For a small country, Sri Lanka is densely packed with things to see and do. Sri Lanka has a breathtaking range of beautiful beaches, safaris, street food, mountains and temples.
Planning a Sri Lanka itinerary can seem daunting but with my 4-week Sri Lanka travel guide, you can maximise your time in this crazy beautiful country.
Learn more about what to see, where to go, how to get around Sri Lanka and where to stay in Sri Lanka. Get ready to be inspired for your next adventure!
Sri Lanka itinerary
Sri Lanka 4 week travel guide
Many people travelling to Sri Lanka try to cram too many destinations into a 1 week or 2-week trip.
You have to factor in travel time between places, general rest and recovery time.
By planning a 4-week trip to Sri Lanka, you can travel a little more slowly and have a bit more time in the places you are visiting.
For our Sri Lanka itinerary, we tried to include a mix of cities, mountains, beaches and safaris to really get a balance of all the incredible things to do in Sri Lanka.
When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?
The cheapest time to visit Sri Lanka is unsurprisingly the rainy season from October to November, where it is likely to rain almost everywhere on the island.
Despite being a relatively small island, Sri Lanka has different weather depending on where you visit and what time of year you visit.
Sri Lanka weather
The best time to visit Sri Lanka hill country and the south and west coast is from December to March. The weather should be lovely and sunny at that time of year.
However, if you are looking to hit the east coast, then you should aim to visit between April and September.
The weather should be nicer then. Make sure your Sri Lanka itinerary takes into account the weather of the region you are planning to visit.
One month in Sri Lanka
You can see a range of destinations when you spend one month in Sri Lanka. I wouldn’t try and cram too many places in, as you want to spend a few days in each location.
Slow travel is always better than just spending 1 night in town, city or village.
Here are the places featured in this 4 week Sri Lanka guide.
- Yala National Park
- Mirissa and Weligama
- Galle Fort
Getting around Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka can be difficult to navigate for first-time visitors. Whilst Sri Lanka is small in size, travelling around can be both frustrating and time-consuming.
If you are short of time in Sri Lanka one option is to take an organised tour.
This is a great way of travelling around Sri Lanka in comfort whilst also seeing the major highlights, without having to worry.
Adventure experts G Adventures offer several tours in Sri Lanka to suit your budget and time constraints. They also typically run offers for budget travellers such as up to 25% off our last-minute departures.
I have been on several G Adventure tours and they have always been brilliant fun.
Colombo and Mt Lavina
Honestly, as far as Asian cities go, Colombo might not immediately strike you as the most exciting.
However, there are lots of unique things to do in Colombo if you know where to look.
Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka and has a sprawling, loud and congestion filled metropolitan area.
There are still some beautiful Colonial buildings to see in the Fort area as well as temples, spas, museums and markets.
It’s a good place to begin your trip though, especially if you need some recovery time after a long haul flight.
Bandaranaike Airport to Colombo
You can travel to Colombo city from the airport via local bus [which can be tricky to find].
Or, you can get private transport from the taxi stand at the airport. This is the fastest and most direct way to get to your Colombo hotel.
We got a taxi to our hotel for 3,300 rupees [approx £15/$18/€15] and arrived after only 45 minutes in an air-conditioned car.
Best things to do in Colombo
Some of the best things to do in Colombo include, visiting Viharamahadevi Park, getting cultured at the National Museum of Colombo, or visiting the chaotic Pettah Market.
If you want to go where the locals go, then I would recommend going on a tuk-tuk tour with a local guide.
This is because you may find your ‘cultural tour’ ends up being taken to a series of gem shops.
This is a common scam in Sri Lanka where the driver gets a commission for bringing in tourists.
So always keep your wits about you, You don’t want to fall for a travel scam whilst on holiday do you?
On episode 11 of the Travel Goals Podcast, we talk about 9 of the most common travel scams and how to avoid them
Dodgy bar crawl of Colombo
Mount Lavina beach day trip
If you want to escape the city you can head to the laid-back Mount Lavina beach for a day trip, or book a night there if you want to stay a little longer?
This chilled-out suburb is only a few miles from Colombo and you can take the train there for just 20 rupees, a ridiculously small amount!
The Colombo Fort to Mount Lavinia train times can be found on the Sri Lanka Railway website.
Use this site to help plan your trip and then buy your tickets at the station.
Day trip to Mt. Lavina
There is a range of budget hotels in Mt Lavina, such as the reasonably priced Lavinia Beach Hostel, or you can spoil yourself with a luxury hotel.
If you are going on a day trip to Mt. Lavina, make sure to stick around for the sunset!
Find a decent seafood spot on the beach and watch the sun go down with a spicy fish curry!
I highly recommend the Shelton Sea Food Restaurant, definitely get the fiery prawns!
Colombo to Negombo
From Colombo, you can head to other parts of Sri Lanka. There are trains that connect you to other cities and you can also take the bus to most parts of Sri Lanka.
From Colombo, we headed to the beachside city of Negombo for a few days by the sea.
You might be wondering why we chose to spend 3 days in Negombo, which is often thought of as a transit town, given it’s proximity to the international airport.
There are actually lots of things to do in Negombo though and it definitely has it’s own charm.
The reason we decided to spend 4 days in Negombo is that travelling around Sri Lanka can be a long and laborious process.
Travelling around Sri Lanka
Bus journeys and train journeys in Sri Lanka can be long [and occasionally mildly harrowing].
Some destinations in Sri Lanka are also sparsely covered by public transport.
Therefore it’s better to travel slower and for slightly longer if your budget allows. You can often lose half a day travelling to your next destination as well.
If you aim to spend 3-4 days in a location, you will actually see more of it than if you just rush through.
Train Colombo Fort to Negombo
This is why we chose to do 4 weeks in Sri Lanka, as it meant we could travel slower and take our time at each destination.
We got the train from Colombo Fort to Negombo for 100 rupees for both of us. The train takes an hour and a half and is a rather entertaining journey.
There were snack sellers boarding the train every so often and performers asking for money, including a dwarf paying the flute [I am not making this up!]
Things to do in Negombo
Negombo is a modest beach town with the usual beachfront hotels, bars and restaurants.
Its real charm, however, lies in the back alleys, canals and in its range of unexpected activities.
Take your time to research you Negombo beach options to make the most of your time here.
There are lots of things to do in Negombo if you prepared to wander off the beaten track.
Negombo is a place that is dominated by water. You have Negombo beach, the picturesque Negombo Lagoon and the canals and rivers.
It’s a traditional fisherman town combined with beach vibes. Step away from the fancy resorts to explore the hidden parts.
Check out the fish markets, the canals and quieter parts of Negombo beach to see newly caught fish drying out on the sand.
You’ll find the true essence of Negombo here. It’s one of the many uncommon places to visit in Sri Lanka
Take a boat ride through the Negombo canals with Sareth boat tours. For only $15 dollars per person, you can explore the Negombo Dutch canal.
You can get a unique perspective of Negombo, as you float past fishermen’s houses, boats and wildlife.
Negombo boat tour
Be sure to book a sunset trip so that you can go and watch the fishermen cast their nets as the sun sets with a blaze of orange and pinks. It’s a truly memorable experience!
Kayaking in Negombo
Other activities in Negombo include diving, kayaking at Jet skiing. Kayaking on Negombo lagoon is great for a gentle paddle with scenic views.
Book a double kayak through Jet water sports and pay just 1000 rupees for an hour [around £4].
Jet watersports operate from the swanky Jetwing Lagoon Resort, so be sure to treat yourself to coffee with a view afterwards.
The ancient city of Dambulla is part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural triangle that includes the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Dambulla is a great place to base yourself for days trips to Sigiriya, as well as excursions to Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
There are also lots of things to do in Dambulla, especially if you love history and culture.
Things to do in Dambulla
One of the highlights of Dambulla is the iconic Dambulla Cave Temple. This sacred cave monastery features five caves (shrine rooms), that are full of ornate statues of Buddha.
There are also various personages of the Buddhist Order. It’s a really spiritual and peaceful place to visit and you should remember to be quiet and respectful when visiting.
Dambulla Cave Temple
The dress code for Dambulla Cave Temple requires shoulders and knees covered. So remember to dress appropriately for your visit and be a mindful visitor.
You will also need to take your shoes off to enter the temple. You can pay Rs.25 to the ‘shoe-keeper’ at the entrance.
Best time to visit Dambulla Cave Temple
The best time to visit Dambulla Cave Temple is around an hour before sunset. The caves were so quiet and at one point we were the only people in them.
It was so serene and ‘otherworldly’. I was definitely on the verge of some kind of epiphany and then I remembered I had to get some shots for the ‘gram. I am sadly not cut out for spirituality.
With fewer visitors in the temples, we were able to wander around and admire the statues, delicate paintings and murals.
You can also catch the sunset if you visit around 6 pm and be treated to gorgeous, sun-bathed views of the surrounding area.
Dambulla golden temple
If you are also looking for the ‘golden temple’, remember that the Dambulla Cave Temple and the Golden Temple are all one temple complex.
I would visit the Dambulla cave temple first and then make your way down to the ‘golden Buddha statue’. Inside the giant statue is the Golden Temple Buddhist Museum.
Admittedly there’s not much inside, but it’s worth a quick visit. Even if it’s just for photos.
Dambulla cave temples ticket counter
Make sure you head to the Dambulla cave temples ticket counter first. Otherwise, you will have to hike up the 2300 or so steps up to the temple and then hike back down to purchase tickets.
The Dambulla ticket counter is located at the south entrance. Check Google maps before you set off, or ask a tuk-tuk to take you to the Dambulla cave ticket counter.
The Dambulla cave temple entrance fee is LKR 1500 per person. If you are short of time in Dambulla you can also book a full-day guided tour of the area.
Day trip to Sigiriya
The jewel of the cultural triangle is surely the imposing, honey-coloured rock fortress Sigiriya. This fortified, fifth-century city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
You can easily take a day trip to Sigiriya from Dambulla, they are only 40 minutes apart.
One of the best ways to see the rock fortress is to book a full-day private tour in advance, or have a local take you on a tuk-tuk.
A tuk-tuk from Dambulla to Sigiriya costs around 1800 to 2500 rupees. We paid for a return tuk-tuk tour from Dambulla via the scenic road for 2500 with Travel Info Sri Lanka.
It was definitely worth having the peace of mind to book our transport in advance and not have to haggle roadside!
Best time to visit Sigiriya
A Sigiriya entrance ticket costs $30 per person, which seems a little on the steep side at first. I can honestly say the views and the hike up is absolutely worth the money and the hard slog.
There are 1200 steps to the top of the Lion Rock fortress but luckily there are several spots along the way to have a rest and a selfie.
The best time to visit Sigiriya is first thing in the morning around 7:30 am. That way you will beat the crowds and the heat.
During the climb up you can choose to go and see some lovely alfresco paintings on the rock face that can be accessed via a narrow circular staircase.
You can then continue your climb to the top. I personally would head straight to the top unless you are particularly interested in paintings. Ideally, you want to beat the crowds to the Sigiriya summit.
Hornets of Sigiriya
The last bit climb up is fairly challenging and this is not helped by warning signs that alarmingly read “Noise may provoke hornet attacks”.
That’s right darling readers, hornets. It turns out the Hornets of Sigiriya are a big problem. Guess who forgot to do their research and turned up blissfully unaware?
Luckily we didn’t run into any angry wasps on our climb up but if you do disturb them, head straight for a ‘hornet tent’ and start praying to your chosen deity.
Despite the climb and the fear of hornets, the view from the top of Sigiriya is marvellous. You can see the beautiful surrounding for miles and get some fabulous photographs.
Another fun activity is to watch tourists pose for selfies whilst dangling closer and closer on the edge of the fortress.
Be aware that there are lots of monkeys hanging around at Sigiriya. Whilst they may appear cute these guys have some seriously sharp teeth.
Do not attempt to feed them or cuddle them. They will rip your pretty little face off.
You can take the bus from Dambulla to Kandy and you can choose from a local bus or an A/C bus.
Typically for transport in Sri Lanka, there isn’t much in the way of time tables or information. Your best bet is to ask the hotel staff or tuk-tuk drivers about bus options.
We asked our tuk-tuk driver to take us to the ‘Air-Conditioned bus to Kandy’ and he seemed to know exactly where to drop us off.
How long to stay in Kandy?
Many people will tell you that one day in Kandy is enough time there and in many ways, they are bang on the money.
However, if you are looking to travel slowly around Sri Lanka I would recommend booking mid-range priced accommodation outside of Kandy and relaxing for a couple of days before your next journey.
We booked Green View Holiday Resort which was around 6 miles away from Kandy for approximately £13 per night for a double room.
They even had a lovely swimming pool and sunbathing area. This meant we could spend a few days swimming and chilling out before travelling to our next destination.
It’s a great place to stay if you are looking for a budget hotel in Kandy.
Things to do in Kandy
The city of Kandy is probably best known for its gorgeous centrepiece lake. This pretty lake dominates most of the cultural capital and is a fantastic place for a stroll and for photography opportunities.
Be aware that when you stroll around you might get approached by locals asking for money or trying to direct you towards a ‘Cultural Dance Show’.
As with any other destination, just exercise caution and always buy tickets to experiences from proper ticket offices, or in advance online.
You could always book an all-inclusive City Tour of Kandy to visit most of the major sights in and around the city with a qualified Kandy guide.
Temple of the Tooth Relic
The Temple of the tooth relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha) is a famous pilgrimage site that is popular with locals and tourists.
Like most sacred sites in Sri Lanka, there is a dress code for the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
The dress code includes covering shoulders and knees for both men and women. You also need to take your shoes off and leave them with a ‘shoe keeper’.
Temple of the tooth entry fee
The tourist entry fee is 1500 rupees and the best time to visit Temple of the tooth relic is first thing in the morning.
The temple is home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha.
The tooth is kept in a gold casket which means you don’t actually see the tooth, you have to just imagine it.
Temple of the tooth entry fee
During offerings and prayers, [puja], the room that houses the tooth is open to tourists and Buddhism devotees.
There are also other shrines and temples on the site that are pleasant to walk around.
If you are feeling particularly spiritual you could take in some flower offerings by buying some from stands that surround the temple.
White Buddha Kandy
You definitely need to make time to visit the giant Buddha statue of Bahirawa Kanda. Otherwise known as ‘The White Buddha’.
The White Buddha statue is at top of the Bahirawa Kanda hill and can be reached by walking up or getting a tuk-tuk.
This incredibly sculpted statue is 88 feet in height and features Buddha in the seated Nirvana pose.
Temple of Bahirawa Kanda
Once you get to the top of the hill, there are lovely, panoramic views of Kandy and the surrounding area.
You can also go inside the temple of Bahirawa Kanda so long as you are dressed appropriately and remove your shoes.
You can even climb a little up the statue for better views of the city.
When travelling from Kanda to Ella, the best way to travel is on the incredibly scenic train route. The Kandy to Ella train is a very popular service with both locals and tourists.
Buying tickets for the Kandy to Ella train route can be tricky and you will need to do a little research.
Kandy to Ella train
As with all of Sri Lanka rail services, train tickets come in reserved or non-reserved, and in several classes including first, second and third.
You can’t buy Kandy to Ella train tickets online unless you try and purchase them through a company.
Be aware that not all companies are reputable though. Many will promise tickets only to go radio silent after you pay for them online.
Kandy to Ella train tickets
You can try booking tickets in advance in person from a station but be aware, first-class tickets often sell out weeks in advance.
Despite arriving at the station first thing in the morning, we were unable to get reserved seats for our chosen train.
Second class tickets Kandy to Ella train
We then bought second class unreserved tickets for 230 rupees [around £1]. The first train we attempted to get on was way too full.
There were literally locals hanging off the side of the train. We luckily managed to squeeze into third class on the next train though.
The Kandy to Ella train is one of the world’s most scenic train journies. Taking around six hours the train passes through stunning scenery.
You’ll gently roll through picturesque tea plantations, forests and small towns.
Taking the train in Sri Lanka
As the train slowly winds its way around pretty hilltops, you can soak up the atmosphere of the train, especially in third class.
There will often be loud music, singing and sweet treats being shared around passengers.
If you get hungry, vendors will wander up and down the train selling snacks and steaming cups of chai.
As you look out of the window, you can also see all the backpackers riding with their legs dangling out the open doors. It’s such a fun and immersive train experience.
Kandy to Ella train journey
The Kandy to Ella train journey was one of the most spectacular train journeys I have ever taken. It was a perfect mix of scenery, atmosphere and adventure.
If you want to get the classic Instagram photo of hanging out of the moving train then be sure to take safety precautions.
Kandy train photo
It’s not worth putting yourself at risk just for a photo though. The train is very slow-moving granted but you shouldn’t hang right out of the doors, just in case you fall or get hit by an obstruction.
I gingerly poked my head out for some shots but I had at least 3 other people watching me and advising when it was safe. Thank you, fellow thrill-seeking train passengers, for that!
Things to do in Ella
Ella is a small and chilled out mountain town with gorgeous surroundings and backpacker vibes.
There are lots of homestays, coffee shops, Instagrammable bridges, hikes and waterfalls to keep you entertained here.
There are lots of things to do in Ella and you could easily spend a few weeks here.
I would book into a homestay in Ella. These are a reasonably priced mix of hotel and family home. They are also a great way to get to know the local people of Ella as well.
We stayed at Misty Mount Homestay for just £14 a night, it had a really central yet peaceful location and was a perfect play to stay in Ella.
Nine Arches Bridge
The iconic Nine Arches bridge is a favourite Instagram spot amongst tourists.
Get up at the crack of dawn and wander through a footpath through the trees to get to this pretty bridge.
If you arrive early you can get some fantastic shots in and around the tracks.
Nine Arches bridge location
If you time it right you can also get some snaps of a train crossing the nine arches bridge.
Remember to take water and snacks with you as the wait could be quite long, it’s definitely worth sticking around for though.
You can find the location of the Nine Arches Bridge on Google Maps.
Little Adam’s Peak
Taking a hike up to Little Adams Peak is one of the must-do activities in Ella. Little Adam’s Peak is 1141 m in height and is a gradual and moderate hike.
It takes around 1-2 hours to hike Little Adams Peak. It largely depends on how fast you can hike and how many ‘photo stops’ you have. In my case, we had many, many photo stops.
The hike is great for walkers who don’t fancy trekking up the full-size 2,243m Adams Peak. This shorter and less challenging hike still offers beautiful scenic views.
Climbing Little Adam’s Peak
You can take your time on the Little Adam’s peak hike as there are plenty of photo opportunities, including tea plantations and mountain views.
Make sure to wear proper walking shoes for the trek and take plenty of water.
Also, be careful when scrambling around on the final ascent the top. You don’t want to lose your footing at this point right?
Once you get to the top of Little Adam’s peak, the views are incredible and totally worth the sore calves!
Ravana falls is gorgeous, 3 tier cascading waterfall that is one of widest falls in Sri Lanka. You can negotiate for a return tuk-tuk ride there from Ella for a few hundred rupees.
The falls are a part of the Ravana Ella Wildlife Sanctuary and there are plenty of cheeky monkies hanging around the falls.
There are a few stands around the falls selling king coconuts and snacks if you get hungry?
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s most famous wildlife park and should definitely be on your Sri Lanka itinerary.
It’s known for its wild elephants and elusive Leopards. You can book 4×4 Safari tours of Yala National Park when you arrive at Yala or you can book a private half-day Yala safari online.
Booking Yala Safari
Be careful who you book your Yala Sarafi with, as the quality of safaris can range massively.
If possible, opt to start your safari from one of the quieter Yala entrances.
Try the Buttalla Kataragama entrance to escape the crowds. You might also have a higher chance of wildlife sightings without lots of jeeps around you.
Yala Half Day Safari
We booked a half-day Yala safari through our hotel Refresh Cabana Gardens and negotiated a private jeep for around £20.
We then paid for the Yala National Park entrance fee on top, which was around £35 for both of us.
Yala Safari jeep hire
You can organise to share a jeep in Yala with other people, to split jeep costs if needed.
We wanted our own jeep so that we could get the best possible wildlife shots, without spoiling other people’s view of the animals.
In total, jeep hire and Yala Park entry cost around £55 for both of us.
Yala Safari jeep prices
Booking your Yala Safari through a hotel should mean you get a better quality safari.
The safari companies that are recommended by the hotels want to keep getting referrals, so are incentivised to offer a good service.
You can read reviews of the safari in advance so you know what to expect.
Best time to go on a Yala Safari
The best time to go on a Yala Safari is very early in the morning as this will increase your chances of seeing wildlife.
We left at 5:30 am and luckily our hotel arranged some coffee for us before we set off.
I would have been a grumpy nightmare without caffeine at that time of the morning!
Yala Safari animals
We made our way around rocky outcrops, lakes and grasslands as we drove through the park.
We managed to spot water buffaloes, birds, rabbits and crocodiles. It was incredible to see so many animals up close.
I struggled to keep it together as I didn’t want to be the girl that cried because she was overwhelmed on safari.
Yala safari Elephants
We had driven around for around two hours before we spotted some elephants.
Our guide got us as close to the elephants as he could without disturbing them and I was able to get some great snaps of them.
A good Yala safari guide will know where to look for elephants in the park. You can often spot them in the bushes or splashing around in watering holes.
We saw several groups of elephants in the park, including adorable baby elephants!
It was one of the best moments of my life to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka. It’s always better to see animals roaming free instead of in captivity.
Yala Safari Leopards
It was towards the end of our Yala Safari and I had pretty much given up on our chances of seeing a leopard.
Despite Yala having the highest leopard density in the world, your chances of spotting leopards in Yala are actually pretty slim.
As we were making our way back, our guide somehow managed to spot one next to a watering hole.
I have no idea how the guides manage to spot wildlife from so far away?
We pulled up and spent some time watching the leopard bask near the water. It was a truly wonderful moment.
Why not book your Yala Safari in advance?
We got a local bus from Yala to Tangalle from the Tissamaharama Bus Station.
As usual with buses in Sri Lanka, ask the hotel staff for tips and if they know the times that buses depart.
Tangalle [or Tangalla], is a chilled-out coastal town in Sri Lanka that has the benefit of being one of the quieter beach towns in Sri Lanka.
Things to do in Tangalle
Tourism hasn’t quite had the same reach in Tangalle as other beach destinations in Sri Lanka.
There are still lots of lovely beaches, guest houses and eateries. It just doesn’t appear to be as busy as say, Mirissa?
There are a few things to do in Tangalle, including the nearby Hoo-maniya blowhole and the rock temples of Mulkirigala.
I would recommend using your time here to relax, swim and get some rest though. It’s got real zen-like vibes here that are perfect for switching off.
Tangalle Beach has lovely soft sand, palm trees, sparkling water and seafood shacks. Everything you could want from a beach paradise.
Lucky Beach Tangalle
You should definitely go and grab a drink at ‘Lucky Beach Tangalle’. It’s got a marvellous backstory that involves a drunk couple buying a Sri Lankan hotel whilst on honeymoon.
There are also at least 3 sausage dogs running around the bar begging for cuddles.
Spend some time on Tangalle beach soaking up some sun and drinking out of a king coconut. It’s one of the best quiet beach destinations in Sri Lanka.
Be careful when swimming in the sea in Tangalle. Sri Lanka beaches have strong currents and you should never go out of your depth.
There are lots of restaurants in Tangalle as well as some lovely places for a drink or two.
For authentic Sri Lankan food check out Oceana Beach Café & Seafood Restaurant.
They serve a daily catch of fresh seafood as well as curries and western-style dishes. It’s one of the best places for seafood in Tangalle.
One of my favourite dishes was their traditional Sri Lankan fish curry.
There’s a range of seafront restaurants and bars that follow the Tangalle coastline.
Many of these bars and restaurants will have cocktails on the menu although the quality can be a bit hit and miss.
Try the Last Drop and Friendship Beach for great cocktails, candlelight and acoustic music.
If you don’t want to spend too much time on TripAdvisor planning ahead, I would recommend going on your own mini bar crawl! See where you think does the best cocktails in Tangalle.
Mirissa and Weligama
You can travel from Tangalle to Mirissa by local bus or you could book a private car transfer.
We chose to spoil ourselves with a private transfer, as it was a short distance. We booked a car through our hotel and paid around £25 for both of us.
Spend a few days exploring the lively beach towns of Mirissa and Weligama.
Kick back in hammocks, have a go at surfing, have cocktails at a beach party or snorkel in beautiful bays.
No matter what kind of Sri Lanka beach holiday you are looking for, you’ll find all the seaside fun in these funky towns.
Things to do in Mirissa
Mirissa is a crowded beach town that has a mix cheap backpacker hostels, mid-range family-run places and fancy hotels.
There are lots of things to do in Mirissa if you are spending a few days there.
There’s plenty of foodie finds, beach bars and activities to keep you entertained.
Whale watching in Mirissa
One of the most popular activities is whale watching in Mirissa. We didn’t actually go on a whale-watching trip as we were concerned about the ethical implications.
This is because many locals had told us that unscrupulous firms were chasing the whales and causing them distress.
Whale watching Sri Lanka
If you do want to go whale watching in Mirissa, please be sure to do your research. Book your trip with an ethical company that treats marine life with respect.
Check that the company that stays a safe distance from whales and dolphins and switches off the boat engines when approaching the animals.
Secret Beach Mirissa
Turns out secret beach Mirissa is a not-so-secret beach as there are numerous signposts to this small and hidden beach.
It’s not exactly the easiest place to reach by foot but all the tuk-tuk drivers will know where to drop you off.
The secret beach has a small lagoon area that’s sheltered by rocks. It’s a lovely scenic spot for swimming and snorkelling.
You’ll see lots of little fishes swimming in and around the rocks, as the waves crash over.
Coconut Tree Hill
One of the most Instagrammed spots in Mirissa is Coconut Tree hill. When you look up from the small bay beneath it, you can see people queuing up to get their shot.
Beat the crowds by arriving at dawn and getting your Insta-worthy snaps of the pretty views.
You can find the location of Coconut tree hill on Google Maps, or ask any of the locals. If you aren’t much of an Instagrammer it’s still a picturesque place to come to watch the sunset.
Mirissa Sunset drinks
The beach party scene has been off and on in Mirissa over the years due to some of the parties getting out of hand.
There were reports of assaults on travellers at these parties and many raucous Mirissa bar parties were shut down as a result.
These days the scene appears to be a little more chilled out. There are many bars and restaurants along the beach where people appear to enjoy food, drinks and music responsibly.
Mirissa has some amazing sunsets that are frankly best enjoyed with a cocktail or two.
I would recommend grabbing a seat shortly before sunset and enjoying dinner and cocktail with a view.
Some of the best beach bars in Mirissa include Zephyr Restaurant & Bar, Kama Mirissa and Papa Mango.
Weligama has lovely sandy bays and a selection surf shacks lining the beach for board rental and surfing lessons.
There is a range of watersports in Weligama including surfing, stand-up paddling and snorkelling. Weligama is actually one of the best places for surfing in Sri Lanka.
Mirissa to Weligama
You could book a hotel in Weligama or base yourself in Mirissa and take a day trip to Weligama?
Mirissa and Weligama are only 20 minutes drive apart, so you can catch a bus from Mirissa to Weligama. You can even get a tuk-tuk for only a few hundred rupees.
Stand-Up Paddling in Weligama
Why not get a paddleboard work out amongst gorgeous surroundings?
We spent some time gliding through the beautiful waters of Fisherman’s Bay navigating our way around little fishing boats.
We had our own guide with us and a private boat that we were able to base ourselves in, which was really convenient.
Expect to pay around $70 for an hour’s stand-up paddling in Weligama. We went with Borderlands Adventures, who organise high-quality adventure tours and water sports in the area.
Our tour price included transport to and from activity location, from the Borderlands Adventure Centre and all equipment.
Snorkelling in Weligama
The season for diving and snorkelling in Weligama and the South of Sri Lanka is from around October until May.
Weligama and Mirissa are two of the best places for snorkelling in Sri Lanka.
Book a welligma snorkelling trip with a professional guide to see colourful fish and coral reefs.
Snorkelling in the gorgeous, crystal clear water of the Indian Ocean is certainly an unforgettable experience.
Weligama snorkel tour
Our Weligama snorkelling experience was with Weligama Bay Dive Center and was booked online.
We spent 1.5 hours with a professional guide looking for parrotfish, angel fish, moray eels and pretty corrals.
Weligama is one of the best places to snorkel with turtles in Sri Lanka, but sadly we didn’t see any on our snorkel trip.
Always an excuse for another trip to Sri Lanka though right?
You can get the bus or the train from Mirissa to Galle Fort. Each about 1 hour in length.
Galle Fort was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese and was then fortified by the Dutch in the 1600s.
This historic fort has beautiful Dutch-colonial buildings that house boutique hotels, stylish shops and hip restaurants.
There’s also the Galle Fort ramparts to walk around and the lovely Galle Fort lighthouse to gaze at.
Things to do in Galle Fort
There are lots of things to do in Galle Fort. It’s an oasis of calm full of pretty colonial-style buildings and picturesque streets full of shops and restaurants.
There’s even a couple of small beaches to take a dip and get some respite from the heat.
Galle Fort ramparts
Take a stroll along the sun-drenched Galle Fort ramparts for a marvellous view of the sea and corals below.
The best time to walk the Galle seafront ramparts is first thing in the morning or at sunset.
This is because there is no protection of the sun here, so it can get really hot when walking the circuit.
Self-guided walk Galle Fort
There are some breaks in the walk and stretches that can’t actually be reached or walked over.
You can walk most of the Galle seafront ramparts and there are a few self-guided walks you can take.
You can check them out in travel guidebooks, or on travel websites. Allow time to take in the sights and make sure to walk to the pretty 18m (59ft) Galle lighthouse.
It’s located at the Point Utrecht Bastion and is really picturesque.
A short drive away from Galle Fort is Jungle Beach. Jungle Beach is a small and secluded beach, surrounded by jungle that many of the locals visit.
You can find the location of the beach on Google maps and is located northwest of the beach at Unawatuna.
This small bay is not easily accessible, so I would recommend getting a tuk-tuk there.
Snorkelling in Jungle Beach
For keen snorkellers, there is a small coral reef located a few metres swim from the beach.
A lot of tourists get sucked into paying for expensive snorkelling trips here but if you have your own Snorkel gear then there is no need to book a trip.
It’s not one of the best snorkelling spots in Sri Lanka which is why it’s not really worth paying for a guided trip.
It’s also a lovely swimming spot as the sea is relatively calm for Sri Lanka.
Jungle beach monkeys
There is a small boat shack on the beach that serves snacks, local beer and will even shake you up a mean cocktail.
There are also lots of monkeys hanging out in the trees that you can take snaps of.
As usual with monkeys in Sri Lanka, do not try and feed them or touch them. They are wild animals and should be treated as such.
Galle Fort’s picturesque streets
Galle Fort’s streets are full of boutique shops, hip cafes and inviting restaurants.
Walking around Galle Fort is also a great opportunity to spot some glorious examples of Dutch architecture.
Some of the prettiest buildings include Groote Kerk and the Amangalla hotel.
Pedlar St Galle Fort
Take a walk along Pedlar St to shop for local souvenirs, clothes, handwoven bags, gems and jewellery.
There’s also a selection of inviting cafes and restaurants. I would recommend the hip Pedlar’s Inn Cafe.
Places to eat Pedlar St
Housed in a former British post office, it has original features and a fabulous menu. It’s a great breakfast spot and is one of the best places for coffee in Galle.
For cheap eats check out the Lucky Fort Restaurant. This family-run business is off the main strip down a pretty side road. Enjoy authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in cosy surroundings.
Another great hipster cafe is The Heritage Cafe & Bistro on Pedlar St. Enjoy fresh and healthy breakfasts in uber-chic surroundings.
They also serve a fantastic lunch and dinner menu that includes pizzas, pasta, salads and bagels.
Departing Sri Lanka
When departing Sri Lanka, you can get an airport transfer from Galle Fort to Bandaranaike International Airport.
Or you could do one more night in Galle, Colombo or Negombo? If you still have a little budget left, why not spoil yourself with a luxury hotel in Colombo? It’s the perfect way to end your Sri Lanka holiday.
Marino Beach Colombo
We stayed at the incredible Marino Beach Colombo the night before we left.
This gorgeous 5-star Colombo hotel has a stunning infinity pool on the roof where you can lounge poolside or take a dip to escape the heat of Colombo.
Luxury hotel Colombo
The contemporary hotel rooms have amenities such as a private bathroom fitted with a bath, flat-screen TV, air conditioning and coffee making facilities.
There’s also restaurants, a fitness centre and a roof-top garden serving tasty snacks, drinks and mains.
You can also book a very reasonably priced airport transfer from the hotel to the airport.
I would really recommend Marino Beach Colombo for a luxurious Sri Lanka hotel treat on your last night.
Before you visit Sri Lanka
Here are a few important things to do before you visit Sri Lanka:
- Visa – Remember to check your visa requirements to enter Sri Lanka, as most visitors will need one.
- Money – The currency of Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee. It’s a closed currency though, which means it can only be bought once you actually arrive in Sri Lanka.
- Health – make sure to check with your doctor what vaccinations you need
- Travel Insurance – Definitely buy travel insurance for Sri Lanka. You don’t want to have a ‘travel fail‘
4 weeks travel in Sri Lanka
You can amend this itinerary if you have less or more time in Sri Lanka. You could plan a Sri Lanka itinerary for 14 days, or a Sri Lanka itinerary for 10 days.
4 weeks travelling around Sri Lanka should allow for some slow travel and to not rush each destination.
Sri Lanka 1 month itinerary
You could, of course, speed it up and add more destinations in, but be mindful of transport around Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka buses especially can be slow and do not stick to any sort of timetable. You can often spend a whole day travelling from one destination to another.
4 weeks in Sri Lanka meant that we didn’t mind having travel days as we knew we had a few rest days when we arrived at our next location.
Are you planning to follow a Sri Lanka itinerary? What places will you visit? Let me know in the comments below!
Planning your trip to Sri Lanka
Ready to book your trip to Sri Lanka? Use these awesome travel resources to get you started:
- Search for the best flight deals with Skyscanner
- Search for the best hotel deals on HotelsCombined
- Get the best travel tips with a travel guidebook
- Book an Airbnb and have £25 towards your first booking
- Get the best destination recommendations from TripAdvisor
Check out all the best travel resources on my bumper travel resources page!
Love this post? Why not pin it and share it?
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details.
We are also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.
Portia has spent years traversing the globe and having many misadventures. She now works as a freelance travel journalist, editor of Pip and the City and hosts the Travel Goals Podcast. She specialises in adventure travel, destination guides and city breaks. Her work has appeared in The Times, National Geographic and Lonely Planet. She can normally be found hiking, swimming outdoors in icy waters, or drinking coffee in bougie cafes.