Most travellers to the island tend to focus on the south of the country, with its hippie towns and coastal beauty. However, there’s plenty more to see North, and East of the island. Whether you’ve got weeks to travel, or just a few days, you can travel Sri Lanka on a budget without feeling exhausted, with some good planning.
For example: Colombo – Wilpattu National Park– Anuradhapura – Trincomalee – Sigiriya – Dambulla – Colombo. This route is totally doable within 5 days and covers North-West, East and central parts of the island.
With this itinerary, you can travel to Willpattu National Park, roughly 169.4 km north of Colombo, and head out on a safari early morning (hopefully catching sight of leopards, elephants and bears); before heading 38.7 km east to the city of Anuradhapura, where you can explore the ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before settling in at one of the Anuradhapura hotels like Yoho Diamond Lake Tourist Rest.
From Anuradhapura, travel 107.8 km to the east coast city of Trincomalee. Explore the ancient Koneswaram temple and Dutch fort, or go swimming at a Trincomalee beach. The city is full of affordable hotels like Yoho Allas Garden, so you can spend at least two days here, chilling near the beach. From Trincomalee – travel west 98.8 km to Sigiriya, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and climb the ancient fortress. Once you’re done at Sigiriya. You can stop over at Dambulla, 16.6 km away, to refresh yourself and grab some lunch before heading back to Colombo.
This of course is just one of many options – If you’re keen on seeing more of the North, try to fit Jaffna in your plan: Colombo – Jaffna – Trincomalee – Sigiriya -Dambulla – Kandy – Colombo
If you’re short on time, a quicker route would be the following: Colombo – Bentota – Galle Fort – Mirissa – Tangalle – Tissa – Nuwara Eliya – Kandy – Colombo. This route sticks to the southern coast before heading into the hill country and then back to Colombo.
You can easily travel between any of these destinations by hired taxi, train or bus; however, you’d definitely save more with public transport, plus, as long as you’ve got a good understanding of the locations you’re visiting, or at least Google Maps, you should be fine.
Few things to keep in mind
Accommodation – Once you head out of the city and further inland, finding hostels can be difficult, but there are plenty of small hotels and guest house like Yoho Atawarahena Road, which means you can meet and get help from knowledgeable locals.
Plan according to the season – Monsoon showers can vary from a light shower to torrential downpours and that is seriously not something you want to be travelling through. In addition, if you’re hiking, do plan around the weather to ensure a fun and SAFE trip.
Go North to avoid the crowds – Sri Lanka’s Northern province is ideal for those who like to explore the beaten path. Unlike the southern coast, which is primarily where most travellers go, the North province remains largely ignored, and thus, perfect if you want some peace and quiet.
For those wondering, Part I of this article is over here.