Last updated on February 28, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sri Lanka

Best 10 Sri Lanka itinerary options, from 7 to 21 days – for beaches, surfing, history

In this ultimate guide you will find 10 Sri Lanka itinerary options to cover any length of stay (from 7 to 21 days) and type of holiday (beaches, surfing, history etc).

Over 65,000 square kilometres of land cover this island. It takes at least six hours to drive from the west coast to the east coast, up to twelve hours from north to south.

Getting lost in the many attractions and destinations of the island is so easy

I have visited Sri Lanka a few times and I am planning to return to the island in a few months, where I will stay for over 4 weeks. It is always a blast.

In this post, I have organized a few possible Sri Lanka itinerary options to suit the length of your stay and the things you wish to do on your holiday, such as sunbathing on the beautiful beaches of the south or east coast, hiking Sigiriya Rock, taking an elephant safari, touring historical sites like Anuradhapura (the formal capital), etc.

And if you have questions, leave a comment (I usually respond quickly, easy).

Now let’s get to the good stuff

You can read also

Best Sri Lanka itinerary
Best Sri Lanka itinerary

Sri Lanka itinerary – In a nutshell

Here down a few quick points, however, keep reading for more detailed information

  • How many days in Sri Lanka? You will be able to gain a good understanding of the country in 3 weeks. In 2 weeks, you can concentrate on either the central south or the central north of the country. While you can plan a trip from north to south in 14 days, it may be too rushed. In 10 days, you can plan an itinerary including 4-5 major destinations. Sigiriya, Kandy and possibly Anuradhapura are all worth exploring with 7 days or you might prefer the beaches in the south and south-east coast. That’s one of my most frequently asked questions, by the way. The recommendation I would make here is to stay in Sri Lanka for at least 10 days, but of course, everyone has different time constraints.
  • Must-see 5 experiences in Sri Lanka: Picking only 5 is as hard as you may think. There is so much to see and experience on this island. Shortly, I would recommend to add to your must-do list the following: a hike to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, an elephants safari at the Minneriya National Park, a visit to the Tea Plantation area, one or more days in the old town of Kandy and some surfing or relaxing time at the Hikkaduwa Beach. You should read my extensive post about things to do and places to visit in Sri Lanka, which I keep updating on every trip, also with a few little gems, including a whale watching trip.
  • Best 3 beaches in Sri Lanka: Another hard choice. There are so many beautiful ones. Let’s start with Hikkaduwa Beach, then surely Arugam Bay for its amazing surfing and chilled out vibe, and finally Pasikudah, so famous in the hippy days and now back to its splendour after being unreachable for many years because of the civil war.
  • Sri Lanka itinerary in 7 days: one week is a short time for a Sri Lanka trip. For this reason, I suggest skipping Colombo and reach straight away your first destination. Now, based on your type of trip (beaches/surfing, relaxed or active) you can decide to go south to Hikkaduwa, centre to Kandy or north to the old capital of Anuradhapura. Read below for three detailed daily plans for 7 days in Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lanka itinerary in 10 days: In 10 days you surely can’t travel all around Sri Lanka, you would need at least 3 weeks for that. But plan well in advance and you will be surprised by how much you can actually experience. The train and the bus system are great to move around the island, however consider also the private transportation, as it will save you plenty of time, especially from and to Arugam Bay. You can read all the options below in the 10 days sections, with daily activities for beaches/surfing, a relaxed stay and an all-you-can-see trip.
  • Sri Lanka itinerary in 2 weeks: With 2 weeks you will be able to extend your stay to the north, the gem of Sri Lanka, still to be discovered by the tourism. Alternatively, if you are after great beaches, you can explore more of the east cost. It takes a while to get there, but totally worth your time. Also in this case I have organised 3 itineraries to cover either the best beaches, historical sites or a bit of everything.
  • Sri Lanka itinerary in 3 weeks: Having 21 days in Sri Lanka will open up so many options, you won’t believe it. I personally suggest spending 2 or 3 days visiting and/or trekking the Tea Plantations area, right in the centre of Sri Lanka. Take an overnight train to Jaffna in the north to feel like in a time machine, back to the British Empire. Travel south to Galle for the beautiful old town and spend a day whale watching. So many options. Read more below on a 3 weeks itinerary.

Here below a Google Map with all the popular areas to visit on the island.

I have extended this map to over 20 amazing things to do and places to see in my guide to the Sri Lanka experiences.

Best area to stay in Sri Lanka
Best area to experience in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka itinerary in 7 days

Seven days in Sri Lanka is a short time. 

In saying that, if you are an active traveller, you can include up to 4 destinations in your week, bypassing Colombo and taking a train as soon as you land.

This is a draft of the itinerary

  • Day 1: overnight on the train to Anuradhapura
  • Day 2: Anuradhapura exploration
  • Day 3-4: stay in Sigiriya for the rock fortress and an elephant safari
  • Day 5-6: stay in Kandy
  • Day 7: back to Colombo or Negombo

You can see the entire itinerary, with morning and afternoon plans in my guide to 7 days in Sri Lanka, that includes also 2 other options for a more relaxed traveller or for a beach/surfing stay.

Sri Lanka in 7 days

Sri Lanka itinerary 7 days
Sri Lanka itinerary 7 days

Sri Lanka itinerary in 10 days

Plan well in advance and you will be surprised by how much you can see and experience in Sri Lanka.

This is a draft of an itinerary that works very well for beach lovers and surfers, either beginners or advanced.

  • Day 1: take straight away a bus to Hikkaduwa
  • Day 2-3: enjoy Hikkaduwa, its pristine beaches and great surfing
  • Day 4-5: stay in Galle for history and beaches
  • Day 6: trip to Arugam Bay
  • Day 7-8-9: experience the lovely Arugam Bay where you can find beaches of any type, for swimming, starting surfing or big waves for the pro
  • Day 10: trip back to Colombo

You can see the entire itinerary, with morning and afternoon plans in my guide to 10 days in Sri Lanka, that includes also 2 other options for a relaxed stay or an all-you-can-see traveller.

Sri Lanka in 10 days

Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days
Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days

Sri Lanka itinerary in 2 weeks

With 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, you can plan a much longer list of things to do and places to visit.

The risk here is to over-plan your trip and spend more time on buses and trains than actually experiencing the places.

I have drafted a plan here with as much as I can think of, but I would not add anything else on top.

  • Day 1: overnight train to Jaffna in the far north
  • Day 2-3: stay in Jaffna, still undiscovered by the most
  • Day 4-5: explore the old capital of Anuradhapura
  • Day 6-7: Sigiriya Rock Fortress and elephant safari
  • Day 8-9: Kandy and its temples
  • Day 10-11: Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations area
  • Day 12-13: the old town and the fortress of Galle, besides the beaches around
  • Day 14: back to Colombo

You can see the entire itinerary, with morning and afternoon plans in my guide to 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, that includes also 2 other options for a more relaxed traveler or for a beach/surfing stay.

Sri Lanka in 2 weeks

Sri Lanka itinerary 2 weeks
Sri Lanka itinerary 2 weeks

Sri Lanka itinerary in 3 weeks

This is a great length of stay. Spending 3 weeks in Sri Lanka will give you so many new options, more so if you are planning 4 weeks in Sri Lanka.

Here below an itinerary that you can follow. Check my 2-week plan for a description of all the visited places that you can save or print for future reference.

3 weeks in Sri Lanka to visit all you can

  • Day 1: once you arrive to the Airport, head straight to the Colombo station for an overnight train to Jaffna.
  • Day 2-3: time in Jaffna
  • Day 4-5: take the train or bus to the ancient town and old Sri Lanka capital Anuradhapura where you will spend 2 nights
  • Day 6-7: bus to Sigiriya where you will stay two days visiting the unique Rock Fortress and more
  • Day 8-9-10: bus to Pasikudah for some beach time. Enjoy 3 days of relaxation
  • Day 11-12: bus to Kandy, for 2 days in one of the most beautiful towns in the country
  • Day 13-14: take the slow Tea Train to Nuwara Eliya to explore the Tea Plantations Area.
  • Day 15-16-17: bus to Galle, with the most beautiful Dutch Fort and easy access to whale watching. Spend 3 days there (you will need a good part of the first day for the trip from Nuwara Eliya)
  • Day 18-19: quick transfer to Hikkaduwa for some beach and surfing time
  • Day 20-21: take the bus to Colombo where you will spend the last night.

3 weeks in Sri Lanka on a relaxed trip

  • Day 1: spend your arrival day in Colombo, either relaxing at the hotel or visiting the city.
  • Day 2-3-4: bus to Sigiriya where you will stay two days visiting the unique Rock Fortress, doing an elephant safari and more
  • Day 5-6-7-8: bus to Pasikudah for one of the best beaches of the country. Enjoy 4 days of relaxation.
  • Day 9-10-11: bus to Kandy, for 3 days in one of the most beautiful towns in the country
  • Day 12-13-14: take the slow Tea Train to Nuwara Eliya to explore the Tea Plantations Area.
  • Day 15-16-17: bus to Galle, with the most beautiful Dutch Fort and easy access to whale watching. Spend 3 days there (you will need a good part of the first day for the trip from Nuwara Eliya)
  • Day 18-19-20: quick transfer to Hikkaduwa for some beach and surfing time
  • Day 21: transfer to the airport from Hikkaduwa

Here below a quick list of accommodation that I recommend in Sri Lanka. You can read more on this guide to places to stay in Sri Lanka, where I describe the different areas as well.

More photos from the Sri Lanka itinerary

Here below a few photos from my trips. You can read about travel photography in Sri Lanka, with plenty of other photos, in my dedicated post.

Colombo city view from the Movenpick Hotel rooftop [by night]
Colombo city view from the Movenpick Hotel rooftop [by night]
Amazing view from the infinity pool of the Movenpick Hotel Rooftop
Amazing view from the infinity pool of the Movenpick Hotel Rooftop
Crowd at the Fort Railway Station in Colombo
Crowd at the Fort Railway Station in Colombo
The beautiful Kandy in the early morning
The beautiful Kandy in the early morning
The smiling people of Sri Lanka
The smiling people of Sri Lanka on the Tea Train
View of Sigirya from the Pidurangala Rock
View of Sigiriya from the Pidurangala Rock
Peak of Sigiriya
Peak of Sigiriya
Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka
Temples of Jaffna - As busy as you see
Temples of Jaffna – As busy as you see
Tea fields of Sri Lanka
Tea fields of Sri Lanka
The very long Kalkudah beach
The very long Kalkudah beach
Lovely baby elephants
Lovely baby elephants
Kandy Esala Perahera
Kandy Esala Perahera
The Esala Perahera festival in early August - The sacred tooth is carried on top of the ornated elephant
The Esala Perahera festival in early August – The sacred tooth is carried on top of the ornated elephant
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.

1 thought on “Best 10 Sri Lanka itinerary options, from 7 to 21 days [for beaches, surfing, history etc.]”

  1. Wow, these Sri Lanka itinerary options are fantastic for anyone looking to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage in 2023!

    Reply

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