1. Kandy: Kandy is the second largest town in Sri Lanka, after the capital Colombo. It is ascended to the top of a plateau lined with imposing mountains and magnificent tea plantations. Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic is unarguably the most renowned temple of Sri Lanka which is located in Kandy.
Kandy is also home to countless remarkable historic sites as well as scenic tourist attractions. Apart from religious sites, Kandy has numerous tranquil tourist attractions like the Kandy lake, Ceylon Tea museum and the alluring Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens with over 4,000 floral species.
Best Time - December to April
Distance from Colombo - Approximately 120 kilometers
Highlights - Temple of Tooth, Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha statue, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Horton Plains National Park
2. Nilaveli: The coastal town of Nilaveli is 16 km from Trincomalee District in the east of Sri Lanka. The town is ideal for water sports, scuba diving, and snorkeling. If you want a great one day trip near Colombo then Nilaveli is a great spot with its famous Pigeon island and its marine national park.
You can also stroll around the Nilaveli beach which is surrounded by green lush vegetation on both the sides. Nilaveli is also home to a prominent religious site called Velgam Vehera having a great archaeological importance linked to it
Best Time - November to May
Distance from Colombo - Approximately 280 kilometers
Highlights - Pigeon Island National Park, Nilaveli Beach
3. Unawatuna: Famous for its alluring beaches, cute eateries and plenty of sightseeing, Unwatuna makes for a great day tour from Colombo with its numerous tourist attractions. There are a plethora of places you can choose from while visiting Unawatuna available for every budget.
You can relax and unwind or take a dip in the cold waters of Unawatuna beach or explore different species of sea turtles at Sea Turtle hatchery. Get the hang of turquoise waters hidden at the Jungle beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset in the evening.
Best Time - October to April
Distance from Colombo - Approximately 144 kilometres
Highlights - Jungle beach, Japanese peace Pagoda, Talpe, Sea Turtle Hatchery
4. Sigiriya: Another great one day trip place near Colombo is Sigriya, declared as a heritage site by UNESCO. Singiriya is a fine blend of both ancient and urbanic destinations. Lion Rock is the most prominent tourist and globally recognised for debris of the ancient Rock fortress.
It is located in the Matale district and is a well-preserved attraction. It also served as a Buddhist monastery until the end of the 13th century. The gigantic Lion’s paws welcome the visitors at the site. You can also hike to the summit of Pidurangala Rock and enjoy the stunning 360-degree panoramic view of Sigiriya Rock and the surrounding landscape.
Best Time - February to April
Distance from Colombo - 176 kilometers
Highlights - Royal Garden, Sigiriya Rock, Lion’s Paws, Dambulla Cave Temple, Pidurangala Rock
5. Galle: Galle is located on the southwest coast and is considered to be the best place in Sri Lanka because of its rich culture and history. It is famous for its Dutch and Portuguese heritage which is still reflected in its architecture spread all over the city.
You can kickstart your Galle day tour from Colombo, by exploring the Kalutara Bodhiya Buddhist Temple, Beruwala beach and many other places. It is a delight to explore the city on foot with the goodness of green surroundings and pleasant weather. Wandering on its lanes you can also find quirky boutiques and stylish eateries at every corner of the street.
Best Time - December to April
Distance from Colombo - 124 kilometres
Highlights - Maritime Archeology Museum, alle Fort Clock Tower, Sea Turtle Hatchery
6. Ratnapura: Ratnapura is a populous city famous for its gemstone industry. Some of the world’s most popular gemstones like Blue Belle of Asia, Star of India, etc. were discovered here and attracts a lot of local and foreign traders across the globe.
The city also holds a historical significance as well as has countless picturesque waterfalls such as Bopath Ella Falls, and Katugas Ella Falls. If you are on a day tour from Colombo here, you can also explore the National Museum, home to a lot of artefacts, cultural weaponry and fossils of deers and elephants.
Best Time - January to March
Distance from Colombo - 113 kilometres
Highlights - Maha Saman Devalaya, Katugas Ella Falls, Adam's Peak
7. Kalpitiya - Kalpitiya is also known as the peninsula of untold mysteries. It is a paradise for people who enjoy long walks near the shore of the beach, beautiful golden sunsets and adventure activities.
Kalpitiya has 14 islands and is an upcoming tourist attraction spot in Sri Lanka. You can enjoy activities like surfing, kitesurfing, and whale watching here. Kalpitiya Lagoon is one such place to enjoy water sports. The town is home to local fishermen and is known for its waterfront beauty so you can learn a lot about marine life within the natural habitat of the sea.
Best Time - April to October
Distance from Colombo - 171 kilometres
Highlights - Wilpattu National Park, Kalpitiya Beach, Kalpitiya Lagoon
8. Dambulla: If you are into history and ancient sites, then Dambulla is the perfect one day trip near Colombo for you! Dambulla is declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and is called the city of ancient Sri Lanka. The town has a peaceful environment due to its religious and spiritual monuments such as Golden Temple and Buddhist Cave temple.
Other than the religious sites, the town also offers a wildlife zoo, Popham’s Arboretum where the visitors can indulge in jungle safaris. Jathika Namal Uyana is the largest ironwood forest of Sri Lanka, as a stretched garden embodied with alluring flowers and pink quartz mountains.
Best Time - January to May
Distance from Colombo - 159 kilometres
Highlights - Kandalama Lake, Jathika Namal Uyana, Popham’s Arboretum
9. Minneriya National Park: The Minneriya National park is located 4 hours away from Colombo and is famous for the annual gathering of herds of elephants, migrating from one place to other. You can view the majestic elephants migrating during the dry season to the Minneriya Tank for water.
You can roam around in jeeps and also locate several species of birds, reptiles and other mammals. Since a lot of plants and animal species thrive together here you can also get a chance to explore multiple habitats from wetlands to scrublands. Due to its alluring natural beauty, it is a must-visit place for tourists and is added to everyday tour from Colombo.
Best Time - May to September
Distance from Colombo - 190 kilometres
Highlights - Herds of elephants, species of mammals, birds, flora and fauna
10. Vavuniya: Vayuniya is the transport hub of Sri Lanka. It is a wholesome town with both Earthly and homely elements of Sri Lanka as it gives you both hustle-bustle of urban life and the quiet of the countryside with lush green forests in the same place.
It is just a day trip from Colombo and is perfect for a long drive. You can visit the clock tower, Grand Jummah Mosque, Iru Pothana ruins and the Archaeological museum. You can make memories of a lifetime with a fascinating trekking experience at Erupothana Reservoir with tremendous lakes and leopards walking with you side by side.
Best Time - December to April
Distance from Colombo - 255 kilometres
Highlights - Clock tower, Kali Kovil, Kandhasamy Kovil, Madukantha Vihara, Grand Jummah Mosque, Archaeological museum
11. Polonnaruwa: Polonnaruwa is a hidden gem of Sri Lanka with historical places with a homely experience altogether. The old part of the city is also recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and has numerous monarchical structures and relics.
Gal Vihara, a Buddhist Rock temple situated in the middle of the city, has the relics of the tooth of Lord Buddha and many other statuettes devoted to him. The other prominent attraction of the city is the Minneriya National park which is majorly dedicated to elephants. It has the most momentous elephant herds in the whole of Asia.
Best Time - November to March
Distance from Colombo - 229 kilometres
Highlights - Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu, Kiri Vihara, Rankoth Vehera, Minneriya National Park
12. Wilpattu National Park: The Wilpattu national park is the largest and oldest national park of Sri Lanka. It has several lakes spread all over the area and is known for its large population of leopards residing here.
Besides leopards, the place is also home to several mammals and reptiles such as the Sri Lankan elephant, Indian python, monitor lizards and sloth bears. The national park also has a significant bird species. If you are a wildlife aficionado then this place will give you a pleasant experience.
Best Time - February to October
Distance from Colombo - 214 kilometres
Highlights - Leopards, Sri Lankan junglefowl, sloth bears
13. Negombo: Negombo is a secluded and less discovered town of Sri Lanka known for its white sandy beaches and tranquil blue waters. It is also the nearest day trip from Colombo as it is just 10 kilometres away from the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The town has a rich history of the trade of spices and seafood and is one of the commercial hubs of the country. You can still find glimpses of dutch and Portuguese culture in this town in monuments like the old Dutch fort and St. Mary’s church. The city is globally famous for its hand-made ceramics and brassware items which can be used as the perfect souvenirs for you.
Best Time - February to April
Distance from Colombo - 37 kilometres
Highlights - Negombo Lagoon, St. Mary’s Church, Browns Beach, Dutch Fort
14. Batticola: Commonly referred to as “Batti”, Batticola is a small town situated on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. It is a calming detox place with its mellow and calm vibes. Although it is the farthest day tour from Colombo, it is easy to reach due to its connectivity over both roads and railways.
This town is rich in Tamil culture and traditions and will enable you to explore their food and lifestyles. It also has breathtaking forts and palm trees that are best explored on foot.
Best Time - April to September
Distance from Colombo - Approximately 320 kilometres
Highlights - Beautiful lagoons, Batticaloa fort, Kallady beach
15. Trincomalee: Famously known as Gokarna, the quaint city of Trincomalee, is an essential segment of the country which contributes to the development and betterment of the city. It is famous for white sandy beaches and magnificent harbours.
There are several places within the city such as Marble beach, Fort Frederick, Nilaveli beach, etc. which has made it an upcoming tourist attraction spot. The locals and villagers here predominantly speak Tamil so you can also acquire some insights of their culture and traditions on your visit here. The Gokarna Bay temple is the most popular spot of the city and attracts countless tourists from all over the world.
Best Time - May to June
Distance from Colombo - 265 kilometres
Highlights - Fort Frederick, Marble Beach, Kanniya hot springs, Swami rock