Sri Lanka Road Trip – Perfect two-week introduction to this island nation


A Sri Lanka highway journey means that you can actually immerse your self into the tradition and see the depths of this exceptional island nation, recognized for its top quality tea and abundance of gems. In this text, I’ll share with you the route and particulars of a two week Sri Lanka highway journey I did in February 2022. If you’ve by no means been to Sri Lanka earlier than, that is the proper itinerary because it consists of a number of the highlights of the nation, in addition to some lesser recognized scenic areas.

Sri Lanka road trip guide - photo by Mike Shubic

Why Visit Sri Lanka?

There are many causes one would wish to go to Sri Lanka. Here are just some:

  • Tropical Climate – Beautiful seashores with pristine shoreline, palm bushes swaying within the wind and ocean views of turquoise water so far as you’ll be able to see.
  • Food – Sri Lanka is blessed with a particular delicacies flavored with unique spices. Famed curry dishes with aromatic lentils, hen, greens or fish. Don’t miss the Hoppers.
  • Wildlife – This island nation has 26 nationwide parks and two marine parks. The most well-known is Yala, which has the very best density of leopards on the earth. The nation can be residence to a whole bunch of chook species, crocodiles and different reptiles, varied species of sea turtle, whales, dolphins, and naturally, herds of elephants and water buffalo.
  • Landscape – Sri Lanka’s abundance of wildlife provides technique to nature trails, misty mountains rise into the clouds, hillsides are terraced with rice patties or blanketed by tea fields.
  • Waterfalls – You’ll by no means get board chasing the a whole bunch of waterfalls throughout the nation, many might be seen from the highway, others require a brief to lengthy hike.
  • Culture – Ancient cities, relics and spiritual monuments showcase early Sri Lanka in cities like Kandy, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. There are additionally many temples and pagodas to discover all through the nation.

While the historical past of Sri Lanka is intertwined with its neighbor to the north (India) and that of colonialism, the Sri Lankan persons are fearlessly impartial with a robust identification all their very own. The persons are heat and giving, and should you go to, you’ll really feel proper at residence.

Sri Lanka Road Trip Logistics

If you want to hire a automotive, scooter, or perhaps a Tuk Tuk to highway journey round Sri Lanka, you have to to get a particular allow. Apparently they’re fairly straightforward to acquire and don’t take lengthy to get. Sri Lanka doesn’t acknowledge overseas and even International drivers licenses. That stated, many foreigners shall be intimidated by the Asian driving strategies, or, by the truth that Sri Lankans drive on the left hand facet of the highway. The most most well-liked technique to do a Sri Lanka highway journey is by hiring a driver and/or information, which is what we did on this journey (aside from a brief time period scooter rental mentioned beneath).

Sri Lanka road trip guide map

Here are some suggestions to your Sri Lanka highway journey.

  • Driver/Tour Operator – We employed Lanka Excursions for a two week highway journey across the south central a part of Sri Lanka. Nuwan and his crew at Lanka Excursions are completely the perfect, I extremely suggest them. They have per-organized excursions, or they’ll customise one thing base in your group and pursuits.
  • Renting a Scooter or Tuk Tuk – There are many locations renting scooters or Tuk Tuk’s, and so they don’t care in case you have a neighborhood driving allow, however the police will. After our two week tour of Sri Lanka, we visited another areas on our personal and rented a scooter, unaware of the required driving allow. We have been pulled over by the police and questioned by an officer who didn’t communicate superb English. Thankfully, we had the enterprise card of the scooter rental proprietor and the policeman allow us to go after talking with them.
  • Tips for renting a scooter with out a Sri Lankan driving allow – If you’re in a extremely touristic space like Unawatuna, the police are extra lenient with foreigners who shouldn’t have a neighborhood driving allow. Just ensure you have the scooter paperwork accessible (insurance coverage and registration), your driver’s license, and, the enterprise card of the rental store in case you get pulled over. From my expertise, they have a tendency to drag folks over early within the morning and early within the night. If the police proceed to provide you hassle for not having a neighborhood driving allow, have not less than 2000 Rupee to provide to the officer.
  • Cost for renting a Scooter or Tuk Tuk – If you want to hire a scooter by yourself, it’s about 1500-2500 Ruppes ($7-$12/day) plus gasoline. A Tuk Tuk will run you about $25/day plus gasoline.
  • Cost to rent a Tuk Tuk Driver – Hiring a Tuk Tuk driver may be very inexpensive. A brief journey 5-10 minutes would possibly solely be 200-300 Ruppee ($1-$1.5). An extended journey, 20-Half-hour, would possibly run 800-1000 Ruppee ($4-$5).
  • Fuel in Sri Lanka – During my go to, and on the time of penning this, Sri Lanka is in the midst of a gasoline disaster. The value of gasoline was round 280 Ruppee per liter, and the traces to get gasoline, have been fairly lengthy, so hold this in thoughts should you hire a scooter or Tuk Tuk, in addition to when negotiating a price for a driver.
  • Sri Lanka Road Trip Duration – This journey outlined, and illustrated above within the map, is about 625 miles in all (or 1000km), excluding facet excursions. This is about 23 hours price of driving, relying on time of day and site visitors.
Tuk Tuk in road on Sri Lanka road trip

Sri Lanka Road Trip Day 1-3

You will seemingly fly into the capital metropolis of Colombo, so it’s price spending a number of days there earlier than exploring to remainder of the nation. Plus, chances are you’ll wish to relaxation a bit from the lengthy journey earlier than starting your highway journey.

Where to remain in Colombo

  • Galle Face – This is a superb 4-star Colonial lodge positioned proper on the waters fringe of Colombo. This is a spot wealthy in historical past with a really cool vibe. Rooms overlooking the water, a number of restaurant and bar choices, unimaginable views, swimming pool and nice service. I extremely suggest the Galle Face.
  • Kingsubury – This 5-Star lodge has 229 rooms which are expertly designed with luxurious in thoughts. They have a number of facilities and eating choices with heavenly Frette linen bedding. The customary rooms are a bit small, however properly appointed. The lodge has quick access to procuring, leisure and the enterprise district.

Things to do in Colombo

Both of the lodges listed above are completely located to discover Colombo on foot, or a brief Tuk Tuk trip. They are positioned about Half-hour south of the airport. A cab or Uber trip will value about 2000-3000 Rupee ($10-$15). Both of the lodges are shut to 1 one other in-between the Galle Face Green, the World Trade Center and the Dutch Hospital Precinct, in addition to the soon-to-be developed Port City mission. Port City is a formidable growth that may carry new lodges, eating places and leisure alternatives. This new growth will actually put Colombo on the world stage and can entice extra folks to spend time within the metropolis, slightly than simply utilizing it as a leaping off level to discover the remainder of the nation.

Lotus Tower in Colombo Sri Lanka - Photo by Mike Shubic
  • Another nice technique to see Colombo is by taking a double-decker tour bus with the parents from Colombo City Tours. This sightseeing tour provides a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s new and outdated components of the town.
  • For a chook’s eye view of the town, don’t miss a visit up the Lotus Tower. At 356 meters, this tower is the tallest tower in South Asia, eleventh tallest in all of Asia and nineteenth tallest on the earth. It has grow to be essentially the most iconic construction within the metropolis.
  • Another actually iconic constructing in Colombo is the Red Mosque. While we have been there Covid restrictions the place nonetheless in place and so we couldn’t enter, however even from exterior it is a very spectacular construction.
  • If you’re in Colombo on a Saturday, don’t miss going to Galle Face Green for the night festivities and night time safari. Lots of distributors, music and leisure.
  • If you’re into retail remedy, the Galle Face Mall is true throughout the road from the Galle Face Hotel, it’s the biggest mall in Colombo and so they have an exquisite Foot Rub spa if you could calm down after your entire strolling.

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Colombo to Habarana for Safari and Sigiriya – Days 4-5

Distance: 125 miles or 200km – Drive Time: 4 hours

The subsequent couple of days take you from Colombo to Habarana. Habarana is the leaping off level for a few of Sri Lanka’s nationwide parks to go on Safari, the traditional metropolis of Auradhapura and the famed Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the most well-liked attraction within the nation.

Double rainbow while on safari in Sri Lanka - Photo by Mike Shubic

With restricted time, we solely visited one of many nationwide parks, Minneriya, which is finest recognized for its giant herds of Elephants. Minneriya National Park is located round a reservoir by the identical identify and is positioned within the south central a part of the island. This park contains grasslands, thorny scrubs and lots of species of bushes. In further to the herds of elephants, deer, wild boar, water buffalo and jackals may also be discovered.

Elephants in the middle of the road during sri lanka road trip - photo by Mike Shubic

Sigirya, which is one in every of 8 UNESCO World Heritage websites in Sri Lanka is think about the eighth surprise of the world. Located in a rural a part of the nation, Sigiriya was constructed across the third century B.C. and was used as a monastery for 800 years. By the fifth century Sigiriua turned a royal palace.

This nationwide monument is actually damaged up into two components, the large royal gardens on the base, and the royal palace on the high of the monolithic rock. In order to succeed in the highest, it requires a semi arduous hike up some 1200 plus steps, which can take you 45 minutes to an hour to climb. It’s finest to do it early within the morning to keep away from the crowds and the warmth of the day. Sigiriya is completely spectacular and whereas it may possibly get busy with vacationers, it’s definitely price a go to. This was one of many high highlights on the whole journey for me.

Recommended Lodging

  • While in Habarana we stayed on the Cinnamon Lodge. The grounds, pool and meals are fairly good, however the lodging are are in determined want of renovation.
  • A better option can be Aliya Resort and Spa – whereas I didn’t keep right here, we did have lunch and a spa therapy and toured the grounds, this place seems to be very nice!

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Habarana to the traditional metropolis of Anuradhapura – Day 5-6

Distance: 40 miles or 65km – Drive Time: 1 hour

Anuradhapura is among the historical capitals of Sri Lanka, well-known for its well-preserved ruins of an historical Sinhala civilization.

The ruins of Anuradhapura are one in every of South Asia’s most evocative websites. The sprawling complicated comprises a wealthy assortment of archaeological and architectural wonders: huge dagobas (brick stupas), historical swimming pools and crumbling temples, constructed throughout Anuradhapura’s thousand years of rule over Sri Lanka. Today, a number of of the websites stay in use as holy locations and temples; frequent ceremonies give Anuradhapura a vibrancy that’s a pointy distinction to the museum-like atmosphere at Polonnaruwa.

Anurandhapura to MataleDistance: 70 miles or 113km – Drive Time: 2.5 hours

Knuckles Mountain Range

While on this space we additionally explored Pitawala Pthana (aka the Mini Worlds End) – that is an space stuffed with Grasslands that may solely be present in Sri Lanka. This is a gateway to the Knuckles Mountain Range, which guests flock to for the superb hikes and views. This area is wealthy in biodiversity, with distinctive and endangered wildlife. The breathtaking panoramic views with spectacular surroundings is basically one thing to behold. At the “mini worlds end” is a large sheer cliff, the place those that courageous sit on the sting, photographing the expertise.

Sri Lanka road trip to Knuckles Mountain Range. Photo by Mike Shubic

The village of Manigala can be positioned throughout the Knuckles Mountain Range, however is a couple of 30 minute drive down Illukumbura highway. Manigala is understood to be a hiker’s haven and can be well-liked for glamping and photographing the unimaginable rice terraces.

Rice terraces in Sri Lanka - Photo by Mike Shubic

Our final cease of the day we visited the Sera Ella waterfall, which is located throughout the Pitawala village. This waterfall requires a brief, however steep hike to succeed in. This waterfall flows year-round, however is heaviest throughout the monsoon season between November and March. The waterfall will get its identify from the species of fish that lives in its waters, regionally often called ‘Sera’.

Sri lanka waterfalls

Recommended Lodging

  • We stayed in Matale on the Grand Mountain Hotel. This is a stunning property with plenty of facilities and nice meals.
  • We additionally visited Aliya Resort and Spa for a foot therapeutic massage after our hike, whereas we didn’t keep right here, it seems to be like a tremendous property price trying out if you wish to keep within the space.

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Matale to Kandy – Days 7-8

Distance: 15 miles or 26km – Drive Time: 40 Minutes

Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest metropolis and is brimming with wealthy tradition, spectacular magnificence and old-world allure. Lush forests, sprawling mountain ranges meandering round Kandy Lake, which is called the Sea of Milk. Distinguished colonial buildings and sumptuous Kandyan-inspired structure completes this Medieval City.

Sri Lanka road trip to Kandy

One of the key highlights in Kandy is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a temple that homes SriLanka’s most vital Buddhist relic – a tooth of Buddha.

Another spotlight from Kanday was attending to see a cultural efficiency by a gaggle of Kandyan dancers. According to legend, the origins of Kandyan dance lies in an exorcism ritual often called the Kohomba Kankariya, which was initially carried out by Indian shamans who got here to the island, from which the locals adopted the dance. It was initially carried out by dancers who have been recognized as a separate caste beneath the Kandyan Fudel system, they have been aligned to the Temple of the Tooth and had a major position to play within the Dalada Perahera (procession) held every year on the temple. If you get an opportunity, I extremely recommenced seeing a efficiency.

Recommended Lodging

  • Perched excessive within the hills above Kandy is Amaya Hills Resort, offering spectacular views of the town beneath. The grounds, meals and pool are fairly good, however the rooms might use some work, they have been a bit modest. It’s a couple of 20 minute drive up the hill to the resort from central Kandy.

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya – Days 9-10

High above the coastal plains of Sri Lanka, mountain clouds relaxation upon a blanket of tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya. This area positioned at over 6000′ above sea-level, so for sure, it’s a lot cooler right here. As a matter of reality, it was used as an escape from the warmth by the British after they occupied the nation. There isn’t any different place in Sri Lanka that has this cool crisp local weather. This can be an ideal get-away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities—it’s a nostalgic and peaceable metropolis that has earned the nickname ‘Little England’ with remnants of British aristocracy. Unusual crops, birds and animals thrive on this area. There can be an exquisite leisure lake surrounded by a park, together with close by waterfalls and caves to go to.

There are a variety of tea plantations to discover, together with the world well-known “Ceylon Tea.” You’ll take pleasure in seeing the tea puckers laborious and work, then doing a manufacturing facility tour to see how the tea is processed. You can do a tea tasting, and should you discover one thing you want, they’ve retailers to buy manufacturing facility direct.

Tea tasting in Sri Lanka - photo by Mike Shubic

Recommended Lodging

  • JetWing St. Andrew’s lodge – This is a stupendous property with plenty of nooks and crannies to discover. While the lodge seems to be good from a far, it’s removed from good and in want of a significant renovation. The hospitality nonetheless lives as much as the town’s historic moniker and the general expertise of the lodge is kind of good.

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Nuwara Eliya to Mirissa – Days 11-12

Distance: 145 miles or 235km – Drive Time: 6-7 hours

Mirissa is among the hottest seashore locations in southern Sri Lanka, and for a superb cause! The space has all of it, lovely seashores, nice waves for browsing, waters teeming with marine life, together with turtles, dolphins and blue whales, the biggest animal on the earth.

Mirissa is the perfect place for whale watching between November to April, because the waters grow to be a playground for myriad species. Some of essentially the most generally noticed whales embrace sperm whales, killer whales, Bryde whales and quick finned whales, when you’ll be capable to see faculties of bottle-nose dolphins and striped dolphins as they playfully frolic across the sightseeing boats.

Marissa can be well-known the world over because of hundreds of Instagramers who’ve photographed Coconut Hill. Swaying tropical palm bushes are perched on a hill that drops into the ocean whereas a rugged shoreline highlights to scene for some fairly superb images.

Coconut hill in Mirissa Sri Lanka - Photo by Mike Shubic

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Mirissa to Unawatuna Days 13-14

Distance: 20 miles or 31km – Drive Time: 45 minutes

Unawatuna is one other well-liked seashore space in southern Sri Lanka, with its palm tree-lined seashores, turquoise blue waters and good collection of lodges, guesthouses and eating places attracting guests from world wide. The location is kind of very good with tons to do inside a stroll or quick tuk tuk trip. The historic Galle Fort for instance is just some miles away. Jungle Beach and the Japanese Peace Pagoda are additionally well-liked points of interest.

Recommended Lodging

We stayed in two completely different locations whereas visiting Unawatuna.

  • Gloria Grand Hotel was the primary, which is positioned within the hustle and bustle of Unawatuna. The good factor about staying right here is the whole lot is only a quick stroll. The lodge is definitely fairly good and an ideal worth. The service is impeccable and morning breakfast is kind of good.
  • The second place we stayed was a boutique place known as Sunset Point Hotel, which actually lives as much as its identify. The place feels extra like a big visitor home, the lodging weren’t as good because the Gloria Grand, however the views are beautiful. The household who runs it are the perfect, very candy and accommodating. Sunset Point can be positioned in a fairly space of Unawatuna, however the stroll to the seashore and different facilities is a bit farther, not out of attain, however be ready to stroll a bit extra.

Recommended Unawatuna Restaurants

  • Koha Surf Lounge was our absolute favourite place.
  • Sea Waves
  • Daffodil
  • Wasantha Sri Lankan Cuisine Restaurant

Sri Lanka Road Trip from Unawatuna to Bentota – Days 15-16

Distance: 45 miles or 31km – Drive Time: 1:15 hours

The seashore in entrance of the resorts in Bentota was my favourite in Sri Lanka. We stayed on the Taj Hotel and the seashore straight in entrance of the lodge is improbable. The sand is the smoothest I’ve ever walked on, it’s extra like powdered sugar than sand. Bentota Beach is severely one of the vital lovely seashores in Sri Lanka. With picturesque landscapes surrounding it, and coconut bushes swaying with the mild breeze, it’s a picture-perfect place to spend your days when not exploring the city. You can calm down beneath the solar or take pleasure in thrilling water sports activities equivalent to crusing, windsurfing, parasailing, jet snowboarding and extra. Bentota Ganga is a river that flows into the ocean, simply previous the mouth proper on the town is a large open area for different water sports activities, equivalent to water snowboarding, which I had a chance to do. Skiing is my absolute favourite sport, so for sure I used to be fairly excited to have a go of it.

The Ganga River is the third largest river of Sri Lanka, which is teaming with wildlife. We spent half a day on a riverboat tour taking us via mangroves, the place crocodiles, water displays, monkeys and river birds thrive. It was a delightfully stress-free cruise alongside the river with magnificence surroundings to take pleasure in.

Fisherman in wooden kayak in Bentota Sri Lanka - Photo by Mike Shubic

We did make one cease on our cruise, to an island the place they produce and course of cinnamon. Side be aware: Sri Lanka is among the world’s largest Cinnamon producing nations. We obtained an indication from this household on how cinnamon is harvested, which was actually fascinating. During the demonstration we loved a style of cinnamon tea and later obtained an opportunity to buy some cinnamon in numerous types, from sticks, to grease extract.

Bentota was actually an exquisite finish to this unimaginable Sri Lanka highway journey.

Recommended Lodging

Taj Bentota – This is such a stupendous property and probably the greatest lodges we stayed at whereas in Sri Lanka. The seashore can be probably the greatest we visited within the nation. The meals is superb and the lodging are fairly snug.

Return to Colombo Airport – Day 17

Distance: 68 miles or 109km – Drive Time: 1:45 hours

You would want not less than two weeks for this Sri Lanka Road Trip, however three can be even higher so that you don’t should rush from one location to the subsequent. If you could have any questions on highway tripping Sri Lanka, please go away a remark beneath, completely happy to assist. Thanks a lot for stopping by. Until subsequent time, we’ll see ya on the highway…


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