Colombo serves up temples, British colonial monuments, and great shopping, plus a friendly and colorful vibe all its own. Sri Lanka’s capital is also a base for day trips to experience the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kandy, wildlife safaris, and more. Here’s how to get the most from three days in the city.
Day 1: See the City Sights
Use today to get acquainted with Colombo’s sights, such as the Fort Clock Tower and bustling Pettah district, on a private tour, or hop on a pushbike, tuk-tuk, or World War II jeep and experience the city’s commotion full on. Alternatively, take a combined sightseeing and shopping trip, sample Sri Lanka’s fragrant teas at a tea factory, or choose a city tour that finishes with high tea—a throwback to British colonial times—at a luxury hotel. Later, explore Colombo’s vibrant food scene on foot or by tuk-tuk. Try specialities such as prawn-topped patties with roti (flatbread) and vegetable stir fries as you dip into markets, cafés, and food stands.
Day 2: Kandy, Galle, and Ancient Cities
Devote your second day to wider Sri Lanka. History buffs will love the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura, home to the remains of Sri Lanka’s earliest capital, and Polonnaruwa, whose temples map out a later royal city. Another option is Kandy, the island’s beautiful hill capital, which is home to a UNESCO-protected temple said to hold a tooth relic of Buddha. Alternatively, 2-day options include Kandy and the 5th-century summit ruins atop Sigiriya rock—another UNESCO gem—or Galle with its Portuguese-Dutch fort combined with Udawalawe National Park to look for wild elephants, leopards, deer, and buffalo.
Day 3: Wildlife and Other Wonders
Sri Lanka’s beaches and countryside are rich in wildlife, so devote your final day to experiencing their natural wonders. Journey to coastal Bentota to visit a turtle hatchery and spot exotic creatures on a mangrove boat trip, or head for Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s biggest national park, for a game drive around its lakes to watch for leopards, sloth bears, elephants, and more. Otherwise, book a trip to Belilena: a huge cavern with evidence of human inhabitants from 16,000 years ago, or explore the caves at UNESCO-listed Dambulla—a 1st-century cave monastery crammed with Buddha statues and murals. An adventurous option is a white-water-rafting excursion on the River Kelani. Return to Colombo for a quiet final night out with dinner at a local restaurant.