Sri Lanka was even better than I anticipated and that’s saying a lot because I was looking forward to this trip so much! This 10 day Itinerary for Sri Lanka is the perfect way to experience the country and culture without feeling burnt out.
Since we only had ten days to explore this small tropical island, I did a lot of research to ensure we used our time wisely to get the most out of each day.
With this 10 day Itinerary for Sri Lanka, you’ll get a bit of everything from experiencing the bustling busy cities, amazing mountain views/hikes, safaris and also time to relax on the beautiful beaches in the South.
It’s the perfect way to get a taste of Sri Lanka and will leave you wanting to go back sooner than later!
Disclaimer – Andrew broke his foot a few weeks before the trip so he was using crutches the whole trip. As a result, we took a lot of tuk-tuks (you’ll be able to just walk) and we skipped Sigiriya Rock because he wouldn’t be able to do it.
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10 day Sri Lanka Itinerary
*The following itinerary is the exact one that we did, but I’ll include some substitutions/ suggestions as well!
Day 1 – Colombo – City
Day 2 – Kandy – City
Day 3-4 Ella – Mountains/Hiking
Day 5-6 Tissamaharama – SAFARIS!
Day 7-10 Mirissa Beach – Relax on the beach, snorkeling, scuba
*If Andrew’s foot wasn’t broken then we would follow the same itinerary but would have skipped Colombo and gone straight to Sigiriya for 2 nights and then only had 3 nights in Mirissa.
Day 1 – Colombo
You’ll most likely be arriving at the airport appx. an hour away from Colombo. You can choose to stay in Negombo (which many people do) or take an Uber from the airport to Colombo, the country’s capital.
Since you’ll likely be tired after a long flight, I recommend staying in Colombo because the train station to go to Kandy is located in Colombo and means less traveling the next day.
How to get to Colombo from the airport (1 hr):
Take an Uber because it’ll be the cheapest rate. Our ride only cost appx 1600 Rs ($9 USD) for a trip that was over 45 minutes long.
Where to stay in Colombo:
Budget: Under $10 USD/night
Colombo Downtown Monkey – Located in a prime location, is 5-minute walk from Galle face green & Old parliament building. (Appx. $5 USD for a dorm)
Backpackers Paradise Colombo – Clean and Cheap, and you can get a double size bed for appx. $7 USD
Haven Fort Hostel – Perfect location, buffet breakfast included all for less than $4 USD.
We stayed at Wonder Hotel for one night and it cost 10150 Rs. The staff was really great and accommodating and the location was PERFECT.
The Ocean Front – Sunsets from the ocean facing restaurant are amazing.
Renuka City Hotel – Amazing location, rooftop pool, and value!
Galle Face Hotel – It features a spa and a with lounge chairs that face the
Cinnamon Red Colombo – Cinnamon hotels are a huge chain of hotels in Sri Lanka, and for a good reason. They’re awesome and the location is always good.
Marino Beach Colombo – The rooftop pool is HUGE and amazing.
Most people don’t like Colombo and have given it a bad rep but I disagree. Sure, it may not be what you think of when you imagined Sri Lanka, but this is one of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka, a hub where people come for work so of course, it’s BUSY AF!
But that’s what makes it fun! You get to experience what life is really like in the city for all the people who live and work there. The traffic is ridiculous, but it actually moves because these people are crazy drivers and lanes are just suggestions.
The honking, the noise, the huge crowds of people, the hustle and bustle and the coastline nearby – it was amazing to see.
Being such a huge city there are tons of places to explore like:
- The Galle Face Green
- Check out the beautiful colonial buildings in the fort area
- The stunning red and white candy-striped Red Mosque
- Visit the National Museum
- Viharamahadevi Park – located right next to the National Museum
There are also many restaurants/bars/lounges to try. You only have one night in Colombo so make it count!
Day 2 – Kandy
Kandy is the second largest city in the Central province of Sri Lanka. It’s a big, bustling city similar to Colombo but with a very different vibe because it’s surrounded by mountains.
In Kandy, you can easily find accommodation with amazing mountain views, but you won’t be right in the city.
TIP: Since you’re heading to Ella next, I suggest staying in the Kandy city because all the main attractions are close together and you can get those epic mountain views in Ella!
You can see everything in Kandy within a day – with the exception of the Botanical Gardens. You could squeeze it in if you get to Kandy early enough but it may feel rushed.
Some of the things to do in Kandy are:
- Visiting The temple of the Tooth
- Walking around Kandy Lake
- Check out the best views of the city from the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha
- Botanical Gardens
- Take a Cooking Class
- Get a massage
How to get to Kandy from Colombo (3.5 hrs):
Take an uber from your hotel to the Colombo Fort Train station. From Wonder Hotel it only cost 213 Rs ($1.22 USD).
Tell your driver you’re going to Kandy so he can drop you closer to the correct ticket booth to purchase your train ticket.
There are specific booths for each ticket class and destination. We used Booth number 4 to buy second class seats to Kandy. They cost 250 LKR and you’ll get a more comfortable seat that allows you in second and third class if you choose to go there.
You can find the train schedule here.
We took the 8:30 am train and arrived in Kandy around 12 pm. If you want to add the Botanical Gardens in during your one day in Kandy, I suggest leaving much earlier so you can see it without feeling rushed.
PRO TIP: The train ride from Colombo to Kandy has amazing views and is much less crowded than the train ride from Kandy to Ella – you know, the one you’ve probably read all about.
In my opinion, the train ride from Kandy to Ella is overrated and I wrote this post about Why I hated the train ride from Kandy to Ella so you can understand why.
If you do the train from Colombo to Kandy, you’re really not missing out on much by skipping the train from Kandy to Ella and opting for a private taxi instead.
Day 3-4 Ella
Ella, ella, ella, ey, ey, ey … I couldn’t help myself. I hope you read that as I sang it (Umbrella by Rihanna – but you knew that)
Ella was one of our favorite cities in Sri Lanka (as is the case for most people). It’s not hard to see why. The town is super cute located in the middle of the mountains with lots of great restaurants, tourist shops, and beautiful accommodations with epic mountain views.
Some things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka:
- Hike up Little Adam’s Peak
- Hike up Ella Rock
- Hang out at the 9 Arch Bridge and taking some great Instagram photos
- Cooking class
- Visiting Ravana Falls.
(You can walk to the start of most of the hikes from Ella Town or take a tuk-tuk for less than 200 Rs – I chose tuk-tuk because it was so hot and I’m lazy haha.)
TIP: If you choose to take the train from Kandy to Ella as we did, you won’t arrive until after 4 pm so you’ll only have the evening in Ella (day 3) and then a full day for hikes etc. the following day (day 4). Add an additional day in Ella if you want to hike up Ella Rock or visit Horton Plains National Park.
How to get to Ella from Kandy (7+ hrs):
Take a tuk-tuk to the train station (300 Rs from our hotel Ceyloni City Hotel) and get second class train tickets to Ella (315 Rs).
The first train leaves at 8:30-9am. Arrive at least 30 mins early to get your ticket and wait on the platform because it will get busy.
It’s a 7+ hour ride and Andrew got a seat because of his injury, otherwise, there were none available.
It was SO crowded and cramped, there was no space for anyone to move. When you get on, don’t bother with a seat and try to get a spot near the door. You’ll enjoy beautiful views and a breeze!
I really didn’t enjoy this train ride despite the views everyone goes on about. Check out this post to find out why.
Alternate Plans: To break up the long train ride, you could add a day or two in Nuwara Eliya which is only 3-4 hours from Kandy. We decided not to since we only had 10 days, and just continued on to Ella.
Day 5-6 Safaris in Tissamaharama
Tissamaharama aka Tissa is a really small town mainly used as a base for safaris because it’s located close to Yala National Park (leopards), Bundala National Park (birds) and Udawalawe National Park (elephants). Check out this post for more information on how to choose the perfect safari in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Tissamaharama from Ella (3 hrs):
You can get to Tissa by taking a few buses or by hiring a private taxi. If it was only one bus I may have done it because the trip was only a few hours, but because of Andrew’s broken foot, we couldn’t be bothered with bus transfers and just got a taxi.
On Ella town’s main strip there are lots of taxi guys available but you can also arrange one from your hotel.
The cost from Ella to Tissa for most taxi services was around 7000 Rs, but I asked for a better rate and got a sweet deal on a shared taxi for 4000 Rs from Ella to Tissa (2.5-3hr drive).
We arrived at our accommodation V Cabanas around 12:30 pm. They were so friendly, warm and accommodating! They greeted us with drinks and even arranged a wheelchair for Andrew when we told them about his injury.
The room was clean and had views of the rice paddies, but they were flooded and muddy – I still enjoyed it though. I definitely recommend staying here!
They also had free bikes that we could use, so we took them for a ride into the town. We didn’t stay out too long because it was crazy hot so, after about 30 minutes riding around, we went back and had lunch at the hotel.
Since we had the afternoon free, I booked a safari for bird watching in Bundala National Park, but wish I didn’t. If you’re going to Yala, skip this safari.
TIP: Since there’s not much to do in Tissa, instead of arriving early in Tissa, spend the day in Ella and arrange a late taxi to Tissa.
TIP #2: There is a huge area with many animals you can see before even entering Bundala National Park. Take a tuk-tuk and explore here instead of paying for the Safari. We saw more in the “free” area than during the actual safari.
We didn’t really see a lot (because of the draught there weren’t too many birds) and the next day we saw all the same animals when we went on the safari in Yala National Park ($7000 Rs or $40 USD each).
Yala National Park Safari (Day 6)
We got picked up at 4:30 am for our full day safari. We did the safari with Yala safari with Nelson. He lived up to his reputation, was on time and delivered a great safari experience! We saw all the animals we wanted to see including a leopard which we saw 3 times!!
TIP: There are tons of safari companies that vary in prices. For a Full day safari for two people it should cost between $127 USD-$140 USD.
TIP #2: Do the half day tour until 12 pm. After about 5 hours, we saw all the animals we wanted to see and I was ready to go because the roads were crazy!
I was prepared for BUMPY roads but no one said anything about constantly feeling like the car was about to tip over. Seriously, since we were in elevated seats it felt like we were on 45-50 degree angles a lot of the time and I really felt like we would flip over. I didn’t enjoy that feeling at all and held on for dear life.
We told Nelson our concerns and he did a great job driving slowly and carefully and made me feel safe, but still, it sucked feeling like that.
Alternate Plans: Arrange a late taxi ride to Mirissa the next day so you can add a morning safari from 6am-10am to Udawalawe National Park to see some elephants before leaving Tissa!
Day 7-10 Mirissa Beach
After the cities, mountains, and safaris we were ready to relax, drink and do nothing on the beach for our last few nights in Sri Lanka. There are a few beach towns in the South, the main ones being Tangalle, Mirissa, and Unawatuna.
We chose Mirissa because based on the research I did, it seemed like it was busier and had a lot more things to see and do. Mirissa has a beautiful beach full of restaurants where you can easily spend the day eating, drinking, reading and relaxing all day. We absolutely loved it!
Some of the things to do in Mirissa are:
- Whale watching
- Scuba diving
- Relax on the beach
- Sunset at Coconut Tree Hill
- Day trip to Galle and Unawatuna Beach
How to get to Mirissa from Tissamaharama (3 hrs):
As before, you can reach Mirissa by using a few buses, but we chose to hire our tour guide Nelson to take us in his taxi. He also agreed to give us a mini tour on the way to Mirissa (8000 Rs + 500 tip).
From Mirissa you can easily do a day trip to Galle and Unawatuna Beach which is 45 mins away. Galle is a really cute Dutch-colonial town with a fort to see. You can spend the day walking around and shopping. After that, take a quick tuk-tuk ride to Unawatuna beach and enjoy!
How to get to Galle from Mirissa (1 hr):
Take the 350 Bus which you can get from the bus stop on the main street. It costs 85 Rs and should take about 45 minutes to an hour to arrive in Galle.
When you get on the bus, tell the bus driver where you want to go and track your location using Google Offline Maps or Maps.me app.
You could also hire a tuk-tuk to take you there for 2000 Rs or round trip for 4000 Rs, but since it’s only one bus and less than an hour I suggest taking the bus and saving 3900 Rs for something else!
The Wrap Up
That’s it, the vacation is over and it’s time to head back to the airport for your departing flight.
How to get to the Airport from Mirissa (3.5 hrs):
You can take public transport to the airport by taking a bus to Galle train station, then take the train to Colombo and then take an Uber from there to the airport.
Or you can hire a taxi as we did. The going rate is 8000 Rs but we managed to get ours for 7500 Rs. It takes about 3 hrs to get there and was a fairly quick and easy ride with beautiful views.
Our trip to Sri Lanka was amazing and I hope that this detailed (maybe a little too detailed) itinerary helps you plan your trip and your budget! It’s super easy to get around this beautiful little islands and there are so many things to do.
We spent less than $2500 USD during our ten days – for both of us! You can spend even less as a solo traveler or by staying in hostels.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful destination that’s affordable and has something for everyone. The best part about the trip was truly meeting the local people. Everyone was so friendly, helpful and warm. A lot of people speak English really well, so it was great to have conversations with them!
I hope this post helps, let me know in the comments below what you would do!
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