How long should you spend in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka should definitely be one of the destinations on your bucket list.

Guest post’s author: Thomas Nevin

This tropical island boasts dreamy coastlines, with white sands and clear, turquoise waters abundant with exotic marine life. Inland, the undulating landscape is home to majestic mountains, lush rainforests, ancient tea plantations and bustling cities.

There is such a variety of experiences to be had in Sri Lanka. From hiking trails where you can come face to face with incredible wildlife, to exciting water sports and snorkelling with turtles, to exploring historical temples. All the while there are plenty of places to sample the delicious authentic cuisine of this sun-drenched island. But with so much to see and do on this beautiful holiday island, how long should you spend in Sri Lanka?

Make a plan

Sri Lanka is a large island, and whilst there are good travel routes across regions, it still takes a good amount of time to explore.

map of Sri Lanka, Asia

More than anything, with such incredibly diverse scenery as you move across the changing landscapes, you don’t want to rush. Making a travel itinerary is a great way to ensure you pass through the places you want to see, and will help you gauge how long you need to stay to see and do everything you want to.

Spending the time to research how you plan to travel across the island, where you want to stay and the places you want to visit will save you a lot of stress and wasted time once you arrive in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can book and see reviews for accommodation, bus and train tickets online. This is the safest way to travel across the island and will help to avoid you falling victim to any tourist traps or scams.

Many of the sights to behold in Sri Lanka take more than a day to fully experience, so it’s worth planning to spend a few nights in each area. As you move through the diverse landscape, it’s a good idea to plan your activities in advance so you know how long to book accommodation for.

Hiking in the Highlands

Set amidst rolling hills, the quaint mountain town of Ella is a great place to spend two to three days. The best way to get here is to take the train from Kandy, which will take you through tea plantations and gorgeous countryside. Naturally, there are several hikes you can partake in around Ella.

Whether you choose to conquer Ella’s Rock or Adam’s Peak, you’ll need at least half a day to reach the peak and be rewarded with breathtaking views. If you pack your swimsuit, you could even hike to the hidden waterfall of Ellawala Falls for a refreshing swim. The town is well equipped, with restaurants and cafes serving delicious authentic cuisine and little stores selling locally crafted jewellery and trinkets.

Gerandi Ella Falls, Sri Lanka, Asia
Gerandi Ella Falls – photo by Thushal Madhushankha on Unsplash

Relaxing on the beaches

With so many exciting day excursions beckoning you, it can be easy to plan a bustling schedule and forget to also plan some days to just enjoy the beaches and relax. We recommend planning to spend a good week sunning yourself and exploring the coral reefs of the South Coast, where you’ll find some of Sri Lanka’s best beaches for snorkelling.

beach, Sri Lanka, Asia
Maalu Maalu Resort & Spa, Pasikuda – photo by Charuka Herath on Unsplash

Be sure to head to the quiet bay of Mirissa, where you can unwind on the idyllic beach and watch whales and dolphins play in the waves offshore. With a few rustic and charming cafes and restaurants, Mirissa is a great place to relax.

If you want to enjoy the coast with a little more excitement, then Unawatuna is the beach for you. Sheltered by a rocky headland, this sandy bay is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and is also a great place to enjoy a beach party. With plenty of amenities, you can easily spend a few days around Unawatuna.

Hindu monument, Sri Lanka, Asia
Gold Buddha – photo by Kevin Charit on Unsplash

Exploring historical monuments

There are many, many historical sites across Sri Lanka. With eight UNESCO world heritage sites, it has plenty of ancient ruins and relics to explore. It’s worth researching each site and prioritising which are most important to you for your visit, as they are spread out across the country. 

From the incredible rock fortress of Sigiriya…

Sri Lanka, Asia
Sigiriya – photo by Dylan Shaw on Unsplash

…to the intricate and mesmerising caves of Dambulla, be sure to allow a full day in each location to marvel at the ancient craftsmanship and learn the stories of these treasured lands.

Dambulla, Sri Lanka, Asia
Dambulla – photo by Agnieszka Kowalczyk on Unsplash

Take your time

Overall, we’d recommend a good two to four weeks to ensure you get the most from your visit. This gives you enough time to traverse the different regions of the island and enjoy the sights and experiences each place has to offer, without feeling rushed to fit everything in. However long you’re looking to stay, be sure to plan ahead and use safe methods of transportation as you explore the beauty of Sri Lanka.

Have you travelled to Sri Lanka? Share your experience with me as this is a destination I’m yet to visit.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.


15 thoughts on “How long should you spend in Sri Lanka?

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  1. Ahh.. Sri Lanka.. I did visit this place in 2017 as a part of the Indian Youth Delegation.. And thankfully, I took you as well on a virtual tour to that place (in addition to sharing my anecdotes and experiences).. Among the places you showed here, I visited Sigiriya.. It’s enigmatic and transports you to the Age of Civilizations..
    Do check out this page .. Thank you for sharing.. 🙂

    Sri Lanka

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I see.. Do visit the country, it’s beautiful for sure.. 🙂
      The Page I shared contains links to various posts in Sri Lanka and, you are right, I remember you visiting and commenting on a few of them, especially the one on Tea .. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sri Lanka (Or Ceylon?) has always had a magic appeal to me. My parents went there just a year before I was born. Brought back incredible pictures and 8mm film. (The latter is now digitized… Will post some day…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also for me Brian and not sure why I haven’t visited yet…we still have time. 😉
      Those historic memories would be wonderful to see, so let me know when you post them on your site.
      Hope all is well with you.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. All well, thanks. I’m finishing the digitizing of all of my mother’s films. Still 4 to go… 😓
      It did take a few years. Now I just have to “crop” them for publication… Almost done.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my all time favourite holidays. I am re-posting that story. I would happily have stayed there. Of course that was long ago but I would hope it is still wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? Now I truly have to visit Sri Lanka. 🙂
      Apologies. I’ve been on the road and haven’t kept up with reading your posts. I see you’ve been a machine and posting almost every day!


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