With beaches where you can swim and surf, and spiritual places where you can meditate for hours, Sri Lanka is more than just an island country. Its ferocious, yet fascinating wildlife lures travelers from across the globe. So do its vast tea gardens. The landscape is so diverse, that 5 days in Sri Lanka can never be enough!
But what if you have just 5 days? Fret not, here’s a quick list of best of everything that you can indulge in on your vacation in Sri Lanka – right from must see attractions and must have experiences to the best places to stay, eat, explore, and shop!
Overall climate & the best time to visit Sri Lanka
Climate of Sri Lanka: Moderate
Temperature: Highlands area enjoys an average temperature of 15-18 degrees celsius, while the coastal region stays between 25-30 degrees celsius
Sri Lanka’s weather is dictated by two monsoon seasons – North-eastern monsoon and South-western monsoon.
- Northeast Monsoon: Affects the North and Eastern coastal regions. It is rainy in this region between October and January. The perfect time to visit this region is the drier months, i.e the period between May and September.
- South-west Monsoon: Affects the South-west region with rain showers between the month of May and September. In this region, the best time to visit is between December and March.
However, if you are planning to different parts of the country, January to March is the best time to visit Sri Lanka.
Top cities to visit in Sri Lanka in 5 days
The next in our guide for 5 days in Sri Lanka is the list of best places to see. These are the most popular Sri Lankan cities that house some of the best tourist attractions of Sri Lanka.
With these cities, an ideal 4 nights, 5 days Sri Lanka tour itinerary will look like this: Kandy (1 day) – Nuwara Eliya (1 day) – Bentota (1 day) – Colombo (2 days).
1. Kandy – The cultural capital of Sri Lanka
Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, and has been deservedly given the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tropical rain forests inhabited by many animals envelop the downtown area of the city. In this downtown area you’ll find eateries and markets that reflect the true culture of Sri Lanka. If you’re spending 5 days in Sri Lanka, make Kandy a must-visit!
Top tourist attractions in Kandy: The Temple of the the Tooth, Bogambara Lake, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Royal Botanical Garden, Bahirawakanda Temple, New Ranweli Spice Garden, and The Tea Museum
Best things to do in Kandy: Elephant riding, trekking, hiking, jungle safari, nature walk, and meditation in Nilambe Buddhist Meditation Centre
Nearest airport: It is 103 km away from Bandaranaike International Airport (Colombo International Airport). To reach Kandy from Colombo International Airport, you can opt to hire a taxi or board the train heading to Kandy.
Ideal duration to explore Kandy: 1 day
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2. Nuwara Eliya – The Little England with lush tea plantations
Nuwara Eliya, or the Little England – as people also call it, is blessed with the oldest tea estates of Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly, a paradise for the tea-lovers, Little England is where you can cycle through as you take a tea tasting tour; getting to know about the history, taking the culinary tea lessons, or learning tea-infused therapies.
Top tourist attractions in Nuwara Eliya: Tea plantations, Hakgala Botanical Garden, St. Clairs Fall, Devon Falls, Galway’s Land National Park, and Nuwara Eliya Golf Club
Best things to do in Nuwara Eliya: Cycling, tea garden visit, golfing, and trekking
How to reach Nuwara Eliya from Kandy: Nuwara Eliya offers one of most scenic train journeys in Sri Lanka, taking you through lush tea gardens. Direct trains from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya Nanu Oya station take 4 hours to reach. Even the road journey is beautiful too, and you can easily get buses to reach Nuwara Eliya.
Ideal duration to explore Nuwara Eliya: 1 day
3. Bentota – A beach town with turtle hatchery
A town with exotic beaches where the ocean and river; that’s Bentota for you. As per the legends, Bentota is named after Bem, a demon who ruled the town in the erstwhile era. Besides mesmerizing with its beaches, Bentota showcases the heritage and history of the country through its Galapatha Raja Temple. This is among the top tourist attractions of Sri Lanka, mainly because of the Koskoda Turtle Hatchery, which also houses rare albino turtles.
Top tourist attractions in Bentota: Koskoda Turtle Hatchery, Chaplon Tea Center, Brief Garden, Galapatha Raja Maha Vihare Buddhist
Best things to do in Bentota: Beach hopping, water activities, river cruise, Ayurvedic therapies, and temple visit
How to reach Bentota from Nuwara Eliya: The easiest option for commuting from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota is via road. Other option is train, but there are no direct trains plying between Nuwara Eliya and Bentota. You need to get off at Colombo, and then take a private cab, or board a bus in order to reach Bentota.
Ideal duration to explore Bentota: 1 day
4. Colombo – The capital city
Making the eyes glint with all its glam, this cosmopolitan city of Sri Lanka is both its financial and commercial capital. Colombo has been under the rule of Dutch, Portuguese, and British, and thus a terrific blend of all these cultures can be seen in various corners of the city.
Best things to do in Colombo: Shopping, beach hopping, heritage walk, and museum visits
How to reach Colombo from Bentota: There’s a distance of just 60 km between Colombo and Bentota. So, by road is the best way to commute from Bentota to Colombo.
Ideal duration to explore Colombo: 2 days
Top things to do in Sri Lanka in 5 days
Besides many interesting things you can do in the cities mentioned above, here are some more exciting activities that must be a part of your 4 nights, 5 days in Sri Lanka.
1. Play with the elephants in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Sri Lankan elephants are quite friendly with tourists who come visiting at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. There are 88 elephants in the orphanage, which is the largest herd of captive elephants around the globe.
Timings at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage: 8:30 am to 6:00 pm
Fee: INR 1086 for adults and INR 543 for children
The ideal day to visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage: Pinnawala is just 40 km away from Kandy, so you can easily visit this place on the first day of your trip. Do a day trip with the elephants and come back by night.
How to reach Pinnawala from Kandy: By road is the quickest option for reaching Pinnawala from Kandy. The 1 hour long journey is best covered in a hired cab. However, the cheapest mode of transport is train. Board the train from Kandy and get off at Rambukkana. You can further take a tuk tuk to reach, and it will cost you around INR 300.
2. Try surfing in Hikkaduwa
Hikkaduwa located on the southwest coast of the country is famed for surfing. Since the waves are not gigantic, beginners can learn the art of surfing very easily. Experts can enjoy their surfing game in places like Arugam Bay and Weligama as well.
Best time to go surfing in Hikkaduwa: November to March
Surfing charges in Hikkaduwa: Renting a surfing board will cost around INR 600. If you have your own board, there will be no charges. If you’re a beginner, you’d have to sign up for surfing lessons.
The ideal day to go surfing in Hikkaduwa: Go for surfing on first day of your Sri Lanka tour as it is closest to Kandy.
How to reach Hikkaduwa: Hikkaduwa is 212 km away from Kandy, which is a 4 hours drive. Alternative, you can board a train to Colombo Fort, and further take an express train heading to Hikkaduwa, which departs in every two hours.
3. Trek the beautiful trails of Sri Lanka
Thanks to the abundant natural beauty in the hills, Sri Lanka is an idyllic destination for trekkers. Knuckles Mountain Range, Horton Plains, and Nuwara Eliya are considered among the best trekking trails in Sri Lanka. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll have a myriad of treks to explore.
Knuckles Mountain Range – It is located in the central province of Sri Lanka, just 2 hours away from Kandy. Ideal day to trek the Knuckles Mountain Range is on the first day of the trip. The hike will take just one day, so plan accordingly.
Horton Plains – It is a national park located in the central province and is 188 km away from Colombo. You can head to The Horton Plains on the fourth day of your itinerary. The trek takes 3-4 hours and its scenic beauty make it worth the effort.
Nuwara Eliya – Nuwara Eliya too is located in the central province. It’s suggested you go for a night stay, as there is quite much to see; like tea plantations, Devon Falls and Hakgala Botanic Gardens.
4. Scuba dive in the clear waters of Sri Lanka
The clear blue waters of Sri Lanka are just perfect for Scuba Diving. In your Sri Lanka 5 days itinerary, try to include a stop at Trincomalee, Unawatuna, or Hikkaduwa – three of the best places to try scuba diving in Sri Lanka.
5. Embark on a rail sojourn of Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan railways unfold some magnificent landscapes that leave everyone in awe. Sri Lankan railway resembles the toy trains of India and boasts of some extremely scenic routes. Meandering through lush jungles, beautiful tea plantations, and pretty highlands will make your heart melt.
Best rail routes in Sri Lanka: The rail route from Colombo to Nanu Oya (nearest station for Nuwara Eliya) takes you through Kandy. The route is scenic and takes you through the lush green hillocks. Plan a trip by opting for a train transfer instead of a cab transfer.
6. Take a flight in a hot air balloon in Sri Lanka
Hot air ballooning in Sri Lanka is famed in Dambulla, located in the central region of the country. From up above, treat your eyes to the bird-eye view of landmarks like Kandalama Temple (ancient cave temple), and Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
Best time for hot air ballooning: December to March
The ideal day to go for hot air ballooning: Go for this activity on the first day, since the location is closest to Kandy.
How to reach Dambulla from Kandy: Dambulla is just 90 km away from Kandy. You can reach this place through a 2.5 hours drive from the city. If you want to opt for bus travel, you’ll easily be able to find buses heading to Dambulla from Kandy.
Where to eat in Sri Lanka
No trip is complete without a taste of the local cuisine. Treat your taste buds to the flavourful Sri Lankan curries and street food at these finest and most popular restaurants in Sri Lanka.
1. Ministry of Crab, Colombo
Serving delish seafood, Ministry of Crab, as the name itself suggests, masters the art of cooking impeccable crab dishes. Not just the crabs, their Butter Soy Prawns will make you lick your fingers. The staff is courteous, and it always is a good idea to end it with a sweet dish, specially Chocolate Biscuit Pudding.
Address: Old Dutch Hospital, Fort, Colombo
Timings: 11:30 am to 10:30 pm
What to eat: Garlic Chili Crab
Meal for two: INR 1800
2. Balaji Dosai, Kandy
Balaji Dosai has many branches in Sri Lanka, and is an absolute favorite for those who love South Indian dishes. There are many dosa options to choose from, like onion, masala, and plain.
Address: 9 D S Senanayake Veediya, Kandy
Timings: 7:30 am to 9:30 pm
What to eat: Masala Dosa
Suggested Read: 31 Reasons Why You Should Never Visit Sri Lanka
3. History Restaurant, Kandy
Serving a variety of dishes – from Sri Lankan to Indian, Thai, and Italian, History Restaurant is popular among tourists and locals alike. If you’re spending 5 days in Sri Lanka and want to taste the best food, this has to be in your list!
Address: 20000, Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, Kandy
Timings: 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm
What to eat: Rice and chicken curry
Where to stay in Sri Lanka
Coming to another of the most important aspects of any tour – the stay. Below is the list of best hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka that guarantee a wonderful Sri Lankan holiday.
1. Backpack Lanka, Colombo
Address: 247 DRA De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 00700
Per night tariff: INR 1,800 onwards (double sharing basis)
Ratings: 3/ 5
How to reach: The hotel is located 35 km away from Colombo International Airport. Fort Railway Station is 3.7 km away from the hotel.
2. Omega Regency, Colombo
Address: 06 Galle Rd, Colombo
Per night tariff: INR 3,200 onwards (double sharing basis)
Ratings: 4/ 5 stars
How to reach: The hotel is located 126 km away from Koggala Domestic Airport. Kandy Railway Station is 1.6 km away from the hotel.
3. Hotel Hill Top, Kandy
Address: 200/21 Peradeniya Rd, Kandy 20000, Sri Lanka
Per night tariff: INR 5,500 onwards (double sharing basis)
Ratings: 4/ 5 stars
How to reach: The hotel is located at a walking distance from the Kandy Railway Station.
4. Ozo Kandy, Kandy
Address: 31 Saranankara Rd, Kandy 20000
Per night tariff: INR 8, 100 onwards (double sharing basis)
Ratings: 4/ 5 stars
How to reach: The hotel is located 117 km away from Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). Kandy Railway Station is 1.6 km away from the hotel.
5. Oasey Beach Hotel, Bentota
Address: 205, Galle Road, Galbada, Induruwa, Bentota 80500, Sri Lanka
Per night tariff: INR 6,000 onwards (double sharing basis)
Ratings: 4/ 5 stars
How to reach: Induruwa Railway Station is at a walking distance from the hotel, hence this property is easily accessible.
Best things to buy in Sri Lanka
1. Batik prints: Batik prints are done on clothes, and even as a painting, by applying wax on the areas which are not to be dyed. This, goes through other processes too. Today, Batik has stolen the hearts of people across the world. So, why not bag it when you’re in a country that masters this art?
2. Marine products: Polished shells, or corals etc. allow you to take a piece of the endless ocean with you. What better memoir of this island country would you like to have?
3. Tea and spices: The world knows how well Sri Lanka has managed to produce praise-worthy tea-leaves and spices that add on to the flavor and aromas of delicious dishes.
4. Gems: Sri Lankan gems are, needless to say, beautiful. And you want to grab a bag full of them. Since, they’re inexpensive too this is a must-grab on during your 5 days in Sri Lanka.
Flights, Package, & Other Costs
Return flights from Delhi to Colombo: Around INR 20,000 if booked 3 months in advance
Return flights from Mumbai to Colombo: Around INR 16,000 if booked 3 months prior departure Round trip flights from Bangalore to Colombo: Around INR 11,000 if booked 3 months in advance.
Land Package Cost
The land package from India, booked by TravelTriangle costs INR 16,000 per person on twin sharing basis.
Average daily budget for Sri Lanka
For your 5 days in Sri Lanka, make sure you have budgeted well for a smooth vacation. Here’s a chart showing average expenses per day for different aspects in Sri Lanka. If you are planning to stay in a two or three star property, expect to spend around INR 5,000-6,000 per day. This expenditure can fall to INR 2,000-3,000 per day if you stay in hostels, and don’t go for shopping.
Things to remember
- Tap water is not safe for drinking
- The tea in Sri Lanka is usually sweet, ask for a sugarless tea, and later add as per taste
- Dress modestly, especially when visiting spiritual sites
- In many places, negotiating is a great idea
- Keep this guide handy
Now that you have a fair idea of what to do in Sri Lanka for 5 days, lose yourself in this wondrous island and weave memory you’ll always cherish!
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