Two Week Sri Lanka Itinerary For First Timers

Planning your first trip to Sri Lanka? Here’s what to see in this incredible island country full of stunning beaches, jungles, and mountains if you only have two weeks to visit.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue in Kandy. Photo: Yves Alarie | Unsplash

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Sri Lanka is a fascinating multicultural country that’s quickly becoming a bucketlist destination. With a mix of historical sites, interesting cities, and breathtaking scenery, there’s a lot to see here. If you’re looking to plan a trip, here’s what to see in two weeks in Sri Lanka.

As you travel to the beaches, jungles, mountains, and cities of Sri Lanka, you’ll mostly taxi taxis. Pick Me and Uber are the two most used ridesharing apps. While you can take buses or trains, taxis and rideshares are relatively inexpensive and allow you to reach your destination more quickly.

Day 1: Negombo

Just a short distance from Colombo International Airport (CMB), Negombo is a relaxed beach town that’s the perfect place to recover from a long flight. You can begin your adventure in Sri Lanka with a day of lounging on sandy beaches.

After arriving at the airport, it’s just a 15-minute drive to Negombo. Use Uber or Pick Me, the most popular rideshare app in Sri Lanka, to get there. While buses are available from the airport to Negombo, a taxi is quicker and easier.

Negombo, Sri Lanka. Photo: Florian Wehde | Unsplash

What to do and see in Negombo?

While there are lots of things to do in Negombo, most people are there to enjoy the beaches. Start off your trip with a day by the water.

The two most popular beaches in Negombo are Browns Beach and Negombo Beach. Morawala Beach is another beautiful beach as well. If you stay at a resort in Negombo, you can enjoy the private beach at your resort instead of going to one of the public beaches. At most beaches, there will be a variety of watersports like sailing, surfing, or kayaking you can try out if you want a more active day.

Where to eat in place Negombo?

There are several different dining options near the beaches in Negombo. If you’re staying at a resort, you can always try the restaurants or cafes onsite. At the beaches, you’ll find shacks serving crabs and lobsters. These are usually both tasty and filling.

Where to stay in Negombo?

  • $$$ – Heritance Negombo
  • $$ – Jetwing Lagoon
  • $ – Villa Dominikku

Day 2: Negombo

Most visitors come to Negombo just for the beaches, but there’s more to do in Negombo. Today, you’ll explore more in this charming fishing town.

Negombo Beach Resort. Photo: Recal Media | Unsplash

What to do and see in Negombo?

If you feel like you need another day at the beach, that’s completely understandable, but there’s more to see in Negombo. Fishing is one of the main industries in the town, so you should take time to visit the main fish market in Negombo. You might also want to book a boat tour of the Negombo lagoon. As you glide through the swamps, you’ll catch glimpses of rare birds and understand more about the fishing culture.

Another must-visit in Negombo is the Angurukaramulla Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the town. There are also a number of beautiful European-style churches around the town: St. Mary’s Church, St. Sebastian’s Church, and St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.

While sightseeing, make the short walk from St. Stephen’s Anglican Church to the old Dutch fort. There’s not much left to see, but the ruins are interesting still.

Where to eat in Negombo?

You can try out authentic Sri Lankan curry at the Lords Restaurant complex. If you’re in the mood for seafood, the Queen’s Restaurant is the perfect place to go. To try out more local dishes, consider taking a guided food tour of the city.

Day 3: Colombo

Travel time: 45 minutes by taxi

Colombo dates back thousands of years. Today, this metropolitan city is the capital of Sri Lanka and the country’s largest city. The city has a rich heritage and is the meeting point for a diverse range of religions and cultures. You’ll spend the day visiting the city’s most iconic sites and taking in the local scene.

Pettah Market. Photo: Shavin Peiries | Unsplash

What to do and see in Colombo?

In a large city with so much going on, one of the best ways to see as much as you can in a short time is with a guided walking tour.

If you’d rather explore on your own here are a few of the most visited sites in Colombo.

  • Pettah Market
  • Catholic Shrine of St Antony
  • Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
  • Odel Department Store
  • Victoria Park
  • Gangaramaya Temple
  • National Museum of Colombo
  • Galle Face Green

After a day of exploring, spend the evening at one of the city’s rooftop bars. Bontanik, ON14, and Cloud Red are just a few of the places in Colombo where you can enjoy the views while sipping on cocktails.

Where to eat in Colombo?

Consider taking a private cooking class to learn more about local cuisine and enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. If you’d rather eat at a restaurant, Barefoot Cafe or Park Street Mews are both great lunch options. For a nice dinner in a cool atmosphere, try one of the restaurants at the Dutch Hospital Complex.

Where to stay in Colombo?

  • $$$ – Galle Face Hotel
  • $$ – Movenpick Hotel Colombo
  • $ – C1 Colombo Fort

Day 4: Hiriketiya

Travel time: 2 hours by taxi

Hiriketiya used to be a hidden gem on the south coast of Sri Lanka, but thanks to its gorgeous beaches, this jungle paradise has quickly risen in popularity. It’s one of Sri Lanka’s best surf destinations, but Hiriketiya is worth the visit even if you don’t plan on riding the waves.

The waves are ideal at Hiriketiya Beach. Photo: Croyde Bay | Unsplash

What to do and see in Hiriketiya?

One of the biggest draws in Hiriketiya is the beach, and that’s where you should spend your first day in Hiriketiya. For those interested in surfing, renting a surfboard is very affordable. You can also book private surf lessons if needed.

If you’d rather relax, you can rent a cabana or lounge chair and sit on the shore. To further unwind, take a yoga class or book an Ayurvedic massage.

Where to eat in Hikiretiya?

Try out one of the trendy Australian-style cafes in Hikiretya, including Dots Bay, The Grove, and the Salt House. For lunch, try out Peppermint Lounge, a family-owned restaurant just a few minutes from the beach.

Where to stay in Hiriketiya?

  • $$$ – Sea View Clay House Hiriketiya
  • $$ – Dots Bay House
  • $ – Hiriketiya Beach Resort

Day 5: Dickwella Beach

Travel time: 15 minutes walk from Hiriketiya Beach

Just the next bay from Hiriketiya beach, Dickwella Beach has a completely different atmosphere. The beach is generally less crowded than its neighbor and well worth a visit.

Dickwella. Photo: Marco Zanferrari | Flickr

What to do and see in Dickwella Beach?

Dickwella Beach doesn’t have the same surf scene as Hiriketiya Beach which makes Dickwela Beach a better place for swimming in the ocean. You won’t have to watch out for surfers while in the water. It’s also a great place for snorkeling or for paddleboarding.

Another popular activity is taking photos on the rope swims at Dickwella Beach. For some, the photo opp is a must-do.

For the perfect sunset view, linger at Dickwella Beach until the evening. The beach is positioned just right to give you a beautiful spectacle as the sun drops behind the ocean.

Where to eat in Dickwella?

Try out the kottu and vegetarian curries at the buffet at Jayantha Restaurant in Dickwella. Another good option is to have lunch at Verse Collective, a co-working space that also serves great food. If you’d rather get a cheap meal instead, you can always get a roti or kottu from one of the stands on the beach.

Day 6: Udawalawe National Park

Travel time: 1.5 hours by taxi

Udawalawe National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s smaller national parks, but it’s also one of the most visited. If you want to see wild elephants on safari, this is the place to go. You can either make your visit to the park a day trip from Hiriketiya or spend the night in Udawalawe.

Safari in Udawalawe National Park. Photo: Egle Sidaraviciute | Unsplash

What to do and see in Udawalawe National Park?

Arrange for a safari and a guide in advance to see the wildlife at Udawalawe National Park. It’s more likely that you’ll get a chance to see wild elephants here than at other parks in Sri Lanka.

Make sure your guide knows that you want to see more than just the elephants though. There are also wild buffalos, spotted deer, giant squirrels, crocodiles, sloth bears, and sometimes leopards. Plus, the park is home to over 200 bird species.

See also: The Best Places to Go on Safari in 2023

Where to stay in Udawalawe?

  • $$$ – Jungle Paradise
  • $$ – Green View Safari Resort
  • $ – Ashadi Villa

Day 7: Mirissa

Travel time: 1 hour by taxi from Hiriketiya or 2 hours by taxi from Udawalawa

Mirissa’s idyllic scenery makes it one of the most popular beach towns in the southern part of Sri Lanka. You’ll spend your first day here enjoying the ocean and trying out water-related activities.

Mirissa. Photo: Oliver Frsh | Unsplash

What to do and see in Mirissa?

Take time to relax and swim at Mirissa Beach. You can easily spend several hours here. Another popular beach called Secret Beach is a bit further away from the main beach but typically has fewer visitors.

If you’re interested in spotting marine life, take a whale-watching tour. You might or might not spot a whale, but you’ll likely see other animals like dolphins and turtles.

Where to eat in Mirissa?

For coffee, smoothies, and poke bowls, head to the Aloha Coffee Gallery. If you want roti and curry, try out No. 1 Dewmini Roti Shop. While at Mirissa Beach, there are a number of restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood.

Where to stay in Mirissa?

  • $$$ – Lantern Boutique Hotel
  • $$ – Paradise Beach Club
  • $ – Celestial Inn

Day 8: Mirissa

If you can pull yourself away from the beaches, there’s more to explore in Mirissa. Today, you’ll be trying out some nearby activities.

Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa. Photo: Dinuka Lankaloka | Unsplash

What to do and see in Mirissa?

There are a few spots for beautiful photos in Mirissa. When the tide is low, you can make your way to the lookout at Parrot Rock. You can also take a 15-minute walk from the beach to Coconut Tree Hill to enjoy scenic views of the coastline.

If you’re ready for a more adventurous day, take a day trip nearby. You can go to Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Or make the short journey to the Dondra Lighthouse. It’s the southernmost point in Sri Lanka.

Where to eat in Mirissa?

For one of the best meals in Mirissa, make reservations at Mirissa Eye and be sure to try the Mahi Mahi fish there. For affordable, local food, try the seafood at Roti Shop Mirissa. If you’re in the mood for sushi, Little Tuna Mirissa serves great dishes in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.

Day 9: Ella

Travel time: 2.5 hours by taxi

Ella is a charming small town in the mountains. The combination of mountain and jungle makes the scenery beautiful, and it’s a nice change of pace after several days near the beach. You’ll spend the day visiting some of the area’s lovely natural features.

Ravana Cave. Photo: Yves Alarie | Unsplash

What to do and see in Ella?

Ella has many beautiful places to see. One of the must-dos is hiking to Ella Rock, it’s one of the best viewpoints in the country. Ravana Falls, an impressive waterfall, is also a popular site for visitors. You can also visit Secret Waterfall just 5 minutes from Ravana Falls.

If you have enough time, you can also hike to Little Adams Peak or visit the Nine Arch Bridge. Ella is slightly cooler than other towns in Sri Lanka thanks to its elevation, but you still may need to rest during the midday heat.

Where to eat in Ella?

One of the best places to eat in Ella is Matey Hut. It’s a cheap roadside restaurant with delicious rice and curry. For a cool atmosphere along with great food, try Cafe Chill. Get the lamprais, meat and vegetables cooked in a banana leaf. If you’re in the mood for Western options, try out the paninis, pizzas, and wraps at Dream Cafe.

Where to stay in Ella?

  • $$$ – 98 Acres Resort & Spa
  • $$ – The View Ella
  • $ – Happy Laugh Hostel

Day 10: Kandy

Travel time: 7-8 hours by train

The train ride from Ella to Kandy is one of the most beautiful routes in the world. You’ll see everything from jungle to hills to open skies. You’ll spend most of the day on the train. If you don’t want to go the entire route in one stretch, you can stop along the way.

Train ride between Ella and Kandy. Photo: Yves Alarie | Unsplash

What to do and see in Kandy?

Kandy is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka. The city has beautiful colonial buildings and religious sites. It’s also surrounded by mountains and tea plantations. Most of your day will be spent on the train journey from Ella to Kandy, but you’ll have time to see a few of the highlights in Kandy.

Spend time on your first day wandering through the old streets and enjoying the historical buildings. Stop by the Temple of the Tooth to see a legendary Buddha relic. Also, make sure to go to the Bontanical Garden about 15-minutes outside of the city to see more than 4000 species of plants and trees.

Where to eat in Kandy?

Kandy has lots of great restaurants serving traditional Sri Lankan dishes as well as many other cuisines. Get a cup of tea or coffee along with sandwiches at Buono. Cafe Banana Chill is a popular place for smoothies and shakes. The line is usually long, but it’s worth waiting. Try out Indian Summer near the Temple of the Tooth for some of the best kottu in the city.

Where to stay in Kandy?

  • $$$ – Kings Pavilion
  • $$ – Hotel Lakefield
  • $ – The Skydeck Kandy

Day 11: Kandy

On your second day in Kandy, you’ll spend more time exploring this beautiful city. You’ll also get a chance to learn more about the tea industry in Sri Lanka.

Temple of the Tooth. Photo: Promodhya Abeysekara | Unsplash

What to do and see in Kandy?

Start off your morning with a stroll around Kandy Lake. The lake is centrally located and is one of the most iconic landscapes in the city. Spend a little time shopping while in Kandy. You’ll find everything from some souvenirs to stunning antiques. Try the Central Market for handmade items, Waruna Antiques for one-of-a-kind gems, and Kandy City Centre for lots of variety
under one roof.

One of the most interesting things to do in Kandy is to learn more about tea making. Sri Lanka is the 4th largest producer of tea in the world. Take a visit to Kadugannawa Tea Factory or Embilmeegama Tea Factory for a fascinating look into how tea is made.

Where to eat in Kandy?

In the city centre, try out Secret Alley Cafe for delicious smoothies and bowls. For rotti, flatbreads, and kotthu, get takeaway from the Kandyan Muslim Hotel. If you just want a cheap, quick meal, try the chain Balaji Dosai for vegetarian fast food.

Day 12: Sigiriya

Travel time: 1.5 hours by taxi

The small town of Sigiriya attracts visitors primarily due to Sigiriya Rock, also known as Lion Rock. Wear good shoes and prepare to be very active as you make your visit to the ruins on top of this dramatic natural feature today.

Sigiriya Rock. Photo: Yves Alarie | Unsplash

What to do and see in Sigiriya?

The main thing you can’t skip doing in Sigiriya is to visit Sigiriya Rock. It takes about 2 hours to climb to the top of this UNESCO World Heritage cultural site. The view from the top is worth the effort though. Take the time to visit the Sigiriya Archaeological Museum near Sigiriya Rock. Entrance is free with your ticket to climb the rock temple.

If you have the energy left, consider climbing Pidurangala Rock as well. This climb is not quite as difficult, and the sunset from the summit is amazing.

Where to eat in Sigiriya?

Try out the roti at Pradeep Restaurant. While you’ll find roti almost everywhere, the vegetable and cheese roti is exceptionally good here. Another good restaurant is Rithu Restaurant. It’s on the way to Sigiriya Rock and has tasty, authentic food.

Where to stay in Sigiriya?

  • $$$ – Sigiriya Kings Resort
  • $$ – Hotel Sigiriya
  • $ – The Hideout Sigiriya

Day 13: Anuradhapura

Travel time: 1.5 hours by taxi

Today, you’ll take a day trip from Sigiriya to the oldest city in Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is a must-visit location in North Sri Lanka thanks to the well-preserved ruins of the Sinhalese civilization. The city has been occupied by humans for over 3000 years. The ancient city doesn’t draw as many tourists as other spots, making it an especially nice site to visit.

The ancient city of Anuradhapura. Photo: Izuru Kannagara | Unsplash

What to do and see in Anuradhapura?

Anuradhapura is full of architectural and archaeological wonders. The Mihintale is a sacred area believed to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Jaya Sri Maja Bodhi is a temple with a sacred tree growing through the middle. Admire Isurumuniya is another temple dating back thousands of years that’s worth visiting. Another site worth visiting near Admire Isurumuniya is the Royal Botanical Gardens. You’ll also want to see the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa.

You can easily spend the entire day just visiting the historical and cultural sites in the city. Consider renting a tuk tuk so you can see as much as possible during your visit.

Where to eat in Anuradhapura?

Since Anurdhapura doesn’t draw the same number of tourists as other locations in Sri Lanka. There aren’t as many restaurants as in other places. However, there are still some great places. Try out Mango Mango for excellent food at a great price.

Day 14: Departure

Travel Time: 2.5 hours by taxi

Today you’ll likely need to travel back to Colombo International Airport for your departure flight. However, there are a few interesting things to do near Sigiriya if you have extra time.

Polonnaruwa. Photo: රත්න දීපය – Rathna Deepaya | Unsplash

What to do and see?

As you wrap up your adventure in Sri Lanka, here are a few interesting sites you may have time to see on your final day. Just make sure you don’t miss your flight!

  • The Ancient City Of Polonnaruwa
  • Dambulla Cave Temple
  • Rose Quartz Mountain

Final thoughts:

Tea Plantation. Photo: Jaromír Kavan | Unsplash

From sitting by the beach to exploring ancient ruins, you’re sure to have an exciting time in Sri Lanka. As soon as you arrive, you’ll quickly understand why this tropical paradise is a favorite for travelers. Enjoy your adventure!

Looking for more places to travel? See our guides to 10 Up and Coming Tourist Destinations for 2023 and the 8 Best Beaches in India.


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