Two awesome weeks: best places to visit in Sri Lanka travel guide, video highlights, budget and tips
I didn’t know what to expect when I made my plans to go to Sri Lanka. Two old friends from college were going there, and I wanted to meet up with them. Since I didn’t have any firm plans and would be near the region, I said alright and booked my flights. Here’s my Sri Lanka travel blog guide, including the best places to visit in Sri Lanka!
It was one of the more impulsive things I’ve done in recent years, but I’m glad for it! I spent about 2.5 weeks in Sri Lanka, and got to see a lot of the major sights.
About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is visited by a lot of Chinese and French tourists, and not many Americans. That’s what I kept hearing from the locals as I traveled around the country.
Although there are similarities with other South Asian cultures, Sri Lanka is unique and has an interesting history which is also influenced by its geography. With beautiful beaches along both the Northern and Southern coasts, this island nation is a great destination for water sports lovers. Surfers hit up Sri Lanka from all over the world. In the middle of the country, the rolling hills take over and there are tea plantations as far as the eye can see.
If I were to try to convince you to visit Sri Lanka, I would say that you could go to the beach, go on safari, and climb a small mountain all in a small country. You can do all these things without putting too much of a dent on your bank account.
Sri Lanka has it all!
Traveling Sri Lanka
I’m lucky to have had part of the trip with friends, and part of it solo. I also managed to travel locally by pretty much every mode of transportation possible, even tagging along with four French travelers in the van that they hired out for a week.
Whatever you may be looking for in a trip, you may be able to find something in Sri Lanka to your liking. All you have to do is search for it!
Video highlights from my trip
Here’s my Sri Lanka video with highlights from my two plus weeks there! My favorite parts were the great views from high places, although the sunsets on beaches weren’t bad either!
Good and bad about traveling in Sri Lanka
Not everyone may have a good experience everywhere. That is certainly the case with Sri Lanka. I’ve heard of travel bloggers who have written about their bad experiences, cutting trips short and leaving.
There is a risk that could happen to anyone, on any trip, to any location, not just Sri Lanka.
When you go into a trip, you should try to keep in mind that others’ experiences may not be the same as yours. Only you will know what you are looking for when you travel.
Also, sometimes the impact of tourism on locals isn’t always positive. There will be awkward changes and new things happening. There will be growing pains and cultural misalignments.
This is a reminder that travel is not all sunshine and giggles. There are real people who are affected by tourism, and perhaps on a larger scale the changes that are happening in these destinations may not be smooth. Cultural understanding may be lacking in some senses, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid going to a country.
Traveling Sri Lanka as a female traveler
On a related note, I felt safe traveling in Sri Lanka as a woman, and alone for some parts of my trip. This may not be the same for every woman to travel Sri Lanka, but that was my experience.
Part of my experience is that I am of Chinese descent. Something that I didn’t expect was that Sri Lankans would compliment me for my skin tone. One man even went as far as to say that they prefer my skin tone, and that Europeans were too pale.
I will write about this experience in more detail soon, but for now I will say that I felt very comfortable as a woman traveler in Sri Lanka. I would also often see other solo female travelers, or small groups of foreign women traveling together.
I felt more comfortable as a female traveler in Sri Lanka than I did in India, and I was never alone when I was in India. If you are concerned about your safety, I suggest that you stick to the well-beaten tourist path or join a group tour.
Travel Guide and best places to visit in Sri Lanka
The following sections will help you to plan your trip. If you have any questions, put them in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can! Also, if you have suggestions for best places to visit in Sri Lanka that I’ve left out, let me know in the comments!
When and where to go
There are 2 monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka, and it will determine which side of the island will be best to visit. During the south-western monsoon season from May to September, it will be better to head to the North and Eastern parts of the country. Conversely, during the north-eastern monsoon from October to January, it’s better to stay in the West and South. For more info, check out this page.
Many people will go the clockwise route: east from Colombo to the cultural triangle, then south through the hills and then to the southern coast. You can just as easily go the counter-clockwise route.
Similarly, you can take the famous Ella train from the direction of Kandy to Ella, or the other way from Ella to Kandy. This is one of the best ways to see a few places in Sri Lanka, and the most beautiful at that! See more details in my blog post about transportation in Sri Lanka.
If you want to know more about Sri Lanka’s violent past, check out Jaffna in the North if you have time. You can learn more about the history of the civil war and what has happened in the area since then.
All the awesome places to visit in Sri Lanka
I’ve written for this travel blog about Sri Lanka and the things on I did on my trip. See descriptions and links to my posts below!
Galle Fort and town
This is a fun town to spend a few days in. The fort around the town was built by the Dutch. Take a leisurely walk on the fort itself, or get up early in the morning to have a quick jog around. The town itself fits any idea of quaint, and you’ll find a lot of cosy side streets and small restaurants and shops to explore.
This is the famous rock! You can climb this rock to have a view of the surrounding area, or other large rocks in the area to have this rock in view. Fun fact, there was a palace at the top of this rock where you can still explore the ruins!
Blog post: Must see Sigiriya travel guide
Ella and hill country
My favorite part of my trip was in this part of the country. The climate is much more agreeable, i.e. less humid. Add impressive views and delicious curd, and I’m sold!
Blog post: Things to do in Ella
On the train to or from Ella, there is a stretch of waterfalls including the famous St. Clair’s falls. If you have time to see more in the Nuwara Eliya area, it is worth it to go to the lookout point to see St. Clair’s for longer than a few seconds from the train! There is also a waterfall on the main road through Ella.
People of many religions make pilgrimages to climb this peak. Not for the faint of heart, it will take a minimum of 2.5 hours to get to the top where there is a temple which is popular for watching the sunrise.
Blog post: Going to the top of Adam’s Peak
This wasn’t something I had planned to do on this trip. For one thing, I’ve never rafted in my life. For another, I didn’t even know this was an option in Sri Lanka. If you have an afternoon free in the Nuwara Eliya area, it is a nice way to spend a few hours! You might bump into locals taking baths in the river and families playing on the banks.
Leopards and elephants are the star species in Sri Lanka that everyone who goes on safari wants to see. If you have the time to get to one of the national reserves, it is a great chance to see these animals in the wild!
Blog post: Going on safari in Sri Lanka
Similarly, whales and dolphins are the ocean equivalents for a safari on water. My friend did some research on which whale watching tours that were the most responsible and we went with Raja and the Whales. Sounds like a band name!
Sri Lanka budget for 2 weeks and booking your accommodations
How much you spend in Sri Lanka will partly depend on how you choose to travel around the country and what level of guest house you choose to stay in. Food is relatively cheap, and will take up much less of your budget. If you are drinking alcohol, that will cost a little more so work that into your daily budget.
I mostly stayed in mid-range guest houses, trying to spend about 20 to 25 USD on accommodation per night. Most guest houses are listed on Booking.com, and you won’t have to pay until after your stay is done. This gives you a little leverage if something isn’t to your liking or if you show up to the guest house and it wasn’t as you expected.
There is a boom of guest houses that hasn’t quite been met by demand yet, so even if you arrive and don’t have a reservation you will most certainly have your choice of accommodations.
This is my Sri Lanka budget breakdown for 2 weeks in the country:
So that is about 550 USD for 2 weeks of traveling in Sri Lanka. That’s an estimate based on spending about 3000 LKR per night on accommodation, and a daily food budget of 1500 LKR. This may or may not be enough for you, but do some extra research into types of accommodation and figure out what level of comfort you want to pay for.
For other budget info, check out these travel blogs:
Cost of travel from Be My Travel Muse
How much does it cost to travel Sri Lanka by Globetrotter Girls
Getting around Sri Lanka
On the ground transportation in Sri Lanka takes many forms. For short trips, tuk tuks are the best. I wish more countries had this form of transportation!
Other than tuk tuks, there are buses and vans that go to every possible town you would want to go to in Sri Lanka. The trains run pretty well, and are a must do while in Sri Lanka. The most famous train route is between Kandy in central Sri Lanka and Ella deep in hill country.
You can find more detailed information on my post specifically about local transportation in Sri Lanka.
Other reading on Sri Lanka
This couple housesat in the middle of the jungle in Sri Lanka! Read about their experience.
For further reading on Jaffna, check out this article.
A collection of my favorite travel moments from this trip
Until next time!
I’m so glad that I went to Sri Lanka. I have a few favorite spots in Sri Lanka now that I keep thinking about. I plan to go back, especially since one of my graduate student buddies bought land there and is planning to have a farm. He’s going to grow spices!
I still have yet to see all of the cultural triangle, and I really do want to go to Jaffna and see more of the eastern coast. Maybe I’ll find myself there once again!
Have you been to Sri Lanka? What do you think are the best places to visit in Sri Lanka? Questions about planning your trip? Write them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.