This 13-day adventure will whisk you from Sri Lanka's lush hillsides and tea plantations to the laid-back beaches of its southern coast. Start in Negombo, with its rich history, then move on to Kandy to climb the mountaintop tower of Ambuluwalwa. Go tea tasting in the verdant Uva Highlands before kicking back in paradise on the golden sands of Tangalle. Beyond the beaches, you'll have plenty of time for excursions to a turtle sanctuary, the Rock Temples of Mulkirigala, and the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary.


  • Climb the mountaintop tower of Ambuluwawa
  • Take the world-famous scenic train journey from Kandy to Ella
  • Visit a working organic farm for tea tasting in the Uva Highlands
  • Kick back and relax on Tangalle's beautiful beaches
  • Explore Colombo and its historic architecture and lush parks

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Kandy, Climb the Tower of Ambuluwawa Kandy
Day 3 Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Step to the Beat of Traditional Music  Kandy
Day 4 Scenic Train Journey from Kandy to Ella Ella
Day 5 Explore a Working Organic Farm in the Uva Highlands for Tea Tasting Ella
Day 6 Visit Demodara Nine Arch Bridge & Hike to World-Famous Lipton's Seat Ella
Day 7 Transfer to Tangalle Tangalle
Day 8 Visit a Sea Turtle Hatchery Tangalle
Day 9 Climb the Rock Temples of Mulkirigala Tangalle
Day 10 Discover the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary Tangalle
Day 11 Explore Hikkaduwa's Beaches Tangalle
Day 12 Transfer to Colombo, Explore Colombo's Historic Architecture Colombo
Day 13 Depart Colombo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo

The bustling and colorful coastal town of Negombo has lively fish markets

Welcome to Sri Lanka! On arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, your driver will be waiting to transfer you north to the laid-back beach town of Negombo. Known for its melting pot of Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences, Negombo's golden beaches, peaceful canals, colorful streets, and friendly locals are the perfect introduction to the island. Step out into the town after you've checked into your hotel to see its lively fresh fish markets, colonial buildings, and canals that wind through its streets. 

Day 2: Transfer to Kandy, Climb the Tower of Ambuluwawa

Climb the Magical Tower of Ambuluwawa
Climb the Magical Tower of Ambuluwawa for spectacular views

You'll need a hearty breakfast this morning to fuel you up, as today is the day you'll climb toward the clouds with a visit to fairy-tale Ambuluwawa, a mountaintop tower in the ancient town of Gampola. A 15 to 25-minute tuk-tuk ride will whisk you through the beautiful, biodiverse landscapes of dense evergreen forests, flowering creeper vines, and medicinal plants to reach this whimsical landmark.

Established during the reign of King Buwanekabahu IV, the Ambuluwawa Temple dates back to the 13th century and houses the stupa, a dome-shaped building constructed to serve as a Buddhist shrine or place for meditation. If you can brave the dizzying heights, a 3,567-foot (1,087 m) climb takes you up the narrow, winding staircase and rewards you with breathtaking 360-degree views across the countryside. Afterward, you'll get back on the road and continue east to reach your base for the next two nights in Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and the gateway to its lush Hill Country.

Day 3: Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Step to the Beat of Traditional Music 

Marvel at the traditional costumes and acrobatic performances of the Kandyan dancers

The Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy is on the agenda for this morning. You'll head there after breakfast to see its remarkable collection of delicate orchids and established trees and plants with your host. Once a garden reserved only for royalty and used as a headquarters during World War II, the gardens are steeped in tales to uncover as you stroll around the enchanting grounds. Your guide will accompany you along a circular walk through the leafy pleasure gardens that prosper in the Mediterranean climate of Kandy.  

In the afternoon, you'll get the chance to discover more of the UNESCO-listed city of Kandy with a tour of 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''). It's an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide. An evocative soundtrack of traditional drumming sets the scene as you explore the spectacular series of shrines, temples, and gardens.

This evening is a feast for the senses as you experience a vibrant spectacle of dance, acrobatics, costumes, and music tonight at a Kandyan cultural performance. Originating from a dance performed by Indian shamans, Kandyan dancing plays an important role in Sri Lankan culture and is a much-anticipated event during the local Perahera festival processions. Watch traditional dances depicting the graceful movements of birds and animals, energetic, acrobatic performances of leaping pirouettes, and stunts like plate-spinning and the dramatic "fire walk," which ends the show.

Day 4: Scenic Train Journey from Kandy to Ella

The world-famous train journey from Kandy to Ella 

Today you'll head to Kandy Railway Station after breakfast to hop onto a train for an unforgettable journey into the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country to reach the charming highland village of Ella. 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 tea plantations, dramatic waterfalls, and green fields dotted with tea pickers draped in brightly-colored saris.

The views are jaw-dropping, so remember your camera, and the old-fashioned train has open doors and windows so you can feel the wind in your hair. This train route has been running since the mid-1800s and feels like stepping back in time. 

Plan your trip to Sri Lanka
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Explore a Working Organic Farm in the Uva Highlands for Tea Tasting

Find out where your tea comes from and how it's made in the Uva Highlands

Today is a dream day for tea aficionados. After breakfast, your guide will take you to a working organic farm in the verdant Uva Highlands. With a history rooted in cultivation, the estate you'll visit supports local educational, economic, and environmental initiatives. Its teas, coffees, and preserves are stocked worldwide, including at London's Fortnum and Mason. You'll work up an appetite in the morning, ready for a delicious lunch at the farm, usually vegetarian. Here you'll tuck into vegetable soup with roti and sambal or quiche and salad. 

After lunch, walk with your guide through fields where tea, cinnamon, and lemongrass are expertly cultivated. You'll be taken across a hidden rope bridge to the incredible Ravana-Ella Falls and its secret pools. You'll then head back to the farm and learn the secrets of artisanal production before your experience culminates with a tasting of four signature hand-made teas at a picturesque point overlooking Ella Gap. The Ella Gap is a deep valley framed by two peaks and connects Sri Lanka's southern plains with the Hill Country. 

Day 6: Visit the Nine Arch Bridge & Hike to the World-Famous Lipton's Seat

Known as the ''Bridge in the Sky,'' the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella connects two mountains.

Rise early today and head out from your hotel to admire a marvel of Sri Lankan engineering with a visit to the famous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella. Located along the 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. 

After you've seen the Nine Arch Bridge, you'll get the opportunity to take a scenic hike to Lipton's Seat. The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from this lofty spot. Today, you can enjoy a similar panorama looking out across emerald hills and tea estates. Morning is the best time to make the trek when the frequent mist and clouds part to reveal spectacular views across seven provinces. Climb about 5 miles (8 km) through tea plantations, sharing the trail with Tamil tea pickers on their way to work. Enterprising locals sell snacks and drinks at the top.

Day 7: Transfer to Tangalle

Soak up the sun and relax on Tangalle's lush palm-fringed beach

Leave the Hill Country behind today and set off for Tangalle, enjoying a scenic drive as you descend toward the palm-fringed beaches of the south coast. Once you've checked in and settled into your villa, the rest of the day is yours to spend on Tangalle Beach at your leisure. 

Sunbathe, swim, try some watersports, or relax. You could also opt for a half-day excursion to one of the many exciting attractions nearby. These include the plateau at Ussangoda, the Hoomaniya Blowhole, and the Buddhist shrines of Wewurukannala. In the evening, take a relaxing stroll and enjoy the sunset and the fragrant scent of the hibiscus trees. 

Day 8: Visit a Sea Turtle Hatchery

Look out for tiny turtle hatchlings at the Rekawa Turtle Watch

It's your first full day in Tangalle today, and you can head out and explore at your leisure. Take your book and head back to Tangalle Beach to relax or take a walk around Tangalle's town, a small fishing port featuring 18th-century Dutch colonial architecture. Farther along from Tangalle, you'll find the palm-fringed bay of Seenimodera, a natural wonder in Sri Lanka, with pristine coves enclosed by a reef and protected from the ocean. 

The southern coast of Sri Lanka is a haven for diverse sea turtle species. Leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerheads congregate in the warm waters offshore. In the afternoon, you'll get the opportunity to visit the Rekawa Turtle Watch conservation project, which helps protect and support this population. During your excursion, you'll pay a visit to 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 9: Climb the Rock Temples of Mulkirigala 

Incredible landscapes and countryside views surround the temples of Mulkirigala 

Take a long, lazy breakfast at your villa in Tangalle this morning. You could spend time on the beach today or stretch your legs with a visit to the temples of Mulkirigala, whose magnificent rock-cut caves date to the third century CE. A series of stairways and terraces take you past ancient carvings, statues, and inscriptions to a sacred Bo tree.

Admire the remarkable intact paintings depicting Buddhist history, and climb to the top to reach the historic white stupa, where you'll be rewarded with incredible views across the countryside. Then it's time to head back to your villa and soak up the rest of the afternoon on the beach before the fiery glow of the Sri Lankan sunset.  

Day 10: Discover the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Keep your eyes peeled for the majestic purple herons in the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary.

Sri Lanka is home to incredible wildlife; today, it's yours to discover as a driver takes you to Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary to spot rare and resplendent birdlife. Situated on the picturesque southeastern coast in the district of Hambantota, this biodiverse wetland area is a haven for the over 150 species that reside here. 

On today's excursion, make it a point to identify as many birds as possible, and keep your camera handy for sightings of kingfishers, bee-eaters, and purple herons. You might even spot peacocks putting on a colorful show if you're lucky. The rest of the day is yours to spend however you fancy. Swimming, sunbathing, or trying out a watersport, like scuba diving or snorkeling, are all great options for the afternoon.

Day 11: Explore Hikkaduwa's Beaches

Explore more of Sri Lanka's beaches, like sandy Narigama

Travel west along the coast today to spend the day discovering Hikkaduwa. Head to one of the famous beaches in the area, like Akurala and Narigama, and spend hours relaxing on the golden sands. Or set out on an activity like a boat tour to snorkel at an offshore coral sanctuary. You can also take a day trip to the Sinharaja Reserve to hike through the tropical rainforest. Located in the southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka, the Sinharaja Reserve is home to incredible wildlife, from rare butterflies to purple-faced leaf monkeys to colorful Sri Lankan blue magpies and plenty of lizards. 

To appreciate some Sri Lankan art, you can stop at the Saffron Robes gallery and pick up paintings and traditional masks. To learn about recent history, visit the Tsunami Museum to see photo representations of the devastation Hikkaduwa suffered during the tsunami of 2004. Later, you'll return to Tangalle to enjoy your final evening on the coast at your leisure.

Day 12: Transfer to Colombo, Explore Colombo's Historic Architecture

The red and white architecture of the Red Mosque stands out against Sri Lanka's blue skies

Bid the beaches of the south coast farewell today as you transfer to the capital city and commercial hub of Sri Lanka, Colombo. The drive will take around three hours. Once you've checked into your hotel, you can explore the city. 

Colombo is a bustling and picturesque metropolis where modern high-rise buildings rub shoulders with historic colonial architecture. Don't miss the highlights like Independence Square, the famous Red Mosque, Colombo Fort, and the Old Parliament. For some quiet amid the hustle and bustle, head to the oceanfront Galle Face Green, a favorite hangout spot for locals and tourists alike. Or take a break in Viharamahadevi Devi Park, where you'll find tall flowering trees and lots of green space; it's the city's largest and oldest park.

Day 13: Depart Colombo

Wave goodbye to Colombo

Today it's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka! After checking out of your hotel in Colombo, a chauffeur will come and collect you and drive you to Bandaranaike International Airport. Have a safe flight home or to your next destination!

More Great Sri Lanka Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Sri Lanka? Check out these other Sri Lanka itineraries, explore other ways to spend 13 days in Sri Lanka, or learn about the best time to visit Sri Lanka.


Map of Tea Hills & Tropical Beaches of Sri Lanka - 13 Days
Map of Tea Hills & Tropical Beaches of Sri Lanka - 13 Days