I believe all the countries in South Asia are beautiful, so the one week Sri Lanka itinerary proved to be an extra experience that helped me strengthen my opinion.
Separated from the Asian continent by the Palk Strait and bathed by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a piece of land in the shape of a tear, a tear that will conquer you instantly. A tear of happiness, I would say!
The 7 days in Sri Lanka went by so fast, but they have been full of fabulous discoveries. The fascinating nature, the hidden beaches, the Buddhist temples, loaded with details, the always smiling people, and the fauna of this wonderful country made the experience on Sri Lankan lands worthy of this one-week travel itinerary for Sri Lanka.
Although I have only spent 7 days in Sri Lanka, this is a guide that can be used for longer periods of time. Because, although apparently not very big, there are many tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
I must also mention that this itinerary doesn’t cover the entire country. That’s why I think you should spend at least 3 weeks in Sri Lanka to visit all the beautiful places.
One week Sri Lanka itinerary: road trip in Sri Lanka
Day 1: Landing in Colombo
Although the airport is closer to Negombo, you should spend the first night in Sri Lanka in the commercial capital. Colombo is located further south, and this will shorten the next day’s trip to Mirissa.
In the one week Sri Lanka itinerary, Colombo would occupy only one day. But if you are attracted to big, contrasting, chaotic, colorful, and noisy cities, you might like it enough that you want to stay in Colombo for at least two days.
Colombo is the commercial capital of the country and has a population of almost one million people. On its narrow and crowded streets, you will find a lot of hustle and bustle, hundreds of noisy tuk-tuks, colonial-style buildings, temples, and a few beautiful parks.
Bandaranaike International Airport is located about 40 minutes away from the city, so you can take a taxi to the hotel. Or, if you follow this itinerary completely and decide to rent a car, just like we did, then you can pick it up at the airport, and you won’t need a taxi.
You have to keep in mind that, in Sri Lanka, you need a driving license issued by the local authorities. Generally, the company from which you rent the car will take care of this procedure.
What to visit in Colombo, Sri Lanka:
- temples: Gangaramaya, Sri Kaileswaram, and Kathiresan Pillayar
- Viharamahadevi Park
- Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
- Lake Beira
- Colombo Lotus Tower
- Galle Face beach
- the port
Where to stay in Colombo
We stayed in the Fair View Hotel, a modern hotel recently opened, located very close to the beach and further south of the city, so you can be as close as possible to the next destination.
I also had breakfast included, which was quite generous and good. If you don’t want to stay here or it’s not available on the date you arrive in Colombo, then I suggest the following options, depending on your budget:
Day 2: Colombo to Mirissa – stop in Galle Fort
The next destination on the one week Sri Lanka itinerary will be Mirissa. But between Colombo and Mirissa there is a special place that you are not allowed to miss.
So, put Galle Fort on the map, and make a stop for a few hours in the most Instagrammable town in Sri Lanka. The settlement dates back to the 16th century, being originally built by the Portuguese.
Later, the Dutch took possession of Galle Fort, and a few hundred years later, it was conquered by the British. All these nations have left their mark on the architectural style of the buildings in Galle Fort.
For this reason, don’t be surprised if you feel teleported to Europe when you walk the streets of Galle Fort. For its beauty and the perfect harmony between European architectural styles and strongly rooted Asian traditions, Galle Fort has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The most photographed tourist attraction in Galle Fort is the famous white lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country.
Its beauty, given by the immaculate white, is even more accentuated by its position right between the palm trees, near the ocean. It is a promenade place for both locals and tourists.
Don’t miss the white lighthouse in Galle Fort, but also the craft shops, chic cafes, and seafood restaurants.
Best things to do in Galle Fort
- visit the National Museum of Archeology
- admire The clock tower
- don’t miss the Sri Sudharmalaya Buddhist temple
- see the All Saints’ Church
Where to stay in Galle Fort
If you want to spend more time here and check most of the tourist attractions in the town, these are some hotels where I would definitely stay
Day 3: Mirissa
I included one full day in Mirissa in the 7 days Sri Lanka Travel Guide, but I recommend sun and bronze lovers to stay here for at least 3 days.
Because Mirissa is about beautiful scenery, relaxing holiday atmosphere, refreshing coconut juice, swings hanging from palm trees, long beaches, perfect waves for surfing, romantic dinners with a campfire, and the list can go on in everyone’s imagination.
Mirissa is one of Sri Lanka’s top beach destinations. There are many at a short distance from the city, and you could spend weeks tanning on each of them.
In the almost 2 whole days spent here, I can reveal a shortlist of my favorites: Wijaya, Unawatuna, Secret Beach, and Coconut Tree Hill.
Where to stay in Mirissa
In Mirissa there are many sensational resorts, with access to the beach and the sparkling waves of the Indian Ocean. These are my recommendations:
Day 4: Mirissa to Ella: stop and visit Yala National Park
Day four of the one-week Sri Lanka itinerary comes with one of the most beautiful experiences in the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
I visited the largest national park in the country and went on safari for the first time in my life as a professional traveler.
Sri Lanka is said to be the best safari destination outside of Africa. And I can only take this information for granted, after my successful experience there.
Yala Park is divided into 5 sections, and only two of them are open to visitors. The park is very large, it has approximately 130,000 hectares, and 44 species of mammals and over 200 species of birds.
The most popular animals that any visitor is happy to see here are elephants, monkeys, leopards, crocodiles, and peacocks.
Although we were not lucky enough to spot the Sri Lankan leopards, we enjoyed encountering the elephants. We stumbled upon them about 3 times during the 3 hours of exploring.
I don’t support zoos or parks where animals are slaughtered and exploited, regardless of the purpose.
But this concern disappears when it comes to Yala Nationale Park. I made my research before coming here, and I discovered that animals enjoy complete freedom in Yala.
Useful information about visiting Yala National Park:
The ticket for Yala National Park doesn’t include the car for the safari. But there are many companies you can choose from. Some of them are right at the entrance of the park, and you can rent together with a driver.
You can choose between the morning tour, which starts at 6 o’clock, or the afternoon one which starts at 2 pm. I chose the second option, and it was perfect. Enough time to feel that I had a complete experience, although I didn’t get to see all the animals.
In addition to the driver, you can also hire a guide who will explain everything you will see inside the park and who can also give you some statistical data about the park or useful information about its history.
The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to choose a full-day tour with lunch and a guide included.
Either stay overnight or maybe even stop for at least two days in the Park, or continue your way to Ella. Quite a long way, to be honest.
Where to stay in Yala National Park, if you choose to spend the night or nights here:
Day 5: Ella
Destination number 5 of the one week Sri Lanka itinerary is Ella, a small town located between the mountains, in the central-southern part of the country, in Uva province. Ella proudly wears a well-deserved reputation as the backpacker’s paradise or as the Ubud (Bali) of Sri Lanka.
The resemblance to Bali is not coincidental. Replace the rice terraces with the tea terraces, and you will see how much the two destinations have in common.
Ella, Sri Lanka has a very cool vibe: young people socializing in the colorful pubs, bars, and coffee shops, people hiking to the coolest viewpoints, monkeys sitting on the side of the road, waiting for the tourists to give them bananas, tuk-tuks synchronized with the noise of the street, and waterfalls springing from the top of the mountains.
You should dedicate your first day in Ella to the world-famous train ride. Almost everyone chooses the 7 hours trip to Kandy; if you want a shorter trip, but just as beautiful, I recommend you to take the route Ella-Haputale instead.
This one lasts only one hour, with only 24 km between the two towns. Class 1 tickets cost about $ 8 each way.
In Haputale, you can visit the tea factory and go to Lipton’s Seat, a famous viewpoint, at an altitude of 1970 meters. Haputale is practically perched on top of the mountains, so the humidity is quite high because the city actually enters the clouds.
Day 6: Ella
Spend the next day in Ella exploring the city and its surroundings. That’s because Ella has a lot to offer and will surprise you with very cool cafes and terraces and boutiques with handmade products.
Don’t miss the trip to Nine Arch Bridge, the famous bridge that is part of the list of the most Instagrammable places in Sri Lanka. The road to get there is quite steep, so although many people take a tuk-tuk, I don’t recommend it because of the danger of overturning.
Your effort will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the bridge that overshadows the tea plantations.
Ella is also blessed with some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Don’t miss Diyaluma and Ravana waterfalls; they are simply gorgeous!
Other things to do in Ella:
- hike to Little Adam’s Peak, one of the most spectacular sights in Sri Lanka
- admire the landscape at Ella Gap
- zip lining above the tea plantations at The Flying Ravana
Where to stay in Ella:
Day 7: Ella to Kandy
Just 3 and a half hours from Ella is Kandy, a historic city, the second-largest city in Sri Lanka, after the capital Colombo. Kandy is also known as the City of Kings, being the last capital of Sri Lanka, when it was a kingdom.
Kandy has so many temples and places of worship that it is considered sacred in the Buddhist world. In addition, its grandiose monuments and special constructions have helped it to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage.
Although I didn’t spend much time in Kandy, I enjoyed discovering some of its beauties. The view from the hotel perched on a hill was truly fabulous!
And the walk through the beautiful botanical garden and its alleys with imperial palm trees that reminded me of Rio de Janeiro was a dream! I recommend you add it to the list of places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Other things to do in Kandy:
- visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world
- go and admire the Buddha Statue
- walk next to Lake Kandy
Where to stay in Kandy:
We spent the night in a new hotel, with ultra-spacious rooms, beautiful bathrooms, and a dream view. It’s Kandy Hills, and I recommend it with confidence. Other great hotels in Kandy:
Day 8: Kandy to Negombo
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the airport is closer to Negombo than Colombo. So, it would be best to choose to stay at a hotel here on departure.
Negombo is a big city with lagoons, beautiful beaches, churches and temples worth visiting.
Things to do in Negombo:
- admire the lagoon
- visit Angurukaramulla temples, Sri Singama Kali Amman Kovil, Abhayasekararama
- go to the churches of St. Mary’s, St. Sebastian’s and St. Anne’s
- explore Negombo and Browns beaches
- shopping at the fish market
Where to stay in Negombo
Where is Sri Lanka located
> in southern India, separated from it and from mainland Asia by the Palk Strait
> it is practically an island country in the Indian Ocean and has an area of only 65,000 square kilometers
When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka
> I will talk strictly about the areas that appear in this itinerary because the climate can differ quite a lot throughout the country
> Sri Lanka is a tropical country and is warm all year round
> the area I explored is best to visit between December and March
How safe is Sri Lanka?
> Leaving aside some less fortunate events that have taken place in Sri Lanka and that we can consider isolated cases (they do not happen frequently), Sri Lanka is a fairly safe country.
> People are mostly friendly and benevolent; they will not treat you with disrespect and will not try to fool you.
> I can’t say much about nightlife and public transport because I haven’t had the opportunity to experience them enough.
How to get the visa for Sri Lanka
> You definitely need a visa to visit Sri Lanka. Some countries can get it online, while others will get it on arrival at the airport
> The cost of the visa is $ 35 and you generally receive it by email in less than 24 hours. However, you should apply a few days in advance to ensure that you receive it in a timely manner before the trip.
> The visa for Sri Lanka has a length of 30 days which can be subsequently extended
> Here you will find all the details related to the visa https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/
How to get around Sri Lanka
> you can rent a car; we paid for almost 8 days 350 Euro for renting the car
> you can use buses or trains; from Colombo, you can get almost anywhere by train, especially to the places mentioned in this article
> If you choose to travel by train, for some extra comfort, choose to buy tickets for first or second class
What to pack for one week in Sri Lanka
> sunscreen spray
> physical map for places where you will run out of data
> thin clothes, but also at least a cardigan in case it cools down
> mosquito spray because there are quite a lot, especially in places where there is a source of water
Sri Lanka travel tips
- $ 1 ≈ 185 Sri Lankan rupees
- you can travel on a low budget to Sri Lanka
- it is very hot and humid, sometimes exceeding the comfort limit
- you need a driver’s license issued by local authorities to drive
- The style of driving on the streets of Sri Lanka is chaotic and sometimes even dangerous
- the visa for Sri Lanka can be extended twice
- you can communicate with locals in English