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When you think of visiting Sri Lanka as your next travel destination, the above question is the very first question you will get.
This is a difficult question as Sri Lanka has a lot to offer to a traveller. (Please read about a detailed article on travel in Sri Lanka) As a travel professional, I have designed a tour programme of 31 nights which had only Jaffna & Sigiriya for 3 nights but rest are either 2 nights or single night stays. Therefore, I know for a fact that you can even have a few months of a busy travel schedule visiting various places around Sri Lanka.
Based on air travel time and the type of your travel, I would like to make following suggestions on sufficient days to visit Sri Lanka
If you are a regular visitor ( Business visit or regular beach holiday maker) or a person who lives in a country where you can reach Sri Lanka within 3 hours of flight time, then, you can have short trips to visit some iconic places located all around the country. I would say 3-4 days are enough for a short holiday.
If you are a holiday maker who is looking to have a memorable experience for your annual long holiday and you are going to have a long flight which may take more than 6-7 hours air travel time, it is recommended to allocate 10-14 days minimum to have the best experience in Sri Lanka.
Alternatively, let me suggest what sort of tours you can have based on the allocated time period to travel in Sri Lanka.
Please note that I have the following assumptions when writing this article.
- Any leisure stays are not counted (Beach or Hill Country) during the tour.
- All these suggestions are for generic tour plans in Sri Lanka. Suggestions are to cover major attractions but off the beaten sites have suggested only after visiting the main sites. The tour suggestions are not specialised to wildlife or culture but mix of everything. It is advised to customise any of your travel plans to suit your exact requirements.
- All the tour suggestions will start from Colombo or Airport and ending at Colombo or Airport
Day Tours in Sri Lanka
If you have only one day to visit the country, there are enough Day excursions available. If we assume that you are in a transit stay or having one day break after a business visit to Sri Lanka, you have the following options.
- Colombo City Tour
- Galle & Bentota visit
- Pinnawala & Kandy
- Cultural & Religious places around Colombo
- Negombo City Tour
- Cave temple visit in Western Province
1 Night / 2 Days Tours in Sri Lanka
Again, 2 days might be too short to visit Sri Lanka, however you can stay one night outside of Colombo / Airport and have a great experience in Sri Lanka. Some of the great 1night / 2 days travel ideas in Sri Lanka are given below.
- Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa cultural & wildlife exploration
- Kandy the mid-hill tour
- Yala & Galle visit
- Hill Country & Highlands Tour in Nuwara Eliya
- In depth study of City of Colombo
- Explore the untouched Cultural Sights of North Central Province
2 Nights / 3 Days Tours in Sri Lanka
2 nights stay in Sri Lanka can be an option where you can have a glimpse of the beautiful Sri Lanka. If you would like to visit many places, you can stay in 2 places for the 2 nights or else you can stay in one place and visit the places. Both ideas are given below.
There are few cultural and wildlife hotspots in Sri Lanka where you can stay 3 days (2 nights) and explore the areas. Especially, ancient kingdoms of the country were located in the Northern central dry zones and you could visit the area by staying at the same place. Hill countries also have many things to offer to enjoy within a shorter period. South of Sri Lanka is also one of the best options.
Travel 2 nights staying in a single place
- Stay Colombo – Visit Galle & Kandy
- Stay Sigiriya – Visit Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura
- Stay Kandy – Visit Kandy & Sigiriya
- Stay Kandy – Visit Kandy & Nuwara Eliya
- Stay Galle – Visit Mirissa, Bentota, Kanneliya Rainforest
Travel 2 nights, Staying in two seperate places
- Anuradhapura & Sigiriya
- Sigiriya & Kandy
- Kandy & Nuwara Eliya
- Kandy & Knuckles
- Yala & Galle
- Sinharaja & Galle
- Kitulgala & Ella
Travel in Sri Lanka within 5 Nights / 6 Days
You can arrange your 5 nights tour in Sri Lanka in various ways. Some of the ideas are given below.
Have a glimpse of the most famous tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
Sample itinerary has been published on our website in Sri Lanka Mini Tour – 5nights. This is a generic itinerary to follow and you will have a tight schedule. Since you are covering lots of areas, the travelling time is also high. However, the itinerary covers most of the famous sights such as Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Nuwaraeliya and Galle.
Explore the northern parts of Sri Lanka.
Far north of Sri Lanka is comparatively unexposed due to the civil war in Sri Lanka. Main city in north of Sri Lanka is Jaffna which is located in the peninsula, the area has different experiences to offer to its visitors not only geographically, but also culturally and socially too. Jaffna and northern province is predominant by hindu culture whereas southern part by Sinhala buddhist culture in Sri Lanka.
Spending 3 nights in Jaffna and 2 nights in other places such as north central province or north west beach would be a great idea.
Historical Hotspots in North Central province and Eastern province
Historical ruins of the ancient civilisation of Sri Lanka mainly located in north central and eastern provinces in Sri Lanka. If you are a fan of history, heritage, and culture visiting these areas are recommended. The itinerary needs to be tailored accordingly.
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
You can explore the central highlands of Sri Lanka in depth within 5 nights if you are a fan of following.
- Kandy the last kingdom of ancient Sri Lanka
- Nuwara Eliya – the hill capital of British colonial period
- Kitulgala & Ella – slopes of the hill country with scenic adventure paradise
- Train rides – Scenic train journey in highlands
- Tea country – Beautiful lush green tea estates throughout the highlands.
- Ella – The young travellers allure
Tropical rainforest, national parks and whales watching in south of Sri Lanka
If you are fancy exploring 5 nights around the world famous southern beach of Sri Lanka, the following options are available.
- Tropical rainforest of Sinharaja & Kanneliya. These virgin rainforests are the home to a number of endemic birds, flora & fauna etc.
- Yala national park, the most famous national park in Sri Lanka is in south east of Sri Lanka. Udawalawe National Park which is famous for elephants and elephant transit home can be visited just 1 hour drive from southern beach.
- Galle dutch port and historical town along with a number of cultural activities are available.
7-9 Nights Holiday in Sri Lanka
This is one of the common periods to travel in Sri Lanka.
If someone would like to visit most popular tourist attractions around the country, they can do it with somewhat tight schedule. A sample itinerary is available at Sri Lanka In Style Travel – 07 Nights.
However, since 7-9 nights is not enough to travel all around the country with a decent travel pace, it is suggested to combine a few travel plans suggested 5 nights / 6 days travel suggestions. Ex – Far north with hill country highlands.
If a traveller is planning to stay more than 7 nights in Sri Lanka, one of the unexposed options will be open. That is the east coast of Sri Lanka. More information on East Coast travel can be found in the best time to travel in Sri Lanka blog post.
Explore Sri Lanka within 10 -12 Nights
As an experienced travel planner in Sri Lanka, this is the recommended decent time period to visit Sri Lanka except the far north. Sample itinerary for 10 nights is available on Sri Lanka Itinerary for all – 10 nights.
You will have a decent time period to visit the must see attractions as well as some of the off the beaten attractions within 10 -12 nights in Sri Lanka. It is highly recommended to tailormade your itinerary with an expert if you are visiting Sri Lanka for more than 10 nights as set tour packages do not personalise your experience.
As I have suggested in the previous section, you will be able to visit the unexposed east of Sri Lanka as an option. East Coast Holiday in Sri Lanka – 13 nights is a good sample itinerary to include east in your holiday in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Country Explorer from 15 -20 Nights
Allocating 15-20 nights to visit Sri Lanka is ideal for a holiday for a life in Sri Lanka. I would suggest following tips if you are planning on this type of holiday.
- Thorough research in Sri Lanka is must as you are going to explore the country.
- Advice from a local tour operator expert is great as they can assist you by suggesting some unexposed off the beaten areas.
- Make Sure you will make it with time to relax as it is going to be too tiring to have a tight schedule for 16 or more days in a tropical country.
- If you are planning to visit North, Jaffna do not forget to visit Mannar town which is an incredible hidden gem located in the north western coastal belt.