The Ultimate Sri Lanka Itinerary: 3 Weeks In Sri Lanka

Looking for the perfect 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary? Planning your trip and not sure where to go and what to see? You’ve come to the right place!

I spent a month in Sri Lanka and was lucky enough to experience the best of what it has to offer. I loved everything about the country so I put together this epic 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary to help you plan your perfect getaway!

This includes my favorite places to see, and things to do in Sri Lanka, and is geared toward the adventurous traveler who enjoys hiking, surfing, and eating local cuisine.

If you follow this itinerary for Sri Lanka, you’ll stop at all the bucket list destinations and uncover hidden gems along the way. You’ll explore the cultural triangle, hill country and set your sights on the best beaches.

It’s a busy Sri Lanka 3 week itinerary… but it’s the best one out there!

The ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary: 3 weeks to one month in Sri Lanka
The 9 Arch Bridge in Ella is iconic to Sri Lanka

Planning your Sri Lanka Itinerary

You’ll need a visa. Sri Lanka visas operate on an electronic system and you need to apply online a few days before your arrival. This costs $35 and is valid for 30 days. Apply for your visa here.

Purchase a Dialog sim card at the airport. If you’re spending 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, you’ll need a local sim. After landing, go straight to the Dialog stand at the airport where you’ll pay 1300 LKR ($7) for a sim card that includes 9 gigs of data.

Have a bit of flexibility to your Sri Lanka itinerary. If you prefer to have everything booked and confirmed before you arrive, that’s all good. But, if you’re spending 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, I recommend that you allow for some flexibility. You may visit a place and want to stay longer!

Dress appropriately: You’ll need to consider what you pack for Sri Lanka. Be respectful of their cultural norms and dress appropriately when entering sacred areas. You’ll also need to pack for all seasons as the weather can be unpredictable.

Keep local currency on you: The local currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). ATMs and credit card facilities are available in the country but if you stay at homestays, use public transport, or eat at local restaurants, ensure you have cash on you. It’s best to draw money at the ATMs as you arrive at the airport.

Best places to include on your Sri Lanka itinerary
Hiriketiya Beach was the highlight of my Sri Lanka itinerary

3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary: Map

My Sri Lanka itinerary follows the map below. It includes a balance of everything – inspiring culture, beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and well-deserved relaxation time!

  • Day 1: Negombo (1 night)
  • Day 2-3: Sigiriya (2 nights)
  • Day 4-5: Trincomalee (2 nights)
  • Day 6: Kandy (1 night)
  • Day 7-8: Dalhousie (2 nights)
  • Day 9-10: Nuwara Eliya (2 nights)
  • Day 11-13: Ella (3 nights)
  • Day 14-16: Arugam Bay (2 nights)
  • Day 17-18: Hiriketiya (2 nights)
  • Day 19-21: Mirissa/Weligama (2 nights)

The Sri Lanka route is flexible and can be cut to a shorter 2 week itinerary, or extended to 4 weeks in Sri Lanka.

This 3 week itinerary takes your through the Cultural Triangle, Hill Country and along the east and south coasts of Sri Lanka
This 3 week itinerary takes your through the Cultural Triangle, Hill Country and along the east and south coasts of Sri Lanka

Day 1 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Negombo

  • Time needed: 1 night

Your Sri Lanka trip will start at Colombo International Airport. Its official name is Bandaranaike International Airport and it’s actually located in Negombo which is an hour’s drive from the capital city.

It’s the gateway to the country and the starting point of your 3 weeks in Sri Lanka.

Both Colombo and Negombo don’t have much to offer compared to the rest of the country so you don’t need to spend much time here.

They’re loud, busy cities with chaotic streets, and your time is better spent exploring the east and south coast.

Depending on what time your international flight arrives in Sri Lanka, you might want to stay in Negombo for the night and catch an early morning train or bus to your next destination.

If you arrive before noon, then head straight to the bus stop and move on to day 2 of this Sri Lanka itinerary.

Travel Sri Lanka transport
The best way to travel Sri Lanka is by tuk-tuk

How to get to Negombo from Colombo International Airport

After your arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) catch a tuk-tuk to Negombo, which is about 15 minutes away.

I recommend using the PickMe app (which is like Uber) to find a driver. If you arrive late at night, I suggest you do the same as the taxi prices can be quite expensive at the airport.

Where to stay in Negombo

There are scores of places to choose from but it’s best to book a place close to the airport as you’ll go straight to your guesthouse or hotel after arriving.

Luxury: Located just a 1-minute walk from the beach lies Pledge Scape. If you’re looking for a luxurious place to rest your head after a long flight, this is the place for you.

Mid-range: Enjoy the warm Sri Lanka hospitality at Villa Dominikku. The large rooms come with private bathrooms and included a delicious continental breakfast.

Budget: Lilly Palace Villa Guest House is a family-run guest house owned by two of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met. They are both deaf and staying in their home was an experience I’ll never forget!

Day 2-3 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Sigiriya

  • Time needed: 2 nights (Stay 3 nights if you want to experience more of the cultural triangle)

Sigiriya is one of my favorite destinations so make sure it’s on your Sri Lanka travel itinerary!

It’s a beautiful, relaxed village, unspoiled by tourism and development. This village was a great introduction to the country and paved the way for what was the most amazing month in Sri Lanka.

The area surrounding Sigiriya is known as the cultural triangle, so if you’re interested in the history of Sri Lanka, you’ll be in your element here!

Check out this travel guide to Sigiriya for everything you need to know, and why you should stay in Sigiriya, and not Dambulla.

Hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya
Hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

Things To Do In Sigiriya

Visit Lion (Sigiriya) Rock. Lion Rock is one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was once a fortress and home to Sri Lanka’s King. It has a deep historical significance along with beautiful views from the top but there’s a hefty $30 entrance fee.

Hike Pidurangala Rock. Pidurangala has the most beautiful views overlooking Lion Rock. It’s a scenic hike to the top and more affordable if you’re traveling Sri Lanka on a budget.

Take a day trip to Anuradhapura. This is a historical site, home to ruins of an ancient city. Anuradhapura is 73 km from Sigiriya and can be done in a day trip if you make use of a private van.

Explore Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the second oldest kingdoms of Sri Lanka. Just 56 km from Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa is best explored by bicycle.

Support Sri Lanka cricket. Cricket is a craze in Sri Lanka and international tests are often played in Dambulla, which is a short drive from Sigiriya. We watched the Sri Lanka Vs England game and it was such an awesome vibe!

Watching a Sri Lanka cricket match in Dambulla
Watching Sri Lanka vs England cricket in Dambulla

How to get to Sigiriya from Negombo: 4 hours

To get to Sigiriya, you’ll need to make your way to Dambulla first. Unfortunately, there’s no direct bus from Negombo to Dambulla.

First, go to Negombo Bus Terminal. From here, catch the bus going to Kurunegala which takes 2 hours. After you’ve arrived in Kurunegala, take the bus to Dambulla which is another 2 hours.

Finally, from Dambulla, you can either take a public bus or tuk-tuk to Sigiriya which is 30 minutes away.

Where to stay in Sigiriya

Luxury: Treat yourself to an incredible stay at Sigiriya King’s Resort. The secluded location is ideal for a romantic escape surrounded by lush greenery.

Mid-range: Looking to stay in a treehouse? Chena Huts Eco Resort is for you! The rustic yet romantic chalets are located in the middle of a jungle and offers impressive views of Lion Rock from the balcony.

Budget: Shen Residence. A lovely homestay in the countryside of Sigiriya. The hosts make the most delicious food and you can rent scooters and bicycles to explore the village.

Chena Huts in Sigiriya
The beautiful Chena Huts in Sigiriya

Day 4-5 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Trincomalee

  • Time needed: 2 nights. (If you have more time, I suggest spending an extra night in Trincomalee. But if you only have 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, stick to this itinerary)

After a few days of exploring the cultural triangle, it’s time to hit the beaches on the east coast of Sri Lanka!

I loved Trincomalee for its relaxed atmosphere. It’s considered off the beaten path in Sri Lanka so it’s a great stop for travelers who are looking to enjoy the natural beauty without scores of tourists.

Trincomalee is the main town in the area, but when planning your stay, it’s best to choose either Uppuveli or Nilaveli as your base.

Never heard of these places? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I wrote this guide to Trincomalee and it includes where you can find the best beaches.

Trincomalee is a must in your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary
Exploring the beaches of Trincomalee

Things To Do In Trincomalee

Explore the beaches. The water is incredibly flat, and you can spend hours lazing on the beach, reading a book (or sipping on a Lion Lager). The beaches in Trincomalee aren’t good for surfing and they’re completely different from those on the south coast.

Head to Fernando’s Bar. The best (albeit only) beach bar to go to! With its great vibes, food, and people, Fernando’s is a must-visit on your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Pigeon Island and snorkeling/diving: A trip to Pigeon Island is very popular, but from what I’ve heard, the reefs are damaged and the coral has been destroyed from over-tourism.

Fernando's Bar in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Fernando’s bar in Trincomalee

How to get to Trincomalee from Sigiriya (4 hours)

To get from Sigiriya to Trincomalee, you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk (or public bus) from Sigiriya to the main road in Dambulla, near Bentoka Bake House.

Next, catch the bus to Trincomalee which takes 3 hours. Once you arrive in Trincomalee, take a tuk-tuk to your accommodation in either Uppuveli or Nilaveli.

Where to stay in Trincomalee

Luxury: Located at the far end of Uppuveli Beach lies Trinco Blu by Cinnamon. This luxury beach resort offers an amazing pool and restaurant right on the water’s edge.

Mid-range: Anantamma Hotel is a great place to stay in Trincomalee thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff, and direct beach access.

Budget: Trincomalee offers scores of budget-friendly accommodation options to add to your Sri Lanka itinerary, and Hilton Cottage is one of them. Located near restaurants and cafes, it’s an affordable yet comfortable place to stay.

Trinco Blue Trincomalee
You can’t beat the location of Trinco Blu in Trincomalee

Day 6 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Kandy

  • Time needed: 1 night. (If you only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, I suggest you spend 1 night in Kandy. But if you have more time and you’re able to travel slower, I suggest staying in Kandy for 2 nights.)

After Trincomalee, you’ll head back inland to the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy.

It’s considered one of the most sacred places in the world amongst the Buddhist community and is synonymous with the famous Kandy to Ella train ride, which is another must for your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

I didn’t love Kandy but it’s worth a stop to check what all the hype is about.

Things to do in Kandy during 2 weeks in Sri Lanka
Checking out the big Buddha in Kandy. There’s a viewpoint here that looks over the entire city

Things To Do In Kandy

Explore Kandy Forest: Most people skip this and opt for the more popular attractions in Kandy, but exploring the Kandy Forest was the highlight of my time in Kandy. It’s in the city center with a few great views of Kandy Lake.

Check out Kandy Lake and Big Buddha: Take a stroll around Kandy Lake and walk to the big Buddha on the hill. It overlooks the city of Kandy, offering great viewpoints.

Watch the Kandyan Dance: This cultural dance takes place every evening.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic: This temple is one of the holiest shrines in Sri Lanka and houses Buddha’s tooth.

Planning your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary
Walking around Kandy Lake

How to get to Kandy from Trincomalee

If you’re following my Sri Lanka backpacking route, you’ll be coming from Trincomalee.

First, take a tuk-tuk from Nilaveli or Uppuveli to Trincomalee Bus Station. Here, you’ll catch the bus back to Dambulla.

From Dambulla, hop on the tourist bus that travels directly to Kandy.

Where to stay in Kandy

Luxury: Imagine a villa on the mountains’ edge, overlooking rolling hills and lush forests. That’s what you’ll get if you stay at Villa Rosa. The views alone make it worth every cent.

Mid-range: At e-stay Hanthana, you’ll enjoy a large comfortable room with a private balcony. The local owners make this place extra special. Plus, you’ll be treated to a delicious breakfast!

Budget: It’s hard to beat the price tag of Kandy City Village Home Stay. The owner is extremely friendly and will accommodate any guest requests. With comfortable rooms, a great breakfast, and a central location, it’s such great value for money!

Villa Rosa Kandy
If you’re looking for a romantic place to stay in Kandy, look no further than Villa Rosa

Day 7-8 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Dalhousie (via Hatton)

Time needed: 2 nights. (If you have 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, I highly recommend you spend 2 nights in Dalhousie so that you have enough time to recover from the hike)

The small village of Dalhousie is home to Adam’s Peak, a sacred mountain that attracts scores of pilgrims due to its spiritual significance. It’s a stop along the Kandy to Ella train route so you won’t miss out on anything!

Climbing Adam’s Peak will be one of the highlights of your Sri Lanka 3 week itinerary. And not because of the incredible scenery or the kind people you’ll meet, but because of the actual journey to get there!

This includes taking a train, tuk-tuk, bus, and possibly even walking 5 km through tea plantations (and dodging a landslide, like I did).

Safe to say that I was extremely happy when we arrived in Dalhousie, with our new friends who endured the torturous journey with us!

The long journey from Hatton to Dalhousie to climb Adam's Peak
To long journey from Hatton to Dalhousie to climb Adam’s Peak

Things To Do In Dalhousie

Climb Adams Peak. Don’t confuse Adam’s Peak in Dalhousie with Little Adam’s Peak in Ella. With a whopping 5 500 steps, Adams Peak (Dalhousie) has made a name for itself as being a sacred mountain and draws scores of pilgrims due to its spiritual significance. Depending on the time of year you visit, your experiences will be different and the weather will impact the views from the top. You’ll need at least 6 hours for the return hike – and then you’re going to want to take the rest of the day off to chill!

Should Adam's Peak be part of your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary?
Waiting for the clouds to clear after a 3 hour hike to Adam’s Peak

How to get to Dalhousie from Kandy

On day 7 of your itinerary for Sri Lanka, you’ll head to Dalhousie from Kandy.

And it’s time for the famous Kandy to Ella train ride (except you get off at Hatton, not Ella!) The train departs from Kandy station at 08:47 but try to get there an hour before.

After 2.5 hours, you’ll arrive at Hatton station which will be your exit point. From here you can either take a tuk-tuk or public bus to Dalhousie which is an hour away. If you take the bus, you’ll first go to Maskeliya and then Dalhousie.

Where to stay in Dalhousie

Budget: Hugging Clouds is only 5 minutes walk from the start of the Adams Peak hike. The owner is incredibly friendly and the rooms are large and spacious.

Budget: I stayed at Subash Hotel which is located a short drive from the entrance to Adam’s Peak. Coming home to a hot shower, a delicious meal, and a comfortable bed after 8 hours of hiking made this the perfect place to stay!

Day 9-10 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Nuwara Eliya

  • Time needed: 2 nights

To ensure your 3 week itinerary for Sri Lanka includes the best that the country has to offer, make sure you visit Nuwara Eliya. It’s a quaint little village situated between Kandy and Ella and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of Sri Lanka!

Nuwara Eliya is much colder than the rest of the country and I even had to pull out my winter clothes after we arrived! It felt like I was in the middle of an old English town, hence it’s often referred to as Little England.

I read a lot of conflicting reviews on Nuwara Eliya, with most recommending that if you have less than 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, you should give it a skip. But I disagree!

Check out this guide to Nuwara Eliya with all the best things to do and see, and why you will love it, despite how un-Sri Lankan it is.

Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka 3 weeks
I loved Nuwara Eliya! The town is so different from the rest of Sri Lanka and it has some of the most beautiful tea plantations and waterfalls

Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya

Hike to Ramboda Waterfall. It’s a great hike to get to these waterfalls with very few other tourists.

Tea plantations. No Sri Lanka itinerary is complete without visiting a tea plantation! Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by lush fields filled with tea plantations that hug the side of the hills. I highly recommend Bluefield Tea Factory.

Indulge in high tea at The Grand Hotel. Because one needs to have an afternoon tea! And chances are that at some point the weather will be, well, gloomy! So, if you’re looking for a place to visit in Nuwara Eliya on a cold, rainy day, head straight to The Grand Hotel for high tea.

Have a drink at the Pubs in Nuwara Eliya. The Pub and The 19th Hole are not to be missed. The 19th Hole is a cozy pub with a great atmosphere. And like most of Nuwara Eliya, it resembles that of a pub you’d find in England.

Ramboda Waterfall in Sri Lanka
Ramboda Waterfall near Nuwara Eliya

How to get to Nuwara Eliya from Dalhousie (via Hatton)

First, you need to take a tuk-tuk from Dalhousie to Hatton.

Pro tip: After doing this route with both a bus and a tuk-tuk, I suggest you opt for a tuk-tuk ride. It’s the most beautiful part of hill country and going with a tuk-tuk means you can stop along the way and take in all the scenery.

Once you arrive in Hatton, get back on the “Kandy to Ella” train and hop off at Nanu Oya station which is 15 minutes outside of Nuwara Eliya.

From here, take a tuk-tuk to your accommodation in Nuwara Eliya.

Kandy to Ella train
Finally on the train to Nuwara Eliya

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

Luxury: The Westbury Palace is luxury at its finest with beautiful gardens and impeccable furnishings. Just look at those views from the infinity pool!

Mid-range: It’s hard to fault Cottage San Francisco in Nuwara Eliya. The cozy cottages offer impressive views of tea plantations and the breakfast that’s included is out of this world!

Budget: AGP Home may not be in the center of town, but for this price, it’s a steal. The highlight will be meeting the owners who are very welcoming and kind hosts who will give insider info on the best attractions to add to your itinerary for Sri Lanka.

Day 11–13 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Ella

  • Time needed: 3 nights

After nearly 2 weeks in Sri Lanka and we finally made it to Ella which is arguably the most famous stop in hill country. It’s bustling with tourists and is the go-to destination for those backpacking Sri Lanka.

But it’s worthy of the hype! Here’s where you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants and cafes, and you can take your pick of rustic cottages with gorgeous views.

No matter how many days you have in Sri Lanka, Ella should definitely be on your bucket list.

Hiking Little Adam's Peak in Ella
Hiking Little Adam’s Peak for sunrise

Things To Do In Ella

With trendy bars and cafes and gorgeous scenery, there’s no denying that Ella is will be one of the most memorable places on your Sri Lanka itinerary.

Watch the sunrise from Little Adam’s Peak. Little Adam’s Peak in Ella gets its name from its famed big brother, Adam’s Peak in Dalhousie, because of their similarity in shape. Sitting at 1 141m, Little Adam’s Peak is a quick, easy hike with stunning views.

Climb Ella Rock. Ella Rock is a longer hike compared to Little Adam’s Peak, but equally as beautiful and unique. If you don’t have 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and want to spend less time in Ella, you’ll need to choose between this hike or Litte Adam’s Peak.

Watch the trains cross the 9 Arch Bridge. This iconic bridge is so unbelievably beautiful and is best done after Little Adam’s Peak.

Tea plantations. Ella is surrounded by lush tea fields so if you haven’t visited any yet, now’s your chance.

Hiking Ella Rock for your Sri Lanka itinerary
Hiking Ella Rock in Sri Lanka

How to get to Ella from Nuwara Eliya

From Nuwara Eliya, take a tuk-tuk to Nanu Oya train station and hop on the train to Ella.

Where to stay in Ella

Luxury: Nestled in the middle of a rice paddy field lies Arawe Retreat. The charming cottage is packed with character. If you stay here, you’ll be treated to a luxurious visit while experiencing the warm hospitality of the owners.

Mid-range: Watch the sunrise from the rooftop and be treated to a delicious local breakfast at Wood Heart Guesthouse. If you stay here, you’ll enjoy the tranquil and peaceful atmosphere of the Sri Lankan forests.

Budget: I stayed at Broad View Guest House and highly recommend that you add it to your Sri Lanka itinerary as well. This local homestay lies on top of a hill, overlooking Ella. The owner is so friendly and welcomed us into his home where we ate our daily meals with the family.

Sri Lanka food
Breakfast is served – The view from Broad View Guest House

Day 14-16 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Arugam Bay

  • Time needed: 3 nights (because it’s quite a journey to get there and back)

Arugam bay is a popular surfer and backpacker hub on the east coast of Sri Lanka. It was hit hard by the 2004 Tsunami but has since grown to be one of the most popular destinations in the country.

It’s slightly off the standard route and so many people skip it if they only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka.

Note: I traveled to Sri Lanka in October and Arugam Bay was the one destination on my itinerary that was negatively affected by the weather. Most restaurants and bars were closed during this time, the waves were rough and not great for surfing, and there weren’t any other tourists around. If you’re planning your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary from October to November, rather skip Arugam Bay (and read my suggestions below of where to go instead).

Exploring Sri Lanka 3 weeks itinerary
Discovering the beaches of Arugam Bay (when we got a few hours of no rain)

Things To Do In Arugam Bay

  • Surf and relax on the beach.
  • Rent a scooter for the day and take a trip to Peanut Farm and other hidden beaches.
  • Arugam Bay is known for its beach parties, especially at Whiskey Point.
  • Take a run along the coast, all the way to Pottuvil.
We spotted this big guy at Peanut Farm Beach near Arugam Bay
We spotted this big guy at Peanut Farm Beach near Arugam Bay

How to get to Arugam Bay from Ella

The journey to Arugam Bay is the longest of my 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Most people choose to take a private van to save time, but if you’re on a budget, I suggest taking a public bus instead (This is popular with backpackers in Sri Lanka).

From Ella, you’ll take the bus to Weliwaya which is 40 minutes away. Here, you’ll change buses and take one that goes to Mongara, another 50 minutes.

Finally, you’ll get on your last bus from Mongara to Arugam Bay. The bus will pass through Pottuvil before reaching Arugam Bay. This is the longest leg of the journey and takes 2.5 hours.

Where to stay in Arugam Bay

Luxury: Located in Whisky Point and close to Elephant Rock lies Babar Point Resort. It’s an amazing place to stay if you’re wanting to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the quieter side of Arugam Bay.

Mid-range: Forcus Cabanas is a locally run guest house found close to all the bars and restaurants of Arugam Bay. The 4 cabanas look onto a beautiful garden, just 100 meters from the beach. Shout out to the manager who is extremely helpful!

Budget: Bay Dreams Beach Home is a beautiful, rustic property that is just a stone’s throw away from the beach. It’s extremely affordable and comes with a delicious breakfast too.

Barbar Point Arugam Bay
Palm trees a pool and walking distance to the beach – Babar Point is one of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka

Day 17 – 18 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Hiriketiya Beach

  • Time needed: 2 nights (if you have more than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, spend 3 or 4 nights in Hiriketiya, as I did)

Hiriketiya Beach is a small bay lined with palm trees in the southern part of Sri Lanka.

It was the ultimate destination during my 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and it’s a favorite amongst travelers thanks to the relaxed atmosphere and fun waves that are well suited for all levels of surfers.

There’s no doubt that Hiriketiya should be included in your Sri Lanka backpacking itinerary, but it’s fast becoming the talk of the town so try to get here before all the other tourists do!

Learning how to surf in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka
Learning how to surf in Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka

Things To Do In Hiriketiya

Go surfing. If you want to up your surfing game, Hiriketiya is the place to go. There are waves for all grades of surfers including a more advanced reef break and a gentle, fun wave for beginners.

Visit Tallala Beach. Just a short drive from Hiriketiya is Tallala Beach. It’s a much bigger beach with fewer people and makes for a great day trip.

Sunset drinks on the beach. We took chairs, got some beers, and sat right on the water’s edge.

Sri Lanka Bucket list Hiriketiya
Hiriketiya is amazing! We ended up spending 4 days here because we loved it so much

How to get to Hiriketiya Beach from Arugam Bay

From Arugam Bay, you will need to take a tuk-tuk to nearby Pottuvil. Here, hop on a public bus to Dikwella – be prepared for a long journey!

Once you arrive in Dikwella, take a tuk-tuk to Hiriketiya Beach, which is about 15 minutes away.

Where to stay in Hiriketiya

Luxury: Looking for a peaceful escape? Beach views from your private balcony? Monkeys in the trees? That’s what you’ll find at Haven Hiri. It’s the perfect place for a romantic retreat!

Mid-range: Dots Bay House is one of the most popular places to stay in Hiriketiya. There’s always something going on, whether it’s live music or yoga, so if you want to stay where all the action is, this is the place for you.

Budget: If you’re planning your Sri Lanka itinerary, look no further than Peak house. I can vouch for this spot (and the super friendly host) as I stayed here for 4 nights! It might not have beachfront views, but Peak House is great if you’re backpacking Sri Lanka on a budget.

Peak House Hiriketiya
I stayed at Peak House in Hiriketiya and absolutely loved it

Day 19 – 21 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Mirissa/Weligama/Midigama

  • Time needed: 2 nights

The southern part of the country is popular with backpackers and is closer to the airport than other destinations on my Sri Lanka itinerary.

It’s a great place to spend a few days before your 3 weeks in Sri Lanka comes to an end.

There are a few small villages near Mirissa where you can base yourself, all within a 10-minute scooter ride away from each other.

Mirissa: The most popular of the three areas is Mirissa. It’s a busy little village with lots of bars and restaurants as well as tuk-tuks and scooters zooming around. The beach here is great, and you can enjoy a cocktail at one of the many beach bars. Mirissa makes for a better day trip if you prefer to stay in a less crowded area.

Weligama: Weligama is one of the best beginner surfer spots in Sri Lanka. It has a relaxed, backpacker atmosphere with heaps of surf schools along the main road. If you’re backpacking in Sri Lanka, this is where you want to be.

Midigama: Most tourists choose to stay in the above two places rather than Midigama because it’s not one of the hotspots. But I loved Midigama! It’s a laid-back little village, there are great restaurants (Surf View Restaurant is my favorite!) and it’s close to lots of hidden beaches. If you’re looking for good surf breaks, Midigama is best for those who are more experienced.

Here’s my detailed travel guide to Midigama Beach in Sri Lanka!

Coconut Hill is iconic to Mirissa
Coconut Hill is iconic to Mirissa

Things to do near Mirissa

Go Surfing: Midigama (experienced) or Weligama (beginners) are your best choices.

Visit Coconut Hill: This picturesque hill covered in palm trees is a short drive from Mirissa. But it has become an Instagram hotspot so expect big crowds.

Indulge in seafood: The beaches in Mirissa are lined with restaurants serving fresh seafood.

The Doctors House and sunset at Chill Cafe: The Doctors House is a vibey spot near Mirissa. Right in front of it, on the beach, is Chill Café. Make sure you go here for sunset!

Enjoying my last 10 days in Sri Lanka
Checking out the surf spots near Midigama

How to get to Mirissa/Weligama/Midigama from Hiriketiya Beach

Take a 15-minute tuk-tuk from Hiriketiya to Dikwella.

Here, you’ll get on a public bus that will take you to your next destination which is about a 1.5-hour drive away.

Where To Stay

Luxury: If you’re on your honeymoon or prefer a quiet place to stay, you will love Three Gables Boutique Villa. It’s not exactly in Mirissa but the beachfront property is a hidden gem and boasts stylish rooms and an infinity pool. If you want something closer to Weligama, check out the stunning Weligama Bay Marriot Resort and Spa.

Mid-range: Pelli Riverine is a comfortable and relaxing guest house just 200m from Weligama Beach. The kind and generous owner will go out of his way to ensure you have a memorable time.

Budget: Dreams Garden Surf Lodge is found in the quieter area of Midigama. The family who owns Dreams Garden are incredibly kind and friendly. They made sure that our last few days in Sri Lanka were some of the best.

Three Gambles Villa Mirissa-2
Three Gambles Villa near Mirissa – this has to be one of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka

Day 21 Sri Lanka Itinerary: Negombo

After 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s time to head home!

Depending on the time of your flight, I suggest you check into a homestay near the airport so that you can freshen up before your departure.

How to get to Negombo from Midigama

Take the train from Ahangama to Colombo Fort. From here, you can get on the airport shuttle bus to Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo.

After you’ve arrived at the airport, take a tuk-tuk to your homestay where you can freshen up and return to the airport 2 hours before your flight departs.

My 3 weeks in Sri Lanka is coming to an end
Saying goodbye to the beaches of Sri Lanka and heading back to Negombo

More than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka

4 weeks is the ideal time to explore the country. Here’s what you can add to your itinerary for Sri Lanka if you’re lucky enough to have a few extra days.

Spend more time at these destinations: Trincomalee (3 nights), Kandy (2 nights), and Hiriketiya Beach (4 nights).

Explore the National Parks: Most people choose to include a trip to a Yala or Udawalawe National Park as part of their Sri Lanka itinerary. The reason I didn’t is that these parks get so busy and your sightings are often overcrowded with other tourists. You also need to arrange a proper safari which will eat into your Sri Lanka backpacking budget. My thoughts? Rather enjoy the beaches of Sri Lanka and save your cash for an African safari where you’ll see elephants, lions, leopards and so many other wild animals with very few people around.

Experience authentic life in Jaffna. Jaffna is a city on the northern tip of Sri Lanka. Known for its raw city charm and friendly locals, it’s far off the tourist track and is a great spot if you want to experience more of the Sri Lankan culture.

Try get to the 9 Arch Bridge early to miss the crowds as it gets so busy
Try get to the 9 Arch Bridge early to miss the crowds as it gets so busy

Less than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka

If you have less than 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, or if you prefer to travel slowly, then I suggest the following:

Definitely visit these destinations: Sigiriya, Ella, and Hiriketiya Beach are must-see destinations in your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Spend Less time here: Spend only 1 night in Kandy, or drive by if you arrive early enough to catch the Kandy to Ella train in time.

Skip Adam’s Peak in Dalhousie: It’s with a heavy heart that I say this as I loved traveling to Dalhousie. But rather see Nuwara Eliya if you’re planning a Sri Lanka 2 week itinerary.

Skip Weligama/Mirissa/Midigama: Hiriketiya Beach and Trincomalee are two of the best beaches in Sri Lanka so rather ensure they are part of your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Travel by private van: The buses and trains in Sri Lanka are a slower means of transport, so if budget isn’t a concern, rather travel by van. However, if you’re backpacking Sri Lanka (as I was) this won’t be an option.

3 weeks in Sri Lanka
One of many view points from Little Adam’s Peak in Ella

3 Week Sri Lanka Budget

If you’re backpacking Sri Lanka on a budget, you’ll need between $25-$40 per person per day. This will cover food, transport, accommodation, and a few activities.

As soon as you start adding tourist attractions to your Sri Lanka itinerary (such as national parks, whale watching, historical sites), your budget will increase.

To keep prices down avoid too many paid experiences, don’t travel by private van, stick to local food, and stay in local homestays.

If you do want to travel more comfortably and you’re on a mid-range budget, you can expect to spend $50-$80 per day which gets you far in terms of value for money.

Here’s a breakdown of costs to expect. (Prices in USD)

  • Private room in a homestay: $7-$18 per night
  • Shared bunk in a hostel: $15-$25 per night
  • Street food: $1-$3 per meal
  • Food at a restaurant: $3-$8 per meal
  • Local beer: $2-$4
  • Train/buses between cities: $2
Whiskey Point in Arugam Bay during my one month in Sri Lanka
Whiskey Point in Arugam Bay

How to Travel For 3 weeks in Sri Lanka

There is an extensive transportation network throughout Sri Lanka and getting around the country is easy, and affordable.

It can also be uncomfortable and highly frustrating, especially if you’re trying to stick to a 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Note: Driving in Sri Lanka is not for sissys! The roads are hectic, narrow, windy, and busy with hordes of trucks and buses. The drivers go extremely fast, hooting most of the time. Keep this in mind when walking along the streets or driving long distances with a tuk-tuk or scooter.


It’s best to travel by train in hill country and the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. The trains are extremely slow and can sometimes be delayed, but the cheap price makes up for it! Vendors walk up and down the isles selling local treats, refreshments, and snacks.

You can book 1st, 2nd, or 3rd class tickets. In my opinion, traveling 3rd class with the locals is the only way to do it! If you’re looking for a more comfortable ride, you’ll need to book 1st or 2nd class tickets in advance. Check out the train prices and schedule here.

Trains in Sri Lanka
Riding 3rd class

Public bus

Throughout my Sri Lanka backpacking trip, I traveled mostly with public buses as the trains don’t cover all areas.

The buses are easily identifiable by their red or blue color. Expect no aircon, lots of stops, school children hopping on and off (every 5 minutes), and a tiring journey but it’s the cheapest way to travel through the country.

The buses run frequently (every 15-45 minutes) and whilst there are time schedules, they aren’t followed. The buses leave when they’re full, and if they’re not, you’ll have to wait!

When trying to find a bus, just go to the station and tell everyone where you’re wanting to go to. The Sri Lankan people are so helpful and whilst they may not be able to speak English, they’ll make sure you get on the right bus. Sometimes you’re charged extra for luggage (if your bag takes up a seat on the bus).

How to travel during your 2 weeks in Sri Lanka
Trying to find the bus to Dambulla


Tuk-tuks are the best way to travel for short distances. They’re more expensive than public buses and require some bargaining skills or else you will get ripped off.

You can also rent a tuk-tuk and drive yourself, but it’s easier to just hop on with a driver, especially since driving in Sri Lanka can be intense!

Private van

It’s not quite the authentic Sri Lankan experience but if you have less than 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, it’s worth it to travel by private van.

You can either hire a car and driver who will take you to all the destinations on your Sri Lanka Itinerary.

Alternatively, you can find a driver at each destination if you’d prefer to make use of other means of transport.

There are a few Facebook groups for travelers who are looking to share vans so check those out. One of them is “Sri Lanka Taxi Share”. Book a private transfer here.


Because of my warning about Sri Lanka roads and drivers, I don’t recommend that you hire a scooter and travel throughout the country this way. Rather use a scooter to explore the area you’re staying in.

I rented one in Arugam Bay, Ella, Hiritekiya, and Trincomalee and went exploring the nearby beaches and villages, but limit your scooter rides to these short distances.

You’ll need your passport and driver’s license to rent a scooter in Sri Lanka.

We hired a scooter and explored Ella for a day
We rented a scooter and explored Ella for a day

Where to Stay in Sri Lanka

Accommodation in Sri Lanka ranges from budget to luxury.

If you’re planning a Sri Lanka backpacking itinerary and you’re happy to rough it up a bit, then I suggest you stay at homestays with local families.

Here, you’ll have an authentic Sri Lankan experience – you’ll eat with the family and form a connection with the people and the country that you’ll never forget. Make sure you eat at least 1 meal at your homestay – these were some of the best meals I’ve ever had!

Budget rooms range from $12 – $20 for a private room for 2 people with basic amenities. At this price, don’t expect hot water or fast Wi-Fi. A small breakfast is usually included, and it will be good enough to rest your head for the night.

For $20-$35, you can expect hot water, a fan (aircon if you’re lucky), and perhaps good Wi-Fi.

When backpacking in Sri Lanka, it’s best to book your accommodation the day before your arrival as your itinerary may change. I made all my bookings through

Sri Lanka Travel Route
The gorgeous Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Food

I didn’t know much about Sri Lanka cuisine before I arrived and so I was pleasantly surprised by just how delicious it is.

Below are a few of my favorites that I ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during my one month in Sri Lanka.

  • Rice and Curry: The name speaks for itself!
  • Kottu Roti: Shredded pieces of roti bread, chopped up, and stir-fried (my favorite!)
  • Devilled Chicken: Marinated chicken pieces with vegetables

To save costs, eat local, and make sure your accommodation includes breakfast. Curry and rice costs $1-$3 per meal which is super affordable and delicious.

Alcohol is more expensive, and a beer will cost around $2-$4, depending on where you buy from.

Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an all-year-round travel destination. You can spend hours researching the best time to visit but the weather can still be unpredictable.

December to March is peak season so expect lots of tourists and crowded beaches. Try to avoid traveling to Sri Lanka during this time.

  • April–August is the south-west monsoon so it’s best to visit the north or east coast during this time.
  • October–January is the north-east monsoon season so it’s best to visit the central and southwest coast.
  • October and November are synonymous with erratic weather and it can rain anywhere at any time.
The fishermen in Sri Lanka
The fishermen in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Weather In October

If you follow my 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary and you visit in October, you can expect the below weather conditions. (This is my personal account of traveling during October)

  • Sigiriya, Hiriketiya Beach, and Midigama had perfect weather.
  • Ella, Dalhousie, and Nuwara Eliya were overcast at times but it didn’t affect my experience in these areas.
  • Trincomalee had its daily afternoon rain shower but the vibe was still great.
  • Arugam Bay was quiet with no tourists and constant rain so I don’t recommend that you visit during October.

Is Sri Lanka Safe

Sri Lanka is a safe country for all travelers from backpackers, to solo travelers, honeymooners, and families. I never felt uneasy or nervous using public transport or staying in homestays. The people are incredibly friendly and they’re proud of their country.

But – as with all travel, you need to know that anything can happen, no matter where it is you travel to.

I backpacked Sri Lanka in October 2018. Just a few months later the country was hit with horrific terrorist attacks. Never did I ever think this would happen to such a kind and caring nation.

But it’s a reality that no matter where you travel to there is a chance of something devastating happening. Don’t let this fear stop you from exploring countries as unique as Sri Lanka. It’s an amazing country; the people are so generous and they rely heavily on tourism.

Is Sri Lanka Safe
I never felt unsafe in Sri Lanka and the people were always so kind and helpful

3 Week Itinerary For Sri Lanka

I spent 3 weeks backpacking Sri Lanka and it was everything I imagined it to be – and more.

From the people to the food, the scenery to the experiences, Sri Lanka is one of the best countries to explore.

Have you been to Sri Lanka? What was the highlight of your Sri Lanka itinerary? Let me know in the comments section below!

Looking for more Sri Lanka travel information? Check out my other posts!

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About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn.  I’m a South African trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel stories and tips of life abroad.

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Sri Lanka Itinerary: 3 Weeks In Sri Lanka”

  1. Excellent post and so informative on what to do in Sri Lanka! Besides the amazing beaches, I’d love to see Sigiriya and Ella! Definitely saving this for when I get the chance to go!


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