Yes…you heard right. I always love if people post their itinerary on the web especially if they also review accomodation, restaurants and things to do in their writing. So here is our 16 day itinerary for a backpacking trip around Sri Lanka. The itinerary is packed with different means of transport, different accomodation, from hostels to homestays to guesthouses and some tips for your travels. Enjoy!
Colombo-Day 1 and 2: Arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport from Frankfurt with Sri Lankan Airlines. We got a special promotion and so the non-stop flight was way cheaper than any other flight with a stopover. Flight duration is 10 hours and we arrived at Bandaranaike at 5 o’clock in the morning. After waiting way too long for our luggage and clearing customs, we got money at the ATM (best exchange rate ever!) and got a local SIM card. We got ours from Mobitel. We had coverage most of the times and LTE in bigger cities.
Accomodation: Ivy Lane Colombo . I prebooked this accomodation 3 months ahead and got a special deal. The location is superb, its in the district Colpetty where you can find most of the “hipster cafés” and good restaurants. A food city (supermarket) is opposite the hotel and you can walk (25 minutes) to Galle Face Green. All of our Tuk Tuk drivers knew the hotel which is a big plus. The room itself is clean and modern and a small breakfast is offered at the rooftop terrace. We would stay here again.
Where to eat: Oh, Colombo has so much to offer! If you want to treat yourself and are a fan of crabs, eat at Ministry of Crab in the old Dutch hospital. We’ve never had such a big and tasty crab before! You can find cheap Kotthu Roti and Short eats at Hotel de Plaza in the Galle Road. Gallery Café is good for cakes and you certainly get the best coffee in Whight and Co. Café. Seaview included. The Barefoot Café is situated next to their flagship store in a small garden. We had delicious wraps and potato wedges here for reasonable prices. And a very good tip: Coffee stop at the Cinnamon Grand hotel. Yes, we thought it was expensive, too but it is so cheap and soooo good there! We ate there twice! Toilets are luxurious, too 🙂
What to do: Visit the Gangaramaya Temple with its huge collection of Buddhas. Stroll through the markets of Pettah and get lost (we were lost), have delicious meals at Galle Face Green after 5 pm. (we recommend NANA’s), visit the Old Dutch Hospital and have tea there and just wander around in Colpetty. Gangaramaya Temple
Kandy-Day 3 and 4: We took the 8:30 train to Kandy from Fort Railway station in Colombo. The train ride was about 2 hours and is beautiful.
Accomodation: We stayed at Sweet Lanka Kandy. The guesthouse recentyl opened and the owner Viktor is really nice and helping. We had a non-ac room which is perfectly fine in Kandy. The rooms are spotlessly clean and the location is good considering the fact that most of the hotels are up the hill. You have to walk 20 minutes to the town centre. Good value for money and we didn’t mind walking some steps.
Where to eat: The white house. Oh my god. The food is delicious and the portions big! Looks pretty fancy but is cheap. We ate here twice and regret that we haven’t eaten here more often. Balaji Dosai offers delicious vegetarian indian food. We had the best Rolls in the Soya Centre a little bit off the city centre.
What to do: The Royal Botanical Gardens obviously. If you want to go to the gym sometime, we were at the SKY GYM and it was one of the best gyms we had in Asia. Entrance is 500 RPS. We took a tuk tuk to the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue, a white buddha overlooking Kandy.
Dambulla/Sigiriya-Day 5: From Kandy, we took the local bus to Dambulla. Read about the day here. Bus ride from Kandy to Dambulla: 2 hours, from Dambulla to Sigiriya half an hour.
Accomodation: Relax Guesthouse. A very good budget option for 14$ per night.
Where to eat: We had dinner at the Shenadi Restaurant. Very slow service but this can be due to the low season. Ahinsa Shop and Restaurant were better. Big curry portions.
What to do: Climb Pidurangala Rock at sunset, take a swim in the Hotel Sigiriya pool with views of the Sigiriya rock.
Pollonaruwa-Day 6: Local Bus from Sigiriya to Pollonaruwa. 1 1/2 hours standing amongst locals. The bus was very crowded but one of the best transportation experiences we had. We arrived in Pollonaruwa around noon and spontaneously did a Safari at 1:30.
Accomodation: We stayed at Manel Guesthouse and we can totally recommend it! It is right in the centre and we had beautiful views of rice fields from our spacious and clean room! The owner is very nice! He booked our safari and he served us a delicious curry for lunch. Breakfast is included. He also rents bikes for discovering the ancient city.
Where to eat: We only ate at Darshana Hotel. It was a local restaurant with cheap prices. The Kothu Roti was good but very salty. We still enjoyed our meals here. There is not really much to choose from in Pollonaruwa.
What to do: We did the Safari in the Kaudulla National Park and it was fantastic! Since it was low season, there weren’t many jeeps in the park (maybe 30 instead of 500) and we saw about 100 wild elephants and other sri lankan animals. We did the tour the same day we arrived in Pollonaruwa and did the ancient city the next morning.
Batticaloa-Day 7: After cycling around the ancient city in the morning, we took the train to Batticaloa. The train was delayed big time so we ended up waiting at the train station for 1 1/2 hours. The train ride to Batticaloa took about a little bit more than 2 hours. We decided to stay in Batticaloa to split up the long journey to Arugam Bay. Otherwise, Batticaloa is not really beautiful.
Accomodation: Batticaloa hasn’t got many budget options and all of the hotels are scattered around the city. Since it was so hot in Pollonaruwa and Batticaloa was not different, the only option for us was an AC-room. We ended up staying at the New Sunrise Hotel which was a little bit outside the city on the other side of the lagoon. Rooms were clean, bathroom was standard but we had a well working aircon. The owner was nice and chatted a lot with us. Again, we thought we were the only guests. We wouldn’t stay there again, since the location is just too bad but we only stayed a couple of hours in Batticaloa and there is not really much to see there so it was ok.
Where to eat: Since it was Sunday, most of the restaurants already closed. We ate at the Sunshine Bakery with attached restaurant which was good. We also bought some cheap fruits at a fruit stand.
What to do: As already mentioned, we only had a couple of hours here so we just ate and rested. There is an old dutch fort, though 🙂
Arugam Bay-Day 8 and 9: Local Bus from Batticaloa to Arugam Bay. The bus says “direct bus to A-bay” but it stops at Pottuvil, a city 4 kilometres away from A-bay. Tuk tuk cost around 150 RPS.
Accomodation: We stayed at Arne’s place in the only cabanna they offer. It is basic but very beautiful being first row, hearing the sound of the waves and having an open air bathroom( with frequent visits from a frog). Breakfast here is superb! Prices in A-bay tend to be a little bit higher for a relatively low standard. Just as a heads up. We would stay here again.
Where to eat: There are so many restaurants. So many. We ate at The green room, they have huge fruit juices. Breakpoint is also a good option, their chicken schnitzels are to die for! Happy panda is only moderate. Emma’s has good smoothies directly at the beach.
What to do: Surf. Surf. Surf.
Ella-Day 10 and 11: We took a tuk tuk from A-bay to Ella since it is way faster than the bus and bus connections aren’t good. It seemed like almost everybody wanted to drive us there and the prices dropped a lot. We ended up paying 5500 RPS for the almost 4 hour drive. Ella is just fabulous and on every backpacker’s to do list.
Accomodation: Ok, here it comes, our top tip for Sri Lanka: Little Heaven Homestay in Ella. Location is a 10/10, a one minute walk to the main street with all the restaurants but still tucked away a little bit. Rooms are basic and clean and value for money is literally a 11/10! We payed 12$ per night for a double room with private bathroom! You cannot beat that for what you get!
Where to eat: Oh gosh. Ella is even better than Arugam Bay. Go here: Curd Shop for breakfast and order the Curd with Muesli and Fruits, so yummy! Dream Café for some western food, Chill Café was under construction while we were here so they only had a small menu- I had the most delicious coconut smoothie here! And our favourite: The Roti hut! If you like rotis- this is your place! Prices are also the cheapest in Ella. A Resto bar is a little bit up the hill and offers high quality srilankan/japanese infusion. Recommend.
What to do: Little Adam’s Peak, 9 Arches Bridge…and just eat eat eat.
Haputale-Day 12: Read about the amazing day in Haputale here.
Accomodation: ABC Guesthouse. Very good, good WIFI, nice owners and good breakfast.
Where to eat: Spice Hotel and Bakery. Read about that in the blogpost.
What to do: Lipton’s Seat, Dambatenne Tea Factory
Colombo-Day 13: After the most beautiful train ride from Haputale via Nuwara Elya and Kandy, we arrived in Colombo late afternoon. The whole train ride was about 8 hours. We wanted to spend our last two days in Galle in the South and Colombo was just a convenient stop. And as we liked the restaurants and the atmosphere so much, we were actually looking forward to staying one more night here.
Accomodation: Hostel @ Galle Face. As the name tells, it’s a hostel since we didn’t want to spend much money for only one night. It is next to the Galle Face Green. It’s a small hostel with only two showers and 3 rooms but the AC worked well and beds are comfy.
Galle-Day 14-15: Galle was the perfect ending for a perfect round trip. We enjoyed the old Portugese/Dutch town very much. If you’ve been to Luang Prabang in Laos- that is similar to that.
Accomodation: I wanted to stay in the Fort and so the Pedlars Inn Hostel was perfect for us. The staff is super friendly, rooms are modern and clean and the location is perfect. We would definitely stay here again!
Where to eat: Galle has so much to offer! From burgers to Sri Lankan food to Crêpes – there is something for everybody. We ate at: The Original Rocket Burger, twice at Indian Hut (good mango lassi), had tea in the Oldest Cafe in Galle with even older owners :), had delicious Brownies at Pedlars Inn Cafe and a good dinner at Spoon’s. Everything was tasty. I wish we had time to check out the Crêperie, though.
Galle to Colombo via train and back to Bandaranaike International Airport with a Uber.