This post has been updated on December 2nd, 2020
Sri Lanka is a busy country but with a detailed itinerary for 10 days in Sri Lanka, you will be able to see the most important sightseeing of the country. Travelling from the central west Region, where Colombo is located, going up to the north to Jaffna, one of the most ancient cities in Sri Lanka.
Did you know that Sri Lanka has been considered the top destination in 2019 by Lonely Planet? Of course, we couldn’t miss visiting this amazing country in South Asia.
As you might have understood by our social media, it was our first time outside Europe, and we were so excited about it. We made it from Madrid to Sri Lanka through a short layover in Doha (UAE).
Are you ready for your Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days? Let’s explore this beautiful country together!
SRI LANKA 10 DAY ITINERARY MAP
What you will visit in your 10 days in Sri Lanka
10 days in Sri Lanka itinerary | Things to do in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been on our bucket list for long, we were planning an Asian Escape and it was on the list of places where the first land in a dreaming tour. Being for more than a week in this amazing country made us so happy.
Your detailed Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary with us
DAY 1 – Arrive in the city explore the local market and main train station.
DAY 2 – A full day in the city visiting the Independence Memorial, local Markets, Golf Club and many other things (Local market, Churches, Temples, Train Station and Lotus Tower)
DAY 3 – Trip to Jaffna – Cross Sri Lankan Jungle
DAY 4 – Explore Jaffna and Nagadeepa Island (Indu and Buddhist Temples)
DAY 5 – Enjoy the white Stupa of Annuradhapura
DAY 6 – Early wake up for the sunrise over Pidurangala and than Sigiriya
DAY 7 – Reach Kandy and visit the city
DAY 8 – Take the local blue train to Nuwara Eliya for the best tea fields in Sri Lanka
DAY 9 – Explore the tea factories in the internal part of Sri Lanka
DAY 10 – Enjoy your last day on the beach of Negombo
Our first impression about Sri Lanka
We were absolutely freaking out about the idea to fly for the first time outside of Europe. We were taking a long haul, meeting new faces, discovering places completely different than our ordinary and flavours, colours never seen before.
Coming from a chaotic city in Southern Italy has made our first impression about Asia and Sri Lanka, easy to be absorbed. Colombo, the capital of this amazing Island is chaotic too, not ordinary and with people that are crossing the road without cross passing, cars honking every time (sometimes for nothing), a big market with people shouting and selling any kind of things. Traffic, traffic, terrifying traffic (not for us, we are used to).
Sri Lanka for first time travellers
The other cities in Sri Lanka are more rural, voted to agriculture, most of it made of tea plantation, like the area of Kandy or Little England. (Yes, it looks like England Countryside)
The first day was traumatic? Yes, but in a good way. We were so overwhelmed with a smile, and Toti was too happy to be in a place where make a photo was taken as good and not hiding. You are more than welcome to be their friends.
Visit Sri Lanka in 10 days
Colombo was the first city we visited and after landing at 4 am our driver decided to get us around the city. We were tired after two long flights but so excited to discover a new country. The best thing about getting around so early is that you don’t get much traffic and you are able to enjoy the city in the right way.
Our first advice before landing is to hire a driver, that will take you to your hotel destination. Outside of the airport, you will find taxi and tuk-tuk, ready for a ride, but planning in advance, especially if is the first time in a country.
Colombo is a busy city but with its own charm, soon as you land you will understand why.
The Capital of the new Sri Lanka has got a lot sightseeing from the ancient past of being a British Colony. This is why some building, you will find the old fashioned style. The other Colombo, the part that is having a rebirth from the civil war, is becoming similar to other Asian cities. High building going up to the sky, modern hotels with panoramic views and infinity pool with the perfect skyline over Colombo.
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Talking about the Colombo Skyline, we have to mention the “Colombo Lotus Tower”. A stunning building in the city centre, still not yet finished. We are planning to be back once this is finished and discover the 350 metres tower that will drive the Colombo Skyline.
What to visit in Colombo
You can visit Colombo in a couple of days. Count on it the time you spend in bed recovering from jet lag. Alessia spent the whole first half of the day in the hotel, while Toti was going around on a city tour.
For your two days in Colombo, we suggest visiting the Red Mosque, the huge Local Market, the local Train Station of Colombo with 2 million passengers a day. Also, write down to visit the Town Hall and the Independence Museum.
Also include in the list of places worth a visit in Colombo such as few worship temples.
Sri Lanka is filled with awesome temples, in the city of Colombo there are 4 Buddhist Temples and Gangaramaya is the most beautiful and popular. This is one of the most important temples in Colombo. The Architecture of this temple is a fine demonstration of all the mixed influences of this land, with Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture. Gangaramaya is a temple to don’t miss in Colombo.
Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swamy Kovil | Hindu Temple in Colombo
The Colombo District count over 20 Hindu temples or so, big and smaller. The Sammangodu Sri Kathirvelayutha Swami Kovil is one of the most beautiful. Unfortunately is forbidden to take a photo of the inside, but already from the facade, it shows how beautiful is the architecture of this holy place.
The Hindu Temple is located in the area of Colombo 11, near the main street and a few steps away from the buzzy local market. You can spot the Temple from the commercial street and admire the sun that infringes on the spectacular facade.
Red Mosque | Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
This is one of the stunning building of the entire Colombo. The Majesty Red Mosque has become a popular place to visit in the main city of Sri Lanka. The Architecture of this Mosque is a hybrid of styles, going from a Gothic to a Neo-Classical, was built in less than 5 years and opened officially in 1909.
You can’t miss visiting this place, roaming around the buzzing area of Colombo. The Red Mosque, Jami UL-Alfar is close to the local market of Colombo, located on the main commercial street. For many people, this Mosque seems like a candy house, because of the red and white stripes that make it well known in the whole World.
Local Market of Colombo City
This is one of the most chaotic areas of Colombo. Similar to other buzzing areas across Asia, the Local Market of Colombo is where you can find any kind of products.
Visiting this area you will be able to go across all the sightseeing we have explained above, and is a good place where start to get in the mood of the city.
The Local Market of Colombo was one of the first stops on the first day in Sri Lanka. The shock about the climate change, the jet lag for the long flight was horrible, but visiting the market I was so excited of all the photographic opportunity. Make sure you plan a visit to this place and enjoy the chaotic Colombo life.
Town Hall of Colombo
The Town Hall is the headquarters of Colombo and the facade is similar to the White House in Washington D.C. Yes, it looks like that even in an aerial view, maybe a little bit smaller but comparable.
This building is one of the few colonial structures built during the British era, which still function in its original role. Today is the meeting place for the elected municipal council.
We have been visiting this sightseeing thanks to an open hop-on-hop-off bus, showing us the beautiful landmarks of Colombo from a different perspective. We highly suggest to check this out, in order to enjoy the city.
Independence Memorial Museum | Iconic sightseeing of Colombo
Did you know that Sri Lanka reached the independence 10 years ago? Yes, after a long civil war, the island became independent from India.
Located in the Independence Square this memorial is today one of the places which you need to visit during your 10 days in Sri Lanka. What does it represent? It is the recognition of the independence of Sri Lanka from the British rule with the return of full governing responsibility.
Discover some of the best things to do in a Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary
Train Station Fort of Colombo
This was one of the places I’ve loved so much. Buzzing, busy, chaotic station that host almost 2 million travellers from and to Colombo. This is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Asia. All the routes of the district are coming from here or arriving here. In order to access the station like us, you have to pay for a ticket. There are the ticket offices just outside the station, and you can experience the real transportation condition in Sri Lanka, that with many people are really struggling.
Where to stay in Colombo | Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo
Sri Lanka is not expensive and one night at the Cinnamon Lakeside won’t cost you much.
You can book here your stay and save time.
This lovely hotel can offer you everything, from the local food to the intercontinental one. After exploring the city of Colombo you can come back to the hotel and enjoy the lovely outdoor swimming pool with a local beer.
Another amazing Hotel where to stay in Colombo is the Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, a five-star structure with an infinity pool on the top. Enjoy the view and experience the Sri Lankan courtesy. If you are fancy to treat yourself with a relaxing Ayurveda stay, you can book to the Siddhalepa Ayuverdic Spa.
Jaffna | Main Northern city in Sri Lanka
After a couple of days spent in Colombo, we made our way up to Jaffna. It was a long journey, almost 7 hours driving, but we were so happy to do it. During our country crossing, we stopped in a few places and try local food. If you like coconut you need to try one in Sri Lanka.
A yellow bark, that makes the coconut water cold, thanks also to a small thermal. You can refresh a lot just drinking one of this for just 30 cents. Alessia, for example, doesn’t like coconut at all, but when tried the King Coconut water, she loved it.
It was so sweet and completely different compared to the one we use to see in the markets in Europe. Going through the local habit is the best way to understand a new way to live, even if it is completely different than yours, and food is the fastest line to do it.
What to visit in Jaffna | City and Around
Jaffna is the biggest northern city of Sri Lanka and capital of the Northern Province. There are few but significant sightseeing in Jaffna to visit. This was before the second-largest populated city in Sri Lanka, before the Civil War, ended in 2009.
The religious island of Nainativu is an example of how the religion in Sri Lanka lives together peacefully. With two of the main and revered temples of the Country, one Buddhist and the other Hindu.
We have been so enthusiastic to know the history of this remote island.
Nainativu Island | The peaceful Religious area of Jaffna
This remote Island few miles away from the Sri Lankan coast is where the two main religion of the Country lives together peacefully. The legend says that this small Island was visited by Buddha in person. He cames to make the peace between two brothers fighting for the ownership of the Island. Now on the sides of the Island, there are two important temples, Hindu and Buddhist. We have visited both. Check for guided tours that will explain to you the history of this fascinating land.
Our tips on visiting Nainativu Island
In order to reach Nainativu Island, you have to arrive at the seaport of Karikadduan, we were there on a special day for both religions and the port was busy, full of locals. Be sure that you have a local guide, that can arrange a boat ride to the Island for you. You can skip the long queue. It is not a place where you will spot many tourists, so be sure to see this list of activity before heading to Jaffna.
10 day Sri Lanka itinerary
Kannika Puram Arch | Unaspected gems of Sri Lanka
This a really underrated and unknown photo spot in Sri Lanka. We discovered it on our way to Nainativu Island. The Pink arch is the welcome to the little remote town of Pungudutivu. You can reach this worship before entry in Kurichchikadu on the Valukkairaru-Pungudutivu-Kurikadduwan Road.
It is a Buddhist holy place and will take you just five minutes to admire the incredible structure and the beautiful bright colours, for Alessia it was one of the best instagrammable spots in Sri Lanka.
Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple
This Hindu Temple is an ancient and historic temple located on the island of Nainativu close to Jaffna. You can get the boat from Jaffna to Nainativu island which will take you in less than half an hour to the other part of the island.
- For a woman, you need to have your shoulders covered
- Long dress or a long skirt
- For men, to enter the temple, you need to remove your shirt
- Don’t forget to silence your phone
- Inside the temple is not allowed to take any kind of pictures or videos
- Of course, don’t forget to remove your shoes
Located 10 minutes away from Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple you will find the Buddist Temple, Nahadeepa.
Do you want to know why we loved this country so much? Because there are no discrepancies between people, everyone is free to believe in what they want without anyone judging.
There are rules to follow in a Buddist Temple as well
Jaffna Fort | Old Dutch Fort of Jaffna
The Fort of Jaffna is the example of the Colonial periods of this Island. This fort was built by the Portuguese, who make it as their base for the commerce with India. As a bureaucratic area, they fortified a city, in order to defend it from the sea attacks. Once the Portuguese capitalised, the Fort become Duch, and they renewed the structure, making it more strong.
If you want to know more about Jaffna, you might like our latest post of all the best things to do in Jaffna.
Jaffna Public Library
This building is still up from 1933 and rebuilt in 1980 after a devasting fire. It is the place where locals meet and stay updated with the news. Recently was added the public wi-fi and was one of the largest libraries in Asia. The amazing structure, make us happy to include it in our list of places to visit in a Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days.
Where to stay in Jaffna | North Gate by Jetwing
A nice and cosy hotel where to stay while spending a couple of days in the Jaffna area.
Located close to Jaffna Railway station the North Gate by Jetwing is the ideal place where to stay. Lovely and spacious rooms, a swimming pool, gym and a lovely breakfast and dinner buffet, it’s the perfect location to spend a couple of nights. For the best price guarantee, you can book here.
Anuradhapura | Epic Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary
Continuing our amazing 10 days Sri Lanka Itinerary with a trip to Anuradhapura. A three hours ride from Jaffna will take you into the wild scenarios of Sri Lanka. Just 200 Kilometres away from the biggest city of the Country Colombo, Anuradhapura is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Contemplated as one of the most ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura was the most iconic places that we saw during our Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days. There are many places to see around Anuradhapura and we listed our favourite which you can’t miss visiting.
Kuttam Pokuna | Twin Ponds/Pools
One of the best specimens of bathing tanks or pools in ancient Sri Lanka is the pair of pools known as Kuttam Pokuna.
The history says that those pools were built by the Sinhalese in the old kingdom of Anuradhapura. The main objective of this pond is to supply water for the Monks who live in Abayagiriya Complex. It will be an example of perfect water engineering at that time.
Once you will visit Kuttam Pokuna you will see that the two ponds are in two different sizes. If you want to get some nice pictures during your Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days, this is the right place.
Abhayagiri vihāra | One of the oldest Stupa in Sri Lanka
It is one of the most extensive ruins in the world and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage cities in the nation.
It was a major monastery site of Mahayana, situated in Anuradhapura. This term Abhayagiri Vihar means fraternity of Buddist monks, which keeps its own historical records, way of life and beliefs.
If you want to visit it you can, but remember to follow the rules when entering a Buddist Temple.
Ruwanwelisaya | Buddist Temple
I think the Ruwanwelisaya Temple was the most beautiful one we visited during our trip to Sri Lanka in 10 days.
Samadhi Buddha Image
This is a sacred spot for Buddhist, situated in the ancient area of Anuradhapura. The Samadhi Statue is a Buddha image in the meditation position, a position associated with his first Enlightenment. The statue is dated around the 4th and the 6th, and today is one of the ancient and finest Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. A replica, carved out of white teak, was gifted to India’s Prime Minister Modi on his state visit to Sri Lanka.
Hike Sigiriya Rock
10 Day Sri Lanka itinerary
Sigiriya rock fortress is an ancient rock located near Dambulla town.
Considered UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya Rock can’t be missed on your list of things to do in Sri Lanka in 10 days. As Unesco Heritage, before entering you will pass the security control.
They will check your bags and they will remove all the plastic labels from your water bottles.
The hike is not that hard, it is mainly stepping until the top and you can easily stop and take some rest for a few minutes.
Sigiriya is usually busy and the queue to go up is insane but with a bit of patience, you can do it.
Minneriya National Park
Nature is beautiful but when it comes to animals it’s even better. We saw for the first time the Elephants and we were so happy. We felt like two little babies when watching a cartoon and wishing that one day something like this would happen. Finally, that day came. We explored the Minneriya National Park and we loved it. Seeing so many wild elephants strolling around the park was the best experience ever.
While approaching the park, for your safety and animals respect avoid shouting our doing any major rumours of movement. Please bear in your mind that it is a Safari for your fun, but the area is of the animals and you have to respect the environment.
Pidurangala Rock | Best view over Sigiriya
Hiking Pidurangala rock was not on our plan but we decided to wake up at 4 am in the morning and do it. Our itinerary plan was only hiking Sigiriya, but now I’m so happy that we did. Hiking so early in the morning wasn’t easy as there were no lights and we used our phones to actually see something.
After hiking and a bit of work out we made up to Pidurangala rock, in time for the sunrise. This breathtaking view will be always printed in your mind. Over the wild jungle and forest of Sri Lanka, close to the clouds and in front of the most popular Lion’s Rock of Sigiriya.
If you are visiting Sri Lanka in 10 days you need to pass by Kandy. This city is known for its famed Buddist Temple.
I guess that most of you know this city for the most famous and iconic blue train which is going towards Ella. You are right. It’s the one. From Kandy, you can catch the train and going to Ella or stop in the middle as we did.
Peradeniya Botanical Garden
While we were waiting for the raining clouds to go away we had a cup of tea to warm up our self up at the cute cafè of the Botanical Garden. A good cup of fine Ceylon tea will cost just 0.30£, and we will assure you that you have never experienced tasting a tea-like that.
Local Market of Kandy
Visiting Sri Lanka you can’t miss the local market of the cities that you are visiting. Buzzing and Caothic places where you can find any kind of spices, fruit and products. We always loved the local markets as you can there see the real-life of a country.
In Sri Lanka, you will love the locals who will smile you and talk to you anywhere.
A simple smile which will make your day. Kandy market is huge and you can find everything you want, be sure to visit it with a local guide that can show you around and let you enjoy more and don’t get lost in it. Book your Kandy Day Tour.
Pitawala | Riverstone Peak
Have you ever felt to be on the top of the world and feeling free? I had this emotion when we reached the top of Pitawala where the view was breathtaking. You will be surrounded by nature and mountains and you will understand and feel the same as us.
Where to stay in Kandy | Mahaweli Reach Hotel
A lovely hotel to stay during your trip to Kandy is for sure the Mahaweli Reach Hotel. An excellent hotel with gorgeous rooms with a view and lovely staff, ready to help and welcoming you.
This hotel has got an outdoor swimming pool which opens at 7 am and closes at 9 pm. It’s perfect if you are coming back after a long journey out and you want to relax.
But, if you really want to relax and have some time for you they got a spa as well. A fabulous spa which gets fully book very quick. Book in advance if you want a massage. Book here you stay at Mahaweli Reach Hotel in Kandy.
From Kandy to Nuwara Eliya | Taking the famous instagrammable blue train
Yes, we did! Like almost everyone, we did our shot on the famous blue train towards Ella. It’s an iconic shot and we couldn’t miss it. Was on the bucket list from so long.
TopTips: The train is going fast and it’s moving a lot so be careful while doing the shot. In the beginning, we were scared as it was something new for us, but we tried to get the shot when the train was going a bit slower. For example, when it’s approaching the station.
Nuwara Eliya | The little England of Sri Lanka
Usually, when getting the famous blue train most of the people stop in Ella, but we didn’t. We went to discover the Little England of Sri Lanka. Actually, it was like England as the weather was pretty much the same, cold and foggy.
But the cold didn’t stop us to explore this lovely city where is known for its tea plantation and tea factory.
Tea Experience in Sri Lanka | Pedro Tea Factory
Have you ever been to tea plantations? If not, it’s the perfect experience that you can do in Sri Lanka. If you don’t know, in Sri Lanka is produced one of the best qualities of tea, Ceylon. It is also one of the main export products of Sri Lanka, together with good quality production of cinnamon and other spices.
While seeing how the tea is made we could smell the flavour from the very beginning that we enter inside the factory. Unfortunately, photos or videos are not allowed, but this means that it’s the perfect excuse to go and check it out with your own eyes and try this delicious homemade tea. Make sure to book in advance your visit to a tea plantation. A tea experience in Sri Lanka is on the top of our itinerary.
Negombo | How to end your Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days
Our itinerary 10 days in Sri Lanka came to the end. The best way to end this fantastic trip was on the beach watching the sunset. It has been a long journey but full of emotions and made us decide to come back to Sri Lanka to explore more and more about this gorgeous country. Unfortunately in this guide of Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary, we didn’t include many beaches, just Negombo so far, but this one is amazing and is the closest to the International Airport.
Since you land you can reach the seaside in 15 minutes with a tuk-tuk ride, but you have to take it outside of the Airport range. Negombo is on the North West of the Island. Many tourists prefer to go to Negombo after landing and spend a night and a day on the beach, skipping Colombo.
We always suggest to arrange your transport from the airport in advance, and those are our tips. Check the transfer from the International Airport Bandaranayake to your Colombo Hotel for less than 40$.
Where to stay in Negombo | Jetwing sea hotel
Ending your Sri Lanka 10 day itinerary in the best way. We stayed at Jetwing sea Hotel where we had direct access from our terrace to the beach. It’s a lovely hotel where to spend the last night before flying.
Jetwing sea hotel is like a paradise hotel where you can have everything, starting into a swimming pool and ending into the sea. As it was our last night in Sri Lanka we wanted to make the most of it even if we were exhausted.
The treatment we received was amazing, the reception knew that our flight was before 4 am and they prepared for us some breakfast to go, just in case we were hungry.
Travel Tips for Sri Lanka itinerary 10 days
What is the best time to go to Sri Lanka?
The climate in Sri Lanka can vary from the North to the South, like everywhere in the world.
October to March are the best months to visit southern and west coastline which includes Colombo, Chilaw in the west and Gaelle in the South.
March is considered the best time to visit the Central Hills, starting from Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and the Botanical Gardens.
If you are planning to visit the East Coast and Northern areas the best months are April to September. Our itinerary was based on the north as well, as we travelled in August and we had a couple of raining days in Kandy.
The monsoonal months are October and November.
How to get around Sri Lanka | Colombo international airport
The distance between Bandaranaike Airport and the capital, Colombo is around 35km. You got many options on how to reach the city centre.
Once you will get out of the airport you will see many local taxis which will ask you if you need a ride. You can negotiate the price but they won’t ask for more than $20 when you can clearly pay less.
You can get an Uber which will be cheaper than usual. In Sri Lanka, you have the option to book a ride with Uber choosing between a regular car or a Tuk-tuk that is way cheaper and fun. You can connect to the Airport wifi and book your trip.
What to know before travelling to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Travel Tips
Language: As we said before most of the people, especially in Colombo speaks English. But, it is well to know that official languages are Sinhalese and Tamil. The last is widely spoken mostly in the North of the country. Both are official languages, with Tamil spoken mostly in the North and Sinhalese in the rest of the country.
Visa: The Government of Sri Lanka has introduced a Free Visa Waiver for visitors from over 100 countries in the World, since August 2019. You can check if you have free visa access on the website Visa-Free Waiver Countries.
Medical: The country is not Healthy dangerous at all. However, you need some of the basic immunisation. Ideally, consult with your travel healthcare practitioner 6-8 weeks in advance of travel. Likewise, other countries in South Asia, buy always sealed bottles and drink from secure sources.
Sri Lanka is safe? Yes!
After what happened in April 2019 most of the people try to avoid as destination Sri Lanka. We had the amazing opportunity to discover this country in 10 days and we felt completely safe. A couple of time we strolled around the streets alone and we didn’t have any problem, actually, people were helping and smiling. Seems like they were trying to welcome the tourists as much as they can.
I think I felt safer in Sri Lanka than in a big city like Milan, in Italy. So don’t worry and book your ticket to Sri Lanka as is a beautiful country which you will love.
During your Sri Lanka holidays, you will see and feel how safe this country is and if you are afraid you never will see the real world. The security alert is high, and it will make you feel even more comfortable to roam around alone. If you don’t feel it, you can always book a tour which is way cheaper than other countries.
What to pack for Sri Lanka | Itinerary for Sri Lanka for 10 days
According to when are you visiting Sri Lanka there are a couple of essentials which you need to have with you during your 10 day Sri Lanka tour.
Why You have to visit Sri Lanka
Don’t skip it, don’t be afraid to visit Sri Lanka. It is a safe country and won the title of the best destination to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet. We are already thinking to be back next year and discover more of the beach and the south. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much of beaches, but there are many valuable like Tricomale on the east side of Matara in the South, but also you can visit the incredible Natural National Park of Yala.
(Do you want to try the Safari at Yala National Park? Check how it is awesome!