The Ultimate Sri Lanka Itinerary: 3 Weeks In Sri Lanka

Looking for the perfect 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary? 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, and have compiled this epic 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary to help you plan your perfect getaway!

This includes my favorite places to see and the best things to do in Sri Lanka.

It’s 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 and hill country and set your sights on the best beaches.

It’s a busy 3 weeks. But it’s the best itinerary for Sri Lanka 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

Torn Tackies contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See my disclosure for more information.

3 Week Sri Lanka itinerary: Map

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

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

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

2 Week Sri Lanka itinerary route

The above travel route is based on a 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

But not everyone has time on their side!

If you only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, I recommend skipping Trincomalee, Aragum Bay, and Kandy.

  • Day 1: Negombo
  • Day 2-3: Sigiriya
  • Day 4-5: Dalhousie
  • Day 6-7: Nuwara Eliya
  • Day 8-10: Ella
  • Day 11-12: Hiriketiya
  • Day 13-14: Mirissa/Weligama
Best places to include on your Sri Lanka itinerary
Hiriketiya Beach was the highlight of my Sri Lanka itinerary

Day 1: Negombo

  • Time needed: 1 night

Your Sri Lanka trip will start at Colombo International Airport. Its official name is Bandaranaike International Airport.

Colombo airport is 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

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: 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. If it’s not on your Sri Lanka travel itinerary, it needs to be.

It’s a beautiful, relaxed village, unspoiled by tourism and development.

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 (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 to 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 on 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

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 offer impressive views of Lion Rock from the balcony.

Budget: I stayed at Shen Residence and loved it. It’s a 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: 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 a small town and considered off the beaten path in Sri Lanka.

Trincomalee is 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.

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 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

Where to stay in Trincomalee

Luxury: Located at the far end of Uppuveli Beach lies Trinco Blu by Cinnamon. This luxury hotel and 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: 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. It’s also 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

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.

Explore Kandy Forest: Most people skip this and opt for the more popular attractions in Kandy. However, 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.

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

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: 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.

Adam’s Peak is 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, or 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 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

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!

Kandy to Ella train
Finally on the train to Nuwara Eliya

Day 9-10: 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. 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!

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

Tea plantations. No Sri Lankan trip 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.

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

Indulge in high tea at The Grand Hotel. There’s nothing better than High Tea on a gloomy day in Sri Lanka. 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

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: Ella

  • Time needed: 3 nights

After nearly 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, we finally made it to Ella. It’s arguably the most famous stop in hill country.

Ella is constantly 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 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 the Ella Rock hike or Little Adam’s Peak.

Watch the trains cross the Nine 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. 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

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: 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, 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

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 want 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: 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 three weeks in Sri Lanka.

Hiriketiya Beach is 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

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: Mirissa/Weligama/Midigama

  • Time needed: 2 nights

The southern part of the country is popular with backpackers. It’s 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 come 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

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: Negombo

After exploring Sri Lanka in 3 weeks, 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.

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

Itinerary for 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.

Where to spend more time

If you have more time on your Sri Lanka itinerary, I recommend spending 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 National Park 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 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.

Visit Jaffna

If you have the time, it’s worth heading north to experience authentic life in Jaffna.

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

Itinerary for 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.

Must-visit places in Sri Lanka

Regardless of how much time you have, Sigiriya, Ella, and Hiriketiya Beach are must-see destinations in your 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Spend Less time here

If you only have 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, spend 1 night in Kandy, or pass 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 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. If you’re short on time, then rather travel by private van.

However, if you’re backpacking Sri Lanka and on a budget (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 itinerary 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, and 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. 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.

Top tip: Driving in Sri Lanka is pretty hectic! 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 3 weeks in Sri Lanka, I traveled mostly with public buses. This is because 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). 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 want 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”. Or you can 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, Hiriketiya, and Trincomalee and went exploring the nearby beaches and villages. 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

Tips for 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.

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.

Sri Lanka Travel Route
The gorgeous Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an all-year travel destination.

You can spend hours researching the best time to visit, but the weather can still be unpredictable.

If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, it’s good to know that December to March is peak season. 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.

Sri Lanka food

I didn’t know much about Sri Lanka cuisine before I arrived. And 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.

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.

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

Sri Lanka itinerary FAQS

How many days are enough for Sri Lanka?

You should spend at least 10 days in Sri Lanka. But this is only enough time to explore Hill country and the beaches along the southern coast. It’s better to spend 2 to 3 weeks in Sri Lanka if you have the time.

Is Sri Lanka expensive to visit?

No, Sri Lanka is not expensive. You can easily get by on less than $50 per day if you eat local food, use public transport, and stay in budget accommodation.

Is 3 weeks too long in Sri Lanka?

No, three weeks is the perfect amount of time to visit Sri Lanka. You’ll get to explore the tea plantations in hill country, the cultural triangle as well and the diverse coastlines without being rushed.

3 Weeks in Sri Lanka itinerary

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!

Pin this!
The Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka: Backpacking Itinerary | Torn Tackies Travel Blog |
3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary And Travel Guide
Sri Lanka Travel Guide | 3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary
About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn. I’m an adventure travel blogger trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel guides and tips for life abroad. Find out more about me here.

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!


Leave a Comment