To be honest, I was quite apprehensive about planning a trip to Sri Lanka in the rainy season. But the more I read about it online, the more hooked I became as website after website recommended it in every season, including rainy. This was a family holiday, so the onus of searching for things to do, planning and creating an itinerary that also kept my husband and our 9-year-old son entertained, fell on me. Judging by the smiles and laughter along the way, I think I did pass with flying colours.
Depending on your interests, Sri Lanka has lots to offer. Lush green hills, tea estates, waterfalls, religious places, heritage sites (though we left the cultural triangle for our next visit), wildlife and jungle experiences, beautiful and stunning beaches and much more. Here is a 10-Day Itinerary for Sri Lanka with Kids based on our travel experience.
Day 1: Colombo
We flew into Colombo and spent the night, leaving the sightseeing for the return trip.
Day 2, 3 & 4: Ella
A very scenic drive from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya
We hired a chauffeur driven car for our 10-day trip and it was a wise decision, one I would highly recommend. The journey from Colombo to Ella Via Nuwara Eliya is long but scenic. We crossed lovely tea gardens and waterfalls on our way (the journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a delight). Even though the distance is just 230 kms, the driver drove at 45 km/h. “Safety first”, he said, when I asked him to drive faster, silencing me for the trip.
When you are out with kids, the first thing you need for the trip to go smoothly is a happy and busy kid. Ella offered plenty of fun opportunities for our son. While planning the trip to Sri Lanka, I couldn’t decide between Ella Jungle Resort and 98 Acres for our stay, so we decided to split our stay between the two.
Ella Jungle Resort offers an amazing experiental stay. A stay here is probably what paradise must feel like; imagine waking up to the sound of a river flowing just outside your room. To get to the resort, you need to park your vehicles outside and use the resort transportation – a jeep – to reach inside. There’s also a small stretch of 400 meters that must be crossed in a cable car, offering further excitement to the kids. Our son exclaimed that our adventure had started even before we reached the actual resort.
Spread over 200 acres, Ella Jungle Resort has beautiful rooms overlooking the Kirindi Oya River. There are several activities offered here – waterfall adventures, high rope course, low rope course, zipper line, toddy tapper’s walk and monkey rope – all thrilling experiences available right on the resort premises. The activities are all assisted to give reassurance to nervous parents (like your’s truly).
There are 5 waterfalls inside the resort, we trekked 50 minutes to one of them. While we were at it, we also did some rock climbing and diving. (More on Ella Jungle Resort soon).
Sad as we were when out stay here ended, we were also excited to move on from the fabulous experiential stay at Ella Jungle Resort to a luxury stay at 98 Acres Resort and Spa. Pure luxury, the resort boasts of spacious rooms, a delightful restaurant and a pool. Add to that the exquisite country side, breathtaking views and exciting nature trails, and you’ve got the recipe for a memorable stay.
Day 5: Yala
As we got ready to trade the luxury at 98 Acres for a Wildlife Safari and stay at Cinnamon Wild Yala, we remembered that none of us had been to a safari before. Needless to say, Yala was something we were eagerly looking forward to and it did not disappoint. Yala combines a conservative nature reserve with a national park. The park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands, tanks and lagoons.
Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammals and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted deer, peacocks and crocodiles.
We were lucky enough to spot several animals – we saw elephants, peacocks, deer, wild boars, crocodiles, numerous birds and, last but not the least, a leopard. Sighting a leopard was the most important thing on my son’s list and having seen one raised the success rating of our trip, ensuring that we did not have to bear a petulant kid for the rest of the trip.
Days 6 & 7: Tangalle
Next up, a Beach Stay at Mandala Villas in Tangalle, South Sri Lanka. Mandala Villas is a great choice if you want to get away from the crowds. This boutique property lies next to a quiet beach in a protected corner of the island. The nearly-deserted beach with lovely green waters was a treat for us. This wonderful property that is run by Russians offers only 5 spacious villas and everything was just perfect.
Also worth a mention is the huge infinity pool, right next to the ocean, which together translated into oodles of family fun. As it was high tide in South Sri Lanka, we played hours at end with the waves and I just can’t explain how surreal the experience was. Standing on the beach waiting for the next wave to roll in is an experience refreshing and serene, one that reminds you of the joy the little things can bring.
Days 8 & 9: Hikkaduwa & Bentota via Galle
We decided to take the coastal route from Tangalle back to Colombo, and stop en-route at Galle, Hikkaduwa and Bentota. The coastal drive is beautiful and affords spectacular views along the way.
The town of Galle, with a interesting history, definitely deserves a visit. Founded in the 16th century, Galle was overtaken by Portuguese seamen washed ashore by a storm. The Dutch took over in 1640, and in the 18th century, the British arrived and took over the fortified city that the Dutch had built. Today the Galle Fort is still alive and vibrant. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus sees a fair amount of tourist traffic.
Also worth a visit is the Sea Turtle Hatchery Centre Mahamodara, in Galle. Word of warning – there are several turtle hatcheries (and other animal tourism) in Sri Lanka that unfortunately, do not follow ethical practices. Please do your research and visit an ethical one – a quick TripAdvisor search should do it. At Sea Turtle Hatchery Mahamodara, you can see rescued and rehabilitated turtles being well cared for. We also got to see lots of baby turtles, the babies and recovered turtles are released back into the sea. We had a great chat with the lady who runs the place, she seemed passionate and genuinely interested in the well-being of the turtles.
We stayed the night at Villa Saffron, a lovely boutique hotel in Hikkaduwa. If you’re into water-spots, you can also choose to halt or stay at Bentota. Depending on when you travel, whale-watching is a popular activity as well. You can choose to do it at Mirissa near Galle but we didn’t get to because of the high-tide.
Day 10: Colombo
On our last day in Sri Lanka, we drove back to Colombo, where we visited Barefoot and the Noritake factory outlet. Barefoot is a multi-designer experience that spans not just apparel, lifestyle goods and crafts, but also engages you with musicians and artists. Noritake, on the other hand, is renowned the world over for its fine tableware. Though the kids might not be too fascinated with all of this, but you could indulge yourself in these guilty pleasures before you leave this wonderful island country.
If you ask me what our favourite thing to do on the trip was, well, to each their own. While my top pick would be the stay and experiences at Mandala Villas, Tangalle; my husband was awed more by Ella Jungle Resort. As for my son, it really was a no-brainer — The Yala Safari with the leopard sighting!
Know Before you Go:
- Taxi drivers and tour guides in Sri Lanka will often push you to visit places where they get a commission from. We were told by the turtle Hatchery that our driver called them and asked them to charge for our son (kids are normally free) and pass that commission on to him. The driver also took us to a couple of other places which we did not like, I later realised the reason. I would recommend you do your research well and make a list of places you’d like to visit instead of letting the guide/driver run the show. You can always tip them handsomely.
- The service levels and standards wherever we stayed were impeccable.
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Punya is a Financial Advisor by profession and a die-hard traveller at heart. She loves getting into the local mould whilst partaking in off-beat adventures during her travels.