How Many Days to Spend in Sri Lanka (First-Time Visitors)

This blog post features links and information which have been obtained on a press trip. However, as always, all opinions shared in this post are my own.

Thinking of visiting Sri Lanka but confused about how long you might need to explore the country? I recently visited Sri Lanka for the first time and spent ten days exploring the island. 

Ten days is enough time to see the highlights of Sri Lanka. However, if you want to do things at a slower pace or explore at a deeper level, I’d suggest extending your trip. 

A Sri Lanka visa allows most visitors up to 30 days in the country, and I’d recommend using as much of that as possible.

Most first-time visitors underestimate how long they need in Sri Lanka and quickly fall in love with the country. This has resulted in over 30% of tourists visiting Sri Lanka being repeat travellers. So, even if you can’t experience everything Sri Lanka offers in one visit, be prepared to come back for more!

My ten nights in Sri Lanka were spent on a guided tour around the country. If you’re on a time crunch, I recommend either:

  • Group Tour
  • Private Tour / Driver

A group tour is cheaper. However, the itinerary is fixed and you’ll be travelling with other people, which isn’t for everyone. Meanwhile, a private tour or driver is much more expensive (around $100 a day), but you’ll have more flexibility.

If you’re on a budget, a group or private tour might not suit you. Instead, you’ll need to consider public transport.

Public transport in Sri Lanka is very slow; whatever Google Maps says, double it, at least. So, in this case, you’re trading your time for money. The transport is cheaper, but it’ll take significantly longer, which is fine if you have the time available.

To give you a better understanding, here’s what my ten days on a guided tour around Sri Lanka looked like:

  • Day 1: Arrive in Colombo.
  • Day 2: Tour Colombo & drive north to Habarana
  • Day 3: Elephant Safari at Hurulu Eco Park 
  • Day 4: Hike Pidurangala Rock & visit the Spa
  • Day 5: Drive south to Kandy. Visit the Sri Dalada Museum
  • Day 6: Drive south to Ella and take the train to Demodara
  • Day 7: Nine Arches Bridge & tea plantation
  • Day 8: Drive south to Udawalawa to visit Craft Tunnel & Elephant Transit Home
  • Day 9: Drive to Galle and take a historical tour of the city
  • Day 10: Drive north back to Colombo for the flight home.

Again, this itinerary wouldn’t be possible in 10 days with public transport. At an estimate, you’d be looking at 14 – 16 days instead. It was also very full-on. We’re talking 5am—8 am wake-up calls and getting into bed at 8pm—10pm at night. Again, this type of travelling isn’t for everyone.

When I return to Sri Lanka (because it’s a when and not an if), I would like to do things at a much slower pace. Specifically, I’d like to spend more time in Kandy, Ella, and Galle and visit more of the coast. 


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