We knew almost nothing about Sri Lanka until our friends shared their experiences with us. We booked the trip on a spur of the moment impulse after seeing some amazing photos that they took. This is the first time that we were on our own, so far away from our country. But I must say it was the best trip so far.In this blog post, we have put together the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka. You can find all our favorite places and find out what we think are the top things to see and do in this country. We’ve also included descriptions as well as travel information and accommodation suggestions for each location.

DAY 1 – Zagreb → Colombo

It took one whole day to travel from Zagreb to Colombo (we stopped in Doha, Qatar for a couple of hours).

DAY 2 – Colombo

We arrived in Colombo at 2:30 am, waited on the airport till 4:00 am and then took a tuk-tuk to Colombo Railway Station. Tuk-tuks are ridiculously cheap in Sri Lanka. We then took the train straight to Kandy. We decided not to explore Colombo, and we sort of didn’t regret our decision. Colombo is a really dirty city, I didn’t like what I saw, but maybe if we gave it a chance, we would have a different opinion.

DAY 2, 3 and 4 – Kandy

White Buddha Kandy
White Buddha Statue, Kandy

As we arrived in Kandy, we took a tuk-tuk to our room and went to bed ( we haven’t slept for two days, because of the flight and the train rides). Next day we explored the city.

Places we visited:

1) Temple of the Sacred Tooth – the city is famous, because of this temple.

2) Kandy Lake – you really can’t miss it! The lake is also known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk and was created in 1807 by the king.

3) Ranweli Spice Garden – we saw how cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, coffee etc. actually grow.

4) Kandy SPA – I would also recommend you to take some time for yourself and visit an ayurvedic SPA.

5) Kadugannawa Tea Factory – you can see how tea is produced. The tour is free, and you even get some tea to try at the end of the tour. There is also a small shop, where you can buy different types of tea.

6) White Buddha – Bahiravokanda Vihra Buddha Statue: An amazing viewpoint of the Kandy town. You can walk up the stairs to view the Buddha statue located up the hill. White Buddha is one of the tallest and most beautiful Buddha statues in Sri Lanka.

Places to eat:

1) The Garden Café – 2 or 3 vegan options.

2) Oak-Ray Regency – a lot of traditional Sri Lankan food (also vegan).

Where we stayed:

The Walkers Nest

I would really recommend this place. The room was clean and the breakfast was delicious. They always made smoothies. On the last day, they also prepared traditional Sri Lankan (vegan) breakfast – delicious! Ohh and I have to mention, that we saw monkeys playing through the window. They were running up and down the roof – so cute!

DAY 4 and 5 – Nuwara Eliya

Labookelie Tea Estate Nuwara Eliya
Labookelie Tea Estate, Nuwara Eliya

We took the train from Kandy to Nanu Oya. The train was so full that we barely had a place to stand; sitting on the train was just a dream. In Nanu Oya we took a tuk-tuk to Nuwara Eliya. Our tuk-tuk driver was Naghes Waran. He offered to take us on a tour around Nuwara Eliya. He was like a guidebook – he gave us tons of information and we are really grateful that we met him.

Places we visited:

1) Blue Fields Tea Estate – you can go on a tea factory tour. The tour is free. A member of staff takes you through the different processes of withering, rolling, cutting and heating before the final drying and sorting into different sizes.

2) Pedro Tea Factory – you can also see the whole process here and buy different teas.

3) Lover’s Leap Falls and lots of other Falls.

Where we stayed:

“Suninton Holiday Bungalow”

I would really recommend this place. The room was clean and the breakfast was delicious. They always made smoothies. On the last day, they also prepared traditional Sri Lankan (vegan) breakfast – delicious! Ohh and I have to mention, that we saw monkeys playing through the window. They were running up and down the roof – so cute!

DAY 5, 6, 7 and 8 – Ella

Ella Rock Ella
Ella Rock, Ella

In the morning we took the train from Nanu Oya to Ella. I have to say that although the train was full, smelly and dirty – this train ride was the most stunning and amazing ride ever! I could say that the whole train ride Kandy – Nanu Oya – Ella was dreamy. Nature is gorgeous and you can see the families play and the kids running in the middle of nowhere. This is something that you can’t even imagine if you never see it. As we arrived in Ella we went to explore the village. Next day we climbed the Little Adam’s Peak, saw the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge and on the last day there we climbed to the top of the Ella’s Rock. We spent evenings in Cafe Chill, tried some local cousins and mostly we enjoyed the nature and the views from the mountains. Ella is incredibly green and it’s right in the middle of tea plantations, surrounded by mountains.

Places we visited:

1) Little Adam’s Peak – the hike is really easy and the path is marked by signs so it’s fairly easy to find. The view from the top is more than amazing.

2) Demodara Nine Arch Bridge – we took a tuk-tuk to get here in time to see the train passing this famous bridge and then we followed the tracks to Ella Station (it took us ca. 45 minutes). If you ever wanted to walk on an active train track safely, this is the place to go. Trains slow down when crossing the bridge due to the people on it like us, taking pictures and enjoying the view. Go to higher ground after to get a full view of the bridge. It is perfect if you know the train schedules so you can get a great picture of the train passing the bridge.

3) Ella Rock – this mountain is amazing. The hike is a lot harder than Little Adam’s Peak but truly worth it. The only problem is that the path to Ella Rock isn’t marked AT ALL! We took the train from Ella to the next station and then we tried to find the path but couldn’t find it. Luckily we met a couple of locals who then later showed us the right way. As we went back, we followed the tracks to Ella.

Where we stayed:

“Up Country”

We weren’t impressed at all. The room wasn’t really clean and the bathroom was horrible. Even though the owners were very nice and helpful, we wouldn’t go here again.

Places to eat:

1) Café Chill – it’s THE best place in Ella. Great vibe, fantastic service, good quality cheap food. Oh and fantastic Wi-Fi. It was absolutely heaving with people, staffs were super friendly and polite, we couldn’t recommend a better place to go to.

2) Tiny local restaurants – we tried a few and really liked them, just wanted to say that you shouldn’t be afraid to try their local food – we loved their rice and noodles with vegetables.

DAY 8 to DAY 14 – Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay Beach
Arugam Bay Beach

This day was really stressful. We took the bus from Ella to Monaregala. And then from there to Arugam Bay. The bus was stopping every two minutes to pick up people and it was constantly so hot on there because of the weather and mostly because the bus was so tiny and there were way too many people on it. It was quite exhausting but totally worth it. We met some great people on the way and forgot how we felt as soon as we saw the beach.

Places we visited:

1) Peanut Farm – gorgeous beach a couple of kilometers from the city. You should know that there is a lagoon nearby. And Sri Lankan lagoons are full of crocodiles, so be careful, but the beach itself is a perfect spot for beginner surfers. We tried to learn how to surf ourselves but failed. If you are a beginner you should probably hire a surfing instructor. Also, you can’t rent a surf desk on this beach – you should find a surf shop in the Arugam Bay town.

2) Yala National Park – it’s the most famous national park in Sri Lanka. Here you can see animals like wild elephants, plenty of colorful birds, deer, crocodiles, buffaloes, wild pigs, monkeys and if you are lucky, you can even see the leopards.

Where we stayed:

“Grand Villa”

We stayed here the first night in Arugam Bay. It was nothing compared to photos on the booking and it smelled so badly. We left the next day.

“Paradise Sand”

The room was OK, and the beach was just outside of the hotel. But the owners were very mean and they tricked us into paying way more than promised.

Places to eat:

1) Karma Gardens – We came here pretty much daily. Some of the best and most thoughtfully created food around. Literally, everything we tried was amazing and vegan. Lovely guys running it, and nice quiet place to relax. We are so going to miss out cookies & cream smoothie bowl waffles for breakfast!

2) Bay Vista – beautiful hotel with a restaurant on the beach. The staff was really friendly and the food was super good.

DAY 14 and 15 – Unawatuna

Breakfast Fruit Platter Unawatuna
Fresh breakfast

The only way to get here was either a bus or a taxi. We decided to take the bus and AGAIN spent almost the whole day driving around, feeling sick, cause the drivers drive like crazy. As we arrived in Unawatuna we went to the beach but it was too windy to go for a swim so we just sat on the beach and enjoyed the view.

We regret that we didn’t visit any recommended places, but we just felt too tired.

Where we stayed:

“Villa Sunimal”

The place was okay, ca. 1 kilometer away from the beach and the owner was really nice.

Places to eat:

1) Jina’s Vegetarian And Vegan Restaurant – we ate guacamole here. Yummy!

DAY 15 and 16 – Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa Beach
Hikkaduwa Beach (where turtles swim 🙂 )

We drove with a tuk-tuk to Galle Railway Station and took the train to Hikkaduwa. The place we booked there was in the middle of nowhere, literally, and we really struggled to even find it. Later that day we went swimming in the sea and to see the rescued turtles.

Detailed itinerary and Ideas for spending 17 days in Sri Lanka as well as resources and tips for getting the most out of your trip, from getting around through to where to stay and what to see!
Fresh fruits everywhere! 🙂

Places we visited:

1) Turtle Hatchery – it’s the place where they heal the injured turtles and eventually let them back to the sea.

2) Hikkaduwa beach – you can see the turtles as you go for a swim – so stunning!

Where we stayed:

“Sumudu Villa”

As I already mentioned: This place was in the middle of nowhere and really hard to find. But I must admit, that it was really nice there, so peaceful and newly renovated.

Places to eat:

1) Aroma Restaurant – we loved this place. They also have a lot of vegan options.

DAY 16 and 17 – Negombo and then flight home

Detailed itinerary and Ideas for spending 17 days in Sri Lanka as well as resources and tips for getting the most out of your trip, from getting around through to where to stay and what to see!

Negombo was our last location. We took the train from Hikkaduwa to Colombo and then another train from Colombo to Negombo. Negombo is such a crowded city. We were searching for “must visit places” on trip advisor and then decided not to drive around but to just walk around the city a bit and find the beach near our room and relax – unfortunately it started raining so hard, that we rather went inside. Our room was perfect – cheap & new. We also ordered a breakfast which was amazing!
On the 17th day, we took the tuk-tuk to the airport and flew home.

Where we stayed:

“Yatharoo Guest”

The place was gorgeous – if you stay here,  you should definitely order a breakfast! We had a room with a view of the pool. Everything was new and it smelled so good!! We got used to everything being so dirty and smelly so this room seemed like heaven!

The end

So I guess this is it, our recommended 17 – days Sri Lanka itinerary. I hope this blog post was useful. You have to now that there are also a lot of other things to do and see in Sri Lanka. A lot of people also go visit Polonnaruwa – we wanted too, but as we got to Arugam Bay we didn’t want to leave the beach so we rather went back to the airport the southern (beachy) way than to go to the Polonnaruwa (north).
This itinerary can easily be expanded to a three- or four-week trip. That would give you more time to enjoy each place, and relax on the beach.

Was this useful? Let me know below!


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