Imagine yourself in a movie scene where you travel in a convertible, on a warm road by the sandy beach, watching sunsets, or riding a jeep uphill through a green tea estate, while the wind blows your hair high. Well, you are no longer in a movie scene, but a reality if you visit Sri Lanka. Of course, Sri Lanka is all about lively beaches, pristine hill country, culture, wildlife, and of course, friendly people. Thus, Sri Lanka offers you many opportunities for some perfect road trips. Let’s get to know all about them!
Things to Consider when Planning Road Trips in Sri Lanka
Of course, anything becomes successful with good planning, and it is the same with these road trips in Sri Lanka as well. So, before diving into these wonderful amusements, let us have a look at a few important things you need to consider when planning your exciting and adventurous road trips in Sri Lanka.
1. Your Interests
The first thing you need to consider is your interest.
If you are a beachgoer, and always ready to spend beautiful sunny days by the beach, then, a road trip down the coastline should be your choice.
If you are a mountain explorer and a fan of mild weather, then the Hill Country of Sri Lanka is where you should take your next road trip to.
Besides, if you are an admirer of culture and history, the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka will definitely amaze you.
Moreover, for wildlife lovers, the best option for a road trip would be a wildlife safari. The adventurers will definitely love taking a road trip to Kithulgala.
Yes! Likewise, there are many more options that will match your interests, here on this splendid island. We’ll be having a look at each of them in this article.
The next thing you will have to consider is your budget. It is cost friendly to travel around Sri Lanka using public buses and trains. Whether it is accommodation, transportation, or food, you will always have a range of choices from which you can make a choice according to your budget. Besides, Sri Lanka is anyway popular as a budget-friendly tourist destination. So, the cost won’t be a burden. Still, make your choices wisely to suit your budget to get the best experiences while you are enjoying road trips in Sri Lanka!
Public transportation is the most cost-friendly option when it comes to Sri Lanka. Still, if you need to have a comfortable road trip, renting a car will be the best thing to do. You can either rent a car with a driver or rent a car and drive yourself.
However, if you are planning to drive on your own, then you need to get your license validated in Colombo. If you have an International Driving Permit you can get it validated from the car rental company. Besides, if you don’t have an International Driving Licence, you can get a temporary driving license from the Department of Motor Traffic. The temporary driving license will be valid for 30 days.
So, likewise, you can choose the form of traveling depending on your budget, when it comes to road trips in Sri Lanka. After all, traveling in Sri Lanka is affordable and the roads are good to drive on. So, transportation is never an issue. Choosing the mode is what matters with planning!
The other important thing you need to consider when planning your road trips in Sri Lanka is accommodation. Since Sri Lanka is a year-round holiday destination, you can probably find accommodation of your choice in any tourist spot around the island.
There are many variants for accommodation, from star-class hotels to budget hotels and tourist houses. You can book your accommodation ahead of time or get things arranged once you are in the country. If you are taking road trips to the wildlife hotspots you can also have the unique experience of spending a night at a camping site. If you are a history enthusiast who’d love to visit cultural hotspots in Sri Lanka, why not experience a stay at a Heritage Bungalow?
Likewise, options are endless. All you have to do is to make the choice that your heart yearns for!
5. Number of Days in Sri Lanka
You should also consider the number of days you are wishing to spend in the country when planning road trips in Sri Lanka. It is simply because you should choose a route that helps you gain the best experience, with your time availability.
How amazing it is if you can be under the hot sun on a sandy beach in the morning, and then chill in a cold mountain surrounded by tea plantations in the evening. Yes, it is possible on this small island of Sri Lanka. You can even notice significant climate changes with a ride of just a few hours. So, a good plan will always make you cover a vast scope, just within a day or two.
Although traveling is that much convenient in Sri Lanka, if you need to make the best out of your road trips, we recommend you to plan things out in advance, considering these factors. Do so, and thank us later!
What are the Best Road Trips in Sri Lanka?
Now let us consider the most entertaining road trips that Sri Lanka has to offer you. Our choices are as follows:
- Cruise down the Coastline
- Steer Uphill through the Beautiful Tea Estates
- Take a Drive to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka
- Safari in the Wildlife Hotspots
- A Journey to Northern Sri Lanka
- Road Trip to the Untrodden East Coast
Come, let’s explore more about the best road trips you can have in Sri Lanka!
1. Cruise down the Coastline
Suggested Route: Colombo – Kalutara – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Matara
The most famous and the most exciting road trip in Sri Lanka for beach lovers will be the trip down south. You can start the journey from Colombo and reach Kalutara via the coastal road, or you can use the expressway.
At Kalutara, you can visit plenty of interesting places including,
Kalutara Bodhiya: This is one of the most sacred places with historical value on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The Bodhiya and the Kalutara Viharaya are located along the main road, so on your journey down to the southern coast, you can visit them. The Kalutara Bodhiya stands majestically in the area where the Kalu river falls to the Ocean. So, if you stop by this beautiful place, you can witness the scenic beauty of the ocean mixed with the calming effect of the Bhodhiya.
Richmond Castle: This is a splendid architectural work in Sri Lanka, which is now a famous tourist attraction. The mansion is located on top of a hill, in an estate beside the Kalutara-Palathota Road.
Kalutara Beach: Kalutara Beach should definitely be a stop on your road trip down south. It is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka which has a fair climate throughout the entire year. Kalutara beach is a unique attraction for tourists because the Kalu River flows into the ocean in close proximity to the beach. This adds scenic beauty and makes water sports easier in the area.
Fa – Hien Caves: You can visit Fa – Hien caves to explore a bit of Sri Lankan History. These caves are believed to be inhabited by the Chinese monk Fa Hien when he was in Sri Lanka. At the same time, the site has an archaeological value since many fossilized remains have been found at the place which opened doors for new findings about civilizations of the island.
After visiting some of these places, on your way to Hikkaduwa from Kalutara, you can spend time at Beruwala and Bentota beaches. At Beruwala you can have a moment of tranquillity at Kande Viharaya Temple.
The next best destination for your road trip would be Hikkaduwa, the town where you can find the world-famous coral sanctuary. Hikkaduwa is home to many varieties of marine turtles and exotic fish. You can either take a boat trip to see corals or reach the coral reef by scuba diving. There are many places where you can learn diving and snorkeling on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
Galle is heaven for beachgoers since it has many beaches loved by tourists as well as locals. You can relax by the beaches or engage in watersports all day and visit Galle Fort in the evening to catch a glimpse of the scenic sunset views out there. Further, visiting the beautiful shops and cafes in the small town will be an amazing experience.
The other interesting things you can do in Galle include:
- Surfing in Unawatuna
- Rope Swinging at Dalawella Beach
- Snorkeling and Diving
- Going Whale Watching
- Visiting Turtle Hatcheries
- Visiting Jungle Beach
Next, you can reach the last destination of your down south road trip, which is the wonderful city of Matara.
Lined by beautiful beaches, Matara offers you many interesting places to visit.
Polhena Beach: Polhena beach is just 2 km away from the city center of Matara, and an amazing place for the swimmers. You can have a great time at the beach and have a walk on Crow Island which is located right across the Polhena beach. The island is full of Mangrove forestation. It consists of a theme park with play areas, where you can spend your evening at.
Dondra Head Lighthouse: Dondra Head Lighthouse stands tall on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. It is the tallest lighthouse on the island.
Matara Paravi Duwa Temple: Another must-visit place in Matara is Paravi Duwa Temple. This temple is located on a small island near Matara beach. It is connected to land by a steel bridge which creates visual beauty at its best.
Comprising all these destinations, a road trip down the coastline of Sri Lanka will fill you up with a lot of excitement and enjoyment.
Now let’s give a look at the next amazing road trip option.
2. Steer Uphill through the Beautiful Tea Estates
Suggested Route: Kandy – Ella – Horton plains – Nuwara Eliya
Yes, Sri Lanka is the best destination for your dream road trip through the lush greenery of mountains and valleys. The cold climate of the central highlands of Sri Lanka will add a unique experience to your time on this tropical island.
Kandy, which is renowned for its scenic beauty and cultural heritage is the best place to initiate your exciting journey. There are many places that you can visit in this charming town, as you continue with your road trip!
Temple of the Tooth Relic: This is the city’s most significant cultural site that has a significant bond with Buddhism. It is the palace complex that houses the left tooth relic of Lord Buddha. So, you can visit the sacred Temple of Tooth Relic to expose yourself to the Buddhist religious traditions, as well as to the ancient arts and crafts.
Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya: If you are a fan of city parks and gardens then this Royal Botanical Garden must be on your travel wish list. This garden consists of more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants, and palm trees. You can spend time wandering around to explore the beauty of tropical fauna and flora and relax on the lawns or take iconic photographs in the avenue of royal palms.
Bahirawakanda: This is another spot to experience the serenity of Sri Lankan culture together with beautiful views. You can take a hike to the top of the hill which offers you panoramic views of the city of Kandy and views of the sunset when the sun is hiding behind the mountains far away. The glorious Bahirawakanda Buddha statue sits on top of Bahirawa Kanda.
To end your day in the classical city of Kandy, you can have a walk around Kandy Lake. This will surely give you a soothing experience. You can enjoy good food and spend a night in this beautiful city which has got many hotels and holiday houses to match your needs.
Your next destination on the hill country road trip that we suggest will be Ella. This is indeed one of the top tourist attractions on the island, owing to its natural beauty, as well as the iconic attractions.
Nine Arch Bridge in Ella: This is one of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. Surrounded by tea plantations, the railway lines along the bridge which consists of nine concrete arches, create a mesmerizing view. If you are lucky enough, you will get to capture a photograph of yourself with the view of the Nine Arch bridge together with a train passing by.
Ella Rock: If you love hiking, you can have an adventurous hike up the famous Ella rock. If you hike up in the late afternoon, you will get to witness views of the sunset.
On your way, you can admire the beauty of Ravana Falls and Diyaluma Falls.
Next, you can drive through the beautiful tea estates amidst the breeze to Horton Plains. On your way, you can also grab a chance to visit the famous Lipton’s seat.
Horton Plains National Park is among the three major world heritage sites in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. This national park consists of forests with a variety of animals and birds. It is home to 150 animals and 750 species of plants.
Finally, you can reach the romantic city of Nuwara Eliya, which is also known as ‘Little England’. It is simply a cold mountain town with an abundance of natural charms. Thus, there are many places for you to visit in this beautiful town as well.
Gregory Lake: This is at the center of Nuwara Eliya, where you can go jet skiing or have a ride on a swan boat. It’s a perfect place to relax, or even have a picnic date.
Besides, in Nuwara Eliya, you can visit a tea factory or see breathtaking waterfalls. Besides, you shouldn’t miss out on the beauty of Lover’s leap falls and Devon falls.
Moreover, there are many places where you can have accommodation at Nuwara Eliya. You won’t regret spending a couple of days in this beautiful landscape.
3. Take a Drive to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka
Suggested Route: Anuradhapura – Polonnaruwa – Dambulla
The cultural triangle is located in the north-central part of Sri Lanka and brings a whole different vibe to your road trip. You can travel via roads running through beautiful evergreen forests, witnessing the views of wonderful tanks and temples which proudly symbolize the long-lived history of Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura is known to be the first established kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka. This is a must-visit place if you are a history enthusiast, and the ruins and the significant attractions there, are sure to amuse you!
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi: This is one of the most ancient trees in Sri Lanka, thriving in the Mahamewna Gardens of Anuradhapura. It is believed that the initial Bo Sapling of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi has been brought from the place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment in Buddha Gaya in India. You can meet many local pilgrims visiting this place from all around the island.
Besides, there are several stupas in Anuradhapura that will amaze you with the sight of them. Ruwanweliseya, Jethawanaramaya and Abhayagiri Dagoba are highlights among them. These places will bring you tranquil beauty and a sense of calmness.
You can visit the above-mentioned religious attractions, as well as the places like Isurumuniya and Samadhi Buddha statue during the day in Anuradhapura. Then, you can take a break from hustle and bustle, near a beautiful tank or a lake in the evening.
You don’t have to worry about accommodation in Anuradhapura since it has plenty of places ranging from star-class hotels to budget hotels and hostels.
After spending a wholesome day in Anuradhapura, you can take your trip to the next destination in the land of Kings, Polonnaruwa.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa consists of a lot of temples and religious buildings. You can observe many ruins of the ancient city, including the Royal Palace, Audience Hall, Royal Swimming pool, The Vatadage, Shiva Devalaya number 2, and the gigantic Buddha Statue at Lankathilaka.
The figures of Buddha at Gal Viharaya, cut from one long slab of granite, will be a soothing view for your eyes.
After visiting the sacred ancient city of Polonnaruwa, you can head to Sigiriya.
Sigiriya is one of the most celebrated tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. The historical value together with the scenic beauty and uniqueness of the structure has brought much attention to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. To have the best experience on top of the rock, climbing to the top of Sigiriya in the late afternoon or in the evening is a good idea.
At Sigiriya, you can see the Sigiriya Museum, the Royal Gardens, the Water Gardens, and the frescoes. The entry to the rock lies between two gigantic lion paws. Sigiriya has got its name, ‘Lion Rock’ because of these paws.
You can also visit Pidurangala Rock which is just 3 km from Sigiriya Fortress. You can catch the best views of Sigiriya rock, and take iconic photographs with the rock from the summit of Pidurangala.
Next, you can direct your road trip to the amazing Cave Temples in Dambulla, where you can find ceilings painted with religious images of Buddha and his life. Here you can find 153 Buddha statues in the caves and four statues of the deities, Ganesh and Vishnu.
Likewise, your road trip to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka will give you a lot of memories of serenity and give you an experience of cultural diversity.
4. Safari in the Wildlife Hotspots
Suggested Routes: Udawalawe – Sinharaja – Yala – Bundala OR Minneriya – Kaudulla – Wasgamuwa
Sri Lanka is well known all around the world for its exotic wildlife. So, if you are taking a road trip to the wildlife hotspots in the country, there are many options you can take.
One famous option for a safari is in the wildlife hotspots of southern Sri Lanka. The next is in the north-central province. Exploring both these places will give you unique experiences different from each other. They consist of different geographical features and climatic conditions. You can book your Safari through your hotel itself or hire a Jeep on the spot.
Udawalawe – Sinharaja – Yala – Bundala
If you love Elephants, Udawalawe National park is a place that you shouldn’t miss out on. You can see elephants up close here and it has one of the largest populations of elephants in the world, more than 500 elephants to be specific. You can even see herds of elephants wandering. Besides, there are several rare bird species to be seen, such as the Indian Short-toed Snake Eagle. Further, there is a high chance that you will get to see majestic peacocks as well.
In Sinharaja, more than 60% of the trees are endemic. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds. In fact, it is home to over 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals. So, if you are a wildlife admirer, you should definitely be at Sinharaja.
Yala National Park is known to be the best nature reserve in Sri Lanka by many. Besides, Yala is also known as the “Land of the Leopard” thanks to the large numbers of leopards that can be found there. This National Park is divided into zones and there, you can find different types of animals. Make sure you take a guide with you on your safari to assist you.
The next place where you can have an interesting safari is Bundala National Park. It is a land of birds. In fact, it is an important wintering place for birds from around the world. Animal species such as crocodiles can also be found here.
Minneriya – Kaudulla – Wasgamuwa
The next adventurous wildlife road trip you can take is in the north-central region of Sri Lanka. There, you can find three National Parks, namely Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park, and Wasgamuwa National Park.
These habitats are predominantly dry semi-evergreen forests. The lakes are bordered by grasslands during the dry season. This attracts large herds of elephants. These elephants can be approached closely by jeep. So, this will be the perfect place if you are into wildlife photography.
The park is also known for crocodiles. Many more animal species found in the dry zone are recorded here.
5. A Journey to Northern Sri Lanka
Suggested Route: Point Pedro – Jaffna – Nagadeepa
Taking a road trip to the northern part of Sri Lanka will leave you with unique memories that will last all your life. Reaching north of the island from its commercial capital – Colombo takes a little effort and time, but the journey is definitely worthwhile.
You get the chance to drive yourself through beautiful landscapes along your journey. The best stops for your road trip in the northern peninsula include Point Pedro, Jaffna, and Nagadeepa.
Point Pedro: This is the northernmost point of Sri Lanka and has a historical value because it is considered one of the major trading posts during pre-colonial and colonial times. Point Pedro lighthouse is one of the best attractions there. You can enjoy the breeze of the Indian Ocean while relaxing on the sandy shores of Point Pedro. It has got coral rocks in their natural state.
Jaffna: Next, you can spend a day in the city of Jaffna. You can visit Nallur temple, and Jaffna Fort and then enjoy some delicious south Indian dishes at one of the restaurants in the city.
Nagadeepa: Your next stop will be the Island of Nagadeepa. It’s a unique symbol of religious history and ethnic diversity in Sri Lanka. A short boat ride will take you to this tiny, yet amazing island. You can see Nagadeepa Kovil, Purana Viharaya, and its stunning murals. You can also find the Mohideen Jumma mosque on this island.
Isn’t it amazing to find such cultural diversity on one small island in the paradise of Asia?
6. Road Trip to the Untrodden East-coast
Suggested Route: Trincomalee – Pasikuda – Arugambay
A road trip to the untouched beautiful beaches of the East coast is less famous, but a must-try thing in Sri Lanka.
You can start your journey from Trincomalee, where you will find the famous beaches of Nilaveli and Uppuweli. Why not try a sea bath under the hot sun in the eastern ocean?
Next, you can drive south along the eastern coast, to reach Pasikuda beach. Pasikuda has not only nice hotels with delicious seafood but also many water sports ranging from diving and snorkeling to windsurfing and water skiing.
Your next and last destination will be the famous coastal town of Arugambay. Arugambay is all about fun-filled activities and relaxation. You can engage in a number of water sports on the beaches and have a swim in the beautiful seas of Arugam Bay. If you want to have a full view of the area, you can climb up Elephant Rock which is located at the end of the bay.
You can also visit Muhudu Maha Viharaya, a beautiful temple by the Arugambay beach, or take a lagoon safari.
When is the Best Time to Travel to These Amazing Places?
The best times to visit the various areas of Sri Lanka depend on their seasonal climatic changes. Thus, we have focused on the best times to visit certain areas, in specific, as follows.
West Coast: West coast’s weather is governed by the south-western monsoon, so the best weather is expected between late November and April. Rainfall is high between June and September.
South Coast: Here, the best weather is expected between late November and April. In Yala, higher rainfall is expected from October to January, and drier weather is there from May to September. Good weather is expected from December to May.
East Coast: On the East coast, the best weather is from April to September, and the rainy season is from October until January.
North: In the northern part of the country, there’s wind and rain between October and January, and drier weather is found between May and September.
The Cultural Triangle: Since the cultural triangle is found in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, you can find fair weather around the year except for the months of November and December.
Hill Country: The southwest monsoon brings rain to the hill country in April and May. The northeast monsoon brings rain in October and November. February is the best month to visit the hill country.
The Bottom Line
North, South, East, West, and Hill country! Yes, this amazing little island of Sri Lanka offers you many choices for road trips all around the country. Besides, all those road trips are unique from one to another and capable of offering wonderful experiences that you would cherish forever. So, never think twice before arranging your road trips in Sri Lanka. Enjoy, and collect memories. Happy and safe traveling!