Sri Lanka is dubbed by many travelers as the India Lite because of it has several similarities with India. These are noticeable through bowls of curries, spice gardens, cultural dances, and a lot more. To find out more of these similarities as well as the uniqueness of Sri Lanka, we’ve written a 2 week Sri Lanka Itinerary.
Our 2 week Sri Lanka Itinerary covers important landmarks, destinations packed with activities, directions to get to different sites, nearby and recommended lodgings, some travel tips, and reasons to visit Sri Lanka. Let’s start.
Why you should visit Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a well-loved country for having surfer’s beaches as well as calm and secluded beach areas. Most of these beaches you can lounge on dotted its southwest up to southmost region.
In the highlands of Sri Lanka, you’d love the train ride along and hike into the verdant hills and terraces of spice and tea gardens. And, you can end or start your day in the highlands with fresh and organic tea in English or Sri Lankan style.
The ancient kingdoms bordered by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy existed before the colonial rule in Sri Lanka. It is impressive to see the remnants of these kingdoms which are kept well-preserved.
I’ve mentioned that Sri Lanka is a producer and trader of spices. So, their local food is something to look forward to.
Last but not the least in the things to look forward to when visiting Sri Lanka is its people. Sri Lankans are accommodating and helpful. More stories about these are shared below.
Day 1 – Colombo City
Walking around Colombo City is like a tour around an old colonial town.
With Urban Adventure, our tour around the Colombo city taught us some travel tips in the island and some need-to-know facts about Sri Lanka. Our tour covers the important landmarks which are very close to the hearts of the locals which are the following:
1) Hindu’s oldest and largest temple, the Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil which can also be referred to as Kovil Veediya;
2) Protestant Church, Wolvendaal Church or the Wolvendaalse Kerk which was built by Dutch and still in use;
4) Pettah Market in which you can buy spiced street foods, fresh fruits, herbs, spices, and vegetables as well as clothing, accessories, and electronics; and
5) The national monument of Independence Memorial Hall which marks the freedom and independence of Sri Lanka from British reign.
Our meet up point was in the Dutch Hospital Shopping Center (Colombo). It used to be a hospital, especially for Dutch officials. Today, while retaining the colonial structure, it is now an urban shopping mall where you can find shops, restaurants, and spa.
Read more about Urban Adventures in Colombo
The Tuktuk Safari then accompanied us on our food tour. Before anything else, the Colombo Tuktuk Safari uses old-fashion autorickshaw with ready-for-use coolers, umbrellas, two-way radios, and WiFi.
Here are places we visited in Colombo with Tuktuk Safari:
1) Spice Street (Fourth Cross Street) at Pettah Market where you can buy different spices for LKR 100 per 100-200 grams;
2) Mango shake which is over 50 years old and uses fresh and large mangoes;
3) Embillian tea which is located along the coast of Galle
4) Taste of Asia which is a good place to start and know the classic staple Sri Lankan food such as regular hoppers, egg hoppers, relish, and curry;
5) Sea Lord Eatery which is best known for their Chicken and Cheese Kottu (also called Koththu Rotti or Kothu Roti, a mix of vegetables, egg and/or meat, cheese, and spices); and
6) Area 10 Colombo which is a modest eatery but extravagant on a selection of curries. For LKR 500, three curries of different flavors, a side dish of onions soaked in vinegar and a generous serving of roti.
Read more about it our Tuktuk Safari
An international hotel brand has its name written all over the Hilton Colombo Hotel from its reception, dining outlets, suites, recreational facilities up to its five-star rate services. I can attest that you’ll never go wrong to book this hotel in the capital city of Sri Lanka.
The Hilton Colombo Hotel is located near the main International Airport of Sri Lanka, about an hour away. It is also near tourist attractions, railway train station, and stores and restaurants.
Read more about our stay in Hilton Colombo
The City Beds-The Regent
The City Beds-The Regent is a more affordable lodging in Colombo. The rooms are equipped with very basic facilities and let you sleep well. For facilities like the microwave, refrigerator, utensils and such, guests can go to the shared pantry.
The Citybeds-The Regent is surrounded by cafe, restaurants, and bars and is near the Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex and the Pettah Market. It is also a few minutes away from the Secretariat Halt railway station.
Read more about our stay in The City Beds The Regent.
Day 2 – Dambulla
Since it is located within the borders of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, Dambulla can be a perfect base to explore central Sri Lanka and some of its interesting UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.
In Dambulla, you can visit a Temple Complex with a 30 meters high Golden Buddha and a modest Buddhist Museum. Then, take a hike up by ramp or stairs to reach the Dambulla Cave Temple.
The Dambulla Cave Temple is a sacred ground, so proper dress code needs to be observed. Both men and women are required to wear clothing which covers their knees and shoulders. No clothing rentals are available within the area. So, for women, best to always bring with you at least a shawl. Lastly, footwear is left on a shoe counter for a small fee.
The ticket to the Dambulla temple complex costs at least LKR 1,500 per one foreign national.
The Minnerya National Park is a jeep safari track best known for sightings of a huge herd of elephants freely roaming around their natural habitat. You can also expect sightings of wild boar, lizard, deer, peacocks and other birds.
The safari ride fee of approximately LKR 12,000 already includes the entrance fee to the Minnerya National Park for two persons, jeep rental, and a tour guide.
Other things to see in the Dambulla are a collection of art mural replicas in the research and conservation center of Dambulla Museum, ancient city centers of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, Rose Quartz mountain and Ironwood Forest of Jathika Namal Uyana.
The quickest way to reach Dambulla from Colombo is through taxi or car rental. It will take at least around 4 hours and can cost around LKR 12,500.
Travel time via bus may take at least 4 hours from Colombo to Dambulla since there’s no direct bus from this route. For a fare rate of around LKR 100, the first ride you’ll need to take is a bus from the Katunayake terminal and bound to the Kurunegala. Once in Kurunegala, you’ll then find a bus directly heading Dambulla which charges LKR 150, or more or less. Each bus ride may take at least two hours.
A train ride is the slowest way to reach Dambulla. Nearest train station to Dambulla is in the Habarana. Train fare is at least LKR 480 to 600 depending on the class seat. Then, once in Habarana, you may take a tuk tuk to take you to Dambulla. Lowest fare of a tuk tuk from Habarana train station to Dambulla is around LKR 300.
Stay: Jetwing Lake Hotel
After a day trip around Dambulla or to jumpstart a tour around the rural district of Sri Lanka, you can relax in the Jetwing Lake Hotel. The Jetwing Lake Hotel is a luxury hotel nestled in an open green field. Behind it is an ancient water reservoir which looks like a natural lake plus the view of the nearby mountains.
The Jetwing Lake Hotel is fully furnished. Inside the room, you’d have a stunning view from your bed of the rural area through a huge picture window. Most suites, I think, have their own balconies with daybed and sofa. In addition to these, its best suite has an outdoor bathtub and dining table by the balcony.
The Jetwing Lake Hotel features a long lap pool with the unobstructed view of the mountain and the lake. Dining tables can be set near the pool or lake. Few steps from these are canopy bar. For other settings, you may try their rooftop bar.
Check out my Dambulla Guide
Day 3 – Dambulla to Kandy
On our third day of our 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary, we went up for a morning hike up to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. It is a good morning hike as you go through garden pools, stone steps and then a series of steel stairs.
In the highest peak of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, you’ll see another set of garden pools, carved lion’s paws guarding the fortress and the 360-degree view of central Sri Lanka. The walls of the rock fortress are noticeably drawn with art murals which suggest how the place gained its notoriety.
Don’t forget to wear something comfortable for hiking. It’s going to be windy as you take the spiraling steel steps and as you reach the highest peak. Entrance fee for foreign nationals is around 30 USD per persons.
After at least 2 and a half hour from the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Dambulla, you can reach the Kandy.
Our first stop in Kandy is the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). The Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic is actually inside a complex. Aside from the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, the complex also houses several temples dedicated to different gods and goddesses and museums. These are accessible for an entrance fee of at least LKR 1,500 per person.
As for the Sacred Tooth Relic, it is open from 5 AM until 8 PM. But, you can only get a glimpse of the shrine of the Sacred Tooth Relic every puja or worship time which starts every 5:30 AM, 9:30 AM and 6:30 PM. You need to get in line to the second floor before they start. In this way, you can enter the shrine of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It is only a small chamber guarded by elephant tusks. Aside from the decorations, you can also observe how the devotees say their prayers and make their offerings while the beating of the drums.
The Sacred Tooth Relic, by the way, is believed to be belonging to their Lord Buddha. For this reason, this as one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Buddhist and Hinduist in the region.
Don’t forget to bring a portable water, follow the dress code and to leave your shoes by the shoe counter. The shoe counter is located right outside which charge LKR 100 per pair of shoes.
Next stop is to see a Kandyan Cultural Dance. The Kandyan cultural dances include playing of percussion instruments and stunts such as walking through a burning coal. A ticket to see the show costs around LKR 1,000 – 1,500.
I noticed though that the Kandyan Cultural Dance has strong similarities to the cultural dances I’ve seen in some places in India. I guess this is because the Kandyan Cultural Dance was inspired by the exorcism ritual done by Indian Shamans who came to the island.
If you want to skip the dance you can maybe do a walking tour in the Udawattekele Sanctuary (Udawattakele Forest Reserve) or Royal Botanical Gardens both in Kandy. The Royal Botanical Gardens is a really huge garden popular for its collection of orchids and a memorial garden of dignitaries. On the other hand, the Udawattekele Sanctuary is my top must-visit place in Kandy because of its meditative ambiance.
The Helga Folly Hotel is a hotel and restaurant designed not particularly to provide a comfortable lodging but more to entertain and tell stories. The hotel is decorated with art murals of different themes. These are handpainted by the current owner way back when she was younger.
The art murals are then partnered with fancy and interesting ornaments and furniture.
A writer or artist can be given a 50% discount on overnight accommodation as long as the stay will be for at least 6 nights. The non-hotel guests may be required to pay an entrance fee of 3 USD. Alternatively, to avoid paying an entrance fee or overnight accommodation, you may dine in their restaurant. During my visit to Helga Folly Hotel, I ordered ginger tea and ginger biscuit which cost a total of 4 USD. At least, I got to fuel up my tummy with my order as well as my creativity with inspiring decoration.
To get from Dambulla to Kandy, there’s a bus plying in this route and charges at least LKR 98. Alternatively, you may hire a tuktuk by traditionally hailing them or through the PickMeApp.
The Amaya Hills in Kandy is a luxury hotel nestled on a hilltop overlooking the valley town. Guests loved this view, especially from the outdoor pool area. As to its architectural design, the hotel is inspired by the Lankatilake Temple, a few minutes drive away from Kandy.
The Amaya Hills in Kandy features Ayurvedic Health Facilities on-site which is the Pancha Karma. They use fresh herbs and spices as treatment. The treatment may vary depending on your body and lifestyle.
The Amaya Hills in Kandy can assign an in-house naturalist who can show you around and in nearby villages as well as who can accompany you to bird spotting.
Breakfast can be served on the terrace. They serve fresh fruit juices and Sri Lankan staple breakfast such as egg hoppers and prawn curry.
The Jacktree Lodge is an affordable hotel in Kandy located in hilltop. The strategic location allows you to get an overlooking view of the valley of Kandy. To get the most of this location, the hotel dedicated balconies for almost all of the room. On a fine morning, Sri Lankan or western breakfast can be served by the terrace as well.
What people love most about this accommodation is that the service is very personalized. They can make adjustments on the time it can be served and what is to be served depending on your preferences or schedule. They can even make packed lunch you can take with you or do groceries for you. And, they offer a free ride to town and can do train bookings.
Read more about it in Things to do in Kandy
Day 4 Kegalle
From Kandy, you may take a side trip to the Elephant Freedom Project located in Rambukkana Karandapana Road, Kegalle District. The Elephant Freedom Project is a sanctuary for elephants who have been captive as an amusement ride or as a heavy load carrier. They may no longer be able to survive alone or be able to adapt to the life in the wild.
In the Elephant Freedom Project, they let anyone volunteer to help take care of such elephants. Help will entail walking the elephants, feeding them and cleaning up their mess. The mess or the elephant dung, by the way, will become fertilizers or be manufactured into a stationary letter.
The Elephant Freedom Project can prepare a half-day or full day activities depending on your preferences. Aside from taking care of the elephants, they even give a Sri Lankan cooking class.
How to get here:
Train from Kandy going to the Rambukkana, nearest station to the Elephant Freedom Project, will cost at least LKR 70 only. thereafter, you can ride a tuktuk to take you to the actual office of the Elephant Freedom Project. You can haggle the Tuk tuk fare rate for at least LKR 400.
Read more about it here
Day 5 Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Like Kandy, the Nuwara Eliya is a highland and has a cool climate suitable for tea leaf plants. So, here, you can visit a tea factory or plantation like Blue Field Tea Gardens. Blue Field Tea Gardens offer a free tour inside their factory and, afterward, free taste of a cup of their tea product.
For a high tea meal with a bit luxurious and old English ambiance, you may go to the Grand Hotel or the Jetwing St. Andrews, both well-known hotels in Nuwara Eliya. A cheaper alternative meals, you may opt to Milano restaurant which specializes in Chinese and Sri Lankan dishes.
The World’s End in Nuwara Eliya is the most popular site in Sri Lanka, especially to hikers. It is only a moderate hike and may only take about half an hour to conquer. It gets to be dangerous at its highest peak because there are no railings.
The World’s End has its starting trail in Hortons Plain National Park. Entry fee to the Hortons Plain costs at least around LKR 2,175 per non-Sri Lankans plus entry fee for your driver and vehicle, additional fixed service charge, and VAT.
Also located in Nuwara Eliya, Adam’s peak is popular both for hikers and religious devotees. Adam’s peak is a 5,500 steps high and an important pilgrimage site. It may take at least 2 to 4 hours to reach its peak depending on the condition of the hiker, the number of stops, and the number of people visiting. The site can get really crowded.
For water sports such as boat riding or family-friendly activities such as horse riding or picnic, don’t forget to visit the Lake Gregory. Entry fee is only around LKR 200 for the adults and LKR 20 for the little ones. There are tons of restaurants around the area too.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya: Aboard the most scenic train ride
Train route from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a popular going to be along the green fields of tea plantations. So, it’s going to be a 4-hour scenic ride. Train ticket may cost approximately LKR 400. Train usual leaves Kandy at around 8:47 AM. For unreserved tickets, you may arrive at least 45 minutes up to an hour earlier.
Stay: Jetwing St. Andrews
The Jetwing St. Andrews is an old colonial mansion refurbished as a luxury hotel in Nuwara Eliya. The hotel gets a retouch with some modern decor and facilities.
One of the main features of the Jetwing St. Andrews hotel is its Snooker room where the over 120-year-old billiard table still exists. Then, the hotel has a fireplace with couches around where you can lounge as the climate gets to be colder.
The Jetwing St. Andrews hotel encourages guests for a frog spotting near the hotel. They can assign a naturalist to your group. You can also take a picture of the tiny frogs.
Read more about my guide to Things to do in Nuwara Eliya
Day 6 – Ella
I alotted two and a half days in the town of Ella because of its cool weather. And, the tour in Ella is more about hiking. One of the popular peaks is the Ella Rock which is a moderate to difficult hike level. Then, you may also schedule a visit in spice and tea gardens within or near Ella.
The Nine Arches Bridge is a 30 meters high stone and brick bridge connecting Ella to Demodara. It is one of the most visited places in Ella, Sri Lanka because of the bridge’s old architectural design dating back to British rule, though proudly engineered by a Ceylonese. The staircase-like tea plantations on its backdrop and the passing train added a cinematic effect on the site.
To get the perfect picture of the Nine Arches Bridges, there are three viewpoints you can access. The first viewpoint is just alongside the train tracks and waits for a train to pass. Then, there’s restaurant nearby which is a good viewpoint of the bridge. Lastly, there’s a trail going down to the tea plantations below the bridge but can get too slippery though.
The Little Adam’s Peak is different from the Adam’s Peak. Although they have almost the same geographical feature, Adam’s Peak often get crowded because it is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the district.
The Little Adam’s Peak is less visited but is an easy hike. The trail is along tea plantations and cemented stairs. Hike to the Little Adam’s Peak can be finished in less than an hour. Just a perfect hike activity that can fit any 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
Day 7 Ella (Second day)
The Lipton’s Seat
The road to the Lipton’s Seat is a good picturesque of rural life and, thus, memorable. The Lipton’s Seat belongs to none other than the tea leaf brand.
Well, there isn’t much to do here though. But, we had our lunch in a nearby restaurant.
The Diyaluma Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. But, its peak is easily accessible from Makaldenya Junction (sometimes called Maskeliya Plantations) along the Poonagala Road. From this starting trail, you’ll be hiking downhill for at least 20 minutes until you reach the highest tier of Diyaluma Falls.
Here, you can relax in the natural pools as well as the overlooking view of Sri Lanka’s green mountain area. You can also hike downhill towards the lower tiers. In the lowest trail, you can follow a trail leading the highway so it’ll be okay even if you don’t have to go back uphill.
Read more about Diyaluma Falls here
How to get there:
A train heading to Ella leaves Nuwara Eliya at 9:30 AM. This type of train is only a 3rd class which means it can be super slow and can take approximately 4 hours. In the afternoon, a faster train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella will be available and can take at least 2 and a half hours.
Stay: Spice Lodge
The Spice Lodge is a modest hotel comprising of only two bedrooms at the moment. Your stay here will be worthwhile since each bedroom has its own balcony overlooking the lovely valley town of Ella.
You can enjoy the view most in the morning as the breakfast can be served by the terrace. You may request for a western or Sri Lankan meals.
The family running the hotel is easy to approach. They can assist in getting a tuk tuk to help guests go around the area.
The Spice Lodge is conveniently located along the trail of the Little Adam’s Peak. And, it is within walking distance of Ella Railway Station, and restaurants such as Adam’s Breeze and Umbrella Cafe.
Day 8 – Ella to Yala
The Yala National Park is two and a half hour away from Ella. So, make sure to arrive by 1:00ish in the afternoon in Yala to make it to the afternoon safari.
The Yala National Park is one of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. What makes travelers drawn into this National Park is seeing a leopard. The Yala National Park is one of the few places where several leopards can often be spotted at a time. The Yala National Park is also a home to other mammals of different sizes and colors, birds, reptiles, amphibians and so on.
With all these animals mentioned, one set of jeep safari trip is just not enough when in the Yala National Park. Good thing that our host, the Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris offers a tour package which includes an afternoon and morning safari plus an overnight accommodation.
For their guests inside the Yala National Park, the Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris provides glamping tents. The tents are glamorous since they comparable to suites of a hotel. Imagine, your lodging has a huge comfortable bed, universal plugs and USB port, and shower and flushable toilets in the bathrooms. You’d really forget you’re in the middle of a jungle.
Don’t worry, no tree has been cut down to put up a lodging. The Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris is eco-friendly and uses sustainable materials from solar panels, dual battery system, stainless steel water cups, glass jars, clay pots and organic shampoos and soaps.
When you book with the Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris, they’ll handle payment of the National Park fees and provide the meals and drinks throughout the overnight stay as well as safari accessories such as binoculars and tripods.
How to get there:
At the Ella bus stop, you may hail the bus No. 31. Then, alight in Weerwarila Junction and take another bus (bus No. 32). Bus fare cost around LKR 100 and LKR 90 respectively. You’ll get off at the Kataragama. From there, you may take a tuk tuk which can take you to the meetup point as instructed by the Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safari or your lodging host.
Day 9 – Morning safari and then leave for Mirissa
Mirissa is a long stretch of white sand beach on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Its waves are friendly and can be enjoyed by children.
Aside from strolling along the coast, you can go for a whale watching cruise which is best from November to May. Whale watching cruise costs at least LKR 3,500 per person.
How to get there:
From Kataragama, you may ride a bus bound to Mirissa. Travel time is 3 to 4 hours. For a faster mode of transportation, you may hire a car rental for LKR 10,500. Travel time will only take at least 3 hours.
Read Mirissa Travel Guide
Day 10 – Half day in Mirissa and leave for the Weligama Beach
Weligama Beach is less touristy and more of a fishing town. I guess this is perfect if you want a secluded area and want to just enjoy the sound of the crashing waves by the beach. And, have dinner at a beachfront seafood restaurant.
Both Weligama and Mirissa houses restaurants and bars. In the evening, you’d be able to personally pick any fresh seafood which they then cook up.
How to get there:
Mirissa and Weligama Beaches are only a few minutes apart. So, you may just hire a tuk tuk for at least around LKR 150.
Stay: 22 Welligambay
The rooms of Twenty Two Weligambay Hotel are subtly stylish which makes you feel at home. The best room is, of course, the Superior Suite. It has three bedrooms to accommodate at least 6 persons. Its own terrace allows guests to get a panoramic view of the Weligama beach. Also, the terrace is spacious that it is fitted with dining tables, a couch, and an outdoor bathtub.
Day 11- Explore Galle City
The Galle City is one of the top must-visit places in Sri Lanka, particularly in its south bay area. What makes this city different from other parts of Sri Lanka is that it transports the visitors back into the colonial period in the area. But, this is not only for a historical buff.
Behind the colonial establishment walls, you’d find clothes, jewelry, textiles, furniture, and home decor and such handicrafts. The styles and pattern of these are not the usual. They can be very expensive though.
Also maintaining the old colonial vibe within the Galle city are different cafes and restaurants. Examples of these are the Italian and Asian restaurant of the Peddlars Inn Cafe or the vegan/vegetarian restaurants of Calorie Counter and Poonie’s Kitchen.
You can also get a fresh air along the bay area of Galle City.
How to get there:
Traveling from Weligama to Galle may take at least about an hour. Bus rid for this route will costs at least LKR 40 per person while train ticket may costs LKR 60, or more or less.
Read more on Things to do in Galle
Day 12 – Hikkaduwa surf beach
The Hikkaduwa is second to the best beach Sri Lanka. It is known for its colorful coral reefs and fishes of different species. It is an ideal place to go for snorkeling even just near the shoreline.
There are several turtle sanctuaries in the Hikkaduwa beach. This is because the beach is often a nesting place of the turtles. Also, the turtles swim closer to the shore as they are enticed by the seaweeds coming from the locals.
In Hikkaduwa, you may drop by the Tsunami Memorial Museum. It serves as a reminder to the locals and foreigners of the lives lost during the 2004 Tsunami.
Then, you may tour around the Ariyapala Mask Museum in Ambalangoda where a large collection of masks are on display. And, learn how to create and decorate masks through Sri Lankan traditional way.
How to get there:
The at least 40-minute drive between Galle and Hikkaduwa via bus can costs approximately LKR 100.
Day 13 – Bentota
The Bentota Beach is one of the white sand beaches in Sri Lanka closest to the city of Colombo. Making the Bentota a good place to start or end your tour depending on your mood or preference.
One of the top things to do in Bentota is the Bentota River Safari. You may book this tour through a tour agency or just hire boatmen staying below the bridge.
Renting the boat usually cost LKR 4,000. It can carry at least 6 to 8 persons. For individual or couple, you may negotiate the boat rental costs to LKR 1,800. The cost will include the boatman who will also your guide or spotter. These boatmen really have a good eye in spotting river-dwellings such as monitor lizards and baby crocodile hiding under the water or the branches and leaves. The Bentota River Safari may take at least 2 and a half hours.
Paramotoring in Bentota may be best scheduled sometime between December and April provided that there’ll be no rain and strong winds. Paramotoring may costs approximately LKR 4,450 per 20 minutes.
How to get there:
The Bentota Beach is at least an hour away from Hikkaduwa and accessible by bus or tuk tuk.
Read the things to do in Bentota
Day 14 – Kalutara
Just a bit closer to Colombo International Airport is the Kalutara. The Kalutara is one of the least visited beaches in Sri Lanka. But, it is still an ideal place for swimming, surfing, and diving.
The Kalutara is a home to many temples and mosques. Most popular among these is the Buddhist stupa, the Gangatilaka Vihara. It is three stories high, hollow, and crowded. It is painted with at least 74 murals of the Jataka tales focused on the life of Buddha.
Other places to visit in Kalutara are Sinharaja Forest which is a home to more than half percentage of endemic plants and the Richmond Castle which is an Edwardian mansion turned into an orphanage and a historic house museum at the same time.
How to get there:
Kalutara is about 40 minutes, or more or less, away north of Bentota.
Avani Resort in Kalutara
The Avani Resort is located in secluded part of Kalutara sandwiched between the ocean and lake. Its architectural design exudes a fusion of modern design and tropical vibe. So, your stay here is going to be relaxing and something to look forward to.
The Avani Resort in Kalutara features rooms and suites that are spacious and have en suite bathrooms with either a shower only or separate bathtub and shower cubicle. Most of the rooms and suites can get either ocean or lake view as well.
When the waves are strong, you don’t have to worry since the Avani Resort has a huge outdoor pool. Also, it has an on-site watersport center in which guests can rent water sports equipment and be accompanied by professional instructors. Some of these watersports are windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing catamaran.
Tips About Sri Lanka
Commuting in Sri Lanka
Although express trains are available, trains frequently on the tracks are non-aircon and a bit slow. But, the train ride sure is going to be scenic.
Trains bound to central Sri Lanka will pass through the verdant valley of the region. Meanwhile, the trains heading to the south will traverse along the south coast of Sri Lanka.
Reserved train seats easily get sold out a few weeks earlier. This is since reservation of seats can be made up to 30 days before the actual trip. In case you have a hard time reserving a ticket, it is best to coordinate with a local tour agency. But, if your train trip is just a few hours or you believe you can handle crowded coaches, then you can just buy your train tickets at least 45 minutes in advance.
Here’s a link that can help trace the schedule of trains:
Here’s a link to the contact details and other need-to-know facts when booking a train:
Taking a bus is a cheaper transportation option. But, some bus drivers overload the buses with passengers and drive like, I don’t know, maybe in a hurry. Other than that, traveling by bus around Sri Lanka is easy since the buses are well-labeled. You can easily read their destinations in the front part of the buses.
Rent a car is expensive for sure. But, are practical for those traveling with a large group.
Tuk tuks are available in most parts of Sri Lanka. Sometimes, the tuk tuk drivers though tend to overcharge foreigners. So, the trick is to first ask your hotel, guide, or a reliable local for the regular fare of a tuk tuk ride when going to a particular place. In this way, you’ll be able to know up to how much you can renegotiate.
One of my companion during my trip around Sri Lanka is the PickMeApp. If you haven’t heard about it, it is a local counterpart of Uber/Grab. Apart from the usual cars and vans their menu, they include a tuktuk ride option. With this App, I can get a tuk tuk easily and see the fare on my screen immediately.
Note though that when using this App, you need to have a local phone number in which the driver can contact you in order for them to get the specific location where they can pick you up. In my experience, I asked favors from local store owners or hotel staff. I ask them if I can use their phone number which the driver can call.
As of this writing, Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) costs around 160.57 per 1 USD. You may exchange them in any bank counters located inside the main Colombo International Airport. They are open 24 hours.
Unlike the banks, Money Changers (mostly Jewelry Stores) and ATMs offer better rates. Good thing that there are ample of ATMs available in cities like Colombo and Galle. As for the Jewelry Stores, make sure they are authorized to do so. In Galle Fort, I found the jewelry store MIF Jewels in Pedlar Street which has a reliable and reasonable money changer service.
Tipping in Sri Lanka
Handing tips are customary in Sri Lanka that sometimes tips are automatically charged to your account. So, in case, don’t get surprised when a restaurant charges at least 10 % tip. On the other hand, tipping for concierge services or such should be at least LKR 50 – 100.
Data: Dialog Internet
The top mobile service provider across Sri Lanka is the Dialog. Inside the airport, they giveaway prepaid SIM cards for free. You can just present your passport and mobile number. And, after at least 4 minutes, they’ll be able to activate your SIM with a size compatible to your mobile.
What you’ll pay for sure is the load credits of the SIM. They offer a tourist mobile plan which cost at least LKR 1,299. This package includes credits of 9 GB for Mobile Data, LKR 600 for international calls and SMS, and LKR 350 for local calls and SMS. You may inquire about other mobile plans that best suit your needs.
To reload more credits, you may buy at any retail outlets available almost everywhere in the country. You may also buy Dialog SIM card in any outlets for LKR 150 in case you miss its counter inside the airport.
How to Apply for visa in Sri Lanka
The Citizens of Maldives, Singapore, and Seychelles no need to apply for a visa to enter Sri Lanka. So, as for us, we’ll need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). The ETA will allow you to stay up to 30 days on the island and an at least 2 entries. This will be valid within three months from the date of its issuance.
Here are the basic steps to apply for ETA online:
1) Go to: www.eta.gov.lk
2) Choose English or language your most comfortable with. Then, it will lead you to the actual site.
3) Click the highlighted word “Apply”. Everything then should be easy to follow.
4) Fill up your personal information, travel details, and such. Don’t forget to double check everything you filled up in the application.
5) Choose payment options. Acceptable payment options are Visa card, Mastercard, and American Express card. A processing fee costs around 35 USD.
6) Once the payment has been accepted, you will then receive an acknowledgment with a reference number.
7) Within 24 hours, you should receive referral notice, usually for submission of additional requirements, or an approval notice. If you have not received any response within the timeframe, you may click “Check Status” tab on the website. Or, contact them through the details stated in the acknowledgment notice.
8) In the Immigration Counter of the airport, you will present
- a) a copy of the Approval Notice,
- b) your passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival,
- c) a return ticket, and
- d) proof of sufficient fund for the whole stay.
Apply for ETA on the spot or upon your arrival in Sri Lanka can also be an alternative option. Disadvantage though is that their facilities for this purpose are only a few and may charge you a fee in addition to the processing fee.
Basically, in ETA issuing counter you will:
1) Fill up the ETA application form,
2) Pay the processing fee through e-payment, credit card or cash in USD.
3) Proceed to the Immigration Counter to present:
- a) a copy of the Approval Notice,
- b) your passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival,
- c) a return ticket, and
- d) proof of sufficient fund for the whole stay.
Best time to visit Sri Lanka
Generally, visit to Sri Lanka is best at almost any time of the year except sometime between October and November when heavy rains and storms are expected across the whole country. Due to the two monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, rainfall patterns in Sri Lanka are different from one region to another.
Best time to visit the southwest area, or particularly in Colombo and Galle, is during December to March when only minimal rainfall is expected. Meanwhile, safari ride in Yala National Park may be best during its dry season months, or during February to June.
Going up to the valley city of Kandy is best from January to April when low rainfall is expected. And, to the Nuwara Eliya by December until February during which its coldest nights. Cultural triangle trip except for Kandy may be best done sometime in May to September or during its dry season.
Sri Lankans are among the kindest and most helpful people you can meet. In modest hotels, the owners offer to help in getting train tickets or a bowl of warm and homemade curries.
Then, off the streets, I’ve already mentioned that a store owner lent me their phone number for my pick me driver to reach. In the market, they’d offer a free taste of fruits. Overall, I felt safe walking around Sri Lanka.
What to pack
Basic essentials to pack are Camera, phone, cash and coins, passport, bottled water, sunscreen, and tissue.
When visiting temples, you’ll need clothes that cover your shoulders, elbows, legs, and knees. Or, always bring with you a sari.
When in highlands as well as in the cultural triangle, you’ll need hiking clothes and footwear, jacket, umbrella and long boots.
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