In total we were away 17 nights so more than two weeks but not quite three. If I knew what I know now then I would extend our stay to the full three weeks. So I am going to tell you what we did, give you the highlights and suggest possible improvements in case someone else is planning a trip to Sri Lanka any time soon!
We travelled at the end of the south west monsoon season (May to August) and although still hot and very humid, we did have more grey days and less full sun, We had two short spells of very heavy rain but it is always over very quickly! You can read more about the best time to travel to Sri Lanka here.
We split our holiday into three main parts:
Negombo - this was our main base as it is near the airport and is a popular place to rest after a long flight or before returning home. Plus our family live and run their charity from here so it made sense! There was quite a lot to do in the town, it is full of good hotels and has easy access to other areas of Sri Lanka
South Coast and National Park - from Negombo we drove down to Bentota, Galle, Mirissa for whale watching and Udawalwe National Park to see the elephants.
Tea Plantations - again using Negombo as our starting point, we visited Kandy, Nurwara Eliya and the tea plantations. We did a stunning scenic train journey back to Kandy..
We booked our flights and our hotel in Negombo with D&G Travel in Marlow, we flew with Sri Lankan Airlines on a non-stop flight which in total was about 11 hours from LHR to Colombo. I then used Paradiso Travels in Negombo, Sri Lanka to organise the rest of our itinerary, provide our car with driver and book the necessary hotels and other arrangements like the train journey, whale watching and the national park safari.
Both agents were excellent and I cannot fault their service. Being local Sara at Paradiso Travels knew the area well and had clearly built up some excellent contacts, found us some stunning hotels and our driver Vicky knew where to take us, where was good for lunch, a toilet stop and how to negotiate getting us onto the train (more on that challenge later).
We did not travel on a tight budget, we like a bit of luxury and we certainly got it. The comfort and levels of exceptional service at all the hotels was superb. The heat and humidity and the busy itinerary meant that we were really grateful to arrive at each hotel and be completely looked after (I love how they provide a cool wet towel and a welcome drink). In Negombo we stayed on a bed and breakfast basis as there are good restaurants close by but everywhere else we stayed half board so we did not have to worry about finding places to eat, this was a good decision!
We decided to embrace the travelling - the roads in Sri Lanka are busy and basic and although there are motorways being built they are a long way off completion. But sitting in an air conditioned mini-van gave us a wonderful opportunity to watch day to day life, there is always something going on. Whether you are passing through towns or villages, or just through the countryside, there is something to see. For me sleeping wasn't an option, I couldn't bear to miss something.
I would however recommend taking a supply of travel sickness tablets if you suffer on bendy roads! And if you decide to do the whale watching, although the boat operator did provide them too.
Over the coming days I will go into each part of our itinerary separately and share our highlights.
Recommended itinerary for three weeks in Sri Lanka (based on our experience):
Day 1 - arrive into Colombo airport and head to Negombo to stay in one of the beach hotels to recover from the journey. We chose the Jetwing Beach Hotel.
Day 2 - Relax on the beach.
Day 3 - Depart for Bentota, we enjoyed taking the coast road, it was here where we could see the effects of the Tsunami and visited the Tsunami museum. We stayed one night at Paradise Road Villa which was just beautiful and if you wanted an extra day just relaxing then I would recommend two nights here, it is near the beach, has a lovely pool and an excellent restaurant.
Day 4 - Depart for Galle, we arrived in time for lunch and explored the town and the fort for the rest of the afternoon. We stayed for two nights at Cocobay Hotel which has it's own private beach, a fantastic view of the Fort and Galle in the distance and you can watch the fishing boats going out.
Day 5 - We got up very early to go whale watching at Mirissa then we returned to the hotel for freshen up, have lunch nearby and relax for the afternoon.
Day 6 - We left Cocobay after breakfast and arrived at the hotel, Kalu's Hideaway in time for lunch. We had decided to do the 3 to 6 pm safari in Udawalawe National Park and this was a good decision as we saw more than 30 elephants in their natural habitat. We only stayed one night at Kalu's but again this is where I would recommend staying an additional night, the hotel pool and gardens are stunning and worth spending some time relaxing here if time is not too tight.
Day 7 - We left the hotel quite early to go to the Elephant Transit Home to see the elephant orphans for their early morning feed. This was magical and we are so glad we did it - all the elephants looked after here eventually get released back into the wild. I will talk more about elephants and their care in a separate post. We then travelled back to Negombo.
Day 8 - Relax on the beach in the morning, we then took an early evening lagoon boat trip with Captain Fernando..
Day 9 - Relax on the beach.
Day 10 - We left for Kandy after an early breakfast and arrived in time for lunch at a restaurant at the Kandy viewpoint so we could enjoy views over the city. In the afternoon we visited The Temple of the Tooth and explored Kandy. It is an extremely busy city though and we found it a bit overwhelming. At 5 pm we attended a cultural performance of Kandyan dancers, we enjoyed it but with hindsight it was a bit too much and when we arrived at the hotel and realised it was so amazing, we wish we had checked in at the hotel earlier and enjoyed the facilities! The hotel we stayed at was The Kandy House just outside Kandy and I think this was my favourite hotel of the whole trip, again I seriously wished we were staying two nights!
Day 11 - We drove from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (Little England) - this is a good journey to do by train but it was fully booked so we did it in reverse back to Kandy. We visited the botanical gardens in Kandy, then a waterfall viewpoint and finally a tea factory. We arrived late afternoon at our hotel, The Heritance Tea Factory.
Day 12 - We joined other guests to do the tea picking experience and learn more about tea production at the mini tea factory. This was enjoyable and very educational, probably better than the big tea factory. We then explored the area with our driver a bit more, we went into Nuwara Eliya but didn't really like the town, we did have a very authentic curry at The Grand Hotel though and visited the old Post Office.
Day 13 - We left after an early breakfast to get the 09.20 train to Kandy. It was quite a headache sorting out the tickets but so worth it and thank goodness for our driver being able to help. I loved the train journey, it was quite long, about 4 hours in total, as the trains are pretty old and the rail system is quite outdated. The views and the whole experience was absolutely worthwhile though. We met our driver in Kandy and then had another 4 hours in the car before arriving back at the Jetwing Beach in Negombo.
Day 14 - Relaxing on the beach then late afternoon we had a Ayurvedic massage at Spa Ceylon. This is one of the best spa's in Sri Lanka and some of the massage places can be a bit umm 'dodgy' so it is worth finding a recommendation or looking for a Spa Ceylon.
Day 15 - Today we took a tuk tuk ride around Negombo with our driver in his own tuk tuk and explored the fish market and fruit markets.
Day 16 - A day in Colombo, we took the bus straight into the main bus station, got a tuk tuk, had lunch at Barefoot, did some shopping and then had cocktails on the roof garden of The Kingsbury Hotel and finally dinner at Nuga Gama, a traditional Sri Lankan village has been recreated in the grounds of the Cinammon Grand Hotel.
Day 17 - Final day relaxing on the beach!
Day 18 - Flight home.
If you want a slightly more relaxing time I would recommend two nights minimum at the hotels, especially Paradise Road, Kalu's Hideaway and The Kandy House.
Do take a look at my other posts about my Sri Lanka itinerary (COMING SOON) where I go into more detail about what we did and share my thoughts:
Sri Lanka | Where shall I start?
Part 1 - South Coast, Whale Watching and Elephants
Part 2 - Kandy and the Tea Plantations
Part 3 - Negombo and Colombo
Helping good causes in Sri Lanka (Dogstar Foundation and Yawajeewa School)
20 Things you need to know when travelling to Sri Lanka
What to wear in Sri Lanka
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post and it does not contain affiliate links, it is entirely based on my personal experiences and suggestions and what worked for us.
Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my fifties. I share style tips, health and fitness inspiration, I talk about my holidays and days out and I tell you about my beauty regime and my lifestyle. I hope you might pick up a tip or two and get some inspiration!
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