Here is summary of all itinerary and what you can see in five days in Sri Lanka. Thought may be I should count it as 6 days including late arrival to Sri Lanka.
View Sri Lanka in a larger map
Arrival to Colombo international airport and transfer to Dambulla or Sigriya for the night.
Sigiriya (Lion’s rock) 7:00 – 19:00 (7am – 7pm). $US30. A large stone and ancient rock fortress or ruins of the fortress dated back to 5th century.
Polonnaruwa $US25. 1000 years old ruins of the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms.
Dambulla Cave temple 7:00- 19:00 (7am – 7pm). LKR1300. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka
Stop at one of numerous spice gardens between Dambulla and Kandy to see many different types of spices and check handcraft shops on the same road. FREE
Just before Kandy check Mariamman Kovil largest hindu temple in Sri Lanka
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. 6:00-17:00 (6am – 5pm). Cost LKR1000. It houses a tooth of the Buddha.
Royal Botanic Gardens 7:30-16:30 (7am – 4.30pm) The largest botanic garden in Sri Lanka.
Tea factories on the road to Nuwara Eliya. FREE
Nuwara Eliya is small summer resort used by British to escape heat in other parts of country.
Take a train from Nanuoya to Ella. LKR750 Railway pass Horton Plains NP with pictures waterfalls, mountains, tea plantations and view to World’s end,
Take a road B35 to Tissamaharama which passes Yalla National Park. You’ll have good chances to see elephants on the way.
Stop at Kataragama. It is the most important religious pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka
Yala National Park. Safary cost ~$US40. The park is famous for largest concentration of leopards
Mulkirigala Rock historical temple. LKR200. It has little of Dambulla and Sigiriya.
Take a rest at Mirissa beach which is still not overdeveloped with holiday resorts.
You can see a lot in 5 days, but…I would suggest to take at least 10 days and make it in much slower pace and definitely you should rent a car with driver, but don’t drive yourself if you don’t have driving experience in Asia. I can recommend our driver Gamunu, who helped a lot with finding accommodation and was working long hours to make sure we will see as much as possible in such short time.
Of course you can use public transport, but then you’ll need even more time.
Check here details of each day:
Day 1. Sigiriya(Rock) – a large stone and ancient rock fortress, Polonnaruwa, wild elephants
Day 2. Dambulla Cave Temple,spice gardens,The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, tea plantations
Day 3. The train trip from Nanuoya to Ella, Rawana Ella waterfalls, Kataragama
Day 4. Spotting leopard in Yala National Park, Mulkirigala Rock historical temple, Mirissa beach
Day 5. Galle fort, baby turtles at turtle hatcheries, Madu Ganga river scenic cruise