The ideal route for your 3-week Sri Lanka impact trip
- Travel to make a positive impact
- Visit Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka
- Discover the secrets Sri Lankan cuisine
- Rainforests, national parks, tea plantations and beaches
During your visit to Sri Lanka you will discover the beauty and diversity of this island. You’ll visit our Sri Lankan travel expert Sanjeewani’s favourite places. You will look for wild animals in Wilpattu, from leopards to bears to crocodiles. You’ll travel to the north of Sri Lanka, where you will get to know the Hindu culture and the friendly Tamils. In Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa you will see centuries-old temples of Buddhist culture. In Kandy the hostess of your homestay can teach you how to prepare the most delicious Sri Lankan recipes. You’ll take a beautiful train journey through the mountains, past tea plantations and forests. In Wellawaya you might even see elephants walk by past your hotel room! You’ll spend the night in the rainforest and end your Sri Lanka holiday by relaxing on the beach in Tangalle. Excited to visit Sri Lanka and make an impact?
Find out how our local travel expert can help you design your ideal trip
What is impact travel?
Better Places Travel is a social enterprise and certified B Corp. This means that we are committed to making a social impact above making a profit. As a social enterprise we find it important that the people in the countries we work with fully profit from tourism. This means, for example, that the people we work with receive a fair wage and have decent working hours and conditions. For you as traveller it means you’ll often stay in small-scale, locally owned hotels and accommodations and take part in local excursions that offer you a truly authentic experience. We also invest a portion of our profits in various social and environmental projects.
Route Sri Lanka Impact Trip
- Day 1-2 Negombo: fishing village with colonial influences
- Day 2-4 Wilpattu: go on safari and look for leopards, crocodiles, bears and other wildlife
- Day 5-7 Jaffna: discover the Tamil culture in the north of Sri Lanka
- Day 8-10 Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa: discover centuries-old Buddhist temples, statues and palaces
- Day 11-12 Kandy: the Temple of the Tooth, botanical garden and cooking workshop
- Day 13 Kitulgala: go rafting or go on a boat tour and spend the night in a tree house
- Day 14-16 Ella: take a beautiful train journey and hike through the tea plantations
- Day 17-19 Wellawaya: see elephants walk by from your room window
- Day 19 Sinharaja: spend the night in the rainforest and fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle
- Day 20-22 Tangalla: relax on the beaches of this lovely town
- Day 23: End of your vacation in Sri Lanka
Share your travel wishes with Sanjeewani and she will send you a tailor-made proposal
Day 1 – Start your Sri Lanka impact trip – arrival in Colombo and departure to Negombo
After arrival at the airport in Colombo you will be picked up and taken to your hotel in nearby Negombo. Today you’ll have time to recover from your flight. You can walk to the beach and try the seafood here. There is crab, prawns and much more! A relaxed and tasty start to your Sri Lanka trip.
Day 2 – Negombo – city tour and boat tour
After breakfast, our local guide will take you to discover Negombo. In this fishing town there are many Catholic churches that were built during the Portuguese occupation. This is why it’s sometimes called “Little Rome”. There are also canals that were built by the Dutch to foster trade in herbs and spices. In the afternoon you can take a boat ride through the canals flanked by coconut palms on each side.
Day 3 – to Wilpattu National Park
Today you’ll go to Wilpattu National Park. This park is not as mainstream as other ones in Sri Lanka, yet is the largest and oldest national park of Sri Lanka. The name of the park means lake and, as the name suggests, it has an abundance of them. These lakes attract all kinds of animals. There are also vast swamps and forests. You will stay at a comfortable hotel at the edge of the park. In the afternoon you can go on a beautiful hike through the wilderness.
Day 4 – Safari in Wilpattu National Park
Safari time! Early in the morning is the best time to spot animals. During your trip you have the chance to see leopards, wild elephants, sloths, water buffalo, monkeys, dear, pythons and crocodiles. In Wilpattu you can also find more than 200 species of birds. For example, you can spot the white ibis and the spoonbill. Wilpattu may be far less popular than Yala National Park but this is a good thing. This means you’ll actually feel like you’re on safari and in nature without being surrounded by thousands of tourists.
Day 5 – to Jaffna
After breakfast you’ll travel to Jaffna, a city to the outer north of Sri Lanka. On the way you’ll stop at Mihintale, a monastery in the mountains. Buddhism was introduced in Sri Lanka in this monastery by emperor Ashoka. You have to climb 1800 steps to reach the monastery, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views from the top of the rock. Jaffna is the northernmost city in Sri Lanka. The people who live here are called Tamils, and they are Hindus originally from southern India. It’s interesting to see the differences between this area and the rest of Sri Lanka, which is predominantly Buddhist. Up until the end of the civil war in 2009 Jaffna was unreachable for tourists and it’s now still considered an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destination. Here you’ll stay in a lovely boutique hotel. The northern region of the island is a must-see when you visit Sri Lanka.
Day 6 – Jaffna
Today you’ll explore Jaffna. You’ll visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple, a beautiful Hindu temple that was built in the 10th century and is dedicated to the god Skanda. You’ll also visit star-shaped Fort Jaffna. This fort was built by the Portuguese, but in 1658 it was taken over by the Dutch United East India Company. Many Dutch influences are still visible.
Day 7 – Nainativu island and Point Pedro
Today you’ll explore the surrounding area of Jaffna. In the morning you’ll take the local ferry to the island of Nainativu. On the island you can see the Buddhist temple Nagadeepa and the Hindu temple Naga Pooshani. Both temples were frequently visited during the civil war, as the island was a kind of peaceful oasis. At the Naga Pooshani Temple you’ll discover that Hinduism plays a central role in the life of the Tamils. In the afternoon you’ll visit Sri Lanka’s Point Pedro, the northernmost point of the island. There you’ll meet local fishermen, explore the untouched northern coast, the beach and the large number of lagoons.
Day 8 – to Sigiriya
After breakfast the driver will be waiting to take you to Sigiriya. On the way you’ll stop at the village of Avukana, home of the highest and best-preserved Buddha statue in the world, which carved from one single rock. In the afternoon you’ll arrive in Sigiriya. At night you can choose to visit the Ayurveda doctor for a consultation, after which he will prescribe an Ayurveda massage tailored to your personal needs.
Day 9 – Polonnaruwa
It’s a short drive to temple town Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The temples are well preserved and give a good view of the glory days of Sri Lanka. By bike you’ll go to the different temples and statues. “Must-sees” are the beautiful temples of the Quadrangle and the enormous granite Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara.
Day 10 – climbing of Sigiriya Rock and safari in Minneriya National Park
In the morning, before it gets too hot, you’ll climb Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your guide will show you the gardens, the natural caves and the interesting cave paintings on your way to the top. Once at the top he’ll show you the ruins of the old royal palace. Sigiriya was the domain of the King Kashyapa who wanted to build an impregnable fortress with a heavenly palace inside. In the afternoon you have the option to go on a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park. Here you can spot elephants and other wildlife. In July and August the largest gathering of Asian Elephants in the world takes place in this national park, so don’t miss it!
Day 11 – To Kandy
Today you’ll visit Sri Lanka’s most cultural city, the city of Kandy, which is also the second largest city of Sri Lanka and the last kingdom of the old Sri Lanka. Kandy was conquered by the British in 1815. On the way you’ll stop at the Dambulla Cave Temple, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dambulla is located on a magma rock of 150 metres high, meaning it’s a short half hour hike to the top. There are 5 rock temples with stunning murals and countless rock-carved Buddhas. Another stop you can make on the way is at a herbal garden where you can learn all there is to know about herbs and spices in Sri Lanka.
Day 12 – Kandy – visit to the botanical garden and Temple of the tooth
In the morning you’ll visit Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of Kandy. During this visit to Sri Lanka’s largest botanical garden you will find over 500 types of trees and plants, including orchids, a medicinal herbal garden and a huge Javan fig tree. You’ll also visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which claims to be home to the temple of the Buddha’s tooth. During the Pooja ceremony you’ll witness the enormous devotion of the pilgrims. In the evening we’ll take you on a street food tour where you can experience the local cuisine.
Day 13 – To Kitulgala
You will drive to Kitulgala, a beautiful spot on the Kelani river. Did you know that the Oscar-winning war movie “Bridge over the River Kwai,” which is set in Thailand, was filmed here? You’ll spend the night in a tree house,which is an amazing experience! Adrenaline junkies have the option to go rafting. If you’d rather do something a bit quieter you can opt for a peaceful boat tour or a walk in nature.
Day 14 – Visit a tea factory and take the train to Ella
Today you will go on an amazing train ride through the mountains, forests and tea plantations. You will travel to the town of Nanu Oya, where you will first visit a tea plantation. During the tour you will learn all about the production of tea and also get to taste the tea. Afterwards you will get on the train for an impressive journey with stunning views along the way. The train winds its way through the mountains, into forests and past tea plantations. You will get out in Ella and be brought to your homestay. Your friendly host family will give you a warm welcome and make sure you feel right at home. From the veranda at your homestay you’ll have an amazing view of the valley.
Day 15 – to the end of the world at Horton Plains
Early in the morning you will be brought to Horton Plains National Park. Horton Plains is a unique national park that is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its unique landscape and wildlife. You will hike for about three hours. The hike will take you to World’s End, a beautiful view point looking out over the plains. In the afternoon you can relax in Ella. Watch the sunset from one of the many cafes in town or from your own veranda.
Day 16 – hike through the tea plantations
Today you’ll walk through the tea plantations. The local guide will tell you all about the surrounding area and the lives of the tea pickers. In the afternoon you can once more enjoy the magnificent views from your veranda.
Day 17: to Wellawaya – visit to the Rawana waterfall and jungle walk
Today you will get to experience yet another aspect of Sri Lankan wildlife. You will drive to a rural farm near Wellawaya. On the way you will stop at the Rawana waterfall, one of the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. The last part to the farm is by jeep through the jungle. You will go on a jungle walk around the farm. During the walk you can spot elephants and other wildlife. At night you can enjoy a barbecue and the campfire while listening to jungle sounds in the background.
Day 18: Wellawaya – canoe trip and safari
If you’re up for it then you can pick your own vegetables and fruit for your lunch today. Afterwards you will go on a beautiful canoe trip in which you can try to catch your own fish. In the afternoon you’ll go on a safari in the area surrounding the farm where you can spot many wild animals and birds.
Day 19 – safari in Udawalawe National Park and to the rainforest in Sinharaja
In the early morning you will go by jeep to Udawalawe National Park. The jungle of Udawalawe is famous for its large population of elephants. You can also spot deer, buffalo and many different species of birds here. Afterwards your safari the driver will take you to the rainforest in Sinharaja. Sinharaja is on the UNESCO World Heritage list due to the many types of indigenous plants and animals. In the late afternoon you can go on a short hike through the rainforest.
Day 20 – walk through the rainforest and to the beach in Tangalle
Again an early day! But this time you will go birdwatching. You will look for a few of the 22 endemic species of birds that live in the Sinharaja Rainforest. If you’re lucky you will see the beautiful blue magpie. After the walk you will head to Tangalle where it’s time to relax! The beaches of Tangalle are perfect for this.
Day 21 and 22 – beachside relaxation in Tangalle
After a trip filled with new impressions and experiences it’s time to actually relax. After all, that is also why you chose to visit Sri Lanka. The lovely beaches of Tangalle are the perfect place for this. You can go on a beautiful walk on the beach, read a book by the swimming pool and enjoy some fresh fruit juice or freshly caught fish.
Day 23 – End of your Sri Lankan holiday, to the airport via Galle
Unfortunately, your visit to Sri Lanka has come to an end. You will be taken to the airport in Colombo. On the way you will make a stop in Galle. Galle is a beautiful fortified city originally built by the Portuguese, then taken over by the Dutch and completely rebuilt. After your visit you will be taken to the airport for your flight back home.
Sri Lanka Road Trip:
Hybrid Cars & Private Drivers
During this trip you’ll be travelling by car with an English-speaking driver. If you’re travelling with 2 people you will have a hybrid car, as this significantly decreases your carbon footprint! Your driver is also your guide, and can give you in-depth information about Sri Lanka. You will have the freedom to stop wherever you like for a photo or a coffee break, for example. These are only some of the advantages of travelling with your own driver. Read more
Vegetarian Food in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, you’ve got many options for vegetarian food. There are delicious vegetarian curries and vegetarian snacks available. Make sure to try the hopper pancake! Read more.
Cooking in Kandy
Rukshana and her husband Kolitha are originally from Colombo. They were proper city folk, until 20 years ago when they decide to radically change their lives and move to the countryside. “We wanted to live in nature and have more contact with the people. That is sometimes difficult in a large, impersonal city.” They traded in their city life for a piece of land in the mountains of Sri Lanka. They built their own house and now they give cooking and painting classes to tourists. Read more.
Train ride through green hills
The train ride from Nanu Oya to Ella is one of the highlights of visiting Sri Lanka. The train takes you through green hills dotted with tea plantations, wild forests and mountains. The scenery is absolutely amazing. Locals also frequently ride this train to get from A to B or to sell their drinks and snacks in the aisles. Their friendliness makes it easy to strike up a conversation and get to know the locals. All this makes for a cosy and beautiful train ride. Your visit to Sri Lanka is not complete without taking this train! Read more
A homestay is the ideal way to experience the hospitality of the Sri Lankan people. Anil, Danu and their daughter Inama welcome you to their modest hillside house in Ella. Even Tabi the family dog welcomes his guests with excited barking. “It might sound a bit strange but Tabi does not like luggage. But once the bags are out of sight, he will be your best friend,” Anil explains. Read more
Meet the tea pickers
Under the guidance of a local guide, you will stroll through the tea plantations and get to know the tea pickers. The guide will show you his favourite spots in the area and tell you about the daily life of the workers. This tour is organized by I Like Local. To keep these excursions as authentic as possible the activities have to meet certain criteria, such as being small-scale, personal and profitable for the locals. Read more
The Kingdom Ecolodge
Sleep in the heart of the wilderness in an open room built out of mud and palm leaves. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see elephants walking by your room! All the material used to build this lodge comes directly from the land. The walls are made of mud, the beams from fallen trees and the roof out of woven palm leaves. Electricity is supplied by solar panels and rainwater is used to water the land. The water for the shower is pumped from a well in front of the house. The food is home cooked and is prepared with as much own-produced ingredients as possible. What they don’t produce themselves, they trade with the locals. Read more
A special meal
Better Places Travel works together with Resirest. Via Resirest you can have dinner with a local family at their house. This is an ideal way to authentically experience the local culture. Homemade food is always more special than in a restaurant, and dining at local people’s homes gives you a unique insight into Sri Lanka’s cuisine, culture and way of life. For the host family it’s also a fun way to meet tourists and to increase their income. With each meal, 85% of the sum paid to Resirest goes directly to the host. Read more
Share your travel wishes with Sanjeewani and she will send you a tailor-made proposal
Sustainable Development Goals
At the end of 2015, the United Nations set up 17 global goals to bring an end to poverty, inequality and climate change: the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals set guidelines to make the world a better place for everyone. At Better Places Travel, we believe that by travelling in a responsible way, tourism can make the world a better place. The great thing about responsible travel? Making the world a better place is goes hand-in-hand with making memories and having unique and authentic travel experiences. Want to know how you can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals while travelling? Click here to learn more.
Book a Direct Flight
By booking a direct flight you significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of your trip. And that’s just one of the many reasons to choose for a non-stop flight. Read more
We strive to make all our trips plastic-free by 2020. This means no more use of single-use plastic bottles. As a traveller you will on average use 15 water bottles per person in one week! This leads to a large amount of plastic waste, which unfortunately often ends up in the sea. Have a look at our many practical tips on how to reduce your plastic waste while travelling. Read more
Better Places Travel compensates the CO2 emissions of your entire trip, including the international flight you book separately. We use an award-winning carbon calculator to accurately compensate for all parts of your trip. We do this by investing in a Gold Standard project for efficient cooking appliances in Ghana. Read more