How to Spend One Week in Sri Lanka

Post Updated on 20th Apr 2018

Unfortunately, I just got to stay a little over one week in Sri lanka as I took a quick stopover in Colombo on my way back from Jakarta. Afterall, it does make sense to visit 2 countries in the cost of a single ticket.

With around 9 days in hand, I spent 2 days lazying around in Colombo and then planned my ultimate itinerary to cover rest of Sri Lanka in a week.

Two things on top of my list were – Whale watching and exploring a wildlife park in the country. Somehow, I managed to squeeze everything in my jam packed Sri Lanka 1 week itinerary. I am a big fan of slow travel but sometimes, you just need to tick off the important stuff. With my overflowing bucket list, slow travel sometimes has to take a back seat.

Save on your hotel -

Things to do During 1 Week in Sri Lanka

So with 7 days in this diverse company and my parents in tow – I looked at the map, jotted down some spots (yes, I did succumb to hiring a tour operator) and off we went. I was ready to tick several things to do in Sri Lanka, off my list.

This was my final Sri Lanka itinerary 1 week – Colombo – (Bentota & Galle entroute) –  Mirissa – Sinharaja – Nuwara Eliya – (Kandy/Sigiriya) – Dambulla – Colombo and here’s what I did –

Visit Turtle Hatchery

Kosgoda Sea Turtle conservation project is a must visit for families. It’s educational and well the turtles are simple adorable, especially the new borns.

Baby turtle at hatchery

An adorable baby turtle, yes you are allowed to hold em but be careful

Turtle eggs which are left on the beaches, neglected and uncovered, are then picked up by fishermen of the area and brought to the hatchery, free of charge. This has led to growth of this project where turtles are hatched in a safe environment and released into the ocean.

Over 100,000 turtle eggs have been rescued , hatched and released in the last 2 years. This initiate actively seeks donations and support from everyone. Their minimal entry fee also goes towards funding these diligent conservation efforts.

This one is almost ready to be released into the ocean

This one is almost ready to be released into the ocean

Entry and Timings – Rs 500  (Approx $7.5 for foreignes vs few cents for locals) Open from 0830 – 1830 Hrs

Enjoy a River Safari amidst Mangroves

Lovely views of the Madu river

Lovely views of the Madu river

The mangrove cave safari on the Madu river is another fun filled family attraction. Hop on their long tail comfy boats and enjoy scenic beauty, fish spa, dense mangroves and cinnamon plantations on this 2 hour tour.

Soak in some sun on the deck of your boat.

Soak in some sun on the deck of your boat.

You will be pleasantly surprised to find monkeys and several species of birds as you cruise along.

Here’s a short video I took while navigating through dense mangroves –

Cost and Timings – $15 per person. Open from 0800 – 1700 Hrs

Go Whale Watching

Our next stop was an early morning whale watching spree. Even though we spotted sea turtles and dolphins, we had no luck with the whales. I have heard September isn’t the best season so it was kind of anticipated that we might not see the mighty creatures. For our disappointment, we got 50% refund from the tour operator.

So enjoy this spree and keep these tips for whale watching in Mirissa handy.

Cost and Timings – $40 per person and the tour starts at 0630 a.m and lasts for 4-5 hours 
Best months to spot the whales Dec/Jan & April

Rejuvenate in the virgin Rain forests of Sinharaja


Sinharaja park was surely one of the best Sri Lanka highlights in one week of our trip. It is a world heritage site and was declared a biosphere reserve in 1978. I fell in love as soon as we entered the gates of this delightful, lush green forest. Okay so I am a bit biased towards jungles and being close to nature so this was a obvious choice.

One of the many viewpoints in the jungle

One of the many viewpoints in the jungle

The pleasant surprise, however, was our eco-lodge which was made out of shipment containers. So, you actually sleep in lavish containers amidst dense leopard infested forests – Can it get any better than that? I guess not!

Eco-lodge Sinharaja

Our shipping container amidst dense bush – our room at Eco-lodge Sinharaja

The reserve has daily morning and night hikes into the jungle where you can get up close to nature and various flora and fauna of the park. Sinharaja is a great place for avid birders as well.

One of the many Rainforest frog species found in Sinharaja

One of the many Rainforest frog species found in Sinharaja

Entry to the Park – Approx $10 per day, we stayed overnight

Galway’s land National Park

galeways land

An interesting place for bird watching and a short hour long jungle hike, was the Galway’s land national park near Nuwara Eliya. Galway’s has also been declared as a wildlife reserve in 1983. Once you enter, they provide a tour guide and have easy walking routes which are marked properly. Apart from wild boars, there are no evident dangers. We spotted a giant squirrel, few monkeys and common birds. Not as great except for the walk in the bush, which is always an adventure.

Several benches to sit and relax whenever you want

Several benches to sit and relax whenever you want

Entry and Timings – $15 per person including tour guide, Open from 0600 – 1900 Hrs

MackWoods tea estate

This lovely tea estate is a must visit if you have just one week in Sri Lanka. It offers some of the best Ceylon tea and a guided tour through the tea making process. You discover exactly how tea is made from the plucking, right up to the packaging and of course tasting.

This was an interesting and unique experience to add to my Sri Lanka one week itinerary. Visiting a tea estate is not something which I don’t usually do, but I am glad I did, especially since my folks enjoyed it so much.

macwoods tea

Entry and Timings – Entry and a tour guide to the factory is provided free of cost with a complimentary cup of tea in the end. Buying tea is optional. Open from 0900 – 1800 Hrs, except Sundays. 

Explore Kandy

Kandy is a vivid town with a lively local bazaar. Not much to do but driving around offers beautiful sights – also just walking around the lake is quite lovely. You will encounter breathtaking views and waterfalls en-route –




We skipped temple of the tooth, a popular Buddhist temple, which is known to house a relic of the tooth of Buddha. However, I did manage to click some pictures from outside.

Buddhist temple of tooth relic

Buddhist temple of tooth relic

Check out the famous Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya or the “Lion’s rock” is the most visited site in Sri Lanka and a renowned UNESCO world heritage site. Don’t let a week in Sri Lanka fly by before paying a visit to this popular attraction.

This ancient rock fortress has stairs emerging from the mouth of a Lion shaped rock. Makes for a long yet interesting climb, which we carefully bypassed.

sigiriya rock

The lovely Sigiriya Rock

Entry and Timings – $30 per person, ticket counter closes at 1700 Hrs

Pay a Visit to Dambulla Temple

Entrance to Golden temple/ Dambulla cave temple

Entrance to Golden temple/ Dambulla cave temple

A tour to Sri Lanka is incomplete without visiting a temple or few. Another popular world heritage site is the Dambulla cave temple or the Golden temple. It has been a mecca for Hindu and Buddhist devotees for over 22 centuries now. With eye-catching architecture, this temple was truly amazing and worth a visit.

Monk statues at Dambulla make for an interesting sight

Monk statues at Dambulla make for an interesting sight

Entry and Timings – $10 per person , Open daily from 0700 – 1900 Hrs

On our way back to Colombo, we could’ve squeezed in Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage but having seen elephants in the wild in Corbett Park as growing up, this was skipped. If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the bush, its a nice sanctuary to meet these humble creatures up close.

There’s a lot more that Sri Lanka has to offer and I would love to go back one day and explore more.

Have you visited Sri Lanka? How long did you stay and what were the highlights of your visit? If you are yet to visit Ceylon, tell me how you would plan your one week in Sri Lanka and if you would do it any differently?


  1. Absolutely fascinating. I would have loved to stay in those containers in the forest I bet you were able to see all kinds of wildlife there. And the mangroves you went through on boat wow that was amazing I could not believe how tight the space was in the video – did you see any snakes? Oh and the tea…I love tea this would have been a highlight for me. Incredible trip. Thanks for sharing and Happy Roving!!!

    • Hey Joella, Glad you loved this piece. I didn’t see any snakes in this mangrove tour but did find few in Bintan trip last week – they are quite exotic! Will be posting pics soon 🙂

  2. Looks like a great trip! Somehow stopovers have never worked for me, but hopefully one day.

  3. Sri Lanka has been on my hit list for some time now. I live relatively close and I hear it’s a beautiful and cheap location for a varied holiday… you just confirmed it all! I especially like to look of the mangrove boat trip. It reminds me of a recurring dream I used to have, winding through the roots. Nice post!

  4. Wow I really appreciated all that the turtle conservation is doing. 100,000 turtle eggs in the last 2 years sounds massive and incredible! The fisherman do this voluntarily, right?

  5. Awesome tips as we are planning to go to Sri Lanka. I will definitely remember these on my travel. Thank you.

  6. The Mangrove forest in Hikkaduwa and the Bentota lake ride are the most romantic thing which the honeymoon couple should not missed out 🙂

    Paying a visit to Arugambay Beach, Pigeon Island, Nilaveli would be great if you are a big fan of water sports and beach activities.


  7. Hi Jo – love your post! Which tour operator did you go with and what sort of price as it? We’re thinking of a trip to Sri Lanka for about the same amount of time and just beginning to look at costs of tour operators vs getting around ourselves… Thanks!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.