Sri Lanka on a Budget: My 10-Day Itinerary & Cost Breakdown

Sri Lanka on a Budget: My 10-Day Itinerary & Cost Breakdown

This comprehensive itinerary covers great destinations in Sri Lanka including Dambulla, Ella, Kandy, Sigiriya and Colombo. Expect a jam-packed vacation with plenty of attractions – on a shoestring.

Contributed by Eat. Travel. Photography

Trip Summary

  • Trip length and when did I go? 10 days in September 2016
  • Places visited: Colombo, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Mirissa, Unawatuna, Galle
  • How much did it cost me? MYR 1,615

At A Glance

  • Day 1 – Colombo to Dambulla. Arrival in Colombo. Took a bus from Katunayake near the airport to Kurunegala, then another bus to Dambulla. Upon arrival in Dambulla, I checked in to Lotus Tourist Inn Resort. Visited the Golden Temple and Dambulla Cave Temple in the afternoon. Overnight in Dambulla.
  • Day 2 – Sigiriya & Dambula to Kandy. Half day trip to Sigiriya, visiting Sigiriya Rock & Pidurangala Rock. Upon returning to Dambulla, I checked out from the guesthouse and took a bus to Kandy. Arrival in Kandy and stayed at Clock Inn Kandy. Overnight in Kandy.
  • Day 3 – Kandy. Full day sightseeing around Kandy, visiting Kandy Lake, Kandy viewpoint and the Temple of the Tooth to name a few. Overnight in Kandy. 
  • Day 4 – Kandy to Ella. Checked out from guesthouse and boarded the train from Kandy heading to Ella. Arrival in Ella and check-in to Spice Hut Hostel. In the afternoon, I went for a short trek to Little Adam’s Peak to watch the sunset. Overnight in Ella.
  • Day 5 – Ella. Went on a half day trek to Ella Rock. On the later part of the day, I went to Ravana falls for an afternoon dip. Overnight in Ella.
  • Day 6 – Ella to Mirissa. Visited the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge in the morning. Afterwards, I checked out and took a bus to Matara, then another bus to Mirissa. Stayed at Flora & Fauna Mirissa Guesthouse for the duration of my stay there. Overnight in Mirissa.
  • Day 7 – Mirissa. Sightseeing around Mirissa beach. Also visited other points of interest in the vicinity, such as the Mirissa fisheries harbour and Secret Beach. Overnight in Mirissa.
  • Day 8 – Mirissa to Unawatuna. Checked out from the guesthouse and took a bus to Unawatuna. Upon arrival there, I stayed at Pink Elephant Hostel in Unawatuna. Overnight in Unawatuna.
  • Day 9 – Unawatuna, Galle & Koggala. Half day trip to Galle in the morning, visiting Galle Fort. In the later half of the day, I went to Koggala beach to watch stilt fishing. Overnight in Unawatuna.
  • Day 10 – Unawatuna to Galle to Colombo. Check out from hostel and took a bus to Galle, then a train to Colombo. Upon arrival there, I went sightseeing around Colombo, visiting Pettah market, the Fort area and Galle Face Green, before heading to the airport for my flight home.

View the itinerary map and travel montage on the original post.

DAY 1

Arrival in Sri Lanka

  • 12.00 am – Arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo by flight (Malindo Air) – RM584 (return)
  • Immigration clearance. Malaysians will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to arriving in Sri Lanka. You can do it online by visiting this website, and at this point of writing, costs $35 to apply for the 30-day tourist visa. Be sure to bring along a printed copy for checking purposes upon arrival. In case they ask for proof of sufficient funds, simply produce your credit card when requested
  • Went to the currency exchange to convert some of the dollars I had into Sri Lankan rupees. There are plenty of them in the airport, just choose any one, all them offer the same rates
  • Purchased a Dialog sim card (with 4GB of data, valid for 30 days) for my use later – 1,300 rupees
  • Had supper at the airport’s cafeteria – Sweet roll & coffee (220 rupees)
  • It was still very early in the morning and since the earliest bus to Dambulla is at 6am, I decided to rest for a few hours in the airport

Arriving in Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo

Colombo to Dambulla by bus

  • There are many ways to get to Dambulla but one of the most cost-effective method is taking the bus from Katunayake to Dambulla. There are no direct buses however, so from Katunayake you need to take a bus to Kurunegala first, and from there another bus to Dambulla
  • 5.30 am – Walked from the airport to the nearby Katunayake bus station at Awariwatta (under 15 minutes). To get there, exit the airport and take a right and follow the road down for about 1km until you reach an arch. Upon reaching this arch, turn left before a row of shops and follow this road for another 150m until you reach a roundabout. Take the first left at this roundabout and follow the road until you see the bus station on your left
  • 6.00 am – Ride bus #5 (with letters ‘Katunayake – Kurunegala’) to Kurunegala – 100 rupees 
  • 8.00 am – Arrive in Kurunegala (dropped off near the Kurunegala bus station)
  • 8.15 am – 9.00 am – Photo walk around Kurunegala. Besides the Kurunegala Clock Tower and Ethagala, there honestly isn’t much to see here that is within walking distance. Had breakfast at a bakery opposite the bus station – Pastries & tea (140 rupees)
  • 9.30 am – Ride bus #48 (with letters ‘Kurunegala – Kaduruwela’) from Kurunegala bus station to Dambulla – 150 rupees

There’s no direct bus from Katunayake to Dambulla, but you can take bus #5 to Kurunegala first, then from there find another bus to Dambulla

Kurunegala in the early morning

Arrival in Dambulla

  • 11.30 am – Arrive in Dambulla (dropped off near the clock tower in the town centre)
  • Walked from the town centre to my accommodation in Dambulla (under 45 minutes). Had lunch at Sunray restaurant enroute – Rice & curry (300 rupees)
  • 1.00 pm – Check-in to Lotus Inn Tourist Resort – 1,020 rupees per night (stayed for 1 night). The place is quite nice for the price. However, due to poor ventilation, the rooms can get a bit warm and stuffy, especially in the afternoons. Furthermore, it’s a bit far away from town. On the plus side, the owner (and his wife) made every effort to ensure my stay here was a good one, and it’s within walking distance to the Golden Temple & Dambulla Cave Temple

Walking to my accommodation in Dambulla. Quite a considerable distance from town, but very close to the Golden Temple

Lotus Inn Tourist Resort, Dambulla

Golden Temple & Dambulla Cave Temple

  • 3.30 pm – Walked from the guesthouse to the Golden Temple (under 15 minutes). The stairs to Dambulla Cave Temple is located inside the Golden Temple’s compound. Both these places are free to enter. Take note that you are required to take your shoes off before entering the cave temple, there is shoe storage available near the entrance for a modest fee (25 rupees)
  • The climb to Dambulla Cave Temple isn’t too difficult and takes about 20 minutes if you’re physically fit. For a bit of motivation, the magnificent views from the top does make all that climbing worthwhile
  • 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm – Photo ops around Dambulla Cave Temple. There are a few caves with plenty of Buddha images inside, and all of them can be seen in under an hour or so. Stayed around until sunset before returning to the guesthouse
  • Had dinner at the guesthouse – Kottu roti (300 rupees)

An afternoon in the Golden Temple, Dambulla

This gigantic Buddha statue is the most striking thing you can find in the Golden Temple

Finally at the top, and the views are magnificent

There are a few caves in the area, each with its own story and ornate carvings and statues, but this one I liked the best out of all of them

DAY 2

Dambulla to Sigiriya

  • 5.45 am – Wake up
  • 6.15 am – Took a tuk tuk to Dambulla bus station (under 5 minutes) – 150 rupees
  • Based on what I’ve read, the earliest bus to Sigiriya was supposed to be at 6.30 am, but there weren’t any that day, so I had to wait until 7am for one. Bought some snacks at a shop in the bus station (50 rupees)
  • Alternatively, the guesthouse I stayed at provided a taxi service to Sigiriya and back for 1,500 rupees. Alternatively, they also rent out motorcycles for 1,000 rupees per day. Based on what I experienced, renting your own vehicle may be the way to go if you dislike walking a lot
  • 7.10 am – Ride bus #490 (with letters ‘Dambulla – Sigiriya’) from Dambulla bus station to Sigiriya – 50 rupees

Taking the local bus, the cheapest way to get to Sigiriya from Dambulla

In & Around Sigiriya

  • 7.55 am – Arrive in Sigiriya (hopped off at the bus stop in front of a dirt road that leads into Sigiriya Rock)
  • Walked from the bus stop to the entrance & ticketing area of Sigiriya Rock (under 15 minutes)
  • It’s not a very long walk, just about 1km in distance. The path is mostly flat and goes around a large moat. If you aren’t too keen on walking, you can also hire a tuk tuk to get around Sigiriya. Have been quoted 150-200 rupees to get to Sigiriya Rock, and 200-400 rupees to get to Pidurangala Rock
  • 8.10 am – Arrive at the entrance & ticketing area of Sigiriya Rock. Only viewed it from the outside as the entrance fee costs 4,200 rupees! While Sigiriya Rock does have its merits, being a UNESCO heritage site and all, I found it too touristy and too exorbitant for my liking

Hopped off at the bus stop and the first thing that comes into view is Sigiriya Rock

The moat area that surrounds Sigiriya Rock. There are a few signs that say ‘Beware of crocodiles’ planted around the moat, I’m still wondering if that’s actually true

Spotted a few black-faced macaques while making my way around Sigiriya

Pidurangala Rock

  • 8.30 am – Walked to Pidurangala Rock, not too far from Sigiriya Rock (under 25 minutes). The distance is walkable (just under 2km), however you can engage any tuk tuk to take you there for under 200 rupees if you bargain
  • 8.55 am – Arrive at the base of Pidurangala Rock. The trail head is located behind a small temple. Paid a small donation to enter – 500 rupees
  • Getting to Pidurangala Rock is quite straightforward, just follow the trail and the signs. The ascent itself isn’t too challenging and takes about 30 minutes. However, there is a bit of rock climbing you have to do towards the end so I recommend wearing proper footwear for this 
  • 9.30 am – 10.30 am – Photo ops at Pidurangala Rock. Amazing views of Sigiriya Rock and the surroundings from the top! If you are short on time and get to choose only one, I highly recommend Pidurangala over Sigiriya Rock

Finally at the top of Pidurangala Rock, and the views are breathtaking!

Further up Pidurangala Rock

Back to Dambulla

  • 10.30 am – Descend back down from Pidurangala Rock (under 15 minutes)
  • Took a tuk tuk back to the Sigiriya bus stop (under 10 minutes) – 200 rupees
  • 11.00 am – Ride a passing bus (with letters ‘Sigiriya – Dambulla’) back to Dambulla – 40 rupees
  • 11.45 am – Back in Dambulla (dropped off at Dambulla bus station). Took another tuk tuk back to the guesthouse – 150 rupees

Heading back to Dambulla

Dambulla to Kandy by bus

  • 12.15 pm – Pack up and check-out from the guesthouse
  • 12.35 pm – Ride bus #42 (any bus with letters ‘Kandy’) from Dambulla to Kandy – 98 rupees
  • It’s not necessary to board the bus at the bus station, I simply hailed it from the roadside near my guesthouse as it was passing by, just make sure you’re standing on the correct side of the road

Taking the bus again, this time to Kandy. Notice how full the bus is, I actually had to stand for an hour before eventually getting a seat

Arrival in Kandy

  • 2.45 pm – Arrive in Kandy (hopped off at the junction near my accommodation in Kandy)
  • Check-in to Clock Inn Kandy – $6.70 per night (took the capsule bed option). Stayed for 2 nights (total cost – $13.40). One of the best guesthouses I’ve stayed at in Sri Lanka, really good value for money and is within walking distance to most tourist hotspots in Kandy. Opt for the capsule beds, they’re really spacious and comfortable!
  • 4.00 pm – 7.00 pm – Didn’t really have plans for the day, so I spent some time just walking around in Kandy City Center (KCC) mall. Had dinner at the mall’s food court – Chicken tikka masala (600 rupees) & ceylon tea (200 rupees)
  • Alternatively, for your first night in Kandy, it would be a good idea to catch the Kandyan dance performance (5pm daily, costs 1,000 rupees per person). It wasn’t really my cup of tea, so I skipped it
  • 7.30 pm – Return to the guesthouse

The capsule bed I got in Clock Inn Kandy

Evening falls on Kandy

Enjoying my evening walk around Kandy

DAY 3

Pre-day

  • 7.00 am – Wake up
  • Breakfast at the guesthouse – Eggs, toast & tea (included in the room rate)

Sightseeing around Kandy

  • 8.00 am – 12.00 pm – Photo walk around Kandy, visiting the following points of interest along the way:
  • Kandy Clock Tower. One of the main landmarks in Kandy, situated next to the bus station
  • Torrington Park. Located directly across the road from where Kandy Clock Tower is. There’s a souvenir market directly below it on the lower level
  • Kandy Market Hall. A very local market, selling almost everything under the sun. Best time to visit is in the mornings to early afternoons
  • Bogambara prison. Currently, the second largest prison in Sri Lanka. Only viewed from the outside as you can’t enter 
  • Kandy Viewpoint. Located south of Kandy Lake, near Wales Park. Finding this place isn’t too difficult actually. To get here from Bogambara prison, you need to follow the road (between the prison and KCC mall) towards Kandy Lake until you reach a junction. From here, follow the small path that leads uphill until you reach a road. Turn left, then walk for another 300m until you reach the viewpoint

Going for my morning walk around Kandy. First stop, Meera Macaam mosque

Kandy Clocktower

Locals taking a shortcut through the train tracks to get to work or to school

Sightseeing around Kandy (continued)

  • Lunch at the food court in KCC Mall – Hyderabad chicken briyani (600 rupees) & ceylon tea (200 rupees)
  • 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm – Continue sightseeing around Kandy lake. There’s a small market and the Kandyan Cultural Centre (where the Kandyan dance is performed) around the northeastern part of the lake
  • Had some refreshments at Natural Coffee cafe (along Temple Street) – Strawberry shake (330 rupees)

Kandy Lake

The hill where Kandy viewpoint is, as seen from the lake


Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa)

  • 5.00 pm – 8.00 pm – Sightseeing in Temple of the Tooth. Being one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka, there’s a dress code to adhere to before being allowed entry, so be sure to dress conservatively. Paid the entrance fee – 1,500 rupees (includes free entry into the World Buddhist Museum)
  • There is quite a bit to see in the temple, so be sure to spare a few hours if you want to see the place in its entirety. The best time to visit is during puja, a religious ceremony that takes place a few times daily (the time slots are 5.30 am, 9.30 am and 6.30 pm). During puja, some areas (including the shrine which houses the tooth relic) that are normally off limits are opened to visitors
  • Dinner at License to Grill stall in Torrington Park – Torrington chicken sandwich (300 rupees) & coke (160 rupees)
  • 9.00 pm – Return to the guesthouse

The story of the tooth relic is depicted within these halls

World Buddhist museum, probably worth a visit if you have a lot of time on your hands

The beginning of puja is marked with the sound of trumpets and the banging of drums. This gets interesting for a while, however the real action is actually going on upstairs

Upstairs area where devotees are lining up and waiting fervently to enter the tooth relic shrine

DAY 4

Getting from Kandy to Ella by train

  • 6.00 am – Wake up
  • Breakfast at the guesthouse – Eggs, toast & tea (included in the room rate). Pack up and check-out from the guesthouse
  • 7.30 am – Walked from the guesthouse to Kandy railway station (under 20 minutes)
  • 8.00 am – Purchased a ticket (second class, free seating) for the 8.45am train to Ella – 240 rupees
  • Do note that train tickets (for second and third class) cannot be booked in advance. Tickets are sold at the ticket office on the day itself, so be sure to arrive at the station at least an hour before departure time to get your tickets. These tickets have no seat number and they never get sold out anyways, so it doesn’t matter how early you arrive at the station to get your tickets
  • 8.55 am – Board train departing for Ella from platform #2

Inside Kandy railway station

There was quite a bit of commotion when the train finally stops moving. Everything is a mad rush and most of the available seats (especially window seats and side doors!) get taken within minutes. It’s all free seating, remember?

The train ride from Kandy to Ella

  • The first hour or so of the train ride wasn’t that interesting, so you can sit back and just relax. The scenery got better and better after Watawala station
  • 11.15 am – Arrival at Hatton station. Hop off here if your intention is to hike up Adam’s Peak
  • The scenery after Hatton continue to be amazing. Lush tea fields as far as the eye can see all the way to Nuwara Eliya. Do keep an eye out for St. Clair’s waterfall and the surrounding panorama, about halfway to Nuwara Eliya (ideally you will want to be seated on the left for this)
  • 1.00 pm – Arrival at Nanu Oya station. Hop off here if your intention is to stay the night in Nuwara Eliya and the Horton Plains
  • After Nanu Oya, there is not a lot of good scenery, a far cry from what I saw earlier. Safe to say you won’t really miss anything, however there are some good bits closer to Haputale

The train ride from Kandy to Ella in one picture

Lush tea fields everywhere

Blink and you will miss it. Spotted St. Clair’s waterfall enroute to Nuwara Eliya

Arrival in Ella

  • 3.30 pm – Arrive in Ella (hopped off at Ella railway station). Walked from the station to my accommodation in Ella (under 5 minutes)
  • Check-in to Spice Hut Hostel – 1,300 rupees per night. Stayed for 2 nights (total cost – 2,600 rupees). Despite the good location and reviews, the accommodation was a bit rundown and the facilities provided were very basic. Therefore, I find it hard to recommend this place as it is not worth the money at all. There are better options elsewhere in Ella for more or less the same price, so I’d advise checking those first before considering this place. Negatives aside, if you don’t really mind the basic accommodation, the room and beds were clean for starters, and the hosts were quite friendly and helpful when I needed directions

The main road, where most of the cafes and restaurants in Ella are located

Settling in to Spice Hut Hostel. Not what I expected really, but it will do

Little Adam’s Peak

  • 4.00 pm – Walked from the hostel to Little Adam’s Peak (under 1 hour)
  • The trail to Little Adam’s Peak is a bit outside of town, however it is still relatively easy to locate. Simply head south down the main road, then at the main junction, follow the road eastward for 1km or so until you reach the trailhead (near Chillout Ella). Follow this trail and the signs through the tea plantation until you reach a staircase (the only hard part of this trek, fortunately it takes only 10-15 minutes to climb to the top)
  • 5.00 pm – 6.00 pm – Photo taking at the top of Little Adam’s Peak. Really impressive views of Ella Rock and the Ella Gap from up here. Stayed around until sunset before heading down and back to town

You can spot Ella Rock just about everywhere along the trail

The last bit of stairs leading up to Little Adam’s Peak

And we’re here! Little Adam’s Peak is a rather large area, you can actually walk all the way to that small hill at the end to get a better view of the Ella Gap

Back to Ella

  • 7.00 pm – Back in Ella. Given my earlier experience with Sri Lankan towns that usually winds down early, Ella was a refreshing change with plenty of eateries and nightlife to suit the backpacking niche
  • Dinner at Ella Village Restaurant – Garlic chicken with fries (799 rupees) & Lion lager (350 rupees). Hung out at the restaurant for another hour or two before returning to the hostel

Ella in the evenings

DAY 5

Getting to Ella Rock without a guide

  • 6.00 am – Wake up
  • Getting to Ella Rock can be quite confusing for first timers, however if you follow the steps I have detailed below, it’s definitely possible to do this without a guide
  • 6.30 am – Walked from the hostel towards Ella Rock. The trailhead to Ella Rock is somewhere near Kithal Ella railway station, about 2km from Ella, where you can get to by following the train tracks. The train tracks is only a little ways up the main road from the hostel I stayed at (under 5 minutes) 
  • 7.25 am – Arrive at Kithal Ella station shortly after passing a black iron bridge. Continued walking along the tracks for another 400m until I found a turn-in to a small path leading to a village (it will be on your left if you’re coming from Kithal Ella). Cross the small bridge and immediately turn left and go up the path through a tea plantation. From here, it’s fairly straightforward, continue following the path until you reach Ella Rock. If you passed by some cabanas selling food and drink and saw a lot of eucalyptus trees on the way, you know you’re going in the right direction
  • The trail to Ella Rock isn’t too difficult at first, the first half starts out on a gradual incline until you reach a forest clearing with good views of the Ella Gap. The second half is quite a difficult and sweaty climb, fortunately it only takes about 30 minutes to get to the top
  • 8.30 am – Arrive at the top of Ella Rock. Amazing views of Little Adam’s Peak and Ella, though I honestly preferred the views from Little Adam’s Peak (that’s just me though lol). 
  • There’s a small canteen set up by a local here, where you can buy bottled water if you ran out

Walking along the train tracks to Ella Rock

Kithal Ella railway station

The small bridge leading to a village just after the turn-in. To get to Ella Rock, you need to go up the small path through a tea plantation (which can clearly be seen in this picture) right after crossing the bridge

Views of Ella Gap and Little Adam’s Peak from the forest clearing

The summit of Ella Rock, we’ve finally made it!

Despite Ella Rock being hard to find and climb and all, you won’t be the only one there

Ravana Falls

  • 10.30 am – Head back down from Ella Rock using the same way I came and back to town
  • 12.30 pm – Back in Ella. Lunch at Cafe Chill – Sri Lankan curry of the day (650 rupees) & coke (130 rupees)
  • 1.30 pm – Ride a passing bus (any bus with letters ‘Wellawaya’) from Ella to Ravana falls (under 15 minutes) – 20 rupees
  • 1.50 pm – 3.50 pm – Photo taking and enjoying a cool afternoon dip at Ravana falls. There’s no entrance fee to enter the falls area

The bus I took from Ella to Ravana falls dropped me off near this bridge

Enjoying an afternoon dip at the falls

Back to Ella

  • 4.00 pm – Ride a passing bus (any bus with letters ‘Badulla’ or ‘Bandarawela’) from Ravana falls to Ella – 25 rupees
  • 4.20 pm – Back in Ella. Head back to the hostel for a well-earned nap and rest
  • Dinner at Ella Village restaurant again – Chicken burger (499 rupees) & Lion lager (350 rupees)
  • 9.00 pm – Back to the hostel

DAY 6

Demodara Nine Arch Bridge

  • 6.00 am – Wake up
  • 6.30 am – Hired a tuk tuk to take me to the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge, just under 3km outside of Ella town – 300 rupees
  • You could also go there on foot, and there are a few ways you can use to get there. One way is to follow the train tracks from Ella station going eastward for about 2km until you reach the bridge. The other way is a shortcut through the forest, however I am unsure where to turn in from the road to get to this path. Some locals told me that it’s supposedly located a little way past the turn-in to the trail to Little Adam’s Peak
  • 6.45 am – The tuk tuk dropped me off somewhere near the Nine Arch Bridge. Followed a small trail from the dropoff point to the bridge (under 5 minutes)
  • 6.50 am – 7.40 am – Photo taking around Nine Arch Bridge. Best to time your visit when there’s an oncoming train. There are usually trains crossing here a few times a day, it’s best to ask a local what these times are. In my case, there was one train at around 7am

When in Ella, don’t forget to visit the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge. It’s an architectural marvel in Sri Lanka, built entirely out of bricks and cement without a single piece of steel

If you time your visit to the Nine Arch Bridge just right, you may get a rare chance to watch a train crossing the bridge

Ella to Matara by bus

  • 7.45 am – Walked along the train tracks back to Ella from Nine Arch Bridge
  • 8.30 am – Back in Ella. Breakfast at Remo’s restaurant – Sri Lankan breakfast (450 rupees)
  • 10.00 am – Pack up and check-out from the hostel
  • 10.15 am – Ride bus #31 (with letters ‘Bandarawela – Matara’) from Ella to Matara – 250 rupees
  • There’s only one bus (#31) about every hour that goes directly from Ella to Matara. If you missed it or you’re having a hard time spotting it, alternatively you can also take any bus to Wellawaya first, and then from there bus #35 to Matara
  • 1.20 pm – Stopover at Hambantota
  • 2.30 pm – Stopover in Tangalle

Waiting for the bus to Matara. There’s a lot of buses to Wellawaya but only one or two every hour that goes directly to Matara, so keep your eyes open

The trip down the Ella Gap is a very scenic, ideally you will want to be seated on the left side to catch all the views

Another alternative to Matara from Ella is taking any bus to Wellawaya first, then bus #35 to Matara

Matara to Mirissa

  • 3.35 pm – Arrive in Matara (dropped off near the suspension bridge to Matara Paravi Duwa temple, directly opposite Matara bus station)
  • 3.40 pm – 4.30 pm – Sightseeing around Matara, visiting some of the sights there, mainly Matara beach and Paravi Duwa temple
  • 4.35 pm – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Matara – Galle’) from Matara bus station to Mirissa – 24 rupees

The suspension bridge that leads to Matara Paravi Duwa temple

Matara beach

Arrival in Mirissa

  • 5.05 pm – Arrive in Mirissa (hopped off at the bus stop near the Sun Shine Beach Inn). Walked from the bus stop to my accommodation in Mirissa (under 5 minutes)
  • Check-in to Flora & Fauna Mirissa Guesthouse – $5.50 per night. Stayed for 2 nights (total cost – $11). I highly recommend this place if you’re staying over in Mirissa, the rooms here are really nice and spacious for the price, and it’s only 50m away from the beach
  • 5.30 pm – Walked from the guesthouse to Mirissa beach (under 5 minutes) to watch the sunset
  • Dinner at Central Beach Inn restaurant (located on the beach) – Fish curry with rice (500 rupees) & Lion beer (200 rupees)
  • 9.00 pm – Return to the guesthouse

Arrival in Mirissa. The place I stayed at, Flora & Fauna Mirissa Guesthouse can be seen here

Almost sunset at Mirissa beach

One of many dining options along Mirissa beach in the evenings

DAY 7

Sightseeing around Mirissa

  • 7.30 am – Wake up
  • Breakfast at Mirissa Eye restaurant (located on the beach) – American breakfast (500 rupees)
  • 9.00 am – Walked from Mirissa beach to the Mirissa fisheries harbour (under 25 minutes). This place also serves as a dock for the whale-watching boats. There’s honestly not much to see here, other than fishing boats and fishermen going about their day to day, and the foul smells from the harbour can be a bit off-putting. You will need to pay for a gate pass to enter – 25 rupees
  • 9.40 am – Walked from the harbour to Secret Beach, a secluded beach just around the corner (under 20 minutes). Easy enough to find if you’re coming from the harbour, however you will need to get permission to enter the Weligambay Villas compound (they just let me in when I said I was headed for Secret Beach). The views of the seaside on the way is amazing though, and exploring this area is definitely well worth your time 
  • Alternatively, there is another way to get to Secret Beach without entering the harbour. Just before arriving at the gates, make a quick left turn (if you’re coming from Mirissa) into a small road that goes through a village and simply follow the signs. The path isn’t as obvious though, ask around if you’re afraid of losing your way 
  • 10.00 am – 12.20 pm – Chilling out and went for a swim at Secret Beach. The beach wasn’t as clean as I hoped, however the place is really quiet, often times you will have the whole place to yourself. Had some drinks at the Secret Beach Bar – Pineapple juice (250 rupees)
  • 12.30 pm – Walked back to Mirissa (under 30 minutes)

Breakfast time at Mirissa Eye

Fishing boats lining the wharf

Admiring this scenic bay near Weligambay Villas, on my way to Secret Beach

Enjoying my day around Secret Beach

Back in Mirissa

  • 1.00 pm – Back in Mirissa beach. Lunch at Suduweli restaurant (located on the beach) – Sri Lankan fish curry with rice (650 rupees) & coffee (200 rupees
  • 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm – Fun on the beach. The sea was quite rough during the time of my visit, however in Mirissa, it was very swimmable. Rented a bodyboard for 600 rupees (for 2 hours)
  • 6.00 pm – Walked to Parrot Rock, a small islet off the eastern side of Mirissa beach, to watch the sunset (under 5 minutes). Best time to go is during low tide, where the water is only up to your knees, low enough to traverse across to the islet 
  • Dinner at Sun Shine Beach Inn Restaurant – Seafood fried rice (700 rupees) & coke (100 rupees)
  • 9.00 pm – Return to the guesthouse

Having lunch at Suduweli restaurant

Enjoying my afternoon walk around Mirissa beach

Parrot Rock is a crowd favourite for sunsets in Mirissa. The water recedes during low tide, making it low enough to cross over to the islet

DAY 8

Mirissa to Unawatuna

  • 9.00 am – Wake up. Had breakfast at Ocean Moon restaurant (located on the beach) – Set breakfast (475 rupees)
  • 10.45 am – Pack up and check-out from the guesthouse
  • 11.00 am – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Matara – Galle’) from Mirissa to Unawatuna – 50 rupees. Alternatively, you can also take bus #2 (with letters ‘Matara – Colombo) to Unawatuna

Arrival in Unawatuna

  • 11.35 am – Arrive in Unawatuna (hopped off at the bus stop near Ridee Villa)
  • Walked from the bus stop to my accommodation in Unawatuna (under 10 minutes)
  • Initially, I was going to stay at Dreamhouse Unawatuna; unfortunately Agoda somehow managed to screw up my booking. Going to give them credit however as they were gracious enough to offer me a reimbursement. In the end, I stayed at a different place that was much closer to the beach
  • Check-in to Pink Elephant Hostel – 2,500 rupees per night (took the private room option). Stayed for 2 nights (total cost – 5,000 rupees, fully reimbursed by Agoda). Despite the good reviews, I really wouldn’t recommend this place if you’re choosing a place to stay in Unawatuna. If you had to, avoid the dorm option (one of the worst dorms I’ve seen so far) and spend a bit more on the private rooms upstairs. The hosts were friendly, albeit a bit shady. It can’t be just coincidence that there was no water from morning until 5pm every day during my stay there

Searching for accommodations in Unawatuna

The room I got in Pink Elephant Hostel

In & Around Unawatuna

  • 4.00 pm – 6.00 pm – Sightseeing and photo taking along Unawatuna beach until sunset. The beach is nothing to shout about, and is a bit too over-commercialized for my liking. Some would argue that Hikkaduwa has a better beach, however Unawatuna is a better base for day trips to Galle and Koggala, due to its proximity to these places
  • Dinner at Koko’s Beach Bar & Grill – Fish & chips (900 rupees) & coke (150 rupees)
  • 9.00 pm – Return to the hostel

Strolling along Unawatuna beach

A pagoda on the far west end of the beach

Day turns to night and the Pink Elephant Hostel turns into a rather lively bar serving drinks and hookah

There are more dining options along the beach, however like many of the beach destinations in Sri Lanka, the menu prices are disgustingly overpriced

DAY 9

Half day trip to Galle

  • 7.00 am – Wake up
  • 7.20 am – Walked from the hostel to Unawatuna bus stop (under 10 minutes from Unawatuna, walk along Welle Dewalaya road until you reach the main road, then turn left and walk another 50m to the bus stop)
  • 7.35 am – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Matara – Galle’) from Unawatuna to Galle – 20 rupees
  • 7.45 am – Arrive in Galle (dropped off at Galle bus station, within walking distance to Galle Railway station and Galle Fort)
  • Walked from the bus station to Galle Fort (under 5 minutes). Entrance to the fort is free.
  • 8.00 am – 12.20 pm – Sightseeing around Galle Fort. There’s quite a bit to see here, so I took my time. Visited the clock tower, the ramparts and the lighthouse
  • Late breakfast at Anura’s Cafe (inside Galle Fort) – Chocolate cake (250 rupees) & iced latte (400 rupees)

Main gate and entrance into Galle Fort

Galle Clock Tower, located on the northern ramparts

The southern ramparts and Galle Lighthouse

Side trip to Koggala Beach

  • 12.30 pm – Walked from Galle fort back to the bus station (under 5 minutes)
  • 12.45 pm – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Galle – Matara’) from Galle to Koggala – 40 rupees
  • 1.20 pm – Arrive in Koggala (hopped off at the bus stop near Koggala train station). Walked from the bus stop to Koggala Beach Park (under 5 minutes)
  • Lunch at a beachside stall in Koggala Beach Park – Rice & curry (150 rupees)
  • 2.00 pm – 5.45 pm – Photo walk around Koggala beach. Despite claims of it being one of the longest beaches in Sri Lanka, it feels a lot smaller due to the fact that many parts of it have been developed with hotels (that are built right up to the sea, so there’s not much beach left). There is a larger beach further west down the road.
  • The main draw to Koggala is stilt fishing, a traditional method of fishing unique to Sri Lanka. However, I couldn’t help feeling cheated and a little disappointed, as the place was more of a tourist trap than the real deal. Koggala is still worth coming for the beach alone though 

Koggala Beach Park

The eastern end of Koggala Beach

Stilts in the water

Fishermen on stilts. Too bad they’re not real fishermen who are doing this for a living

Back to Unawatuna

  • 5.50 pm – Walked from Koggala Beach Park to the nearby bus stop (under 5 minutes)
  • 6.00 pm – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Matara – Galle’) from Koggala back to Unawatuna – 20 rupees
  • 6.15 pm – Back in Unawatuna (hopped off at the bus stop near Ridee Villa)
  • Walked from the bus stop back to the hostel (under 10 minutes)

DAY 10

Unawatuna to Galle to Colombo

  • 7.00 am – Wake up. Had breakfast at Full Moon Restaurant (located on the beach) – Western breakfast (700 rupees)
  • 9.40 am – Pack up and check-out from the hostel
  • Walked from the hostel to Unawatuna bus stop (under 10 minutes)
  • 10.00 am – Ride bus #350 (with letters ‘Matara – Galle’) from Unawatuna to Galle – 20 rupees
  • 10.15 am – Arrive in Galle (dropped off near Galle bus station). Walked from the bus station to Galle Railway Station (under 5 minutes)
  • Purchased a ticket (second class, free seating) for the 10.55am train to Colombo – 180 rupees
  • 11.00 am – Board train departing for Colombo from platform #1

My train to Colombo arrives

In & Around Colombo

  • 1.20 pm – Arrive in Colombo (hopped off at Colombo Fort railway station). Stored my luggage at the cloak room inside the station – 56 rupees (for one small bag)
  • 2.00 pm – 5.20 pm – Walking tour of Colombo, visited the following points of interest along the way:
  • Pettah market. Located only minutes away, across the road from Colombo Fort. Not a very interesting place if you aren’t much of a shopper. Keep an eye out for the Khan Clock Tower, an important landmark in the area (it’s kind of hard to miss as you will pass it anyway on your way to the Fort area)
  • Fort area. The central business district in Colombo. Plenty of well-preserved colonial buildings in the area, namely the Old Colombo Lighthouse, Old Dutch Hospital and the Old Parliament Building. Did some last minute shopping for souvenirs at Laksala
  • Galle Face Green. A municipal park by the sea. There’s a beach but it’s really nothing to shout about, there’s lots of street food here though. Great place to spend your afternoons at. Had a quick snack here while enjoying the sea breeze – Seafood wadey (150 rupees)
  • 5.30 pm – Walked back from Galle Face Green to Colombo Fort railway station (under 20 minutes)

Signboard filled street at Pettah Market

Cargill’s Building in Fort, Colombo

Old Parliament Building

Wadeys, a very common street food at Galle Face Green

Colombo to Bandaranaike International Airport

  • 5.50 pm – Back in Colombo Fort railway station. Retrieved my luggage at the cloak room
  • Walked from Colombo Fort to Pettah bus stop across the road (under 5 minutes)
  • 6.05 pm – Ride bus #187 (with letters ‘Fort – Airport’) from Pettah to Katunayake – 100 rupees
  • 7.30 pm – Arrive in Katunayake (hopped off at the turn-in just before the airport arch)
  • Walked from the dropoff point to the airport (under 10 minutes)
  • 7.40 pm – Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport for my midnight flight back home. Changed all my remaining rupees back to dollars at the currency exchange
  • 12.25 am (next day) – Board flight (Malindo) back to Kuala Lumpur

Pettah bus stop, located directly opposite the street from Colombo Fort station

Waiting for my flight back home

Trip Cost & Expenses

How much did it cost me?

  • In local currency: LKR 56,512
  • Conversion rate (at the time): MYR 1 = LKR 35, $1 = LKR 140
  • After conversion: MYR 1,615 (for 10 days)

About Author

Garrett Aeria
Garrett Aeria

There are three things that Garrett absolutely loves about life: Eat, Travel and Photography, which are all perfectly summed up in his travel blog's moniker. Ever since being bitten by the travel bug, Eat. Travel. Photography represents his way of chronicling his life's journeys and sharing his enthusiasm with the world.

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