach town of Negombo. Colonial architecture and meandering canals hint at the city's intriguing past. Known as “Little Rome” for its strong Catholic influence, Negombo transitioned over the centuries through Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial rulers. Today its sandy beaches, welcoming locals, and colorful streets make it the perfect spot to enjoy your last evening in Sri Lanka.

Day 5: Depart Negombo 

Negombo's long, sandy beaches.
Negombo's long, sandy beaches.

Say ayubowan (farewell) to Sri Lanka this morning. You'll transfer to the nearby airport for your departing flight. Safe journey!

More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other 5-day Sri Lanka itineraries with wildlife, beaches, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Explore Sri Lanka's Hill Country - 5 Days
Map of Explore Sri Lanka's Hill Country - 5 Days