Welcome to our post for on the ultimate Sri Lanka 8 day adventure itinerary for 2020!
Beautiful photos and stories of Sri Lanka just kept popping up on both of our Instagram feeds towards the end of 2018. We agreed that we needed to plan a visit. We’d been blown away by fellow travellers and we just needed some crazy adventures touring Sri Lanka.
As 2019 unfolded disaster hit and for a time it looked like we would need to postpone until everything calmed down again. We spoke about it constantly, contacted travel bloggers that were out there to see how they were finding things.
It wasn’t until August that we booked the tickets for a September flight. Our only thought on reflection after the trip was we wish we spent longer. Weather-wise we were very lucky with our itinerary as it worked out, it was raining 7 out of 9 days, sometimes just for a short while others all afternoon and through to the evening.
Ultimate Sri Lanka 8 Day Adventure Itinerary – Lets Get Started
To cover this itinerary, you are going to be moving around quickly to see the main sights, but it’s well worth the trip! We should add that this was the first trip we made since Fani found out she was pregnant, unbeknown to us we were further along than we thought too.
Super Quick Location Summary
- Day 1 – Airport to Negombo
- Day 2 – Negombo to Lake Kandy
- Day 3 – Day trip to Sigiriya and Dambulla
- Day 4 – Scenic Train to Ella
- Day 5 – Ella to Tangalle coast
- Day 6 – Relaxing on Tangalle coast
- Day 7 – Unawatuna beach
- Day 8 – Galle Fort to Colombo
- Flying home to London
Day 1 – We have arrived! Take us to Negombo
With no delays, we landed in the late afternoon giving us enough time to get out of the airport and check-in before the sunset.
Uber taxi please
After a 14-hour flight, we arrived at the airport and were both just ready to relax. To speed everything up, we cheated and opted to get an Uber with the payment straight to our card (just like home). Due to the high-security presence in the area Ubers weren’t allowed in the airport grounds, so we headed towards the driver’s location. After walking a few mins through the chat app we realised the driver had got around this and was actually at arrivals … so we walked back and jumped in.
It may be a short distance but it’s a thin busy road so be patient you’ll make it.
Things To See in Negombo
The beach was really our highlight from visiting Negombo. Miles of open sand and beach everywhere to be seen, but although we had a few nice walks we probably needed a full day to do Negombo justice.
Around the town there are a number of cute cafes, it’s a big thing for us in the middle of a busy day to sit down and have a good coffee.
The prices in Negombo are very reasonable but as you continue around the country you are going to see these increasing.
D Plus B&B Negombo – Beautiful simple private bed & breakfast located in a quiet but central spot very close to the beach
Day 2 – Good morning Negombo, let’s go to Kandy Lake
Before we checked out of the hotel we had a bit more of a walk around the town. The church opposite was full of kids outside dressed smartly for Sunday school whilst the beach was pretty abandoned. If we had more time, you’ve got enough to keep you here for another day at least.
Having checked out the local prices for getting to Kandy, if we got the bus that sets off from Colombo, everyone we spoke to said it was likely to be full at the point we would pick it up. Knowing that Fani was pregnant we thought that standing for a long period wouldn’t be good, so we needed to be a bit smarter and just get a taxi, with Uber being the cheapest option available.
Once the Uber Zip Intercity turned up, he insisted on taking cash, which is something we could change in the app for the journey. Taking us to our hotel by Kandy Lake it cost Rs6,644 (USD$36 or £28), a big difference to the USD$1 the bus would have cost.
The drive itself took about 3 hours with lots of single-lane roads, bad traffic and poor weather to get through but it was comfortable to just sit back and admire the views. By the time we arrived, it had brightened up a little too.
Kandy Lake Things To See
- Take a walk along the Lake
- Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (take your trousers and remember no shoulders showing)
- Watch a train casually going through the town centre
- Enjoy a walk through the town
Dinner – The most recommended place to eat is a pure vegetarian spot called Balaji Dosai, really simple food and the quality of this is awesome, it’s a must-stop in Kandy.
Cafe Aroma Inn – Simple and clean hotel with friendly staff, whilst also being close to the centre.
Day 3 – Sigiriya, Dambulla and back to Kandy Lake
We didn’t really have the best start on this day. Overnight we didn’t sleep well and think that we had cats or rats in the walls or above us. With the lack of sleep we couldn’t get up in the morning for the 07:30 bus, so we had to look for alternative options. Uber wasn’t available in this area and after trying for a good 20 mins we decided to ask the hotel reception.
We were able to agree on a price to get us to Sigiriya and from there we would be able to pick up local transport. The distance between Sigiriya and Dambulla is just 16km. Our recommendation is to make sure you have this booked to avoid steep last-minute prices.
Things to do in Sigiriya
The Rock Fortress of Sigiriya (also known as Lion Rock) – This huge rock is 200 meters high situated on low lying land all around it. It’s spectacular when you approach and such an incredible experience to conquer the stairs and make it to the top. It is pricey at USD$25 each, but if you can afford it, it’s money well spent in our opinion.
If you want to save money discovering this spectacle from a distance, stand and see this beauty hiking up Pidurangala Rock.
Things to do in Dambulla
- Dambulla Cave Temple
- Buddhist Museum
- Kalu Diya Pokuna (Mother natures untouched garden close to the city)
Dambulla Cave Temple entrance is not the easiest to find, and prepare yourself for a walk if you start from the Buddhist Museum side.
No matter the hike up to the caves it’s a special site, with such beauty held, and preserved, inside.
Getting back to Kandy Lake wasn’t took much hassle, opting again for an Uber and this time just being patient waiting. When the taxi turned up, he insisted on taking cash and cancelling the Uber request, it’s a big no-no in the UK (& Europe) but just wanting to get there we agreed on this occasion. Bad weather again extended the time it took us to get back to the hotel. If you choose to do the same, we recommend being on the road back after 16:00 (4 pm).
Day 4 – The most famous scenic railway journey on planet earth, let’s go to Ella!
Six-hour journey and the best USD$3 we have ever spent. Your Sri Lanka 8 day adventure itinerary must include this trip.
We had to get there at 07:30 to make sure we got a day ticket. That was the easy part, then we queued up along the platform praying that a door would be right in front of us when it stopped … and we got extremely lucky!
Fani jumped straight into a window seat on the right side, giving me time to allow some fellow travellers onboard before I joined her.
The night before we shopped for some snacks in preparation for the long journey. It’s something we recommend everyone does. It’s a slow and long trip that takes you from sea level up to the mountains, so get some food with you and have a jumper ready.
With the mix in temperature, and with the change in terrain and train coach throughout the journey, we also recommend you take a small personal fan.
If you’re in Kandy for a few days, go to the station and see if you can get a reserved ticket. But don’t go crazy and book first-class tickets online at a crazy price especially if you are able to go queue and get a reserved ticket days before you travel. Just remember to take your passport with you.
Morning Dew Hotel – A beautiful hotel located on the top of a hill, boasting incredible views of the village and landscape. The walk up, and down is steep but it’s worth doing it.
Day 5 – Waking up in Ella, seeing the famous bridge and moving on to the Tangalle coast
We got up early and made our way on foot to the bridge, pretty straight forward with two routes available giving you two great angles. To do what we did, head for the furthest track first and on the way back take the shorter route, we will upload a picture below to help you out.
Again stroke of luck with the weather, with it just turning as we made it back to the main village with a long line of cyclists heading through. It quickly turned into crazy monsoon rain not stopping for the rest of the day.
The weather was really bad which stopped us doing anything more in the village, other than getting some food before we left. We wanted to get the bus but every one that passed was full for over 90 minutes, so we opted for an Uber. It took a good 30 minutes to get something, and when they turned up they insisted on cash and cancelling the Uber journey.
The driver got us to where we needed to go, but the journey was horrible in the car. Getting down from Ella to sea level is very steep and bendy, with the extra pain of having one of Sri Lanka’s trainee motor racers driving us.
Day 6 – Stop and chill out, relax and unwind in Tangalle
This was a do-nothing day, just staying put in a beautiful hotel and location by a long beach, enjoying the pool great beer & food.
So lucky that the weather on this day was the best on the entire trip, it was just like heaven with us being only one of two couples staying there too.
It wasn’t a cheap option but being how busy both of our jobs were before we left England, and with a packed trip, we needed two nights in a location like this. A huge breakfast included in the price, noodles packed for lunches before we arrived, all we needed to cover was dinner.
There aren’t a lot of food options either around this way, but once we tasted the dinner the quality and the portions provided there was no way we were going to go anywhere else to eat.
Taru Villas – The Tangalle Social – A phenomenal hotel and location south-west coast of Tangalle, with such professional dedicated staff that will make everything about your stay perfect! We cannot recommend this place enough.
Day 7 – Moving from Tangalle to the beautiful Unawatuna beach
Doing a bit of research we knew asking the hotel for a taxi would be slightly inflated in price, so we walked out onto the main road. We expected to have to wait a while and haggle on price with numerous drivers, but within a minute we had a tuk-tuk for half the price the hotel quoted us and we were on our way.
Five minutes before we arrived the heavens open with something close to monsoon rain. We had a beautiful little hostel right on the beach, with the cutest little cafe close to us. Even with the bad weather we chilled out at the cafe until the rain got a little lighter and then took a look around Unawatuna Beach.
Things to do in Unawatuna Beach
- Beach time
- Rope Swing at Dalawella and Wijaya Beach
- Take in the views from the Japanese Peace Pagoda
- Shopping – Jump in and out of the shops, taking advantage of lower prices on your last days
- Relax in Skinny Tony’s Deli cafe
- Get a massage – Super cheap
Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch – Skinny Tony’s Deli is a must, great coffee and food, with a really peaceful location
Dinner – The Hideout Unawatuna Mexican food in Sri Lanka we nearly passed on this, but this food experience was an excellent choice. Some local themed options on the menu too, also including Lion beer.
Bedspace Beach – Cute rooms and perfect location set just feet away from the sandy beach, with breakfast including … huge portions on offer easy to share too. Coffee is really good too!
Day 8 – A slow morning around Galle Fort before heading to Colombo capital city
Just a short tuk-tuk drive away from Unawatuna Beach you’ll find Galle fort. If you’ve been looking at photos of Sri Lanka on Google or Instagram, you would have no doubt seen Galle Fort and a selection of amateur photoshoots.
Things to do in Galle Fort
Photoshoot – We got to the area just after midday and it was busy, but being patient paid off with us getting some great shots.
Shopping – All around Galle fort you’ll find a selection of shops for souvenirs, or other gifts to treat yourself too. Just outside too is a large market and is something you probably spotted on your way into the fort, worth checking it out.
The journey to Colombo
We intended to go on another train ride, that was until we got to the train station and was told there was a train strike for the next few days. That then caused the buses to be running with more passengers and with Fani not feeling well with morning sickness, we opted for a taxi. We checked out the price with Uber from Galle to Colombo Rs2,399 (USD$13 £10), no other private taxis would get close to that so we selected Uber again.
Unfortunately for us, it was the worst experience with an Uber driver, making us both feel very uncomfortable from the outset to the time he dropped us off. It could have happened to us in any country but we should have done the best thing and just got out to book another.
Things to do in Colombo
We just had the afternoon in Colombo and with bad weather again we didn’t explore very far at all. On our last night we were celebrating our anniversary meal and had booked one of the best restaurants in Asia, Ministry of Crab.
Ministry of Crab is definitely one of the best restaurants we have ever been to. Whether you are looking to try crab or prawns, this really isn’t a restaurant to be missed. If you are not sold on this, check out the menu. Reading about this from other travel blogs, we reserved a table here 2 months in advance, a month before we even booked the flights, as we already had the dates in mind we didn’t want to be left disappointed. The website didn’t allow us to book that far in-advance but after a quick email, everything was confirmed for us.
Fairway Colombo – Our final night with a comfy bed and location close to the Ministry of Crab for our dinner … both needed before the long flight home.
Day 9 – Flying home to London
After having a huge meal the night before, all we need to do is get up and go to the airport. We expected that the airport would have a good selection of places for breakfast but we were wrong, you can pick up an average coffee & sandwich though.
With limited time we really had to do a lot of research to get best flight price, minimise the flight duration and get the most out of our days.
We settled on booking through British Airways and although the flight was fully operated by Qatar Airways we saved over £250 this way. That saving pretty much covered our total accommodation costs, well worth the time spent searching.
Getting Ready For Your Trip
- Get your visa arranged through Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorization System
- Sensible backpacks and carrying only what you need
- Waterproof cover for backpacks
- Google Maps download on to your mobile phone
- Mobile phone SIM card
- Local SIM cards are available at the airport
- We use Three UK and enjoyed free gigabytes with our monthly allowance
- Currency cards are typically more internationally friendly for better currency conversion, so you only need to carry a little bit of cash
- Water bottle
- Mosquito repellent
- Suntan lotion
You can find out more about the items we travel with on this page, Our Camera Equipment – Travel Photography