Planning Your Trip to Sri Lanka
Although Sri Lanka is a relatively small island nation, it packs in a wide variety of diverse attractions. Fans of wildlife, culture, history, adventure, and beaches will all find plenty to do.
Don't let the island's size fool you—if you want to see it all, you'll need at least two weeks. On the other hand, if you're short on time, you can still get a pretty good feel for the main attractions within a few days. When planning your route, you'll want to think about what activities interest you the most. This will determine which areas of Sri Lanka you should visit. For example, the Cultural Triangle is great for history buffs, the central hill country is perfect for hikers, and the island's southwest coast is ideal for sun-seekers.
To learn more about traveling in Sri Lanka, check out these guides to getting around the country and the best time of year to visit.
Sri Lanka in 5 Days
There are several ways you could approach seeing Sri Lanka in five days. It all depends on where your interests lie.
Consider touring the highlights if you want to see a few of the island's most famous spots. For example, this five-day Best of Sri Lanka itinerary includes the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya and the cave temple complex in Dambulla, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You'll also have the opportunity to visit Kandy, where you can see the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The tooth of the Buddha—an important Buddhist relic—is located inside. In addition, you'll get to experience Sri Lanka's rural life with a cycling tour of Hiriwadunna and Minneriya National Park.
If you have a particular interest or prefer a certain climate, you could instead choose to concentrate your five days in a specific area. Beach lovers, for example, might decide to spend their five days focusing on Sri Lanka's most popular beaches in the island's southwest, like Tangalle and Mirissa. This beach getaway itinerary gives you the chance to visit both. You'll also spend time in nature at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary and look for blue whales, sperm whales, and dolphins on a whale-watching tour.
On the other hand, if you want to escape the heat, you could head to Sri Lanka's center and explore its mountainous hill country. You'll see Kandy's temples, wander through the Royal Botanical Gardens in nearby Peradeniya, learn about tea production in Nuwara Eliya, and hike through Horton Plains National Park with this adventurous itinerary.
Check out this article for more 5-day itineraries.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Sri Lanka in 7 Days
With seven days to spend in Sri Lanka, you'll be able to do a bit of a deeper dive and combine a few regions to get a more in-depth experience.
Combine urban sightseeing in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, with wildlife spotting in the Knuckles Forest Reserve and Horton Plains National Park. This seven-day itinerary starts in Negombo and takes you on an outdoor adventure through Knuckles, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Horton Plains before finishing off with a tour of Colombo. You'll get to paddle a whitewater raft down the Kelani River, look for leopards in Horton Plains, canoe through the peaceful Samanalawewa Reservoir, and peruse the outdoor markets of Colombo and Negombo.
Another option is to explore both culture and beaches. You'll begin and end your trip with a lie out on the beach while also visiting UNESCO-listed cultural attractions. Starting on the island's west coast, head toward the center to see Dambulla, Habarana, and Kandy, then tour a working tea plantation in Giragama. Finally, you'll end your trip in the coastal town of Galle, famous for its Dutch colonial fort.
Check out this article for more 7-day itineraries.
Sri Lanka in 2 Weeks
In two weeks, you'll be able to get the full Sri Lanka experience. You can explore the island's main sights, get to know its landscape and people, and even travel to other nearby destinations.
A more extended trip, like this active two-week itinerary, will give you enough time to accomplish a "loop" covering much of the country's south, where its most popular attractions lie. You'll climb to the top of the Sigiriya rock fortress, hike the Thalkote Wewa Trail, and explore the Sinharaja Rain Forest. As you make your way around southwestern Sri Lanka, you'll experience the island's top attractions and many climate zones, from foggy and cool Ella to sunny Unawatuna Beach.
Fourteen days also gives you the option of combining Sri Lanka with another location. With this varied itinerary, you'll do a loop of southern Sri Lanka, visiting sites like Yapahuwa Rock Fortress and the cave temples of Dambulla before hiking Little Adam's Peak. You'll then keep a lookout for elephants, monkeys, and water buffalo at Udawalawe National Park and explore Galle and Colombo. Finally, you'll finish off your trip with a relaxing stint in the white-sand "island paradise" of the Maldives.
Check out this article for more 14-day itineraries.
More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other Sri Lanka itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.