If you’re preparing a 10-14 day trip, these cities highlight the best of Sri Lanka.
Its history extends over 3,000 years. Its religion is densely Buddhist. Its landscapes is handsomely diverse hence concede to an original culture but still mending from its Tsunami wounds. When you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, it might seem overwhelming to pinpoint which regions you should spend more time to explore. Especially when you’re staring at a map of 20 large cities in a country that is home to multiple ethnic groups, filtering down to a route that will transform into an ideal vacation can be a daunting task.
The list below is the road trip itinerary that I did a few years ago, starting from Colombo then to the south in Mirissa and turning upward to Sigiriya. If you’re preparing a 10-14 day trip, these six cities will highlight the best of what Sri Lanka has to offer: religion, archeology, history, tea (yum!) and the glorious beaches.
Of course, if you’re planning on staying in Sri Lanka for a longer period of time, expanding to other cities is a must. The following list, however, is a great overview of this fascinating country without feeling too rushed on the road. Have fun!
Whether there are many cultural sites in Colombo or not, you’ll most likely land in this capital city when you arrive in Sri Lanka. Since Colombo will probably be your first or last stop in the country, besides getting a massage and doing some last-minute shopping, maybe hop on a city tour and be sure to also check out: the Gangarama Vihara temple, the Colombo National Museum, and the Dehiwala Zoological Garden.
As the largest fishing port in southern Sri Lanka, Mirissa is perfect for vacationers yearning for a few days on the beach. Book a few nights in a hotel by the ocean, and indulge in breakfasts accompanied by the view of gorgeous waves. In addition to surfing, boating and tons of water sports, whale and dolphin watching is also quite popular in Mirissa.
Not too far away from Mirissa is the harbor city: Galle (pronounced: Gawl,) where influences from Portugal and the Dutch colonial period can still be seen. Galle is more of a day trip since you’ll most likely want to spend more days exploring other parts of the country. But during your day trip, don’t miss: Galle Temple, the Galle Fort, and Dutch Reformed Church of Galle.
Moving north from Galle and passing through Colombo once again, you’ll reach Kandy where a completely different scenery will take your breath away. The second largest city in Sri Lanka is also filled with massive plantations of tea. You’ll travel through windy and rocky mountain roads that offer magnificent views of tea plantations, one rolling after another. Here is where you can visit: the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa,) Kandy Lake, Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, Ceylon Tea Museum, Udawattekele Sanctuary and Lankatilaka Temple.
Moving further north from Kandy is the famous Dambulla with the best preserved cave temple where rock towers and paintings show evidence of indigenous civilization. Browsing through five caves may take up half of your day, so make sure to book a hotel near the Kandalama Reservoir so you have ample time to chill by the pool or tour around the reservoir for maximum tranquility.
Situated near Dambulla is Sigiriya where you’ll be here to spend a day at the rock fortress that was built by King Kasyapa. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts numerous tourists eager to hike to the top of the rock for a palace the king built along with ancient frescoes and a gateway in the form of a giant lion.