With a mix of cultural highlights, hands-on activities, and plenty of beach time, this 7-day Sri Lankan itinerary is perfect for families. Go for a gentle cycle through the countryside of the Cultural Triangle, spot elephants on safari in Minneriya National Park, and learn the beats of traditional drumming in Kandy. After picking tea leaves in the lush mountains of the Hill Country, it's time to transfer to the coast to enjoy the warm, turquoise seas around Unawatuna.


  • Spend an afternoon boating and cycling in the Sri Lankan countryside
  • Meet the elephants of Minneriya National Park on a safari
  • Climb through carved lion's paws to the rock fortress of Sigiriya
  • Try your hand at traditional drumming in the cultural capital of Kandy
  • Head to the sun-soaked beaches and sheltered seas of Unawatuna

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Explore the City Colombo
Day 2 Visit the Dehiwala Zoo, Transfer to Sigiriya & the Cultural Triangle Sigiriya
Day 3 Rural Village Trail in Habarana, Elephant Safari in Minneriya National Park Sigiriya
Day 4 Climb Sigiriya, Transfer to Kandy, Temple of the Tooth & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 5 Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate Ella
Day 6 Transfer to the Beaches of Unawatuna, Discover Galle Dutch Fort  Unawatuna
Day 7 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Explore the City

Explore Colombo on foot and by tuk-tuk

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by your driver and transferred to your hotel in Colombo. Spend the rest of the day exploring Sri Lanka's commercial capital and its largest metropolis. A lively city with a fascinating history, Arab sailors once frequented these ports to trade with the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists that occupied the city. Today, Colombo has something for everyone.

Visit the National Museum and Zoological Gardens, or take a walk through the city's commercial center, where grand colonial-era buildings stand alongside modern hotels and office structures. Stroll the vibrant markets and bazaars in Pettah, then end the evening sampling Sri Lankan specialties at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Visit Colombo's Dehiwala Zoo, Transfer to Sigiriya & the Cultural Triangle

The lion enclosure at Colombo's Dehiwala Zoo

For a kid-friendly look into Sri Lanka's natural world, spend this morning at Colombo's Dehiwala National Zoo. One of the oldest zoos in Asia, Dehiwala, is committed to conservation and animal welfare, running breeding programs for rare and endangered species alongside its collection of exotic and indigenous fauna. Seventy-two species of mammals, 65 species of birds, and 31 species of reptiles call the lush, greenery-filled 30-acres home, and interactive and educational exhibits make this a perfect day out for families.

Afterward, kids can catch a nap in the car or enjoy the scenery as your driver transfers you northeast toward Sigiriya, located in Sri Lanka's famous Cultural Triangle. Along the way, make a stop at one of the roadside food stalls for an authentic taste of Sri Lankan street food. A hot cup of tea with roti (flatbread) is a popular snack, while the freshly roast corn on the cob is a hit with kids. 

Day 3: Rural Village Trail in Habarana, Elephant Safari in Minneriya National Park

Spot elephants on safari in Minneriya National Park

Explore more of the countryside today on a guided cycling tour through rice paddies and back roads. Meet local farmers and learn about Sri Lankan rural life before pedaling to a quiet lake, where you can enjoy a scenic boat trip out onto the water. Afterward, cycle around the lake, keeping your eyes open for exotic birds. Break for a cup of tea or a fresh coconut along the journey, then sit down for a lunch of curry and rice with a local family inside a mud hut. Younger children can skip the cycling portion and enjoy the activity via a traditional tuk-tuk or tractor.

Afterward, you'll head out on a safari adventure to Minneriya National Park, a vast preserve of forest, wetlands, and grasslands. Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the park is home to elephants, leopards, sambar deer, and langur monkeys. At its heart is the great Minneriya Tank Reservoir, a feat of ancient engineering created over 1,800 years ago. Its peaceful shores are the perfect place to observe wild storks and herds of elephants. As the world's largest gathering place of Asian elephants, you're guaranteed to see these gentle giants up close. 

Day 4: Climb Sigiriya, Transfer to Kandy, Temple of the Tooth & Cultural Show

The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle

The UNESCO-listed site of Sigiriya rises high out of the surrounding jungle and is home to the remains of an ancient fortress built in the late 5th century CE. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to the way visitors traditionally began their final ascent to the top of the monument, passing through the open jaws and throat of a lion. Climb a series of dramatic stairways to find beautiful water fountains, boulder gardens, frescos, mirror walls, and relics of the castle. With handrails and steps, the trip is suitable for most ages, but younger children can also take a shorter trek to a halfway point.

Afterward, rest tired legs as your driver transfers you south toward Kandy, Sri Lanka's cultural capital. Strategically situated between three mountain ranges, the city serves as a welcoming gateway to Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Spend the afternoon touring the historic Royal Palace on the edge of Lake Kandy. Stroll through shrines, temples, and gardens before visiting its crown jewel: Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). Dating to the 16th century, it houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic: a tooth from the Buddha. 

If you're looking for something more hands-on, opt for an afternoon of traditional drum lessons. Kids can let loose on the drums while learning about the history and heritage associated with traditional drumming in Sri Lanka. Led by a teacher whose family has been practicing for generations, you'll learn different drumming techniques and their role in Sri Lankan culture, from peraharas (processions) to temples. It's the perfect precursor to attending an evening cultural show, where all ages will be delighted by the colorful spectacle of drumming, music, dance, and acrobatics. 

Day 5: Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate

Kids can help pick tea leaves in the lush estates around Ella

This morning's scenic transfer whisks you deep into the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, where you'll get settled in the charming mountain village of Ella. For an even more memorable experience, make the journey by train, considered one of the most spectacular rail journeys on earth. You'll pass breathtaking views of lush green tea plantations, mountains, viaducts, valleys, and dense jungle. It's also the perfect way to experience Sri Lankan life. Meet smiling locals on the train, wave to the running children along the tracks, and sample the spicy snacks sold by vendors who board at each stop.

Upon arrival, you can explore Ella at your leisure, with your private driver available for any transfers. This idyllic mountain town is the perfect base for relaxing, with lots of fantastic walks that lead through tea fields to temples and waterfalls. If you're feeling adventurous, take a scenic trek to Ravana Ella Falls for a quick dip in the cool waters, or climb past railway tracks and tea plantations to reach Ella's Rock for breathtaking views across the countryside.

In the afternoon, don't miss a visit to Lipton's Seat. The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from this lofty spot, and today you can enjoy similar views looking out across emerald hills and tea estates. Learn more about the country's most famous export at the surrounding tea estate, where kids can help pick tea leaves in the rolling fields and tour the bustling factory.

Day 6: Transfer to the Beaches of Unawatuna, Discover Galle Dutch Fort

Climb the ramparts of Galle's historic seafront Dutch Fort

Bid the Hill Country farewell this morning as your driver transfers you to the coast and the popular beach town of Unawatuna. Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free for you to relax and unwind on the white sand beaches of the south coast. Sheltered by an offshore coral reef, the turquoise waters here are warm and tranquil, making them perfect for families and ideal for swimming and watersports.

If you're looking for more action, book a whale-watching tour, visit a nearby turtle hatchery, or join an afternoon art class for creative kids. For a swashbuckling family adventure, head to the nearby UNESCO-listed city of Galle, where kids can learn about its pirate history while exploring the 300-year-old Dutch fortifications surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. 

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Day 7: Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart

A colorful Sri Lankan sunset

After a final morning at the beach, it's time to bid Sri Lanka farewell as your driver transfers you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels and ayubowan (the traditional Sri Lankan blessing of long life).

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Map of Sri Lanka for Families: Cultural Triangle & South Coast - 7 Days
Map of Sri Lanka for Families: Cultural Triangle & South Coast - 7 Days