Sri Lanka & Maldives are two countries which each offer something unique, Sri Lanka is known for it’s wilderness safaris & is a cultural wonderland with a quaint charm. Whereas Maldives is a tropical paradise of unparalleled luxury, with crystal clear waters and idyllic scenery.
Choosing between Sri lanka & the Maldives can be a challenge! So why bother, they are just 1.5 hours between each other by plane, with Sri Lanka Airlines offering regular flights.
In this post, I will outline my DIY travel guide to two weeks in both Sri Lanka & the Maldives! Two Contrasting places which should be on your bucket list! You can tailor this trip to suit your needs and even do two weeks or more in each destination.
Sri Lanka: One Week Itinerary
Best time to visit Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has a tropical asian climate, so is warm at any time throughout the year. However, they do have monsoons which are active during different times of the year & on different parts of the island.
The best time to visit Sri Lankas is between December & Feb/March. This is the best time if you plan on visiting the west coast or south west of Sri Lanka.
The best time to visit the east coast is between April-September.
Which airport do I fly into?
Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, is the main International Airport in Sri Lanka. This airport is located 30km to the north of Sri Lankas Capital city, Colombo.
(Airport code CMB)
Do i need a Visa to travel to Sri Lanka?
Yes, you will need a visa to travel to Sri Lanka. I suggest registering online then simply collecting it from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka. Its quite a simple process just fill out the form online and pay the fee of $35 USD. Then they will send you a notification email to tell you if you have been approved.
I got my approval by the next morning, but i suggest you do this a couple weeks in advance to be on the safe side.
Sri Lanka one week Itinerary:
- Kandy Nuwara Eliya
Looping round to finish back in Colombo.
Day 1: Colombo
Getting from Sri Lanka Airport (Bandaranaike) to Colombo?
Bandaranaike Airport to Colombo is 30km away with taxis and express buses running regularly. This can cost you anywhere from $0.70 to $20 depending upon you mode of transport and will take approximately 30-45 mins.
Taxi – The Taxis have air conditioning and cost between $15-$20 USD. (2600LKR-3600)
Bus – The Bus is definitely the most cost effective at just $0.70 (125LKR& surprisingly comfortable option as it has AC. To catch it, head just across from the terminal and catch bus number 187-E3
Colombo is an often overlooked city of which many people tend to pass through but to be honest there is so many great local sights & temples to see! As alot of the attractions/temples are spread out you will have to hop on one of the many Tuk Tuks especially if your here for just one day.
It can get pretty hot during the morning, so i suggest doing your main sightseeing during the afternoon. Like any major tourist city, be aware of scammers offering to “show you the way”.
Attractions to see:
Gangaramaya Temple & Beira Lake
Gangaramaya Temple is a fantastic buddhist temple, with a unique architecture & everything from a gigantic buddha in the centre to one of the smallest buddha statues in the world.
Make sure you have spare change for the entrance fee which is 200 LKR, approx $1 USD)
Seema Malaka Temple
Located nearby to Gangaramaya temple is the golden buddha cladded Seema Malaka temple! Located over Beira Lake the temple is split into three platforms connected by small bridges.
Afterwards but sure to take a moment to admire the stunning Beira Lake.
Day 2: Dambulla & Safari at Minneriya National Park
Including the iconic Dambulla & a Safari in Minneriya National Park in just one day can be a real challenge!
There is 100km (60 miles) between colombo at Habarana so this was definitely my busiest day with lots of traveling. So if you have time do it over two days! Having said that, it stills possible to do in one day, just make sure you leave Colombo early.
On the way to Habarana, you have to stop at Dambulla Cave temple! A UNESCO word heritage site featuring a maze of fresco covered caves, the largest & most well preserved in Sri Lanka!
Also called the golden temple of Dambulla, the temples contain 153 buddha statues, in addition to Sri Lankan kings, gods & goddesses! There is a massive 80 caves in the area, but the 3 main ones include:
Cave of the Divine King
Highlights include at massive 14-meter statue of the Buddha!
Cave of the Great Kings
Like something form Indiana Jones, this is the largest Cave and a magical place featuring statues of gods and of course kings! The cave measures 52m from east to west, and 23m from the entrance to the back.
Great New Monastery
This has some amazing ceiling and wall paintings in the Kandy style .
Safari at Minneriya National Park
After immersing yourself in the caves head back out to daylight, to Minneriya National Park near Habaran city. At Minneriya you can enjoy an amazing Safari.
Minneriya National Park, was originally declared a wildlife sanctuary back in 1938 and you can see why! With seasonal groups of elephants and large flocks of tropical birds.
The main elephant gathering occurs between September & October when over 350 elephants flock to the dried out Minneriya lake. The area is around 5 & half hours from Columbo. Close by you can find the ruined monasteries and royal palaces of Polonnaruwa!
You can also visit Kadulla National Park nearby, sometimes the Elephants migrate over from Minneriya National Park. So ask you guide which would be better when you visit.
Where to Stay?
Follow the link to the Ultimate Guide to Sri Lankas National Parks, including Yala!
Day 3: Hike up Sigirya Rock
Sigirya is rock is the most iconic rock formation in Sri Lanka! At over 1300ft high (400m), this offers incredible panoramic views from the top!
To get to the top, you will have to take the stairs! In total, there are 1,200 steps to Lion Fortress, which is the highest viewpoint on Sigiriya rock. Although, you need to be reasonably fit, there are many platforms along the way where you can take breaks & drink water! The views at the top are spectacularly worth it!
Sigirya was chosen by King Kasyapa who reigned between (477 – 495 CE) to be the new capital of Sri Lanka. The king built his palace atop of the 400m rock which gates in the shape of a lion! Hence the name Lion Fortress. When the king died the palace was completely deserted.
Head to Sigirya rock early in the morning, before the mid day sun cooks you and the tourist groups descend on the area, as it has become popular in recent years.
Bring Water & snacks on your journey & the hike!
If you have a few extra days head to Pidurangala Rock, which offering breath taking views of Sigiriya rock. You can also stay somewhere local, before heading to Kandy.
Day 4: Kandy
Kandy is Sri Lankas cultural hub and a must visit city for any length of trip to Sri Lanka, it’s also on the UNESCO list.
Temples of Sacred Tooth Relic
A popular attraction here is the Sacred Tooth Relic temple, this is one of the most spiritual places in Sri Lanka and legend says it contains a tooth relic from the Buddha.
Independent guides offer tours around the entire temple for around Rs 600 ($3). Free audio guides are also available from the ticket office.
If you time your trip correctly, you may get to experience one of the exciting fire shows which take place nearby, lots of times per week.
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens are truly awe inspiring! Located in Peradeniya, just 5km from Kandy, the Royal gardens are bucket list place for those who love all things nature! With over 147 acres of lush greenery & colorful flowers there is plenty to explore! The main highlights include the orchid house and the suspension bridge.
Kandy is the perfect place to go Souvenir shopping, with plenty of unique gifts and natural health & beauty products on offer.
Day 5: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by Train!
The wind in your hair, the scenic views and the noises of history, train Journeys around Sri Lanka, offer a scenic & ever so romantic way of seeing the country! That is why I suggest, taking one from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya!
This is part of the Kandy to Ella Train Journey which is known as the one of the most scenic in the world! You will see everything from tea plantations & banana trees to villages & waterfalls!
Your best bet is to take a train from Peradeniya station, about 7 km from Kandy (take a tuk tuk or Bus) to Nanu Oya station approximately 8 km from Nuwara Eliya. 2 trains run daily , which depart Peradeniya at 08:40 and 12:23.
2nd or 1st Class?
The main difference here being AC, to be honest I was in 2nd class and it was fine due to the many open windows. Also, considering Nuwara Eliya is mountainous and the Coldest city is Sri Lanka! The temperature was less than 20’C in august, either way the choice is yours
Which side of the Train should I sit?
Kandy – Nuwara Eliya, sit on the right side for most of the sights, and if coming back sit on the left side. (Left and right referenced to the forward direction of the train)
Bring some on train drinks & snacks as the journey is very long, they do sell some on the train but there is not much of a quality selection. As you approach large train stations, some sellers will offer you goods through the window!
Issues with the Train?
There have been many reports of the train getting really full and people being unable to get a ticket, especially during peak season, (up until march).
Faster Options include:
Tuk Tuk Journey – 2-3 hours
Bus – 2-3 hours
A Tuk Tuk Journey with a cool river/guide is perfect as you can stop when you see great sights, take photos and even stop for snacks! Definitely consider this an option, if your traveling during peak season.
Day 6: Neuwara Elliya
Neuwara Elliya means the “city of light” and is a Scenic hilly area covered with lush Tea Plantations. Popular attractions here include:
Pedro Tea Estate, Factory Tour
Pedro Tea Estate is located 3.5km east of Nuwara Eliya towards Kandapola. The 20 minute guided tour is interesting as you get to see machinery built in 1885, but I was disappointed not to see much tea brimming action in the factory.
It turns out here they make a lighter tea, in which processing only happens at night when its colder!
Watch out for leeches if your heading into the tea plantations! Eww!
Beautiful Gardens located 10km southeast of Nuwara Eliya. Popular sights include, the fine rose garden, the orchid selection and even a Japanese Garden! Be aware the entrance fee can be a little high.
Try to avoid the gardens between Jan-March as this is the planting season so the garden will not look as good as normal.
How to get to Hakgala Gardens?
To get to Hakgala Gardens, take a Welimada-bound bus (Rs 22) it takes 20 minutes.
Best Viewpoint – Lovers Leap Waterfall!
After heading to Pedro Tea Estate, take a fantastic walk 5km (round-trip) walk to Lovers Leap, a stunning waterfall.
Other highlights include: Seetha Amman Temple, and Lake Gregory
Day 7: Negombo beach
After trekking through Sri Lanka, its nice to relax on at least one Sri Lankan Beach before jetting off! Located just 15 km from the airport, Negombo Beach is a stunning retreat to relax & watch the sunset.
However, be aware that like lots of Sri Lanka the seas can sometimes be rough so don’t expect tranquility much there…but if your a surfer its heaven!
Negombo is actually a great place to stay for at least 2-3 days and explore so if you have longer feel free.
Where to Stay in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has a series of great accommodation choices from Budget Guests houses to Luxurious Resorts!
Laya Safari Resort is one of my favourites!
Laya Safari Resort does sell out really fast, so check prices & availability using the link HERE
For more on great Luxury resorts in Sri Lanka see: Awe Inspiring Luxury Resorts in Sri Lanka! – Perfect for Honeymoons!
I use this Hotel Comparison Tool to book my hotels: This compares hotels/resorts from Booking., Agoda, expedia and more.
Sri Lanka to Maldives:
After Adventuring in the Sri Lanka Wilderness doing Safaris & heading through tea plantations and temples its now time for some tranquil relaxation, in an idyllic tropical part 2, which will surely ignite your wanderlust!
So catch a 1.5 hour flight from Colombo to Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport. (Maldives). Sri Lanka airlines runs these regularly.
Maldives 7 Day Itinerary:
The Maldives is stunning picturesque place, overwater bungalows take advantage of the calm crystal blue waters and heavenly scenery.
Tips on transport around Maldives:
The most cost effective way of traveling around the islands is the local ferry (dhoni). However, due to it’s changeable schedule & to save time we opted for the speed boat!
A much more fun, & fast way of getting around, especially if your here for only 7 days! You can also take a sea plane to some islands if your feeling really adventurous, these are great on special occasions.
Transportation around Maldives:
Dhoni (local ferry all around The Maldives)
In the 7 days here, we managed to visit Male city & 4 gorgeous islands Hulhumale Island, Maafushi, Fihalhohi island and Fulidhoo!
You have the option to spend your first or last night in Male (where the airport is) or skip i entirely and just head straight to the beautiful islands!
Day 1 – Arrive in Male
Arrive in Male, the vibrant capital city of the Maldives. Depending on when you arrive you can choose to stay and see the city sights such as the old Friday mosque & gold dome, and popular fish market via a tour.
There is also the Sultan’s Park, The President’s palace (Mulee Aage) and the National Museum.
The city is densely populated, so if you would prefer to just jump right into the laid back Maldives lifestyle, head to the islands asap!
Day 2 -Hulhumale
After you land in Male Hulhumale Island, is one of the great islands you can reach by road! There are a number of hotels/resorts on the island from Budget to Luxury. Afterwards you can take a ferry or seaplane to explore neighbouring islands. There is a stunning beach on Hulhumale you should definitely check out.
On Hulhumale, rent a scooter or motorcycle to explore every corner of the island
Day 3- Maafushi
Take the 7AM speedboat back to Male & change over to the 9:15 speed boat to Maafushi. Maafushi is one of the inhabited islands of Kaafu Atoll.
The sandbank is surrounded by a moat of crystal turquoise waters, and fine white sands. The perfect place to take a romantic stroll or adventurous explore.
The popular snorkeling points in Maafushi include: Vilivaru Corner, Maavelaathu, Banana Reef and Maafushi Corner.
If you would prefer diving in a little deeper, then you should definitely try scuba diving at least once while in the Maldives. A bucket list experience! There are 3 diving centers on Maafushi to choose from and it costs just $35 per dive.
The beaches aren’t the best here but there is an abundance of water sports facilities, which is unique compared to other islands in the Maldives.
Here you can try everything from parasailing, kitesurfing to windsurfing, jet ski and water skiing.
Day 4 – Daytrip from Maafushi
Maafushi is a great place to try take a day trip from with various providers operating trips to nearby gorgeous beaches and of course diving trips.
Insider Tip 1:
Ask your guide about the best places to spot, dolphins there are in abundance in the surrounding waters.
Insider Tip 2:
Maafushi is the cheapest place to purchase great Souvenirs so you can pick them up now or swing by after visiting a couple more islands!
Day 5: Fihalhohi
Take a speedboat to Fihalhohi island, a tropical paradise made famous by it’s abundance of overwater bungalows! With stunning views of the indian ocean and relaxing beach resorts this is the perfect place to pamper yourself!
Try a spa treatment or massage while overlooking the crystal clear blue waters.
I suggest spending 1-3 nights here, if you really wish to indulge yourself in the resorts. I would skip Male on your first day to save time!
Finhalhohi Island Resort is one of the greatest places to stay in the Maldives, for that water bungalow experience!
Places can book up fast so check availability & details using the link HERE
Day 6 – Fulidho Fun!
Fulidho is an island paradise you can have all to yourself! It is the most northern of the inhabited islands of Vaavu Atoll in the Maldives. Great for daytrips, & snorkeling with baby sharks!
Popular events include, the cultural Langiri, a traditional dance with drums & Thaara.
How to get to Fulidho?
Take a speedboat to Fulidho or take a public ferry which runs between Male-Maafushi -Fulidhoo
Day 7 – Fulidhoo Relax
Relax on Fulidhoo or head back to Maafushi. Explore the quiet beaches in utter tranquility & try some of the tasty local foods.
- There are no ATMs on the island so bring plenty of cash.
- Most guesthouses here seem to prefer dollars, but you need local for the shops to get the best prices.
- Women should dress conservatively when walking around the island. As swim wear is only allowed at the beach.
Now head back to Male for your flight home via Speedboat or Ferry!
Where to Stay in the Maldives?
There are a number of amazing places to stay in the Maldives, from Luxury resorts, water bungalows to Budget Accommodation, Here is our short list below:
Top 4 over Water Bungalows/Villas:
1. Gili Lankanfushi Maldives – The Residence
A 5 star Maldives water villa with it’s own PADI diving school a variety of watersports such as deep-sea fishing, over-water health spa, and game fishing. There is also an onsite spa, swimming pool and tennis court.
- Best for Honeymoon Couples!
This resort can sell out quick during peak season so book well in advance. Prices start at just $200/night approx which is one the best value luxury villas in the Maldives.
Check the best prices & availability by following the link HERE
2. Six Senses Laamu
An awe inspiring overwater villa, which will surely ignite your wanderlust! Located on the private Olhuveli Island in the Laamu Atoll (south maldives). This has a host of amentiies on offer, delicious foods from the onsite restaurant and of course six senses world renowned luxury spa treatments!
Check the best prices & availability by following the link HERE
3. Lily Beach Maldives Resort & Spa
Lily Beach Resort & Spa, perfectly marries together a fantastic 5 star all inclusive luxury resort with a host of activities/amenities. From it’s virgin beach & memorable house reef to a spa, tennis courts and even a kids club!
Located at the Ari Atoll, which is a ultimate location, there are 119 villas to choose from and you will be treated like royalty in each!
Check the best prices & availability by following the link HERE
Want a greater selection of Maldives properties? Follow the link to our Hotel look Comparison tool. This compares all prices from Booking.com, Agoda, expedia etc.
Conclusion – Sri Lanka & Maldives:
A trip which involves by Sri Lanka & Maldives is a true trip of a lifetime! You get to experience a bucket list Safari in Sri Lanka and explore the wondrous tea plantations & immerse yourself in Sri Lankan culture. Afterwards, you jet of to the Maldives to indulge yourself, relax & get pampered in one of the most beautiful places on earth!
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