Welcome to the enchanting realm of Sri Lanka, where breathtaking landscapes, rich heritage, and vibrant culture converge to create an unforgettable travel experience. Nestled in the heart of the Indian Ocean, this tropical paradise beckons with its pristine beaches, lush jungles, and historic treasures.
Whether you seek serene moments by turquoise waters, exhilarating wildlife encounters, or a glimpse into ancient civilizations, our experiences travelling through Central and South Sri Lanka can help you discover the island’s most captivating attractions and hidden gems.
Researching our Sri Lanka Trip
Our Sri Lanka travel plan comprised a 21-day rollicking rollercoaster of a ride to the World’s End and beyond, taking in the Central Highlands and the South Coast. It promised to be an eventful trip, with all content published from a tiny Samsung smartphone.
Our idea was to choose a circular route which would give us the chance to spend between 1-3 nights in a select number of destinations.
Our 9 Destinations
We narrowed our choices to a set of 9 destinations that could be combined into a diverse and viable route:
1. Colombo to Negombo
2. Negombo to Sigiriya
3. Sigiriya to Kandy
4. Kandy to Polwaththa
5. Polwaththa to Haputale
6. Haputale to Tangalle
7. Tangalle to Unawatuna
8. Unawatuna to Galle
9. Galle to Colombo
Our Travel Plan Budget
We divided our budget into 3 areas, based on two people sharing:
♦ International flights.
♦ Pre-booked accommodation.
♦ Daily cash allowance for everything else.
Pre-booked Accommodation: Also three to four weeks before departure we went to the Hotels Combined website and booked 4 guesthouses in some of the places we had decided to visit (for a total of 8 nights). This came to €189 on the basis of 2 people sharing, and also included breakfast.
Non-booked Accommodation: We still needed to pay for another 12 nights accommodation. On a budget of €25 per night, this would come to €300 on the basis of 2 people sharing.
Daily Cash Allowance: Typically in a trip around S. E. Asia, we would be looking to spend around €25 per person per day after all the above expenses were accounted for. On this particular trip, we would have 20 nights in Sri Lanka. I therefore calculated our cash requirement as 20 days x €25 per person, for a combined requirement of €1,000.
The budget for our entire trip came therefore to a total of €3,635. The only other cost not accounted for is our holiday insurance (€116). Adding this in makes a grand total of €3,751.
Getting Started – Colombo to Negombo
Since we were due to arrive at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike airport at 6:30 pm, we wouldn’t have a lot of time to reach our first night’s accommodation. We also didn’t want to spend time in the busy capital, Colombo.
We booked our first hotel not far up the coast, in the beach resort of Negombo. This tied in nicely with our plan to follow a circular route through the island, first heading inland and then traveling back to the airport via the circuitous coast road.
Negombo doesn’t offer the best beach experiences however, so we allocated just one night to this location. In any event, we wouldn’t have much time to spend on the beach since we planned to set off early the next morning by bus on the next leg of our trip.
Negombo to Sigiriya
From our research, it was clear that there were a lot of interesting places to visit in the central areas of the island, north of the old capital, Kandy. We wanted to spend a few days in this area to see as much as possible.
These first few days on the island would also give us time to acclimatize, and seemed a better alternative to rushing straight to the beaches.
The town of Sigiriya seemed to be a good choice to use as a base for a few days while we visited places in the area such as the Lion Rock and Dambulla caves. We weren’t so sure as yet about which route to take to get there, but we would work it out when we arrived. We booked our accommodation in advance, and I emailed our host to confirm what time we expected to arrive.
Sigiriya to Kandy
No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a visit to Kandy, so we decided to spend 2 nights here on our way down to the southern coast. From a previous trip to Sri Lanka, I knew there was plenty here to see and do: Kandy Lake, the famous Temple of the Tooth, and the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
We would spend an additional 2 nights up in the mountains to the East of Kandy at the Polwaththa Eco-Lodges. Here we hoped to get a relaxing taste of jungle life in a basic wooden cabin. From Polwaththa we would be able to arrange treks through the jungle and visit local tea plantations.
Kandy to Haputale
The next 7 days of our trip we would leave to chance. The only criterion being that we arrive at Unawatuna on the south coast of the island one week later. Our general plan was to head south from Kandy through the mountains. We wanted to visit Adam’s Peak and the famous World’s End near Haputale.
We would be able to travel by train from Kandy for part of the journey, but after that we would have to take buses through mountainous countryside. We would be heading in the general direction of Tangalle on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, where we planned to spend a few days before moving west up the coast to Unawatuna.
Haputale to Tangalle
There are no trains that connect Haputale with the south coast. We would therefore be looking for a bus service to make the journey. We were quite flexible about our destination as we had made no bookings, and would look for accommodation wherever we ended up.
We hoped to arrive somewhere between Yala and Tangalle, depending on which bus service we took. There is a good choice of accommodation in these areas, so it would be interesting to see how it all panned out.
Tangalle to Unawatuna
Whatever happened, we would definitely be spending at least a few days in or around Tangalle. I visited this area back in 1994, and was very much looking forward to a revisit.
From Tangalle, we would move back west along the coast to Unawatuna. Here we’d already booked ourselves into a very promising guesthouse with great reviews. This is the section of the trip where we would be spending time on the beaches and in the sea. Hopefully by this time we’d be sufficiently acclimatized to avoid any serious sunburn.
Unawatuna to Galle
From Unawatuna, it’s only a short hike further around the coast to the small city of Galle, which should provide an interesting change of tempo from the preceding weeks of our trip.
Here we’d also booked a guesthouse for 2 nights, before continuing our circuit which would bring us back once more to Negombo.
Galle to Negombo
From Galle we intended to head back to Negombo, again bypassing Colombo. We could return to our original guesthouse in Negombo, if we liked it. At this point we weren’t sure how we’d travel – either by bus or train depending on time/connections.
If we set off early and made good time, we’d have the opportunity for a final dip in the ocean before heading back to the airport the following day.
The route we planned around Sri Lanka is a fairly classic circular travelers route (some people choose the reverse direction: beaches first, followed by mountains). For details on how the trip actually panned out, check out our related articles.
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