Hello, i am trying to plan a week, possible stretch to 10 days vacation in Sri Lanka. What is an absolute must to see and does anyone have tips for accommodation cheap-mid scale as well as transportation around the country? Bus, train, rent a car? Thanks for your help!
Here are some quick notes. I've been away for almost 10 years, therefore I may not know the latest on certain things such as renting a car, new restaurants, etc. But I'll continue to update this answer as I gather more information. Therefore, feel free to look for more updates on this answer.
Sri Lanka is a tropical country, and you'll be sweating most of the time. I'd recommend renting a car to save more time. Also you'll have the luxury of visiting many cities. Take a look at the following sites,
Kandy: It's the second largest city in the island, and it was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka.
Nuwara Eliya: I personally like this "hill-country" city for many reasons. The weather is much cooler there, and also you'll see the lush greenary in every angle. The city has some of the famous tea plantations in the world. The town comes alive April during the "Sinhala & Tamil New Year" festival. But finding accommodation can be difficult during that time of the year.
Anuradhapura: It's the capital of north central province of Sri Lanka, and it's one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. It's famous for well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also it's one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. There are many places to visit from this place.
Dambulla has the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.
Galle: This fisherman's city is located at the southern-west tip of the island. It's famous for numerous beaches as well as wild life reserves.
Arugam Bay: I'm yet to go to this city, but I've heard so many good things about it. Specially if you like surfing, then you should not miss this place.
Negombo: This is another fishermen's city. It's the closest beach town from the airport.
Trincomalee: This city is situated at the east cost of Sri Lanka. Since it's a bit far from the majority of the population, you'll find clean beaches down here.
Mentioned in this answer:
I was in Sri Lanka last year for 4 weeks and my absolute favorite place was Galle.
Very historical old town with a nice bohemian vibe to it and lot's of good places to eat.
Kandy was another place i found really nice.
Lovely mountain town with historical buildings scatterd around a lake.
My favorite beach town was Trincomalee in the north east of the island.
Very nice beaches and a good spot for diving aswell.
When i was there i travelled around the island by bicycle so i can't say too much about public transport, but i notied that many other foreigners hired a car with a driver and that seemed to be a good and not too expensive option.
Arugam Bay, along the south coast, Weligama, even Galleis interesting. To get from Colombo across to Arugam Baytakes 8 hours with a driver, cost is about $80-$100 the most expensive thing you will do in Sri Lanka but WELL worth it, They stop for lunch and you get to see the countryside going across including some of the tea plantations, have fun.
You have to go to Nuwara Eliya!!! It's sooo beautiful! And if you like hiking you should walk up during the night to be there when the sun goes up. But you won't be alone, it was hard to get up because of all the locals have the same thoughts so start early!
Mentioned in this answer:
I've never been to Sri Lanka, but I have friends who did for a round-the-world trip some years back. They had a driver there who they said was one of the highlights of their whole trip.
Details of their experience with this driver (and his contact info) is here:
Some pretty amazing tips there.