What to do in Sri Lanka

What to do in Sri Lanka for 5 days

What to do in Sri Lanka for 5 days

I have this specific list of all the places I wanted to go to but Sri Lanka was never on that list. Unsurprisingly, my wanderlust soul took me to this beautiful country. I'm always fascinated with places I have no interest at all. It took me forever to search where to go here and there for our itinerary, but when I had the chance to do so my eyes couldn't deny the beauty of the southeastern part of India. The tickets were expensive for direct flights to Sri Lanka, instead, we took connecting flights to Colombo. After work, I went straight to the airport, hopped onto our plane to KL, and slept as we waited for our next flight to Colombo. Let’s go! 

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Travel Tips
  • For flights, Skyscanner is excellent for comparing the best airline deals.
  • For accommodations, our family trusts Booking.com for reasonable prices.

Sri Lanka 5 days Itinerary

  • Budget: 350 SGD
  • Emergency Fund: 50 SGD
  • 1 SGD = 100 Sri Lankan Rupee

28 Jul Thu DEPART from Singapore
  • Singapore to Kuala Lumpur  AirAsia AK722 , 11:00Pm - 12:05Am 
  • Sleep in the Airport 

29 July Fri ARRIVAL in Colombo - Colombo to Hikkaduwa
  • Kuala Lumpur to Colombo AirAsia AK43, 8:30Am - 9:30Am 
  • Visa on Arrival ( Philippine Passport): 65 SGD / 40 SGD
  • Colombo to Hikkaduwa by Bus

30 July Sat  -Hikkaduwa
  • Surfing  Lesson
  • Seafood Meal
  • Sri Lanka Massage

31 July Sun -Hikkaduwa to Ella 
  • Hikkaduwa to Ella via Matara Station by Bus 
  • Check-in: Ozo GuesthouseElla (Walk-In) for 2,500 Rupees (2 nights)

01 Aug Mon -Ella
  • Sightseeing in Ella
  • Sunrise in Little Adam's Peak
  • Hike Ella's Rock
  • Check out Nine Arch Bridge
  • Sri Lanka Massage
02 Aug Tue -Ella to Colombo
  • Ella to Colombo Fort by Morning Train (6:50 Am)
  • Sightseeing in Colombo
  • Colombo fort to Airport by Bus
  • DEPARTURE: Colombo to Kuala Lumpur AirAsia AK46, 10:55Pm - 5:15Am

03 Aug Wed ARRIVAL in Kuala Lumpur
  • Sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur to Singapore  AirAsia, 07:45Pm - 8:50Pm
  • KLIA Express Train to Central for 55 Ringgit
  • Travel time: 30 minutes 

How to go to Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

  • 29 July Fri ARRIVAL in Colombo - Colombo to Hikkaduwa
  • Visa on Arrival ( Philippine Passport): 65 SGD / 40 SGD
  • Colombo to Hikkaduwa by Bus

Airport to Colombo Fort Railway to Hikkaduwa:

How to get there: Airport to Colombo Fort Railway (Bus & Train Station) 
  • Head outside the airport gate. Take the Express bus number 187 and get off at he last stop for Colombo Fort Railway.
  • Travel time: 1-2 hours
  • Bus Fare: 110 Rupees

Colombo Fort Railway to Hikkaduwa
  • At Colombo Fort Railway, take Bus Number 2 to Hikkaduwa, and get off at the last stop. 
  • Travel time: 3-4 hours
  • Bus Fare: 120 Rupees

What to do in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

Welcome to the Surfer's Paradise

Hikkaduwa is a small town located on the south coast of the Southern side of Sri Lanka. According to my research, it's the best place for beginners or amateur wannabe surfers like me on an off-surf season. Surfing is widely in demand in Sri Lanka. The waves are spectacular during the surf months of October till May, there's always a place to surf as what the locals said. If you want to ride the big boys check out Arugam Bay on the East Coast from May to September and Hikkaduwa in November till April of the South Coast.

Take Note

Just a reminder, most of the locals don't speak English. Make sure to ask the driver before hopping to any bus or train for the destination, don't rely solely on your research. Some may find it irritating, but never mind, just make sure you'' get to your desired location. Even if the sign says your destination, it's better to ask than be sorry. 

Try Sri Lankan Snacks

The bus to Hikkaduwa was pleasing to the eyes, fresh air and blue waters welcome you to the south side of the island. There are quick pit stops to give passengers time to stretch out. On one of those stops, we bought our very first Sri Lankan snack for 40 rupees. It's like a soft Prata filled with some vegetables like curry. 

Experience the Three Hours Bus Ride

After more than three hours of sightseeing with the bus, we arrived at a junction near the Hikkaduwa bus terminal. The driver said to keep walking straight from the terminal to the beach road and then eventually find our guesthouse. We did as he said we walked with our sleepy eyes and heavy bags, and with the heat of the sun however, it took us 30 minutes to get to our guesthouse if you got some extra rupees to wave a tuk-tuk driver. Along the way, people kept asking us if we needed a room for the night. That's just hit us if you're bound for Hikkaduwa you don't need to book a guesthouse or a hotel ahead of time. We've discovered that there are plenty of available rooms for a cheap price of 1,000 to 2,000 rupees for a night, just avoid the peak season of course. One more thing they seriously respect the human body and they don't want people to walk around parading their beautiful skin to onlookers. Just keep in mind no swimming attire in the streets. Bikini's are only allowed at the beach. 

Savor Sri Lankan Beer and Traditional Dishes

  • Brunch in Moon Shadow Restaurant, located just beside the hotel.  

We ordered Sri Lanka's Beer the Lion Lager, Sri Lanka's Traditional Meal which is Home Curry with Vegetables and grilled octopus with rice. What I love about this dish is the five varieties of vegetables that come along with the meal. I also added chicken curry, a mixed fruit shake, and my all-time favorite watermelon shake. Our first meal was a bit pricey paid around 4,000 rupees. 

I've noticed that Sri Lankan men are friendly and kind while the females are shy and demure in the countryside. With that said I've talked to the majority of men during the whole trip. It feels like a country living in the past where only men are expected to mingle with strangers. 

Interesting Stranger

No scheduled plans for the rest of the day. The remaining hours before sunset were spent strolling on the beach, running like kids, digging our toes in the sand, and playing with the water. An old man approached us while we hung out on the beach. He has a kind face with only two prominent front teeth yet gave us a smile all the way to his ears. In his hands were two aloe vera stems, he uses them for his massage services. He offered to try it out, but we declined politely. Instead of wandering off he sat down and explained his methods, a sales strategy, or just a friendly medicine man. I listened intensively to everything he said, strangers give us the most interesting bizarre stories of all time. 

He told me his life story as a traditional therapist, his foreign customers, and the secrets of healing. Certain points in our body cause and release pain. In Sri Lankan massage what they do to cure muscle strain is through pressing certain points in your body. I was tasked by the medicine man to remember these certain points, and surprisingly the information is embedded in my mind. Just a press here and there and everything will be ok, If only life was that simple. When I was almost convinced to try his foot massage he got up and bid goodbye. I just love strangers! 

  • Dinner in Sunil's Roti Stop 

At dinner time we walked around Hikkaduwa and found this small restaurant by the street called Sunil's Roti Stop. The staff were friendly and accommodating. One stuffed roti and fried pineapple prata cost less than 100 rupees. 

  • Surfing session with Thusitha Tours

The next day we booked a surfing session with Thusitha Tours.  There are only a few travel tours open, they only come alive during the surf season. We meet Jhween, our surfing instructor, I'm not really sure If he's affiliated with this tour agency. He's usually booked for a private session with Russian students, yes he speaks Russian, isn't that just cool? Sometimes he even picks them up all the way from Russia to Sri Lanka for the surf lessons. Our timing was perfect he was available, I mean with my close-up perfect smile how could he say no? Just kidding! Ahahaa

Surfing in Sri Lanka

  • 30 July Sat  Hikkaduwa
  • Half-day Surfing lesson for 8,500 Rupees (2 pax) 
  • Seafood Meal at Moonlight Seafood Restaurant: 4,000 Rupees
  • Sri Lanka Massage for 7,000 Rupees (2 pax)
  • Pizza: 1,000 Rupees

Jhween picked us up with his tuk-tuk ride around 8 in the morning which gave us enough time to have our breakfast. The morning meal was served with toasted bread, eggs, jam, butter, coffee, and a banana shake. Eggs and Banana are my running crew which reminds me to go for my running routine early in the morning. It makes me wonder why I've never done any running on all my trips, I'm just slacking off and eating my heart out. Maybe for my next trip, I'll do some 5 kilometers run for a change. 

Sri Lankan Gentlemen

It was a 30-minute ride to Galle Fort and off to the beachside. The guys in the shop welcomed us with warm tea and cute smiles. As I said guys are super friendly in Sri Lanka so it might somehow be mistaken as flirting for some reason but I don't think of it that way. It feels like I've worked so long in Singapore that I forgot how it feels like to be surrounded by gentlemen. The surfer dudes were genuinely happy with their line of work. It makes me wonder if I'm doing my life right if I'm in the right job and if I still want my life in the big city. This is what traveling does to people, it opens up questions that you're afraid to ask yourself and answers you knew all along.

Highlight of our trip!

The sun was shining bright and the waves were joyfully at play. I was nervous. Waves reminded me of my bad experiences back when I was in college. As they say, sooner or later the tides will change, and you will need to face the same battle again. The only way for me to survive is to forget what happened, I did that but the feeling remained the same. I'm great with isolating and organizing my thoughts, hiding the least memorable moments is easy still depending on the extent of the damage. 

Best Feeling

This past experience really affected me big time. I told myself to Focus. I trusted my surfing instructor, gulped for every passing stride, and just rode the waves. Basic hand and body postures as instructed. I learned that the back leg for support must always be strong while the front one maneuvers the rides. Sounds easy. It was a piece of cake but it was a very huge kind of birthday cake wherein two people could fit inside it. Even thou it was pretty tough the surfing activity was the highlight of our trip. Being able to stand on the board was the best thing ever! 

Seafood Platter Meal 

To reward such an enormous achievement we went for a seafood platter meal to celebrate, even had pizza for dinner. We went back to the hotel with a happy tummy and a satisfied heart. Late the night we allowed ourselves to be pampered with a Sri Lanka massage. I realized an authentic Sri Lanka Massage really just focuses on pressing certain body points like acupressure massage but in a gentle way. Getting used to Balinese and Thai Massage made it feel like someone was just gently tapping and pressing my back, but at least we got to experience a different kind of massage. Done with the beach and off we go to the mountainside, our next destination is the beautiful town of Ella from the central highlands of Sri Lanka. 

Next Destination: Ella

There are only two places I want to visit when I go to other countries either the beach or the mountains. We were done surfing the waters of Hikkaduwa next stop was the mountain area of Sri Lanka. Ella is located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, a small town in the Badulla District of the Uva Province.

Our initial plan is to proceed to Galle to take the bus to Ella, It is just a 30-minute ride from Hikkaduwa yet we're not really sure if there's a bus to Ella down there. The tuk-tuk ride offered us around 1,500 rupees for a 20-30-minute ride, way more expensive compared to our bus from Colombo to Hikkaduwa for only 200 rupees which took around 3 hours to reach our destination. We figured it was better to head straight to Hikkaduwa Bus Terminal which was 10 minutes away from our hotel, then take the bus to Matara Bus Station. From Matara station take another bus to Ella, this was accurate information. The ride will consume almost the whole day from our itinerary so we can't afford to get on the wrong route. 

How to go to Ella, Sri Lanka

  • 31 July Sun Hikkaduwa to Ella 
  • Breakfast by the Beach
  • Check out by 10:50 Am from Hotel

Hikkaduwa Bus Terminal to Matara Bus Station to Ella:

Hotel to Hikkaduwa Bus Terminal
  • Tuk-tuk ride: 150 Rupees
  • Estimated travel time: 10 minutes

Hikkaduwa to Matara Bus Station
  • Bus Fare: 80 Rupees
  • Estimated travel time: 45 minutes

Matara Bus Station to Ella 
  • Bus Fare: 300 Rupees

We actually missed our bus however there are several buses available that go to the same route just make sure it passes by Ella. Don't forget to ask the driver.
  • Overall Travel time: 6-8 hours

We got Homeless

We arrived at Ella late in the afternoon. Our guesthouse was nowhere to be found, we asked this Sri Lanka guy for directions, it seemed like it was nowhere in sight so he offered his guesthouse which was perfectly located on the roadside beside a massage parlor, a few minutes from the train station and steps away from Chili's restaurant. Across the road, there's the Ice Cube Bar and a few more shops and restaurants along the stretch. Plus the road to Adams Peak and Ella's Rock is nearby the area too. We immediately canceled our guesthouse booking online and accepted his great offer.  

The Next Day: Hiking Trails in Ella
  • 01 Aug Mon - Ella
  • Sunrise in Little Adam's Peak
  • Hike Ella's Rock
  • Check out Nine Arch Bridge
  • Sri Lanka Massage

We woke up early that morning but not good enough to see the sunrise. The long hours of travel were getting on our nerves, and the lack of sleep has left has tired and silent. This is one battle you face with time-constrained travel, the energy level is there but our minds just wander in empty space. Going through sleep deprivation while backpacking is part of the experience, this is where your travel partner in crime comes into the picture. You try to take care of each other with laughs, a tap from the back, a smile, a nod, and just knowing you're not going through it alone. If you're traveling alone this is when you rely on happy thoughts, absorb the energy from your surroundings, and just be with nature. I guess that's the reason why I prefer to be with nature when I'm on a solo trip.

Little Adam’s Peak 
  • Hiking time: two hours (round trip) 
  • 5:30 Am - 9:30 Am

Little Adam's Peak stands around 1141 meters above sea level. A short, easy hike for everybody. There are no precise signs heading to Little Adam's Peak either you follow other hikers, ask a local, or get a guide. All advice was followed but instead of hiring a local guide, we took a guide map to make sure we're on the track. If you're in doubt with the route ask any local passing by the road. We were also a bit lucky that day because we found a few climbers. Little Adam's Peak is also known as Mini Adam's Peak, next to 98 Acres Resort and right side of the White Buddha. 

The hike to Adams Peak would take an hour which includes flat roads and straining stairs climbing before reaching the summit. A great exercise to wake up those tired muscles, smell the fresh air, and see the real beauty of Sri Lanka. Though we didn't make it for the sunrise the hike up the peak was all worth it. Ella's rock was in view just right in front of us on the other side of the mountain. We had an apple for breakfast with the breathtaking view of the mountains, salty sweat for our drink, and a happy heart for a hike well done.  

Delicious Sri Lankan Curd drink

Descending down was effortless we were just in time for brunch. I made sure we got to try all kinds of authentic Sri Lankan foods in every place that we went to. This time around we got to try the famous Sri Lankan Curd drink and I love it. A milky kind of drink mixed with a sweet aromatic aftertaste feeling with every sip. Some Spicy Sri Lankan Fried Rice and Sri Lankan Noodles. 

The next stop was Ella's Rock. Our friendly guesthouse owner decided to come along with us. We took a train from Ella to a nearby town I forgot the name maybe Badulla? but it was just one train stop away. This wasn't the plan as our research told us we could actually just hike from the railway station to Ella's Rock. We were with a local I mean what could possibly go wrong?! The funny thing is it was his first time to Ella's rock, no wonder he wanted to hike with us. He originally lives in Colombo and just started his business in Ella a few months ago. My friend and I got a bit worried but we made it to the train tracks which was shown on our research as the right way to Ella's rock. A few climbers were on the road with us too. 

Ella's Rock
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours (roundtrip)
  • 10:50 Am - 2:00 Pm

Ella's Rock stands around 1150 meters above sea level. Hire a local guide for 1,500 rupees / 12 USD per person or better just do it yourself. Once again there's no specific trail to the summit, I heard during the hike that there's an easy and hard trail. I might say we took the latter as we didn't pass by any paved road as they say with the other trail. It's a bit challenging compared to Little Adam's Peak, our new friend had a hard time catching up so we had to rest a couple of times. The trail starts on the railway lines, passing by tea plantations and up the hills to Ella's Rock. On top, a guy is selling bottled water, a few snacks, and even a cup of tea if you want to hang around for a while. 

The edge of the summit might not look daunting in the picture but I tell you standing there took me some time. One loses footing, one boisterous laugh and you're gone from this lifetime. As always descending down the mountain is faster but always keep in mind to be careful with your footing to avoid injuries. The hike was over, the sun was over our heads, and heat exhaustion was eating us alive. A smart way to go was to retreat back to the guesthouse, get a bottle of Coca-Cola, an ice-cream drumstick, and a power nap. By 4 in the afternoon, we were up and hiking again.

Nine Arch Bridge
  • Hiking Time: 1 hour (roundtrip)

The last hike for the day was the Nine Arch Bridge. A famous bridge in Sri Lanka is located between the Ella and Demodara railway stations. It was a short hike to the bridge, like a stroll in the mall and of course, no signs were going to the bridge. You just have to show your charisma and your pearly white teeth to the locals to show you the way. The use of phone trail maps, GPS, and a Google search has limited our conversation with the outside world. We've forgotten how it feels to get lost, ask a stranger, and be happy to find our destination. I'm still connected with my wild, free-spirited, earthly soul to ask, explore, and be in the moment. I guess that's the reason why I try not to buy or rent a portable wifi egg in my travels. It's not that I want to get lost, being away from the World Wide Web is liberating, some people find that weird, but it is and you should try it sometime.

The Nine Arch Bridge looked nostalgic with its ash color and location. The massive bridge is built entirely with solid rocks, bricks, and cement without using a single piece of steel. An amazing piece of art standing in the mountain area of Sri Lanka. We were lucky as usual the train was scheduled to arrive at that time, maybe around 5 or 5:30 in the afternoon. The blue train honked its horn, as locals and tourists smiled and waved goodbye at each other. 

Last Sri Lankan-Style Massage

We ended the day with a sumptuous Sri Lankan fried rice and noodles. Top it up with a Sri Lankan Massage before bedtime, this time around I ask the attendant to press harder but I guess they're just really gentle people with fluid hands.

The most scenic train ride ever: Ella to Colombo Fort 

  • 02 Aug Tue Ella to Colombo
  • Ella to Colombo Fort by Morning Train (6:50 Am)
  • Train Fare: 400 Rupees

We took the famous scenic train back to Colombo. The spectacular scenery runs from Ella and Kandy. This is considered one of the most beautiful train trips in Asia or even in the world. Imagine yourself inside a train that runs on top of a mountain railway overlooking a sea of tea plantations that goes from one mountain to another. Shades of green, yellow, and brown fill all the empty space that draws to the beauty of nature.

Last Stop: Arrival in Colombo
  • Colombo Fort to Airport by Bus
  • Bus Fare: 100 Rupees

Reminder when you take the bus. Don't forget your change. The drivers will not hesitate to keep the change.

Bird Poop! Lucky eh?

I'm not a fancy traveler so sleeping in airports doesn't really bother me. Funny and disgusting as it may sound even bathing in wet tissues is not an issue for me, brushing my teeth, washing my face, and to the extent of washing just one side of my hair due to some gooey stuff. Let me focus on that last part. We went to Colombo on our last day in Sri Lanka, why not experience the city while we're still in the country. The moment the bus stopped at the terminal the heat was already present in all corners of the city. We were terribly hungry from the long ride so we walked around to find a dining place. There were a lot of birds flying around the terminal even around the pedestrian lane, I was already starting to get worried about the chances of getting bombed by those pretty birds. Expectedly the bomb was dropped and it fell on top of my beautiful, messy hair. 

Beware: Nasty Hands!

This is not the first time it happened to me. I remembered even back in college while walking along with friends, the bird poop had me at first shot. I wondered about all the heads available, and I was chosen. I can't recall the other times but I know it always smells bad. They said it was good luck, maybe I had a passing score that day in Algebra or caught the last bus back home. This time around was different while we strolled in the streets of Colombo one guy touched me in such an unpleasant way and the next one held me unnecessarily. It happened as I was trying to get the bird poop on my hair and in my bag. Shocked and Disgusted. I didn't get the chance to kick their gluteus maximus or even freaking just shout at them. In times of disbelief, the human brain just shuts down leaving you stunned like a stone. So where's the luck we're talking about now? But hey let's focus on positivity because my two plane rides landed safely. 

Unexpected Experience

Anyway, in the end, we didn't manage to find even one restaurant, the roads were really crowded with men at all corners, so freaky and weird! so we decided to head straight to the airport. The only place we feel like dining in the terminal was the burger king's fast food. What a surprise when I queued up for our burger meal, the prices were outrageously expensive normally a burger meal in Singapore would just cost me around 8 SGD instead we paid 16 USD. The service attendant even asked me if I wanted my burger with cheese, just add in another dollar she said. I was actually planning to use up our extra money for souvenirs but it turns out we spent everything on our last meal. A bird poop to send me off on my last day in Sri Lanka was unexpected too. But I wouldn't change a thing about my trip, if we could have stayed longer that would have been awesome.

Last Day

  • Colombo to Kuala Lumpur AirAsia, 10:55Pm - 5:15Am
  • 03 Aug Wed ARRIVAL in Kuala Lumpur
  • Sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur to Singapore  AirAsia, 07:45Pm - 8:50Pm

Also, check out: What to do in Kuala Lumpur

Have fun and be safe ^__^

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