The nearest neigbor from India, Sri Lanka is known for its beautiful tropical beaches, rainforests, mountains and Buddhist temples. Thanks to its cheaper currency rates, varied attractions and shorter time for travel, it’s becoming a popular destination for a mini holiday or even a weekend trip. No wonder, two more airlines announced that they are adding more flights to Colombo from India. I visited this beautiful country in the first week of February and planned the whole just two weeks back before my trip. Thanks to a good cab service, I managed to see more places than I originally planned. I have jotted down a Srilanka Trip Itinerary, which you can follow for your next vacation.
Sri Lanka’s only airport is located in the capital city of Colombo and it’s called Bandaranaike International Airport . The national airline carrier is SriLankan Airlines , which is well known for its excellent service and facilities and connects to several countries in the world. Other airlines that fly to Sri Lanka from India are Air India, SpiceJet, Indigo, JetAirways. A return trip from Chennai costs around 8000 INR in a full service carrier with a journey time of 1 Hour only
Getting around SriLanka between the cities is actually easier and you have plenty of options. You can either hire a private tour cab for your entire stay in SriLanka. Else you can take a bus or the well connected trains to go between cities.
Sri Lanka’s currency is also called the Rupee (like India) and its symbol is LKR. Currency Conversion : 435 INR = 1000 LKR and 1USD = 455 LKR. US Dolllars and Sri Lankan Rupee is widely accepted in most stores , though of course the local currency is preferred in smaller places.
If you are a sea food lover, you can find yourselves with plenty of choices in SriLanka. However food in SriLanka is a nightmare for vegetarians. Except for Colombo, it’s extremely hard to find vegetarian food , much less Indian cuisine. Be it Kandy or Bentota, it was quite a struggle to search maps for Indian cuisine for both lunch and dinner. As an international destination, this was a major letdown for a vegetarian like me. Thankfully Colombo has numerous Indian restaurants including Vasantha Bhavan, Anjappar among others.
Primary spoken language is Sinhalese, though you can easily manage with Tamil and English.
4-5 Days Srilanka trip itinerary
Since I wanted to travel to different cities and visit multiple tourist attractions, I hired a private cab for all the days. This costed me roughly 16,000 INR (250$) overall including the fuel , driver’s charges , taxes etc. ( Toll charges were separate)
My route itinerary to Sri Lanka was as follows :
Colombo(Day 1) -> Kandy (Day 1)-> Bentota (Day 2)->Hikkaduwa(Day 3) -> Galle (Day3)-> Colombo(Day 4-5)
Other Cities to visit : If you have an additional day or two, don’t forget to visit the beautiful city of Nuwara Eliya (famous for its beautiful train journey from Kandy) or take the Ramayana-Sita trail that will take you around different Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.
Kandy ( 130 Kms, 4 hrs from Colombo Airport)
Roughly 130 Kms from the city of Colombo, Kandy is another important town in Sri Lanka. Surrounded by tea plantations , this small mountaineous town is also a mini commercial hub next to Colombo. Here are some of the key things you can do in Kandy :
- Temple of Tooth
- Botanical Garden
- Kandy Lake
- Kandy City Centre Mall
If you have an additional day to spend you can also take a mini trip from Kandy to
- Sigriya (91kms)
- Dambulla (73kms)
- Pinawala Elephant Orphanage (41Kms) – Visit it enroute from Colombo to Kandy
Bentota and Hikkaduwa (180 Kms from Kandy to Bentota, 4-5 Hours)
One of the key highlights of the trip was these two adjacent cities of Bentota and Hikkaduwa. With spotlessly clean, long and unexplored beaches that shone in sparkling turquoise colours, you can’t help yourself from falling in love with this place. Bentota is a beach lover’s paradise and you can end up spending the entire day swimming, water sports, jet skis and various other activities
Some of the other key activities you can do in Bentota & Hikkaduwa include
- Swimming in Cinnamon Bay, Bentota
- Madhu River Boat Ride : A 2 hour journey deep into the Madhu river. The motor boat takes you around cinnamon and mangrove forests ( if you are lucky, you can even spot some crocodiles hiding in the water). You’re also given a quick demonstration of extracting cinnamon oil from the trees. Post that you can get yourself a fish spa and also visit a mini Buddhist temple along the banks of the river ( Cost – LKR 3000 for a boat)
- Turtle Hatchery : You can get to learn so much about turtles, watch them come to a shore and lay their eggs and if you’re up for it, you can also hold a mini turtle in your hands . Note: There are many turtle hatcheries around Bentota , so ensure you go to a bigger one.
- Water Sports/ Jet Skiing / Scuba diving & Snorkelling
- Dolphin Watching ride at Hikkaduwa
Highlight of my Bentota trip was the Guest House I booked, overlooking the river. The guest house came with a private garden, an independent house, private access to the river among other things and definitely something unbelievable. More importantly it costed me jus 2500 INR ( 40$) for a night.
Galle ( 70 Kms from Bentota, 1.5 hrs)
Just 70kms from Bentota, Galle is an important city in Sri Lanka. A fortified city founded by the Portugese, you can find the city filled with Dutch, British, Portugese architecture. As you enter the city , you can’t help but notice the stone sea walls looming across to a far distance. This is also incidentally a great diving spot into the beautiful sea. At the other end you have the famous Galle Lighthouse that works as a perfect backdrop for your pictures.
There’s a distinct change in the scene and setting of this city compared to other cities you might have been to earlier. This is also unique to Sri Lanka, where each city offers a distinct flavor and experience and something you should be there to witness it.
Colombo (125 Kms from Galle, 2.5 Hours)
Like any other metropolitan city in India, the Sri Lankan capital city of Colombo is a sprawling, modern city filled with temples, beaches, malls , shopping centres , historical monuments, government buildings and much more. Do spend atleast a day to experience this buzzing city at its finest. Some of the things you can do in Colombo :
- Independence Day Square
- House of Fashions Store ( Shopping )
- Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex
- Galle Face Beach
- Kelaniya Temple