Sri Lanka Itinerary 3 Weeks: The Ultimate Guide

Sri Lanka Itinerary 3 Weeks

Looking for Sri Lanka itinerary for 3 weeks? Sri Lanka truly has it all – from glorious beaches, misty mountains, cultural delights to historical monuments. Everything you can expect from a perfect tropical holiday can be found in sunny Lanka.

The special 3 weeks Sri Lanka itinerary by T2 Travels Sri Lanka gives you a comprehensive insight on where to visit and what to do!

Sri Lanka Itinerary 3 Weeks Summary

  • Day 1 – Negombo
  • Day 2 & 3 – Sigiriya/Dambulla
  • Day 4 – Anuradhapura
  • Day 5 & 6 – Trincomalee
  • Day 7 – Polonnaruwa
  • Day 8 & 9 – Kandy
  • Day 10, 11 & 12 – Nuwara Eliya
  • Day 13 & 14 – Ella
  • Day 15 & 16 – Arugam Bay
  • Day 17 – Yala
  • Day 18 – Galle
  • Day 19 & 20 – Bentota
  • Day 21 – Colombo

Day 1 – Negombo

Negombo

A short drive from the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) will take you to the little Rome of Sri Lanka. Negombo is a cozy little coastal town. The perfect place for a quick getaway to relax at the beach, explore the colonial architecture, and simply enjoy ravishing seafood.

Head to the beach

The golden mile of Sri Lanka, Negombo beach is the ideal place to take a dip, enjoy watersports or just chill.

Apart from the usual watersports such as diving, sailing, windsurfing, surfing, and kitesurfing, the Negombo beach also offers various other fun activities.

You can also try kayaking, sailing boat rides, and boogie boards, which can be hired. The local boatmen offer boating tours in their wooden fishing boats.

Sightseeing at the Old Dutch Fort

The Dutch Fort was built in 1644 and it stands out due to its unusual pentagonal shape. The fort was built on a narrow strip of land in between the lagoon and the bay of the sea.

The Fort had had a very earthly feel to it and was described as a ‘fine defensible structure’ by a prominent governor at the time.

The fort was damaged during the British era and some of the stones were used to build the Negombo prison. Today, only a little is left of the majestic Dutch Fort it once was.

Suggested Read: Sri Lanka Itinerary 1 Week

Day 2 & 3 – Sigiriya/ Dambulla

sigiriya

The second and third days of your holiday will be a completely different experience compared to your first day. Sri Lanka 3 week itinerary from T2 Travels Sri Lanka is designed to give visitors a mix of experiences.

Rising above the lush greenery of the country’s central plains, Sigiriya Rock stands proudly towering at a height of 350m. Often referred to as the eighth world wonder, which is not surprising – given it is a geographical and constructional marvel even to date.

What is Sigiriya?

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress built by King Kashyapa. Located in the Matale district close to the village of Dambulla, ‘Sigiriya’ translates to ‘Lion’s Rock’. To reach the rock fortress you need to climb up 1200 steps. On the way up you will pass mini marvels of this archeological treasure. Sigirya Rock was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Exploring Sigiriya

To climb the Sigiriya rock the best time to start is in the morning or late afternoon when it is not sunny and hot.

The climb may be difficult for some since there are 1200 steps but the breathtaking views, stunning frescos, and other little marvels make it a rewarding experience especially when you reach the summit.

Sigiriya Museum

The museum is located outside the main entrance and the best time to go there is before you start the climb.

You get interesting details of the fortress as well as a variety of photographs of Sigiriya. The entrance ticket includes the tour to the museum as well so don’t miss it!

Opening hours: 7 am – 5 pm.

Tickets – Everyone needs to purchase a ticket to enter, the rates for locals and visitors from SAARC countries are lower than for others.

Duration – It takes up to 2- 3 hours to climb and descend the rock.

The climb can be tiring so even if you go in the morning, you can spend the rest of the day in the comfort of your hotel.

Dambulla

A twenty-five-minute drive from Sigiriya will take you to the serene village of Dambulla blessed with a historical masterpiece.

The highlight of Dambulla is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Dambulla Cave Temple.

The cave temple sits proudly on a 160m high rock that is made up of five separate caves and a hundred and fifty Buddha statues.

The ancient murals some of which dates back 2000 years are preserved to perfection. The murals depict ancient stories from the life of Buddha and Sinhala Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka.

Tip – There are wild monkeys everywhere at the entrance, along the way, and inside the temple. They are generally harmless but if you carry food or flowers, they WILL jump at it, so make sure to carry such items in a bag.

Opening hours: 7 am – 7 pm.

Tickets – You need to purchase a ticket to enter. The ticket counter closes by 5 pm.

Duration– 1- 2 hours.

Even though Dambulla is renowned for the Cave Temple, another must-see site is the Jathika Namal Uyana (Ironwood Forest).

It’s a range of seven hills and among those, you find the Pink Quartz mountain range. This Pink Quartz Mountain is the largest in South East Asia.

This is not a popular site among tourists so it’s more of a hidden treasure!

Suggested Read: Sri Lanka Itinerary 4 Weeks

Day 4 – Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura

On your day 4 of the tour, a 1.5-hour drive from Dambulla will take you to Anuradhapura with enough time to explore the historical magnificence.

The historical city of Anuradhapura is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the most archeologically rich city in Sri Lanka.

The city is part of the cultural triangle, which consists of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy – three of the greatest capitals of Sri Lanka.

There’s no better place in the country to discover the history of the country other than Anuradhapura.

Many kings have left a legacy of architectural and engineering wonders. There is much to explore in this monumental city and we at T2 Travels Sri Lanka want to give you the best cultural experience in Sri Lanka hence our travel experts will give you a complete guided tour.

Anuradhapura was the foundation of Sinhala Buddhist civilization. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is the highlight of Buddhism in Anuradhapura and many devotees pilgrim to the city to worship this sacred Bodhi tree.

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sapling of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.

It was planted here in the 3rd century BC. Anuradhapura is also home to several ancient temples, ruins of ancient palaces and monasteries.

The weather in Anuradhapura is very hot and sunny. Most of the attractions are spread out therefore its best to travel by an air-conditioned car. Cycling or walking will be too hot to handle for many.

These are the ‘must see’ sites in Anuradhapura,
– Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
– Ruwanwelisaya
– Isurumuniya Viharaya
– Mirisawetiya Stupa
– Jethavanaramaya
– Abhayagiriya Stupa
– Kuttam Pokuna
– Samadhi Buddha Statue

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Day 5 & 6 – Trincomalee

Trincomalee

While many visitors prefer to travel to Polonnaruwa from Anuradhapura, at T2 Travels Sri Lanka we recommend our guests choose this route.

Trincomalee will be a refreshing change after Anuradhapura and you will appreciate Polonnaruwa even more after your two-day break!

A short two-hour drive from Anuradhapura will take you to Trincomalee, where you can spend two days enjoying one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka.

Trincomalee

Trincomalee is a charming little town located on the eastern coast of sunny Lanka. Even though the east coast has some of the best beaches in the country, it is still not as crowded as the southern coast.

This is the perfect reason to visit this beauty. Trincomalee or Trinco is surrounded by wilderness, rock formations, and small peaks.

Enjoy the Nilaveli and Uppuveli beaches

Beach bums are going to love the palm-fringed beaches of Trincomalee. They are perfect to unwind and soak up the sun.

The powdery white sand against the emerald waters of Uppuveli is just breathtaking. Whether you want to swim, surf, go whale watching or enjoy a game of beach volleyball – this is your place.

Nilaveli beach is simply paradise. It remains untouched even by the onslaught of visitors.

Koneswaram temple

One of the top sites to visit in Trincomalee is the Koneswaram Temple. Perched atop a cliff inside Fort Fredrick this Hindu Temple is dedicated to the deity ‘Shiva’. Designed using Dravidian architecture, it is a wonderful place for seeking solace.

The temple is surrounded by the Indian Ocean and views from above are breathtaking. On route to the temple, you can stop at the famous lovers’ leap.

Pigeon Island

A short boat ride from the Nilaveli beach will take you to the pristine Pigeon Island National Park. The national park comprises of two small islands.

It is home to vibrant marine life and a magnificent rock formation. You can go scuba diving and snorkeling here and the underwater world is even more gorgeous than what lies above.

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Day 7 – Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa

After two days of sunshine and beaches, you can take a short drive to the sacred city of Polonnaruwa. Another member of the cultural triangle, it is the second ancient capital of Sri Lanka.

Polonnaruwa is considered one of the best-preserved historical cities in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to rich archaeological monuments and is blessed with natural beauty.

The monuments in Polonnaruwa are located close to each other unlike in Anuradhapura. Generally, you can do walking or cycling tours if it is not sunny.

Polonnaruwa’s unprecedented works of architecture that are influenced by Buddhist and Hindu cultures is impressive.

Apart from religious sites, the city also has well-preserved ruins of palaces, royal gardens, bathing ponds, carvings, and statues that demonstrate the artistic talents of the bygone eras.

Opening hours: 7.30 am – 6 pm daily.

Tickets – You need to purchase a ticket from the building housing the Polonnaruwa Museum.

Duration: 2 -3 hours.

These are the ‘must-see’ sites in Polonnaruwa
– Kumara Pokuna
– Siva Devale 1 and 2
– Polonnaruwa Quadrangle
– Gal Viharaya
– Pabalu Vehera
– Lankathilaka Viharaya
– Rankot Viharaya

Suggested Read: Sri Lanka In June: 5 Best Places To Visit

Day 8 & 9 – Kandy

Kandy

You are in the middle of your Sri Lanka 3 week itinerary, so make the most of your time! The next stop is the cultural capital of Lanka – Kandy.

Kandy is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka after Colombo. Brimming with rich culture and history – Kandy is a fascinating city with old-world charm.

Lush greenery, extensive mountain ranges, unique heritage, and cultural opulence make up this iconic city.

The city is blessed with natural beauty along with historical and cultural attractions. This sacred city is a pilgrimage destination due to the presence of the revered Temple of the Tooth that houses the sacred relics of Buddha.

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sacred city of Kandy exudes radiance and pride in every corner. As the protector of the holy tooth relic of Buddha, Kandy is considered the guardian city of Lanka.

Things to do in Kandy

The Kandy Lake also known as the sea of milk flows around the heart of the city. The lake looks magnificent at any hour of the day.

It’s a popular place to take long strolls, ride bicycles or simply spend time gazing at the soothing flow of water.

The Kandy Lake adds splendor to the city and it’s an iconic part of the city’s natural beauty.

A visit to the most revered temple in the country the Temple of the Tooth or ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’ is a must.

Built during the 16th century the ornately designed temple is a significant place of worship for Buddhists from all around the world.

During the annual Esala Perahera (Procession) the sacred tooth relic is paraded across the city safely placed on a back of an elephant.

The temple is best visited in the morning or evening during the ceremonial ‘poojas’ (offerings).

Make sure to dress modestly to cover your legs and shoulder. Footwear must be removed before entering the temple.

Take a stroll amid the vibrant blossoms of the Peradeniya Botanical Garden. The garden, which was once exclusively for the royal family was later, opened to the public.

The exquisite orchid patches are quite a delight.

Make your way to three historical temples – Embekke Devalaya, Lankathilaka Viharaya and Gadaladeniya Viharaya.

Day 10, 11 & 12 – Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

If you are travelling from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya the perfect mode of transport is the – Train!

Toot! Toot!

If there is a trip in the world that is more breathtaking than the actual destination- that’s a train ride experience from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka.

The three-hour train ride is exciting, interesting and it comes with plenty of photography opportunities.

If you are wondering what’s so great about taking the train, well the journey is comfortable and the scenery is mind-blowing.

After departing Kandy the train ascends gradually and the first hour out of the city will witness a slow rise through the thick forest.

When you go higher the tea plantations will come into full view and the tea-pickers busily working with sacks on their backs will come to full view.

This first stretch is unbelievably beautiful and you can’t imagine napping since you will miss out a lot.

Once passing the tea estates then comes to the rolling mountains and the beautiful villages with green gardens and cozy looking homes.

The second leg of the journey when the train descends to Nuwara Eliya, the atmosphere starts to change however the beauty of nature will remain.

The misty mountains might cover some of the views but still, it’s truly an amazing sight. You will cross bridges and go across small hamlets interspersing forests and tea estates.

Have fun at Gregory Lake

Enjoy simple water activities such as jet skiing and swan boat rides on Gregory Lake. The area around the lake has a lovely patch of greenery, which is ideal to ride bicycles, run, play or have a picnic.

Day 13 & 14 – Ella

Ella

After spending three days in Nuwara Eliya, going to Ella will be an extended holiday with the same atmosphere but with a little more excitement!

Ella is a small village nestled among the hill country. Surrounded by hills perfect for walks and tea plantations, Ella has its special sparkle in the hill country of Sri Lanka.

Over the years Ella has become more of a backpacker’s paradise. The quiet little village is slowly transforming into a quirky high-spirited tourist hub.

Day 15 & 16 – Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay

A three-hour drive from Ella will take you to the beach side town of Arugam Bay. It will be a refreshing and delightful change of weather, atmosphere, and everything between.

Arugam Bay beach

Arugam Bay is referred to as ‘Ullai’ in Tamil and it is one of the best places for a calm beachside holiday. It’s a place you would want to swing on a hammock all day long.

The town is not only about the beach and surfing but there are plenty of things for non-surfers and holidaymakers to enjoy here. For those who enjoy water activities, Arugam Bay beach unveils a range of fun things to do.

You can snorkel, swim, or dive on the famous Basses reef and enjoy oceanic activities available.

Surfing the waves of Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is situated on the southeast of Sri Lanka and it is among the top surf points in the world.

Arugam Bay stands out from the rest of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas since it is not affected by the monsoons, unlike its counterparts.

Arugam Bay’s surfing season is from May to November. Be prepared for crowds during this time of the year.

Isolated beaches and budget-friendly accommodation will not be in sight when the tides are high! It gets pretty jam-packed on the main breaks since the mellow surf makes it a great spot for any skill level.

Try some yoga

Stretch out and relax your muscles in Arugam Bay. There are tons of yoga ashrams around the main street – try one out!

Rent a scooter

Explore the town on a scooter. The roads around the town are ideal for it and it will be a great experience.

Enjoy the seafood!

Arugam Bay is a fishing village so you can expect to be served fresh seafood. Make the most of the delicious seafood varieties the restaurants serve.

Day 17 – Yala

Yala national park

Safari

The safari jeeps at the entrance of the Yala Park will take you on a comprehensive journey around the park. Certain vehicles have a guide if not the driver is usually well versed in the whereabouts of the park.

The 4WD safari jeep will go through the bio-diverse terrain of the park, which starts, from the northern end.

There’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy here so get your cameras ready as so as you enter through the gates. Early morning and late afternoons are the best time to spot rare animals.

Go camping

If you are the adventurous type then camping out at Yala National Park will be a great choice. There are various campsites located within the park managed by several companies.

Some of the sites have picturesque sceneries be it on a cliff or next to the shady lagoon area.

Day 18 – Galle

Galle

After a day in the wilderness, your next stop is one of the most touristic towns in Sri Lanka – Galle in your 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary.

Galle is the best-preserved colonial town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The three-hundred-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dutch Fort is the prime attraction of the town.

The locals enjoy a quick getaway to Galle during the long weekend while foreigners have come to love it so much that many of them have found second homes in this beautiful haven.

Galle Fort

The Dutch built the Galle Fort during the 1600s. The fort and the old town have been declared UNESCO world heritage sites.

The fort is well maintained and the old buildings are restored to its previous charm. The traffic-free streets of the fort are lined eye-catching colonial architecture.

You will feel that you have gone back in time when you walk or cycle on the streets of sunny Galle Fort.

Dutch Reformed Church

The oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka, it was built in 1755. The architecture is attractive but the interior is quite bland but it is a distinct period piece in Galle and is well worth a visit.

National Museum of Galle

It is one of the National Museums of the country. The museum is housed in the oldest remaining Dutch buildings within the Galle Fort. In the 1600s the building was used as a commissariat store for the Fort but later it became part of the New Oriental Hotel.

The Department of National Museums took over the premises and renovated it to the current state in 1986. The museum displays a collection of artifacts related to the Dutch, Portuguese, and British eras.

Day 19 & 20 – Bentota

Bentota

Bentota is one of the most popular holiday hubs in sunny Sri Lanka. If you love the sun, sand, and sea then Bentota is where you need to be. Apart from the beaches, there are a few attractions in the area that you can explore!

Go to Brief Garden

Around ten kilometers inland from Bentota is the Brief Garden. It is the house that was owned by Bevis Bawa. Brief Garden has a wide collection of interesting artwork displayed.

The highlight of the location is in the garden, which is decorated with an eclectic collection of statues, sculptures, and excessively grown greenery.

Enjoy the watersports

Bentota has plenty of adrenaline-filled watersports. From windsurfing on the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean to kayaking in the Madu River, the list of things to do is endless.

Day 21 – Colombo

Colombo

We have reached the last day of your 3 weeks Sri Lanka itinerary. There’s no better place to spend your final day in Sri Lanka than in – Colombo!

Colombo is the commercial capital and the largest city in Sri Lanka. The colonial architecture, skyscrapers, shopping galore and the urban buzz of Colombo is what make it one of the most sought after travel hubs in Asia.

It’s best not to travel far on your last day in case you get stuck in traffic and miss your flight! We’ve put together a list of short adventures you can enjoy.

Visit the National Museum

Located within the central part of Colombo, the National Museum falls into the list of ‘must see’ places.

Sri Lanka has a history that spans back to 2500 years therefore you can look forward to see a list of interesting things on display.

Established during the 18th century the museum carries a variety of important artifacts from different ages in history.

Watch the sunset at Galle Face Green

The Galle Face Green is an ocean-side urban park in the heart of Colombo. You can watch the sunset and enjoy the sea breeze on your final day in Sri Lanka.

For more information on our Tour packages in Sri Lanka or to get a customizsed 3 weeks Sri Lanka tour package contact T2 Travels Sri Lanka to spend 3 weeks in Sri Lanka.

About the Author: Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at T2 Travels Sri Lanka is a team of experts who are specialists in Sri Lanka tourism.