GMT +6 hours
Sri Lanka may be small, but that doesn’t stop it from boasting an impressive collection of colourful temples, ancient cities, national parks, and stunning landscapes. Explore its cultural heart, meet its smiling people, sip tea, spot leopards and relax on golden sands.
Best time to visit
November to March and July to August.
There is so much to see and do in Sri Lanka that when planning your holiday it’s understandable that you may need a little guidance. We’ve put together a collection of some of our advice, along with some sample itineraries to help you craft your perfect Sri Lanka holiday.
1) How long
To get a good sense of what Sri Lanka is all about you probably need two weeks. You’ve got two beautiful coastlines, a collection of National Parks and a whole host of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to see after all.
2) What type of holiday
Sri Lanka is blessed with both beautiful beaches and an interior rich in history, culture and nature, so whether you’re looking to spend a week on the beach, explore ancient cities or spot wildlife in National Parks, you can.
3) How to get around
With more highways opening up across Sri Lanka, and the new Cinnamon Air domestic flights taking to the skies, getting around Sri Lanka has never been easier.
4) Where to stay
Sri Lanka has such a wide range of hotels to choose from so you are bound to find something to suit. From overwater villas to boutique hideaways, and world-class resorts to rustic eco-friendly lodges, Sri Lanka has it all.
First Time to Sri Lanka
If it’s your first time to Sri Lanka, you’ll probably want to experience a bit of everything as Sri Lanka has culture, history and wildlife in abundance. We recommend focussing on the must-sees like Sigiriya Rock, the elephants on Minneriya National Park and visit to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, with plenty of time at leisure in between! You’ll probably need a week to make sure you see all the must-sees, and all your transfers should be relatively short, giving you more time in your hotel or out seeing the sights. For more information on this itinerary see our Ceylon Tour.
First timers & Wildlife
If you’re a first timer who wants to see everything, but has a soft spot for wildlife, you could take the itinerary above and add on an extension to one of Sri Lanka’s other national parks on to the end. Down in the south of Sri Lanka you have both Yala and Udawalawe National Parks, both of which are home to a vast array of wildlife. Yala is famed for its leopard sighting, whilst Udawalawe is home to the Elephant Transit Home where orphaned elephants are rehabilitated before being released!
If you don’t mind skipping a bit of the culture, whether you’ve been to Sri Lanka before, or you’re just a real lover of wildlife, you could choose to focus on the southern national parks. Journeying to and from them includes stops at Nuwara Eliya and Galle respectively, so you’ll still get a little culture fix, but with plenty of time in the parks. An itinerary like this will take roughly a week, though there is always the option of adding on a beach stay. See our Sri Lankan Wildlife tour for more details.
Complete Sri Lanka
For those who want to see everything, you have to give yourself at least 10 nights, plus a little more if you want a beach break at the end. A complete itinerary will take in everything from the Cultural Triangle and ancient cities, down the Kandy, heading through the tea plantations to the fortified city of Galle, before continuing on to the national parks. From here you could add on Negombo or Bentota, or if you do the tour from south to north, add on Jaffna or the east coast. Our Sri Lanka Explorer tour is a great example of this type of itinerary.
Off the beaten track
If you’ve visited Sri Lanka before, or enjoy visiting places not often frequented by tourists then a visit to Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka is a must. You will have to relinquish a few of your creature comforts, but you can make the most of its current anonymity and visit on a tailor made adventure before it develops further. If you do want to visit Jaffna, we recommend combining it with the ancient city of Anuradhapura and the beautiful beaches of Trincomalee.
Culture & Coast
If you want a destination rich in culture that also has great beaches, Sri Lanka is ideal. A popular choice for travellers to Sri Lanka is to do a combination of culture and beach – the best of both worlds. Maybe spending some time in Kandy, Galle or the rolling tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya before moving on to the beaches of the west coast. Alternatively take on the Cultural Triangle before relaxing on the quieter but up and coming east coast.
If you’re looking for a really easy beach break, the west coast of Sri Lanka is well established and contains loads of great choices when it comes to a bit of rest and relaxation. Whether you head up to Negombo, or down to areas like Bentota or Kalutara, you’re still just a short hop to the airport. There is a whole array of different types of accommodation to choose from too, including intimate boutique hideaways and laidback all inclusive resorts, or you could combine one or two different resorts.
For a beach break in some of the most up-and-coming resorts, the east coast is perfect. It offers drier and more consistent weather – especially during our European summer months – than its west coast counterpart and also benefits from wider beaches, a much calmer ocean. Previously it was a longer transfer to get there, but with Cinnamon Air offering domestic flights out to the east coast, you can get there in a fraction of the time the road transfers take and on a clear day, the views are incredible.
Create your holiday
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From the moment I stepped out of the plane and smelt Sri Lanka, I was taken. I fell in love with this beautiful nation from the word go.
If you want to experience the real Sri Lanka you have got to take a tour of the North – elephants, temples, tea plantations etc. Sri Lankans are real patrons of their country and for a good reason. This country is full of culture and stunning scenery, you are bound to come away filled with happy memories. If you are travelling around the country, just be prepared for the long drives."