Last updated on February 13, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days – The ultimate 3 daily plans with maps

In a Sri Lanka itinerary of 10 days, you will be able to organise some interesting tours and visit some of the most beautiful beaches, as well as unique trekking and historical sites.

But, is there actually enough time to explore the entire island?

To see the whole of Sri Lanka, it would take at least two weeks and ideally three or four weeks, as it is one of the 20 biggest islands in the world.

Nevertheless, you will be amazed at how much you can see and do in 10 days in Sri Lanka if you plan well in advance.

This guide will assist you in planning your 10 days Sri Lanka itinerary; you are either seeking the ultimate beaches, an active trip to see as much as possible, or a more relaxing holiday.

Let’s get straight to it

You can read also

Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days – In a nutshell

Based on my trips, I have organised below three kinds of itineraries for 10 days in Sri Lanka.

Here below a map with the areas that will be visited.

For each Sri Lanka 10 days itinerary, you will see a more detailed map.

Best area to stay in Sri Lanka
Best area to stay in Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka itinerary in 10 days for beaches, surfing and sea: it goes without saying that Sri Lanka has some of the best beaches in the world. Moreover, the surfing scene is so chilled out, with great places to either learn or enjoy some of the best waves on the planet, including a few challenging spots. And, in the right season, you can also plan to add whales watching in your plan. Read more below about the day-by-day plan.
  • 10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit all you can: with this itinerary you will be able to experience a lot, however, it will be quite a tiring trip. For this reason, I always suggest adding 1 or 2 days at the end of your trip to chill out at the beach and recharge your batteries. I have included also a few days in the north, the most unexplored and underrated part of Sri Lanka. Read below for the detailed travel plan
  • 10 days in Sri Lanka – The relaxed itinerary: this is the best travel plan if you want to visit the country in a relaxed way. You will still get to experience many places and activities, however, you will have also some time to relax, including a few days at the beach. Check out below my daily plan with a map.
  • Do you have a few more days to spend in the country? That would help immensely with the planning because you could add more destinations or take it slower. You can read my guide to a 2 week itinerary in Sri Lanka or even 21 days or more in the country.

I have suggested below few accommodation for each destination of the itinerary. You can check out more hotels on my guide of where to stay in Sri Lanka.

Keep in mind that the driving time is not as straightforward as it could be in most of the western countries.

It’s not just the distance but also the winding roads, especially in the centre of the island

There are plenty of buses that connect all the above areas in the map. 

You can also think to rent and share a minivan which will cut the travelling time by up to 50%.

Colombo is well connected to the south (Galle and Hikkaduwa) in around 2-3 hours. You can also travel east (Kandy) and north (Dambulla, Anuradhapura) in around 4-5 hours.

Any other location can take the entire day of travelling.

For example, Arugam Bay is amazing, especially if you are into surfing, but it is going to take around 7-8 hours to drive there from Colombo. Less so from Galle/Hikkaduwa

I usually pre-book my internal transportation with the 12Go website, a great website also for private transfers.

Check Sri Lanka transportation

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka does not have a central site for booking buses. You better check at the local travel agency or bus stations.

Some destinations are also connected by train. You can check all the routes on the Sri Lanka Railways website.

The train is probably the most charming and characteristic way of transportation in Sri Lanka, especially the Tea Train between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, however it is also the slowest way, sometimes by a big margin.

Sri Lanka itinerary in 10 days for beaches, surfing and sea

The best time for surfing is between May and September on the east coast (Arugam Bay) and October to April on the south coast (Galle to Hikkaduwa).

The shoulder months offer the best waves on both locations

You should check out the weather based on your travel dates in Sri Lanka. The great thing is that there is always a sunny and dry season somewhere on the island.

In this plan, you will stay mostly on the coast

Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days for beaches and surfing
Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days for beaches and surfing

Day 1 (overnight in Hikkaduwa)

This is the day of your arrival at the Colombo Airport.

You have two possibilities here. 

You can take a local bus to Colombo where you will spend the day. Then on day 2, you can take another bus to Hikkaduwa.

Although there are many things to do in Colombo, I suggest bypassing the capital and organise instead a private transfer from the airport to Hikkaduwa where you will spend the first 3 nights

If your travel is about the beach, sun and sea then, honestly, there is not much point in stopping by Colombo.

Check in at your hotel and have a walk at the beach

Day 2-3 (overnight in Hikkaduwa)

Spend your time at Hikkaduwa Beach and Narigama Beach, just one km souther of Hikkaduwa.

Both beaches are great for snorkelling and diving.

They also have different breaks with waves for beginners and advanced surfers, the perfect spot for learning and improving your technique.

For a relaxing time, have a walk to the tiny Turtle Beach (10 minutes from Hikkaduwa).

As the name says, this is the place to spot the turtle, some of them gigantic.

The locals offer boat tours and algae to feed the turtles. Totally up to you. The unwritten rule is still not to touch or grab them.

I also suggest joining this Local Hikkaduwa Village Tour if you want to take some time off exploring the village and being introduced to local families, food and habits.

Day 4-5 (overnight in Galle)

Galle does not have a beach, but it would be such a pity to miss out on this beach, one of the most beautiful in Sri Lanka.

I talk more extensively on another post about Galle, I just mention here that the unique Galle Dutch Fort is also UNESCO listed.

But, do not worry, there are beaches a stone way from the old town.

Unawatuna Bay is the closest spot to the city, great also for surfing.

Then you have Lazy Left and Lazy Right in Midigana, Weligama, Mirissa in the south of Galle.

From Mirissa, you can also book a boat to go whale watching between November and April.

This is one of the experiences that I loved the most, although it is a long day starting at 6am

I highly suggest booking your tour well in advance, especially if travelling in peak season; there is a free cancellation policy up to 24 hours prior to the experience, which is great for a late change of plan.

Check price for whales watching

And here is the spectacular view of two whales jumping out of the water
And here is the spectacular view of two whales jumping out of the water

Day 6 (overnight in Arugam Bay)

It is time to move to your next place, the magical Arugam Bay.

Book your bus once in Galle or book your private transportation on the 12Go website.

The private transportation takes around 5 hours. Add at least another 1.5-2 hours if you go by the public bus.

The trip will take all or most of the day. You will have just enough time to check in at your accommodation and maybe have a walk along the local beach

Dinner at Why Not Restaurant for the fabulous roti

Day 7-8 (overnight in Arugam Bay)

Spend 2 full days in this jewel of the east coast.

There are a few beaches around of which the two below are probably the most popular with surfers

  • Elephant Rock, a great spot with easy going waves, perfect spot for learners (take your board from town)
  • Arugam Bay beach, in the souther part of town for more challenging waves

There are plenty of shops in town to rent your board or organise a few surfing lessons. This must be one of the cheapest places on earth to learn the sport.

Travel south a few km to see also Peanut Farm Beach, another magical spot just after Elephant Rock

Another enjoyable day trip is to Pottuvil point, around 5-6km north of Arugam, one of the safest beaches around

Favourite spots for food in Arugam are:

Day 9 (overnight in Colombo)

This is going to be the longest transfer of the trip. It will take the entire day, eight hours or more.

I highly suggest in this case to book your private transportation. You will save many hours.

You can book your van/car directly in Arugam Bay or on the 12Go website (it usually tends to be cheaper online) 

Day 10 

Time to go to the airport for the flight back home.

Do you have a late flight?

Check out my list of 19 unique things to do in Colombo, including a swim at a lovely beach south of the capital, easily reachable by a fascinating train trip

Accommodations and experiences:

Mt Lavinia Beach - On the best beaches nearby Colombo
Mt Lavinia Beach – On the best beaches nearby Colombo

10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit all you can

This itinerary focuses more on a cultural trip, including a few historical sites in Sri Lanka.

You will get the best out of the country, however, unfortunately you will miss out on the beaches of the south and east coast.

Ten days in Sri Lanka is not enough to experience the island from north to south.

10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit all you can
10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit all you can

Day 1 (overnight on the train)

This is the day of your arrival with just enough time to transfer to Colombo to catch the overnight train to Jaffna.

The trip by itself is a great experience. You will feel back in the old British Empire.

Buy the ticket at the Fort Colombo Station, one of my favourite spots in the capital for travel photography.

Day 2-3 (overnight in Jaffna)

The north is one of most underrated and still-to-discover areas of Sri Lanka.

Here you will experience the Sri Lanka as it used to be. There is, however, a drawback, there are not as many hotels around, so book well in advance.

Try to explore the city at sunrise and the fort as soon as they open the gates.

Have a walk to the fishing market (you will be most likely the only tourist there) and the little port.

I wrote an extensive guide to Jaffna, a real gem of Sri Lanka, including all the places you can visit and things that you can do.

Ultimate guide to Jaffna

Jaffna, Sri Lanka - Full guide with map and places to visit
Jaffna, Sri Lanka – Full guide with map and places to visit

Day 4-5 (overnight in Anuradhapura)

On day 4, take the bus to Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, 4-5 hours south of Jaffna, where you will spend the next 2 nights.

It is not widely known that Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital only since the 19th century

Because of its immaculate conservation and preservation, it is possible to see temples, monuments, and other sites almost intact in Anuradhapura.

The city was founded in the 5th century and served as the capital of the Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka for over 600 years, until the South Indian army invaded the area.

Similarly to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the city was abandoned and the jungle covered it with overgrowth plants and trees.

Anuradhapura became the Buddhist pilgrimage center of the country after a group of British researchers discovered it again in the 19th century.

The best way to experience the ancient capital is by bike that you can rent pretty much everywhere.

Alternatively, rent a tuk-tuk with a driver, a good option also if too hot to ride a bike.

Day 6-7 (overnight in Sigiriya)

On day 6, take the bus in the morning to the Sigiriya area where you can experience probably the most iconic place in Sri Lanka, the Lion Rock Fortress.

The trip takes around 2-3 hours (bus or private van).

The area has many fascinating attractions, as I describe in my guide.

Once checked in at the hotel, make sure to join an elephant safari in the Minneriya National Park.

You can do it on your own, however, it will take time as you need to organise the transportation from the hotel to the park, then you need to bargain for the jeep inside the park and finally you need to buy the tickets (if they are not sold out).

For this reason, I highly suggest booking the safari in advance, which includes the transportation back and forward to your accommodation.

The best time to do the safari is at sunset, when the animals walk down to the lake for drinking.

Book your Elephants Safari

We actually got very close to the elephants
We actually got very close to the elephants

Plan your walk up to the magical Sigiriya Fortress in the early morning of day 7, possibly as soon as they open the gate.

In this way, you will still have some fresh air and you will be pretty much on your own in a usually very busy attraction.

Unfortunately, there is only one way up, with plenty of stairs, and you will have to wait if there are many travellers around walking at different speed.

Take the afternoon to relax at the accommodation.

If you have still energy to go, you could think of climbing up the Pidurangala peak for sunset

Day 8-9 (overnight in Kandy)

On day 8, take the bus to Kandy (around 3 hours). 

You could also think of taking a private driver and make it to Kandy through the Mini World’s End, a beautiful National Park with a spectacular view and enormous cliffs, a sort of Norwegian Fjord without water.

This detour will, however, keep you busy for the entire day with 5 hours of driving and 2-3 hours of walking.

Kandy itself has so many things to do, I actually wrote an exhaustive guide on Kandy’s attractions that I suggest you reading to plan your almost 2 days there.

10 great things to do in Kandy

Day 10 (possible overnight in Colombo)

On Day 10, you can take the bus or the train back to Colombo or directly to the airport if you have a flight.

If your flight is on the next day, I suggest booking your hotel in Colombo quite in advance (it can be busy) and plan your itinerary in Colombo with this guide.

The capital offers many attractions, however, they are mostly far from each over and it’s so easy to get lost and think that it’s a boring city.

It took me two trips to the capital to fully appreciate it and document it.

How to plan the best out of Colombo

From Colombo, you can also book a private transportation to the Airport which is a real bargain if you are in a group of 2 or 3 people.

Accommodations and experiences:

10 days in Sri Lanka – The relaxed itinerary

This itinerary focuses on some beach time and interesting places to visit, mostly in the centre of Sri Lanka.

You will not change as many accommodations and you will see some of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka but in a more chilled out way.

10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit in a relaxed way
10 days Sri Lanka itinerary to visit in a relaxed way

Day 1 (overnight in Colombo)

This is the day of your arrival to the Colombo Airport. 

You can grab a bus to the city or you can organise your private transportation to gain some time to spend in Colombo (check out this private car at a great price, especially if in 2 or 3 people)

I highly suggest booking your stay at the Mövenpick Hotel. The infinity pool on the rooftop with a view of the Ocean is to die for, as well as the food served at the bar/restaurant.

This hotel has, however, a drawback. It’s so dreamy that it will be hard to motivate yourself to leave and explore the city.

Colombo is a vast city and it is so easy to get lost and think there is not much to do (yes, it happened on my first trip there).

This is why you should check out my guide to the things to do in Colombo first and plan from there. It took me 2 trips there to organise it.

Iconic and hidden things to do in Colombo

Day 2 (overnight in Kandy)

Take a train to Kandy from the Fort Main Station. The trip is around 2.5-3 hours long.

Once in Kandy, take a stroll in town to appreciate the old centre and the many temples around.

Day 3-4 (overnight in Kandy)

On day 3, check out all that the city has to offer, and there is a lot, starting with the local meat and fish market in the early morning and, of course, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

I have written an exhaustive guide to Kandy based on my trips there, with all the things to do, including the Esala Perahera Festival, one of the most colourful religious pageants in Asia, that runs in the first 10 days of August (be aware that accommodations tend to be booked out months in advance).

19 things to do in Kandy

Top things to do in Kandy - Sri Lanka
Top things to do in Kandy – Sri Lanka

On day 4, you should have a trip to the tea plantations area. 

I have written another extensive guide to the Tea Plantations in Sri Lanka and how to visit them.

In saying that, being your time very limited, I highly suggest joining this local organised tour that will assist with the “Tea Train” to Nuwara Eliya and back to Kandy by van.

The “Tea Train” runs on one of the most beautiful routes in the world between hills and never ending tea plantations.

On the way back, you will also stop at the Ramboda Falls.

A tour like this allows you to experience not only the “Tea Train”, but also the landscape and the small villages only accessible by car.

The tour will also include a visit to a Tea Factory where you will have the opportunity to sample “real tea”, as it was described to me

Organised Tour back to Kandy

Having more days, you could think of doing it on your own, but it is not an option with only 10 days in Sri Lanka.

Day 5 (overnight in Sigiriya)

This is another transfer day that may take 3-4 hours by private or public bus if you go on the direct route.

You can also organise a private transfer, which is a better option if you want to stop at the Dambulla Cave Temples on the way.

You could also think of taking the alternative route through the Mini World’s End, an impressive canyon, but that would take the entire day, including 2-3 hours of walking.

I suggest taking a hotel with a nice pool. You will need it.

Day 6-7 (overnight in Sigiriya)

Begin your day 6 with an early start for the hike to the Sigiriya Rock fortress, also called Lion Rock, on top of a massive monolith, with part of the stairs carved in the stone

This is one of the most iconic Sri Lankan historical sites.

At lunch time, go back to your accommodation for a relaxing break and join in the late afternoon an elephant safari in the Minneriya National Park.

This is the best time of the day, when you will see plenty of wild animals around, all going to the lake for some water.

Avoid, if possible, a safari in the middle of the day as most animals are hidden sleeping in the forest

You can organise your safari directly at the hotel, or save some money and book directly online this jeep tour that will pick you up and drop you off directly at your hotel, a no worries experience.

On day 7, you could climb to the Pidurangala peak, for the unique view of Lion Rock and the National Park in the foreground.

Alternatively, select one of the other experiences I have written about in my guide to Sigiriya or just relax at the pool of the hotel.

7 things to do in Sigiriya

Best things to do in Sigiriya - The fortress and so much more
Best things to do in Sigiriya – The fortress and so much more

Day 8 (overnight in Negombo)

Have an early start for a trip back to Negombo, just north of the Colombo Airport. This is where you will spend the last 3 nights.

You can organise a direct private transportation to Negombo, which is the quickest option (3-4 hours).

You can also take a public bus, however, you may need to go first to Colombo, adding another 2 hours on top of your trip

Day 9-10 (overnight in Negombo)

Day 9 is the last full day in Sri Lanka that you can enjoy relaxing at the beach.

The Negombo beach is actually quite nice and just minutes away from the airport (very handy for an early fly out)

Have a stroll also in the old town and the fishing village, always an interesting place to take a few photos.

Day 10, time to take the flight back home, hopefully after a few more chilled out hours at the pool or the beach.

Accommodations and experiences:

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka
Tea plantations in Sri Lanka
The "Tea Train" from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
The “Tea Train” from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka
Contrasting colours at the Praying at the Buddha at the Gangaramaya Temple
Contrasting colours at the Praying at the Buddha at the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo
Fort Railway Station in Colombo - Train arrival
Fort Railway Station in Colombo – Train arrival
Amazing view from the infinity pool of the Movenpick Hotel Rooftop
Amazing view from the infinity pool of the Movenpick Hotel Rooftop in Colombo
Swimming Pool at the Lion Rock
Swimming Pool at the Lion Rock
Peak of Sigiriya
Peak of Sigiriya
The main station in Colombo, great spot for travel photography
The main station in Colombo, a great spot for travel photography
The beautiful Kandy in the early morning
The beautiful Kandy in the early morning
Lanes and alley of Kandy town centre
Lanes and alley of Kandy town centre
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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