Sri Lanka- Our 8 day budget itinerary

Updated: Aug 28, 2018

As its tourism board would describe the tiny tear shaped island country, Sri Lanka truly is the wonder of Asia. 

Our 8 day Sri Lanka itinerary

Though it was “only” Sri Lanka, it was our first trip outside India and we started working on our itinerary 6 months in advance. We were very anxious about going to a new place not knowing what to expect of it. We thought we were well prepared and knew what to expect after reading hundreds of blogs and researching for days and weeks about the island country. However, we were pleasantly surprised by what Sri Lanka had to offer. It was a million times better than what we thought it’d be.

The adventure began even before we reached the Bengaluru airport. I don’t want to dwell on it much, but let’s just say heavy rains led to a broken tree blocking the entire road due to which we had to get out the cab and walk for 2 kilometers during which I managed to sprain my ankle thanks to a pothole in the road before we finally got a cab and reached the airport just in time, our shoes and clothes completely drenched!

DAY 1: Arrival, Sigiriya and Dambulla

We touched down at the Colombo airport at 2:30 AM. After clearing immigration, we bought local SIMs and hired a taxi to the bus station in Kurunegala and then took a bus to Dambulla. We reached Dambulla by 7 AM and after our breakfast, we hired a tuktuk from our stay in Dambulla to Sigiriya and the journey was for 45 minutes approximately. Sigiriya rock is a UNESCO heritage site which has an ancient rock fortress at the top. The climb to the top (1000 steps) was fun and took us almost an hour. The view from the top of the rock was breathtaking. After sight-seeing around the ruins for an hour, we went back to our waiting tuktuk who took us back to Dambulla. After some rest, we walked to the Cave temples of Buddha in Dabulla. The golden temple is also present in the same premises. We spent around 2 hours there and retired to bed early.

DAY 2: Polonnaruwa

Day 2 began early at 5 AM because we wanted to catch a 7 AM bus to Polonnaruwa near the Dambulla bus station. The journey was about 2.5 hours long, during which there was a brief stop for breakfast. We reached the Polonnaruwa bus station by 9:30 AM. Here, we rented bicycles and bought our tickets to the UNESCO World Heritage Site- the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa. It consists of a cluster of ruins and relics from the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, one of the first kingdoms of the country way back before 1070 AD. The ancient ruins are in remarkably good shape and cycling is the best way of getting around and stopping to admire all the different sites. We spent a major part of our day here, going back to the bus station at about 4 PM. We took a bus to Kandy, which was our next pit stop in this amazing adventure. We reached Kandy at about 7 in the evening and checked into our hotel, after which we stepped out to explore the pretty Kandy streets by night.

DAY 3: Kandy

We started our day early by visiting the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy which was just a few minutes away from where we were put up, to witness the morning prayer rituals in this sprawling white and red temple which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. The prayer ceremony was a captivating and beautiful experience, with our wizened old guide explaining the significance of the ceremony and each little thing associated with it. After the ceremony ended, we walked around in the temple premises, soaking in all the culture and history. We ended our short stay in Kandy with a scrumptious breakfast, soon after which we made our way to the Kandy railway station to board the train to our next stop - Hatton. The views enroute to Hatton were gorgeous and idyllic to say the least! At Hatton, we took a tuktuk to Dalhousie which is the base of Adam’s Peak. Our aim was to go on a midnight trek to the Adam’s Peak, so we had an early dinner and set our alarms to go off at 2:00 AM.

DAY 4: Adam's Peak

We woke up, on what turned out to be, arguably, the best day of the trip, at 2:00 AM, all set for our exciting midnight adventure! We’d packed our little knapsacks to be ready to go the night before, and so with our trekking gear on, headlamps tied around our forehead, beanies to keep away the chilly wind, we felt all pumped to begin our expedition! Oh, and such an adventure it really was- climbing 5800+steps to see the most glorious sunrise ever, seeing the world from above the clouds and spending some quiet, introspective moments in the beautiful monastery atop Adam’s Peak. We saw many a picturesque views during our descent - waterfalls, cliffs, pretty brooks - you name it! We then took a tuktuk back to the sleepy little Hatton railway station to catch a train to Nuwara Eliya. The journey was such a visual treat to the eyes- acres and acres of lush green tea estates, dotted by little waterfalls and misty blue skies - such a delight to the eyes! Nuwara Eliya is this pretty colonial-esque town that just looks like it’s from another era. After reaching our home stay, we wound down by walking around the beautiful neighborhood and an settling in for an early dinner.

DAY 5: Horton Plains and Ella

Another early morning adventure awaited us as we bundled ourselves in a tuktuk in the cold, wee hours of the morning to witness another beautiful sunrise followed by a lovely trek in the Horton Plains. The invigorating trek was just the panacea our city nerves needed- the hike, the unspoiled grandeur of nature all around us, everything was breathtaking! Whilst there, we saw the World’s End, the Little World’s End and the Baker’s Falls - all very lovely and beautiful. After the trek we went back to the Nuwara Eliya railway station (Nanu Oya) to catch a train to our next stop- Ella. Many, many beautiful views and verdant tea estates later, we reached the quaint Ella railway station. Ella is another gem of a place - a must see for Sri Lanka travellers on a quest for nature and history. Our first day in Ella was our down time and indulgence day to recover from all the trekking we did in the last couple of days. We spent the day indulging in a lovely swim in the resort’s infinity pool, enjoying the beautiful view, and rounding up with a decadent dinner by the poolside.

DAY 6: Ella

After a scrumptious and wholesome breakfast at our resort, we rented a bike and went on a tea factory tour, which turned out to be very informative and interesting. We got to see not just the factory floor and the different machines and stages in the preparation of tea, we also got a lovely tea tasting session from a tea veteran. At the end of the tour, we picked up some tea boxes and sachets to take back home for friends and family. From here, we went to see the beautiful Ravana Falls, followed by the Ravana caves (located behind the falls and a little tricky to find). Up 700 or so steps, and we were in the same spot where, according to Hindu mythology, Ravana first held Sita captive when he kidnapped her and brought her to Sri Lanka. We ended our second day in Ella with a lovely dinner at the famous Chill Cafe.

DAY 7: Galle

The next morning, we left in a tuktuk for Wellawaya. At Wellawaya, we got on a bus to Matara. The bus took about 4 hours to reach Matara. At Matara, we took a bus that dropped us at the Galle Bus Station, which is a few minutes away from the Galle Fort by Tuktuk. Once we reached the Galle Fort, we found our lodgings and settled down in our home for the next couple of days. It was very sunny and humid in the afternoon, so we set out to explore the Galle Fort in the evening. Walking on those little cobbled pathways surrounded by old but well kept colonial buildings, interspersed with beautiful modern hotels and quaint little shops and cafes, was a lovely experience. The Galle Fort has a very unique mix of old and new, history and culture, making it a wonderful place to explore, have a little peek around and take in all the beauty that surrounds one there. The Galle Fort also has a beautiful lighthouse at the edge of the sea, which still functions to this day and is lovely to see at dawn, dusk or even at night.

DAY 8: Galle, Unawatuna and departure

We spent our last morning in Sri Lanka, strolling around the Galle Fort streets and watching the sunrise near the Galle lighthouse. After a quick breakfast, we went to the Unawatuna beach for a little snorkeling experience. The beach was lovely and we had a great time watching the beautiful world under water. We then spent a little time in the Galle Fort markets, picking up pretty souvenirs to take back home with us, after which we packed our bags and left for the Galle railway station to catch a train to Colombo. A perfect end to a beautiful holiday in a gorgeous country!


Day 1: Dambulla + Sigiriya

Day 2: Polonnaruwa

Day 3: Kandy

Day 4: Adam’s Peak

Day 5: Horton’s Plain + Ella (98 acres)

Day 6: Ella – Tea Factory, Ravana falls and Sita cave

Day 7: Galle

Day 8: Galle + Unawatuna

We'd love to help you out with your Lanka trip planning in the comment section below, so do let us know if you have any questions or topics you'd like to discuss. Happy planning and bon voyage!

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