- Visit a sea turtle hatchery and a national park known for leopards on your first day
- Enjoy morning hikes in Ella, followed by ziplining and waterfall swims
- Visit a fair-trade market on Sri Lanka’s east coast and pick up produce and souvenirs
- Explore the medieval capital of Sri Lanka, followed by a sunset hike (and picnic!)
|Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Galle, Tour the Japanese Peace Pagoda
|Visit a Turtle Hatchery, Transfer to Yala, Safari at Yala National Park
|Transfer to Ella, Visit an Elephant Transit Home, Swim in the Ravana Falls
|Hike to Ella Rock, Ravana Zipline Experience
|Hike to Little Adam’s Peak, Train Ride to Nanu Oya, Explore Nuwara Eliya
|Transfer to Pasikudah, Explore
|Whale Watching in Trincomalee
|Free Day in Pasikudah
|Transfer to Dambulla, Tour Polonnaruwa, Climb Pidurangala Rock
|Explore the Dambulla Cave Temples, Safari at Minneriya National Park
|Transfer to Colombo, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Galle, Tour the Japanese Peace Pagoda
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival in the country's biggest city, Colombo, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to Galle. Once settled in your hotel, it's time to meet a local guide for an educational tour of the area.
This beautiful colonial town on Sri Lanka's south coast is surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean and houses the largest occupied fort in Asia. Built by the Portuguese and later extended by the Dutch in 1663, the UNESCO-listed site spans over 90 acres (36 ha), so there's plenty to see. Amid the wealth of fascinating architecture, you'll find Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. You'll also have time to wander the streets and discover stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers.
Day 2: Visit a Turtle Hatchery, Transfer to Yala, Safari at Yala National Park
This morning you'll pay a visit to a sea turtle hatchery—perfect for animal lovers since the Galle district is home to many species of sea turtles, including the Olive Ridley turtle, loggerhead turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, and leatherhead turtle.
The non-profit Sea Turtle Hatchery is located in Habaraduwa, about 3.2 miles (5 km) from the Galle-Matara road. This organization was first established in 1986 in order to protect turtles from poachers and also to prevent their extinction. Since then, they have been able to release an innumerable amount of sea turtles into the deep sea. Since baby turtles are supposed to be released into the ocean within four days, visitors may get the opportunity to help set them free.
Day 3: Transfer to Ella, Visit an Elephant Transit Home, Swim in the Ravana Falls
It's time to head north! Today, you'll be picked up at your hotel by a private driver and transferred to the town of Ella in Sri Lanka's Hill Country. This lush area is surrounded by mountains, jungles, and tea plantations—and is a great base for outdoor adventures.
Along the route, you'll spend an unforgettable morning at the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe National Park, where orphaned elephant calves are cared for and rehabilitated before being released into the wild. This ethical program helps enhance the elephants' chances of survival and offers an incredible, up-close look at the gentle giants. If you visit during feeding hours, you'll even watch the youngest of the orphans being bottle-fed.
Then you'll have the afternoon to relax in the misty mountains around Ella. Perhaps you want to visit the cascading Ravana Falls for a refreshing dip. This three-tiered waterfall plummets 82 feet (25 m) from an oval concave rock, creating peaceful rock pools on the way. Situated next to a road, it's also one of the most accessible of Sri Lanka's waterfalls and is the perfect spot to cool down after a day of exploring the mountains and villages in the area.
Another activity is to admire a marvel of Sri Lankan engineering with a visit to the famous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella. Located along the beautiful winding Demodara railway loop, the gracefully arched bridge spans 298 feet (91 m) and rises 78 feet (24 m) above the dense jungle and pastoral fields.
Day 4: Hike to Ella Rock, Ravana Zipline Experience
Fuel up at breakfast this morning because you'll take a half-day excursion to Ella Rock, one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Sri Lanka. Along with a guide, you'll embark along a moderately strenuous trail to reach the viewpoint. Once you reach the summit, the view at the top rewards you with a breathtaking lookout over the surrounding countryside.
After some time to rest, you can soar across the luscious green estates of Ella with an adrenaline-pumping excursion to the Flying Ravana Adventure Park. This two-wire zipline stretches for more than 1,500 feet (457 m) and slides at a maximum speed of 50 mph (80 kph) while you enjoy a bird's eye view over some of the Hill Country's most breathtaking scenery.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Train Ride to Nanu Oya, Explore Nuwara Eliya
Squeeze in one more hike in Ella this morning with a memorable climb past lush tea estates, waterfalls, and rice fields to reach one of Sri Lanka's highest peaks. Rising 3,743 feet (1,141 m) above the surrounding landscape, the gentle trek up Little Adam's Peak rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramic views across the valleys and fields below.
Then it's time to board one of Sri Lanka's most iconic train rides from Ella to Nanu Oya. This is a three-hour journey that takes you high into the Hill Country through a mountainous terrain with tea plantations as far as the eye can see. Enjoy the carriages teeming with friendly local faces and food vendors brisking the aisles with baritone announcements of refreshments.
Upon arrival at Nanu Oya station, you'll meet a tour guide who will give you an introduction to a town called Nuwara Eliya, nicknamed "Little England" for its cooler climate, rolling green hills, and historic colonial-style homes and gardens. You'll also have free time to explore on your own, perhaps with a stroll around Gregory Lake, where you can rent paddleboats and jet skis. Another option is to head to Victoria Park, where you can spend a few hours exploring the wide range of trees, flowers, and bird species across nearly 30 acres (12 ha).
Day 6: Transfer to Pasikudah, Explore
It's time to continue the journey! Today, at the appointed time, you'll transfer to the resort town of Pasikudah on the tropical eastern shores of Sri Lanka—a road trip of just under five hours.
Upon arrival, you'll check into your resort and have the rest of the day to relax on the beach. This is a popular area for locals and foreigners, with wide stretches of soft white sand and lapping waves from the Indian Ocean. The area boasts one of the longest shallow reef coastlines in the world, allowing you to safely walk or swim in the ocean without a drop-off.
Day 7: Whale Watching in Trincomalee
Today you can catch a glimpse of some of the ocean's most majestic inhabitants in their natural habitat on an exciting whale watching trip. During peak season, sightings of large groups of whales are a common sight around Trincomalee, and with the help of a small yet powerful boat, this experience provides an excellent opportunity for viewings.
Keep an eye out for marine life, such as sperm and blue whales, false orcas, spinner and bottlenose dolphins, and turtles, that thrive in the Indian Ocean waters of Sri Lanka due to the depth of waters just beyond the shoreline. Remarkably close to land lies the continental shelf, which allows larger creatures the space to prosper while feeding off nutrients that flow from shore.
Day 8: Free Day in Pasikudah
Today is a free day to explore the coastal area around Pasikudah in any way you wish. Perhaps you want to take a morning excursion to Batticaloa and visit the Bridge Market. This is where you can find the freshest fruit and vegetables from small-scale producers in Sri Lanka, thanks to a community initiative. The Bridge Market brings together a range of both agricultural and non-agricultural products and is fair-trade, eco-friendly, and fully organic. The area is also bustling with peddlers selling authentic Sri Lankan souvenirs in the form of clothing, wood carvings, paintings, and traditional instruments.
From here, you can take the rest of the day to relax at the beach. You can also arrange to hire jet skis if you'd prefer some fun on the water before you head inland tomorrow.
Day 9: Transfer to Dambulla, Tour Polonnaruwa, Climb Pidurangala Rock
This morning you'll be picked up for the drive west to Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Once a thriving city that ruled the island from the 11th through 13th centuries, today, you'll find the incredibly preserved ruins dotted around the central, ancient reservoir of Parakrama Samudra. Discover impressive palaces, shrines, and statues within this UNESCO-listed site, and don't miss the Gal Vihara temple complex, where you'll find dozens of statues of reclining, sitting, and standing Buddhas.
In the late afternoon, you'll take a romantic hike to Pidurangala, which is not far—a little over a mile (2 km)—from the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya and its ancient rock fortress. This is a popular spot, especially during sunrise and sunset, with spectacular 360-degree views of the valleys and the aforementioned rock. You'll go one step further than most visitors and enjoy a sunset picnic from the top for a memorable experience.
Day 10: Explore the Dambulla Cave Temples, Safari at Minneriya National ParkToday you can explore the popular cave temple complex of Dambulla, a UNESCO-listed site that dates back to the second century BCE. Take your time as you wind deep into the rock-cut, cliffside caves to admire some of the country's most important religious art. Along the way, you'll find gilded interiors, painted frescoes, and over 153 Buddha statues lining the cave interiors, some of which are still used for meditation by monks. Make sure to climb to the top of the site's dramatic clifftops at the end for panoramic views of the area.
Then it's time to hop in a 4WD vehicle for a safari in Minneriya National Park. This 34-square-mile (89 sq km) protected area is the largest gathering place for Asian elephants on earth (about 700). During the dry summer season, the elephants migrate from all over the country to the ancient Minneriya Tank Reservoir, which was built in the third century BCE. This freshwater source is where they congregate in order to drink, bathe, and socialize. While the elephants are the star attraction here, you can also keep an eye out for leopards, sloth bears, and langur monkeys.
Day 11: Transfer to Colombo, Depart
It's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka! At the appointed time, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to Colombo International Airport for departure. Safe travels!
More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other Sri Lanka itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Sri Lanka, or learn about the best time to visit Sri Lanka.