1 WEEK SRI LANKA ITINERARY

The landscape, the history, the people, the food, the beach … there is nothing I don’t LOVE about Sri Lanka.  It is really the richness and the diversity of the country that appeal to me.  I have been lucky to visit Sri Lanka 5 times now, and although it has evolved a lot since my first visit in 2011, I still enjoy the country each and every time. That is what I wanted to round up a 1-week itinerary in Sri Lanka, dedicated to first-time visitors with a limited amount of time.  One week in Sri Lanka is barely enough to enjoy the country and I would recommend spending at least 2 weeks to cover most of the interesting sights.  But if 1 week is what you got,  you can still have a great time and see plenty, thanks to this 1-week itinerary.

Just for your information, on my most recent trip I had a car and a driver, so for this article I will not be able to give you much details about public transportation, but do know that bus & trains are a cheap & easy way to travel around the country if you have time or if you are on a budget. 

You will find even more informations to plan the perfect 1 week itinerary in Sri Lanka, in the following articles:

1 WEEK IN SRI LANKA, THE FULL ITINERARY

DAY 1 – KANDY

Drive from Colombo International Airport to Kandy : Around 3.5 hours

Kandy is the cultural capital and spiritual center of Sri Lanka, and a good stop on your way to the rest of the central region of Sri Lanka.  Most of the sights to visit, the train station, the market etc… are walking distance from the lake, the heart of the city. While in Kandy, make sure to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, walk around the Lake and visit the Central Market. If you are looking for some peace or if you love plants, make sure to check out the beautiful Peradeniya Botanic Garden. 

For more details to plan 24h in Kandy here. 

Where to stay in Kandy: The Secret Kandy

Sri Lanka itinerary - Kandy Lake Sunset

DAY 2 – TRAIN TO NUWARA ELIYA

Train Kandy – Nanuoya – 4 hours

The blue train running from Kandy to Ella is one of the most scenic train rides in the world! Depending on the class you choose, the experience can go from comfortable to pretty chaotic, but it is always worth it. For some epic pictures of this ride, check out the blog Journey Era . His pictures are stunning. 

For more tips to prepare and fully enjoy your train ride, check out my article here.

Sri Lanka itinerary

Before heading to the hotel, stop by one the many tea plantations and factories around, to discover how Ceylan tea is made, the different grades, the difference between green tea and black tea (Spoiler Alert: It comes from the same leaves !), etc.  

During my last visit, I stopped by  Labookellie Estate Tea Factory, which I do not recommend. I visited it back in 2011 and it was a charming place to learn more about tea making and then sip a cup and eat some chocolate cake in a pretty setting with a view over the cloudy tea plantations. Now it has turned into a tourist factory, with an army of ladies reciting their speech by heart as quickly as possible without showing any interest in the matter!  It is free (although tipping expected), but it is really not worth your time. 

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya: The Grand Hotel or Jetwing St Andrew

DAY 3 – HORTONS PLAINS & NUWARA ELIYA

Drive from Nuwara Eliya to Hortons Plains – 1.5 hours

Wake up extra early and head over to the beautiful and peaceful Horton Plains for a hikeThe walk around the park is 10 km and takes around 3 hours to complete. About midway through the walk, discover World’s End, an incredible 900m cliff, dropping straight into the valley. Be there before 9 am to enjoy the view before the fog rolls in.

After Hortons Plains, enjoy the center of Nuwara Eliya and spend time walking around Gregory Lake, visiting Victoria Park, and checking out the British style Post Station. You should quickly get a sense of why Nuwara Eliya is commonly nicknamed “The Little England of Sri Lanka”. 

Hortons Plains Sri Lanka itinerary

DAY 4 & 5 – ADAM’S PEAK

Drive from Nuwara Eliya to Dalhousie – between 3 and 6 hours

Take it easy in the morning, or explore more of Nuwara Eliya, before starting the long drive to Dalhousie,  the “base camp” of Adam’s Peak.  Climbing Adam’s Peak during the pilgrimage season (December to May) is a very unique and rewarding experience and anyone in reasonably good physical shape should consider it. Hiking the more than 5000 steps to the top should take you around 3hours. I recommend to do the hike at night (leaving Dalhousie around 2 am) to enjoy a spectacular sunrise from the top! Once rested from the hike, drive to Udawalawe. 

Where to stay in Adam’s Peak : Slightly Chilled

Adams Peak Sri Lanka itinerary

DAY 6 – UDAWALAWE

Drive from Dalhousie to Uda Walawe National Park – 140 km – 5 hours 

Udawalawe National Park is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see elephants, wild buffalos, a myriad of birds, and if you are lucky, even some leopards.  My favorite part of the park is around the reservoir; suddenly the view is endless and the blue sky and white clouds reflect in the water.  Personally I prefer Udawalawe to Yala National Park, as the chance of seeing elephants is a lot higher, but both parks are worth a visit.

Once done with the morning safari, drive down to Unawatuna for some well reserved relaxing time by the sea. 

Where to stay in Udawalawe : Big Game Camp

Udawalawe National Park Sri Lanka itinerary

DAY 7 – UNAWATUNA 

Drive from Udawalawe to Unawatuna – 140 km – 4 hours

The southwest coast of Sri Lanka is ideal to relax, enjoy the beach, take surf lessons, do some yoga and reflect on how great the rest of your trip was!  I like Unawatuna because of its proximity to Galle, but it is also one of the most touristy and busy beaches.  Spend the day exploring the coastline and once you find the beach that suits you, work on your tan, drink a fresh coconut, or catch a few waves! 

Where to stay around Unawatuna : Apa Villa Thalpe

Sri Lanka itinerary - Ocean Coastline

DAY 8 – GALLE

Drive from Unawatuna to Galle – 6 km – 15 min

Hop on a tuk-tuk and drive to Galle Fort.  This former Dutch settlement is a wonderful collection of narrow alleys, old colonial buildings, and a great shopping, eating and drinking destination. 

Enjoy the view from the fort walls, check out the iconic lighthouse and visit the Dutch Reformed Church before enjoying a chic drink in one of the upmarket hotels installed in the most beautiful colonial buildings.  Galle is also a great place to shop for souvenirs before heading home.  

Where to stay in Galle: The Fort Printers

Galle Fort Lighthouse Sri Lanka itinerary

ALTERNATIVES TO CONSIDER  

A couple of alternatives things you could do : 

  • From Kandy, take a day trip to Sigiriya, and climb the famous Lion Rock. On the way stop by the Dambulla Caves.  
  • From a more young/ happening destination, swap Nuwara Eliya for Ella, and discover the iconic Nine Arches Bridge and countless waterfalls. 
  • If you don’t feel like climbing Adam’s Peak, you can do Little Adam’s peak,  an easy 1h climb with a rewarding view at the end. 

I hope this one-week itinerary in Sri Lanka s going to be useful for you.  Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below if you have any suggestions or comment to improve it!

Love, Emma 


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22 Comments

  1. February 27, 2021 / 8:48 am

    That water at Unawatuna, beautiful! Sri Lanka looks amazing, thanks for sharing this great guide.

    • Emma
      Author
      February 27, 2021 / 9:38 am

      Yeah the water there was sooo nice! I hope you get to visit that beautiful country sometime!

  2. Jiayi Wang
    February 27, 2021 / 10:33 am

    Kandy looks so zen and peaceful! Think it’d be my favourite place to visit out of these 🙂 Beautiful photos too!

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:59 pm

      Kandy is such cute. Zen and peaceful to so much to be honest, but I guess indeed my pictures makes it look that way! But it is definitely a must stop place when visiting Sri Lanka .

  3. February 27, 2021 / 4:17 pm

    What a gorgeous looking place Sri Lanka is. The beaches are beautiful. I’d love to spend some time exploring, this guide is so helpful. I think to be able to see the elephants in the wild of the National Park would be a dream come true

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:58 pm

      Oh yes those elephants are so impressive, it was a great experience!

  4. February 27, 2021 / 5:54 pm

    I do not know where to start! As I was reading through the post, I kept being surprised by the landscapes in Sri Lanka. I like that there is so much variety in the country. There are beaches, plains, mountains, and cities with historic buildings. I would love to visit.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:57 pm

      I feel exactly the same, the variety is what I love the most. Although I have never been for more than 10 days, I think it is easy to spend a month there and not feel bored at all!

  5. February 28, 2021 / 2:53 am

    Well thanks to this post, Sri Lanka has just gone way up to the top of my bucketlist! What an incredibly photogenic country full of amazing places to visit!

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:56 pm

      Ahaha ! Thanks Emma, I am glad 🙂 Definitely a bucket list country!

  6. Suvarna Arora
    February 28, 2021 / 5:32 am

    I am dying to visit Sri Lanka so definitely saved and bookmarked it for the future.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:56 pm

      Yeah, it is really a must see place! If you ever get to visit, shoot me a message and I will be happy to help you plan it.

  7. March 1, 2021 / 3:59 pm

    Sri Lanka is one of the most underrated destinations in Asia, in my opinion. I loved it a lot but had limited time there, so I only got to visit Colombo, Ella, and Kandy. Wish I could have stayed longer and done more hikes.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:55 pm

      I agree! You already covered some pretty cool places. Hopefully next time you can check out some beautiful beaches, and the pretty city of Galle 🙂

  8. March 4, 2021 / 12:23 pm

    This looks like such a great itinerary! I haven’t been to Sri Lanka before, but I would definitely use this as a starting point when I plan my trip there.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:54 pm

      Oh if you get a chance to go, let me know and I will be happy to send more recommendations your way! Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. March 4, 2021 / 5:15 pm

    Wow this was a super useful itinerary! I’ll definitely put this country on my bucket list.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:54 pm

      Thanks Jade, I am glad if it can help :-)!!

  10. Rhonda Albom
    March 4, 2021 / 10:09 pm

    I haven’t been to Sri Lanka yet. Your itinerary sounds like a good experience. The environment and natural beauty are quite enticing.

    • Emma
      Author
      March 5, 2021 / 1:53 pm

      I hope you get a chance to visit one day. It is such a beautiful country, the nature is amazing and people are so so friendly !!!

  11. March 7, 2021 / 9:40 am

    Thank you for this article, I love it! I makes me want to travel again when the sanitary crisis is finally slowing down… Your pictures are amazing! 🙂

    • Emma
      Author
      March 14, 2021 / 6:03 pm

      Thank you so much! Yeah I feel you, I miss traveling so much … I didn’t realize how easy it was and how privileged
      we were, before it was all taken away from us. 🙁

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