Post Updated on 20th Apr 2018
Unfortunately, I just got to stay a little over one week in Sri lanka as I took a quick stopover in Colombo on my way back from Jakarta. Afterall, it does make sense to visit 2 countries in the cost of a single ticket.
With around 9 days in hand, I spent 2 days lazying around in Colombo and then planned my ultimate itinerary to cover rest of Sri Lanka in a week.
Two things on top of my list were – Whale watching and exploring a wildlife park in the country. Somehow, I managed to squeeze everything in my jam packed Sri Lanka 1 week itinerary. I am a big fan of slow travel but sometimes, you just need to tick off the important stuff. With my overflowing bucket list, slow travel sometimes has to take a back seat.
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Things to do During 1 Week in Sri Lanka
So with 7 days in this diverse company and my parents in tow – I looked at the map, jotted down some spots (yes, I did succumb to hiring a tour operator) and off we went. I was ready to tick several things to do in Sri Lanka, off my list.
This was my final Sri Lanka itinerary 1 week – Colombo – (Bentota & Galle entroute) – Mirissa – Sinharaja – Nuwara Eliya – (Kandy/Sigiriya) – Dambulla – Colombo and here’s what I did –
Visit Turtle Hatchery
Kosgoda Sea Turtle conservation project is a must visit for families. It’s educational and well the turtles are simple adorable, especially the new borns.
Turtle eggs which are left on the beaches, neglected and uncovered, are then picked up by fishermen of the area and brought to the hatchery, free of charge. This has led to growth of this project where turtles are hatched in a safe environment and released into the ocean.
Over 100,000 turtle eggs have been rescued , hatched and released in the last 2 years. This initiate actively seeks donations and support from everyone. Their minimal entry fee also goes towards funding these diligent conservation efforts.
Entry and Timings – Rs 500 (Approx $7.5 for foreignes vs few cents for locals) Open from 0830 – 1830 Hrs
Enjoy a River Safari amidst Mangroves
The mangrove cave safari on the Madu river is another fun filled family attraction. Hop on their long tail comfy boats and enjoy scenic beauty, fish spa, dense mangroves and cinnamon plantations on this 2 hour tour.
You will be pleasantly surprised to find monkeys and several species of birds as you cruise along.
Here’s a short video I took while navigating through dense mangroves –
Cost and Timings – $15 per person. Open from 0800 – 1700 Hrs
Go Whale Watching
Our next stop was an early morning whale watching spree. Even though we spotted sea turtles and dolphins, we had no luck with the whales. I have heard September isn’t the best season so it was kind of anticipated that we might not see the mighty creatures. For our disappointment, we got 50% refund from the tour operator.
So enjoy this spree and keep these tips for whale watching in Mirissa handy.
Cost and Timings – $40 per person and the tour starts at 0630 a.m and lasts for 4-5 hours
Best months to spot the whales – Dec/Jan & April
Rejuvenate in the virgin Rain forests of Sinharaja
Sinharaja park was surely one of the best Sri Lanka highlights in one week of our trip. It is a world heritage site and was declared a biosphere reserve in 1978. I fell in love as soon as we entered the gates of this delightful, lush green forest. Okay so I am a bit biased towards jungles and being close to nature so this was a obvious choice.
The pleasant surprise, however, was our eco-lodge which was made out of shipment containers. So, you actually sleep in lavish containers amidst dense leopard infested forests – Can it get any better than that? I guess not!
The reserve has daily morning and night hikes into the jungle where you can get up close to nature and various flora and fauna of the park. Sinharaja is a great place for avid birders as well.
Entry to the Park – Approx $10 per day, we stayed overnight
Galway’s land National Park
An interesting place for bird watching and a short hour long jungle hike, was the Galway’s land national park near Nuwara Eliya. Galway’s has also been declared as a wildlife reserve in 1983. Once you enter, they provide a tour guide and have easy walking routes which are marked properly. Apart from wild boars, there are no evident dangers. We spotted a giant squirrel, few monkeys and common birds. Not as great except for the walk in the bush, which is always an adventure.
Entry and Timings – $15 per person including tour guide, Open from 0600 – 1900 Hrs
MackWoods tea estate
This lovely tea estate is a must visit if you have just one week in Sri Lanka. It offers some of the best Ceylon tea and a guided tour through the tea making process. You discover exactly how tea is made from the plucking, right up to the packaging and of course tasting.
This was an interesting and unique experience to add to my Sri Lanka one week itinerary. Visiting a tea estate is not something which I don’t usually do, but I am glad I did, especially since my folks enjoyed it so much.
Entry and Timings – Entry and a tour guide to the factory is provided free of cost with a complimentary cup of tea in the end. Buying tea is optional. Open from 0900 – 1800 Hrs, except Sundays.
Kandy is a vivid town with a lively local bazaar. Not much to do but driving around offers beautiful sights – also just walking around the lake is quite lovely. You will encounter breathtaking views and waterfalls en-route –
We skipped temple of the tooth, a popular Buddhist temple, which is known to house a relic of the tooth of Buddha. However, I did manage to click some pictures from outside.
Check out the famous Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya or the “Lion’s rock” is the most visited site in Sri Lanka and a renowned UNESCO world heritage site. Don’t let a week in Sri Lanka fly by before paying a visit to this popular attraction.
This ancient rock fortress has stairs emerging from the mouth of a Lion shaped rock. Makes for a long yet interesting climb, which we carefully bypassed.
Entry and Timings – $30 per person, ticket counter closes at 1700 Hrs
Pay a Visit to Dambulla Temple
A tour to Sri Lanka is incomplete without visiting a temple or few. Another popular world heritage site is the Dambulla cave temple or the Golden temple. It has been a mecca for Hindu and Buddhist devotees for over 22 centuries now. With eye-catching architecture, this temple was truly amazing and worth a visit.
Entry and Timings – $10 per person , Open daily from 0700 – 1900 Hrs
On our way back to Colombo, we could’ve squeezed in Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage but having seen elephants in the wild in Corbett Park as growing up, this was skipped. If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the bush, its a nice sanctuary to meet these humble creatures up close.
There’s a lot more that Sri Lanka has to offer and I would love to go back one day and explore more.
Have you visited Sri Lanka? How long did you stay and what were the highlights of your visit? If you are yet to visit Ceylon, tell me how you would plan your one week in Sri Lanka and if you would do it any differently?