Narrowing down Sri Lanka’s Top Six Day Tour itinerary options

by | Jan 31, 2023

Visiting Sri Lanka on business? Need to base yourself in Colombo or Galle during your visit to Sri Lanka? Owing to the wide variety of natural beauty on this paradise island, you still have the opportunity to explore much of the country via day tours from your base point. In fact, the recent upgrade to the infrastructure and expansion of highways in Sri Lanka, has helped in curtailing the travel time to many far away destinations.

After taking into consideration certain factors such as the popularity of the attractions, its cultural importance, and the distance to be travelled, Blue Lanka Tours has carefully selected six of the most suitable one-day excursions that are possible in Sri Lanka. The tourism industry is seeing an upward trend in inquiries for one-day trips and we hope this article will enlighten you on the same.

Top Twelve

To help understand how we have narrowed down the options, here is a list of the top 12 most popular one day excursions in Sri Lanka (in no particular order).

Destination Travel Time from Colombo Start time from Colombo
Colombo city tour Full tour takes about 8 hours including stops At your convenience
Wilpattu National Park 4 hours 5.00am
Kandy: Temple, Lake, Botanical Gardens 3 hours 5.00am
Galle Fort, beach, maritime museum, lighthouse 2 hours 7.00am
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Dambulla Cave Temples, Village Tour 4 hours 4.30am
Yala National Park 4 hours 4.00am
Kitulgala white water rafting, canyoning, waterfall abseiling 2.5 hours 6.30am
Udawalawe National Park 4.5 hours 5.00am
Bentota beach, water sports, Madu River boat safari 1.5 hours 9.00am
Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve 3.5 hours 6.00am
Whale watching Mirissa and Galle Tour 2.5 hours 4.00am
Negombo beach and city tour 1 hour 9.00am


Top Six Day Tours in Sri Lanka

Bentota Beach and Madu River Boat Safari

One of the most popular highlights of this tour is the Madu River boat safari known for its frequent crocodile sightings, along with other animals such as monitor lizards, monkeys, and snakes. With life jackets on a boat, you will be taken through the untamed wilderness and one of the largest remaining mangrove habitats in Sri Lanka. Also included in this trip is a visit to a sea turtle conservation project, water sports on the Bentota Lagoon and the stunning Bentota beach where you can swim, relax and enjoy a scenic sunset. Tip: start your tour at the Kaluwamodara Bridge for best sightings of crocodiles.


Mirissa Whale Watching and Galle Tour

The southern coast of Sri Lanka has become globally renowned as a whale-watching hotspot with guaranteed whale sightings. This one day excursion has to begin by 4.00am from Colombo as you need to be at the Mirissa harbor by 6.30am to make it in time for the boat that sets off the coast. The whale watching experience is about 2-4 hours depending on how long it takes to sight the blue whales. If your base is in Galle or anywhere closer to Mirissa, the starting time for this tour can be delayed.

Once whale watching is done by about 10 am, you can head off to Galle and explore the attractions there – Fort, National Maritime Museum, Beach, Lighthouse and the many cafes and restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines. Driving back towards Colombo, you can stop at the turtle hatchery, Hikkaduwa beach, Madu River boat safari, and enjoy some water sports along the way.


Dolphin Watching in Mirissa

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is one of the most popular wildlife excursions in Sri Lanka that gives you an up-close-and-personal encounter with wild elephants, spotter deer, jackal, monkeys, water buffalo, leopards and a wide range of bird varieties. An exciting jeep safari will take you through the ins and outs of this park in a 3 hour long excursion, after which you can return to your base. There are two timings for the Yala National Park safari – 6.00am and 3.00pm. Since the park is 4 hours from Colombo, it is best to go for the 3.00pm safari and return to Colombo late at night.


Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve

Sinharaja is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the largest biodiverse rainforest in the country. Spreading over 490 square kilometers, this diverse hotspot has a large concentration of fauna and flora. Once you get to the nature reserve, it is best to take a guide along with you for the jungle trek so you can explore the rainforest and spot the species variety better.

Sinharaja Rain Forest Day Trek

Sigiriya and Dambulla

For the adventure lovers who have a knack for exploring historical sites, a visit to Sigiriya and Dambulla is a must. Packed with interesting activities, this tour includes the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya – which is a fortress built on a rock by an ancient King in Sri Lanka. Beautiful paintings and engraved frescoes can be seen in the rocks on your way to the top. At the top you will notice remnants of the palace as well as a stunning 360-degree view. Some tourists prefer to climb the Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya instead as this one offers the view of the surroundings as well as the Sigiriya Rock in the background. The Dambulla Cave Temples are also an interesting site to explore where Temples with beautiful paintings are created inside caves at the top of a rock.


To get a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s hill country, you can take a tour to Kandy and maybe go en-route the Pinnawala elephant orphanage for a one-on-one encounter with elephants. In Kandy, visit the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, enjoy a boat ride on the Kandy Lake, visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, and enjoy an evening cultural dance show. Since the drive to Kandy is a minimum of 3 hours, it is best to start your day as early as 5.00am so you can see most of the attractions in Kandy.

Short break tour

Tips on starting times of day tours from Colombo or Galle

Starting your trip early is extremely essential in ensuring the success of your day excursion. If you are residing at a beach resort along the south-western coast of Sri Lanka, Galle, Bentota and Mirissa will be much closer geographically, thus reducing your travel time. However, destinations like Kitulgala, Kandy and Negombo will take longer to reach. So, depending on where your base is, calculate the time that will be taken to get to the destination and start your day from the destination by about 9.00am.

In Sri Lanka, you have only till sunset to do all your sightseeing and activities, so you need enough time to explore the sites without a rush. Although it might turn out to be a tiring day, leaving before dawn for distances 3 hours and longer is highly advisable as it has the added benefit of escaping Colombo city borders before the traffic builds up and will also be a smooth drive if you pass through other towns when less vehicles are on the road.


Be prepared for a long day with an extra pair of clothes maybe and plenty of water and snacks to keep you going throughout the day. Get sufficient rest the previous night and make sure you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep once you return from the day tour in Sri Lanka. Based on the activities that suit your preferences, carefully select which two or three from our range of top six or twelve mentioned above and get in touch with the team of consultants at Blue Lanka Tours to prepare a day tour package for you.