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Serendipity: Five days in Sri Lanka

Situated in the Indian Ocean, the tear-drop shaped island of Sri Lanka is a bouquet of riches. Known variously as Serendib, Ceylon and pearl drop island, the island-nation is blessed with gorgeous tropical climate, a rich and diverse culture, long history, stunning architecture and heritage, ancient Buddhist site, and mouthwatering local cuisine, Sri Lanka is the ultimate island getaway for those looking to experience South Asian culture. For Indians, it is also just a few hours away by flight. The peripheries of this tiny island-nation offer pristine beaches while deep inland are tranquil oases of greenery. Meanwhile, the beating heart of the country is Colombo, with its melting pot of culture wrapped up in modern amenities. From nature lovers to connoisseurs of architecture, there’s something for all.

Here’s a five-day itinerary for a trip that spans the breadth of everything there is to do in Sri Lanka.

Day 1

Begin with an early arrival (or arrive the previous night and rest up) into Colombo, and drive south towards Galle. The route is picturesque with constant glimpses of the sea. Have breakfast on the way, either at a restaurant or one of the many local eateries. Spend the morning wandering or driving around the old and storied Galle, at the centre of which is the sprawling Galle Fort, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Perched on a rocky peninsula, it provides stunning views of the Indian Ocean beyond. Within the old town are also narrow streets filled with lovely colonial era houses and buildings, an array of shops, cafés and restaurants. Kick back and have a leisurely lunch and have a siesta away from the afternoon heat. Head out in the evening to the seaside and the Galle Fort Lighthouse for stunning sunset and sea views.


Stay: Galle Fort is a regular tourist hub so several hotels dot the city. For a truly authentic experience, opt for the Galle Fort Hotel.

Eat: The Bungalow Galle Fort has excellent local fare, while the Shack Beach Café provides modern fare with a Western twist.

Optional: For culture and history buffs, National Museum, National Maritime Museum and Meera Mosque might be worth a visit, for the architecture and remnants of the country’s history.

Know: The drive from Colombo Airport to Galle is about 145 km/2.5 hours but it’s best to allow for a little extra time in case of road issues or traffic.

Day 2

Have an early breakfast and head out with your sunscreen since day 2 is all about reveling in Sri Lanka’s best assets – its seaside. Hikkaduwa, just north of Galle is ideal for a relaxing day with beautiful beaches and unbelievable colours of the sea. The seaside resort town is set against a backdrop of deep blue seas and, sun, and sand. Just off the coast are a series of ethereal shallow-water coral reefs that visitors can take in through glass-bottom boat tours that cater specifically to them. Guides will be able to point out the wide array of coral, fish, and other marine life – all while steering your experience. This is the Hikkaduwa National Park, a protected reserve for endangered coral ecosystems that are disappearing because of pollution and rising oceans. Spend your afternoon at the beach, making sure to stay for the sunset. For the night, visitors can remain at Hikkaduwa, which has several options, or make the drive to Bentota with its more bespoke alternatives.

Stay: For three-star amenities and service, Citrus Hikkaduwa is the best option out there. For those who want more, the Taj Bentota boasts a beautiful property that hugs the coast.

Eat: Asian Jewel Boutique Hotel has authentic local cuisine but also caters to an array of tastes.

Optional: Nature enthusiasts might want to explore mangroves located along the coast nearby; several operators offer mangrove cruises.

Know: Hikkaduwa is about 20 km from Galle and takes about 40 minutes of driving.

Day 3

On the third day, drive to Colombo for a day out on the town. The city has plenty to offer every kind of visitor. History buffs can visit Independence Square and the Old Parliament Building while architecture enthusiasts have the Gangaramaya Temple, St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple. Of course, there’s no end of places to go shopping, from Laksala, the Sri Lankan government’s own boutique, to the floating markets of Beira Lake. Some of these spots can become quite crowded through the day, especially over tourist season, so be sure to do a little advance planning so you don’t get caught. After sunset, put your feet up at one of the city’s trendy pubs for a drink and a taste of the Colombo’s international flair. Spend the night in the city.

Stay: Colombo has a range of hotels across budgets, but opt for something near the sea for a relaxing stay, such as Shangri La Colombo or Taj Samudra.

Eat: Colombo is foodie haven. While star hotels have excellent restaurants, the adventurous should step out. Seafood lovers will appreciate Ministry of Crab owned by Sri Lankan cricketing stars Jayawardena and Sangakkara. Or for something exquisitely local, Upali’s by Nawaloka should do the trick.

Optional: Colombo is known for its casinos, so for those interested in testing their luck, ask your hotel concierge to guide you to the nearest or most interesting one.

Know: The drive to Colombo is about 115 km and should take around 2 hours.

Day 4 & 5

No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without visiting Kandy, home to the famous tooth relic of the Buddha. Kandy is located to the slight Northeast of Colombo and the drive is almost three hours each way so it is best to spread the visit over two days. This gives a chance to visit the temple leisurely, though timing it for the evening may be a good idea since it looks beautiful when lit up. Kandy is also a cultural hub so opt to see a cultural performance incorporating local dance and folk traditions. In the middle of the town is also a beautiful lake which has easy walking paths and spaces to sit or lounge and is ideal in the evenings.

Stay: Opt for a lake side hotel for some stunning views; it’s also easy for morning and evening walks. Choose from such hotels as The Great Kandyan Hotel and Ru Boutique.

Eat: Head to Mandiya for authentic Kandyan food, or to Helga’s Folly for a quirky experience.

Optional: Nature enthusiasts may consider extending the trip for a couple of days and heading to Nuwara Eliya, with undulating tea plantations, forests, waterfalls and breathtaking scenery. For a laid back and fine dining experience, Theva Cuisine is ideal.

Know: Kandy is about 130 km from Colombo but the drive takes over three hours, so plan accordingly.

Day 6

Choose to arrive the previous night in Colombo or opt for a leisurely morning drive from Kandy for the flight back.


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