Places to Visit in Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka’s Misty Waterfall Paradise

Places to Visit in Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka’s Misty Waterfall Paradise

Travel guide for Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka’s misty gem of the Hill Country. This post has information about the waterfalls around Nuwara Eliya as well as the list of places to see in Nuwara Eliya town.

Did you think Sri Lanka was only about beaches? Yes, it is a small island country, but it has so much packed into it. No doubt the country’s coast line is stunning but in our opinion, the middle part of Sri Lanka is truly spectacular. This area is called the Hill Country of Sri Lanka.

If you’re wondering what Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is all about, then let me refresh your memory – do you remember my epic train ride pictures? Yes, that stunning train route goes through the Hill Country with waterfalls, tea estates and lush green little hills. You can find all of this (and even more) if you visit Nuwara Eliya..

Plucking Tea Leaves in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Plucking Tea Leaves in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

There are two kinds of people – those who hate the rain and those who love rain so much that they would want to dance in it. Even those who fall in the first category will love Nuwara Eliya’s rains, because everything just comes to life. 

If it isn’t raining, Nuwara Eliya is usually surrounded by clouds and is misty. As a result, there’s a feeling of walking on the clouds when here. The fact that Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by so many waterfalls surely helps. Now isn’t that something? 

One of the many Nuwara Eliya Waterfalls, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya is often called Sri Lanka’s “Little England” because of the rains and its colonial buildings. It feels a little different than the rest of Sri Lanka. I enjoyed my stay in Nuwara Eliya so much that I visited it twice on two different visits to Sri Lanka.

Nuwara Eliya isn’t the only stunning destination in Sri Lanka. There’s the lovely Sigiriya that’s famous for its Lion Rock fortress, there are many national parks where you can see wild elephants, stunning beaches that are perfect for surfing, and many other laidback destinations. So, have I convinced you to book your tickets for Sri Lanka?

How to Reach Nuwara Eliya

Look how lovely the background is - train ride in Sri Lanka

Look how lovely the background is – train ride from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka

One of the best ways to reach Nuwara Eliya is by getting on a train from Colombo (or even Kandy, or Ella or Badulla). In fact, the train route that runs from Kandy to Ella is often said to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya and is towards the end of the journey, before Haputale. 

Nanu Oya train station - for Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Nanu Oya train station – for Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Another way to reach Nuwara Eliya is by hopping on to bus. Bus system in Sri Lanka isn’t as complicated as many websites claim. We pretty much arrived at most of the bus stations and asked for bus tickets. Often we had to change the buses multiple times but we didn’t mind. Yes, we did get confronted by taxi mafia who claimed that buses don’t go where we need to go but thankfully we didn’t fall for that. 

For my second visit, I did not travel by buses but we had a coach to ourselves. It was pretty easy and fast to travel between Colombo and Nuwara Eliya in a van. If you’re a group of 4 people then renting a car or getting a taxi to reach Nuwara Eliya from Colombo is a smart thing to do since you can split the fare.

Traveling Around in Nuwara Eliya

The easiest way to travel within Nuwara Eliya is by tuk tuk. That’s how we moved around and loved it. You can also consider getting a taxi or renting a car and driving on your own. Yes, I did use buses to travel within Sri Lanka but I wouldn’t recommend them within Nuwara Eliya. 

Please note – some of the most scenic natural places that Nuwara Eliya is famous for are actually outside the city, so you can definitely not walk there easily. You will need to get on a bus or tuk tuk or a taxi.

Places to visit in Nuwara Eliya

Ramboda Falls

Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Ramboda Falls are pretty big. At 109 meters, Ramboda is the 11 highest waterfall of Sri Lanka. It is very easy to reach here with a tuk tuk or taxi. They will leave you at a point from where you have to hike up for just 1-2 kilometers and from there you can see the beauty of this waterfall at multiple levels. 

One of the levels of Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

One of the levels of Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Ramboda Falls in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Ramboda Falls in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Honestly, there are so many waterfalls around Nuwara Eliya but this one stood out because we really enjoyed the little hike. Moreover, the waterfall was very full because it had rained a lot for a week before we visited. 

Hiking to Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya

Hiking to Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya

The entry fee for Ramboda Falls is LKR 50 per person for non Sri Lankans and LKR 20 for Sri Lankans. It is barely 25 cents, so the entry ticket is very affordable. 

Entry Point and ticket for Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya

Entry Point and ticket for Ramboda Falls, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by many waterfalls but I totally understand if you don’t want to see all of them. If you want to visit just one then let Ramboda Falls be that one. It is easy to visit, has a small fun hike (1 KM, so 10 – 15 mins) and at 358 feet high, it is stunning. 

Horton Plains National Park – World’s End

World's End at Hotron Plains National Park, Nuwara Eliya

World’s End at Hotron Plains National Park, Nuwara Eliya

Horton Plains National Park is famous for its cliff with a drop of around 4000 feet, called the World’s End. Just like most of the places to visit in Nuwara Eliya, this isn’t actually inside the city. It is 32 KMs south of Nuwara Eliya. 

It is expensive to reach the Horton Plains National Park because you can only arrive here by a taxi or a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk ride costs LKR 2000 and the park ticket is LKR 5800 per person. If you’re lucky to experience the beauty of this national park on a clear day, then it is totally worth the price because it is beautiful and well maintained. 

Start your visit to Horton Plains national park early in the morning so that you are done by 10 am and can avoid the heat. The gate opens at 6:30 am. It can be very cold in the morning but suddenly very hot at 10 – 11 am.

Baker Falls in Hotron Plains National Park, Nuwara Eliya

Baker Falls in Hotron Plains National Park, Nuwara Eliya

Carry enough water with you. When you arrive here, be sure to check out the Baker Falls and Mini World’s End too and don’t just focus on just the main attraction – the world’s end. Even though the World’s End is more famous, the waterfall is more beautiful. Did I mention before that Nuwara Eliya is mostly about misty hills and waterfalls?

Be prepared to walk for 20-25 kilometers inside the national park. It may take around 3 hours but it is totally worth it. If you’re visiting for purely photography purposes then be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand.

Bluefield Tea Gardens

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Sri Lankan tea is famous all over the world and a lot of it comes from Nuwara Eliya. You will surely see a lot of tea estates all around Nuwara Eliya but I highly recommend you take out time to visit one. 

One of the most visited tea estates in Nuwara Eliya is Bluefield Tea Gardens. It is free to visit (+ free tour) and is really good. I’m not one to rush at freebies but the tour at Bluefield Tea Estate was actually pretty awesome. Actually, it is right outside the town.

The tour inside the tea factory was short (15 mins max), fun and informative. At the end of the tour, we even got to sit in a lovely spot outside and sip a steaming cup of tea. Before you ask – yes, I did this tour twice because I visited Nuwara Eliya twice year after year. 

Inside Blue Field tea factory, Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Inside Blue Field tea factory, Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Even though the tour inside the tea factory is free, I recommend you tip your tour guide. We actually also ended up buying tea at the tea factory. It is one of those things that you really have to buy when you visit Sri Lanka, and it was a good idea to buy it directly from the source.

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Outside Bluefield tea estate in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Oh hey, if you are looking for a place to click amazing photos inside a tea plantation then there’s a spot very close to where you’ll park outside the Bluefield Tea Estate. Not only we got to meet and photograph the local women who were plucking tea leaves, but we also clicked some amazing photos of us here. But, beware of leeches, there are plenty. One of my friends had 2 of them on her leg and she was wearing shoes!

Lover’s Leap Falls

Lovers Leap falls - places to visit in Nuwara Eliya

Lovers Leap falls – places to visit in Nuwara Eliya

Our first visit to Nuwara Eliya was in 2017, and we made friends with a tuk tuk driver. We asked him to take us to a few scenic spots around Nuwara Eliya and the first place where he took us was the Lover’s Leap Waterfall. 

Lovers leap falls, Nuwara Eliya

Lovers leap falls, Nuwara Eliya

Actually the tuk tuk doesn’t go exactly to the waterfall but you have to walk for maybe just 5 minutes to reach it. The walk is really a lot of fun because the area around the waterfall is full of boulders and is very green. We visited right after a heavy rainy day so the waterfall was very full.

Even though we arrived to the Lover’s Leap Waterfall by tuk tuk, you can easily walk to this point from the town if the weather is good. It takes around 30 minutes to reach here by hiking from the town centre. The hike goes through some really beautiful tea estates so it’s totally worth it if you’re lucky to witness a sunny day in Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya Post Office

Nuwara Eliya Post Office

Nuwara Eliya Post Office

No matter where you stay in Nuwara Eliya or where you go, you will end up visiting the town centre at some point. After all, a lot of amazing local restaurants are situated here in the centre. 

There is a colonial style Post Office building that’s an interesting sight. It is right in the middle of the town centre. You can’t miss it.

Make a trip to the town centre to eat some amazingly flavorful local food. Walk around the post office and click some photos. When you’re done, you can enter the Victoria Park. Victoria Park’s Entry Gate is right next to the Post Office.

Victoria Park

Victoria Park is a good place to visit to get away from Nuwara Eliya’s busy town centre. The park has many walking lanes and some of the lanes are hedged with colorful flowers. You can use Victoria Park as a resting place or as a shortcut to reach one place of the city to another by walking through it. 

There is a food court like restaurant that’s near the entrance of Victoria Park. San and I ended up eating a very delicious lunch here on a rainy day. 

Single Tree Hill

Single Tree Hill isn’t easy to get to because of the bad road condition BUT is totally worth it if you’re a sucker for a good view. You can see the Nuwara Eliya city and Lake Gregory from up here. Don’t expect to see a big tree here, the hill is actually called Single Tree.

If you’re trying to look for it on Google Maps, then you may want to also look for Swarnagiri Wiharaya – a Buddist Temple that’s on the way. You may need to cross through a tea estate and go up to a place where you see a communication tower.

If you’re visiting for photography purposes, then you may want to check if the weather is good enough or not before visiting. You can reach here on a tuk tuk or even with your own vehicle. If you’re feeling adventurous, then you can also hike to this place for a sunrise. The sunrise view from here is better than the sunset view.

Gregory Lake

Gregory Lake is an artificial lake in Nuwara Eliya and is a bit touristy. You can rent a paddle boat and spend some time here. Or, you can walk around the lake and go over the bridge. 

If you’re not a local, then be careful because the prices for the boat ride can go as high as LKR 4000 per person. The lake complex also has an entry fee but it is only LKR 300. Another way to enjoy the beauty of Gregory Lake is by getting into a lake side restaurant for a meal.  

 

Bomburu Ella Waterfall

Right outside Nuwara Eliya town, there is a very scenic spots where a lot of tuk tuk and taxi drivers stop to show a view of Bomburu Ella Waterfall and Bomburuella reservoir. You can enjoy the view from the road or, if you are adventurous then you can actually visit.

Bomburu Ella Waterfall is situated between Welimada and Nuwara Eliya in Sita Eliya Kandapola Forest Reserve. It isn’t as easy to reach as compared to the Lover’s Leap fall. The tuk tuk or car can only take you 3 KMs away from the waterfall and from there you need to do a slippery hike. 

Bomburu Ella waterfall is actually a group of several waterfalls – 10 or more in number. They are also sometimes called Perawella Falls and collectively known to be the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka.

St. Clair Waterfall and Devon Falls

Devon Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Devon Falls, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St. Clair Waterfall and Devon Falls are next to each other. Many people see these two waterfalls from the road but I do know of some people who managed to reach very close to them for a better view. You can reach Mlesna Tea Castle St Clair, which is located very close to the viewpoints of both the waterfalls. 

Haputale

San enjoying the view in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

While in Nuwara Eliya, visit the nearby town Haputale on a day trip. Haputale is smaller and has several scenic spots from where you can enjoy the view. One of the most famous places in Haputale is Lipton’s Seat. 

We actually stayed in Haputale overnight and loved it. You can pretty much walk for a few minutes in any direction here and you’re sure to reach an amazing viewpoint because the entire town is surrounded by little rolling hills. 

If you’re visiting Haputale from Nuwara Eliya on a day trip then be sure to visit Lipton’s Seat and then eat lunch in one of the local restaurants in the main town. They are so much cheaper than the ones in Nuwara Eliya. 

 

Where to Stay in Nuwara Eliya?

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya – Jetwings

My lovely room in St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

My lovely room in St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya is where I stayed when I visited Nuwara Eliya for the second time and loved it. It is a charming hotel with an old school English feel. You can find a typical Sri Lankan place to stay in the rest of Sri Lanka but Nuwara Eliya is where you need to find a colonial kind of place to really enjoy the vibe. 

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

The best part about St Andrew Hotel is that the rooms are very cozy and cute. It is a little away from the busy city centre so you can enjoy some peace. We had buffet breakfast and lunch here and it was really good. 

Did follow our recommendations for Nuwara Eliya?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites

Kaudulla National Park Guide: Elephant Safari near Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Kaudulla National Park Guide: Elephant Safari near Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, then make sure you visit a national park to see wild elephants. – Said everyone I knew, even those who did not visit Sri Lanka. 

Thank god I listened because it was one of the best things we did in Sri Lanka. [Even though we did a lot because we spent a month in this country]. Visiting a national park to see elephants in the wild is one of things that everyone needs to do when they visit Sri Lanka, just the way one would walk along the canals if they visit Amsterdam; or visit Taj Mahal while in India.

If you’re anything like us, then you probably love forests too. If yes, you’re going to love Sri Lanka. This little island country has more than 20 national parks dotted all over and as a result, the entire Sri Lanka feels like one big national park.

An adorable elephant family at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

An adorable elephant family at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

While planning a trip to Sri Lanka, we saw pictures of the famous lion rock Sigiriya, the tea estates of the hill country, train ride that goes through this hill country (Kandy to Ella), the sandy beaches of Arugam Bay and of course, the elephants. These things are included in pretty much every decent itinerary for Sri Lanka.

One thing that stood out in Sri Lanka’s elephant pictures was that there wasn’t one or two or even 5 – but hundreds of elephants all together. This, my friends, is called an elephant gathering and you can see it in Sri Lanka. It has been compared to the great migration in Serengeti. I will explain more in the next section.

Watching Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

Elephant Gathering in Sri Lanka

The elephant gathering in Sri Lanka is an extraordinary event. It’s the largest gathering of wild Asian elephants in the world at any given time. It takes place almost every day during Sri Lanka’s dry season, from July to November. 

As the water levels decrease, the elephants head to certain areas in the country where they know they will find water. These areas are mainly located in two of Sri Lanka’s National Parks: Kaudulla National Park, and the nearby Minneriya National Park, which is 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park.  

Us and the elephants at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Us and the elephants at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

The large fields of water nurture the perfect environment for the animals to socialise, feed, and even breed. It’s one of the most incredible wildlife experiences to behold. You’ll see elephants of all sizes, from small babies to full-grown adults, drinking and frolicking in the water. 

I have visited Sr Lanka twice and in my opinion, one of the best places to see a gathering of wild elephants is Kaudulla National Park. This incredible sprawling landscape is famed for containing high numbers of Asian elephants. Being able to see these magnificent creatures up close and all around you is a truly extraordinary experience.

Elephant encounter at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Elephant encounter at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

It feels as if the time stands still as you sit on your safari jeep and watch an insanely large number of elephants all around. As so, taking a trip to Kaudulla National Park makes for one of the best wildlife holidays in the world.

Many people talk about the bigger Yala and Udawalawa National Parks but in my experience Kaudulla’s plus point is that it is smaller, and at times you can see a larger concentration of the number of elephants per square meter. 

If you’re planning to visit Kaudulla National Park, here is a helpful guide that will supply you with everything you need to know for your visit. 

Where’s Kaudulla National Park?

Kaudulla National Park is in the heart of Sri Lanka, just 45 kilometers from the super famous Sigiriya. It is about 130 miles (207 kilometres) from the country’s largest city, Colombo. 

Sigiriya to Kaudulla National Park

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

As previously mentioned, many of the jeep safari tours of Kaudulla National Park offer hotel pick-up and drop-off services. However, if you’re driving from Sigiriya to Kaudulla National Park, it should only take you about an hour. 

If you’re staying in Dambulla, there is a route between the town and the park that crosses right through Sigiriya. Touring this site is an opportunity you don’t want to miss when visiting the area. 

Kaudulla National Park Ticket Price

Entery point at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Entery point at Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

The entry fee for Kaudulla National Park is 2700 Sri Lankan rupees, which is £12.00 GBP. When booking a jeep safari tour, the entrance fee into the park is usually included in the tour price.

How Much Does a Jeep Safari Cost in Kaudulla National Park?

Jeep Safari inside Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Jeep Safari inside Kaudulla National Park, Sri Lanka

Most jeep safari tours offered inside Kaudulla National Park cost between £42.00 GBP and £46.00 GBP per person. 

This fee includes the entrance fee into the park. Pick-up and drop-off from hotels around Sigiriya, Habarana, and Dambulla is also usually included in the jeep safari price. We were picked up from our hotel in Sigiriya for this.

The tour lasts for 4-5 hours. However, note that the 4-5 hour duration also includes your hotel pick-up and drop-off. So, your time in the park will be less than 4-5 hours, and as per us it was more than enough.

What Else is there in Kaudulla National Park?

I get it – the main reason why anyone would visit Kaudulla would be to look at elephants but there’s a lot more to experience in this amazing national park.

Firstly, the joy of riding in a jeep in the middle of a dense forest is like none other. It wasn’t my first safari experience, I did one in India’s Kanha National Park too, but I found Sri Lanka’s forests to be more beautiful because they’re greener.

Along the lake in Kaudulla National Park

Along the lake in Kaudulla National Park

Secondly, I have a thing for wide open spaces and there were many to find inside Kaudulla National Park. The entire area of the park isn’t a dense forest but there are lots of open areas. The main part is the water reservoir – which looks really amazing like most of the water bodies in the nature. There are white rocks around the reservoir and they add to the scenic beauty. You can also see pelicans near the water!

The reservoir inside Kaudulla National Park and pelican

The reservoir inside Kaudulla National Park and pelican

Thirdly, there are many other animals and birds that one can see in Kaudulla National Park. We saw a crocodile, a few lizards, deers and some beautiful birds that were super tiny. Sadly I didn’t have a zoom lens but only had a GoPro camera at the time of my visit.  The above picture is highly cropped, and the white dots are actually pelicans that are sitting on the rocks next to the reservoir. 

In addition to elephants and pelicans, you’ll get the chance to see some other animals in their natural habitat. These can include sambar deer, axis deer, monkeys, peacocks, wild boar, and various bird species. 

Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park?

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

If you want to see a gathering of wild elephants, you can not just pick one out of Minneriya or Kaudulla, but you have to find out where the elephants are. Both these parks have water supply but when one dries up, the elephants move to the other due to the close proximity. 

The elephants usually move from Minneriya to Kaudulla from September to February. During other months, they move to Minneriya tank to drink water during the dry season. Ask your hotel or one of the local tour guides to find out for you and they will tell you where you can see the elephant gathering on that particular day. This way, you’re practically guaranteed to see at least a few herds of Sri Lankan elephants during your trip. 

Minneriya National Park is nearby and is comparatively more famous than Kaudulla for elephant spotting in Sri Lanka. It’s located 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park. I have visited both, they’re similar but there is a difference in size – Minneriya is bigger. Also, Kaudulla tends to be less busy.

There are fewer jeeps that drive around inside Kaudulla as compared to Minneriya, it means you’ll have a better view of the animals. I visited Kaudulla in the month of February and there were not more than 2 jeeps around us when we spotted an elephant herd. On the other hand, I visited Minneriya National Park in the month of July and we were at least 10 jeeps together next to a large elephant gathering. 

Why Stay at Sigiriya to visit Kaudulla? 

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is a small town located 28 miles (45 kilometres) from the park. It’s famous for containing an ancient stone fortress that rises up nearly 200 metres. The inside is decorated with well-preserved frescoes that have lasted hundreds of years. It’s a very popular tourist spot in Sri Lanka. 

Even though it is touristy, I highly enjoyed my time in Sigiriya town on two different occasions. The Sigiriya village is beautiful and you will love walking around here and seeing little monkeys and maybe even a few peacocks. Yes, the Sigiriya Rock is famous but you can avoid crowds by not climbing it. It is spectacular but you can admire the beautiful shape of the rock from top of the lesser known Pidurangala rock. 

If you stay at Sigiriya, then you can check off many of your typical “Sri Lankan” travel experience items off your list. You can climb the famous lion rock, sleep in a tree house, see elephants in wild, see the nearby Dambulla cave temple, rent a bicycle to enjoy Sri Lanka’s little villages, and of course eat a lot of amazing food. Be sure to read my post about Sigiriya with a detailed comparison of Pidurangala.

You’ll find a nice range of options for places to stay in Sigiriya, from basic budget hotels to resorts. We personally stayed in 4 guest houses, one tree house resort and another high end resort in Sigiriya and they all offered a different experience. In my opinion Sigiriya is the best place to stay to be near Kaudulla National Park. 

Hotels near Kaudulla and Sigirya

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Kaudulla does not offer any accommodation within the park itself. However, there are a few towns you’ll be able to stay in for easy access to the park’s entrance. 

If you want to take your Sri Lankan wildlife experience to the next level, then consider staying in a tree house in Back of Beyond. This place is in the middle of Dehigaha Ela’s deep forest but still not far from Sigiriya and Kaudulla. You can sleep in an actual treehouse and listen to the sounds of the forest all night. San and I loved this place so much that we even published a post about our tree house stay in Sri Lanka. You can read more about this place on TripAdvisor or just click here to check the best deals and book a tree house for yourself.

Our tree house was 20 minutes away from Sigirya but if you want to be closer to the city, you can check out Back of Beyond – Pidurangala, which is as beautiful but is not in the middle of deep forest. 

We also recommend a place called Nethmini Homestay in the main Sigiriya town (check deals on Booking.com for Nethmini Homestay). It is a short tuk tuk drive away from Sigiriya Fortess and Pidurangala Rock. While here, we rented bicycles and explored the most of Sigiriya on our own.

Where Else to Stay near Kaudulla National Park

Dambulla is a town located 31 miles (50 kilometres) from the park. It contains restaurants, hotels, markets, historic temples, and other attractions. I stayed in a place called Jetwing Lake Dambulla and it was a stunning location.

Trincomalee is a city located 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Kaudulla National Park. Although it’s a bit further, it’s a popular choice because of its seaside location. It lies on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka and is a major resort port city. 

Other National Parks near Sigiriya

Other than Kaudulla National Park, there are two other main National Parks in the area around Sigiriya. These are Minneriya National Park and Angammedilla National Park.

Minneriya National Park is a 30 minutes drive, or 12 miles (20 kilometres) from Sigiriya. This park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1938, and designated as a national park in 1997. It offers morning and afternoon jeep safari tours similar to Kaudulla National Park.

Angammedilla National Park is about an hours’ drive, or 30 miles (48 kilometres) from Sigiriya. It’s one of the newer Sri Lankan National Parks, having only been designated a national park in 2006. It offers safari jeep tours, and guests are also able to walk around through the trails in the park. 

Best Time to Visit Kaudulla National Park

Super excited for our jeep safari at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

Super excited for our jeep safari at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

The best time to visit Kaudulla National Park to see elephants is during Sri Lanka’s dry season. This is when the elephants will make their way to find water at Kaudulla National Park. Within those months, August to October is considered peak elephant viewing. Usually, 150 to 300 wild elephants gather during these months. 

However, with that being said, Kaudulla National Park is a year-round destination. You’re practically guaranteed to see elephants during any month you visit but maybe not an “elephant gathering” everyday.

Jeep safari tours in the park are offered in the morning and the afternoon. The best time of day to take a tour is during the afternoon. This is when the elephants are typically out and about, and you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing them. The morning safari makes more sense for those who want to look at birds. Just make sure to wear proper safari attire to help shield yourself from the afternoon sun. 

Conclusion 

Kaudulla National Park is one of the best places on the planet to see wild elephants in their natural habitat. Being able to see hundreds of these magnificent creatures up close is a truly extraordinary experience. Visiting the park is a must during any trip to Sri Lanka. 

Did follow our recommendations for Kaudulla National Park or Sri Lanka?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

Kandy to Ella Train Journey in Sri Lanka: Info + Pics + Scenic Stops + Itinerary

Kandy to Ella Train Journey in Sri Lanka: Info + Pics + Scenic Stops + Itinerary

Tea estates, green hills, waterfalls, and tunnels – this is Kandy to Ella train journey.  

Many people say that it is the most scenic train journeys in the world. I strongly agree! Read further to know why through my pictures. Also, I hope to share a lot of in depth information about not just Kandy to Ella train journey but also general information about Sri Lanka’s trains.

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Me enjoying a scenic train journey – Kandy to Ella train route

Sri Lanka doesn’t have a shortage of natural beauty. In fact, the entire country feels like one big national park. You will surely see a lot of jungles and sometimes even wild elephants crossing the road. If you go to the middle part (the Hill Country), you will see a lot of rivers, waterfalls and monkeys jumping from one tree to another. 

Tea gardens and little hills view from the train Nuwara Eliya to Ella route

Tea gardens and little hills view from the train Nuwara Eliya to Ella route

If you’re a nature lover, you may think that going to a National Park for an elephant safari is enough. Wrong! In my opinion, one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Sri Lanka is by experiencing a typical Sri Lankan train ride. 

The best train route in Sri Lanka is from Kandy to Ella. I loved it so much that I did it again when I went back to Sri Lanka the second time. 

Sri Lanka Train Video

Go grab an easy chair, turn up the volume and enjoy this epic video of our train journey in Sri Lanka. It has the views, food, people, train coaches, stations and so much more. 

 

Colombo to Kandy to Ella to Badulla – List of Train Stops 

San and I enjoying the door seat on a train in Sri Lanka

San and I enjoying the door seat on a train in Sri Lanka

Good news – the train that goes from Kandy to Ella doesn’t start in Kandy. In fact, it starts in Colombo Fort train station. So yes, you can start your train journey directly from Colombo after arriving. 

Please note, that when your airplane lands in Colombo, you’re actually landing closer to Negombo and not Colombo (even though your ticket will say Colombo). Negombo is not a part of Colombo – it is an entirely different destination and much better than Colombo. If you’re staying in Negombo, then you need to plan beforehand how you’re going to reach Colombo Fort station from Negombo because the train leaves early. Scroll further down to read about the time tables.

Below are the prominent train stops on Colombo to Badulla train route:

  • Colombo Fort 
  • Peradeniya 
  • Kandy 
  • Hatton 
  • Nanu Oya – (for Nuwara Eliya)
  • Haputale 
  • Ella
  • Badulla

There are many more stops on this line and I haven’t mentioned them all. If you need information about every single stop, check this Wikipedia page.

The best thing about this train route is that you can do this Kandy to Ella train journey in many ways. It totally depends on your itinerary for Sri Lanka and how much time you can spare.

Look how lovely the background is - train ride in Sri Lanka

Look how lovely the background is – train ride in Sri Lanka

First, you can do the entire Kandy to Ella stretch all together in one go.  This option is for those who don’t have a lot of time in their Sri Lanka itinerary. 

I recommend the second – you can break up your journey and stop in places like Hatton, Nuwara Eliya and Haputale. There is a lot to see and do in these places and you can read my detailed itinerary for Sri Lanka with information about what to do there. 

San looking out from the door - train ride in Sri Lanka

San looking out from the door – train ride in Sri Lanka

Third, if you have limited time then you can maybe consider doing just a part of this journey – maybe Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya to Ella. People say that the part from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is the best, but I disagree. It is just the most popular one, but the best part is from Nuwara Eliya to Ella.

Fourth, it is obvious but you can do any of the above mentioned routes in reverse. 😉

Scroll down to read more details about each stop and things to do there.

Colombo to Kandy to Nuwara Eliya to Ella train schedule

Ulapane - one of the smaller stations on Kandy to Ella train route in Sri Lanka

Ulapane – one of the smaller stations on Kandy to Ella train route in Sri Lanka

There are a number of trains that run on this route, but I will only share information about the slightly better ones. These are Chinese-built blue colored trains that are pretty cute. The train numbers are 1005 and 1015.

   Train Number 1005  Train 1015
   Arrives At   Departs at   Arrives At   Departs at 
 Colombo Fort     05:55    08:30
 Peradeniya  08:32  08:34  10:53  10:55
 Kandy  08:42  08:47  11:03  11:10
 Hatton  11:14  11:16  13:28  13:30
 Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya)  12:45  12:47  15:01  15:03
 Haputale  14:17  14:19  16:32  16:34
 Ella  15:15  15:17  17:28  17:30
 Badulla  16:06    18:22  

If you’re doing this journey in reverse, you need to board train numbers 1016 or 1006. Here’s the timetable for both these trains

   Train Number 1016  Train 1015
   Arrives At   Departs at   Arrives At   Departs at 
 Badulla    05:45    08:30
 Ella  06:38  06:40  09:22  09:24
 Haputale  07:43  07:45  10:23  10:25
 Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya)  09:27  09:25  12:00  12:02
 Hatton  10:37  10:39  13:18  13:20
 Kandy  12:38  12:50  15:49  16:05
 Peradeniya  12:58  13:00  16:14  16:16
 Colombo Fort   15:27    18:57  

The train stops for just a minute or two on most of the stations except Kandy, which is a big junction. 

Peradeniya is just 6 KMs away from Kandy and it may end up being closer to your hotel. Check this in advance so you can avoid Kandy train station’s crowds. 

A local train in Sri Lanka with red coaches

A local train in Sri Lanka with red coaches. The blue ones are the Chinese built ones

There are a few more trains on this route which I have not mentioned. There is a night train too that runs back and forth and it has sleeper berths. I have not traveled on it so I can’t recommend it. It may not be the best idea to take the night train because you will miss the best part of the journey. After all, this is supposed to be one of the best train rides in the world because of the view! I have only mentioned the “blue train” with slightly better Chinese built coaches but there is are a few older, red trains also that run on this route.

Nuwara Eliya train station is actually Nanu Oya, which is slightly outside the town. 

Nanu Oya train station - for Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Nanu Oya train station – for Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Don’t just assume that the bigger Kandy or Nuwara Eliya or Ella are better than other smaller stops on this route. If you have time, then give the smaller towns a little chance too. We had the most amazing experience in Haputale.

Kandy to Ella Train Travel Time

Loving the beauty around me - train ride in Sri Lanka

Loving the beauty around me – train ride in Sri Lanka

The travel time between Kandy to Ella is a little more than 6 hours by train. Again, as mentioned before – you can split this journey by staying in Nuwara Eliya or Haputale or Hatton or all of them.

Trust me – this journey is so scenic that you will not even notice how quickly the time passes.

Best Sri Lanka Train Stops + What to do there

Kandy and Peradeniya

Night time at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Night time at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Peradeniya is a smaller suburb of Kandy. Kandy and Peradeniya are just 5 – 10 minutes away, so I’m not putting up a separate point for things to see in both the locations. Logically, the things to see and do are the same, hence the same point!

A cultural dance show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

A cultural dance show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is Sri Lanka’s cultural heart and perhaps the most visited destination after Sigiriya. You can see the famous Temple of the Tooth relic (Buddha tooth), Kandy lake, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the colorful cultural dance show. Or if you’re like me, then you’d like to simply get lost on the streets and enjoy the local food. 

I visited a super small local restaurant that was in the main market. It was a Tamil restaurant where they only had different kinds of Dosas and Idlees. I had an amazing meal here. 

Being a sucker for nature and viewpoints, Kandy wasn’t exactly my favorite stop on this famous train route in Sri Lanka, even though it is the most popular and visited one.

Hatton (for Adam’s Peak)

Hatton Train station in Sri Lanka on Kandy to Ella train route

Hatton Train station in Sri Lanka on Kandy to Ella train route

Hatton is the closest train station to the famous Adam’s Peak in Ratnapur. It is 2243 meters high mountain and the view from the top is said to be heavenly. There is a sacred footprint rock formation near the top, called “Sri Pada”.

Adam's Peak and Triangular Shadow - near Hatton, Sri Lanka Route Map

Adam’s Peak and Triangular Shadow – near Hatton, Sri Lanka Route Map

Most people who climb Adam’s Peak try to reach on top before the sunrise. Interestingly, it casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding areas at a particular angle when the at sunrise. The shadow moves away as the sun rises further.

In order to climb Adam’s Peak, you will have to start the trail from Dalhousie, which is 3 hours drive away from Hatton. 

Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya)

One of the many Nuwara Eliya Waterfalls, Sri Lanka

One of the many Nuwara Eliya Waterfalls, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya is also called “Little England” because of the weather. It can rain anytime here. Yes, the weather in Nuwara Eliya is cold and wet! It is a charming destination but a little too crowded and developed for our liking. 

The best way to enjoy Nuwara Eliya is by finding a place to stay that’s a little outside the main city.   There are not many interesting “natural” places to visit in Nuwara Eliya but the main beauty of this town is actually outside. Once you get out, you can visit one of the many Nuwara Eliya’s waterfalls, tea estates and viewpoints. 

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

I visited Nuwara Eliya twice and ended up visiting the same tea factory here for the second time because they offer an amazing free tour of the tea factory. More than that, the surrounding area is really lovely. 

In my two visits to Nuwara Eliya, I sadly didn’t end up visiting the famous Horton’s Plains National Park which is nearby. There is a spot here called “the World’s End”, which is supposed to be a very good viewpoint. Horton’s Plains National Park also has Baker Falls, that are 20 meters high.

Nuwara Eliya Hotels

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya – Jetwings

My lovely room in St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

My lovely room in St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya is a part of Jetwing  brand – which is perhaps the best hotel brand in Sri Lanka. This is where I stayed when I visited Nuwara Eliya for the second time and loved it. It is an colonial style building with old school English rooms that are adorable. This hotel is a little away from the busy part of the city and is peaceful.

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya has a stunning sitting area with glass windows. You can enjoy the lovely view while you sip tea.

Click here to read reviews about St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya on TripAdvisor.

Haputale 

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Haputale is a very relaxed little town where not many travelers go. The costs are lower here because of this. 

San enjoying the view in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Haputale is so small that you can literally get out of your hotel and then walk for a few minutes and you will reach outside the town. You can walk around and discover some viewpoints on your own instead of going for the more famous ones. 

Many people make a day trip to Haputale to visit the famous Lipton’s Seat, which is a famous viewpoint. As per Lonely Planet, the train route from Haputale to Ella is the best part of this journey.

Ella

Ella town has mostly been made famous by backpackers and instagrammers. The good thing is that it is smaller than Kandy or Nuwara Eliya and therefore not as crowded. But again, you will have to get out of Ella to enjoy the most beautiful sights that it is known for.

If you missed climbing the Adam’s Peak, then you will be happy to know that Ella has it’s own “mini Adam’s peak” that you can climb and also Ella Rock. They’re both good. Apart from this, you can also visit the Ravana Ella waterfall, Ravana cave, see the Nine Arches Bridge or head to one of Ella Gap viewpoints. 

Badulla

One of the most famous waterfalls in Sri Lanka is just 5 kms near Badulla – Dunhinda Falls. The height of this misty waterfall is 64 meters and is created by Badula Oya river.

Badulla has colonial style town with old British buildings. After Nuwara Eliya, Badulla is the biggest tea producing districts. You can use this stop to get to Sri Lanka’s East Coast to visit Arugam Bay. 

Colombo to Kandy to Ella Train Map

Sri Lanka Train Itinerary - Kandy to Ella train route

Sri Lanka Train Itinerary – Colombo to Kandy to Ella train map

To give you a visual sense of this train route, I have created a map on Google Maps for you. This map shows you the train route from where it starts – Fort Colombo train station and to where it ends – Badulla train station.

Check this website for more information about trains in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Train System, Train Tickets and Tips

Train ride in Ella - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Train ride in Ella – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Cost of Sri Lanka Train Tickets [for Colombo to Badulla route]

Colombo to Kandy train tickets are for 500 rupees ($5) for first class observation car, 280 rupees ($3) for second class, and 180 ($2) for third class. 

Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) or Colombo to Ella or Colombo to Badulla tickets are for the same price – 1250 rupees to 1000 rupees ($11 – $8) for first class observation car, 600 rupees ($5) for second class, and 400 ($3) for third class. 

Where to Buy the Sri Lanka Train Tickets

My third class train ticket in Sri Lanka

My third class train ticket in Sri Lanka

The train tickets can only be bought advance for the observation class, first class, or second class. These can be bought from Colombo Fort train station at counter 17. It is possible to book these from an agent and so that they can send someone to the station and book them for you.

Tickets for the third class can’t need to be bought in advance. You can just pick them up from the station right before your journey. Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a very busy route and it is likely that at the train station they will say that the train is booked out. It is so because they are just assuming that you’d want book first or second class because you’re not a local. The third class tickets are without a fixed seat and aren’t sold out.

Note: don’t throw away your ticket after the journey because in my case, the ticket was checked both before and after the journey at the train station. I couldn’t find mine so I showed the ticket checked the above picture that I had clicked of the ticket.

First Class Train Coach is not Necessarily Better

Inside the train in Sri Lanka

This is the third class coach – My friend Karla inside the train in Sri Lanka

Having traveled on this route more than once, I say this with full confidence that the third class is also very good. When I travel in India, I hardly ever visit the third class because it is dirty. 

Inside second class train coach from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Inside second class train coach from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

The trains in Sri Lanka are clean and I actually prefer the third class over the first class because you can open the windows. Moreover, you can also sit by the door and watch the view. Most of the locals travel by third class and it is a very fun way for you to get a glimpse of their lives.

An adorable local couple enjoying the door seat - train ride in Sri Lanka

An adorable local couple enjoying the door seat – train ride in Sri Lanka

In comparison, the first class is fully closed because of the AC. You will mostly see other international travelers around you in this coach instead of locals.

Food and Drinks

Eating Samosa on a train in Sri Lanka

Eating Samosa on a train in Sri Lanka

Many food and drinks vendor will board the train and walk around. You can find water, sodas, samosas, chai, roasted peanuts, and other snacks. If your stomach can’t handle the local food, then carry something. 

Buying snacks through the train window near Kandy, Sri Lanka

Buying snacks through the train window near Kandy, Sri Lanka

Toilets inside Sri Lankan Trains

The toilets inside the trains in Sri Lanka are not the best. The ones in first class are better than the third class ones.

What to Expect at the Train Stations

Peradeniya train station in Sri Lanka - super airy

Peradeniya train station in Sri Lanka – super airy

I never saw an electronic train departure and arrival chart but it was easy to ask locals and find the platform. The Kandy to Ella route has well maintained stations, even though they are small. Most of these train stations have a special waiting lounge with a slightly cleaner toilet for international travelers.

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – Travel Guide + Things to do + Video

Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – Travel Guide + Things to do + Video

Arugam Bay is a beach destination on Sri Lanka’s East Coast where you can easily get comfortable for days and not want to leave. This is exactly what happened with San and me when we visited Sri Lanka. We loved Arugam Bay’s relaxed vibe so much that we ended up spending close to 10 days here.

Arugam Bay beach - Sri Lanka East Coast

Arugam Bay beach – Sri Lanka East Coast

Many of those who visit this lovely country don’t include Arugam Bay in their itinerary for Sri Lanka at all, because of this it has maintained its relaxed vibe. Instead, most people prefer visiting Mirissa or Galle for whale spotting.

Arugam Bay is not just Sri Lanka’s top surfing destination, but is an amazing wildlife destination, an ideal place for small families and is also one of the top party places in Sri Lanka. Did I mention already that it was our favorite beach destination in Sri Lanka? 🙂

How to Reach Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay Beach in the mornings with fishing boats

Arugam Bay Beach in the mornings with fishing boats

If you’re reaching here from the central province of Sri Lanka like Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Ella, then you can do this journey partially by train. The nearest train station to Arugam Bay is Badulla [it is on Colombo – Kandy – Ella train route] and from there you can do this journey on a local bus or a taxi or even a tuk-tuk. 

In case you’re reaching Arugam Bay directly from Colombo, then the best and the smartest thing to do would be to just rent a car from Colombo and drive. Sri Lanka is perfect for road trips and you’re going to love the landscape. 

You can do the journey from Colombo on the bus as well, there is a direct bus from Colombo to Arugam Bay but it takes long around 12 hours. It is bus number 98. We highly recommend you break this journey up – after all, Sri Lanka’s central province is absolutely gorgeous. There are a few companies that are running slightly faster and better buses to Arugam Bay, check them here. (I’m not affiliated with them but this is just a website that I found online). We got on a bus from Haputale (near Ella) and reached Pottuvil. It wasn’t a direct bus and we had to change once. 

Pottuvil – the closest town near Arugam Bay

Pottuvil is the closest town to Arugam Bay and that’s where most of the buses will drop you. In fact, many buses go inside Arugam Bay, but there is a tuk-tuk mafia that dominates this area.

The tuk-tuk drivers have formed an alliance with the bus staff and misinform all the international travelers and tell them that the bus doesn’t go to Arugam Bay so that there is no option but to buy a ticket. Even after reading about this scam, we had no way to avoid it when the bus staff forcefully dropped us in Pottuvill.  We reached Arugam Bay on a tuk-tuk and saw the SAME bus there.

 

Things to do in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay Surfing

Arugam Bay is one of the most famous surfing spots in Sri Lanka. Over the years, surfing has emerged as one of the top 10 things to do in Sri Lanka. 

Surfing Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Surfing Arugam Bay Sri Lanka – by Indi Samarajiva [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

The main surfing season starts in Arugam Bay in March and lasts till the summer months. There are many surfing spots but some of the most famous ones are – the Peanut Farm, Elephant Rock (also known as Crocodile Rock), Panama Point and Whisky Point.

We actually visited the Peanut Farm area for a music festival but not surfing. More than anything, it is just a very beautiful spot and there is a lagoon next to the beach. I will share more information about Peanut Farm further ahead in the article. As per Lonely Planet, Arugam Bay has emerged as Asia’s hottest surfing destination BUT has still remained blissful. 

Relax on Arugam Bay Beach

Arugam Bay Beach, Sri Lanka

Arugam Bay Beach, Sri Lanka

The best thing that you can do in Arugam Bay is to of course relax on Arugam Beach. It is a laidback beach that’s perfectly crescent in shape. It is very sandy and there are some rocks where you can sit. There are also palm trees on Arugam Beach so that you can sit in the shade. 

Chilling in a shady spot on the beach in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Chilling in a shady spot on the beach in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Arugam Bay is good for swimming because the water is warm, but be careful and don’t go too far because the surf can be strong. The best thing about Arugam Beach is that it is still not as developed as other beach destinations and you can relax peacefully.

Pottuvil Lagoon / Arugam Lagoon

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

A local fisherman in Pottuvil Lagoon – Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Pottuvil Lagoon is around 20 minutes away from Arugam Bay on a tuk-tuk. It is between Arugam Bay and Pottuvil town. We actually saw this place just by chance when we were here on a cloudy afternoon.

Visiting Pottuvil Lagoon is one of those things that I recommend you do with a local guide because they know their area well. You can explore Pottuvil Lagoon on a boat through the mangroves. If you’re lucky, you may just get to see crocodiles, monkeys, interesting birds and perhaps even water monitors. You may get to see wild elephants too!

Pottuvil Lagoon, Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Pottuvil Lagoon, Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Your tour for Pottuvil Lagoon may start as early as 6:30 am but it totally depends on who you book this with. Ask your hotel or guest house to book it for you.

If you’re planning on visiting the nearby Yala National Park already, I still recommend you still visit the lagoon because here you will be exploring the wilderness from a boat the water, instead of a jeep. Typical costs for a boat tour on Pottuvil Lagoon in 2018 is LKR 6000 Rupees per person.

A visit to the lagoon will be cheaper than visiting one of the many national parks in Sri Lanka. Also, it is one of the unique things to do in Sri Lanka and should not be missed. 

Yala East / Kumana National Park Safari

Elephants at Kumana National Park near Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Elephants at Kumana National Park near Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – Mahesh Kularatne [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Kumana National Park was earlier known as Yala East and it shares its border with the bigger and more famous Yala National Park. It is 12 kilometers away from Arugam Bay, which can take 45 minutes of driving to reach. This park has around 20 lagoons inside.

Kumana is known for its birdlife and is a good place to see colorful flocks of migratory birds. Kumana Bird Sanctuary is a part of Kumana National Park. Apart from the birds, you can also see turtles, crocodiles, jackals, wild boars, elephants, and otters. 

Kudumbigala Monastery & Cave Temple

Kudumbigala cave temple near Kimana National Park and near Arugam Bay Sri Lanka by Amila Tennakoon

Kudumbigala cave temple near Kimana and Arugam Bay Sri Lanka by Amila Tennakoon – (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Kudumbigala Monastery is on the way to Kumana National Park from Arugam Bay, in Kumana village. This forgotten monastery complex dates back to 246 BC. There is literally nothing around this complex and it is in the middle of the jungle. 

You can climb up to the highest point for an amazing view. You will see the rocks, the jungle, and the coastline. It may take you around 1.5 hours. Hiking to the highest viewpoint during the heat is not recommended and will make you very tired. Do this around sunrise or sunset time but be sure to go with a local because it is in the middle of nowhere.

Kudumbigala Monastry Viewpoint - near Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Kudumbigala Monastry Viewpoint – near Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka – by Indi Samarajiva [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Dress appropriately and respect monastery because you may come across some meditating monks here. Don’t stand on the stupas. Also, don’t treat this forgotten monastery complex as your picnic spot and do not carry alcohol here. 

Sri Lanka’s temples are very famous and a majority of tourists visit the country just to see the Buddha tooth relic temple in Kandy. But keep in mind that Sri Lanka has stricter rules than many other Asian countries. You may be able to enter a temple in Thailand wearing a sleeveless but not in Sri Lanka. Moreover, you can’t have a visible Buddha tattoo. Read about this and many other travel tips for visiting Sri Lanka here.

Fishing with the Locals

Munash and his friend after fishing in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Munash and his friend after fishing in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

On a cloudy afternoon in Arugam Bay, San and I had no idea about what to do so we went to sit by the Arugam Lagoon. We made friends with two local fishermen there and ended up spending the whole day with them. They invited us to their house for chai and our friendship began.

Early Morning in Arugam Bay with the local fishermen, Sri Lanka's east coast

Early Morning in Arugam Bay with the local fishermen, Sri Lanka’s east coast

San loves fishing and he was very curious about their ways. Next day, he woke up at 4:30 am and went fishing with them. He saw a lovely sunrise and many dolphins. 

Fishing with the locals is one of the most amazing things to do in Sri Lanka. Being an island country, there are many locals whose livelihood depends on fishing and this activity will give you a good insight into their culture and lives. 

Our local friend's children in Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Our local friend’s children in Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Peanut Farm Beach Area

Do you know that there is a psychedelic music festival that’s organized every year in the peanut farm area? Well, that’s why San and I went to Arugam Bay in the first place. We spent 5 days camping in the peanut farm area and can only imagine how lovely this place looks when there are no people. 

If you’re visiting Arugam Bay during the main surfing season, then the peanut farm is the best surfing spot around. Even if you’re not surfing, this area is actually quite beautiful. There is a big sandy beach and next to it there is a small lagoon. There are rocks near the lagoon and you can climb them and reach a smaller beach.

Peanut Farm Beach in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Peanut Farm Beach in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

If San and I visit Arugam Bay again, we’d like to stay away from the main town but at the peanut farm beach area. You can stay in a cabana here that’s next to the beach. 

Lahugala National Park

Lahugala National Park is closer to Arugam Bay as compared to Kumana National Park. It is close to Pottuvil Lagoon and is one of the smallest national parks of Sri Lanka. It is a very good place to see wild elephants because it is used by them as a feeding ground. 

Apart from wild elephants, if you go at a decent hour for birdwatching, you will also get to see several wetland birds. 

Elephant Rock / Crocodile Rock

Elephant Rock point or Crocodile Point in Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Elephant Rock point or Crocodile Point in Arugam Bay Sri Lanka – by Indi Samarajiva [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Elephant Rock is also called the Crocodile Rock. This is actually one of the surfing spots but you visit this spot to see the lovely beach. It is 2-3 KMs south of Arugam Bay and a little before Peanut Farm beach.

If you come here in the early morning or late evening, you may see a herd of elephants. Please visit with the locals or a surf shop. Don’t swim in the lagoons here because there are crocodiles. There was a crocodile attack here where a British tourist was killed in 2017. 

Muhudu Maha Viharaya

Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Arugam Bay Sri Lanka

Muhudu Maha Viharaya, Arugam Bay Sri Lanka – by Indi Samarajiva [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

Mudhu Maha Voharaya is on one end of Arugam Bay beach and you can only reach by walking on the sand. The sand tends to get very hot during the day, so visit early morning or in the evening.

This temple complex is said to be around 2000 years old but is not preserved. There is no entry fee. There is a new temple and stupa that’s constructed here, and you will most likely see it from the main road that’s next to the lagoon. 

Atman Festival

Here's us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Here’s us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

This point is only relevant if you enjoy psychedelic music festivals. Atman Festival is organized in Arugam Bay’s peanut farm and is a Dark Psy and Hi-Tech music festival. The artists usually play very high BPM music, so if you don’t enjoy this genre, this festival will be too heavy for you.

If you enjoy this music like San and I do then you’re going to love this festival. For us, it was the best beach party in Sri Lanka. Here’s a little video.

Do Not Swim in the Lagoons [Crocodile Warning]

Do not swim in the lagoon - crocodiles - sign next to a Lagoon in Arugam Bay

Do not swim in the lagoon – crocodiles – sign next to a Lagoon in Arugam Bay

As mentioned twice already in this article – do not even think of swimming in Arugam Bay’s lagoons. There are many lagoons in the entire area of Arugam Bay, Panama Bay (right below Arugam Bay) and Pottuvil.

It is worth noting that a British surfer was killed by a crocodile near the Elephant Rock in 2017. This apparently happened when he went off alone to find a toilet and was near the lagoon. This is the first ever recorded incident of a crocodile attack in Sri Lanka. There was a saltwater crocodile attack in India’s Havelock island as well a few years back.

Hotels in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay Beach, Sri Lanka - East Coast

Arugam Bay Beach, Sri Lanka – East Coast

The main Arugam Bay Area is nothing but a straight road that runs more or less parallel to the beach. Here you will find bars, restaurants, local shops and guest houses. We stayed in three different hotels in Arugam Bay and they were all good. Here are our recommendations:

  • Green Beach Hotel – this place has simple and clean rooms and is near the beach. Room prices start from €24 per night.
  • Drift – this place has lovely air conditioned villas that are near the beach starting at €43 per night.
  • Arcadia Villas – private villas with a patio starting at €47 per night.
  • Utopia – a simple and affordable place near the beach with private rooms starting at €14 per night.
  • Little Lagoon Hostel – Very comfortable and social hostel. A bed in a 4 person dormitory costs €14 per night.

What is your favorite beach destination in Sri Lanka? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to know.

Climbing Sigiriya OR Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka – Which One is Better?

Climbing Sigiriya OR Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka – Which One is Better?

Should you climb the Sigiriya or Pidurangala Rock? Or both? If you’re thinking of heading to Central Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya village and are not sure where to go or what to miss, this post will help you make some decisions. I have climbed both and can compare them for you. Moreover, this post will also act as an excellent guide if you’re climbing them both, like I did.

Climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock is one of the most popular things to do in Sri Lanka. In fact, Sigiriya is so famous that most of the travel postcards or brochures for Sri Lanka its picture. After all, it is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site and the pride of Sri Lanka.

There is another alternative to climbing Sigiriya and it is right next to it. I’m talking about the Pidurangala Rock, which is also in the Sigiriya village.

I have visited Sigiriya village twice and have climbed both. During my first visit in 2017, I climbed Pidurangala Rock. I visited again in 2018 and climbed the famous Sigiriya Rock. Which one is really better? There is no straight answer because they’re different in literally every way.

Wether you decide to climb Pidurangala Rock or Sigiriya or both or even neither, I highly recommend you include Sigiriya in your itinerary for Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is so close to Colombo and you can literally glimpse the BEST of Sri Lanka here.

Elephants at Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Wild Elephants at Kaudulla National Park, near Sigiriya village

You may see wild elephants walking on the road in Sigiriya or you can experience an elephant safari in one of the nearby national parks – Minneriya and Kaudulla. You will surely enjoy the peaceful forest area of Sigirya and you can cycle or walk around Sigiriya Rock.

The oddly shaped Sigiriya hill stands proudly and can be seen from many viewpoints along with it’s sibling – Pidurangala. Since Sigirya is in the Central Province, you can also easily explore the nearby Hill Country. Sigiriya to Kandy is not far and this journey can be done very easily in a local bus or a taxi or even a train. Our favorite experience was staying in a tree house in the middle of the forest near Sigiriya.

Climbing Pidurangala or Sigiriya – Comparison

Introduction and History

Sigiriya Lion Rock

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

The entry area of Sigiriya Rock and Fortress complex in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Lion Rock is a citadel – a fortress on top of a hill in Sigiriya village in Central Sri Lanka. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sigiriya village is near Dambulla, which is also a famous for its cave temple. Before turning into a fortress, the caves on top of Sigiriya were used as a place to live and meditate by Buddhist monks in the 3rd Century BC.

If history or legends are not your thing, then move to the next section. But as per me, the history of Sigirya Fortress is very interesting. There are different legends and stories that are associated with the Sigiriya Fortress. I will tell you about the one that a local told me – it will remind you a little of the Game of Thrones!

Sigiriya History – the Legendary Story

King Datusena of Anuradhapura had two sons –  Kasyapa and Moggallana. Kasyapa was the older one but was illegitimate, so the younger son Moggallana was the rightful heir of the throne. King Datusena gifted a lake to his Kasyapa but it wasn’t enough.

In 477 CE, Kasyapa conspired with Datusena’s chief of army, Migara and killed him. This did not go well with the kingdom because Datusena was a beloved king, so Kasyapa had to flee.

Kasyapa fled from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya to hide. At that time Sigiriya Rock was mainly used by the Buddhist Monks as a place to mediate – who were asked to move to the nearby Pidurangala Rock. He built a rock fortress on top of Sigiriya Rock with the help of Datusena’s chief of army and became the king of Sigiriya. Kasyapa ruled Sigiriya for almost 20 years and developed it well.

Sigiriya Rock looks like this from top of Pidurangala

Sigiriya Rock looks like this from top of Pidurangala

During Kasyapan’s rule, the people were curious about what was on top of the Sigiriya rock. Some stories describe Kasyapan as a playboy because Sigirya caved has beautiful paintings of ladies from many different parts of the world (African, Asian, etc.) that were thought to be his mistresses. There is also a well polished wall inside the caves, which is so shiny that it is called the Mirror wall.

Meanwhile, Datusena’s other son – Moggallana had fled to India and had gradually built an army so that one day he could return and reclaim his throne. (Like Khaleesi of Game of Thrones). Moggallana finally returned in 495 CE to Sigiriya in Sri Lanka and defeated his older brother Kasyapan in the battle. Kasyapan committed suicide.

Sigiriya was given back to the Buddhist monks and Moggallana went back to his kingdom in Anuradhapura. Sigiriya thrived as a a Buddhist monastery complex till 13th or 14th century.

Here’s when the story gets even crazier – there are no archeological records found about Sigiriya after the 14th century and it was pretty much forgotten and covered by bushes. But it was found again in 1871 by the British Army. (Kind of like the how the Borobudur Temple of Yogyakarta was forgotten and then found)

Pidurangala Rock

Inside Pidurangala Temple Complex

Inside Pidurangala Temple Complex

Pidurangala Rock was used as a Buddhist Monastery when King Kasyapa arrived in Sigiriya. The monks were originally living in Sigiriya caves but were asked to move to Pidurangala so that Kasyapa could build his fortress on Sigiriya. It was called Pidurangala Vihara, which means Pidurangala Complex.

Winner: Sigiriya

Height Comparison

Sigiriya and Pidurangala peaks next to each other

Sigiriya and Pidurangala peaks next to each other

Sigiriya Height

Sigiriya is almost 200 meters or 660 feet high.

Pidurangala Height

Pidurangala is almost the same height at Sigirya and is just 1 meter shorter.

Ease of Climbing

Climbing Sigiriya Rock

One of the many resting spots on our way up to Sigiriya Rock

One of the many resting spots on our way up to Sigiriya Rock

Climbing Sigiriya Rock is much easier as compared to climbing Pidurangala. It is because you only have to climb the steps on the staircase that goes to the top. You can climb on top of Sigiriya even if you’re not used to climbing or if you consider yourself physically unfit. Just remember to keep it slow and enjoy the experience and the view on your way up. Don’t be in a hurry.

I climbed on top of Sigiriya Rock during the 5th month of my pregnancy and faced no problems.

Climbing Pidurangala Rock

Steps - Pidurangala Rock and Temple

Steps – Pidurangala Rock and Temple

Climbing Pidurangala Rock is very easy in the beginning but just the very last part is difficult. Just like Sigiriya, there steps in some areas BUT they will not take you to the top of Pidurangala.

You have to actually know how to climb because there is this one rock towards the end where you have to use all fours and climb like an animal. My husband San had to help me up here and literally lift me like a rag doll because I’m not tall enough.

The Last part of climbing Pidurangala Rock

The Last part of climbing Pidurangala Rock – I don’t have a clearer picture because of lack of natural light

The last part of climbing Pidurangala is tricky! But hey, I had more fun climbing Pidurangala as compared to climbing Sigiriya Rock.

Winner: Sigiriya for ease. Pidurangala for a more fun experience.

[Sigiriya Rock is easier than climbing Pidurangala Rock, but if you can handle the last part, then climbing Pidurangala Rock is more fun.]

How Long Does the Climb Take?

How Long Does It Take to Climb Sigiriya Rock?

Even though Sigiriya Rock is easier to climb, it took us at least 45 mins to 1 hour to reach up because of the crowds. Unlike Pidurangala, you can’t enter Sigiriya complex as early as 5 am to avoid the heat and crowds. The heat tends to make you tired while climbing and you will need to take a few breaks to rest. Reaching down took us just 15 – 20 minutes.

How Long Does it Take to Climb Pidurangala Rock?

It did not take us more than 20 minutes to reach the top of Pidurangala Rock. It was because there were so few people and the weather was nice. However, if you’re climbing Pidurangala Rock during “hot hours”, it will surely take you longer.

Winner: Pidurangala

Entrance Fee

Sigiriya Rock Entrance Fee

Climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock, Sri Lanka

Climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock, Sri Lanka

All international visitors must pay a fee of around USD 30 for entering the Sigiriya Rock complex. In local currency it is 3700 Sri Lankan Rupees. The locals pay 50 Rupees.

Many people say that it is unfair that the international visitors pay 3700, but I think it is totally fair. You see, this fee is comparable to most of the international UNESCO world heritage sites. Why should the locals pay less? Well, because they earn in rupees and there is a thing called “purchasing power parity”. 🙂

Pidurangala Rock Entrance Fee

I climbed Pidurangala Rock in 2017 and there was no entrance fee. It was on “donation” basis and I am not sure weather we paid 50 rupees or 500 rupees per person.  It depends on your time of your visit because I met some people who paid 500 rupees as entrance fee but got a receipt saying “thank you for your donation”. If you see TripAdvisor, you will notice that some people have paid even 1500 rupees as the entrance fee.

Winner: Pidurangala

What You See on the Way Up

Sigiriya Rock – Things to See While Climbing

One of the viewpoints on the way up - Sigiriya Rock

One of the viewpoints on the way up – Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage site and there is a lot you can see on your way up apart from just the viewpoints. There is a spot where there are frescos in a cave that I have mentioned in the section about Sigiriya’s history. These paintings are of women that are clearly of many different races from all over the world. They are believed to be of King Kasyapan’s mistresses. Sadly you can’t click a picture of Sigiriya’s frescos and cave paintings.

This is how Pidurangala Lion Rock looks from Sigiriya Rock

This is how Pidurangala Lion Rock looks from Sigiriya Rock

There is also a polished wall, which was once very reflective and was called the Mirror Wall. After king Kasyapan was defeated, many people wrote poems and messages on this wall.

Halfway up, you will reach a point where you will understand why Sigiriya Rock is called the Lion Rock. This is where you will see massive lion claws that are carved on the rocks. Apparently these lion paws belonged to fully carved lion that had a head too but it collapsed years back.

Apart from this, there are a few spots where you can stop to rest on your way up and admire the view.

Pidurangala Rock – Things to see while climbing

A massive reclining Buddha Statue in a cave in Pidurangala, Sigiriya village

A massive reclining Buddha Statue in a cave in Pidurangala, Sigiriya village

There is a are different rooms inside the Pidurangala complex but not every room can be accessed. There is a Buddhist Temple at the entry. As you go up, you will reach a spot with a massive reclining Buddha statue. As per Lonely Planet, this statue stretches to 12.5 meters!

Inside Pidurangala Temple in Sigiriya Village, Sri Lanka

Inside Pidurangala Temple in Sigiriya Village, Sri Lanka

As per one website, there are frescos inside Pidurangala too, but most of the people miss them. I missed them too but you should check them out if you are going.

Winner: Sigiriya

View from the Top

The View from Sigiriya Rock

One of the viewpoints from top of Sigiriya Fortress

The view from top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The view from the top of the Sigiriya Town is pretty spectacular because you can see the perfectly symmetrical gardens below, a lot of greenery all around.

There are many different viewpoints on top. There are places from where you can also see the nearby Pidurangala Rock, Kandys hills and a giant Buddha statue.

The View from Pidurangala Rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

Pidurangala is mostly about the view and you will realize how amazing it is when you reach the top.

View of Sigiriya from top of Pidurangala

View of Sigiriya from top of Pidurangala

The view from the top of Pidurangala Rock is much better than on top of Sigiriya. It is so because you can actually see the dramatic shape of the Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala Rock. Where as, Pidurangala Rock doesn’t have an unusual shape and that’s what you see when you’re on top of Sigiriya.

You also see a giant Buddha statue from the top, Kandy’s hills and the Sigirya town.

Winner: Pidurangala

What is on the Top of These Rock Summits?

What is on top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress?

The terraced gardens on top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri Lanka

The terraced gardens on top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri Lanka

The view from Pidurangala is better but the top of the Sigiriya Rock is better. There is a reason why it is called the “Sigiriya Rock Fortress”. It looks like a maze on top with gardens, pool and strange structures.

These structures are actually some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world that are made on the principles of “chaar bags” or Persian Gardens of Paradise. I really wish I had a drone so that I could see how it looks from the top. I found this drone video of Sigirya on YouTube that you will enjoy watching.

Doesn’t it look like a paradise? Even though Sigiriya is very crowded but the lovely terraced gardens do not feel crowded at all because the people are scattered all over. You will surely find your own corner where you can sit alone and enjoy the sights.

What is on top of Pidurangala Rock?

Sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

Sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

Nothing but a flat area. It is just a place where you can sit and enjoy the view. In my opinion with a view like that, you don’t need more! However, if I truly want to compare things to see on Sigiriya Rock versus Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya’s gardens surely win.

Winner: Sigiriya

Which one is more crowded – Sigiriya or Pidurangala?

Lion paws and the human traffic jam on top of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

Lion paws and the human traffic jam on top of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

With a cheaper / free entry, you’d think that Pidurangala would be more crowded? Wrong! Sigiriya was MUCH more crowded as compared to Piduragala on both the occasions.

If you climb Sigiriya during the peak hours or peak season, then you can also encounter a human traffic jam to the top. After all, Sigiriya is a famous UNESCO world heritage site and every traveler wants to see it.

Climbing Pidurangala is actually not so easy for everyone because of the last part of the climb. This is also one of the reasons why a majority of people just skip it and climb only Sigiriya.

Loser: Sigiriya

What to Wear

What to wear while climbing Sigiriya Rock [NOT]

My lovely friend Karla on top of Sigiriya Rock

My lovely friend Karla on top of Sigiriya Rock – wearing a dress up here is risky

Sigiriya is not a temple and you can even wear shorts when you climb up. It gets pretty windy up there so I DON’T recommend you to wear a skirt unless you want to do a Marilyn Monroe type photo shoot. 🙂

What to wear while climbing Pidurangala Rock

You have to cross a Buddhist temple and a monastery so you can’t just wear what you want. Your legs and shoulders need to be covered. Actually you can just wear a sarong to cover your legs and a scarf for your shoulders and take them off after crossing the temple.

You can’t hold your scarf and sarong while climbing because your hands need to be free for the last part of the climb. In fact, you should carry a super compact backpack and keep them there with your essentials, like a water-bottle, camera, etc.

Best Time to Climb

Best time to climb Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya’s opening hours are 7:00 am to 5:30 pm and I highly recommend you arrive as early as possible and try to begin climbing by 8 or before. If you’re visiting in the summer months then try to go there even earlier so that the you’re not climbing in heat.

The time from 11 am to 3:30 pm is the worst time to climb the Sigiriya Rock because the heat will make you very tired. Don’t do it unless the weather is miraculously cool on that particular day.

Best time to climb Pidurangala Rock

Sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

Sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

The best time for climbing Pidurangala Rock before the sunrise or the sunset – after all Pidurangala is mostly about the epic views. We did the sunrise hike and left our hotel in Sigiriya town at 4:30 am, so that we could reach the top before 5:15 am – the sunrise time during our month of visit.

Sunset time in Sigiriya during the summer months is 6:15 pm and you should reach at least 15 minutes before that to make the most of it. If you’re visiting in winter months, then the sunset is earlier and you need to possibly start climbing by 5 pm.

Please check the sunset or sunrise time the day before you’re climbing so that you have a more accurate idea.

Basic Tips for Climbing Pidurangala and Sigiriya Rocks:

Make sure you go the public toilet outside Sigiriya Complex before climbing both Sigirya or Pidurangala. There is no toilet inside after you enter the ticket checkpoint of Sigiriya or even inside Pidurangala.

Carry a light backpack with a water-bottle because there is no place to buy after entering the complex.

In case of Pidurangala, you must carry a torch if you’re doing the sunrise or sunset climb. There are many trees, there can be snakes (although we didn’t see) and the path can be slippery.

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya – it is the best way to move around in Sigiriya village

The way from Sigiriya to Pidurangala can be deserted and has a lot of trees. You can book a taxi from your hotel in Sigiriya village to the entrance of Pidurangala temple if you’re doing the sunrise climb. Coming here on rented bicycles is also a good idea and super convenient. If you’re up to it, you can also walk from Sigiriya to Pidurangala – it is not far.

Conclusion

So which one is really better – Sigiriya or Pidurangala? If you want to see the maze like terraced gardens, Sigiriya’s famous lion paws, the incredible paintings in the cave and want the while UNESCO World Heritage experience – then surely Sigiriya. If you just want to see the view and enjoy the adventurous climb, then Pidurangala Rock.

For me and San it is Pidurangala but it may be different for you and this is why I have listed a comparison of both Sigiriya and Pidurangala on so many different aspects.

Sigiriya Village Hotels + Guest Houses + Tree Houses

Sleeping in a tree house in Sri Lanka

Sleeping in a tree house in Sri Lanka in Back of Beyond 

Having visited Sigiriya twice, I have actually stayed in more than 6 different places here. This is because the first time we were here, we made a last minute booking but that hotel was only available for a day so we had to change the next day, and then the next two days again.

Based on my experience, here are the places that I recommend. Three are inside Sigiriya village and two are outside.

Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela – it is a paradisiacal resort with real tree houses that were created by the locals to find shelter from the wild elephants. It is a little further away from Sigiriya village and is in the middle of Dehigaha Ela forest. Pick this place if you’re looking to stay away from the civilization and experience Sri Lanka’s thick rainforest and nature. Apart from just the treehouses, they also have family cottages and the cost for them starts at €60. Tree houses are for €80 and above per night.

Back of Beyond – Pidurangala – if the first option is too out of town for you but you’d still like to stay in a tree house or a cottage  in the middle of the forest, then the same hotel has a branch that’s just a kilometer away from Sigiriya Rock. You’re going to fall in LOVE with this place. The cost for a cottage starts at €50 and treehouses start at €90 per night.

Jetwing Vil Uyana – Jetwing is one of the best hotel chains of Sri Lanka and you’re guaranteed a great experience no matter which one you pick. This particular Jetwing hotel will let you experience the best of Sigiriya’s nature. The rooms are airy, luxurious and the food is phenomenal. It is a bit upmarket and the rooms start at €300 per night.

Jetwing Lake Dambulla – Dambulla is another town that’s near Sigiriya and is famous for cave temples and frescos. If you’re planning on visiting both Dambulla and Sigiriya, then you don’t have to change hotels but can stay in a hotel in either Dambulla or Sigiriya and visit both the attractions on different days. I stayed in Jetwing Lake Dambulla and it is a very beautiful resort that’s next to a lake, little hills and nature. The rooms here start at €100 per night.

Nethmini Homestay – It is a simple homestay that is very affordable. We paid around €10 per day for a double room here.

Kandy to Sigiriya travel information

If you are arriving in Sigiriya from Kandy, then you can do this journey by train / bus / taxi and also a rented car. From Kandy train station, you can get on a train to Habarana, which is 15 KMs away from Sigiriya village. Habarana is the closest station to Sigiriya village. From Habarana, you can reach Sigiriya on a local bus or a taxi.

Climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock, Sri Lanka - which one is better

Climbing Sigiriya Lion Rock, Sri Lanka – which one is better

Disclosure: One of my trips to Sri Lanka was sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tourism Board as a part of a social media and content creation campaign. The trip also included a visit to Sigiriya Citadel. All the thoughts expressed in this article are my own.

Sri Lanka itinerary – the Perfect 2 Weeks in Sri Lanka [+ Route Map]

Sri Lanka itinerary – the Perfect 2 Weeks in Sri Lanka [+ Route Map]

Want to travel to Sri Lanka and need information? Here’s our itinerary for Sri Lanka which is based on two different trips – one was for a week and the other was for a month. This Sri Lanka itinerary is flexible and can be modified as per your needs for 2 weeks, 3 weeks or even 4 weeks. If you want to visit Sri Lanka, then be sure to read our other posts as well. You will find all our Sri Lanka travel blog posts here. 

I’m sure by now you know already that San and I spent about a month in Sri Lanka back in the beginning of this year. We fell in love with Sri Lanka and had many unique travel experiences that we will remember for life.

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We started from west and gradually made our way to the east of the country. Our Sri Lanka itinerary had a little bit of everything – mountains, forests, beaches, history, culture and most importantly, adventure.

 

Sri Lanka Itinerary

This itinerary about Sri Lanka has a little bit of everything: history, temples, beaches forests and most importantly Sri Lanka’s hill country. No doubt Sri Lanka has an amazing coastline, thus spectacular beaches; but it is the middle part of this country that took our breath away.

Before you read the itinerary, I want to take a moment to show you my favorite part of Sri Lanka – the Central Province. Get comfortable, put your speakers on and enjoy this amazing video of our train ride in Sri Lanka. 

 

The middle part is hilly and colder than rest of Sri Lanka. The hills here are covered with tea plantation and a train ride through this part is breathtaking. Yes, this is a month long itinerary but it’s a flexible. It can be easily turned into 2 weeks or 2 months.

In order to travel within Sri Lanka, you will need to sometimes hop on a bus or a train or even a boat. No you don’t need to visit multiple websites for finding tickets and comparing, you can just find them in a single place – Bookaway. I love how this website takes away the hassle of opening multiple tabs for each method of transportation and comparing separately.

Day 0: Arrive at Colombo Airport

Day 1 – 2: Negombo – Beach Time

Colombo’s airport is actually closer to the main Negombo city than Colombo city. It’s funny but I thought Negombo is a part of Colombo because it is so close to the airport.

Sunset on Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Sunset on Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Negombo is the perfect place where you can start your Sri Lanka trip because of a very long uninterrupted beach strip. The main town is very pretty and literally wherever you stay, you will be close to the main beach.

I don’t recommend you stay in Negombo for more than two days because that’s enough to explore this city at a leisurely pace before you hit your next destination. There is not much to do here than chill on the beach, get a massage or see Negombo’s pretty (but stinky) canals.

How to reach Negombo from Colombo Airport

It’s very easy to reach Negombo from Colombo Airport. You will easily find taxis or a tuk tuks. If you reach early enough, you can also take a train. You can also take a bus – but you will have to get out of the airport and walk to the bus station, which is right outside the airport.

The taxi and tuk tuk prices at the airport are definitely not cheap. When we arrived, we kind of got scammed because we were misinformed that there is no bus to Negombo.

Obviously we got a bit suspicious and did not take a pre paid tuk tuk from the airport. Instead, we went outside and hailed another tuk tuk that matched the price that we had seen online and was much cheaper – LKR 700. Sadly, ended up getting scammed and you can read about it in my post about travel tips for Sri Lanka.

Where to stay in Negombo

We stayed in hostel called Colombo Airport Monkey Hostel @ Negombo beach that was booked by San. This hostel has got to be one of the cleanest ones that I have seen. It is on Negombo’s main beach road and everything that you will need is easily accessible.

Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary

The beach is just a minute away; the bars and restaurants are all over and in plenty and so are the supermarkets. The dorm bed price also included breakfast, which was eggs, coffee, toast, banana and mangos – delicious.

Our beds were in a six-bedroom dorm that had its own private toilet. There were plug sockets near every bed and mosquito nets. The WiFi was free to use and was fast.

Overall, we had a good time here and made many friends. It seems that this is the most popular hostel in this area. We recommended this to our friends but they didn’t get a bed because it was full. If you’re visiting Negombo, you should probably book a bed here in advance. You can click here to find deals.

If you don’t have any budget constrains, then I highly recommend you check out Heritance Negombo which is a newly renovated hotel and they have an amazing pool bar and beach. I also recommend you check out Jetwing Blue, which is simply GORGEOUS. If these two are sold out, you can try Pledge Boutique Hotel. For mid range rooms, check out Golden Star Beach HotelTranquil Negombo BoutiqueTerrace Green HotelDickman Resort, or Jetwing Lagoon.

If you’re specifically looking for a hostel, you can also try Flip flop HostelNew Negombo Beach Hostel and Negombo Travelers Inn. For budget rooms, you should check out Mama Beach VillaLily ResortMonkey Beach HostelWinston Dutch Canal Villa, or Bee Nest Bed and Breakfast for budget rooms in Negombo.

Day 3 – 4: Sigiriya – Lion Rock, Pidurangala Rock, Dambulla

I will be honest, I expected Sigiriya to be completely overrun by tourists because of the famous Sigiriya rock, but it wasn’t. What I enjoyed the most about this place was how most of it was covered in a forest. We even got to see a few elephants on the road!

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

Sunrise View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock – Sri Lanka Itinerary

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka for a short trip, I highly suggest you visit Sigiriya because there are a lot of bucket list worthy travel experiences that you can check off just in one place. Moreover, Sigiriya is the perfect destination even for family travelers. Check out this guide to exploring Sri Lanka with a baby. Bonus: the pictures are adorable!

The most obvious thing to do here is to climb the famous Sigiriya rock and visit the nearby Dambula cave temples. However, not many people speak of another option, which is Pidurangala Rock. It is right next to the more famous Sigiriya Lion Rock, except it hardly gets crowded.

I have climbed both – Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala Rock. So which one is really better?

We really enjoyed climbing on top of Pidurangala rock to see the sunrise because we could also see the top of Sigiriya rock, so the view is better from Pidurangala. However, the fortress on top of Sigirya is interesting and a little like a maze. Sigiriya tends to get very crowded but it is easier to climb as compared to Pidurangala.

Both Sigirya and Pidurangala rocks are next to each other. I have also published a detailed comparison of Pidurangala and Sigiriya on many aspects like height, ease of climbing, costs, the view from the top, things to see on your way up, history and more.

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I really enjoyed our time in Sigiriya because we got to explore a lot on our bicycles. Moreover, we even got to spend a few nights in a tree house in the middle of the forest!

How to reach Sigiriya from Negombo

It is very easy to reach Sigiriya from Negombo by a local bus. The bus journey is shorter than train but is obviously not as comfortable and fun. You can reach Negombo bus station and ask for a bus for Sigiriya or Dambulla. If you reach early in the morning, you will most likely get a direct bus to Dambulla and after that you can take another bus to Sigiriya. Dambulla is just 30 minutes away from Sigiriya. This journey can take 4 hours if you get a direct bus but can take 5 – 6 hours if you have to change the bus. Sri Lankan buses have smaller seats, so prepare to be uncomfortable during the course of your journey.

To reach Sigiriya by train, you first have to reach Negombo Train Station. From there, take the Colombo Commuter train to Colombo Fort that leaves hourly. From Colombo Fort train station, you can take either the Night Mail Train or Express train that goes to Batticaloa. You need to get off at Habarana train station. From Habarana, Sigiriya is just 17 KMs and you can take a tuk tuk (or a taxi) to reach your hotel. The train leaves at 6 am from Colombo and arrives in Habarana at around 5 pm.

Where to stay in Sigiriya

Believe it or not – we actually stayed in 5 different hotels in Sigiriya. Yes, we came here without a booking and had to check out literally every morning because of low availability.

If you ask me to pick the best out of these 5, it was Back of Beyond – Dehigaha Ela, where we stayed in a tree house. Actually, this isn’t inside Sigiriya but is in middle of the forest in Dehigaha Ela. This place is 20 minutes away from the main Sigiriya town but is a paradise in itself.

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We had a tree house to ourselves while we were staying at Back of Beyond. We slept with the sounds of the jungle and woke up to the songs of birds. There is a lot that I that I want to tell you about this place and I even wrote a blog post about it. You can read more about this place on TripAdvisor or just click here to check the best deals and book a tree house for yourself.

Our tree house was 20 minutes away from Sigirya but if you want to be closer to the city, you can check out Back of Beyond – Pidurangala, which is as beautiful but is not in the middle of deep forest. It’s by the same hotel chain so you can expect the same quality of stay that San and I experienced.

Another place that I want to recommend is Nethmini Homestay (check deals on Booking.com for Nethmini Homestay), which is located in the main Sigiriya town. This place is just close to Sigiriya’s main attractions such as Sigiriya Fortess and Pidurangala Rock. While here, we rented bicycles and explored the most of Sigiriya on our own.

Day 5: Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya National Park – Elephants

Very close to Sigiriya city are two famous national parks where you can see wild elephants. These are Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya National Park – I have visited both and I enjoyed them.

Both Kaudulla and Minneriya are similar and connected, except Minneriya is a little more spread out. Quick tip – ask your hotel about which one to visit because sometimes the elephants leave one area and go to another.

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Please keep in mind that the National Parks in Sri Lanka are not cheap and if you add the cost of jeep safari, then the total can be around $60 – $100 per person. The entry cost of most of the national parks in Sri Lanka is same and is fixed.

If you’re a wildlife enthusiast and would like to see tigers too, then check out my experience at Kanha Tiger Reserve in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. Kanha national park is believed to be the backdrop of the Jungle Book series.

You don’t have to book a separate accommodation that’s near the national parks because you can either go back to your hotel in Sigiriya or head to your next destination – Kandy.

 

Day 6: Kandy – Buddha Tooth Temple, Culture

When I first wrote this guide, I had mentioned in my post that Kandy is not worth your time but I take my statement back. You see, I went back to Sri Lanka and spent two days in Kandy. In that time, I got to experience Kandy’s culture that made me change my mind.

A cultural dance show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

A cultural dance show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is one of the best places in Sri Lanka where you can experience the culture. It is also centrally located and is a good place from where you can enter the Hill Country. The best part is that it is nestled in the middle of the mountains.

While you’re in Kandy, the most obvious thing to do here is to visit the famous temple of the sacred tooth relic – it is called Sri Dalada Maligawa. A sacred relic of lord Gautam Buddha’s tooth has been preserved here since many years. Get here before the sunset so that you can see the change of color reflected in the pools outside the temple.

Sri Dalada Maligawa temple gets lighted up when it’s dark and looks lovely. The tooth relic is encased in seven golden caskets and gets taken out four times a day. While I was there, the time to showcase it was at 6:30 pm in the evening. Every evening at 6 pm, you can watch the performance of Hewisi drummers in this temple.

 

Night time at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Night time at Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Apart from the Buddha tooth relic temple, you can also go for a cultural dance show in Kandy. Walk around Kandy’s lake, visit the botanical gardens, shop in the local markets or just enjoy some delicious good food.

The thing is, Kandy’s location and connectivity makes it a good stop if you want to enter Sri Lanka’s hill country. You can arrive here at night, stay for two days and catch the train for Nuwara Eliya the third morning. How to reach Kandy from Sigiriya

There is just one direct bus from Sigiriya to Kandy and it leaves at 6:30 am. The bus journey takes only 2.5 hours. If you miss this bus, you can head to the nearby city Dambulla by tuk tuk and take a bus from there to Kandy. Please bear in mind that buses in Sri Lanka can sometimes get massively delayed. If your plans are not flexible, then please wake up early for the direct bus.

Where to stay in Kandy

We decided not to stay in Kandy but we had shortlisted Clove Villa (Clove Villa on Agoda), Amaara Sky Hotel, and St Bridget’s Guest House. These are based on the recommendations that were given to us by fellow travelers in Sri Lanka.

Day 7: Train Ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

My best train ride experience was in Sri Lanka because the route is extremely scenic. The views are breathtaking, the trains are comfortable and the sights are memorable.

The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is considered to be Sri Lanka’s most scenic train route. If you want to go further, the train train goes further from Nuwara Eliya to Ella – that’s spectacular too. The first one is more famous, but I did both and I’d say they’re equally good. You can split the journey, or pick one part or do the full journey.

Suggested: Information about Kandy to Ella train ride: Route Info, Time Table, Tips, Tickets, Pictures and More

In this post I have mentioned a lot of things to do in Sri Lanka – you can skip some but please don’t skip this because this is the best. In fact, I’d recommend you do the full Kandy to Ella route but make stops on the way. Nuwara Eliya is going to be your first destination on this route, stop here for a few days and then get back on this train to head to Haputale and then Ella. Do note that Nuwara Eliya train station is called Nanu Oya. 

There are three trains that run from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya everyday – at 8:45 am, 11 am and at 5 pm [you can see a detailed time table for this train here]. Please keep in mind that due to the popularity of this route, the first and second-class tickets are generally sold out a week in advance. However, you can still go to the train station before the train departs and buy third class tickets. Third class coach is even better because the windows are fully open!

If you have read my post about travel tips for Sri Lanka, you must know that we had a lot of fun traveling in the third class coach. It was clean, comfortable and very interesting. The second time I went on this train, we had first class tickets, but I didn’t like the seats so I got off on one of the stations and got on to the nearby third class coach. The windows are much bigger here! The best seat was the door seat because we had the entire view to ourselves.

We didn’t carry any snacks but it wasn’t a problem because a lot of food vendors frequently did rounds. Our train journey was one of the most fun things that we did in Sri Lanka.

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Scenic train journey from Kandy to Ella – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Optional Stop: Adam’s Peak and Hatton

One of the most famous peaks to climb in Sri Lanka is Adam’s Peak and it 2243 meters high. If you have a few extra days, you can break your Kandy to Nuwara Eliya train journey in a smaller station called Hatton. From here, you can head to Dalhousie village, which is 3 hours away.

Adam's Peak and Triangular Shadow - near Hatton, Sri Lanka Route Map

Adam’s Peak and Triangular Shadow – near Hatton, Sri Lanka Route Map BY Chris Shervey – CC by 2.0 via Flickr

The hike to Adam’s Peak starts from Dalhousie and it is not the easiest one. Nevertheless, some say that it is the most beautiful viewpoint in Sri Lanka. An interesting thing about Adam’s Peak is that it casts a triangular shadow that moves away as the sun rises. This is why many climbers try to reach before the sunrise.

Day 8 – 9: Nuwara Eliya – Tea Estates, Waterfalls

Nuwara Eliya is one of the coldest places in Sri Lanka and is in the hill country of the Central Province. It is called “Little England” and it is usually raining here, so carry your raincoat.

This little toy town is surrounded by green hills that are covered with tea plantation and many little waterfalls. At the center of the town, there is Lake Gregory where you can hire a boat for a day.

The hills around Nuwara Eliya are covered with Tea Plantation - Sri Lanka Itinerary

The hills around Nuwara Eliya are covered with Tea Plantation – Sri Lanka Itinerary

When we arrived here, we were lucky that it was raining so much because the waterfalls were full. We visited at least three of them and the water was flowing at a very fierce speed.

There is a little post office in the middle of the city that looks like a toy building. We found a very interesting roadside food stall here where we could choose from a selection of Sri Lankan breakfast delicacies.

One of the most popular things to do in Nuwara Eliya is to visit the nearby Hortons Plains National park and walk till the World’s End to see an amazing view. You can also see the famous Baker Falls here but please keep in mind that it is expensive to reach here because you can only reach by taxi or tuk tuk.

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Nuwara Eliya is very famous for it’s tea and you should try to visit a one of the many nearby Tea Estates. We visited Blue Field tea factory where they were running free tours at the time we visited. We did a 10-minute tea tour with a fresh cup of steaming hot tea at the end.

Read: 13 Amazing Things to do in Sri Lanka [in 2017]

How to reach Nuwara Eliya from Kandy

The travel time from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy is 4 hours by train. There are three trains that depart at 8:45 am, 11 am and 5 pm. Try taking one of the first two trains so that you can enjoy the views.

Please keep in mind that Nuwara Eliya train station is called Nanuoya. As mentioned before, there is no need to book your tickets in advance unless you’re traveling by first or second class with fixed seats. Third class seats are also comfortable and don’t require any advance reservation.

I met a few people who didn’t know this and were turned back at the station because the train staff did not tell them about the third class ticket.

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

If you’re looking for a quaint and charming place to stay, check out Glendower Hotel where rooms are usually for $30 per night. This place has a colonial type of architecture with wooden floors, fireplaces and even bathtubs.

You can also check out Midky Hotel which has an amazing mountain view from the restaurant. The rooms here are for around $37 per night. If you want to stay in an old school English style cottage, you can check out Sherwood Cottage where a room is usually between $20 to $30 depending on the season.

Day 10: Haputale – Viewpoints, Lipton’s Seat

Haputale is definitely the cutest place that we visited in Sri Lanka and ended up being our favorite destination. The funny thing is, we had no idea about Haputale’s existence but we spotted it on our train ride. As soon as we saw a valley with little houses and a small station, so we decided to jump off the train spontaneously.

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

It was raining when we had boarded the train in Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya train station), but by the time we arrived in Haputale, the sun was shining and we instantly fell in love. With no plan in mind, we picked up our luggage and arrived in Haputale.

As we stood at the train station wondering if we made the right decision, a local approached us and asked if we have a place to stay. Luckily, we found a nearby hotel driver who was there to pick up their guest but had an available room due to last minute cancellation – just our luck.

Being spontaneous paid us well because the hotel was on the higher side of the mountain at the edge of the hill with a table outside in the garden. The room was cozy and the tariff was only 1000 LKR a day. Yes, we know we hit a jackpot.

We fell in love with Hapulate as fast as we got there. As soon as we checked in, we left out luggage and got out to explore. Within minutes of walking, we had explored the entire Haputale and eventually found our way into the tea plantation.

San enjoying the view in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We found some of the most amazing viewpoints where we sat at the edge of rocks and admired a panoramic view around us. This is that one thing I that I really wanted to do in Nuwara Eliya but couldn’t because it’s a big town.

Tea Estates and Hills in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Tea Estates and Hills in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Another reason why we really enjoyed Haputale was that the food here was not overpriced and the prices were same for foreigners. A normal meal in other places in Sri Lanka was at least LKR 200 – 250 per person but was for LKR 50 in Haputale.

If you like viewpoints, you will also enjoy visiting the nearby Lipton’s seat, which is perhaps one of the main reasons why people visit Haputale in the first place. You can also visit Adisham Monastery, which looks more like a house and less like a Monastery. Another popular thing to do here is to visit Dambatenne Tea Factory. We had already visited a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya, so we skipped it.

Where to stay in Haputale

I’m sure by now you know how much we loved our hotel in Haputale. The name of that hotel is Bellview Guest House and it has amazing views because it is on the edge of a hill. To make the most of your stay here, ask for a corner room so that you can admire the view all day while sipping Sri Lankan tea. You can read the reviews about Bellview on tripadvisor.

The view from our hotel - Bellview in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

The view from our hotel – Bellview in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

If by any chance this amazing hotel is not available, you can check out Lily guest inn, White monkey, or Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn.

How to reach Haputale from Nuwara Eliya

The easiest and most fun way to reach Haputale from Nuwara Eliya is by train. This journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanuoya train station) to Haputale is just less than 3 hours. The train departs Nanuoya station four times – at 9:30 am, 12:45 pm, 3 pm and 3:55 pm.

Day 11: Ella – Mini Adam’s Peak, Waterfalls

Elle is to Sri Lanka was Thailand is to SE Asia – it’s a backpackers hub and has a lot of European style cafes. This little town is towards the end of this train route, right before Badulla.

Train ride in Ella - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Train ride in Ella – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Just like Haputale, even Ella is a small town in Sri Lanka’s Hil Country but unlike Haputale, you will see more travelers here than locals. There is not much to do the main town Ella but you can get out to hike but please be careful of leeches.

While here, you can hike up to Ella’s Rock, little Adam’s peak or just get lost in the tea plantation around. You can also visit the Ravana Ella waterfalls and swim if the weather permits.

How to reach Ella from Haputale

If you haven’t figured out by now, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Haputale and Ella – all of them are on Sri Lanka’s hill country train route. This train originates from Colombo and ends at Badulla and then runs back to Colombo again. It is very easy to travel to and from these four places by train. So if you want to travel from Haputale to Ella, the train departs Haputale station at 12:00 pm, 2:15 pm, 4:30 pm and 5:25 pm. This schedule can be changed anytime, so please check with the locals before you leave.

Where to stay in Ella

One of the most popular places to stay in Ella is Ella Rock House where you can find rooms for as low as $25 – $30 per night. If you like being closer to the view, try Ella Nature View, which is slightly more high end when compared to Ella Rock House. If you’re looking for a value for money deal, check out Aurora Bunglows. For high end places, you can consider Hotel Onrock or Ravana Heights.

Day 12 – 13: Arugam Bay – Beach, Surfing

Arugam Bay is a beach town in Sri Lanka’s East Coast and is popular for surfing. The main surfing season begins here in March and ends in May. Although, most of the people visit Arugam Bay to surf but even non-surfers will enjoy their time here. In fact, Arugam Bay is perfect for small families too, as mentioned in this post about exploring Sri Lanka with kids.

Enjoying the beach at Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Enjoying the beach at Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

To arrive in Arugam Bay, we first had to reach the nearby town Pottuvil on bus and from there we hired a tuk tuk. We saw a herd of wild elephants right before reaching Pottuvil. From Pottuvil, the drive to Aurgam Bay takes just about 15 minutes and costs around LKR 150.

Pottuvil near Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Pottuvil near Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

The main town of Arugam Bay lies just beyond a bridge that connects it with Pottuvil. It is just one straight road with the main beach on one side with beach huts and cabanas along the beach. As you head further inside Arugam Bay, the room and food prices start increasing.

If you go around 10 KMs further on Arugam Bay’s main road, there is a massive peanut farm along a private crescent shaped beach. I’m not sure if that is just the name or if it actually has a peanut plantation inside. I definitely did not see it there when I visited in January 2017 for a psychedelic music festival.

Here's us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Here’s us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

At the end of the beach on peanut farm, there are a few rocks that you can climb and there is a lagoon next to it. Although this lagoon is beautiful in its own way, it’s definitely not stunning. It is not advisable to swim in it because there are crocodiles in this area. I did see a crocodile in on my way to Pottuvil so I decided to take this warning seriously (unlike my trip to Hampi in India).

Oh and by the way – this peanut farm is just next to the military area so entry may be restricted at times so do ask the local residents before you decide to go.

Another fun thing to do in Arugam Bay is to explore the area around the bridge. There are multiple backwater streams here and the grassy patches around are beautiful to sit on. There is also a Buddist temple on the other side of the main stream that comes from the ocean.

Be careful when you’re here because the entire Sri Lanka is like one big national park and you never know what you find here. We saw a dead snake here but many told us that none of the snakes in this area are poisonous.

This place is good to meet locals. During rain, these streams get fuller and attract local fishermen. In fact, we spent a day with them and joined them in fishing. We even went to their beautiful houses and got to eat with them.

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

In case you missed Kaudulla or Minneriya National Parks near Sigiriya, you can go to the massive Yala National Park near Arugam Bay. If you have more time on your hands, you can also try the smaller and more beautiful Udawalawe National Park. If your next destination after Arugam Bay is Mirissa, then going to Udawalawe makes total sense because it is on the way.

Where to stay in Arugam Bay

Just like Sigiriya, we stayed in more than one place while we were in Arugam Bay. You can check out Fly Moon Hotel or Way of the Bay. In our experience, most of the rooms in Arugam Bay were similarly priced between $25 and $35 per day.

One of the most beautiful places to stay here is Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing and a room here is for around $120 – 150 per day.

How to reach Arugam Bay from Ella

The easiest way to reach Arugam Bay from Ella is by car and the cheapest is by bus. From Ella, you first have to catch the bus to Wellawaya and from there to Pottuvil. If you arrive early, you can find a direct bus from Wellawaya to Arugambay. From Pottuvil, Arugambay is just 10 minutes away on tuk tuk.

Be careful of tuk tuk mafia because they will misguide you and tell you that there is no direct bus to Arugambay. This is what the hotel guy told us but we still got scammed. The bus conductor told us that the bus doesn’t go to Arugam Bay and we had to hire a tuk tuk. However, after reaching our destination, we saw the same bus in Arugam Bay. The bus ride in total will cost you between 300 – 350 LKR and some of them even charge extra for luggage.

Day 14 – 15: Mirissa – Whale Spotting, Beaches

Mirissa is a small beach town in South of Sri Lanka. The beaches of South are busier but Mirissa has its low-key vibe. Just like Arugam Bay, even Mirissa is popular with surfers but the surfing season is different here.

Mirissa beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Mirissa beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary – by Claire Rowland [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

The reason why Mirissa is in this itinerary is because you can spot our planet’s biggest animal in the nearby waters. Yes, there are many whale spotting tours that you can find in Mirissa. Oh but just because you’re going for a whale spotting tour, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see them.

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

Just like Arugam Bay, the nightlife in Mirissa is much better than the rest of Sri Lanka. If you occasionally like to have a drink after a long day and chill in a bar with music, you’re going to enjoy your time in Mirissa.

Where to stay in Mirissa

If you’re looking for a hostel or a similarly priced place, you can check out JJs Hostel Mirissa or Banana Garden Hotel. The most beautiful hotel in this town is Cape Weligama, which is slightly out of Mirissa but is located on top of a cliff with breathtaking views. If you stay here, you may not get out of your hotel at all because it is that gorgeous.

How to reach Mirissa from Arugam Bay

If you go to Mirissa from Arugam Bay by car, it will not take you more than 3.5 to 4 hours. A bus ride however can take up to 7 hours if you don’t find a direct bus, so please plan your day properly and start well in advance.

To reach Mirissa from Arugam bay, you first have to reach Pottuvil and catch a bus to Matara from there. If you arrive early (7 am), you can find a direct bus to Matara and from there you can reach Mirissa on a tuk tuk (or a connecting bus). The only direct bus leaves at 7 in the morning and the bus number is 35-1.

A smart thing to do here would be to split this bus trip into two and head to Udawalawe National Park in the middle because it is on the way.

Day 16: Colombo – Temples, Culture

Colombo is last on this itinerary because this is where you will be before you get out of Sri Lanka. If you’re looking to relax on your last day, you can easily skip Colombo and head to Negombo instead because it is closer to the airport.

Busy Colombo - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Busy Colombo – Sri Lanka Itinerary by Bestbauch [CC0 Public] via Pixabay

Colombo is a busy town but if you’re up to it, you can get to see a few historical landmarks or cultural shows. There are three main museums in Colombo that you can visit – the National Museum of Colombo, the Natural History Museum and the Dutch Period Museum.

Colombo Promenade - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Colombo Promenade – Sri Lanka Itinerary by Maxos_dim [CC0 Public] via Pixabay

You can also visit Colombo’s most famous Buddhist temple – Seema Malakaya or watch a cultural show at Cirque Lanka. For sunset, you can head to Galle Face Green Promenade.

Where to stay in Colombo

Surprisingly the hotel prices are not so high in Colombo and it is possible to get better rooms as compared to many other destinations.

If you’re looking for a hotel, then you can check out Star Anise Boutique Capsule Hostel where you can sleep in your own capsule for $15 – $30 per night. Another cool hostel is CityRest Fort where the prices are similar.

For medium range, check out Ocean Edge Suites or Mandarina Colombo where a room for two can be between $80 – $100 depending on the season.

How to reach Colombo from Mirissa

The easiest way to reach Colombo from Mirissa is by train. You first have to reach Matara train station and take a train to Colombo Fort. The train ride will take around 3.5 to 4 hours. The trains leave at 6 am, 9:40 am, 1:35 pm and 2:10 pm. But please note that these timings can change anytime so ask the locals before you go. Alternatively, you can also do this journey by bus from Matara road.

Like our Sri Lanka itinerary? But wait, check your visa requirements before you go:

Visa for Sri Lanka

You can apply for an electronic visa for Sri Lanka by visiting this website.

Also, before you book your tickets, do read my post about 13 essential travel tips for visiting Sri Lanka – this post contains information about literally everything starting from eating to internal transport.

 

Final Thoughts

Our Sri Lanka itinerary post will help you plan your trip to Sri Lanka, but I highly recommend you keep your plans flexible to leave some room for spontaneity. Our flexibility helped us find some of the most amazing places. If you do, make sure you comment here or message us to tell us about those places.

If you want to visit Sri Lanka, then be sure to read our other posts as well. You will find all our Sri Lanka travel blog posts here. 

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

Subscribe to drifter planet

Want More Fun? Join Our Monthly Newsletter.

Even though we send out very few emails, they are sure to make you smile. :) For information about how we handle your data, please read our privacy policy / Impressum.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest