Late this summer I visited Sri Lanka on my way from Singapore to India. I flew into Colombo and spent a couple days in the city and down on Mount Lavinia beach. Then, since my time was limited and I was feeling lazy, I booked a tour through a company so I could see as much of the rest of the country as possible. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do and see, and worked with the agent to come up with this 7 day Sri Lanka itinerary. The itinerary is something she wrote, and I added a few of my comments to each location. A fair warning the article may be a bit choppy because of this.
Keep in mind if you’d like to see Colombo or its surrounding areas this itinerary does not allow time for that. Colombo was hardly worth spending time in, if you’re staying there, I recommend staying at the beach of Mount Lavinia, it’s cheaper and not a bad tuk tuk or train ride away (the local train is an experience in itself). Sri Lanka also has very distinct seasons, and different sides of the island are in season at opposite times of the year, so you’ll likely want to change you itinerary based on this. My visit in September meant the east side of the island had beach weather, and the center was mostly dry. The temperature was reasonable until we got to Trincomalee where it got very, very hot (which it’s known for). Also, there are parts in the south and very north (Jaffna) which I really wanted to visit but just did not have time.
I know for sure Sri Lanka can be done for much cheaper, but when you start to visit all the national parks, you’ll be shocked at how expensive things are for foreigners. I wrote an entire separate post about how Sri Lanka Is Not Cheap.
Departure from Colombo at around 7.30 am to Kandy, en-route visit the Pinnawila Elephant Orphanage, where you may see them bathe in the river or even baby elephants being fed.
Afterwards, Proceed to Kandy the Hill capital, visit the Temple of Tooth Relic which is a sacred place to Buddhists around the world, though it is termed as a temple, it was the palace of the last king of Sri Lanka, before the British took over. Here, you’ll find the history described by a series of paintings.
Proceed with site seeing within the Kandy City.
Kandy, in the heart of the cultural triangle, is an essential stop. However, I found the Elephant Orphanage to be more entertaining, it was pretty cool to see the elephants playing in the river. No need to higher a guide at the temple of the tooth relic in my opinion.
After breakfast, proceed to Dambulla, one of the scenic historical towns in the island, visit the Rock Cave Temples and witness where the ancient priests found peace.
Afterwards, proceed to Sigiriya, the Rock Fortress which is a part of written and prewritten popular myths and history of Sri Lanka. In Sigiriya, you’ll find frescoes paintings of beautiful maidens which are more than 1000’s of years old as well as the wonderful irrigation system, which is why Sigiriya is nominated as the Eighth Wonder of the world.
Both Dambulla and Sigiriya were VERY cool. They both surpassed my expectations and I was happy I included them in my itinerary, as I almost clipped them out. No guide needed for either, unless you really want to know the history. There is a little museum for the caves at Dambulla, and for other parts of Sri Lanka. You can run through it quickly if you like, but it’s nothing special. Dambulla also plays home to the largest Buddha statue in the world, and it’s gold.
After breakfast, leave for a safari at the Minneriya National Park – Reservoir, if you are lucky you may be able to witness the “Grand Elephant Gathering”. Minneriya has a rich variety of Sri Lankan wildlifeas well as native and migrant birds.
After the safari, leisure at hotel.
I was lucky enough to be at Minneraya National Park during the Great Elephant Gathering, we saw probably 100+ elephants, and I know there were more at the park. Apparently there are also crocodiles and occasionally leopards at the park, but we saw neither. The way it works is people hire jeeps and take them around the park, so you’ll be bombarded when you arrive to get a jeep. Have a plan upfront, to save some cash just get with some other people who need a jeep and share one.
After breakfast, Proceed to Polonnaruwa, Visit the ancient city, you may witness remnants of a glorious kingdom and some monuments still proudly standing, which forms live pictures of past in our minds.
Polonnaruwa again was something which exceeded my expectations. Another stop I considered cutting out due to time restraints, I’m glad I didn’t. I was pretty much forced into a tour guide here because my driver did not know where to go as the area is big. He was full of info, and it wasn’t bad to have him around, but he wasn’t cheap.
Afterwards, proceed to Trincomalee, A popular colonial, historical port city in the east coast of the island.
Leisure at the beach and site seeing in the city.
Trincomalee, or “Trinco” as the locals call it, is mainly just a beach area for tourists. The best beach is called Nilaveli Beach, this would be a good place to stay, although probably more expensive. In town there’s an old fort and a cool Hindu temple on the cliff. There’s also a famous spot, which I believe is right out front of the temple (although I couldn’t say for sure which cliff it is, and my driver was clueless), but its called “Lover’s Leap”. Apparently back in the day, a dutch girl killed herself jumping from it because she was supposed to go back to Holland and leave her boyfriend. A half kilometer or kilometer off the Nilaveli Beach shore there’s a little island called Pigeon Island. You can take a boat out to the clear waters and snorkel or relax on the secluded beach. Diving opportunities are also available off Nilaveli. One other thing Tincomalee is famous for is it’s world class harbor, but really the main point of interest for you or I will be the beach.
Leisure at the Beach
As mentioned before, you can expect Trinco to be very hot, at least during the months around September. At the resort I stayed at, I was the only one laying out in the sun, and I was soaked in sweat and constantly in the water. Most people opt to grab a chair or hammock in the shade during the peak sunlight hours.
After an early breakfast, Site seeing in the city, and proceed to Negombo.
I didn’t have much time in Negombo, it was a long drive from Trinco so I arrived just before sunset and flew out the next morning. My impression from the time I had there was that it had the most westerners of everywhere I went. The beach was out of season, but it’s known for wind surfing and kite surfing. It also has a lagoon which sounded cool, whether it was actually nice or not I can’t say. The Colombo airport is an easy tuk tuk from Negombo, it’s actually closer and a lot easier to get to the airport from Negombo than Colombo, and Negombo is an easier starting point if you’d like to head to Kandy or any of the other places in the Sri Lankan Cultural Triangle. I’d say Negombo is not a mandatory spot to visit on your trip, but a nice stopover when entering or exiting Sri Lanka.
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