Are you looking for the best 10-day Sri Lanka itinerary to help plan your trip there? From Colombo to Galle and Udawalawe National Park (where you can do an awesome safari!) to Ella and Kandy, here’s my guide on how to best spend 10 days traveling Sri Lanka.
Psst. This post contains affiliate links. Read our disclosure.
Want to know something crazy? Up until my last trip to Southeast Asia, I never once — nada — considered traveling to Sri Lanka…
Sure, I’d heard other travelers mention this far-off magical land and rave about it’s awesomeness… and yet, it just didn’t make my travel list.
That was, until Dan and I had some time to kill while backpacking SEA and needed to pick a new destination to explore. We considered Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore… but ultimately decided on flying over to Sri Lanka.
(We were both craving some Indian food… which I’ve now learned firsthand is pretty different from Sri Lankan food!)
Anywho, after backpacking this wondrous country for 3 blissful weeks, I thought I’d put together a cool Sri Lanka travel guide on how to spend 10 days here — this is especially great for those who don’t have that much time but still want to see the best of what this country has to offer.
You’ll have the opportunity to experience cities, beaches (check out the best 27 beaches in Sri Lanka for families in this post!), colonial towns, wildlife, mountains, and more! Ready? Let’s do dis.
BEST 10-DAY SRI LANKA ITINERARY
First things first: get your flight sorted! (Unless you already have one sorted… in that case, you can keep reading!)
Personally, I always use Skyscanner for flights. To my budget’s delight, 9 times outta 10 Skyscanner shows the best possible price!
You can use this handy widget to check out much flights to Sri Lanka are from your chosen airport.
Book Your Sri Lanka Flight
Day 1-2: Colombo
Without a doubt, when you plan your visit to Sri Lanka, you’re going to be flying into the capital, Colombo.
Though you should spend a day or two exploring this vibrant city, I recommend moving on as soon as possible (the rest of the country is so much better!).
Best Things to Do in Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Marvel at the gorgeous colonial architecture in the Fort Area.
- Visit the beautiful Buddhist temple of Gangaramaya.
- Wander around Beira Lake.
- Stop at Independence Memorial Hall.
- Stroll the old district of Pettah.
- Check out Colombo’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil.
Truth be told, there’s not a massive amount of must-do things for Colombo. Thus, head out as soon as possible to tour the rest of Sri Lanka!
Where to Stay in Colombo
Budget: My Little Island Hostel (Can personally recommend this place! Super nice owners, comfy beds, newly renovated, and close to the center.)
Mid-Range: City Hotel Colombo 02
High-End: Shangri-La Hotel Colombo
Need some waterfall inspiration? If you’re heading to Bali in the future, definitely check out these 3 crazy awesome waterfalls near Ubud!
Day 2-3: Galle
One of my favorite places in Sri Lanka, Galle is a magical little destination designed with amazing Dutch colonial architecture and a fantastic Old Town (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!).
The best part of Galle is that it’s small enough to see everything in one day. (You’re definitely gonna want to stop here — it’s such a cute town!)
So, with that in mind, you have two options:
1. You can make Galle a day stop on your way from Colombo to Mirissa.
2. You can spend a night in Galle and take your time exploring the area.
How to Get from Colombo to Galle:
Hands down the best way to get from Colombo to Galle is by hopping on a train from the Maradana Station.
Though, it’s not the most comfortable ride (unless you snag a seat — or book one with the first-class train option — but it can get very busy so that’s unlikely), it’s fun, cheap, and very adventurous!
You can read a more in-depth post on getting from Colombo to Galle here.
Best Things to Do in Galle, Sri Lanka
- Simply wander about the Dutch Fort area (it has gorgeous Dutch architecture!).
- Grab a few photos at Flag Rock.
- Marvel at the beautiful white Galle lighthouse.
- Explore one of the many Dutch churches.
- Learn some cool stuff at the Marine Archaeological Museum.
- Visit the National Museum of Galle.
- Do some shopping along Pedlar’s Street.
- Walk along the Galle Fort walls and visit the Clock Tower.
Where to Stay in Galle
Day 3-5: Mirissa
A laid-back, seaside town, Mirissa is for those who need to do a bit of beach chilling, surfing, and swimming. If you want to learn how to surf, this is definitely the place to do so!
Best Things to Do in Mirissa, Sri Lanka:
- Chill out on Mirissa beach (though it can be crowded, it’s still a nice place to relax).
- Get your surf on.
- Be a foodie — there are loads of good spots to eat in Mirissa (I highly recommend Dhana’s Curry Pot, Pachamama Caffe, or Ahimsa Vegan Cafe).
- For a bigger list, check out this post!
Where to Stay in Mirissa
Backpacking Southeast Asia soon and not sure what to expect? Here are 15 things that shocked me when backpacking SEA for the first time!
Day 5-6: Udawalawe National Park
Without a doubt, heading out on a safari in Udawalawe National Park will be one of your favorite experiences on your Sri Lanka trip!
Imagine scoping out vivacious water buffalo, vibrant peacocks, soaring eagles, hard-to-spot lizards, creepy crocs, wildly-colored birds, relaxing turtles, and more!
While many head to Yala National Park for a safari, Udawalawe is lesser known and you’ll have a much more unique experience! In fact, when Dan and I went on our safari, we hardly saw anyone else! It was awesome.
To read more about how to do a jeep safari in Udawalawe NP, check out my handy guide here.
How to Get from Mirissa to Udawalawe:
This ride takes about 2 – 2.5 hours in total. And beware, it’s a very bumpy road! But the views are nice.
Ultimately, you have two options to pick from for transportation between Mirissa and Udawalawe National Park.
1. Hire a Driver
This is what Dan and I ended up doing. While it wasn’t the most comfortable option, as our hired van didn’t have air conditioning and it was in pretty ragged condition, most transportation in Sri Lanka isn’t comfy!
Though I can’t remember much, I think we paid about 7,000 LKR (about $38 USD) for the ride.
2. Shuffle Between Local Buses
If I could do this trip again, I would definitely pick local buses over hiring a driver. It’s ridiculously cheaper and is a more unique and fun experience!
You can read a guide on how to get from Mirissa to Udawalawe here.
Where to Stay in Udawalawe
Psst, don’t forget to read my Udawalawe safari guide! It has essential tips and tricks for making your trip the best. Read it here!
Day 6-8: Ella
A top favorite amongst Sri Lanka backpackers, Ella is a laid-back town nestled in the mountains with wildly beautiful views, cool waterfalls, awesome hikes, a rumbling train, and crazy delicious food.
Out of all the destinations on this 10-day Sri Lanka trip itinerary, Ella is probably my favorite! Sure, the beach is great but give me mountains and good views and I’m one happy gal.
How to Get from Udawalawe to Ella:
Taking around 2 hours to get from one destination to the other, this is one twisty journey with good views!
The easiest way to get between Udawalawe and Ella is renting a car. Though we likely paid more than the average person, as we were on a last minute schedule, it was still easier and more comfortable than the local buses.
(Not to mention, we saw a local buses barreling down the mountains near Ella and I shit you not, this thing was going around the curve on two wheels. It was terrifying to see.)
We ended up hiring a driver from our local homestay for an alright price (split between the two of us). You could also hire a tuk-tuk to take you between the two destinations; there are many hanging around the main road in Udawalawa.
Best Things to Do in Ella, Sri Lanka
- Visit Ravana Falls (a beautiful waterfall just on the side of the road).
- Hike Little Adams Peak for gorgeous views– takes around 1 hour from the center of town.
- Watch the train at Nine Arch Bridge (a must when in Ella).
- Eat some traditional Sri Lankan food (or take a cooking class!).
- Visit a tea factory or just drink some local green tea.
- Explore Sri Lanka’s second-largest waterfall, Diyaluma Falls.
- Hike up Ella Rock (about 4 hours and more challenging than Little Adams Peak).
- Check out Ravana Cave.
- For more things to do in Ella, click here.
Where to Stay in Ella
Day 8-9: Kandy
Though Kandy wasn’t a favorite of mine, it’s on this Sri Lanka itinerary because holy moly, the train between Ella and Kandy is a MUST.
How to Get from Ella to Kandy:
The notorious train between these two Sri Lanka destinations is sometimes called the World’s Most Scenic Train Ride and I’d have to agree.
Featuring breathtaking views of far-off mountains, rolling hills dotted with lush green tea plantations, dense forests and jungles, little Sri Lankan towns, and a unique train experience you won’t forget.
The train takes around 7 hours and you have the option to book your tickets online or pick them up at the station a couple days before your journey (or the day before, which is what we did).
You can choose between 1st, 2nd, or 3rd class. We ended up with 3rd class, as it was the cheapest option and was just as comfortable as the other classes! While we didn’t get to book a seat, we had absolutely zero trouble finding one.
Best Things to Do in Kandy, Sri Lanka
- Walk around the lake.
- Go high to get a city view.
- Visit the Temple of the Tooth.
- Take a walk to the Big Buddha (which can be seen from all over Kandy).
- Visit a spice garden.
- Stroll through the nearby Botanical Gardens.
- Click here to see more things to do in Kandy!
Hey, if you have an extra day and want to check out Sigiriya, definitely check out this day trip tour from Kandy!
Where to Stay in Kandy
Day 10: Negombo
Time to head back to Colombo (well, actually, Negombo — where the airport is located)!
If you have an extra night or so, I recommend spending some time in the main city. Otherwise, head straight to Negombo — where the main airport is located!
Alternatively, you can also stay near the airport for an extra night. There’s a nice beach in Negombo, which can be nice to relax at before your next flight.
How to Get from Kandy to Colombo:
Without a doubt, the cheapest way to get from Kandy to Colombo is by bus. Though it’s a very bumpy and uncomfortable 4ish-hour ride, it’s super affordable and will fit with any budget. Buses from Kandy to Negombo typically won’t cost any more than 300-400 LKR (~$2 USD).
The easiest and most expensive way to get from Kandy to Negombo is to take a taxi. This will hover around 6,000 LKR (~$40 USD) but hands down, it’s the fastest and most efficient means of transportation between these two destinations.
Another cheap, yet sure-fire way to get between the two places, taking a train from Kandy to Negombo is a bit more of a hassle more definitely more comfortable than a bus.
You’ll need to take the train from Kandy to Colombo and then hop on another from Colombo to Negombo. Alternatively, you can take the train from Kandy to Gampaha and then grab a taxi the rest of the way to Negombo.
Learn more about this route here.
Where to Stay in Negombo
Psst, want to read an unfortunate, but hilarious story? Read all about how my ride to the airport didn’t go as planned here (yes, it totally involves a flat tire)!
While there are many different routes for traveling around Sri Lanka, this is one of my favorites! It features beaches, historical towns, quaint mountain villages, hiking, waterfalls, and more.
Without a doubt, Sri Lanka has become one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited. The people are incredibly nice, the food is delicious, the views are mind-blowing, and the sites are wondrous!
If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, you’re going to love it, too.
Are you planning to spend 10 days in Sri Lanka? Need some more tips or have some questions? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!
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As mentioned above, this post contains affiliate links. Which means if you make a purchase through the links, this site receives a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our full disclosure here.