We finally made it to Sri Lanka – a destination at the top of our bucket list. Beautiful little Sri Lanka might just be one of the most versatile countries that we have ever laid our eyes on in terms of landscape. Aside from the jungles, forests, and rolling hills of tea plantations, this teeny tiny island also has some of the most incredible white-sand beaches in the world. And this is what really attracted me to what is often affectionately known as “The lost paradise.” Sri Lanka is also often referred to as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” and “The Land of Serendipity” by non-natives. I can wholeheartedly agree with all of these descriptions. If you’re putting together a Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 weeks is a good amount of time to really explore all that this little island has to offer.
In two weeks we got to experience so many incredible adventures and created some amazing memories. In fact, we got engaged there, in Unawatuna (YAY!). We didn’t think that it would be possible to see so much. But after everything that we experienced we decided to put together this Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 weeks in lost paradise. For all of you guys that are planning on going to Sri Lanka and aren’t sure where to start, we are going to give you the lowdown on what our two weeks looked like, where we visited, and what we got up to.
Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 weeks of adventure
Day 1 – 3: Colombo
Day 3 -6: Bentota
Day 6 – 8: Hikkaduwa
Day 8 – 13: Unawatuna
Day 13 – 14: Negombo
First stop – Colombo (3 nights)
We arrived in Colombo late evening at the beginning of February. Colombo is the capital city and where the main airport is based so many trips will start and end here, or in Negombo. We decided that since we would already be in the area we would spend our first two days seeing what the capital had to offer. There’s enough to do here to fill a day or two of sightseeing but it is a major city so expect the hustle and bustle, and busyness of any other major city. While we stayed in Colombo for three nights, we could have easily stayed for just one or two.
In all honesty I wasn’t a huge fan of Colombo. It’s exceptionally busy, the traffic and the hooting doesn’t seem to stop, it seems somewhat crowded, and there is no right of way for pedestrians. Seriously, it’s not walking friendly at all. However, somehow we managed to not get knocked over by a car, bike, or tuk-tuk. When we went longer distances we made use of the tuk-tuks. They are very cost effective, and a lot quicker than the cars since they weave in and out of the traffic.
Luckily, I didn’t go to Colombo with high expectations so I wasn’t left disappointed. It was pretty much what I expected it to be. On the plus side, I loved experiencing a completely different way of life. We have mostly travelled to first world countries so this was something completely new to us. Also, the food was amazing and very cheap! We enjoyed some delicious curry at Mintage which is one of the top rated bars/restaurants in Colombo. Another good place to try is the Sushi Bar Samurai. It’s a little more pricey for Colombo standards, but well worth it. Colombo is a fantastic food experience and food tours are highly recommended here.
What to do:
- Visit Gangaramaya Temple: Situated beside the lake of Beira, this is one of the most prominent places of worship that falls under the list of Buddhist temples in Colombo.
- Visit Vajiraramaya Temple: Located around the corner from Gangaramaya temple, you can visit both temples for one fee.
- National Museum of Sri Lanka: Established in 1877, there are some interesting historical objects here, such as the throne and the crown of the Kandyan Monarchs.
- Check out Viharamahadevi park: This is a public park that can be found next to the National Museum of Sri Lanka. It’s the oldest and largest park of the Port of Colombo.
Second stop – Bentota (3 nights)
Our next stop was Bentota, a cute little resort town graced by palm trees and a serene atmosphere. There is a beachside and riverside to Bentota. We stayed in a beautiful airbnb guesthouse on the riverside. The beach section is a lot more touristy. Driving to our guesthouse was a little worrying. We had no idea what to expect and it was situated in the middle of a rather rural part of Bentota, nestled between the locals. But, once we arrived everything was perfect.
Hidden behind a big gate and high walls was like stepping into a different world. There stood a beautiful little guesthouse situated right on the Bentota river. The accommodation was beautiful and the hospitality here was incredible. Every morning a delicious local breakfast was prepared for us before we set our for the day.
The location wasn’t ideal since we were quite a distance from the beach. But, getting a tuk tuk from here was easy. We went to the beach every day, soaked up the sun, visited the local bars and restaurants and even did a safari river tour with a stop in a local herbal garden. The river safari was great – we saw monkeys, crocodiles (the cutest baby croc), iguanas, and a snake, while exploring the Bentota jungle area.
What to do:
- Visit the Bentota beaches: Sprawling beneath an endless covering of palm trees, the beaches here span on for several kilometers south of Bentota. It’s truly breathtaking.
- River safari: We really enjoyed the river safari experience which explores the uncharted mangrove forests that are found along the Bentota river banks. It only cost us 2,000 rupees for an exclusive tour.
- Visit a herbal garden: As part of our river safari we got taken to a herbal garden. It’s a very interesting experience – they take you through the garden explaining each plant and natural remedies and health benefits of using these natural plants as medicine.
Stop 3 – Hikkaduwa (2 nights)
Next up was Hikkaduwa. We only stayed here for two nights as part of our Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 weeks schedule. But we could have done with at least another night in this vibrant seaside town. Everyone we spoke to in Bentota told us that we would love Hikkaduwa even more! And while each town has its own unique beauty to offer, Hikkaduwa has a bit more of a vibe to it.
But, the best part about Hikkaduwa for us? We stayed in a treehouse! This was one of our bucket list dreams and it lived up to expectations. A truly incredible experience, our treehouse formed part of a local setup that included a communal bar and restaurant area, burrowed between the trees. It was a very simple setup yet everything that we could have asked for. To add to the experience, the beach was only a two minute walk away.
Most of the time we book our accommodation through Airbnb – this is how we found this treehouse. If you haven’t yet signed up on Airbnb you can follow my link here and get £33 off your first home booking, and £12 to use towards an experience worth £40 or more.
The Hikkaduwa beach was a lot busier than Bentota (and smaller), BUT there are two resident sea turtles here. Unfortunately, tourists from the beach hotel feed them which is what keeps them around. While it was very cool to experience them in the wild, I did feel a little uncomfortable. Crowds of people surround them constantly trying to get photos and to touch them. I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t be happening, but I guess it’s an “attraction” to the area.
We actually stopped at the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Center on our way down from Bentota to Hikkaduwa and you can read more about that here. I learned so much here, but since visiting have many questions about the whole turtle hatchery setup.
What to do:
- Trip to the beach: The beach is the main attraction here so this is where you will probably spend most of your time. While the Hikkaduwa beach itself is busy, you can walk all along the coastline to find a quieter spot.
- Visit a turtle sanctuary: There are plenty of turtle sanctuaries in Hikkaduwa and they are well worth visiting. Sea turtles are among the most endangered animals in the world. It’s important that we all do what we can to make a difference.
Fourth stop – Unawatuna (5 nights)
Our last, and most exciting stop, before making our way back up to Negombo, was Unawatuna. Known for its coral reef, turquoise blue waters and palm-lined beaches, Unawatuna is a coastal town in Southern Sri Lanka. It’s a major tourist attraction and for a very good reason! Home to some of the most beautiful beaches, trendy restaurants, accommodation to suit all budgets, and sightseeing nearby, Unawatuna is the perfect place to spend a few days.
We stayed at a stunning guesthouse with the closest beach being Dalawella, also known as Wijaya beach. While Unawatuna beach is more popular among tourists and locals, Wijaya beach is undoubtedly the most instagrammed place of Sri Lanka, thanks to the infamous beach swing. I did get “the swing photo” but unfortunately it didn’t turn out anything like the beautiful ones I’ve seen – story of my life lol! Nevertheless it was a fun experience and absolutely worth it. We also much preferred Wijaya beach to Unawatuna. It’s not as crowded, and has a really intimate feel to it! We witnessed possibly the most beautiful sunset that we’ve ever seen from here. We had sunset swims every evening – and it was magical. On our last morning we woke up for sunrise and this is where we got engaged. It was everything that I could have dreamed it to be and more!
The other great thing about Unawatuna is that there are some great day trips that you can do from here. We spent a day in Galle, visiting the Fort and checking out the cricket stadium. We also took a trip down to Mirissa – it’s about a 35 minute bus ride. Mirissa is another great coastal town and a lot of people spend a few nights here.
What to do:
- Check out Jungle beach: This is a “secret beach” that can be found around the cove of Unawatuna beach. You will have to walk quite a distance to get there. However, we went on a Sunday and it was extremely busy – with locals and tourists. So not what we expected at all. But if you can make it during the week, it’s worth checking out.
- Spend time on Dalawella beach: This is a great beach to relax, catch a tan, and have a swim. We spent most of our time in Unawatuna here.
- Visit coconut tree hill in Mirissa: You may have seen the popular palm tree forest photo’s on instagram. You can find this forest on the far side of the Mirissa beach – about a 15 minute walk along the beaches (there are two smaller beaches along the way). It’s beautiful and very worth checking out.
- Visit the Mirissa “secret beach”: A lot more secluded than the Jungle Beach in Unawatuna, this is where we did some of the best snorkelling. We saw some the most exquisite fish that we’ve ever seen here – and plenty of them. The beach is also very quiet and peaceful.
Last stop – Negombo (one night)
Originally we were booked into a hotel in Colombo to spend our last night. We wanted to make sure that we were close to the airport for our flight the following day. Since the airport is named “Colombo international” we assumed that Colombo was the closest area to stay in. But as it turns out, we were quite wrong. During our trip we came across a couple that were heading back to Negombo. They told us that it’s a lot closer to the airport and a prettier area than Colombo. It’s a coastal town.
We did our research and discovered that Negombo is, in fact, a much more popular area among tourists. So two days prior, we cancelled our booking in Colombo and booked an Airbnb apartment in Wennapuwa. Our mistake was that Wennapuwa is actually on the other side of Negombo. So we were just as far, if not further from the airport than we would have been in Colombo. The worst part is that Wennapuwa, well at least the part that we were in, is NOT a very nice area. In our defense, our Airbnb host messaged us after we made the booking to inform us that the location was different to what Airbnb displayed because they had recently moved! With only a day and half to spare we decided to just go with it.
Nevertheless we made the most of what was our last night in Sri Lanka. Our flight was late the next evening so we spent the day in Negombo, which was about a 25 minute tuk tuk ride away. Despite our encounter, Negombo seems to be a great spot to stay in if you want to be in close proximity to the airport. Just be sure to stay in Negombo itself – and NOT Wennapuwa.
Getting around Sri Lanka
Prior to arriving in Sri Lanka our plan was to use the train to get from place to place. We were also quite excited to use the train since it’s a big part of the Sri Lanka experience. But ironically, we never ended up using the train at all. Since we will be travelling for a while, and I really don’t know how to “pack light,” we had a lot of luggage. We were a little worried about finding space on the trains for us and our bags.
Thankfully, Uber and taxis in Sri Lanka really aren’t that expensive. While it did work out a lot more expensive than it would have had we taken the train, it was well worth not having the hassle of lugging our stuff around from station to station and place to place. Instead, we got taken from doorstep to doorstep. The convenience couldn’t be overstated enough. Sure, if you’re backpackers, or pack lighter than us then the train shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’ve got big and heavy bags, then you might want to check Uber out.
The rest of our time in Sri Lanka we mostly used the Tuk-tuks. They’re easy to use, convenient and you can find them just about anywhere. We also discovered the buses in Unawatuna which we used to get to Mirissa and Galle. The buses are very frequent – we didn’t ever have to wait longer than five minutes. However, finding a bus stop can be a little tricky. But, they’re cheap and you can purchase your ticket onboard. But if all else fails, use the tuk-tuks.
Sri Lanka Itinerary: 2 weeks for the beach lovers
Sri Lanka was everything that I dreamed it could be and more. I have been a beach girl practically since I could walk so naturally our Sri Lanka Itinerary 2 week schedule was constructed around the coastal areas and is for all the beach lovers out there. But, I’ve also got a newly found love for hiking and by the looks of things Sri Lanka has some of the most exquisite hiking trails. If we had more time we definitely would have added a bit of inland Sri Lanka to our itinerary. There is no doubt that we will be back to this incredible country for more.
Of course, my highlight and a moment that I will treasure forever was getting engaged on one of the most beautiful beaches that we have ever laid our eyes on, and at sunrise.