This 14-day trip through Sri Lanka and the Maldives is equal parts exploration and relaxation. Uncover the history and culture of this jewel of the Indian Ocean, from ancient rock fortresses and historic capital cities to the Sacred Tooth, before heading down to the Maldives for a few days in paradise. Start off in the coastal city of Negombo, then head north to Sigiriya and Dambulla and down through the Hill Country to Kandy and Ella. From there, go on an elephant safari in Udawalawa, relax in Unawatuna and explore the busy streets of Colombo, before winding up on the sunny beaches and crystal clear waters of the Maldives.

Highlights

  • Explore the historical rock fortresses of Yapahuwa & Sigiriya
  • Check out the amazing Hill Country views from Ella Rock
  • Go on a sunset elephant safari through Udawalawa
  • See the stilted fishermen on the southern coast
  • Relax on the picture-perfect beaches in the Maldives

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Negombo to Girithale via Yapahuwa Rock Fortress Giritale
Day 3 Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa Giritale
Day 4 Giritale to Kandy via Dambulla Cave Temple & Matale Kandy
Day 5 Kandy to Ella via Ramboda Falls & Tea Plantation Ella
Day 6 Ella Rock & Little Adam's Peak Ella
Day 7 Ella to Udawalawa Udawalawe
Day 8 Udawalawa to Unawatuna via Galle Unawatuna
Day 9 Free Day in Unawatuna Unawatuna
Day 10 Unawatuna to Colombo, Capital City Tour Colombo
Day 11 Colombo to the Maldives Colombo
Day 12 Maldives Mahiyanganaya
Day 13 Maldives Colombo
Day 14 Departure from the Maldives Colombo

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival, Transfer to Negombo

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

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at the Bandaranayke International Airport, you will be met by your English-speaking driver and experience your first taste of warm Sri Lankan hospitality.

Your first stop on your Sri Lankan adventure is Negombo, a coastal city in the Western province. Just a short drive from the airport, the city is known for its sandy beaches, fishing industry, and fresh markets, which help to fuel the city's thriving restaurant industry.

Once you arrive, check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring at your own pace. If food is your thing, head out to sample some of the city's regional delights and street food, check out the local handicraft markets and boutique shops, or just chill on the beach.

Day 2: Negombo to Girithale via Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

Visit the 13th-century Yapahuwa Rock Fortress
Visit the 13th-century Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

After breakfast, check out from your hotel and begin the journey across Sri Lanka to the small town of Giritale in the north-central province.  On the way, stop to visit the rock fortress at Yapahuwa, one of the ancient capitals of medieval Sri Lanka.

Midway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura, the 13th-century citadel of Yapahuwa was built around a huge granite rock in the style of the better-known Sigiriya fortress. Once thought to be impenetrable, it was home to the Sacred Tooth Relic from 1272 to 1284, when it was captured by the Pandyans and taken to South India. Fortunately, it was recovered in 1288  by Parakkramabahu III and placed in Polonnaruwa before ending up in its current home in Kandy in 1592.

After exploring the ruins of the temple with their iconic staircase and door to nowhere, stop by a local snack shop and carry onto Giritale, where the rest of the evening is yours to spend at leisure.

Travel Time: 5+ hr
Travel Distance: 142 miles  (229 km)

Day 3: Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa

Start your day with a visit to Sigirya
Start your day by climbing up to the top of Sigirya

Get the day off to an early start this morning with a visit to Sigiriya Rock Fortress. One of Sri Lanka's most treasured historical monuments, this ancient palace is a UNESCO-World Heritage site and is best known for its well-preserved frescoes and mirrored wall. It's a bit of a climb up to the top of this famous fortress, but you'll be rewarded with amazing views over the countryside when you reach the top.

After marveling at the view, head back down and stop off for a fresh coconut, before making your way to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Established in the 10th century, Polonnaruwa was the second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms after Anuradhapura and is famed for its amazing ancient construction, archaeological relics, and the Parakrama Samudra Lake.

Take a stroll through this UNESCO World Heritage-listed city complex, paying special attention to The Royal Palace, King Nissanka Malla's Palace, and the Polonnaruwa Vatadage,  which is thought to have been built to hold the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha.

This afternoon, return to your hotel in Giritale.

Day 4: Giritale to Kandy via Dambulla Cave Temple & Matale

See the cave paintings in Dambulla
See 2200-year-old cave paintings in Dambulla

This morning, check out from your hotel in Giritale and make your way south to Kandy, stopping off on the way to visit the Dambulla Cave Temple and take a tour of a spice garden in Matale.

The drive from Giritale to Dambulla should take around an hour. When you arrive, your guide will take you on an educational walk around the popular cave temple complex, which has been dated back to the 2nd century BCE. There are over 80 cave temples here, but the most famous ones contain 153 statues of Buddha, along with statues of Sri Lankan monarchs and Hindu deities.

After touring the site, continue on your journey to Matale, where you'll visit a spice garden and learn about the different Sri Lankan spices used for cooking and medicine. From there, continue your drive through the hill country onto Sri Lanka's cultural capital, Kandy, which is surrounded by picturesque valleys, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. The second-to-largest city in Sri Lanka, the entire city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. 

When you arrive, check into your hotel before going on a city tour through the historic streets and markets of this vibrant town. Stop off at the Malwatta Monastery, Asigiriya Monastery, and the flower markets before visiting the Temple of the Tooth and watching the sunset over Bogambara Lake.  In the evening, watch a cultural show.

Travel Time: 3.5 hr
Travel Distance: 78 miles (125 km)

Day 5: Kandy to Ella via Ramboda Falls & Tea Plantation

This afternoon, take a walk up to the famous Nine Arches Bridge
This afternoon, take a walk up to the famous Nine Arches Bridge

Today, you'll continue on your journey through Sri Lanka with a visit to Ella, a charming town in the heart of the lush Hill Country.

On the way, stop to visit Ramboda Falls, a tiered waterfall that cascades down a rocky cliff-face in the rainforest, before stopping off at a Tea Plantation and Factory where you can learn about and experience the tea production process from growth to harvest. You can also join the workers in the fields and learn the difference between prime tea leaves and standard tea leaves.

From there, continue on your journey with one last stop off at a local shop to enjoy a cup of tea and a Coconut Roti, a type of flatbread made with coconut, onion, and chili that's served with curry or sambal and is often eaten at breakfast.

Arrive into Ella in the early afternoon, and have the rest of the day free to explore or relax in one of the quaint cafes in this laidback town. If you want to go sightseeing, you might want to check out the iconic Demodara Nine Arch Railway Bridge, or head up to the Ravana Ella Falls and take a quick dip in the cool waters. 

In the evening, check out the views from Ella Gap, where you can see all the way down to the lighthouses on the southern coast on a clear night. 

Travel Time: 5 hr

Travel Distance: 85 miles (136 km)

Day 6: Ella Rock & Little Adam's Peak

Hike through tea plantations up to Ella Rock
Hike through tea plantations up to Ella Rock

Head out to explore the Hill Country around Ella today with a hike up to Ella Rock in the morning, and out to Little Adam's Peak this afternoon. After a few long days of travel, stretch your legs and enjoy the fresh air and cooler temperatures and beautiful views over the Hill Country.

The walk up to Ella Rock, a famous cliff located above the village, should take around two hours each way, with amazing views across the countryside and the plains below. It's a fairly challenging five-mile (8 km) trail that takes you along the railway track and through the tea plantations. 

Depending on how active you feel, this afternoon you could also make the trek out to Little Adam's Peak, a 2-3 hour relatively easy hike up to the top of a nearby mountain. Named Little Adam's Peak after its similarity to the sacred Adam's Peak, also known as Sri Pada—sacred footprint—as there is a rock formation that resembles a footprint at the very top. Buddhists believe this to be the foot of Buddha, Hindus believe it to be the foot of Shiva, and Christians and Muslims believe it to belong to Adam, hence the name Adam's Peak.

After, head back into the town and treat yourself to a drink or two as you watch the sunset over the countryside.

Day 7: Ella to Udawalawa

Go on a jeep safari through Udawalawa NP
Go on a jeep safari through Udawalawa NP

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to Ella and the Hill Country and press on to Udawalawa National Park, a two-hour drive to the southwest.

On the way, you'll pass through several small towns and villages where you can see the villagers selling their homegrown fruit and vegetables and stop off to purchase some for yourselves. 

You should arrive in Udawalawa around midday. Check into your hotel and relax for a bit before heading out on a sunset wildlife jeep safari around the national park. Lying on the boundary between Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, the national park was established in 1972 and designed to create a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River. 

The park is home to a herd of around 250 elephants, along with several species of deer, wild boar, and water buffalo, along with the rarer rusty-spotted cat, Sri Lankan leopard, Sri Lankan sloth bear, palm civets, golden jackals, and monkeys.

After your safari, return to your hotel and spend the evening relaxing.

Travel Time: 2 hr
Travel Distance: 62 miles (100 km)

Day 8: Udawalawa to Unawatuna via Galle

Witness local fishermen fishing in the traditional style on stilts
Witness local fishermen fishing in the traditional style on stilts

Head south today for a taste of Sri Lanka's famous beaches. After breakfast, check out from the hotel and make your way down to the coast, where you'll stop to see the famous stilt fishermen, who manage to catch fish in the traditional way, while perched on rickety wooden stilts out in the Indian Ocean.

From here, head onto Unawatuna, where you can check into the hotel and go for a quick swim. In the evening, make your way to the nearby colonial city of Galle, for a sunset city tour and a visit to the Galle Dutch Fort, before returning to your beachfront hotel.

Travel Time: 3 hr
Travel Distance: 78 miles (126 km)

Day 9: Free Day in Unawatuna

Spend the day relaxing on the sandy beaches of Unawatuna
Spend the day relaxing on the sandy beaches of Unawatuna

Today, you're free to relax and enjoy the beaches of Unawatuna to your heart's content. Go for a swim, catch some sun,  or spend the day sightseeing at your own pace, before taking in a magical sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Day 10: Unawatuna to Colombo, Capital City Tour

Spend your last afternoon in Sri Lanka in the capital, Colombo
Spend your last afternoon in Sri Lanka in the capital, Colombo

Your last stop in Sri Lanka is the cosmopolitan capital, Colombo. About a 2.5-hour drive north along the coast from Unawatuna, this busy city perfectly blends shiny new high-rises with old colonial buildings and is the ideal place to round off your time in Sri Lanka.

After a lazy morning on the beach, make your way up to the city, where you can drop your bags at the hotel and go on a quick city tour in the afternoon. After making a stop at the famous Pettah Market, head over to Galle Face Green for sunset. This popular hangout spot has some of Sri Lanka's best street food options and offers an amazing view out over the Indian Ocean.

When night falls, head back to your hotel.

Travel Time: 2.5 hr
Travel Distance:  90 miles (144 km)

Day 11: Colombo to the Maldives

Welcome to the Maldives!
Welcome to the Maldives!

This morning, make your way to Colombo  Airport where you will board a flight to the Maldives. Once you arrive, you'll meet your driver at the airport and will be transferred to your beachside resort.

Spend the afternoon relaxing in your own tropical paradise before finding the perfect spot to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Day 12: Maldives

Come face to face with sea turtles on an optional snorkeling trip
Come face to face with sea turtles on an optional snorkeling trip

Spend the day at leisure relaxing on the picture-perfect beaches of the Maldives. Head out snorkeling from the beach to check out the vibrant marine life, chill in a hammock, explore the islands, or organize a diving or snorkeling boat trip through your resort before marveling at another amazing ocean sunset.

Day 13: Maldives

Make the most of your last day in paradise
Make the most of your last day in paradise

Make the most of your last day in tropical paradise before you have to say goodbye to your island resort tomorrow. Enjoy a delicious breakfast at your resort before going exploring, take a boat trip out a nearby reef where you can go diving with whale sharks, sign up for a local cooking class, or just spend the day relaxing on the beaches and topping up your tan.

Day 14: Departure from the Maldives

It's time to say goodbye to the Maldives and begin your onward journey
It's time to say goodbye to the Maldives and begin your onward journey

Start off your day with one last breakfast at your resort and one last swim in the ocean before making your way to the airport and beginning your onward journey.