Quite often our guests who book a week with us on The Paradise Retreat want to spend a little extra time in Sri Lanka and ask us for advice on how best to spend this time. Travel advice is our favourite topic so we thought we should share our recommendations here in an easy to follow one week itinerary in Sri Lanka format.
Our best advice is to arrive in Sri Lanka ahead of your retreat week and plan to do your travels BEFORE the retreat. The reason being, as fun and exciting travelling around the country can be, it is also tiring and could be somewhat stressful. During your retreat week with us we do our best to keep you in a blissful bubble of rest and relaxation so the last thing we would want is for you to venture out into the chaos of real world in an unfamiliar country immediately after the retreat and lose that sense of post-retreat calm. Doing your travels before your retreat week ensures that you will return home feeling 100% rejuvenated.
You will most likely arrive in Sri Lanka at Bandaranayake International Airport late at night so we would recommend spending your first night either at a hotel close to the airport (we recommend here) or in Colombo. Getting a taxi from the airport to Colombo is easy and we recommend using any of the official taxi counters at the arrivals hall on your right. They charge a fixed fee between Rs2500-Rs3500 (AUD 20-30) depending on your destination. We recommend staying at the iconic Galle Face Hotel in Colombo to experience the timeless grandeur of Sri Lanka’s colonial past. Other reputable hotels we recommend are Cinnamon Red for affordable luxury and Jetwing Colombo for premium hospitality.
Colombo is a city you don’t need to spend too much time in. It lacks the chaos of Delhi, excitement of Bangkok and vibrancy of Singapore. If you are interested in spending some time in Colombo our guide to 24 hours in Colombo is a good place to start (coming soon). But let’s assume you want to move on from the capital to get a real taste of rest of Sri Lanka…
This is our itinerary on how to spend a week in Sri Lanka before joining The Paradise Retreat:
Day 1: Colombo/Airport to Sigiriya
Travel time from Colombo to Sigiriya is 4 hours by car. In the afternoon visit the Dambulla rock cave temple to view some of the finest preserved ancient Buddhist frescoes. The site has been in use for over 22 centuries and there are more than 80 documented caves in the area. The main attractions are spread over five caves and contain numerous carvings, paintings and statues.
Day 2: Sigiriya to Kandy
After an early breakfast visit the magnificent rock fortress of Sigiriya. Meaning ‘Lion Rock’, this is Sri Lanka’s most visited attraction and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are beautiful landscaped gardens, colourful frescoes and the climb up the 1200 steps to the summit will reward you with panoramic views. Then travel to the royal city of Kandy which enjoys a lovely lakeside setting and beautiful views. Travel time from Sigiriya to Kandy is 3 hours. This evening visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world.
Day 3: Kandy to Ella
Depart Kandy early morning on a unique and memorable train trip from Kandy to Ella. Celebrated as one of the most scenic train trips in the world, this trip will take you through Sri Lanka’s beautiful hill country, through the tea plantations and then weaves in and out of many mountain tunnels as it descends to reach Ella. However, it is a long trip that takes 6-7 hours and tickets must be booked in advance. We recommend this website for comprehensive information on train travel in Sri Lanka.
Day 4: Ella
Enjoy the day in Ella with opportunities for many walks and hikes including Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Or simply relax and enjoy the cooler weather and small town charm of Ella.
Day 5: Ella to Udawalawe
Travel time from Ella to Udawalawe is 2.5 hours. In the late afternoon enjoy a safari tour of Udawalawe National Park which is home to a herd of about 250 wild elephants where free-roaming elephants are relatively easy to see in their natural habitat.
Day 6: Udawalawe to Kabalana
Travel time from Udawalawe to The Paradise Retreat accommodation in Kabalana in the south coast of Sri Lanka is 3 hours. You may want to break the trip by stopping off for a swim and lunch at any of the gorgeous beaches along the south coast; try Mirissa for a beach party vibe or Hiriketiya for a quiet paradise vibe. We recommend timing your trip to arrive at our retreat venue Kabalana Hotel by Ceilao Villas between 2-3pm.
If you would like any help with organising your travels in Sri Lanka we’d be delighted to help you. Everything from hotel recommendations to organising a driver and a car can be done through The Paradise Guide Travel Concierge Services so please do get in touch with us to find out more!