Planning a trip through Sri Lanka can be difficult. Most travellers have two or three weeks to visit the country and therefore cannot see all the sights in Sri Lanka. In this article, some tips are given to set up a route and see as much of the country as possible.
Initial preparations for a trip to Sri Lanka
Although organised trips are easier and require less preparation, many travellers choose to travel independently and plan their own routes. It is often cheaper to put together your own trip than to book a package holiday with a travel agency. In this way, you have more freedom with your planning, and you are not dependent on a group of fellow travellers.
Individual travellers are advised to prepare a few things before departure, such as the places that will be visited, transportation, and perhaps most importantly: the visa for Sri Lanka. It is recommended to apply for the Sri Lanka visa before departure. This can easily be done online in just a few minutes. A major benefit is that you will not need to wait in line on arrival at the airport in Colombo to get your visa. This leaves more time to explore Sri Lanka!
Travel routes and highlights
Most travellers take out about 2 or 3 weeks for a visit to Sri Lanka. Travellers who have less time will have to shorten their itinerary slightly and skip some of the destinations listed below. The following places and sights are a must for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time:
- Colombo: A visit to Sri Lanka's largest city is usually unavoidable. Most flights from Europe to Sri Lanka land in Colombo. However, most travellers do not stay in this city long, but travel directly to the coastal town of Negombo.
- Anuradhapura: The ancient royal city of Anuradhapura is known for its ancient temples, ruins and stupas from the royal era. The city is on the UNESCO world heritage list and is sacred to Buddhists. From Anuradhapura it is also possible to climb Mount Mihintale for a beautiful view of the surroundings.
- Polonnaruwa: The second royal city of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa, is about a 2 hours drive from Anuradhapura. Ruins, temples and large Buddha statues can likewise be found here.
- Sigiriya: Sigiriya is best known for the Lion's Rock, a gigantic rock on which the king's palace once stood. The rock is easily accessible from Polonnaruwa or from Dambulla. Because it costs $30 to climb the rock, some travellers choose to climb the opposite rock, Pidurangala Rock. From this rock you have a view of the Lion's Rock.
- Kandy: A famous train route runs from Kandy to Ella, which passes through the tea fields and mountains. The ride takes about 7 hours and is definitely worth it because of the beautiful surroundings.
- Yala National Park: One of the best places to spot leopards is the Yala National Park. The park is also home to elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and various birds.
- Galle: Galle is a former fortified Dutch town in Sri Lanka. In the fortress you will find colonial buildings and Dutch influences.
Travelling by train or bus
Public transport is widely used in Sri Lanka. Tourists will also find it easy and relatively cheap to travel by train, bus, tuk-tuk or moped. The train network in Sri Lanka is quite extensive. Travelling by train is a good option around Colombo and Kandy in particular. Moreover, because of the beautiful landscapes, train rides are often a highlight in themselves. The bus is also an easy way to travel through Sri Lanka. Local buses run between most places and the distances are generally not that long. Travellers looking for a bit more comfort can rent a private car with a chaffeur.