Colombo in a day- best itinerary suggestion

Many face this dilemma while planning a visit o Srilanka- how many days to spend in Colombo? Almost everyone lands in Colombo and then proceeds to other parts of Srilanka, so it makes sense to spend some time exploring the capital town. But how much time should you factor for the capital is a tricky question based on your interest and budget. In this post, I am trying to help with such planning, based on my experience visiting Colombo 3 times so far.

How many days to spend in Colombo?
My answer would be a function of how many days you’ve to explore Srilanka
  • If you’re trip is too short- like 3-4 days, you can possibly skip Colombo entirely and focus on more interesting destinations in Srilanka like Sigiriya, Nuwara Eliya, Galle etc
  • If you’re spending a reasonable time like 5-7 days then spend 1 day in Colombo
  • If your trip is fairly long like multiple weeks, then you can spare 2-3 days or more in Colombo.
Assuming your trip is of moderate duration, if you’ve 24 hours to explore Colombo what would be the best itinerary? Below is what I would recommend, beginning from South of Colombo and ending in north. Do tweak it as required depending on time, your hotel location and personal preferences.

Let us start!
6 AM- Mount Lavinia Beach- for a nice morning walk and a dip in the ocean, if desired. This is assuming you'll be staying somewhere closer in South Colombo
8 AM- Breakfast at hotel and head out. Decide between one of the following 3: #1 Dehiwala Zoo (ideal if you have kids in the group or love visiting Zoos) or #2 Beddagana Wetland Park- to spend relaxed time with nature, possible bird watching or #3 National Museum Colombo (if you prefer to see historic items and details). Will be bit tight to explore all 3 on same day along with other attractions, hence depending on your interest I suggest select any one of these 3 or may be max 2. All 3 are ticketed and need 2-3 hours to explore in leisure, 90 mins if you are quick.

11.30-12 AM: Visit Diyata Uyana for a walk along the lake and some possible shopping/food. Weekend is best time to visit Diyata Uyana- more shops, more fun. On other days you can do a short visit or even possibly skip if you have more interesting things to visit or run out of time. Detailed post here

1 PM- Lunch- You can visit Thali’s for vegetarian

2 PM- Visit the Independence Memorial, Viharamahadevi Park and the municipal building, aka White House (closer to Colombo National Museum- if you’ve already been to the museum in the morning visit these soon after)
3.30 PM- Gangaramaya Temple, Seema Malaka, Gangaramaya Park nearby

4.30 PM: Jami Ul Alfar Mosque, if interested.

5 PM: Galle Face beach- for a relaxed walk along the beach. You can walk up to president’s palace on one end. You can also see land reclamation activities- sand being dumped into Ocean to create more land. Visit Navaratha restaurant if you wish to try some evening tea and snacks

6.30 PM – Pettah Floating Market- I couldn’t visit this one, so don’t have a personal experience. But looks like a nice place I should try next time

Optional Extra- look for any events at on the day of your visit at Colombo National Performing Arts Theatre, known as Nelum Pokuna  This building is close to national museum and viharamahadevi park
Keep an eye on the status of Colombo Lotus tower-it is expected to open late 2018. If it is open during your visit, you might want to go till the observation deck and enjoy the views. Otherwise you can visit one of the rooftop bars for good view of the city

7.30 PM – Dinner

9 PM- back to hotel, rest (or head to bar/night club if that interests you) or head to airport if it is your last day and return flight is in the night.

While above plan is designed for morning to evening, you might want to re-arrange based on your flight timing, itinerary.

Some more options to explore around Colombo, if you don’t like some of the above attractions, or have more time
  • Sri Lank Airforce Museum
  • Attidiya Bird Sanctuary- the location shown on Google maps was in fact a animal hospital. The area has lots of greenery- you might spot some birds if you have time and patience to explore. Can be skipped otherwise
  • Colombo Fort Area
Refer map below for better planning.
Entry fees: Quick reference guide to how much various attractions cost as entry fee
#
Attraction
Opening Hours
Entry fee (LKR) for foreign nationals
INR/USD
Equivalent
1
National Museum Colombo
9 AM to 5 PM
1000
500/7
2
Gangaramaya temple
6 AM to 10 PM
1000
500/7
3
Diyata Uyana shopping area and park
24x7 (best on weekend)
Free
Free
4
Beddagana Wetland Park
6 AM to 6 PM
1000
500/7
5
Galle Face Beach
24x7
Free
Free
6
Dahiwala Zoo
8.30AM to 6 PM
2500
1200/17
7
Pettah floating market
8 AM to 10.30 PM
Free
Free
8
Colombo Lotus Tower (Expected Opening late 2018)

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9
Independence Memorial
24x7
Free

10
Viharamaya Park
24x7
Free

11
Mount Lavinia Beach
24x7
Free


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