The best of Sri Lanka for holidays

Sri Lanka is truly a paradise island that has everything to make your vacation perfect. My perception of Sri-Lanka was a developing country, cheaper resources and budget tourist destination with limited choices. It turned out to be contrary to my belief, the place was booming with natural plantations, scenic beauty, an abundance of natural resources, well-groomed citizens, malls filled with brands, booming casinos, and adventurous beaches.

In this blog, you will get a glimpse of the best tourist places of Srilanka, the tips for traveling, shopping ideas and my personal experience. My itinerary included Colombo, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Bentota, and Galle.

Day 1; Colombo

The airport is almost 1.25 hours drive from the city. We hired a dedicated car for the trip, the best part was our driver was a guide throughout the journey. We reached The Stuart by Citrus by 5.00 pm, the hotel is strategically located in the heart of the central business district in Colombo.

The place is closer to the Old Colombo Dutch Hospital is considered to be the oldest building in the Colombo Fort area dating back to the Dutch colonial era in Sri Lanka. It is now a heritage building and a shopping and dining precinct. The area is perfect for an evening stroll and a few drinks.  The Ministry of Crabs is another famous dining option nearby.

The Stuart by Citrus, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo, Sri Lanka, being a mix of modern architecture and cultural essence. Located on the Beira Lake, it was completed in the late 19th century. The temple’s architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture. There are two sides of the temple, you can see both the sides of the temple with singlevisitor ticket.

Nightlife at Colombo-24/7 Casinos

Sir Lanka has Casinos like Bally’s, Bellagio and Marina. Some of the table games offered are Asia Poker, Roulette, Slot, Black Jack, Baccarat and Three Card Poker. These Casinos offer free drinks, starters, and food throughout the day so if you have missed your lunch or dinner just drop in the Casinos. There are no entry charges for Casino. You can enjoy watching games, have drinks and food irrespective of the fact whether you choose to play or not.

Day 2; Colombo to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sigiriya and finally to Dambulla (4 hours /160kms)

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

The next day our plan started with the famous Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. You will like the greenery of place with Elephants all around. You cannot feed the animals or pose a picture with them as these are not trained Elephants, unlike Thailand. 

Sigiriya Fort/Rock

Our next stop was the famous Sigiriya rock an ancient fort located in the Matale District in central Sri Lanka. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you wish you can climb till the top, there are a total of 1200 steps to rich the fort. We skipped this part as it was time-consuming and our driver advised that there is nothing much to see at the top. Here you can take a small elephant ride to go closer to the rock and click a picture.

Dambulla, Sri Lanka

The last stop for the day was Dambulla where we checked in Nice Place Hotel. This is a resort well spread in a big area amidst dense greenery. Try the Sri Lankan Chicken curry and mix vegetables it’s spicy and flavourful. The hotel rooms need a little makeover in terms of hot water facilities, having an operational swimming pool, etc. The place has a cold temperature at night. A morning walk around the area is blissful.

Day 3; Dambulla to Kandy (2 hours/75km)

Dambulla Cave Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka

First stop was Dambulla Cave Temple, which is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site. Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. 

Sri Muthumariamman Temple, Sri Lanka

From there we headed towards Kandy our next destination, en route we stopped at a beautiful Hindu Temple Sri Muthumariamman Temple. You can spend an hour or so here.

Kandy, Sri-Lanka

Kandy is a Hill station in the central province of Sri Lanka has some famous sights, tea plantations, spice gardens. We reached around 3.30 pm and received a warm welcome with refreshing drinks at Hotel Earl’s Regent. The hotel rooms have a beautiful view of the hill and nature. There are some live singers, performances in the evening to entertain guests.

Hotel Earl’s Regent, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Day 4; Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (2.30 hours/80km)

We started our day by visiting the famous Buddhist Temple of Tooth at Kandy. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple. Buddhism is a popular religion in Sri-Lanka. Kandy Lake is another beautiful tourist spot.

Buddhist Temple of Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Another popular visiting place are the Spice Garden. The Garden has rare ayurvedic plants and they do sell ayurvedic products which are good. The garden offers its visitors a complimentary head or feet massage with herbal oils.

Tea Plantations, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy has beautiful tea-plantations. We stopped at a tea plantation en route and tasted Sri Lankan tea. Dilma is a famous tea brand from Sri Lanka. You can see magnificent tea gardens and can pluck a few leaves to feel it. 

Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya is a city in the tea country hills of central Sri Lanka. The naturally landscaped Hakgala Botanical Gardens displays roses and tree ferns, and shelters monkeys and blue magpies. 

Landscape of roses

Seetha Amman Temple, Sita Eliya, Sri Lanka

Our first spot was the famous Seetha Amman Temple. The temple is located in the village of Seetha Eliya (also known as Sita Eliya). This place is believed to be the site where Goddess Sita was held captive by King Ravana, as per Hindu epic, Ramayana. You can also see the footprints of Lord Hanuman who visited the place for rescue of Goddess Sita.

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Our next stop was Lake Gregory or Gregory Reservoir, which is a reservoir in the heart of the country hill city, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Lake Gregory was constructed during the period of British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873. We took a small boat to explore the lake, the ride was awesome.

Day 5; Nuwara Eliya to Bentota (5.30 hours/220km)

Bentota, Sri Lanka

Bentota is a resort town on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast. Its long Bentota Beach stretches north, where it becomes a sandy strip known as Paradise Island, parallel to Bentota Lagoon. Bentota is famous for its toddy production, an alcoholic beverage made out of coconut nectar. We checked in our private villa that has a private pool on one side and sea on the other side.

Bentota River Safari & Mangrooves Adventure, Bentota, Sri Lanka

We spend some-time at the turtle hatchery, followed by the Bentota River Safari and mangrove adventure. During your river safari, you may see some beautiful birds, dense mangroves and you can hop off at centuries-old Galapota Temple that has a large Buddha statue. The safari takes approx 1 hour and while coming back you may relax your feet in the fish spas located amid river to relax your feet. 

Day 6; Bentota to Galle (1.20 hours, 75km)Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle is a city on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. It’s known for Galle Fort, the fortified old city founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. Their artifacts are mainly Portuguese, Dutch and British. Notable buildings include the 18th-century Dutch Reformed Church. Galle has a beautiful Lighthouse that stands on the fort’s southeast tip.

Galle City View from Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Day 7; Bentota to Colombo (2 hours, 104km)

We bid adieu to the sea post breakfast and moved for Colombo the ride was smooth. Your visit to Sri Lanka cannot end without shopping for branded quality products and souvenirs at really reasonable rates. Therefore, reserve a full day for shopping in Colombo.

Shopping opportunities in ColomboSri Lanka

Handicrafts/Figurines/Raksha Mask 

All around Sri Lanka are classic souvenir shops called Laksala, where visitors can get lots of beautiful figurines of Buddhas, elephants, peacocks, and leopards. Laksala is the best shop for traditional handicrafts but this is expensive. Unique to the Sri Lankan culture, Raksha masks are available in almost every souvenir shop in the form of masks, magnets, keychains, etc. They are believed to ward off the evil and protect the one who possesses them. 

Ceylon Tea

Owing to a large number of tea plantations in central Sri Lanka, the island is home to some of the finest tea produce. You may get multiple flavors like Earl Grey, Chocolate Mint, Peach & Mint, Broken Peko, Orange Broken Peko, and other exotic varieties. The most famous brands are Dilmah and Macwoods.

Gem Stones

Sri Lanka is also known as Gem Island. You may come across some best quality Sapphires, Moonstones, Topazes, and many other gems here. While buying these gems, however, one needs to act with caution. Buy from dealers certified with either Sri Lanka Gem Traders’ Association or the International Coloured Gemstone Association to avoid being duped.

Shopping Tips for Sri Lanka

1.   When shopping in local markets, do bargain to crack good deals. 

2.   Purchase authentic souvenirs from certified government shops.

3.   Don’t shop at the airport as the rates are very high unless you don’t have time. 

Famous Shopping Outlets in Srilanka

•   House of Fashion & Barefoot – For Designer Clothes

•    Arcade Independence Square – All Things Branded

•   Laksala – For The Best Souvenirs

•    Odel – Lifestyle Products And More

•    Dutch Gallery – For Antiques

•   Ratnapura – For Precious Jewels

•   Noritake- Crockery and more

•   Jayamali Batiks Studio – Skillfully Printed Textiles

Tour tips for exploring the best of Sri-Lanka

1: Itinerary; Mind distance and plan in advance the preferred route is Colombo- Dambulla(Enroute Sigiriya)-Kandy- Nuwara Eliya -Bentota-Galle-Colombo

2: Hotels: You can reserve on booking.com as that has an option of pay at the site. You have the liberty of free cancellation in many of the hotels. 

3: Airport; At least an hour’s drive from the city but well connected mid-sized airport with plenty of shops for currency exchange.

4: Currency Exchange; Change at the airport as not many options are available in the city. You may withdraw from ATMs or can use your credit/debit cards. Indian Rupees and USD are accepted. 

5: Budget Destination; Sri Lanka is not at all expensive for food, shopping, and leisure part. The meals are very cheap even at good restaurants and resorts you will spend some 4500 Srilankan Rupee for a decent meal for 3-4 people. 

6. Clothes; Freedom of attire except while visiting temples where proper covered dresses are appreciated 

7. Within City Travel; Distances are long and can be tiring and thus hire dedicated vehicle and relax while exploring the country-side. We reserved a dedicated vehicle only for 65,000 Sri Lankan Rupees for the whole itinerary.  The dedicated vehicle gives you an added advantage to explore more options in cities, stopovers in scenic sites like plantation, hill view and beach sides. Uber works in Colombo but not in other cities of Sri Lanka and thus commuting with luggage may pose a challenge.

8. Weather Fluctuations; Pack well for hot, humid, cold and rainy weather. Pack some warm clothes, beach dresses, full sleeves to keep yourself covered and comfortable. Don’t just go with an island perspective. Colomba is mostly humid and witnesses’ rains, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya are hill stations, Galle and Bentota have hot and humid climate.

9. Language; English is well understood and accepted

10. Food; Spicy and colourful having good flavours. You get a variety of fresh vegetables.

11. Essentials to Carry

Sim Card- Normally you can pick one with good data these are easily available at airports, you can also get on free from your dedicated car driver.

Mosquito repellant and Medicines- Carry your regular medicines you might face some challenges in local stores in Sri-Lanka. Sri Lanka is very close to nature and thus be cautious with insects, mosquitoes, and flies.

Raincoats- If you plan to cover Sigiriya and Kandy.

Hat/Sunglasses/Sunscreen– A must visit Galle & Bentota

I-cards- Carry them for entry in temples, water sports, etc.

Camera- A must for capturing the scenic beauty of the place.

Sign Off Sri Lanka- In a nutshell, Sri- Lanka is a picture-perfect destination that you will cherish in your memories and each place has its own experience of culture, scenic beauty, food, weather. Do visit this beautiful Island to craft your own story.

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Aman chadha
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Aman chadha

Hi, Your narration and depiction of your Sri Lankan memoire are really makes an interesting, informative reading for all wanna be regular tourists, backpackers, students and guides and planners. Detailed overview excites desire to visit the places. Your comprehensive coverage of things to know to visit places in Sti Lanka including planning itinerary, transport, weather, clothing,fares, suggested places to stay etc. to minute day to day planning to visit prominent as well as local cites is impressive. For shoppers and foodies sharing of your personal experience regarding best shoping destinations, eateries, items to buy besides range of market rates for… Read more »

Tapas Ghosh
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I never ever have seen such stunning views of Sri Lanka. Much obliged to you for posting 🙂


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