Sri Lanka Itinerary – the most beautiful sights, hotels and restaurants and a suggested route for your round trip
Sri Lanka has been one of my dream destinations for quite some time. I somehow already knew in advance that I would fall in love with this charming island in the Indian Ocean. Looking back, I can say I should be right. I fell in love and I’m certainly not the only one. Already the Greek and Arab sailors boasted the island hundreds of years ago and told the island that it was richly blessed with heavenly gifts. The Arabs called the island Serendib, from which the word Serendipity developed, which translates as “lucky enough to make a beautiful discovery”, The name for the island could not be more appropriate, because it really offers endless cultural highlights, breathtaking landscapes and culinary highlights .
So I was lucky to make incredible discoveries all over the island. My tips and highlights on my Sri Lanka tour you can read in the following article:
Sri Lanka round trip by rental car or train
Of course there are several alternatives to explore Sri Lanka. There would be the variant with your own rental car.
You can book cheap car hire here >>
However, the roads on the island are not necessarily in the best condition. The locals go partly like the madmen and also prevails on Sri Lanka left-hand traffic. Actually there is left and right traffic and traffic signs serve rather the decorative purpose. Therefore, one needs a lot of nerves while driving on the island.
Alternatively, a private driver who drives around the island is recommended.
However, Sri Lanka can also be explored by train. All major towns and attractions are connected by a rail network, which is a remnant of the English. The most famous train route of the island is probably the one from Kandy to Ella, but you can reach from Colombo also the wonderful unknown north by train. The beautiful beaches in the south are also easily accessible by train.
Some of the trains are also air conditioned and have a dining car, so it can travel quite relaxed.
You can find more information about traveling by train in Sri Lanka on the Sri Lanka Railways website .
Beginning and end of Sri Lanka round trip in Colombo
Every round trip to Sri Lanka starts and ends well in Colombo. A city that does not directly exude its charm, but has some pretty sights to visit. In addition, you can go shopping in Colombo very well, there are pretty cafes, or you can leave the journey quite relaxed in one of the beautiful hotels in the city.
The absolute must-sees in Colombo are definitely:
- Pettah: The bazaar area is incredibly colorful and a walk through the streets is worth it, whether just to look or to buy a few nice little things. Worth seeing is the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, called the Red Mosque, in the middle of the bazaar district.
- Viharamahadevi Park: The park is the green oasis of the city. Here you can relax after a hard day in the hot and noisy city.
- Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple: The temple is idyllically situated on an island in Beira Lake and is, I think, the most beautiful temple in the city.
Of course, all the sights in the city are best discovered on a city tour. You can either ask one of the countless Tuk Tuk drivers if he drives you around. However, you should negotiate the price well. Alternatively, you can book an interesting city tour to the most beautiful sights here.
Shopping in Colombo
In Colombo you can go shopping wonderfully. The markets in particular have done to me, but the city also has great boutiques of local designers and chic shopping malls.
My shopping tips:
➜ Barefoot – the most beautiful shop in the city. In addition to craft products you will find great gift items, clothes, but also beautiful fabrics, table linen and much more. The shop also has a nice café.
➜ Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct – The former Dutch hospital is not only one of the most beautiful buildings from the Dutch colonial era, today you can also shop and dine here.
➜ Selyn – Selyn has beautiful fair trade products from traditional to western garments and nice accessories.
The most beautiful cafe in Colombo
➜ Bakes by Bella – Bakes by Bella has not only the most beautiful but also the most delicious cakes in the city.
Colombo hotels and accommodations
There are a variety of hotels and accommodation in Colombo, from any price category, from basic to superior.
➜ Mount Lavinia Hotel – This beautiful colonial-style hotel is located in the beautiful suburb of Mount Lavinia, right on the beach. Here you can relax and escape the Huzzle & Buzzle Colombos and yet you are with the Tuk Tuk or the train quickly in the city center.
➜ Mövenpick Colombo – The 5-star Mövenpick Hotel is brand new and located in the middle of the city. The view from the rooms on the upper floors, as well as the beautiful roof terrace with rooftop bar and infinity pool, is a dream. The food in the various theme restaurants is also fantastic.
Anuradhapura – “The holy city”
The first stop on the way from Colombo to the far north of the island was the “holy city” Anuradhapura, once the center of the Sinhalese royal dynasties. Anuradhapura is certainly one of Sri Lanka’s most famous attractions, but the UNESCO World Heritage is also an absolute must-do. For about 1400 years, the city was the political and religious center of the country. Today, tourists, archaeologists and local pilgrims cavort here, as Anuradhapura is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.
For the visit of Anuradhapura you should plan 1-2 days.
➜ My tip: Visit the rock temple Isurumuniya at sunset. The Ausblichk from above is fantastic.
➜ Good to know: Wear appropriate clothing covering your knees and shoulders, otherwise you are not allowed to enter the temples.
The Jaffna peninsula
Next stop on my tour of Sri Lanka and for me by far the most fascinating part of the island was the Jaffna peninsula with Jaffna, the eponymous capital of the Northern Province.
Here it seems as if time has somehow stopped, which is certainly because of the fact that there was a civil war here for 26 years (until 2009). So the area is still little touristy, but that’s what makes the attraction. Because Jaffna is simply authentic, the people incredibly hospitable and also curious. So for me, especially the people in Jaffna made my time there something very special. But of course there are also some sights and beautiful places on the peninsula that you should not miss.
The absolute must-sees in Jaffna and the surrounding area are:
- The market in Jaffna: It smells of exotic fruits, mountains of colorful vegetables lie on the tables and on the floor … A highlight for shopping and taking pictures.
- The fish market in Jaffna: Even more authentic is the fish market on the beach. Watch the fishermen early in the morning as they unload their boats under the cries of seagulls and auction off the fresh goods in the auction hall.
- Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil: One of the most beautiful Hindu temples of the peninsula. With a little luck you can participate in a puja, a singing and eating ceremony.
- Casuarina Beach: The most beautiful beach of the peninsula.
Eating in Jaffna
The food in Jaffna is another highlight. Jaffna’s cuisine is different from the rest of Sri Lanka. The Tamil cuisine is very similar to the Indian one. So you can find in the restaurants of the city Naan, Samosas and Tandoori Chicken. Many of the dishes are also vegetarian.
My favorite restaurant in Jaffna:
➜ Ammachchi Food Center in Vavuniya – The Food Center serves delicious vegetarian specialties and you will also enjoy good food if you eat here. The women who work here lost everything during the war and have the opportunity to earn a living here.
➜ My tip: Taste the delicious Jaffna Crab Curry in one of the city’s countless restaurants.
Stay overnight in Jaffna
Guesthouses and hostels are barely in Jaffna so far, but many cheap mid-range and luxury hotels.
➜ Jetwing Hotel – A modern 5-star hotel in the heart of the city. The rooms are nicely decorated and delicious local specialties are served for breakfast as well as for dinner.
The heart of Sri Lanka – Sigiriya rock and Kaudulla National Park
From Jaffna on the round trip I went back to the center of Sir Lanka, which is also called the cultural triangle of the country. Because next to Anuradhapura there are also other places worth seeing, especially around Dambulla.
Three sights and experiences you should not miss here:
➜ Sigiriya Rock – Dare the ascent to the ancient rock fortress Sigiriya. The fortress on the Löwenfels has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, and the climb is worth it just because of the magnificent view from the top of the 200 m high monolith.
➜ Kaudulla National Park: Observe elephants on a safari, as well as exotic species of birds, sloth bears, felines and deer in the wild.
➜ Polonnaruwa: Once the capital of the kingdom, Polonnaruwa is now considered one of the country’s most famous archaeological sites.
Insider tip for Sigiriya
The small restaurant Lion Hut directly in Sigiriya offers every lunchtime for small money a delicious lunch buffet. Alternatively, you can of course order from the card, especially recommended here is the Kottu Roti with vegetables.
Dambulla hotels and accommodations
Hotels and accommodations of all types and prices are available in and around Dambulla, but also directly in Sigiriya and around Polonnaruwa.
➜ Amaya Lake Hotel – Idyllic hotel with spacious villas right on Kandalame Lake. Spotted the hotel with me with the delicious dinner and the beautiful pool.
➜ Jetwing Lake Hotel – As the name implies, the 5-star Jetwing Lake Hotel is beautifully situated by a small lake. The view of the lake can be enjoyed from the beautiful infinity pool, as well as from the huge rooms with full glass frontage. Of course, the view is spectacular at sunrise. But the modern hotel of steel and concrete has scored not only with grandiose design, but also with the fantastic dinner buffet with local and international specialties.
Stopover in Kandy
Next stop of my tour was Kandy, the former capital of the Sinhalese kingdom, which is also still in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Kandy serves most tourists only as a transit station, because from here the trains start through the highlands of Sri Lanka to Ella. But Kandy also has a beautiful sights to offer:
➜ Temple of the Tooth Sri Dalada Maligawa – A left canine tooth is kept in the temple by the Buddha. Therefore, the temple district is considered one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Buddhism.
Tip: Join one of the ceremonies, which take place at 5.30 am, 9.30 am, or at 6.30 pm in the evening. These are a unique experience.
Kandy hotel tip
To stay I can recommend The Grand Kandyan in the heart of the city.
A train ride through the highlands to Nuwara Eliya
A train ride is for many the absolute highlight of a trip through Sri Lanka. So too for me. I did not drive all the way to Ella, but got off at Nuwara Eliya. Still, I was enchanted by the breathtaking views, the picturesque villages and the small train stations that passed by while I drove by.
But not only the train ride from Kandy is a highlight, also Nuwara Eliya and surroundings have a lot to offer:
➜ Nuwara Eliya: Walk through the small village in the highlands and be enchanted by the colonial style of “Litte Englands”.
➜ Pedro Tea Estate: Enjoy a cup of tea at the tea plantation and learn more about tea-picking and tea-processing on a guided tour.
➜ Adam’s Peak: Visit the most important pilgrimage site of the locals at sunrise.
Overnight in Nuwara Eliya
➜ My recommendation: The Araliya Green City Hotel .
Surfing, relaxing and whale watching in Mirissa
After Mirissa on the south coast of Sri Lanka you drive mainly to enjoy the beautiful beaches, the most beautiful on the island. Relax in the sun and sip a coconut, what more do you need? Well, for those who need more action Mirissa also has something to offer. Above all, MIrissa is considered an excellent surfing spot, and you should definitely do a whale watching tour here.
The Wahle Watching Tours start all morning in the harbor of Mirissa. But if you book the tickets in advance online you will be picked up directly at the hotel with a tuk tuk. If you then have the luck to see dolphins and blue whales, then the day has started perfectly, right?
My tip: Book a ticket for the upper deck, this costs with Rs 6500, although 500 Rupees more, but the view from the top is much better.
Insider tip for Mirissa: Enjoy one of the incredibly delicious smoothie bowls or a delicious breakfast in Shady Lane .
Here you can find a nice selection of hotels in and around Mirissa >>
The most beautiful fortress in the country and more in Galle
Also in and around Galle there are very beautiful beaches, but you should also explore the Dutch-Portuguese town itself. For both the old town and the fortress Galle are UNESCO World Heritage Site and really worth seeing. The fortress is the largest preserved European fortress in Southeast Asia and the nearly 3 km long rampart is spectacular.
The absolute must-sees and must-do’s in Galle:
- Galle Fort: Visit the well-preserved fortress by the sea.
- Unawatuna Beach: one of the most famous and popular beaches in Sri Lanka.
- Japanese Peace Pagoda: Enjoy the tranquility of the Buddhist temple.
Hotel tip for bile
➜ My recommendation: I spent the night in the beautiful Amari Galle. The chic hotel is very centrally located and just a short distance from the Galle Fort in the historic fortress town. From the room you can enjoy the view of the pool, the beach and the Indian Ocean. In addition, the hotel has scored with me with the delicious food.
Sri Lanka round trip: map with route suggestions, accommodations, attractions & restaurants
Arrival Sri Lanka
For example, Etihad offers cheap flights from Munich and Frankfurt. If you want, you can extend your stay in Abu Dhabi for free and have the opportunity to explore the emirate during a stop-over.
Now you have the desire to do a Sri Lanka tour, or have you ever been there? How did you like it? I’m looking forward to your commentary!