Guest post by Supriya Joshi
I don’t remember how we shortlisted Sri Lanka as the destination of our very first girls’ trip. But after doing a little bit of research about this country, we just could not think of any other destination which could be more perfect. This 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka has it all. National parks packed with wildlife, mountains for hikers, beautiful tea plantations, scenic train journeys, wonderful history and culture, lovely beaches, its very own spicy food, and much more.
Sri Lanka is a mix of two ethnic groups – Sinhalese and Tamil and of two different ideologies – Hinduism and Buddhism. In spite of being a part of India under Indian rulers for a large part of two thousand years of its existence, it has developed its own identity too. The landscapes are worth visiting, the culture and cuisine is worth experiencing. 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka does not cover it’s all nook and corners, but it sure does give you a good glimpse of its beauty! There are many beautiful things to see in Sri Lanka, however, only a few of them could make it to our list!
Traveling leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller
So here’s our story!!
Our preparation for the 10 day Sri Lanka trip
It does look like a tiny island on the world’s map, but we were surprised when we could not fit even half of the towns in Sri Lanka in our 10-day itinerary. There is just so much to see and experience in there. All thanks to the Trip advisor, we finally got our 10-day itinerary to Sri Lanka ready. Once that was done, the next thing was booking the Air tickets, Visa, hotels, and Cab. Flight bookings required a bit of research, but finally, we got it done through MakeMyTrip. Sri Lanka’s online Visa is immensely convenient and we got our Visa approved in less than one hour of submitting the Visa form online. Hotel booking was super-easy again thanks to the Trip advisor.
You would like to refer to our Ultimate Guide to Travel Planning to know how to plan a perfect journey!
It can take time to travel from one place to another in Sri Lanka and trains or buses are not always the best option. So we decided to book a cab for our full 10 day trip, to avoid any stress or inconvenience while traveling. And I can confidently say today that, that was one of the best decisions we took for this trip. Booking the right cab was of most concern to us. We were a group of three girls and so, safety was our number one priority. So we had to choose between cheaper but smaller cab companies versus high street giants which were charging us excessively. But then again, small cab companies cab be a bit un-reliable comparatively, given their limited resources. With a bit of research, we shortlisted Kanota Travel, who offered us a superb deal with free wi-fi inside our cab and complimentary train tickets for our train journey from Kandy to Ella.
Currencies were exchanged and luggage was packed. We decided to travel light. We were all eager and excited as the trip approached nearer. Our flight was in the evening and we three met at the airport. After completing all the check-in formalities, we were waiting to board our flight, enthusiastically chatting non-stop to each other. We were so much lost in our chatting that we almost missed our flight. Luckily when they started announcing the names of passengers, one of us did notice and we hastened to board our flight laughing madly. That was a great start.
We did what three best friends with un-limited time in hands would do. Throughout the trip, we wholeheartedly chatted and gossiped and well, clicked selfies. Non-stop. We chatted on any topic that could be even irrelevant and nonsense.
We barely noticed the flight journey to Chennai, the long wait in the lounge, at the Chennai airport, and again the flight journey to Colombo.
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Day 1 in Sri Lanka: Pinnawala and Sigiriya
We were warmly received by our cab driver cum guide, Edward, from Kanota. Our cab was a very cozy and comfortable seven-seater AC van, nice and spacious for just the three of us. It took us no time to settle in and our journey to the very first destination in our Sri Lanka itinerary began. Pinnawala is an elephant orphanage and we got there just in time to watch elephants enjoying their bath in the river, from a nearby restaurant while having breakfast. It was just amazing to watch and experience how much the young elephants were enjoying playing in the water. It was a shame that we could not go inside the orphanage itself as we had a long day planned ahead.
Our next destination was the Dambulla cave temples. It was a small but interesting little trek to the top. Once at the top, we were gifted with lovely views. There are five main caves, open for tourists, built under a huge rock. Each of these caves was built by different kings in Sri Lankan history. The Buddha statues and the wall frescoes were immensely fascinating. We slowly started getting familiar with the various types of Buddha statues; sleeping Buddha, teaching Buddha, meditating Buddha, reclining Buddha post nirvana, and so on.
Kaudulla National Park
We had our lunch at a Sri Lankan restaurant which had a bit of a village feel about it and then continued with our journey to Kaudulla National Park in Habarana. We had to book a jeep for the national park safari, as cabs are not allowed inside the park. The jeep was an open roof and we enjoyed the wind in our face. We stood on the seats, as the jeep bounced on its way on the uneven muddy road.
There were no animals in sight and we started wondering if it was the right decision to pay that amount of entrance fees and come here. Unexpectedly it started raining and we hastened to pull up the waterproof cover over the jeep and got completely drenched in the process. It was fun. Soon we came up to a place which was crowded by other jeeps, only to discover a herd of elephants ahead. But soon their leader got them going and the heard soon disappeared from sight and it was time we returned back to our cab. Jeep, rains, Bollywood songs, and gossip made our visit all worthwhile.
On our way back to the hotel we picked up a bottle of vodka. It was pretty late in the evening when we reached our hotel in Sigiriya. We had booked a treehouse, but we were just too tired to enjoy it. After dinner and a few sips of vodka and more talk, we finally decided to call it a day.
Day 2 of Sri Lanka: Sigiriya
We got a chance to fully appreciate the treehouse in the morning. We pulled up all the shutters to let the sunlight in. Clicked some infinite pictures and after breakfast, checked out and got in our cab for our next destination.
Sigiriya, a UNESCO world heritage site, is an ancient Lion rock, built in the fifth century. This is an important destination in the 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka. We hired a guide and it was a good thing we did. Its history in itself is very fascinating. The king who built this rock took immense efforts and shaped its entrance to a lion who is about to leap on its prey. Hence the name Sigiriya; Si, or Sinha which means a lion, and Giri, means a mountain. Unfortunately, all that is remaining now is the lion paws, at the bottom of the rock. The gardens and the swimming pools at the base of the rock mountain were lovely and well maintained. The climb to the top is exactly 1202 steps. And the views are simply stunning. We can view Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle from here; Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Dambulla.
On our way to Polonnaruwa, our next destination, we had a delicious and spicy Sri Lankan lunch at Jaga Food.
We hired a good local guide at Polonnaruwa, once proud capital of this country between the 10th and 12th century, now merely ruins. The city is very well planned and well maintained by the government. We felt captivated by the ruins and their amusing history.
Then, we reached Anuradhapura in the evening and checked in, into our hotel for the night. Of course, we were very happy and satisfied with our trip so far and looked forward to what the next days were going to bring.
Day 3 of Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura – Nilaveli
Another important destination in the 10 day itinerary is Anuradhapura. After breakfast, we started with our tour of the ruins and temples in Anuradhapura. Even though Anuradhapura was similar to Polonnaruwa, somehow it did not fascinate us. It could be that it was an exceptionally hot day and we felt better inside the AC cab. Or it could be even that we did not hire a good storyteller guide here as we did earlier.
The city was again very clean and well maintained by the government. Trees were planted everywhere and their shade was very inviting. We bought a watermelon from a local fruit shop and sat in the tree shade to enjoy it. We soon discovered that the place was full of red ants and hastened to get out of it. It was fun in any case. Later, we also bought guavas and raw mangoes sprinkled with salt and chili powder. Mouth-watering. That definitely made our day worthwhile and memorable.
We were already looking forward to our next destination, which was Nilaveli, a beach! It was a long trip there from Anuradhapura. The resort and our duplex room itself was exceptional, with a good view of a swimming pool and the beach and the sea ahead. The continuous sound of waves itself was thrilling.
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We hurriedly changed into our swimsuits and went for a long walk on the beach. In no time we were playing in the seawater, squealing with laughter like school girls. And as if that was not enough, the swimming pool was so alone and inviting that we had to spend some more time in there, chatting endlessly about, well, just anything. It was relaxing. As it started getting a bit late, we had to drag ourselves out of the pool and back to our room. A glass of vodka with guava juice and we finally called it a day.
Day 4 of Sri Lanka: Nilaveli
We had no wish to miss the sunrise and got up very early the next day. Blood orange sky, rising sun, and gentle waves singing and dancing on their own tune, defines peace and calmness in a totally different and unique way, does it not? And for once, we three sat there, speechless, silently take at the moment.
Do not forget to include mesmerizing sunrises in your list of things to see in Sri Lanka!
Pigeon Island National Park
This day was the best part of 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka. We had snorkeling planned for the day at the Pigeon Island National Park. We had booked everything from our hotel itself including a guide. None of us are good swimmers, so a guide was a must. Even though he hardly spoke English, he was a huge help and it would have been impossible to enjoy snorkeling around the island as we did with his help. Snorkeling somehow never gets old or boring. The experience was magical and it amazed me with the immense variety of colorful fish it has to offer. It is like visiting a totally different world than ours. But no matter how great it is, it is also very tiring, and as the energy left us and the crowd around started getting busier we reluctantly decided to return back to our hotel.
After lunch, we felt like having a nice, relaxing body massage. We did visit a couple of local spas, but somehow they just did not fancy us. They looked a bit dodgy and unreliable and we had no choice but to skip the massage plan. Even if that let down our spirits for a couple of minutes, once we were back on the beach, playing in the seawater, we soon forgot about it.
Day 5 of Sri Lanka: Kandy
The next day. It was tempting not to miss the sunrise from the beach and we got up early again. Our next destination was Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. It was the main destination in our list of things to see in Sri Lanka and I looked forward to it.
On our way there, we took a halt in Matale, at a spice garden. It is an interesting place with a variety of plants and trees of medicinal value. The best part was the awesome leg massage we got from some students training at that place. The worst part, which I realize only now, was shopping for their unnecessary, extravagant products.
Local Kandyan dance
Our next stop was lunch at Honeypot restaurant, in Kandy. We loved the location and food here so much, that we returned here again the next day. Then we had another stop at a diamond shop, where we got a chance to see a nice documentary on how gems are actually found and processed to what we see in the shops and it definitely seems like a tonne of hard work to me. There we also saw a variety of diamonds on display.
The next on list was the Kandyan dance performance. It was great, the performers were good but honestly, I was not that fascinated or impressed by it. They could definitely do a lot better to an audience of international viewers.
Kandy disappointed us in one way and that was its huge traffic, like any other bustling city in Asia. It took us ages to reach our hotel in the city and finally when we did, we were very relieved. After drinks and dinner at a nearby pub, we ended our day.
Day 6 of Sri Lanka: Kandy
We had a lovely breakfast at a cozy little café near the hotel. There are many things to see in Kandy. But with just one day in hand, we had limited options. We drove around Kandy Lake and our first stop was the Kandy viewpoint.
Next, we went to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. It is an enormous park and lazy as we were feeling, we hired a golf cart to explore it. The ride was amusing and the park was definitely impressive. It had a variety of trees; bamboo collections, lawns, lakes, ferns, palm trees, a spice garden, and an exotic orchid collection. We clicked an unlimited number of pictures together and had some great fun. We were glad to include it in our things to see in Sri Lanka.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
This temple is one of the most important destinations with religious significance and has to be there in the 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka.
After lunch, we started walking towards the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which was a few minutes’ walks from our hotel. We did some shopping at the local malls on the way. The temple itself was immensely fascinating and the whole area was very well maintained and immaculate in spite of a huge number of devotees and tourists around, daily. This was once a castle of the last king of Kandy, which has now been transformed into a temple. It holds the tooth of Lord Buddha and is worshipped as the holiest and most sacred place by all the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
By the end of the day, we were feeling tired and ordered a take-away sandwich from a café on our way back home.
Day 7 of Sri Lanka: Nuwara Eliya
The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is an important part of 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka!
We had to get up early the next morning, pack-up, and check-out before 7 AM, as we had to catch the 8:30 AM Train from Kandy stations, towards Nuwara Eliya. We had a nice breakfast at the hotel itself. And by the time we checked out, Edward, our driver, was already waiting outside the hotel, to drop us at the Kandy station. He had booked us seats in the first-class box of this train. The train ride from Kandy to Ella, via Nuwara Eliya, is considered to be a very scenic ride and we had high hopes about it. We had plans at Nuwara Eliya, so we were going to take a couple of nights to break there and then continue to Ella. The train arrived and we got settled in our seats.
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Train to Nuwara Eliya
The three and half hour train journey began and we eagerly stared outside the window for the scenic views to blow our minds away, any minute. It did not happen for a very long time. Unfortunately, we were seating on the wrong side of the train facing the mountains. The other side facing the valley offered better views. After a couple of hours, the scenery changed and we were looking at the most captivating lush green valleys of Sri Lanka. We ditched our seats and went near the open doors of the train and stood there taking in the charming views.
The first thing that hit us as we approached Nuwara Eliya, more than its beauty was its cold weather. After lunch, we were cold and sleepy and did not have any plans for the day. So we decided to go to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya and check-in. It so happened that the manager turned out to be a good friend of Edward and he upgraded us to a deluxe room. The room was very warm, cozy, and comfortable with a lovely view from its window. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the hotel, chitchatting over a cup of tea.
Day 9 of Sri Lanka: Ella
The next day, we had a train to catch from the Nuwara Eliya station, towards Ella, at 9:30 AM. This time we had the front most seats in the observatory deck, offering the best possible views, again, booked for us by Edward and his team. We got some more mesmerizing foggy velvety green views of Nuwara Eliya on the journey. As Ella approached, the views changed to those of mountains and valleys.
Ella is a hiker’s paradise. This place is a must on your 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka if you wish for a great hike! Ella Rock is a part of things to see in Sri Lanka because of the gorgeous misty views it offers.
So, we had decided to go to Ella rock in the afternoon. We had read about the challenging trek to Ella rock and we were not sure if we would have enough time to finish the trek after the train journey ended. After we got down at Kithalella station, we hired a young local boy as a guide. He was a confident and chatty little fellow, who could speak some basic English speaking skills. Thanks to him, we climbed Ella rock in less than two hours, relished the views at the top, and came down in another one hour. Another target achieved. The trekker within me was happy. After dinner at a local restaurant in Ella, we drove to our hotel booked for the night, and checked in.
Day 10 of Sri Lanka: Ella
We got up very early the next day and got ready even before it was time for the hotel’s breakfast service to start. It was our very last day here. We had called Edward a little later and had some free time in hand. So we decided to have a walk in the town center. On the main road, a few local shops had opened up and we had tea biscuits for breakfast in a small hotel.
There is a place called Little Adam’s Peak on the list of things to see in Sri Lanka. Soon, we were on our way to Little Adam’s Peak. We did not find the walk to the top very difficult and got to see some outstanding views from there. The views were in fact the best, even better than views we get to see from World’s End or Ella rock. Ella rock was visible from here and offered a fine view. We were glad to have included it in our list of things to see in Sri Lanka.
We then went on a very confusing search of the nine arch bridge viewpoint. The way was not at all straight forward and there were no directions anywhere. At one point a kind local old lady guided us right up to the viewpoint.
Shopping at Ella
Next on the list of things to see in Sri Lanka was Ravana falls and Ravana caves.
We also did some souvenir shopping in Ella. We spotted a good, reliable massage place in the town center where we got a nice leg massage. And then it was finally time to start our long drive back to Colombo airport to catch our early morning flight back to our home town.
At this point, I started to have mixed feelings. I felt a bit unhappy about our wonderful, fun-filling trip was about to end. But, on the other hand, I was also feeling a bit homesick. Sri Lanka had charmed us. There were a lot many places we hadn’t had the opportunity to go especially the ones in the south like Tangalle beach of Galle fort or the Knuckles forest and mountain range in the central. And again there were many places we would love to visit again, like Sigiriya or Ella to re-live the magical moments all over.
As we said this 10 day itinerary to Sri Lanka is not enough and we wish to go back!
So Sri Lanka, stay put! We are definitely coming back.
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