We came to Sri Lanka with a simple plan, travel as much of the country as we can in under a month. So we grabbed a map and put together a rough plan of what we wanted to see and do and set out. We were blown away by how beautiful the country was and fell in love with the extremely kind and welcoming people.
This route we planned worked really well and was a lot of fun. We went from Colombo – Kandy – Newara Eliya – Ella – Yala – Matara – Unawatuna – Galle Fort and finished back in Colombo. The best way for us to get around from city to city was by private car hire. It ranged from $40 to $50 per ride but its the fastest and most efficient way to get around, not to mention the most comfortable (be ready to bargain for a fair price).
1st Stop – Colombo
Colombo is an extremely busy city bustling with people, taxis, Tuk-Tuks, markets and hotels. We used it as a launching pad and spent a couple of nights here planning our route and exploring the city.
What to do in Colombo
- Barefoot Bistro – this place has GREAT food and a fun vibe to it, especially when there is a band playing (on Sundays)
- Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque (Candy Cane Mosque) – Snap a pic and admire the architecture… You have to go through a super busy market to get here.
- National Museum of Colombo – This is a fun little stop and will take you about an hour or two to go through the whole thing.
- Watch the sunset at the Ozo hotel rooftop lounge “ON14”.
Where to stay:
- Ramada Colombo – This hotel was awesome. It is centrally located and is close to everything you want to visit. The rooms are large, the bed is soft and the staff is super helpful and kind. We loved the fact that they had a large pool and plenty of lounge space and restaurants in the hotel to enjoy. >Click here to book
Where to Eat
- Mizu Japanese Menu- They serve INCREDIBLE SUSHI and fly the salmon in daily from Norway.
- Alhambra – If you like Indian food this place is delicious and you’ll love it!
2nd Stop – Kandy
Kandy is up in the mountains and there are incredible views and sunsets up here! There is also a big market here where you can buy leather good, purses and lots of spices. There are lots of tourist attractions up here but most of them are pretty hoaky so we don’t want to recommend you visit any in particular because we did and didn’t like them.
We did rent a tuk-tuk for 4 hours and explored the city which was pretty fun. Our favorite stop was the lake.
Where to stay:
- We stayed at The Theva Residency and absolutely loved it! Its perched high up on one of the hills and has incredible views! The sunsets up here were great and the restaurant is worth eating at. We really enjoyed our stay here and would recommend you get one of the Jacuzzi Suites. >Click here to book
3rd Stop – Nuwara Eliya
This is the starting point of the incredible “Train to Ella” well one of them anyway, but from here its about a 4 hour train ride which was good for us.
While in Nuwara Eliya you should visit some of the tea terraces and be sure that you stop by the historic St. Andrews Hotel for some tea and cookies, it is the tea region!
Where to stay:
We stayed at the beautiful and historic Jetwing St. Andrew’s and really enjoyed it! They have a great dinner buffet here that you don’t want to miss. The staff and the service here is Bar none. Our favorite part was the butler service at the Oatwood; from making tea, to starting the fire, the butler was professional and could anticipate your needs. >Click here to book
Ride the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella!
Train tickets are about $0.60 each for 3rd class and just a little more for 2nd, you really don’t need first class to enjoy this ride! Take the early morning train, it’s the best thing we did in Sri Lanka!
4th Stop: Ella
We would recommend a couple of nights here! We loved Ella, this is a fun little town with lots of cafe’s, restaurants and shops to visit. This also is the most touristy town in the mountains.
What to do in Ella:
- Nine Arches Bridge – this place is stunning and you can walk across the bridge.
- Little Adams Peak – this is about a 45 minute hike from town. Its not super difficult but it is a hike so strap on your sneakers. The views are INCREDIBLE!
- Eat roti at the 360 restaraunt- soo good!
- Chill Bar- have dinner here. This place looks small from the outside but once you’re in it keeps on going. Go up to the lounge, such a fun atmosphere.
5th Stop – Yala
Do this one right! This is a national park famous for having the most leopards in one area. Take a safari tour and you will see all kinds of creatures big and small, including elephants, water buffalo, lots of birds and if your lucky a leopard or two. Where you stay here really matters. Its super hot so having good accommodation will make or break the experience.
What to do in Yala
- Yala National Park and do a Safari!!
- The ocean! The waves are pretty strong here but the ocean and beach are so beautiful it will be a great experience.
- Help release baby turtles safely to the ocean. We did this at the Jetwing Yala Hotel and it was such an incredible experience.
Where to stay:
Jetwings Yala – This place was incredible! An oasis in the desert, located on the edge of the Yala National Park. They have a massive pool, maybe the largest I’ve seen and direct beach access which is great after a day on the safari. They also have incredible views from the property of the ocean and the park. >Click here to book
6th Stop – Matara
This was basicly a stop over for us on the way to Unawatuna but it was pretty cool. There is a large city here right on the coast with plenty of shopping and restaurants to explore. We only did one night here so we don’t have much to tell you. We spent most of our time in the hotel (which was right on the water) except for a trip to town for dinner at Dutch-Street Restaurant.
Where to stay
Amaloh by Jetwings. This property is right on the water with a great pool. The rooms are very spacious with incredible views of the ocean. We really enjoyed it from the breakfast to the friendly staff, things here are done right! Highly recommend booking one of the suites here. >Click here to book
7th Stop – Unawatuna/Mirissa Beach
We spent 5 days in this area hanging out on the beach and loving life! We loved it down here. The beaches are beautiful, especially Mirissa Beach, Dalawela Beach and Unawatuna Beach.
8th Stop – Galle Fort
Galle Fort is a cute old Dutch Fort. The buildings reflect dutch architecture and the streets are great for wandering. There is a lot of history with museums and the fort walls themselves to explore. We had lots of fun visiting the shops and eating at the restaurants. 2 nights here is enough to explore it. Make sure to eat at The Pasta Factory. Owned by an Italian couple that serves some of the best Italian food we’ve ever had.
Where to stay:
Fortaleza! We loved staying at Fortaleza Boutique Hotel, which is located at the heart of the city just off of main street. This property was pure luxury with large rooms and a soft luxurious bed! The staff here is friendly and very attentive to any requests or needs. They also have a great breakfast and restaurant. We recommend the Master Suit. >Click here to book
Sri Lanka is one of those countries that is both laid back and intense at the same time. You are constantly wanting to do something new here but there is no pressure. We can’t wait to come back and visit again in the future!
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