See the best of Sri Lanka on this 10-day family trip that loops around the country's southern half. Begin with a countryside bike tour and a hike to the summit of Sigiriya Rock, then hop over to Kandy to tour the Temple of the Tooth and swim in crystal-blue waterfalls. Take a train through the misty valleys of the Hill Country, hike to the incredible Nine Arch Bridge, and see elephants on a safari through Yala National Park. Your vacation winds down with family-friendly fun on the golden beaches of Tangalle.


  • Tackle the many stairs of Sigiriya to reach the top of the ancient rock fortress
  • Walk the ruins of Polonnaruwa alongside a colony of curious and lively monkeys
  • Hike by crashing waterfalls and green rice fields to the heights of Little Adam's Peak
  • Spot elephants and Sri Lankan leopards on a family safari in Yala National Park
  • Embark on a family treasure hunt in the historic seaside fort at Galle

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Sigiriya, Dambulla Cave Temple Tour Sigiriya
Day 2 Hiriwadunna Village, Cycling Excursion in the Sigiriya Countryside Sigiriya
Day 3 Visit the Monkey Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya Rock Fortress Hike Sigiriya
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy, Guided Historic City Tour, Waterfall Swim Kandy
Day 5 Train to Nanu Oya, Tea Plantation & Factory Tour, Transfer to Ella Ella
Day 6 Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Explore the Nine Arch Bridge Ella
Day 7 Transfer to Yala National Park, Visit Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home Yala National Park
Day 8 Family Safari in Yala National Park, Transfer to Tangalle Tangalle
Day 9 Galle Dutch Fort & Treasure Hunt, Mask Workshop, Sea Turtle Hatchery Tangalle
Day 10 Depart Tangalle  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Sigiriya, Dambulla Cave Temple Tour

See the caves and buddhas of the sacred Dambulla Cave Temple as soon as you arrive in Sri Lanka

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Your flight arrives in the city of Colombo, where you'll be met by your driver, who will transfer you to the town of Sigiriya. The drive takes approximately 3.5 hours, and along the way, enjoy your first Sri Lankan excursion with a visit to the Dambulla Cave Temple. This UNESCO World Heritage site, otherwise known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a place of great cultural significance with a history that goes back to the second century BCE.

You and the kids will step inside the caves that were carved into the rocky cliffs and see some of the most important religious artwork in the country. Take your time exploring and discovering the stunning golden interiors, intricately painted frescoes, and the astounding collection of 153 Buddha statues placed within the cave walls. Some of these statues are still used by monks for meditation today. Afterward, your driver will take you to your hotel in Sigiriya, where you can relax and regroup.

Day 2: Hiriwadunna Village, Cycling Excursion in the Sigiriya Countryside

The little ones will love biking through the Sigiriya countryside

This morning, get a rare glimpse into traditional rural Sri Lankan life with a visit to Hiriwadunna village. You'll meet up with your local guides and make the 30-minute drive to the village, where you'll start with a guided catamaran ride on the nearby river, then let the kids try their hands at traditional farming. Stop by a villager's home for tea and conversation, learning more about the life and history of the region, then end the tour with a traditional Sri Lankan meal prepared by a local family—the kids can even help with the preparation if they're interested! 

Afterward, explore Sigiriya's picturesque countryside via a bicycle tour. Your guides will meet you at your hotel, and after getting set up with your bikes and helmets (bike seats provided for younger children), you'll set out. Ride out of the city, pedaling along meandering paths and lanes while enjoying the beauty of the countryside. The kids should keep their eyes peeled for the occasional wandering water buffalo, egrets, and other local birdlife. Be sure to wave hello to the friendly rice farmers as you pass by the fields! 

Your guides will share information on the history and culture of Sri Lanka while showing you sights unique to the region. Pass by banana trees swaying in the breeze, see pineapple plantations, and learn about jaggery—a sweet treat made from the sugar cane that grows here. Before returning to your hotel, take a break at an ambalama (rest stop) with a refreshing thambili (coconut drink). 

Day 3: Visit the Monkey Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya Rock Fortress Hike

Say hello to curious monkeys in Polonnaruwa

Enjoy an up close and personal experience with the monkeys of Polonnaruwa, a hugely popular excursion for both the kids and the adults! Polonnaruwa, part of an ancient city, is home to a large population of monkeys, most well-known for their appearance in the Disney documentary, "Monkey Kingdom." The monkeys, who have been occupying the ruins since humans lived there, are protected by the Smithsonian Primate Research Station, which has been researching conservation here for more than 50 years.

Together with your guide, you and the kids will walk around the ruins, always surrounded by curious and sometimes mischievous monkeys—hold onto your hats and sunglasses! See gray langurs, purple-faced leaf monkeys, and toque macaques, as well as colorful tropical birds and other local wildlife. Learn more about the impressive remains of this ancient site, with the added thrill of the monkeys nearby. 

Later, take the afternoon to visit Sigiriya Rock. Rising 1,144 feet (349 m) above the landscape, this UNESCO World Heritage Site will take your family back to the bygone era of King Kashyapa, leader of the Sinhalese Kingdom. From the main entrance, you'll ascend 1,200 granite-carved steps, traveling through the heart of the mountain amid rock walls adorned with vivid frescoes. At the top, you're rewarded with incredible views of the city and surrounding countryside. The climb is considered relatively easy, but families with younger children can opt for a less strenuous hike to the halfway point.

Day 4: Transfer to Kandy, Guided Historic City Tour, Waterfall Swim

Visit the historic Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka's cultural capital of Kandy

You're off to Sri Lanka's cultural capital today! UNESCO-listed Kandy is most well-known for its Royal Palace, which sits on the edge of serene Lake Kandy and houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha within the Dalada Maligwa (Temple of the Tooth). Your private transfer will collect you in the morning, and you'll make the scenic two-hour drive, which takes you through the historic towns of Polonnaruwa and Matale. Once you've checked in at your hotel, it's time to see more of the city with a guided tour. 

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Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Start with the Gem Museum, where any budding geologists in the family will be captivated by the display of natural stones and sparkling minerals. Continue to the highlight of the day, the Royal Palace and Temple of the Tooth. Your family will have a chance to walk through the complex while your guide shares stories and legends about this sacred place. Stroll the shores of nearby Lake Kandy, where the kids might spot egrets, herons, and other birdlife. Spend some time perusing the city's arts and crafts shops for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, ending your tour with a visit to the Bahirawakanda Buddha statue, which offers spectacular views of the city. 

If the kids are looking for a break from the heat, take a guided visit to some of Kandy's gorgeous and swimmable waterfalls this afternoon. Your guides will collect you from your hotel, and you'll drive outside of town, embarking on a walk through the quiet greenery of the jungle. In about half a mile (1 km), you'll arrive at the waterfalls. Here. you'll find the falls cascading into crystal-clear, deep pools. The pools maintain a temperature of around 68°F (20ºC), making for a refreshing and fun way to spend the afternoon. Tonight, relax at your hotel in Kandy or explore more on your own. 

Day 5: Train to Nanu Oya, Tea Plantation & Factory Tour, Transfer to Ella

Learn all about Sri Lankan tea at a tea plantation in Sri Lanka's Hill Country

The next leg of your journey starts with a train ride—truly a must when traveling through Sri Lanka! After breakfast and hotel check-out, you'll head to the station, where you'll take a three-hour ride to the village of Nanu Oya. Considered one of the most spectacular rail journeys on earth, this stretch of track winds through the cool, misty valleys of the Hill Country, passing lush forests, dramatic waterfalls, and green fields dotted with tea pickers draped in brightly-colored saris.

Disembark and meet up with your guides. Then, it's time to take a fascinating look into one of the country's most important exports as you tour a tea estate. You and the kids will get to meet the workers and learn the art of selecting the best leaves, and you'll visit the on-site factory to learn the process of fermentation, rolling, drying, cutting, and grading. Finish with a tea tasting to better understand the difference between varieties and qualities of Ceylon tea.

After the tour, a private driver will transport you to the village of Ella, a drive of about one hour. This picturesque hill community sits quietly amid mountain forests, hidden waterfalls, and tea plantations and is known for its biodiversity and outdoor activities. Check in at your hotel and relax, or if the little ones still need to burn some energy, head out for dinner at a local restaurant and a walk around town.

Day 6: Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Explore the Nine Arch Bridge

Take a gentle family hike to the Nine Arch Bridge

Put on your sturdy walking shoes this morning and take 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 Punchi Sri Pada—often called Little Adam's Peak—rewards hikers with incredible views across the valleys and fields below. While the hike is fairly moderate, it's recommended for kids aged seven and older as it may be too strenuous for very young children. 

For an easier hike, take the family to Nine Arch Bridge. Also known as the Bridge in the Sky, this viaduct bridge serves as an excellent example of colonial-era railway construction. Located between Ella and Demodara, it's just a short 30-minute walk through the jungle or a stroll along the tracks from Ella and through a tunnel to reach the bridge. Visitors are allowed to walk on the bridge, and the views here expand all the way across the valley. There are also some shops and cafés near the bridge, making for a nice spot for lunch or a snack for the kids. 

Day 7: Transfer to Yala National Park, Visit Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

Visit with the elephants of Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

The fun continues as you head to Yala National Park, which at 378 square miles (978 sq km), is the second-largest park of its kind in the country. Your driver will pick you up from your hotel at the appointed time for the two-hour drive. Along the way, you'll make a stop at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, where orphaned elephant calves are cared for and rehabilitated before being released into the wild.

Take a guided tour of the facility and learn more about this program, which not only aids in the elephants' chances of survival but also offers an incredible, up-close look at the gentle giants. If you visit during feeding hours, the kids can even watch the youngest of the orphans being bottle-fed. Afterward, you'll check in at your accommodations in Yala, and the rest of your day is free. 

Day 8: Family Safari in Yala National Park, Transfer to Tangalle

Keep an eye out for wildlife while on safari in Yala National Park

A wildlife sanctuary since 1900, Yala National Park supports a remarkable variety of local flora and fauna, from peacocks and elephants to the elusive Sri Lankan leopard. Get a closer look at some of these creatures with a thrilling safari tour of the park. Meet with your guides in the morning, then embark via Jeep. Your guides will take you to places where the animals are likely to be spotted, sharing information on their habits as you go. While you're required to stay in the Jeep during most of the tour, there are designated places where you'll be allowed to stop and let the little ones stretch their legs.

After your safari adventure, you'll check out of your lodgings at the park and take a private transfer to Sri Lanka's southern province and the beachside town of Tangalle, an important fishing port in the region and a popular holiday destination for both tourists and locals. The two-hour drive takes you along scenic roadways, villages, and jungles, culminating with the golden sand beaches of Tangelle and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Tonight, take a family walk on the beach or enjoy a seafood dinner at a restaurant in town. 

Day 9: Galle Dutch Fort & Treasure Hunt, Mask Workshop, Sea Turtle Hatchery

Set kids loose on a fun treasure hunt in the historic Galle Fort

If your family is interested in Sri Lanka's Dutch colonial history, take a guided tour to the nearby town of Galle and the Galle Fort. Together with your guide, you'll walk the bustling narrow streets of the fort and see its Dutch architecture, historic mosques, and museums. The little ones will love the lively atmosphere, and the adults will be fascinated by the rich history. The fort also offers a fun treasure hunt, where the kids can learn more about Galle's swashbuckling past in an adventurous way! Explore corners and alleys as you all hunt for clues, finishing with a delicious treat at the end.

You can also explore Sri Lankan art and culture with a visit to a local mask maker. The masks made today are primarily used for celebrations and folk dance performances (called kolam), but ancient beliefs tell of their healing and protective powers. Your host will explain the history behind the masks and help you create one of your own, using sustainable resources such as recycled paper, kithul (treacle), kurundu (cinnamon), clay, broken tiles, beeswax, and even cow dung. The older kids can try their hand at carving with adult help, while younger ones can opt to paint and decorate their creations. 

This afternoon, cater to your young naturalists with a visit to a sea turtle hatchery. The Galle region is home to many species of turtles, including the Olive Ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherhead, and green turtle. The Rekawa Turtle Watch conservation project helps protect and support this population, and your family can visit their hatchery. See the adorable hatchlings, learn about the epic journey from egg to sea, and help support the conservation work that protects these critically endangered animals.

Day 10: Depart Tangalle

Farewell to the beaches and jungles of Sri Lanka

It's time to bid farewell to Sri Lanka! Your driver will collect you from your hotel in Tangalle this morning, transferring you to Colombo airport for your flight home. Safe travels! 

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Map of Sri Lanka Family Discovery: Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Yala & Tangalle - 10 Days
Map of Sri Lanka Family Discovery: Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Yala & Tangalle - 10 Days