(Offbeat) Travel to Sri Lanka : 9 Days Itinerary for Your Perfect Vacation

Sri Lanka, which is also known as Ceylon, is a country in the southern part of Asia. If you are visiting the country for the first time, you will be left mesmerised. You will find interactive & nature-friendly people with happy faces willing to be of help, huge wildlife presence, colorful culture on display and if it isn’t your first time, you will second this.

Contrary to several opinions that Sri Lanka isn’t safe for travellers, well that is not the case. Sri Lanka is indeed a safe country to go to and you need not worry about someone stabbing you from the back or a fellow starting a riot on a sunny day at the beach. The people are kind and helping.

When you plan to visit Sri Lanka, you might decide the best time to travel there. For visiting the west and south coasts or the hill country, December to March is perfect. The months between April and May to September are best for the eastern coast of the country.

If you are planning to rent a car & to drive yourself in the country, you will need a provisional driver’s license to drive. The car rental company organises it for you for an additional amount. We booked it through SR Rent a car.

Self Drive Car rental in Sri Lanka

The visa application for Sri Lanka for Indians is a breeze, but be vary of the private companies which make it look like your are logging in on the government website but they are actually agents. Its $21 for per person which is approximately 1500/-INR. Link to the official website.

Get your travel insurance done as it covers your baggage loss, missed flights, health problems, etc.. We chose to do it with Apollo Munich and it costed us Rs. 720 (Seven hundred Twenty Rupees) per person. Don’t miss to check your benefits with your insurer.

There are several travel Sri Lanka packages that you will find, however, what has been the case often times is that those packages are not as worth as you would expect. The point is this, ditch the travel packages to Sri Lanka and curate your own. If you have the time, explore the country as much as you want and you would not go wrong.

In case you are looking for a tour guide, the one given below is perfect and worked well for me and my wife. The guide below is an itinerary for 9 days in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Map for 9 days trip

[Click on the map to open Google Maps Directions from place to place.]

Day 1 – Fly to Colombo. Stay at Negombo.
Day 2 – Negambo to Sigiriya to Kandy.
Day 3 – Kandy to Ella.
Day 4 – Stayover at Ella.
Day 5 – Ella to Yala National Park.
Day 6 – Yala National Park to Unawatuna.
Day 7 – Stayover at Unawatuna.
Day 7 – Unawatuna to Galle.
Day 8 – Galle to Colombo
Day 9 – Goodbye Sri Lanka!

For in- depth information, refer to the itinerary below :

Day 1: Fly to Colombo (Bandaranaike International Airport) and head to Negombo. We chose to stay and explore Colombo city at the end of our trip. There are quite a few options ranging from bus and train to taxi or drive a car you rent. However, the best option is to go through the train as it is the cheapest but as we were renting a self drive, a pickup from the rental company was organised and the car was handed over to us for the journey. Distance between the two cities is 12kms by road. We reached Negombo by 5pm and we enjoyed our first sundowner in Sri Lanka by the beach.

We stayed at Hotel J Negombo. Our stay was comfortable and the property had a small pool.

Hotel J negombo, Sri lanka balcony
Dinner – We went around Negombo and found out a great wood fired restaurant- Bella Vista along the road. My wife is crazy for pizzas and she found those the best wood fired vegetarian PIZZAS she ever had and that she can vouch for. Unfortunately it was a Vegetarian only day, hence we couldn’t order any non vegetarian dish in the area. 🙁

Recommendation for stay – Camelot Beach Hotel, Negombo.

Day 2: The second day, it is time to leave Negombo for the Sigirya rock and onwards to Kandy.  Since this being a long day, we decided to leave early from Negombo and grab breakfast on the go. We headed to the Sigirya rock – a journey that took a few hours by road. The roads are single lane highways and have both side traffic moving.

Instead of climbing the famous Sigiriya rock, we hiked Pidurangala rock, which is adjacent to the Sigiriya rock and has a view of it. The rock climbing starts from a temple and they charge 500LKR as a donation. It could take around 1.5 hours to 3 hours up and down the rock.  Climbing to the top and the breeze up there will definitely give you a sense of accomplishment. It’s shaded most of the way up, so you are not under the sun. The view from the top is Epic!
Tip : Be sure to be in track pants/ shorts to hike up the rocks.

tough climb to pidurangala rock

After the treacherous hike and back we started for our journey from Sigirya to Kandy and which  is about 90kms by road and you sure have options of transportation to choose from. By road, you will need about 3hours to reach your destination.

Travel to Pidurangala rock

After the climb to Pidurangala rock, my wife was rewarded with Indian food for dinner at Indian summer Restaurant at Kandy. Good authentic Indian food and fine dining.

Kandy market is pretty and huge, if time allows you can spend a day exploring the market and options around but we moved ahead in the journey.

Day 3: Kandy to Ella.

It’s the third day in Sri Lanka and our next stop is Ella. There are express trains from Kandy to Ella and the journey will take approximately 7 hours. It is considered to be the most instagrammable thing to do! But since we were driving we ditched it. We started around 11am from Kandy and stopped at Newara Ella for lunch. The beautiful hill station of Sri Lanka. It’s on a plateau and the weather is pleasant throughout the day.  If you have been to Gulmarg in India, you would know what I am talking about.

Tea Estates of Sri Lanka in Ella nuwara ella sri lanka

We reached around 4pm and decided to go checkout Nine arches bridge on the same day as we had some more day time left with us. After finding the route, a small hike through gardens and big steps get you to the view of Nine arches bridge. The route is nicely marked at turns for the way to Nine arches Bridge. We were lucky to be there around when the train goes through it and we met lot of locales and tourists who come to see and take pictures.

Indian traveller at Nine arches bridge - Sri Lanka

In case you want to catch a glimpse of train passing by, the train reaches around 5:30-6:00pm after the sun goes across the valley.

Kriti Mishra at Nine arches bridge - Sri Lanka

Day 4: Welcome to Ella and be sure to enjoy the city. There is quite a few sightseeing in the city to do for the whole day in Ella. Some of these amazing places where you can blend in with the locals and learn a thing or two include the Nine Arches Bridge (if you were tired one day earlier and skipped it then), Ella railway station (a cute little station out of fairytale), Ella Spice Garden, Little Adam’s peak (requires a whole day), Tea fields (Learn the skill of how they select the best tea leaves and tea production) and of course the ever-flowing waters at Ravana falls.

For food in Ella, head straight to Cafe Chill & AK Ristoro. It wont disappoint you.

Villa Skygazer Ella Sri lanka

We stayed at a lovely Airbnb – Villa Skygazer amidst woods, under the stars.

Day 5: This day, our next stop was the Yala National Park but we detoured to go to Diyaluma falls. In total it is an hour’s distance from Wellawaya to and back to join the route for Yala National Park. But let me tell you, it’s worth the time. It’s a humongous waterfall and people hike up and camp at the top of the falls.

famous Diyaluma falls drone photo

The distance between the two places(Ella & Yala National Park) is approximately 90kms and will take approx. 3hours by road. Yala National Park is a huge area of forest in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka. Wildlife presence in the park includes leopards, elephants, crocodiles as well as several hundreds of bird species. The sky would become dark by the time you are through with the park. There are numerous Yala National Park expeditions that happen after 3pm onwards. We spent our evening strolling by Tissa Lake, eating local ice cream, listening to the  chirping birds and feeling the breeze.

Kethaka Aga Yala National park sri lanka

We stayed at a property – Kethaka Aga in Tissamaharama. Our accommodation was adjacent to the beautiful paddy fields and a great green view. It was a blissful and relaxing experience with ultimate local Sri Lankan food served for our taste buds.

Day 6&7: Leave Yala to Unawatuna.
It’s a brand-new day and the next stop is Unawatuna. If you like coastal drive, this is the day for you! The distance between the two cities is 145kms and it takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes by the road. It was raining the day we drove down but it was a beautiful route.
Coastal drive of sri lanka
Stop at the iconic-instagrammable spot at Mrissa to click pictures under the palms by the turquoise color sea. There are multiple companies that take you out for Whale watching. One such company is Sail Lanka Charter. We couldn’t go out as it was raining all through the day and the sea was roaring.

Drone photos of Sri lanka beaches

We also went around to see the Turtle Hatchery which is roughly 4 minutes away from the property we stayed in. After comparing lot of reviews on trip advisor with multiple hatcheries we stumbled upon Koggala Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery where we had a very knowledgeable guide who took us around the hatchery and gave information about the diversity. Must-do!

If you have not heard of the Dalawella beach, then you definitely should visit, especially at sunset. The popular rope swing is definitely a must at the beach. So, try it out. Must-do! They charge about 500LKR for 3 swings. The place is Insta-famous! We stopped by for a quick swing but apparently the owner/caretaker wasn’t available that time so we just wandered on the beach.

Location – https://goo.gl/maps/5f2d9NSuWPj9yq6V8

Cantaloupe Aga Unawatuna

Breakfast local cuisine sri lankaWe stayed at Cantaloupe Aqua in Talpe. They have a private kinda beach where there’s hardly any crowd. They have clean rooms and they serve great breakfast! We stayed two nights here as we were doing long drives for the past two days.

Day 8: The eighth day and it’s time to leave for Unawatuna for Galle. The distance between the two cities is 15km by road. If you are driving, then you should be at Galle within 30minutes.

Kriti Mishra at 18 Faces Boutique hotel, galle, Sri Lanka

We stayed at a very awesome property again at 18 faces boutique hotel. It’s contemporary architecture with a big pool and we were craving Indian food by now and they cooked especially for us. The chef was also working with a famous restaurant in Galle Fort.

Head to Galle fort for sundowner & Go shopping!

Galle Fort, Sri lanka

Day 9: The ninth day eventually and it’s time to finally leave. Get yourself to Colombo from Galle and you will definitely find the best route to your destination. It’s one of the two highways they have in the country. You can definitely speed up and enjoy the fast drive! Eat at Crab Factory in Colombo.

Our research made us not commit the mistake most of the travellers to Sri Lanka do. I hope everyone who reads this makes the sensible and responsible choice by not visiting places like Pinnawala. It’s time that we stand against animal cruelty and abuse. Animals here are abused to earn money and there are tones of blogs on internet talking about it.

Sri Lanka is a wonderful country and the tourist attractions are exciting and interesting. Remember, the goal is to enjoy your stay as much as possible. So, do just that.

We went around at Keels – supermarket for our daily needs. It’s mostly everywhere across the western side of island.

I was travelling light and hardly carrying my gear on the vacation but this is what I felt was sufficient. Camera gear that I used : Drone – DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Camera – Canon 5d Mark IV
Lenses – Sigma 24mm f/1.4 & Canon 85mm f/1.4 (bought from GP Pro, Lajpat Nagar, Delhi)
Camera backpack – Lowepro Tahoe BP150 Camera Backpack=

We used Skyscanner for flight bookings, Properties from booking.com and airbnb.in. For Car rental you can use EuropCars or book directly with SR Rent a Car.

Airbnb is the best way to live like a local. You can book entire apartment or just spare bedrooms. We’ve got a $35 or Rupee 900 credit for you on your first stay. For signing up with booking.com and booking your first stay, get 700INR, follow this link.

If you have any questions about anything at all, feel free to get in touch with me. Navigate to Home page for Lifeworks Studios and to know more about what we do, click here.

Ishan Saxena and Kriti Mishra

Missus and I 🙂