The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary

The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary

Sri Lanka is the hidden gem of South Asia with its great nature, spectacular hikes, perfect sand beaches and waves for surfing! Three weeks is an ideal length for a round trip in Sri Lanka, as you cross through the jungle, tea plantations, and ancient cities. You will get to know the culture and history of this tropical country as well.  Here is The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary!

The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary

The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary is a day-by-day plan for a Sri Lanka round trip. You can travel this country easily by bus, tuk-tuk, motorbike, taxi, train or private driver. One of the most popular option is definitely to travel by traditional Sri Lankan trains and experiencing the Sri Lankan culture as you have amazing scenes through beautiful landscapes. 

You can use this plan of 3-week round trip to cover the top things to do in Sri Lanka, and if you have more time, there are some additional hints, as well. 

How to travel to Sri Lanka?

From Europe, there are a lot of flights to Sri Lanka. But direct flights are not that much. You need to have at least one stop to reach to the Colombo Airport. From Munich or Frankfurt in Germany, you have good options and prices.

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Day 1: Colombo

Where to visit in Colombo?

You should start in Colombo for this 3 weeks round trip in Sri Lanka, because most of the airlines have flight to Colombo. You can stay here 1 to 2 days to get rest and fill your energy for the next destinations of this round trip. Believe us, you will need this rest in Colombo!

After filling up your energy a bit, you can go for a sightseeing in Colombo. Colombo is the capital city of Sri Lanka, where the traditional buildings meet with the skyscrapers. In Colombo, you should visit Gangaramaya Temple, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples. The temple is not only a place of worship, but also a sanctuary of cultural preservation. You can find ancient handmade items, rare coins and statues in the museum existing in this temple.

You should not miss Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque because of its red colored and unconventional architecture. It is located in Pettah district. Then you should visit Pettah Floating Market before leaving Colombo where you can find local food and handcrafts such as clothes and souvenirs. It is only 8 min away by walking from the railway station.

Where to eat in Colombo?

The Sizzle Colombo is a great Sri Lankan restaurant, offers delicious local food with huge portions. Two person can share a fried rice here.

How to travel from Colombo to Sigiriya?

Unfortunately there is no direct public transport from Colombo to Sigiriya. However, you can go to Habarana by bus or train and then take a tuk-tuk to Sigiriya. If you would prefer the bus, you should go to the Kotuwa bus station in Colombo and take the bus number 48 or 49 until the Habarana Junction.

If you decide to go by train, you can check the train tickets online from Sri Lanka Railway for first or second class ticket reservations. Or you can buy the train ticket for third class at the day of travel from the ticket counter in Colombo Fort Railway Station. It takes around 5 h to arrive to Habarana by bus or train. Then you need to take a tuk-tuk for around 25 min till Sigiriya (approximately 18 km).

You can also travel to Sigiriya directly by taxi, which would take around 3 h 15 min. But this will definitely cost higher as it is around 175 km from Colombo to Sigiriya, which means LKR 24.000 (EUR 74,5) considering LKR 135 per km.

Read also: The Best Places to Visit in Colombo

Day 2-4: Sigiriya

Where to visit in Sigiriya?

You should not miss Sigiriya, where the nature formed two amazing rocks. You should prepare yourself for amazing hikes for these two rocks. On the first day, you should start hiking to Pidurangala Rock, where you can have an amazing sunrise with the view of Sigiriya Lion Rock.

Read also: The Best Place to Visit in Sigiriya: Pidurangala Rock

For the sunset, you should visit the Sigiriya Lion Rock, which is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka. On the Sigiriya Lion Rock, you’ll find the remains of an ancient palace and gardens and frescoes along the way.

Read also: Sigiriya Lion Rock: Things You Need to Know

Polonnaruwa Ancient City is a one-hour tuk-tuk ride from Sigiriya, you absolutely shouldn’t skip visiting on second day. Polonnaruwa is one of the old capital, which contains impressive archaeological ruins including palaces, temples, statues, and irrigation systems. You can explore well-preserved structures such as the Royal Palace, Gal Vihara, and the Quadrangle. After your visit to Polonnaruwa Ancient City, you recommend to book a cooking class in Sigiriya, the Organic Cooking Class is an amazing class organized by Kumara and his family. On your last day, on the way to Kandy you should see the Dambulla Dedicated Economic Center, Dambulla Cave Temple and Golden Temple.

Where to eat in Sigiriya?

Kenoli Restaurant is one of the best restaurants that we tried during our Sri Lanka trip. We would definitely recommend it. You just need to be patient in the restaurants. Because service time takes always long, but it ıs definitely worth to wait. Don’t forget to try different fresh juices! The Tea Bar Sigiriya is another restaurant in Sigiriya, where you can eat fresh and tasty Sri Lankan food.

How to travel to from Sigiriya to Kandy?

Hence Sigiriya doesn’t have a railway station, you should either take bus to Kandy or get a Tuk-Tuk ride to Kandy. If you want to visit Dambulla Dedicated Economic Center and Dambulla Cave Temple, Golden Temple, as we did, the best option is to get a tuk-tuk.

Read also: Dambulla Cave Temple: The Best Place to See in Dambulla

Day 5-6: Kandy

Where to visit in Kandy?

Kandy, the second-largest city in Sri Lanka, exudes old-world charm with its colonial-era buildings set around the Kandy Lake. You can walk around the lake to enjoy the view. The cityscape offers a captivating blend of history and modernity, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in its unique ambiance. Don’t forget to explore the magnificent Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy! It is renowned for its stunning diversity of plant life. And of course, a visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic (also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa), a sacred Buddhist shrine, is an absolute must for anyone seeking spiritual enrichment and cultural insight. In addition, you can visit Kandy Municipal Central Market, where you will find souvenirs for good price.

Where to eat in Kandy?

Indi’s joint is a restaurant, where you can chill and cool down with delicious food and friendly service. Vito Wood Fired Pizza is a pizza restaurant on the hills of the city with a lake view.

Where to stay in Kandy?

Kandy City Village Home Stay is very clean hotel with very friendly staff. It is 30 min by walking to the Kandy Lake. Highly recommended!

How to travel from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya?

The best way to go from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is the train. However, there is no direct train connection to Nuwara Eliya. You should take the train from Kandy to Nanu Oya, then you can get a Tuk-Tuk ride to Nuwara Eliya. The views on the road to Nuwara Eliya is amazing! If you book your train through this widget, you can support us as well.

Day 7-8: Nuwara Eliya

Where to visit in Nuwara Eliya?

Nuwara Eliya is the region with really high hills, widespread tea plantations and amazing nature. We would highly recommend to spend some time in Nuwara Eliya. The Horton Plains National Park is very famous with its hiking route of World’s End Road. If you like hiking, then you should not miss this trail. We suggest to hike this route early in the morning. So that you can complete the most of the trail with cool weather. Another thing to do in Nuwara Eliya is the Damro Tea Factory & Plantation Tour. It is free of charge and at the end of tour you can try one of the best teas in Sri Lanka.

Where to eat in Nuwara Eliya?

Ambaal’s Pure Vegetarian Restaurant is a local restaurant with tasty food and a fair price. The Pub – Nuwara Eliya is a pub, where you can have some drinks. The Grand Hotel is renowned with its elegant colonial architecture, lush gardens, and impeccable service. If you want to enjoy a fine dining, it is right place for that.

How to travel to from Nuwara Eliya to Ella?

The route from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is very famous with its train travel. You should definitely take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. The scenes and landscape on the road to Ella is breathtaking! If you cannot find a ticket online as it is easily sold out, you can buy it from the ticket office of Nanu Oya train station at the day of travel for 3rd class. It costs only LKR 160 (EUR 0.5) per person.

Day 9-11: Ella

Where to visit in Ella?

Ella is the most tourist friendly city in Sri Lanka and is also one of our favorite in the Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka 3 weeks round trip. There a lot of activities that you should not miss. For the sunrise, you should hike to the Ella Rock. On the other hand, for the sunset you can hike to the Little Adam’s Peak. The view on both side of the valley is breathtaking.

You should definitely visit the famous Nine Arch Bridge, especially when the train is passing. The scene of bridge with the train is worth to see. You can buy ticket from Ella to the next train station, so you can travel with train over this amazing bridge as well. If you have some time you can visit the Ravana Falls and Diyaluma Falls. For Diyaluma Falls, you can even take your swimsuits with you. But you should be really careful as the rocks might be too slippery here.

Where to eat in Ella?

Ella is very rich of incredible pubs, cafes and restaurants. The food is very delicious at Cafe Chill, the Barn by Starbeans and Ak Ristoro. If you want to relax and slow down, you should visit either Cafe Chill or The Barn by Starbeans. From these places, you can watch the main street of Ella, when you are enjoying your cold drinks. Moreover, Raha Ella Sri Lanka has very delicious Sri Lankan food with very good price.

How to travel to from Ella to Arugam Bay?

Unfortunately there is no train from Ella to Arugam Bay, but you can travel this route via bus or taxi. As we planned to visit the Ravana Falls and Diyaluma Falls on the way to Ella, we went by taxi.

Day 12-15: Arugam Bay

Where to visit in Arugam Bay?

Arugam Bay is in the east part of this tropical island and very good to learn surfing. Here you shouldn’t miss the Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Kudumbigala Monastery Complex, Okanda Devalaya Temple and Elephant Rock. We would recommend to visit the Elephant Rock for the sunset. It is stunning! Of course, don’t forget the Arugam Bay Beach to surf and swim.

Where to eat in Arugam Bay?

Serendib Arugambay and Sail & Catch have fresh fish and very friendly service. We ate in both restaurants. They had very tasty grilled fish and therefore we can recommend them. Choco Lush has a very good and filling breakfast menu. Moreover, when you want to spend time on the beach, you can visit Tom & Jerry to get some cool drinks.

Where to stay in Arugam Bay?

Arugam Bay is all about the coastline. Most of the accommodations, cafes and restaurants are located along the beach. So you can definitely find a place that would fit you. We stayed in Paddyway Resort, which is a very new hotel, just opened in August 2023. It is very clean and the staff is friendly, so we can recommend it.

How to travel from Arugam Bay to Tissamaharama?

To visit Yala National Park, you can visit Tissamaharama. There is no direct bus to Tissamaharama. Therefore, you should take the bus in the direction of Pannegamuwa Junction from Pottuvil Bus Stand. From here then you can take another bus or get a tuk-tuk ride to Tissamaharama.

Day 16-17: Tissamaharama

Where to visit in Tissamaharama?

You should go for safari in Yala National Park by Ajith. Yala is renowned for its diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife, including leopards, elephants and a variety of bird species. If you are lucky like us, you might spot the elusive leopard! Leopard was glorious!

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How to travel from Tissamaharama to Ahangama?

From Tissaharama Bus Stand, you can take the Colombo Fort Bus, which drives through south coastline of Sri Lanka, also stops in Ahangama. Every 20 minutes, there is a bus driving in this route!

Day 18-23: Ahangama

Where to visit in Ahangama?

On the last destination of the Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary, you should definitely visit the south part of the Sri Lanka to enjoy the sun, waves, wind and ocean. Here you can visit Ahangama and Kabalana Beach is amazing for sunset and for surfing.

You can have a day-trip to Galle Fort to walk between historical buildings from colonial time and take some photos on the streets. On the south beach of Sri Lanka, there are some beaches, where you can swim with sea turtles without so much waves. You can go for swim on Paradise Cove in Midigama, Dalawella Beach in Unawatuna and Turtle Beach in Mirissa. If you visit Mirissa, you shouldn’t miss Coconut Hill and Parrot Rock. But we would recommend to go really early in order to avoid the crowd.

Where to eat in Ahangama?

In this 3 weeks itinerary, you will have 6 nights in Ahangama, so you will be able to try so many restaurants. East Felafel & More has delicious shawarma and hummus-falafel in bread and on plate. Both are amazing. You should try fried sushi and crispy chicken burger at TRAX Ahangama. Here you can also enjoy Cuban live music. Ceylon Sliders Ahangama is very good to drink some cold drinks on beach watching the amazing sunset. If you want to eat curry, definitely you should go to Crust Ahangama.

In Galle, you should eat in The Bungalow Galle Fort, they have amazing garden to chill. Moreover, La Boheme in Unawatuna has best pizza in Sri Lanka. For breakfast, you can have Turkish Breakfast at Sistersaway Villa.

Where to stay in Ahangama?

We recommend Sistersaway Villa to stay in Ahangama. They have very clean rooms, the hosts give amazing tips and also there is a cafe in the garden of the Airbnb.

How to travel from Ahangama to Colombo Airport?

From Ahangama, there is bus or train to Colombo Fort. From there you can take bus to the Bandaranaike International Airport. But taking a taxi can be a better option, if you don’t want to be wasted, when you reached to the airport.

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

The dry season, spanning from December to March, is ideal for exploring the island’s cultural sites, beaches, and wildlife reserves with minimal rainfall and pleasant temperatures.

Our article for The Ultimate Guide to See Sri Lanka: 3-Weeks Itinerary ends here. We wish you an exiting and safe trip! 🙂

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