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19 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary - Advice Needed!

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Hi there!
My friend and I are backpacking around Sri Lanka from 4 June to 22 June!
I've been doing a lot of research and have started putting together a rough itinerary - and I was hoping to get some feedback. From the research I've done, I'm most looking forward to the Hills area, but the south/west coast also looks beautiful, and the cultural triangle cant be missed. I'm mostly concerned about the weather, but I've numbered a few questions/concerns that I have at the moment! Apologies if this is a bit wordy, but any advice or answers to my questions below would be greatly appreciated!

Day 1 Colombo
Day 2 Bentota *1
Day 3 Galle/Unawatuna/Hikka
Day 4 Galle/Unawatuna/Hikka
Day 5 Mirissa/Matara/Talalla/Weligama
Day 6 Mirissa/Matara/Talalla/Weligama *2
Day 7 Tissamaharama/Kataragama/Yala *3
Day 8 Yala National Park
Day 9 Udawalawe
Day 10 Ella
Day 11 Nuwara Eliya
Day 12 World's End
Day 13 Hatton/Dalhousie/Maskeliya/Adams Peak
Day 14 Kitugala Rafting /Adams Peak /Hatton/Dalhousie/Maskeliya *4
Day 15 Kandy
Day 16 Polonnaruwa
Day 17 Sigiriya/Ritigula (Poson Poya Fest) *5
Day 18 Anuradhupura
Day 19 Colombo/Flight

Questions/Concerns:
*1) From what I've read, Bentota sounds like the place with some of the best beaches - However, I'm worried about weather! Can anyone tell me what I could expect for weather? If west coast weather is expected to be poor this could allow for more time in the Hills.

*2) Is 2 nights in Mirissa/Matara/Talalla/Weligama too much? Also concerned about the weather in these areas again - any difference with these southern beaches?

*3) I'm not exactly sure how to do the safaris, specifically where and when to spend the night? I'm assuming safaris leave early in the morning, meaning we'd spend the night before the safari in Tissamaharama/Kataragama/Yala. What about after the safari - do we spend the night there again? Or will we have time to make our way up to Udawalawe the same day?

*4) Reading about all these hill towns, it seems as if they all have something unique to offer, and they're really what I'm looking forward to the most. I plan on taking the train between these destinations, and I want to raft in Kitugala, climb Adam's Peak, hike Knuckle's Range, visit tea farms, etc. I'm concerned about time here, and understand I might have to miss a thing or two - but I also dont want to be really rushed. Are there any towns/activities in the hills that I've mentioned that would be worth a miss? Would it be wise to cut some time out of the coast or northern ruins to make more time for the hills?

*5) How are the northern ruins best done? Is it best to base myself in one place for 3 nights, or to move around between ruins? Where should we go for Poson Poya??! Excited that we will be there for the festival, and want to make the most of it (I've also heard there are definitely places to avoid during Poson)!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again and happy travels.

  • Report Abuse

    It's wonderful that you have 19 nights in Sri Lanka. There is so much to see and do there!

    I'm really confused about your itinerary. It helps if you think in terms of nights rather than days. It takes two nights in a place in order to get one full day. You lose time each time you change locations, as you have to figure from the time you check out of one place until you get checked in at your next lodgings. Drives are long in Sri Lanka. If you are using an app like google maps or wayz, be aware that the drive times are wildly inaccurate.

    Are you using a local agent to book a car and driver and to help you with your itinerary? If not, I highly recommend it. We used Boutique Sri Lanka, but here are a number of well-regarded agents in Sri Lanka. Take a look at their website as they have lots of info to help you plan, even if you don't use their services.

    I can't really tell from what you have written, but it appears you may have a whole series of one-night stays. This is a bad idea, as you'll have no time to explore any of these wonderful places and moving every day is exhausting.

    Your concerns about weather: check a good weather website like www.weatherbase.com to determine what is typical weather in the places you re visiting at that time of the year. Remember that you have to check each place you are considering, as Sri Lanka is impacted by two monsoon systems.

    What are your priorities for your trip? Think about this, as it is not possible to do/see everything.

    Comments on your itinerary: You show your first night in Colombo. Are you just wanting to stay somewhere close to the airport? If so, skip Colombo an stay closer to the airport in Negombo.

    Check the weather for your beach areas. I'd choose one beach and spend two or three nights there - one night gets you nothing.

    If you want to see wildlife, I wouldn't go to Yala. It so so crowded! And what kind of wildlife are you looking to see? If you want elephants, there is a huge herd of elephants in the cultural triangle area, and you can arrange a jeep and guide there. An agent can help you to decide where to do a jeep safari and to arrange it. And if you are invested in seeing wildlife, you typically need to give yourself the time to do so, meaning doing two or three or four drives.

    Choose one place (or max two) to stay in hill country. While the train is scenic, I don't think you can really use it for all of your transport in hill country. You will need a car and river.

    Cultural Triangle: You can base yourself in one place to visit Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and the Dambulla Cave Temples. Anuradhupura is farther away, but can still be done from a central location. Three nights is just two full days, and not enough time to visit all of these places. We did not make it to Anuradhupura, as we were there during the war and Anuradhupura was not considered safe at that time. So you could cut one (Anuradhupura), and then three nights would be enough to visit Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and the Dambulla Cave Temples.

    Sorry, I can't help re: Poson Poya.

    Have a wonderful trip!

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    We stayed in Habarana as a base to visit Pollonaruwa and Sigiriya. It's not to far from Anuradhapura and Dambulla.

    Be aware the admission fees for all of these places are steep, in the range of $20-30 per person per day. That includes the Horton Plains NP for Worlds' End. These excessive charges are one reason I won't be returning to Sri Lanka. Glad I went last February but don't need to go back.

    if you want a driver I can suggest Camlo Lanka Tours. We had a driver for 10 of the 14 days there and it was wonderful. $50 a day for driver, car, and gas. tell Kanchana the owner that Susie and Bob sent you if you contact him and he'll give you the same rate we had.

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  • Report Abuse

    Thanks Kathie for the advice!
    My itinerary is based on nights in each location. Also, for the most part I plan on getting early morning transport so ideally I could spend most of the day wherever I plan on spending that night.
    I definitely don't wan to spend every night in a different location - which is why I asked about the best way to do a safari (days 7, 8, 9), and whether it would be possible/advisable to base myself in one location to explore the hill towns and also for the cultural triangle.
    As I mentioned, I am most looking forward to (therefore prioritizing)the central hills area. Just looking for some advice on how much time to spend, and whether I would be cutting time in the cultural triangle too short, or if my time on the SW coast is a bit much.

    And thank you susiean! Not sure if a driver is in my budget, that money will have to go to my park entrances! ;)

    I havent taken the time to reorganize my itinerary but I'm now thinking I'll take susiean's advice and base myself in one place in the cultural triangle.
    I'm also thinking of not spending my last night in Colombo, but rather travel to the airport directly from the cultural triangle area. My flight is late in the evening so I should have time, and this will give me an extra night somewhere else.


    Does anyone else have any advice on the SW coast or the cultural triangle?

    Someone mentioned to me that Adam's Peak is closed until December - anyone have anymore details on this?
    Should I be more concerned about June weather in the Hill towns if I plan to spend most of my time there?

  • Report Abuse

    Kathie,

    In my experience - a weather.com or any weather forecast is not helpful for tropical or rainy destinations.

    Forecasts for tropical destinations usually show thunderstorms and rain every day - but this is not a good indicator of what the weather is actually like. Usually those places do see some rain every day - but they also usually have some heat and sunshine.

    My question was specific to what the weather is like in Sri Lanka this time of year.
    Does anyone have any experience with this? Especially on the SW coast?
    How's the weather been and what can we expect?

    Thanks,
    Alex

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    Talalla is a beautiful beach, a bit away from the roads and quiet. The Talalla Retreat is good for hanging out (maybe more than I'd personally like), but it had a nice pool and yoga classes going on and lots of younger travellers.

    The whole coast seemed reasonably do-able with trains and a cab for short distances.

    Up in the hill country, I'd definitely not miss some train travel.

    The tricky bit is getting from Matara/Talalla up the the north without that driver. We didn't get to Yala, and were going the other way but visited Udewallawe (overnight) on the way from Ella to the coast. Not really sure how we'd have done that without arranging a car.

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    No weather site can assure you what your weather will be like next week. The point of looking at sites that give you historical info about weather patterns is that you can see what the wettest months are the driest months are, etc. I've been using weatherbase.com for planning travel to SE Asia for decades now. You just need to understand how to use these sites - not to look at next week's weather, but to look at patterns. This is much more useful and reliable info than asking other travelers.

    I fear you will find that getting from one place to another will take more time than you anticipate. Roads are narrow and winding and there is lots of traffic that moves more slowly than cars do (landmasters, for instance, and animals).

    I think basing yourself in one place for the cultural triangle makes good sense, as does driving from the Cultural triangle to the airport on the last day. We drove from Tea country to the airport on our last day - it worked well for such a late departure.

    Have a wonderful trip!

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