Sri Lanka was on my travel bucket list for a few years. But somehow we never managed to reach it until now. First time this far east, I did my homework very well for our road trip through Sri Lanka with a toddler and we spend two amazing weeks. It is an wonderful country, with spectacular and diverse nature, complicated history, delicious food and very welcoming people. But, on the other hand, it is poor, underdeveloped, with a totally different culture than what we are used with back home.
We flew to Sri Lanka from Dubai, with Sri Lankan airlines, a great surprise in terms of price and service. Expect very long queues in the airport customs and immigration; luckily they were very nice with families with young kids and gave us priority, even though there is no special line for such cases. In case you need a visa to visit Sri Lanka, you can apply online; we received the answer by email the same day.
I’m sharing below our itinerary for a 2-weeks road trip in Sri Lanka with a child. Keep in mind we were visiting in December, the beginning of the dry season in the Southwest region. You will need a totally different approach if you plan to visit during summer time, when it is more advisable to chose the Northeast coast instead. Also, our road trip through Sri Lanka was particularly designed considering our son needs, otherwise it could have easily been 2-3 days shorter.
Day 1-3 – Colombo
Arriving in the capital late in the night, we needed one day to recover from the flight and jet lag. We also needed one additional day to make sure we figure out all the bureaucratic stuff to get the driving licence. We rented a car for our Sri Lanka trip and getting an equivalent for the European driving licence was mandatory. This is actually easier than expected and we will detail the whole process in a separate post. Except for this, Colombo is not a big deal, a quite polluted, crowded and dirty city; one day is more than enough to explore what it is to be done here.
Check here for your accommodation in Colombo.
Day 4-5 – Mirissa
The main reason we chose Mirissa was the famous for whale watching tours. Unfortunately, this is just a tourist-trap. We couldn’t see any significant marine animal, except for dolphins and false-killer whales, small dolphin-like whales, very popular in lots of other places too. Most of the tourists I spoke with said about the same, and heard similar explanations from the tour organisers (“we just saw a blue whale yesterday”, “the period now is not good because of migratory whales” etc.). Don’t get me wrong! I understand they cannot control marine life, but I think the tours should be advertised based on what you are very likely to see, not based on the most spectacular, but rarely viewed animals.
For the best hotel options in Mirissa, you can search here.
Mirissa has some decent beaches, but the sea is quite rough for kids, so I don’t think it is worth staying here more than a couple of days.
Day 6 – Udawalawe
Unlike the whale watching, the elephants safari was awesome! I consider it to be a must if you travel to Sri Lanka. Not necessarily Udawalawe, as there are lots of national parks in the country. We chose Udawalawe for its proximity to the rest of the locations on our agenda and to the fact that is it famous for the large elephant population.
Udawalawe has some great and authentic guesthouses; you can see here the full list.
Day 7-9 – Ella
Wonderful location in the mountain area, the tea country was our favourite area for Sri Lanka. It reminded us of the coffee triangle we visited a few months ago in Colombia.
Make sure you check here for the best hotel options in Ella.
Probably two days would have been enough to explore the main highlights in Ella region. But we got to restore our batteries and gave Eric time to recover some sleep, as naps in the car don’t count as real sleep. If you have enough of time and love outdoors activities, there are lots to be done in the area even for a longer stay. You will love the climate too, as it resembles a warm spring back home.
Day 10-12 – Dambulla
We were a bit worried about the weather in the Cultural Triangle, as November-December are known for heavy rain. Luckily, during our stay the weather was perfect for sightseeing, mixed sun and clouds, dry and not extremely hot. We chose Dambulla for our base, as it was right in the middle of the area we wanted to cover.
Most of hotels in Dambulla offer great value for the money; check here for the best option for you.
The Cultural Triangle is an impressive region, not to be missed during your visit to Sri Lanka. It has 5 UNESCO sights, for which we managed to visit just 3. Probably one extra day would have been good here. But, at the end of two busy weeks in Sri Lanka, we were lacking the drive to visit something more and looking forward for some quiet, relaxing days.
Day 13-14 Negombo
We wanted to have 2 full relaxing days by the pool before heading to our next destination. Like a vacation in the vacation. We chose here a nice villa with swimming pool and barely left the premises, so can’t really say much about Negombo. I just can’t stress enough the importance of this relaxing time, in a nice location, after such an active trip to Sri Lanka!
You can find here great options to relax before heading back home.
Did you visit Sri Lanka already? Is there anything we missed from our road trip itinerary? If you plan to go to this wonderful country, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions.
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