We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
Colorful Journeys Logo

Please Upgrade Your browser.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is an outdated browser and we do not currently support its use with our website. To have the best browsing experience, please upgrade to Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Upgrade Browser

3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary: Climb Sacred Mountains and Spot Wild Leopards

Updated On 
February 8, 2023
23 Min Read
Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

The Ultimate Sri Lanka 3 Week Itinerary

This is the longer version of the 1 week Sri Lanka itinerary. On this route you’ll get a chance to spot wild leopards in Yala national park and walk among pilgrims as you climb to the summit of the sacred Adam’s Peak. This itinerary is the perfect mix for a holiday packed with adventure and culture.

February 8, 2023
23 Min Read
Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka
Share this article:

Sri Lanka is one of the most diverse and stunning destinations in Asia. And with so many things to discover and experience, it’s hard to know where to start. 

That's why we've put together this comprehensive 3 week in Sri Lanka itinerary to ensure that you see the very best of Sri Lanka in 21 days. 

In this travel guide, we have listed everything you need to know, including the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, top things to do, where to stay, and many insider tips! 

Here is the ultimate Sri Lanka 3 week itinerary.

Table of Contents
A woman is walking in front of a yellow wall in Vietnam. A mural on the wall says; "Colorful Journeys".

We are an informative and unfiltered blog focused on providing helpful tips, inspiring stories and travel itineraries. Join us in this Colourful Journey of discovering the world.

Instagram IconFacebook Icon
Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Travel Route For 

Sri Lanka

3 Weeks
  1. Negombo
  2. Sigiriya
  3. Kandy
  4. Delhousie
  5. Ella
  6. Tissamaharama
  7. Tangalle
  8. Galle
Save For Later!
Save For Later!
Save this post to your Pinterest board for later.

Don’t have time to read now? No worries! Save this post to your Pinterest board for later. And follow Colorful Journeys board for the latest post!

Before You Travel

It is important to do research before visiting a foreign country, and Sri Lanka is no exception. Visiting a new country can be both exciting and intimidating, so read our top Sri Lanka travel tips before booking your trip to prepare for your trip and have the best experience possible. It covers visa requirements, the best time to visit, and other important details to be aware of before traveling to Sri Lanka.

Read: Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Narrow streets in Galle, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka 3 Week Itinerary

This is a three-week itinerary in Sri Lanka that starts in Negombo and works its way clockwise. This itinerary is designed to help you better appreciate the diverse landscapes and cultures this beautiful country has to offer.

You can also do it the other way around, moving counterclockwise, whichever works best for you. We've included our suggested number of nights in each location, which you can change to stay longer or shorter. To help you make the most of your trip, it is important to remember to have flexibility with your itinerary.

A man looks through a bus window in Matara, 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

Colonial buildings in Galle, Sri Lanka.

Day 1 & 2: Negombo

Recommended Length of Stay: 2 Nights

Best Time to Visit: December to March

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk

You will arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo (CMD). Head straight to Negombo from the airport. Negombo is known for its golden-sand beaches, stunning sunsets and lively marketplaces, making it a great place to start your trip in Sri Lanka.

Palm trees agains a blue sky in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Most of the places to stay in Negombo are on or near Negombo Beach. Along Porutota Road, there are a lot of restaurants, cafes, and bars that are all within walking distance. While you can find hotels that are bigger and more luxurious along the beach strip. If you want a quieter place to stay, choose a place that is farther from the main road. Find all Negombo accommodations here

How to Get to Negombo from the Airport

Car: The best and most practical way to travel to Negombo is by ordering an Uber or Pickme from Bandaranaike Airport. Most accommodations are within a 30 minute drive and cost about 10 USD to reach. 

Book this airport private transfer for a hassle-free arrival.  


Tuk-tuk: You could also take a tuk-tuk. First, you have to leave the airport because they can't stop inside but they are not hard to find. Once you land, just walk to the left from the driveway until you get to the gate where cars leave the terminal. Tuk-tuks are available once you exit the building. You can expect to pay around 5 USD.

Remember: Agree on the price before you get into the tuk-tuk. This is important, because you may be charged higher fares than locals, and it is much more difficult to negotiate a fair price if you are already inside the vehicle.

Fishermen prepare fish at the beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Spend your first day relaxing before exploring the town. If you book your accommodations close to the beach strip, you will find many restaurants and cafes you can enjoy.


The Negombo lagoon is one of the things you can do in Negombo. You can sail along the canal by booking a boat tour. Alternatively, you can stroll around and admire the hundreds of colorful wooden boats. Don't forget to bring your camera!

A woman at the beach during sunset in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Head to Negombo Beach for sunset, where there are also restaurants and bars you can choose from. Spend the evening strolling along the beach strip, watching the sun set over the horizon and getting a taste of what Negombo has to offer.

Fishermen prepare fish at the beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka

For your second day, take a walk in the fishing village and get an insight into the local fishing community in Negombo, also known as the Lellama by the locals. 

Tip: Head out early in the morning then visit a few local eateries in the village to get a feel for their traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.

Exploring Negombo on your own is fairly simple. Consider taking a guided tour to gain a better understanding of the town. Here are the most highly rated tours in Negombo available.

Day 3 to 6: Sigiriya 

Recommended Length of Stay: 3 Nights

Best Time to Visit: January to March

How to Get Around: Tuk-tuk, Motorbike

In the morning, drive from Negombo to Sigiriya and explore this incredible archaeological site. We recommend that you take your time to appreciate everything that Sigiriya has to offer while also relaxing and enjoying the small town.

Sigiriya is seen at sunrise.

How to Get to Sigiriya from Negombo

Car: Going by car is one of the more expensive travel options, but it offers the convenience of leaving on your own time and arriving at your destination quickly. The trip takes about 3 hours and costs around 45 USD.

Book your car to Sigiriya

Bus: Taking the bus is the cheapest option for budget travelers. Though there are no direct buses from Negombo to Sigiriya, getting there is 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 bus ride takes about 2 hours and costs about 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 take about 45 minutes.

Lion Rock in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

There are numerous places to stay near Sigiriya Rock, particularly in the southern section. While the majority of restaurants are located along Sigiriya Road, near the entrance to Lion's Rock, most homestays and hotels in the area also provide free breakfast, and other eateries are within walking distance. Find all accommodations in Sigiriya here.

One of the main things to do in Sigiriya is to visit the ancient rock fortress, also known as Lion's Rock. The fortress, which stands over 200 meters high, provides breathtaking views of the lush jungles and villages. The entrance fee is 30 USD, which includes admission to the Lion Rock Museum, and the site is open daily from 6:30am to 5:30pm.

Read: 5 Most Popular Hikes in Sri Lanka

Tip: We recommend visiting Lion’s rock in the afternoon towards sunset.

Ancient Fortress at the top of Sigiriya.

Another place you have to visit when in Sigiriya is Pidurangala Rock. This massive rock formation offers panoramic views of Lion's Rock and a beautiful view of the lush town below. We also recommend visiting at sunrise to avoid the scorching heat, and the beautiful change of color in the scenery is worth waking up early for. There’s a temple right by the entrance where you’ll need to pay around 3 USD, which acts as a donation rather than a fee. 

Tip: Make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when you pass the temple. Though the ticket office opens at 5am and closes at 6pm, these hours are not strictly enforced.

Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is also an excellent starting point for exploring the surrounding areas. If you're interested in history, head to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which is about an hour away. 

Read: Complete Guide to Visiting Polonnaruwa

Temple in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa 

Or, you can take a jeep safari through Minneriya National Park. Here you can observe elephants in their natural habitat as well as witness other incredible wildlife and plants. 

Read: Elephant Gathering in Minneriya National Park

Tip: Visit between June and September to witness the largest gathering of Asian elephants worldwide!

Off-road vehicles in Minneriya National Park

There is no shortage of things to do in Sigiriya. Here are the most highly rated tours available for you to book. 

Day 7 & 8: Kandy

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to April

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

From Sigiriya, head to Kandy in the morning so you have time to explore the city in the afternoon. Kandy is a starting point for many travelers taking the famous train ride to Ella. Though few people choose to explore the city, we recommend at least a day if you have the time.

Commuters at a bus station in Kandy, Sri Lanka

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 less expensive option, you can take the bus, which is slower and more crowded but offers an authentic Sri Lankan experience. There's no direct bus from Sigiriya to Kandy. All in all, traveling to Kandy by bus will take you around 4 hours. 

First, take a 45-minute bus from Sigiriya to Dambulla for about 1 USD. Then take another bus from Dambulla to Kandy. During the day, buses run every 20 minutes, and the trip takes about 3 hours for 2 USD.

Temple of the Sacred tooth in Kandy by night.

Kandy is one of Sri Lanka's larger cities, so there are many lodging options, ranging from resorts to hotels and guesthouses. If you're only staying for the night, stay closer to the center or near the lake. This is for your convenience so you can easily transfer to the train or bus station and save time. Find all Kandy accommodations here.

Kandy has a lot to offer, like the famous Temple of the Tooth, which is set in a beautiful cityscape surrounded by hills. This Buddhist temple is one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka and as the name suggests, it houses the relic of the sacred tooth of The Buddha. An entrance fee to the temple costs around 8 USD and opens from 5:30am to 8:30pm every day.

Temple of the Sacred tooth in Kandy by night.

If you have the time, we also recommend watching the cultural dance show at Kandy Lake Club. Take a glimpse at the Sri Lankan cultural heritage through their arts and dance in this one-hour show. It starts at 5:30pm and a ticket costs around 4 USD. 

Tip: You can book your tickets online through the Kandy Lake Club website or buy them at the door.

Cultural Dance Show in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Looking for more things to do in Kandy? Book a tour and explore more of the city beyond the center. Here are some of the most highly-rated tours available in Kandy.

A man lays out his products at a market in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Day 9 & 10: Adam’s Peak, Delhousie 

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to May

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk

From Kandy, take the early morning train to Delhousie. This is a great way to break the long train journey to Ella. As well as, a great opportunity to climb and experience the famous and noteworthy Adam’s Peak.

Colorful skies during sunrise at Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka

How To Get To Delhousie From Kandy

By Train: The best way to get to Delhousie is to take the morning train from Kandy train station to Hatton. Then from Hatton, take a bus or a tuk-tuk to Delhousie town. The train ride takes around 4 hours and a ticket costs less than 1 USD. 

Once you reach Hatton, there will be plenty of tuk-tuks available outside the train station, but we recommend taking the bus. The bus is less expensive and more comfortable than taking a tuk-tuk. 

The drive to Delhousie takes about an hour and costs 1 USD for the bus and around 12 USD for the tuk-tuk. Whether it be the bus ride or a tuk-tuk, the journey from Hatton to Delhousie is beautiful and is worth the long journey.

Tip: Book your train ticket to Hatton in advance, especially during peak season.  

Delhousie surrounded by hills covered with tea plantations.

Most accommodations close to Adam’s Peak offer basic but comfortable facilities for tourists. Here are the top three places that we found that have the highest reviews and offer the best value. All are within walking distance to the main entrance of Adam’s Peak. Find all accommodations in Delhousie here.

Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada, is the 5th tallest and the most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka. With its daunting 5,500 steps, it is one of the most frequented climbs by tourists visiting the country. Brave the hike and enjoy the magical views at sunrise as it illuminates the valleys.

During the pilgrimage season, you’ll witness hundreds of pilgrims climbing. Try to avoid going on weekends and holidays, as it can get crowded at the top. Go there for the views and witness the pilgrims perform their religious ceremonies during sunrise.

Read: 5 Most Popular Hikes in Sri Lanka

Girls are holding flower petals at Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka.

Besides climbing Adam’s Peak, there's not much to do in Delhousie so it is possible to only spend a night. You can hike the next morning then leave for Ella in the afternoon after your climb. 

If you have extra time, we recommend spending two nights in Delhousie so you can take a rest then leave for Ella the next morning

A green valley with colorful flags in the foreground. Seen from Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka.

Day 11 to 14: Ella

Recommended Length of Stay: 3 Nights

Best Time to Visit: January to April

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

Ella is the ideal place to unwind and take in the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. This hill town is best known for its scenic train rides, but there is so much more to do. From the tea plantation to the world-famous Nine Arches Bridge, Ella is truly a sight to behold.

Read: 11 Best Things to do in Ella

Lush hills seen from Little Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Ella from Adam’s Peak (Delhousie)

By Bus & Train: From Delhousie, hop on the bus back to Hatton train station and then take the train to Ella. The bus takes about an hour and the train ride takes around 4 hours. 

This part of the journey is one of the most beautiful rides in the world. Get ready to capture the beautiful scenery of the rolling lush hills and tea plantations. You can pay for your ticket on the bus and then buy a train ticket at Hatton Station. 

The bus costs less than 1 USD while the train ticket is around 1 USD for a second and third class. You can check the updated train schedules and pricing at the government railway site.

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

Ella Town has excellent lodging options with breathtaking views. If you want to be close to the majority of restaurants, stay near the town center or the railway station. We also recommend staying along the Ella - Passara road, which has the advantage of being away from the hustle and bustle of the town center while still being close to popular tourist attractions such as the Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adam's Peak. Find all Ella accommodations here

The most accessible viewpoint in Ella is Little Adam’s Peak. This hike is easier compared to Adam’s Peak, as the hike only takes about 40 minutes. We recommend hiking at sunrise or early in the morning to avoid the heat. 

If you’re looking for something more challenging, we suggest hiking Ella Rock. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the town and its surrounding mountains. Depending on your fitness level, the hike ranges from moderate to difficult. 

Read: 5 Most Popular Hikes in Sri Lanka

Two men are looking out on a valley from Ella Rock, Sri Lanka

If you're a confident driver, you can also rent a motorbike and explore the surrounding areas, such as Ravana Falls or Diyaluma Falls. You can also head up to Lipton Seat and take in the beautiful panoramic views of rolling tea fields. 

Tea Plantations near Ella, Sri Lanka

If you're looking to explore the area with ease and comfort, hiring a tuk-tuk to take you around is another option. Here are some of the most popular tours available in Ella.

Hills covered in a blanket of clouds, Sri Lanka.

Day 15: Tissamaharama (Tissa)

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: February to June

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

Leave Ella early on day 14 and try to arrive in Tissa before dusk. This is an excellent base for exploring Yala National Park, Sri Lanka's second largest and most visited national park.

Elephants take a bath in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

How To Get To Tissa From Ella

By Car: The fastest way to reach Tissa from Ella is to book a taxi. Arrange a taxi from your accommodation and prices start at 35 USD. The drive takes about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the traffic. 

By Bus: For a cheaper alternative, take a bus to Kataragama. Then transfer to another bus heading to Tissa. 

The bus times from Ella are 11:15am, 12:45am, 2:45pm, and 3:30pm. The drive is about 2.5 to 3 hours and a ticket costs no more than 1 USD per person. 

From Kataragama, buses to Tissamaharama go every 15 minutes. The drive is around 30 minutes and a ticket costs less than 1 USD.

Crocodiles in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.

Only wish to visit Yala on a half-day safari?

Spend a night in Tissa and ask for a late check-out. Most tours end at 12 noon, so you can take your time to refresh before hopping on another bus or car to the next location. Find all Tissa accommodations here.

On day 15, visit Yala National Park to see wild elephants, crocodiles, and hundreds of bird species. You might even be able to spot the most elusive leopards if you're lucky. However, be prepared to wake up at 3am, as most safari tours begin at that time. Most tours also end at around noon, so you can move on to the next destination if you wish and if you don't have much time. Otherwise, spend another night and relax in the quiet town of Tissa.

Close up of an elephant in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

You can arrange your safari tour at your accommodation, or you can book a tour online. A jeep safari in Yala National Park typically costs around 70 USD per person. 

Dead tree branches emerge from a lake in Tissa, Sri Lanka.

Day 16 to 19: Tangalle 

Recommended Length of Stay: 3 Nights

Best Time to Visit: April to July

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

Tangalle is an ideal place for a relaxing vacation, with its deserted beaches and laid-back atmosphere. Tangalle is also home to some of Sri Lanka's best beaches. So you can spend your day relaxing on the beach or riding your bike around the nearby towns.

Two girls walk on a bridge.

How to Get to Tangalle from Tissa

By Bus: The cheapest way is to take the bus from Tissa to Tangalle. 

You can buy your tickets at the bus station counter and ask for a bus heading to Matara. Buses go every 20 minutes and you can easily get off in Tangalle. The drive takes around 3 hours depending on the traffic and you can expect to pay at least 1 USD. 

By Car: You can also book a car or a taxi, which starts at 50 USD and takes approximately 2 hours to drive.

Book your car to Tangalle

A green bus covered in colorful paintings.

The accommodation options in Tangalle range from hostels to five-star luxury resorts. You can also find plenty of restaurants nearby. There are also many places to stay along Tangalle Road in the southern area, close to the coast. We stayed on Vijaya Road, which has a laid-back vibe with many accommodations and restaurants lined up along the beach. Find all accommodations in Tangalle here.

In the evening, visit the local restaurants and street vendors. One of the restaurants we enjoyed in Tangalle was Dream Family Restaurant. This restaurant is run by a family and serves delicious home-cooked meals. The portions are generous, and the fresh seafood is reasonably priced.

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

You can also visit Rekawa Beach, which is home to one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in Sri Lanka. Visit during the day to enjoy this clean beach, or late in the afternoon to catch the sunset. The beach is not only lined with sand but also full of seashells. The best part is that this beach barely gets any tourists, so you can have a whole area to yourself. 

Book this Tangalle sightseeing tour to explore more of the town beyond the beaches.

Palm trees during sunset.

Day 20 & 21: Galle

Recommended Length of Stay: 1 Night

Best Time to Visit: December to April

How to Get Around: Foot, Tuk-tuk 

Head to Galle in the morning and spend your last days wandering around Sri Lanka’s most famous old Dutch fort. The main thing to do in Galle is to walk around and discover the Unesco World Heritage Site.

Colonial buildings lit up by the sun in Galle, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Galle from Tangalle

By Car: For convenience, take a taxi from Tangalle for around 40 USD. Depending on the traffic, the drive takes around an hour and 30 minutes. 

Book you car to Galle

Bus: Head to the Tangalle bus stop and catch bus no.32 heading to Galle. The drive takes around 3 hours and costs 1 USD.

The best place to stay in Galle is inside the fort. There are numerous hotels in the area that cater to all types of travelers. Staying inside the fort also provides you with a wide variety of restaurant and food options. Find all Galle accommodations here.

Galle Fort, located in a beautiful setting, is one of those places where you can get lost and not want to leave. Not only is the setting beautiful, but the architecture of many of the buildings is reminiscent of a different era. You can enjoy your last days in Sri Lanka discovering Galle and its adjoining streets with cafes, ice cream parlors, and colorful buildings.

Tip: You can visit the fort any time of the day, but the best time to walk is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Busy street in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Enjoy a leisurely stroll around the fort and explore the many hidden gems it has to offer. We recommend stopping at the Isle of Gelato. Here, you can enjoy homemade artisanal gelato and sorbet. They also offer many different flavors to choose from, but our personal favorites are the passionfruit and mango flavors. 

Want to learn more about Galle through guided tours? Here are some of the most well-reviewed tours available in Galle.

Galle lighthouse against a blue sky.

Back to Colombo Airport

You can either go to the airport from Galle to catch your flight or stay another night in Negombo. If your flight departs early in the morning, we recommend returning to Negombo the day before. This ensures that you will not miss your flight and allows you to see some of the sights Negombo has to offer one more time.

A man walks in between busses at Kandy bus station, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to the Airport from Galle

By 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

By Bus: There are two direct buses to the airport, leaving at 6:30am and 4:30pm. Take the bus with the "airport" sign to the bus stop in front of the Fort entrance. The bus has air conditioning and costs about 4 USD which takes about three hours. 

Tip: If the direct buses are full, you can take another bus to Kadawatha and then transfer to a bus to the airport.

By Train: Trains operate from Galle Railway Station to Colombo Fort Station  on a daily basis, and the schedule can be found on the Sri Lanka Railway website. It takes about 3 hours and costs around 2 USD.


From Colombo Fort Station, walk 600m 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.

Monkeys deflea eachother.

And that’s it!

The perfect 3 week Sri Lanka travel itinerary. 

We hope this travel guide provides you with all the things you need to know to help you plan your three weeks in Sri Lanka. You can always change it to something else that works for you. With three weeks in Sri Lanka, there are an endless number of possibilities for you to explore.

If you're still pondering how long to stay in Sri Lanka, take a look at our 1-week and 4-week Sri Lanka itineraries.

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!

Comment Box is loading comments...
Back to the top of the page button