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How to Explore Sri Lanka in Five Days

Discover a Tropical Paradise

By Ayodha UshaniPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
How to Explore Sri Lanka in Five Days
Photo by Tharindu Madusanka Perera on Unsplash

The island of Sri Lanka may be small in size, but don't let that fool you; from idyllic beaches and stunning archaeological wonders to exotic wildlife, enchanting mountains and cosmopolitan cities, there is something new to encounter each time you visit! Ideally, you should spend a nice long holiday experiencing the very best the country has to offer; however, if your visit is only for five days, here is one option of how to plan your itinerary.

Day One: Unwind in Negombo

Located just a short drive from the Bandaranaike International Airport, the coastal city of Negombo is a great place to start your holiday. It is famed for its golden stretch of beach, perfect for soaking up the sun, swimming in the Indian Ocean or witnessing mesmerising sunsets. For thrill-seekers, water sports such as kitesurfing can be enjoyed here as well.

When it comes to sightseeing, one can consider taking a boat ride along the Dutch Canal and observing fisher folk and even some wildlife. You can also visit local attractions like the Neoclassical-style St. Mary's Church, the Angurukaramulla Buddhist Temple and the main fish market.

Day Two: Explore Anuradhapura & Minneriya

Plan a visit to the Cultural Triangle on your tour; Sri Lanka has a rich history and heritage which can be experienced at places like the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Established in the 4th century BC, it is home to eight sacred places believed to have been visited by Lord Buddha; these include the Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya (sacred bo tree) and the Abhayagiri Dagoba.

Time permitting, enjoy a wildlife safari at the Minneriya National Park; between June and September, it is home to "The Gathering" where you can see hundreds of elephants. You may spot toque macaques, sambar deer, sloth bears, wild buffaloes and diverse birdlife as well.

Day Three: Visit Sigiriya & Polonnaruwa

Continue your escapades in the Cultural Triangle by heading to the iconic Sigiriya rock fortress, a key stopover on excursions organised by travel specialists such as Walkers Tours. Towering above the landscape at a height of 660 feet, this magnificent marvel of human ingenuity offers an amazing adventure for those climbing to its summit. On the way to the top, you will pass several attractions including beautiful frescoes on the rock surface.

Also of note is the ancient city of Polonnaruwa which was another prominent kingdom in Sri Lankan history. Many archaeological marvels can be found here too; the Sacred Quadrangle with its ornate moonstone, the 550-foot Rankot Viharaya and the remarkable granite statues of Lord Buddha at Gal Viharaya are some of the main highlights.

Day Four: Head to Kandy, the Hill Capital

Not to be missed is a chance to explore the hill capital, Kandy; set amidst the mountains and a relatively cool climate, this city is where you will find the well-known Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which is believed to house a tooth relic of Lord Buddha.

There are many other things you can do here too; trek along paths of the Udawattakele Forest Reserve, visit the vibrant Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, stroll around Kandy Lake and witness a cultural show with traditional dancing and drumming.

Day Five: Spend Time in Colombo

On your last day, you can spend time at the country's commercial capital, Colombo. You can shop at modern malls like One Galle Face or for a more local experience, browse the many shops, stalls and markets in the area known as Pettah.

Attractions in Colombo include the Gangaramaya Temple, Wolvendaal Church, Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque, National Museum and Galle Face Green; the latter, located by the ocean, is the perfect place to relax in the evening and is also where you can embark on a foodie tour sampling some of the city's much-loved street food.


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