Sri Lanka is an absolute dream to travel. So here’s our easy to follow 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary of the top places to visit in Sri Lanka.
How Get To Around Sri Lanka
The island of Sri Lanka is not massive and the transport system is easy to use, making it a great country to explore.
Buses are frequent throughout Sri Lanka, however be prepared to experience what it’s like to be a sardine in a can.
The on and off procedure is about as quick as they come, and the journeys can be a little bit sweaty.
The best way to find out which bus to take is just to ask people at the nearest stop.
Fares vary from Rs 10 to 50, depending on distance.
There is usually a sign on the front of the bus with the destination in English.
Sri Lanka’s towns and cities are really well connected by train.
Moreover, you can enjoy some beautiful, scenic railway journeys across this country.
In fact, the famous Kandy to Ella train ride is one of the top things to do when visiting Sri Lanka.
Depending on distance, taxis and tuk tuks are an option and start from 60 Rupees.
Most taxis should operate on a meter, so if you’re unsure of a fair price always ask for the metered option.
Haggling is always a starting point of conversation with both taxis and tuk tuks, so have your wits about you and be sure to agree a price before you get in the vehicle.
Uber is also available for a fixed price option.
Some of the best days out we’ve had in Sri Lanka have been on private tours.
For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.
From food tours, to safaris and village tours, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Sri Lanka.
Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a tropical country and therefore the weather can be unpredictable. It also varies across the different areas of the island.
There are two monsoon seasons, a North East monsoon (between October and January) as well as a South West monsoon, (between May and July).
The best times to visit for calmer oceans and stable weather is between January to April and Mid July to September, this applies for the whole country.
However, these months are considered peak season, especially January to April, and therefore it will be busier with tourists and prices can go up as well.
Remember, this is just a guide, so you may want to mix it up and add/subtract different attractions.
What To Pack
3 Weeks In Sri Lanka Itinerary
The Capital, and the only international airport in and out of Sri Lanka. Making it a natural first stop on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
Most people say to avoid it, we absolutely loved it.
As for Colombo itself, the city is by far the cleanest we’ve seen on our trip! For a place that homes the largest percentage of Sri Lanka it was surprisingly spacious.
It had an easy to use bus system, and the tuk tuks were all on meters.
The people seemed genuinely interested and friendly, going out of their way to make sure you got on the right bus without expecting anything in return.
There are also some great tours available to get you used to the Sri Lankan culture on Get Your Guide.
On the other hand, if you have time during your 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, then don’t rush out as quickly as everyone says.
A few hours inland on the bus, and the most natural step to take from Colombo is to head to the centre.
One of the most beautiful attractions of Sri Lanka is Sigiriya Rock, and its surrounding areas are a MUST if you’re looking for scenic photos.
Although we decided to visit it’s little brother Pidarangala Rock for an epic hike with rewarding views!
For those on a short schedule, there is the highly rated Sigiriya and Dambulla Day Trip from Colombo tour.
This tour allows you to visit the historic rock fortress of Sigiriya, and explore the large cave temple complex of Dambulla on a full-day trip from Colombo with a private driver.
If you do have time, we certainly recommend spending a day or two in Dambulla to explore to your hearts content.
From the centre, we decided to head North East to the popular beach town of Trincomalee.
The area surrounding Trincomalee is actually broken into 3 nearby towns: Trincomalee, Uppuveli and Nilaveli.
All of which have crystal clear beaches, and plenty of calm spots to throw a towel town and relax.
Nilaveli is probably the most known with tourists, as it’s home to Pigeon Island. One of the two marine national parks of Sri Lanka.
Pigeon Island is located 1km off the coast of Nilaveli, and a snorkelling trip here is certainly worth a spot on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary for the underwater life.
Another of the popular marine activities in Trincomalee, is whale watching. Either here, or down in Mirissa, are the two spots in Sri Lanka to head out on a whale watching tour.
Aside from the water activities, there are also the colourful temples of Koneswaram or Pathrakali Amman worth visiting.
And, for those on a short schedule, there is the highly rated From Dambulla: Trincomalee Sightseeing Tour.
From Trincomalee, we headed back down towards Kandy.
If you haven’t heard of Kandy before your trip, you certainly will have within your first few days in Sri Lanka.
It’s labelled as one of the most scenic train journeys on the planet. So a Kandy to Ella train ride whilst hanging out of the open doors can not be missed if you’re a fan of landscapes.
There are 3 trains that depart from Kandy towards Ella everyday.
Departure Times from Kandy Railway Station: 3.30am, 8.47am or 11.10am.
The journey takes roughly 7 hours and it’s one of the most popular things to do in the country!
For those that have a little time to spare, it’s certainly worth spending a couple of days in Kandy to unwind and enjoy the calmness of the town.
Kandy Lake, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic are all worthy of a visit.
You may even take a Kandy: Temples, Gardens & Cultural Show City Highlights Tour, with a local english speaking guide. An easy way to see the highlights whilst being transported around in an air-conditioned vehicle.
As for the transport out of Kandy though, the train to Ella is an absolute must on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary!
After disembarking from your train journey, we recommend staying a couple of nights in the mountain town that is Ella.
With incredible viewpoints, treks and just a refreshing vibe around it, Ella is well worth a few days of your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
If you prefer to explore as part of a group there’s the popular 2-Day Tour of 3 Iconic Ella Sites available. This includes Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak, and the Nine Arch Bridge.
For those on a quicker schedule there are a couple of options available with reputable company Ella Day Tours:
Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge (Half Day Tour)
Ella Rock & 9 Arch Bridge, Little Adams Peak with Transfer (Full Day Tour)
All of the treks in Ella are achievable for beginners though. We spent 3 days discovering all the best things to do in Ella.
Udawalawe National Park
One of the most epic experiences of our travels. An absolute must on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary, is to head out on safari!
There are a few options available in terms of Sri Lanka safaris. The most popular being: Yala National Park, Minneriya National Park or Udawalawe National Park. And after a lot research, we opted for the latter.
Udawalawe is a small town located in the southern part of the Ratnapura District in Sri Lanka.
It’s not only extremely habitant of elephants, but apparently not as crowded as Yala National Park. A more popular destination for those on the hunt to find leopards.
The best places to visit Udawalawe from are either Ella or Mirissa.
We booked onto the Udawalawe National Park: Private Safari Half Day (3 hours).
It cost just £15 per person and started at 6:30am.
However, if you just wish to visit on a day trip safari from other areas of Sri Lanka, there are plenty of options on Get Your Guide.
All of these 1 day tours will all include hotel pickup and drop-off, national park fees, and a private Udawalawe jeep safari.
The surf capital of Sri Lanka and a place many tourists end up extending their stay because of the chilled vibes, beautiful beaches and late night antics.
Arugam Bay is one place you CANNOT miss out of your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
With pros flocking from Australia and Bali to hit the waves on the East coast, Arugam Bay is the most popular surf spot in Sri Lanka.
So whether you’re a beginner or an international veteran, this is the place to get out on a board and ride with the big boys.
There are plenty of places to hire boards from in town. We paid 500 rupees for a half day which gave us 4 hours of Arugam Bay surfing.
Aside from catching waves, or attempting to, the town itself is very cute and has plenty of shopping and eating options.
If you have some downtime one evening, Hideaway is a great place to grab a cocktail and hang out.
From out East we took the longest trip of our whole 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary to the South of the island.
Mirissa is located in the centre of the South coast, and is popular for its palm tree covered beaches. We ended up falling in love and extending our stay in Mirissa for a full month.
It’s a great place to us as a hub and explore the South coast on scooters from.
If you wander up and down Mirissa Beach, you’ll be able to find Parrot Rock. A giant rock formation with views over Mirissa from the summit.
As well as Coconut Tree Hill, a large dome covered in palm trees and a great spot for sunset.
Another thing that Mirissa prides itself on is its marine life!
With blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins known to hover around the coastline from November until the end of April, whale watching is certainly one of the top things to do in Mirissa.
There are so many companies to choose from, however Island Breeze Mirissa is one of the highest rated in the area.
In high season it can get busy, so we recommend booking your Morning Whale Watching Tour in advance.
Also if you fancy exploring a little further East up the coast, Hiriketiya Beach is a beautiful spot.
Just up the road from Mirissa, only 15 minutes in fact, is the second most popular surf spot in the country after Arugam Bay.
More popular for beginners, this is the place to get stuck in and give it a go on the waves.
The main company we noticed everyone to be using was Freedom Surf School.
They offer both beginner and intermediate lessons for roughly £10 per hour, and you can book a Weligama: 1-Hour Green Water Intermediate Surf Lesson in advance.
It’s definitely worth a trip to Weligama, even if you just chill on the beach for the day and watch the pros.
Aside from surfing there’s not a lot to do in Weligama. However, if you do venture down, be sure to pop in and say hi to the guys at Ceylon Sliders.
They serve up the most delicious healthy breakfasts and shakes at very affordable prices!
Another awesome beach location, a little more touristy than Mirissa, Unawatuna is definitely worth renting a moped and exploring too.
From the shops, to the beach front restaurants and releasing baby turtles into the ocean, this is one of our top recommendations to add to your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
We spent a few nights in Unawatuna and the huge bay of white sand curves round, making it easy to walk all the way around.
Also, just a short trip up the coast from Unawatuna, you’ll find the famous Dalawella Beach Rope Swing.
Be sure to head up early in the day to avoid the crowds, and keep your eye out for the Stilt Fisherman from the road along the way.
A 15 minute tuk tuk up the road drops you directly in the middle of the famous Galle Fort. A historic Dutch landmark that has been transformed into a beautiful European like town.
Galle Fort is full of chic shops, and beautiful cafes, and is definitely worth a day of our 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.
Most famous for photographers, is the Galle Lighthouse, built by the British just before WWII.
The Lighthouse is a must capture postcard shot, which you will have to take home and remember Galle Fort by.
There is a also a small bathing spot beside the lighthouse, almost like a natural safe swimming pool.
For those wishing take visit on a day trip from Colombo, we can recommend the Galle and Bentota Day-Tour From Colombo.
Our final stop in the South, whilst working our way back up towards Colombo, was Hikkaduwa.
A little less populated than the other beaches on the itinerary, and with beautiful resorts available, Hikkaduwa is rising up the list of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
The sole reason we headed to Hikkaduwa though, was for Lauren’s obsession with turtles!
We’d heard through the grapevine of a spot where wild turtle swam freely around the bays of Hikkaduwa. So we went out in search of Turtle Beach.
It turned out to be one of the best days of our 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary, as Lauren got to live her childhood dream of swimming with wild turtles, and they were HUGE!
If you have a bit of extra time on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary, be sure to add Hikkaduwa as a stopping point, because you can’t miss the beautiful animals that live by the coastline.
Plus the sunsets in Hikkaduwa make for the perfect place to end a magical time in Sri Lanka!
For pre-booking accommodation when travelling, we always recommend Booking.com!
From 5 star hotels, to budget backpacker hostels, it’s got everything and the site is super easy to use.
So to compare deals, and pre-book all of your Sri Lanka accommodation, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.