Sri Lanka itinerary help!

Old Jan 12th, 2020, 12:35 PM
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Sri Lanka itinerary help!

Hi! This is very preliminary, but we are hoping to use miles for this trip so need to book airfare in just a month or two! My husband and I are looking at 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, either in mid-late February or early-mid April (any thoughts?) in 2021. I am trying to get a better idea of trip cost, but that seems hard without a basic itinerary idea! For some background, we have traveled quite a bit, want to mix in some rest/relaxation days instead of trying to hit every landmark, like moderate hikes, and are somewhere in between budget and luxury travelers! We are planning on hiring a driver for most of the trip, and maybe leaving them behind the last few days when we hit the beach.

Day 1: Arrive around 8:30am after very long flights, drive to Sigiriya and take a nap. Polonnaruwa in the afternoon
Day2: Sigiriya rock at 6:30am, Dambulla caves in afternoon, some free time to rest
Day 3: Drive to Kandy ( maybe stop at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage? I am torn on this and need to research more)
Day 4: Kandy
Day 5: Train to Ella
Day 6, 7, and 8: Ella ( tea plantations, hikes, some free time at a beautiful hotel in the mountains is my goal)
Day 9: Drive to Yala..... afternoon safari? Or are we better off doing a morning safari the next day? Avoiding crowds would be our biggest goal. We have been on safari in Africa a few times and have no major animal-sighting goals. Leopards or sloth bears would be cool, but we understand the odds!
Day 10: Drive to Mirissa
Day 11, 12, and 13: Mirissa beach break, whale watching, possible day trip to Galle
Day 14: Train to Colombo, afternoon to look around, dinner at Ministry of Crab, flight out at about 2:30am

What am I missing? Does this order make sense? We can cut a day from Ella or Mirissa ( or cut day 4 in Kandy if we can see it in one afternoon - we will see Temple of the Tooth, but don't need to see a lot of others) if we are better served adding it elsewhere. Thanks!

bjamie is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2020, 05:45 PM
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Your itinerary is typical of the main Sri Lankan tourist circuit.

You donít have much time in the Cultural Triangle. I would probably add a night or two to give yourself more time to enjoy Sri Lankaís archaeological sites. Anuradhapura takes a full day and worth a visit. You can easily spend more time in Polonnaruwa.

Conversely, if youíve been on an African safari, skip Yala. Sure you will see animals there, but the experience will be less desirable than in Africa. And you wonít be able to avoid crowds. To see leopards or any of the larger animals, youíre talking several vehicles causing a jam in front of the sighting. The timing wonít make much of a difference.

Unless you are interested in visiting the botanic gardens outside of town and / or the medieval temples, then you could reallocate your time in Kandy too. You could visit the Temple of the Tooth on your way from the Cultural Triangle to Ella, although it would be a long day.

Car with driver is cheap in Sri Lanka compared to many other destinations. It will be easier to have the same driver for the entire trip, even if you want to give the driver a couple of days off. Distance is by far the largest driver of rates, with number of nights being more marginal.

tripplanner001 is online now  
Old Jan 13th, 2020, 04:03 AM
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I completely agree with tripplanner's advice! We went to Sri Lanka last year, and in February, it was quite warm at the sites so keep that in mind when visiting. Both Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwa are very spread out and the temps can get quite hot while touring, especially later in the day. I don't know what April is like, but I imagine it would be significantly hot, so I would choose February over April. You mention wanting to see Pollonnaruwa on the day you arrive, but you might not really want to visit a large, spread out site the day that you arrive, either.

Another comment - we didn't visit Sigiriya because of the many steps needed to walk up a long, narrow staircase. And Dambulla is also quite a hike uphill, though the steps are wide and easy to move to the side to rest. I wouldn't want to do both in one day as it would be exhausting!

We stayed several days in the cultural triangle in Habanara and, if you really want to do a safari-style trip, you could consider Minneriya or one of the parks in that region. We did an afternoon safari at Eco Park and saw a lot of elephants. It was great fun, though I wouldn't compare it to an African safari!

You could easily give Kandy a miss - the Temple of the Tooth is an interesting stop, but truthfully, it's not essential. I think it depends upon what you're own interests are.

In Ella, we stayed at the very lovely 98 Acres, which is beautifully sited in the hills, with great views. It was a bit of a splurge for us, but we thoroughly enjoyed staying here.

The best tea estates are not actually in Ella, but in Nuwariya Eliya. We drove through this area before getting the train to Ella, which we got at the Nanu Oya station just outside of Nuwariya Eliya.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:10 AM
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Thank you! Progol - the photos of 98 acres are one of the things that got me interested in Ella as it just looks beautiful! We don't care that much about tea, we will probably take a look at one estate, but we would rather be well situated for some smaller hikes and beautiful scenery. I had thought about spending one night in Nuwariya Ella though!

Do I need a driver in Ella and Mirissa? I am wondering if I can hire a driver for the Cultural Triangle part of the trip, then have them basically drop us at the train station in Kandy and go our own from there. Obviously, we would need a tuk tuk a few times in Ella to get around, and one long taxi ride to Mirissa, but it seems like that would be significantly less than having a driver for about a week who is just sitting around the vast majority of the time?
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 06:29 AM
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I based in Nuwariya Ella, and if you do the World's End hike I would think you would need two nights. I also liked the botanical gardens, which were wilder than Kandy's. I thought the scenery around Ella looked even better,although didn't stay there. I had a car and driver for the whole trip, although that is certainly not my usual style.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 08:18 AM
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bjamie, I’ll have to finally finish last year’s trip report or at least organize my photos so you can see 98 Acres. It’s very pretty. The walk up Little Adam’s Peak, one of the views from the hotel and a short distance away, was wonderful - not too hard or very long, but on top of the hill, there are glorious views.

On top of Little Adam’s Peak

Whether it’s better for you to hire a driver for a specific period of time or use a taxi or other car service to go from one point to another is something I can’t answer. I can tell you what I did. We worked with an agency, Boutique Sri Lanka, and had a driver throughout the trip. I didn’t want to be spending my limited amount of time figuring out the logistics of travel, and have come to terms with the idea that paying for a driver, whether they are sitting and waiting or actually driving us somewhere, is part of our expense of travel in some plants of the world. It’s not everyone’s choice, but I’d rather have the security of knowing someone is there.

Last edited by progol; Jan 13th, 2020 at 08:22 AM.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 10:21 AM
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whether they are sitting and waiting or actually driving us somewhere, is part of our expense of travel in some plants of the world. It’s not everyone’s choice, but I’d rather have the security of knowing someone is there.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 11:12 AM
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Do we need to do the train trip all the way from Kandy to Ella? Or are the highlights in one of the two 'sections' (Kandy - Nurawiya and Nurawiya-Ella) so we could take the train for one segment and drive for the other?
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 12:59 PM
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A car and driver is so not my usual style, but I, too, used Boutique Sri Lanka (click on my name for my SL TR).
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 01:56 PM
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We took the train from Nanu Oya, which is just a short distance from Nuwara Eliya, and took it to Ella. Iím told this section is one of the best for vistas. Unfortunately, we were in deep fog for half the trip, but what we saw was beautiful and the experience was great.
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 01:57 PM
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Like Thursdaysd, using a driver is not my normal style but in Sri Lanka it certainly made life a lot easier and as, triplanner suggests, is not that expensive. A link to my own trip report fro 2011 Sri Lanka - Tea, floods, cricket and curry which covers many of the places mentioned.

I would definitely recommend taking a train ride where possible. We had our driver drop us off at one station and pick us up at the other end - seems to be the norm. Much more fun with the local people in 3rd Class than in first!

We did several hikes including Adam’s Peak at night from Dalhousie - not sure where that fits in to your route. Worth considering if you like climbing mountains in the middle of the night though! We also did Little Adam’s - from Ella I think
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:08 PM
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We are looking at the train from Kandy to Ella and then Mirissa to Colombo. I am definitely up for reserved 2nd class, but I'm hesitant to do 3rd class. We will be going in peak season, and I really don't want to end up standing for 7 hours!
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Old Jan 13th, 2020, 02:35 PM
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We were there in peak season and there was no availability in first class, so we ended up in 3rd class. It was absolutely fine. I was worried it would be a problem, but there were available seats in the car we were in even that day. Most of the passengers were tourists - maybe a handful of local people.

Last edited by progol; Jan 13th, 2020 at 02:52 PM.
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