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7 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary: From Negombo to Galle

Updated On 
February 8, 2023
17 Min Read
Sri Lanka
A blue train passing through lush mountains in Ella, Sri Lanka.

The Ultimate 7 Days in Sri Lanka Itinerary

With 7 days in Sri Lanka, you can visit the cultural triangle in the North, experience the largest wild Asian elephant gathering in Minneriya national park, and still have enough time left to take the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella. For a full packed 1 week holiday to Sri Lanka, look no further!

February 8, 2023
17 Min Read
Sri Lanka
A blue train passing through lush mountains in Ella, Sri Lanka.
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Are you looking for the ultimate 7-day Sri Lanka itinerary?

We’ve got you covered!

This is a comprehensive 1-week travel route with everything you need to know about traveling in Sri Lanka. In this travel guide, you will find the top things to do, how to get around, where to stay, and many insider tips that will let you see the very best of the country. 

So if you’re looking for a full-packed holiday in Sri Lanka for 7 days, then you’ll love this guide. While this 1-week itinerary may be rushed, you’ll still get to experience the best of Sri Lanka’s wonders.

Table of Contents
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Sri Lanka
A blue train passing through lush mountains in Ella, Sri Lanka.

Travel Route For 

Sri Lanka

1 Week
  1. Negombo
  2. Sigiriya
  3. Kandy
  4. Ella
  5. Tangalle
  6. Galle
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Before you Travel

Sri Lanka is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, and there are several important things to consider before planning a trip. To ensure the best possible experience, read our Sri Lanka Travel Tips to prepare for your trip. This includes visa requirements, the best time to visit, and other important things to know before traveling.

Read: Sri Lanka Travel Tips

A blue train passes through green mountains in Ella, Sri Lanka

7 Days in Sri Lanka Itinerary

While we recommend spending at least 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, we also acknowledge that not everyone has an extended time for their holidays. That's why we've put together this Sri Lanka guide that will let you experience the beautiful coastlines, lush jungles, and ancient cities all within one week. 

In this 1-week Sri Lanka itinerary, we recommend taking a car or hiring a driver to take you around. This is so you can make the most of your short visit, and you'll be able to plan your Sri Lanka trip more conveniently and efficiently.

A red tuk-tuk in front of a green tea plantation at Lipton Seat, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Travel Resources

Accommodation: Find hotels on Agoda and Booking.com

Activities: Find tours and attractions on Viator and GetYourGuide

Insurance: Get travel insurance with HeyMondo

Transportation: Find bus, train, or car transfer on 12go.asia

Tip: To save time in this 1-week Sri Lanka itinerary, we recommend cars over local buses and trains. For the full Sri Lankan experience, take at least one short-distance bus.

A monk is seen at Matara Bus Station

Day 1: Negombo

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to March

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk

You will be arriving at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMD), located in Colombo. You may wish to spend one night in Negombo if you're tired or arrive late. Or you can head straight to Sigiriya from the airport.

A woman lays fish to dry in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

The majority of Negombo's accommodations are located along Negombo Beach. This is a great area to stay in because there are numerous restaurants, cafes, and bars within walking distance along Porutota Road. If you want to stay somewhere quieter, choose accommodations that are further away from the main road. ‍Find all Negombo accommodations here.

Fishermen prepare fish at the beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka

How to Get to Negombo from the Airport

Car: Booking an Uber or PickMe from Bandaranaike Airport is the best and most convenient way to get to Negombo. The drive to the majority of the accommodations takes about 30 minutes and costs roughly 10 USD. You can also hail a taxi from the airport, but you risk being overcharged.


Tuk-tuk: You could also take a tuk-tuk. You must exit the airport to find them, because they are not permitted to stop inside. However, they are easily available. When you arrive, simply exit the driveway and walk to the left until you reach the gate where cars exit the terminal. Tuk-tuks are available once you exit the building. You can expect to pay around 5 USD. Remember to agree on the price before you get into the tuk-tuk.

Tip: If you want to enjoy a hassle-free arrival for an affordable price, book this airport private transfer

Fish lays to dry on a beach at Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Negombo is a peaceful fishing village with colonial charm that is a popular stopover for travelers. You can take a walk through the fishing village, also known as Lellama by the locals, and learn about the local fishing community. We recommend going early in the morning to see the boats coming in from their night catch. This is also one of the biggest open-air fishing villages in Sri Lanka.

Palm trees agains a blue sky in Negombo, Sri Lanka

You can also head to Negombo Beach and enjoy the beautiful sunset. Stroll along the golden sand and watch local families enjoy the afternoon. The long stretch of beach offers a lot of areas where you can enjoy the sunset alone. 

You should consider booking a guided tour that will take you to the main attractions in Negombo. Here are the most popular tours in Negombo available. 

People buy fish at a busy fish-market in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Day 2: Sigiriya 

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: January to March

How to Get Around: Tuk-tuk, Motorbike

Sigiriya, known for its ancient rock fortress, is one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. We recommend leaving Negombo early in the morning on day 2 to give you more time to explore Sigiriya in the afternoon.

A elephant calf is seen in Minneriya National Park.

How to Get to Sigiriya from Negombo

Car: The fastest and most convenient way is to book a car directly to Sigiriya. The drive takes about 3 hours depending on the traffic. Expect to pay at least 45 USD.

Book your car to Sigiriya

Bus: There are no direct buses to Sigiriya but it’s pretty straightforward. All in all, it takes at least 4 hours by local bus. 

Here’s how:

1. Head to Negombo Bus Terminal and catch bus No.34 to Kurunagela. The drive is around 2 hours and a bus ticket costs around 2 USD.

2. From Kurunagela take a bus heading to either Kandy or Trincomalee and exit at Dambulla. It’ll take another hour for 1 USD.

3. From Dambulla take another local bus heading to Sigiriya. A ticket should cost less than 1 USD and takes about 45 minutes.

A monkey during sunset on the top of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

There are numerous accommodations near Sigiriya Rock, particularly in the southern area. The majority of the restaurants are located along Sigiriya Road, near the Lion's Rock entrance. In addition, most homestays and hotels in the area provide complimentary breakfast, while there are numerous restaurants within walking distance. Find all accommodations in Sigiriya here.

A view at Sigiriya in the early morning.

Once you arrive in Sigiriya, visit the rock fortress before sunset. The entrance fee is 30 USD, which includes admission to the Lion Rock Museum. The site opens from 6:30am to 5:30pm everyday. Its impressive structures and the amazing views at the top, make the tiring climb worth it.

The entrance of Sigiriya Rock.

Sigiriya is also an excellent starting point for exploring the nearby national parks. On your third day, book a jeep safari and spend the morning exploring Minneriya National Park. A jeep safari in Minneriya National Park costs approximately 60 USD per person.

Sri Lanka has the highest population density of wild Asian elephants in the world. So, if you've ever wanted to see elephants in the wild, a trip to Minneriya must be on your Sri Lanka itinerary!

Read: Elephant Gathering in Minneriya National Park

A herd of elephants is seen in Minneriya National Park

Day 3: Kandy

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to April

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk, Bus

Many tourists visit Kandy as a starting point for the famous train ride to Ella. Because one week in Sri Lanka may be too short, you may want to skip Kandy and head straight to Ella. 

However if you want to take the train, you should go to Kandy in the afternoon of day 3 after your safari tour in Minneriya and spend the night in the city before taking the train on day 4.

A bus-driver wearing colorful clothes, leans against his bus.

How to Get to Kandy from Sigiriya

Car: The most convenient way to get to Kandy is by car, which takes around 3 hours. You can book online on the Uber app or ask your accommodation to organize it to avoid getting scammed. Prices can be cheaper or more expensive depending on availability, but expect to pay at least 40 USD.

Book your car to Kandy

Bus: For a cheaper alternative, take a local bus from Sigiriya to Dambulla. A bus ticket costs around 1 USD and takes about 45 minutes.

From Dambulla, take another bus heading to Kandy. The buses go every 20 minutes during the day. The fare starts at 2 USD, and the ride takes about 3 hours. 

All in all, depending on the traffic and how long you’ll be waiting for the bus, traveling to Kandy by bus will take you about 4 hours.

Tea plantations at Lipton Seat, Sri Lanka.

Accommodations are widely available in Kandy, one of Sri Lanka's largest cities. If you're only staying one night, stay near the lake or center. So transferring to the train or bus station is easier and faster. Find all Kandy accommodations here.

A view of Kandy Lake with the Temple of the Sacred tooth in the background.

If you arrive in Kandy before dusk, visit the Kandy Lake at the heart of the city. This peaceful lake is a great escape from the busy streets and traffic. You can walk around the lake or relax on the many benches available on the side. 

Tip: Visit the lake at sunset and you’ll see hundreds of bats coming out and flying over the lake. A one-of-a-kind experience available only in Kandy! 

Cultural Dance Show in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Day 4 & 5: Ella

Recommended Length of Stay: 2 Nights

Best Time to Visit: January to April

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk, Bus

Ella is a well-known hill town in Sri Lanka, known for its scenic train rides and laid-back vibes. If there is one place you should take your time, it is here. Ella's cool climate and amazing landmarks will entice you to stay longer in this charming hill town.

Commuters get from the train in Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Ella from Kandy

Train: From Kandy, take the morning train to Ella from the train station. And get ready to capture the beautiful scenery of the rolling hills and tea plantations.  


To get the most out of the train experience, we recommend taking a second- or third class ticket. If you want to make sure you have a ticket, head to the train station and reserve in advance. Especially if you're visiting during peak season. A third class ticket costs 1 USD and 2 USD for a second-class ticket.


The train ride from Kandy to Ella takes at least 8 hours. So you should buy some food and drinks before you board. You can also buy snacks from the locals selling them from the windows when you stop at each station.


You can check the updated train schedules and pricing at the railway government site

Book your train to Ella

A blue train crosses a bridge in Sri Lanka.

Ella Town has great accommodation options that offer great views. If you want to stay closer to most restaurants, stay around the town center or the railway station. But if you wish to stay in a quieter area, book accommodation along the Ella - Passara road. You’ll also be closer to the Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adam’s Peak. Find all Ella accommodations here.

A waterfall surrounded by green mountains in Ella, Sri Lanka.

You will arrive in Ella late in the afternoon if you take the train in the morning. After a long day on the train, it's best to relax for the evening. For dinner, go to Café UFO Ella, which is one of the best restaurants in town. Their menu focuses on Asian fusion, Western, and Sri Lankan cuisine. 

The restaurant serves large portions at a reasonable price. It also has a distinct architecture that gives the impression of being inside a wooden ship. So you could go there to unwind and have a drink.

The famous Ning Arch bridge surrounded by trees in Ella, Sri Lanka

On your second day in Ella you should hike to the Nine Arch Bridge. The bridge is one of the most visited tourist spots in Ella, and for many good reasons. Visit the bridge at sunrise to see the warm, golden light peeking through the forest. It is also a great opportunity to photograph early in the morning with the sun shining through the bridge's high beams and train tracks. 

Tip: Get a cold coconut from one of the vendors and sit back as you wait for the iconic blue train to pass by.

A girl looks into a green valley from Ella Rock, Sri Lanka.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, head to Ella Rock in the afternoon and get a stunning view overlooking the town. Depending on your fitness level, the hike ranges from moderate to difficult. It can take up to three hours back and forth from the main town, so bring enough water and wear proper shoes.


From our experience, a local approached us and directed us the wrong way up. Once we were lost, the same local showed up and guided us up to Ella Rock. He then charged us ridiculous prices for his service. Don’t make the same mistake and try to be vigilant! The trail to Ella Rock is very easy to follow and also popular among visitors. If you're unsure, wait for another hiker and tag along with them.

Read: 5 Most Popular Hikes in Sri Lanka

Tip: Make sure to follow the train tracks till you see a sign that says Ella Rock; from there, follow the trail and hike up.

A green valley seen from Little Adams Peak, Sri Lanka.

Hiring a tuk-tuk to take you around Ella is another option if you want to explore the area with ease and comfort. Below you'll find some of the most popular Ella tours.

A dog is seen at Little Adams Peak, Sri Lanka

Day 6: Tangalle 

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: April to July

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk, Motorbike

In the morning, head to Tangalle and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach or exploring the town. Tangalle is the ideal place to spend a peaceful and quiet vacation, thanks to its relaxed atmosphere. It also has some of Sri Lanka's best beaches.

A stilt fisher in Matara, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Tangalle from Ella

Car: The fastest way to reach tangalle is to book a car or a taxi for about 50 USD and the drive takes around 3 hours. 

Book your car to Tangalle

Bus: The cheapest way is to catch a local bus heading to either Galle or Matara at the Ella bus stand and exit the bus when it’s passing Tangalle. There are many buses passing Ella in the morning. 

Note that you may not even get a seat right away, but the bus stops and drops people off every now and then. A bus ticket costs around 1 USD and the drive takes about 4 hours.

Tip: Ask your accommodation for the updated bus timings or head to the bus stand and check the posted schedule.

Palm trees and a lighthouse next to Tangalle Beach, Sri Lanka.

There are many good options for staying in Tangalle, and restaurants are everywhere. You can stay in the center, close to the main fishing harbor and Tangalle beach. There are also many places to stay along Tangalle Road in the southern area, close to the coast. We stayed at Vijaya Road, and the area has a chill vibe with lots of accommodations and restaurants lined up by the beach. Find all Tangalle accommodations here.

Palm trees during sunset.

Day 7: Tangalle or Galle

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to April

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk 

You may choose to relax on your last day in Tangalle, or you can make a stopover in Galle on your way back to the airport.

Galle is located on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka and famous for its old Dutch fort. The fort is a Unesco World Heritage Site and Sri Lanka’s best-preserved colonial townscape. Get lost in the colorful and narrow cobbled streets of the fort or relax at one of the many restaurants and cafes.

A family walks past a building colonial in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Galle from Tangalle

Car: For convenience, take a taxi from Tangalle for around 9 USD. Depending on the traffic, the drive takes around 1.5 hours. 

Book your car to Galle

A white Hindu Temple in Galle, Sri Lanka.

If you have more time, we recommend spending the night inside the fort. There are many boutique hotels in the area that cater to every traveler. Staying inside the fort also gives you lots of restaurant and food choices. Set up in a very idyllic place, Galle Fort is one of the places you can get lost and not want to leave. Find all Galle accommodations here.

Back to Colombo Airport

From Galle, you may choose to go to the airport to catch your flight or spend another night in Negombo. If your flight leaves early in the morning or you want to be sure not to miss your flight, we recommend heading back to Negombo one day before departure.

Two young men wearing white robes in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.

Here are the best ways to get to the airport from Galle:

Car: The fastest way is to take a taxi directly to the Colombo airport. The drive takes around 2 hours, and you can expect to pay at least 60 USD.

Book your car to Colombo airport


Bus: There are two direct buses that head to the airport; they leave at 6:30am and 4:30pm. Head to the bus stop in front of the Fort entrance and hop on the bus with the "airport" sign. The bus has AC and costs about 4 USD. The journey takes about 3 hours.


Tip: If you miss the direct bus, you can take another bus heading to Kadawatha and then transfer to a bus heading to the airport.  


Train: Or, you can take the train from Galle Railway Station to Colombo Fort Station. Trains depart daily, and you can check the schedule at the Sri Lanka railway site. It takes about 3 hours and costs around 2 USD.


From Colombo Fort Station, walk 600 metres to the Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal and take Bus No.187 heading to the airport. It takes around 45 minutes, and a ticket costs less than 1 USD.

A colorful temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

And there you have it!


The most comprehensive 1 week in Sri Lanka travel itinerary. 

We hope this travel guide provides you with everything you need to know to plan your one-week vacation in Sri Lanka. You are free to customize it however you see fit. With the perfect combination of cultural experiences, natural wonders, and relaxation time, you are sure to have a wonderful trip no matter how you choose to enjoy this unique country.

What are you most looking forward to about your trip to Sri Lanka? 

Let us know in the comments section!

Some links in this Sri Lanka Itinerary may be affiliate links.

This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of our links, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that by doing so, you are supporting Colorful Journeys in continuing to provide free high quality content to help you in your travels!

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