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10 BEST Day Trips from Colombo, Sri Lanka (2024 Guide!)

10 BEST Day Trips from Colombo, Sri Lanka (2024 Guide!)

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We had the privilege of traveling around Sri Lanka for an entire month in a tuk-tuk, and while we were able to cover a lot of ground during this time, we couldn’t hit it all! Between Sigiriya in the north, to the hill station of Ella, and down to the incredible beaches in the south, you need more than just a few weeks to fully experience Sri Lanka. 

We found that the best way to check off attractions on our Sri Lanka bucket list is to take day trips! As the major city of the country, Colombo is a great launch point for day trips, and because Sri Lanka is relatively small, you can hit most of the highlights from here. 

To help make the most of your time in Sri Lanka, we’ve put together the 10 best day trips from Colombo. We loved every amazing place we traveled to in this small country, and are eager for every traveler to experience its charm as we did!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite day trips from Colombo include:

  1. See the Dambulla Cave Temples and climb Sigiriya Rock on this small group tour
  2. Take this full-day tour to Kandy, the second-largest city in the country
  3. Watch the elephants at Udawalawe National Park on this full-day tour that includes a safari!

Day Trips from Colombo

1. Sigiriya and Dambulla 

Tourists admire paintings on the ceiling of Dambulla Cave Temple Sri Lanka
Original cave paintings!
The path leading to Sigiriya rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock

Perhaps the most iconic location in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya is at the top of our list for day trips from Colombo. The towns of Sigiriya and Dambulla are about 3-3.5 hours from Colombo and both towns have incredibly unique historical sites that have been built into the natural beauty of northern Sri Lanka. 

Sigiriya Rock is an astounding square monolith that is 200 meters (656 feet) high and peers over the jungle’s treetops. While the rock is quite beautiful, the most impressive part is the ancient palace ruins built on top of the monolith. King Kashyapa, who ruled the Sinhalese dynasty, chose Sigiriya as its capital in 477 CE and constructed “the Sky Palace” at the top. 

Looking at Sigiriya, I wondered, “How the heck did they build this?” because today, even with the addition of stairs, it’s quite an effort to climb the rock! About halfway up, there are remains of a giant lion statue that guarded the entrance to the palace, giving the rock the name “Lion Rock.” You can climb 1,200 stairs to the top of Sigiriya and see the ruins and the gorgeous valley sprawled out below. 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Dambulla is another notable town only 25 minutes from Sigiriya and has one of the most impressive temples in Sri Lanka. The Dambulla Cave Temples is a Buddhist temple of five hand-carved caves dating back to the first century BCE. When you see how large these are, you will be amazed that it was all done by hand! Over the years, additions have been made to the cave temples, such as 70 Buddha statues and paintings along all of the walls. 

Dambulla Cave Temples is not only a beautiful religious site but also holds long-standing historical significance for Sri Lanka. You can learn a lot by visiting here, and you also get incredible views from the temple. There are about 300 steps to reach the top, and you must cover your knees and shoulders to enter. Sarongs can be rented at the entrance for about 200 LKR (less than $1 USD), so don’t fall for anyone trying to sell you one on your way up!

Between visiting Sigiriya and Dambulla, you’ll be in for a leg workout! Since they are so close to each other, they make for a great combo day trip from Colombo. I recommend taking a tour to see both, as you will get a ton of information from your local guide and transportation will be taken care of for you, which is great on this long day trip!

This small group tour from Colombo will pick you up from your hotel and begin the 3.5-hour journey to Dambulla and Sigiriya. You will have about an hour at the Dambulla Caves and also stop at the Golden Temple of Dambulla and a cafe for a coffee break. The main attraction of this tour is spending 3 hours at Sigiriya Rock, which is just about the perfect amount of time, as there is a lot to explore! Admission to Sigiriya Rock ($30 USD) and the Dambulla Caves ($10 USD) is not included, so bring cash with you. 

This was definitely a long day, about 12 hours, but I was really thankful we took a tour because we learned so much from our guide which made seeing these attractions a lot more meaningful. This tour essentially pays for your transportation and guide, but all entrance fees, lunch, and other stops are at your own expense. You can reserve this full-day tour to Sigiriya and Dambulla in advance for $70 USD or a bit cheaper if you’re booking for a larger group. 

Related Read: Another viewpoint to add to your Sri Lanka bucket list is Lipton’s Seat.

2. Kandy 

A man walks with his elephant at the Sacred Tooth Temple Kandy Sri Lanka
An elephant at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
The shrine of the Sacred Tooth up close Kandy Sri Lanka
The shrine of The Buddha’s Sacred Tooth

Kandy is the second-largest city in Sri Lanka and smack dab in the middle of the country. Kandy is known as “the last kingdom” and holds the Sacred Tooth Relic, so there is quite a bit of historical and cultural significance in this mountain town. 

Kandy was the capital of Sri Lanka, ruled by the Sinhala Kingdom from 1590-1815. However, Sri Lanka has an unfortunate history of invasion after invasion, so after attempts to overthrow the kingdom by the Portuguese and the Dutch, the British were finally successful in confiscating the land in 1815, beginning their 150-year rule of the country. This ended the Sinhalese monarchy, which had been in existence since 543 BCE but only in Kandy since 1590, giving Kandy the title of “the Last Kingdom.” 

The Relic of the Sacred Tooth of Buddha is a tradition dating back to the 4th century, where the ruler of the Sinhalese monarchy was also the protector of Buddha’s tooth. Yes, you read that correctly, they have one of Buddha’s teeth and it has been passed from ruler to ruler for hundreds of years. Each time it moves, an elaborate Temple of the Tooth is built where people can come to worship and pay their respects to Buddha. Since the Kandy Kingdom was the last protector, the Sacred Tooth of Buddha remains in Kandy. 

In addition to all this significant and unique Sri Lankan history, Kandy is a beautiful town to explore. There is a giant lake in the middle of town with gorgeous viewpoints, a sprawling botanical garden, tea plantations, and lots of local Sri Lankan food! While you could easily spend a few days in Kandy, a day trip from Colombo will let you see some highlights. 

Palm trees around Kandy Lake in Sri Lanka
Kandy Lake

Kandy is about 3 hours and 20 minutes from Colombo, so we think taking a tour that provides transportation and an expert guide is the way to go. This full-day tour will hit the main highlights of Kandy, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens and a guided tour of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. You will also get a chance to see Kandy Lake and the viewpoint over the city, explore Kandy Market and try its yummy food, and end the day by checking out Geragama Tea Factory!

Tea Production is a huge industry in Sri Lanka, so visiting a tea factory at least once is a must! While you’re in Kandy, I recommend stopping at Cafe 1886 for lunch. We had some amazing black chicken curry and seafood kottu, for a taste of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. 

This tour provides transportation and your guide but doesn’t include entrance fees, lunch, or additional expenses. You can expect about $15 USD in additional entrance fees so be sure to bring cash! This full-day experience is $55 USD per person for 2 people or $40 USD per person for 3 to 15 people, which isn’t too bad for how long you’ll be out exploring. You can reserve this day trip to Kandy from Colombo in advance here!

3. Galle 

A white church in the old fort of Galle Sri Lanka
Galle Fort

While the mountainous areas of Sri Lanka are undoubtedly beautiful, the southern coast might be my favorite part of the country! The warm sea breeze off the Indian Ocean is hard to beat, and there are some gorgeous little cities down here. Galle is a unique slice of Sri Lankan history, so if you like dreamy old colonial buildings, lush jungle, and one-of-a-kind wildlife experiences, a day trip to Galle is a must. 

Galle is well known for its historic area, Galle Fort. This fortified city was built by the Dutch in 1663 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The colonial-style buildings make you feel like you’re stepping back in time, and this area is full of trendy restaurants and boutique shops. There is an old lighthouse right along the water, which is the best place to stroll and watch the sunset! 

On your way to Galle, you’ll find gorgeous beaches, a wetland estuary, and my favorite part, a turtle hatchery! This part of Sri Lanka is a sea turtle haven, so while you can stop at Hikkaduwa Beach and see turtles in the wild, you can also stop at a turtle hatchery to help this endangered species! Galle is about 2 hours south of Colombo, so it’s definitely doable on a day trip. 

This full-day tour to Galle is a great option for those who love the outdoors, history, and a bit of excitement in your day! Taking off from Colombo in the morning, you will have two exciting water activities. First at Bentota Beach riding a banana boat and then at Madu River for a safari through a huge wetland. You will then head to Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project, which was one of my favorite stops on this tour because you can see baby turtles hatching! 

The view of Galle Fort from the beach Galle Sri Lanka
Galle Fort is huge!

Finally, you will make it to Galle Fort to enjoy the historic and charming city. This is an 8-hour tour, full of exciting stops that give you a good look at Sri Lanka’s south coast! The tour provides transportation from your hotel and your guide, but all admission fees, lunch, or extra purchases are at your own expense. This tour can be booked in advance for $80 USD each for 2 people and $53 USD per person for 3 people.

We also suggest this day trip to Galle from Colombo, which is more focused on the city itself. You’ll get to explore Galle Fort for a longer amount of time and see its shops and museums, such as the Tsunami Photo Museum of the tsunami that struck the coast in 2004. Galle is also home to the famous stilt fisherman, a spearfishing practice that takes place right off the shore of Galle Fort! You will even hit Jungle Beach, one of my favorite beaches in Sri Lanka!

A trip to Galle isn’t complete without a stop at the turtle hatchery, which this tour also includes! What I love about this tour is that everything is included – all admission fees, lunch, and transportation so you don’t have any surprise costs. This tour lasts 10-12 hours, so you really get to settle into Galle. It can be reserved online here for $140 USD per person with the price decreasing per person for larger groups.

Related Read: You can find some awesome beaches in Mirissa including “Secret Beach.”

4. Udawalawe National Park 

Large male elephant in Udawalawe National Park
An elephant we saw in Udawalawe National Park

Sri Lanka is home to a handful of amazing national parks. With wild animals that thrive in the tropical climate, you’ll be able to experience something truly unique! I honestly had no idea Sri Lanka had such an array of exotic animals or as large of an outdoor recreation scene, so it was an amazing surprise! 

Udawalawe National Park is the best place to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka. While you can certainly see them at other national parks, Udawalawe has the densest population of elephants in one area. Udawalawe National Park is a comparatively small park, only 308 square kilometers (119 square miles), with 500-700 elephants living here! The Udawalawe Reservoir is an important water source for these large and thirsty creatures, and the climate of the lower hill country provides lots of shrubs for the elephants to snack on.

Visiting Udawalawe National Park is certainly high on many tourists’ bucket lists, and therefore, it’s quite busy. I would definitely recommend this experience, but before you go, be sure to read about my experience at Udawalawe so you know what to expect! 

Udawalawe National Park is located in the southern hill region of Sri Lanka. It is about 4 hours from Colombo, and while it will make for a long day, you can do it on a day trip. To see elephants in the national park, you have to book a safari. I recommend taking this full-day tour, which includes transportation from Colombo, your jeep safari, and your guide. Park entrance fees and meals are not included, so you’ll need to talk with the tour providers about how much extra cash to bring.

taking a photo of an elephant in Udawalalwe national park while on a jeep safari
Daniel loves taking photos of the wildlife!

The tour guide will pick you up bright and early from your Colombo hotel and transport you to Udawalawe. Once you’re here, you’ll transfer to an open-air 4×4 safari rig, so you can have an unobstructed view of the animals! Within minutes of entering the national park, I saw a herd of 7 elephants, and it just continued throughout the 3-hour safari. We also saw water buffalo, giant lizards called “land monitors,” and an array of birds – there’s a ton of wildlife here!

I was so glad we took this tour because they took care of all the transportation details, the guide was friendly and great at spotting wildlife, and we could simply have a fun experience. You can reserve this Udawalawe National Park Safari for $175 USD per person for 2 people with the price decreasing per person for larger groups. Book this day trip to Udawalawe from Colombo here!

5. Ella 

Coming around a bend on the train on the way to Ella Sri Lanka
The train ride to Ella
The view of the mountains from the train on the way to Ella Sri Lanka
The countryside is beautiful

Ella is one of the most picture-perfect towns I’ve ever set foot in. With rolling green hills growing tea, stunning mountain peaks, old colonial architecture, and natural wildlife everywhere you turn, it’s hard not to swoon!

The train from Kandy to Ella is famously known as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, and after riding it for ourselves, I’d have to agree! The Nine Arches Bridge was built in the 1920s and was initially used to transport tea from the hill stations to port cities. The bridge is now the most iconic part of this train route that transports humans more than tea these days!

Ella is a quaint city that is a great launch point for activities. If you’re looking to add hiking to your Sri Lanka itinerary, you can check out Little Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock. Adam’s Peak is a famous hike, but a 2,243 m (7,359 ft) ascent and quite literally mountain climbing. Little Adam’s Peak is much more doable, taking just an hour to reach the top and giving just as good of views! 

You can also stop at any of the waterfalls that surround Ella, like Ravana Falls or Bambarakanda Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka! I enjoyed exploring the town of Ella, with all of its restaurants and cute shops, really there’s so much to do in Ella, you need a few days at least! 

But if you’re short on time, you can always take a day trip from Colombo. This full-day tour is jam-packed as it tries to fit a few days worth of activities into one day, but that means you’re really getting the most out of this experience! It is also a private tour, which we especially love on long days as you’re in a comfy vehicle and your tour guide gives you one-on-one attention the whole day!

Ravana Falls
Rawana Falls!

The highlights of this tour include stopping at Nine Arches Bridge, to take in the gorgeous sights of the canyon, and then hiking Little Adam’s Peak! On the way back to Ella, you will stop at Ravana Falls, which is a giant sprawling waterfall, conveniently right next to the road. On the way home, we thought the most exciting stop of the day was at the Udawalawa Elephant Orphanage, where you can interact with elephants who are being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild! 

This full-day tour is $195 USD per person for 2 people and includes transportation from Colombo and your driver, and the price per person decreases for larger groups. Be sure to reserve this tour in advance

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

6. Yala National Park  

Watching an elephant eat from a tree from our jeep in Yala National Park Sri Lanka
They came so close!
Warthogs drinking from a pool in Yala National Park Sri Lanka
Wild warthogs

Located along the southeast coast, Yala National Park is the second-largest national park in Sri Lanka and probably the most popular one to visit! The park stretches 979 square kilometers (378 square miles) and comes right up to the Indian Ocean, so there is quite a diversity of plants and wildlife here. Yala is the best area to spot wild leopards, which we were lucky enough to see during our safari!

Yala National Park started as an animal sanctuary in 1900 and was designated as a national park in 1938. The park is still known for its conservation of wild Sri Lankan animals and plant life, which is why we see such a wide variety of animals coexisting here. 

Spotting a leopard is everyone’s big-ticket item, and the guides are pretty good at seeking them out. While they aren’t sure exactly how many leopards are around, the park is split into five blocks, and it is estimated that there are possibly as many as 100 leopards in just block one. So you can imagine how many are hiding in the depths of the jungle! The best time to see a leopard is early morning as the sun is rising or around dusk. 

However, there are a ton of other really cool animals you can see! We saw crocodiles, elephants, herds of deer, wild boars, monkeys, water buffaloes soaking in muddy ponds, land monitors, and hares. Besides the leopards, the coolest things we saw were the peacocks in their full flair, and the elusive sloth bear, which is even harder to spot than a leopard!

A pregnant elephant mother, 2 month old baby and another female elephant walk down a dirt road in Yala National Park Sri Lanka
A family of wild elephants!

Now that I’ve adequately got you hyped to visit Yala National Park, you can explore the day tours available from Colombo! Yala is about 3 hours and 45 minutes from Colombo, so while it is another long tour day, this day tour is totally worth it if you’re short on time.

You will depart from Colombo early in the morning and make the journey southeast to Yala National Park. Once you’re here, you’ll switch over to a 4×4 vehicle with the top open so you can spot animals! The guide will drive you all over block one of the park for three hours, where they will point out all sorts of animals you might miss otherwise. One of our highlights was getting right up close to an elephant and her baby, a one-of-a-kind experience!

This tour includes your driver, safari, snacks, and even a beer on request! Meals are not included, and you will be required to pay a park entrance fee of $35 USD. But honestly, if you only take one day trip out of Colombo, this might be the best one to do! Prices vary depending on the size of your group – it’s $120 USD each for 2 people or $80 USD per person for 4 people. You can reserve this day tour online through Viator with cancelation available up to 24 hours before.

7. Muthurajawela Wetlands 

Muthurajawela Wetlands in Sri lanka
Muthurajawela Wetlands in Sri Lanka

If driving three or more hours to get to an attraction doesn’t sound like a fun day to you, we have another great day trip out of Colombo that is much closer! Muthurajawela Wetlands is about 35 minutes north of Colombo and an excellent way to get out of the city and into nature. 

The Muthurajawela Wetlands stretches for 3,068 hectares (7,580 acres) and has been around for nearly 7,000 years. This marsh is essential to the country’s ecosystem and over half of it is protected forest. If you’re an outdoors lover, you will absolutely love exploring here. 

We love getting to see unique wildlife, and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. You can take a boat ride through the wetlands, to see the mangroves and spot as many birds as possible. The wetlands have 192 different types of flora (plant life) and over 209 species of fauna (animal life). The big draw here is birdwatching, as there are another 102 distinct species of birds! 

This 2.5-hour private tour is the perfect way to explore the marsh. One of the most valuable aspects of this tour is your guide, who is full of information on the ecosystem and an expert at spotting animals. We would have missed a few animals without a local guide. You will take a boat ride early in the morning, when the animals are most active, and cruise through the wetlands, seeing animals and the diverse plant life!

This tour is great to pair with other activities in Colombo, as you’ll be back in the city for lunchtime! This tour includes transportation from your hotel in Colombo, entrance to the protected wetlands, the boat ride, your expert guide, and fresh fruit to snack on! You can reserve this experience for $45 USD.

Related Read: One of our favorite waterfalls is Bomburu Ella Waterfall near Nuwara Eliya.

8. Adam’s Peak 

Sunrise view from Adam's Peak
Adam’s Peak at sunrise!

Adam’s Peak is a quintessential Sri Lanka experience. It showcases the country’s natural beauty and is a pilgrimage for many prominent religions in the country. Nestled in the hill region, about 4.5 hours from Colombo, climbing Adam’s Peak is an experience you won’t forget!

Adam’s Peak is best experienced in the wee hours of the morning to catch the sunrise. The peak sits 2,304 meters (7,559 feet) above sea level and can be conquered in about 5-7 hours total. For many local Sri Lankans, this is a revered religious site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike. One unique thing about Sri Lanka is that all of these religions are intertwined into culture, and Adam’s Peak is a great example of how they all exist side-by-side in this beautiful country! 

While it isn’t a religious pilgrimage for most tourists, I found climbing Adam’s Peak to be an amazing experience! The views are unmatched, and it was really unique to walk alongside local Sri Lankans who held this walk in such high regard. 

There’s a lot that can go into planning this trek, as there are 6 different routes, it’s rather far out of the way, and it might be difficult to reach if you don’t have your own transportation. If hiking Adam’s Peak is on your Sri Lanka bucket list out of Colombo, I highly recommend booking this tour to take care of the details for you!

This tour departs at midnight (yes really!). Since Colombo is quite a drive away, you leave in the middle of the night to have time to reach the trailhead and ascend the peak to catch the sunrise! This tour uses the Hatton Route, which is the most popular. The trail is 5 kilometers (3 miles) each way and gains 1000 meters (3,280 feet), so it’s rather steep. It will likely take about 3 hours to reach the summit. 

Part of the reason, the tour leaves in the middle of the night is so you can catch the sunrise from the mountain, and I can assure you that it’s worth it! At the top, you’ll find temples of all religions and incredible views of the valley below!

By the end, you’ll arrive back in Colombo by the early afternoon, already having conquered so much in your day! This tour includes your driver and guide but not meals, so it’s best to pack lots of water and snacks. The price changes depending on your group size – it’s $165 USD each for 2 people and $65 USD per person for 6 people, so this is a great deal for larger groups.  The tour can be reserved in advance here, and you can pay later!

9. Colombo City 

Looking at the red and white patterend Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque from down the street while a tuktuk drives by Colombo, Sri Lanka
The Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
Holding and drinking a King Coconut at a local fruit vendors stall on the street next to Viharamahadevi Park Colombo, Sri Lanka
Delicious King Coconut!

Take a day trip out of Colombo, without even leaving Colombo! We love taking city tours when we first arrive in a new place so that we can learn more about the history and culture, as well as the best spots to visit! In fact, we took several city tours of Colombo.

Colombo is a very relaxed city that is clean, full of history, has amazing things to do, and has a great food scene. Colombo has been the largest port in Sri Lanka for centuries, sitting right on the Indian Ocean. Historically, Sri Lanka is right in the middle of the Silk Road trade route so ships would stop in Port Colombo to trade, rest, and refuel. This made Colombo a hub for commerce, which eventually led it to grow into the largest metropolis of Sri Lanka. 

With all of this traffic from the Silk Road, Sri Lanka has a checkered history with other countries’ occupation of their land. We saw evidence of other culture’s influence all over Colombo, from the architecture to the widespread religions, and even their love for tea! Fun fact: Sri Lanka’s original name was Ceylon, which you might recognize as a famous type of tea!

To dive into all of the history and culture of Colombo, this city tour is one of our favorites! Because it is a private tour, we were able to have in-depth conversations with our guide and really understand Sri Lanka’s culture. The tour lasts 8-10 hours, so you cover a lot of ground, so much so that I can’t possibly list all of the sights. 

Meditating golden Buddha statues surrounding the floating Gangaramaya Temple Colombo, Sri Lanka
A Buddhist temple on the water

Some of the highlights of the tour included visiting the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, which was a gorgeous temple and very insightful to Buddhism. We also visited museums and theaters, and historic buildings like Independence Square and the Dutch Hospital. Our guide showed us the crown jewel of Colombo’s skyline, the Lotus Tower, and bustling markets all over the city. 

We were impressed by our guide’s knowledge of everything about Colombo and felt like we came out of this tour with a new appreciation for Sri Lanka. This tour is $80 USD per group with a maximum of 3 people and includes transportation and your guide. You can book this Colombo City Tour in advance here!

10. Minneriya National Park 

A herd of wild elephants passes in front of our jeep at Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka
Wild elephants everywhere!
A herd of elephants cross a river at Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka
Elephant crossing

There truly is no shortage of amazing national parks in Sri Lanka! Minneriya National Park is located in the North Central Province and is home to an abundance of elephants. This park is massive – 8,890 hectares (21,967 acres) of rolling grassland and protected natural areas, making it the perfect habitat for wildlife. 

Minneriya National Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1938, and an official national park in 1997. Minneriya Lake is a huge gathering ground for wild elephants. In fact, if you visit around sunset, you’ll see hundreds of elephants hanging out here! There are also monkeys, sloth bears, leopards, mongoose, and other mammals. 

Just like the other national parks, the best way to experience Minneriya is by taking a jeep safari. I really enjoyed a safari at Minneriya because it felt much less crowded than the other tours we took. We only saw two other jeep safaris during our time, whereas other national park safaris have so many more visitors. 

From Colombo, you can reach Minneriya in about 4 hours. This full-day tour includes transportation from Colombo, and will also take you to Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rock, which are on the way to Minneriya. You’ll drive about 3.5 hours, reach Sigiriya, and have a few hours to explore and climb the famous rock. Next, you’ll head to Pidurangala which is known as Sigiriya’s sister rock, and while it’s a bit less well-known (and less crowded), we thought the views were just as beautiful.

Wild elephants roam across a field at Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka
Hundreds of elephants gather here

Once the afternoon hits, you will head to Minneriya for your safari! You’ll spend about 2 hours riding around the park, spotting all sorts of animals. We were thankful for our guide here, as he could find animals we didn’t even see! We saw tons of elephants, and could just turn off the jeep and sit and watch. It was an incredible experience – perhaps one of my favorite national park experiences all together! 

This full-day tour to Minneriya includes transportation and your guide but does not include entrance fees, the jeep safari, or lunch. Expect to pay $30 USD to enter Sigiriya, $3 USD to enter Pidurangala, and the jeep tour is about $120 USD for two people. So while the initial cost of this tour is rather low, be prepared to pay more the day of. This is still a great experience and the best way to see Minneriya National Park from Colombo if you’re in a time crunch. You can book this tour for $68 USD per person for 2 people or cheaper for larger groups. I recommend securing your spot in advance so you don’t miss out!

Getting Around Sri Lanka

tuk tuk parked at the beach in mirissa sri lanka
We rented a tuk-tuk for our entire trip around Sri Lanka.
Watching sunsets in Sri Lanka from our tuk tuk
Tuk-tuk is a great way to get around Sri Lanka.

To visit all of the best places in Sri Lanka, you’re going to need a mode of transport. You have a few choices when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka:

Rent a Tuk-tuk

Easily the most popular (and most fun) way to travel around Sri Lanka. We actually rented a tuk-tuk on our trip and absolutely loved it! Tuk-tuks are easy to drive, cheap to rent, and the freedom that comes with your own wheels is unmatched.

If you do decide to rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, be sure to go with a reputable company that provides quality tuk-tuks, such as Tuktuk Rental (who we rented from.) These guys not only offer an amazing service, but their tuk-tuks are actually rented from local families, providing income for the local community.

If you decide to rent from Tuktuk Rental, be sure to use the coupon code ‘DEST‘ for 5% off!

For more info, read our blog: The Truth about Renting a Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka.

Hire a Driver

If you’re only planning on going to a couple of destinations, then a private driver is not a bad idea. In the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, your driver can take you to your next destination. All you have to do is sit back and relax!

You can hire highly-rated drivers in advance to pick you up right from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka. This driver will take you to your hotel in Mirissa, Galle, Bentota, or Unawatuna. Whereas this driver will take you to Kandy.

Of course, every time you want to change destinations you will have to arrange for another driver (unless you book this driver who will drive you around for an entire week). Car transfer can easily be organized through your hotel.

Take Public Transport

This is a choice I only recommend for those on a very tight budget and with plenty of time. Public transport is everywhere in Sri Lanka in the form of public buses and trains. It is also very cheap, costing less than a couple of dollars per journey.

However, it isn’t the most comfortable way to travel. The buses don’t have air conditioning and neither do many train services. They can also be slow-moving, stopping every couple of minutes to pick up more passengers.

With that said, public transport is popular with budget backpackers, and it is mostly safe. This is one way to travel for those who want to get around as the locals do!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Thanks for reading!

Colombo is the perfect base for day trips around Sri Lanka, and there are so many great options to explore. We hope you have just as much fun as we did seeing this beautiful country!

If this blog was helpful, be sure to read more of our guides to Sri Lanka. Plus, we’ve also got travel tips and advice for destinations around the world. Here are a few related blogs to get you started:

7 Awesome Things to do in Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka

15 Most Romantic Honeymoon Hotels in Sri Lanka

14 Best Things to do in Haputale, Sri Lanka