Sri Lanka's current constitution stipulates it as a republic and unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system. It has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Sri Lanka is rated "high" on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations. The Sri Lankan constitution accords Buddhism the "foremost place", and although it does not identify it as a state religion, Buddhism is given special privileges in the Sri Lankan constitution.
9:00am-10:am : Kandy
11:30am-12:30pm : Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and witness the daily life of its pachyderm residents. Meet the rescued or abandoned elephants of all ages, see them play and bathe in the river, and watch the youngest of the herd being bottle-fed. You can help wash an elephant, feed them their daily fruit portions, or take photos with them, but a tip for their carer will probably be expected.
1:30pm-3:00pm : Embilmeegama Tea Factory
3:30pm-6:00pm : Royal Botanical Gardens
If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss the chance to take a stroll through Royal Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical gardens in Sri Lanka, boasting more than 4000 different plant species. Established in 1843, the gardens sprawl over 60 ha (147 ac) and house countless local plants, as well as an array of interesting specimens from around the world. Admire the massive fig tree, over 100 years old, the giant bamboo plants, a colorful collection of orchids, and numerous other fascinating trees and flowers.
10:00am-11:00am : Kandy Lake
Take a relaxing stroll along Kandy Lake, an artificial body of water surrounded by the Kandy hills and overlooked by a famous temple, said to house the tooth of Buddha. The lake was created in 1807 by the last king of Kandy, and features a small island in the middle, supposedly used as the king’s private bathing spot. Take a boat ride or a walk around the lake perimeter to enjoy the views of the city and the picturesque natural setting.
11:30am-3:30pm : River Rafting & Tubing
4:00pm-6:00pm : Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
A World Heritage Site, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic plays home to one of Buddhism's most important relics, the tooth of the Buddha himself. Originally constructed in 1595, the temple played a key role in the nation's history, as local tradition held that the right to rule to country lay with the one who possessed the Buddha relic. You can enter the main hall of the temple and admire its vaulted ceilings and columned hallways adorned with golden statues of elephants, likenesses of the Buddha, and scenes from his life. Though you can't actually see the tooth itself, you'll get a chance to observe the gold casket that encloses it. Afterwards, you can wander the rest of the temple complex and discover its array of shrines, halls, and displays.
11:00am-5:00pm : Elephant Freedom Project
Elephant Freedom Project provides an opportunity to spend some time with and take care of elephants. As you walk through the green surroundings, which help the elephants relax, you'll see their palpable joy when they take a dip in the water. Find out about the unpleasant ways elephants can be exploited for tourism, and how this project saves them from that fate. Be sure to book your visit online.
9:00am-11:30am : Ella
12:00pm-2:00pm : Ravana Ella Falls
See an impressive natural feature at Ravana Ella Falls, measuring 25 m (82 ft) in height. Plummeting down an uneven rocky outcrop, the cataract resembles the withering petals of an areca flower and represents the setting of several local myths and legends. With several plunge pools and multiple cascades, the area offers a popular walking route, where each of the natural tiers gives extensive views of the surrounding nature reserve, and the individual pools invite you to cool off.
2:30pm-3:30pm : Nine Arches Bridge
A major crossing point along the nation's main rail artery, Nine Arches Bridge stands as a marvel of the region's colonial-era engineering. Completed in 1921, the bridge features nine successive arched spans stretching 91.5 m (300 ft) across a small valley. Standing at a height of 24 m (80 ft), the structure features no steel or metal in its construction--only bricks, cement, and rocks. You can make your way to the bridge from the nearby town of Ella via a jungle trail, at the end of which you'll have a clear view of this landmark structure. Alternatively, ride the train between the two stations on either side of the bridge for fine views and a chance to travel like the local population.
4:00pm-6:00pm : Little Adam's Peak
Go for a quick hike to the top of Little Adam's Peak, an easy walk from downtown Ella in a lush picturesque setting. The mountain’s name comes from the comparison with its similarly shaped but much larger counterpart, the massive Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka. Enjoy the the easy going, 45-minute trek to the summit, admiring views of verdant tea plantations along the way. When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the rolling green hills and valleys below.
10:00am-2:00pm : Ella Rock
Witness the geological formations that attract many trekkers and nature lovers to Ella Rock, from which you can view hillside tea plantations and villages. Although you can visit this area by car, you can also arrive by a railway that snakes its way through the mountainous landscape. The nearby waterfalls provide an ideal opportunity for a quick dip, so don't forget your swimsuit.
2:30pm-6:30pm : Sigiriya
10:00am-1:30pm : Sigiriya Fortress
Visit the historic complex of Sigiriya Fortress, an ancient city centered around a massive stone plateau. King Kasyapa selected the spot to be the nation’s capital in the 5th century, and built his palace on top of the enormous, 200 m (660 ft) tall rock. You’ll need to climb more than a thousand steps to reach the summit and admire the ruins of Sri Lanka’s oldest palace. Peer over the edge to observe the gardens below, a marvel of urban planning, featuring still-functional fountains. Along the way, you can see the remains of the gate--once shaped like a lion’s head--as well as numerous ancient frescoes.
2:30pm-4:30pm : Golden Temple of Dambulla
Visit the ancient complex of Golden Temple of Dambulla, a series of cave temples and a World Heritage Site. Step 22 centuries back in time as you explore the caves, carved in the side of the 150 m (492 ft) tall Dambulla Rock, overlooking the surrounding flatlands. Roaming the historic place of worship, you’ll encounter 157 statues, most of which are of Buddha, as well as countless vibrant murals depicting scenes from the life of the founder of Buddhism.
5:00pm-5:30pm : Pethikada
Browse through fine Sri Lankan art at Pethikada, an art gallery packed with traditional and modern paintings and handicrafts. Carved wooden sculptures, statues and statuettes, and lacquerware occupy a spacious and well-lit setting. Run by a university-educated artist who is an expert in restoring and reproducing ancient rock and temple paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, the workshop keeps age-old traditions alive but also applies some modern interpretations.
10:00am-6:00pm : Minneriya National Park
The largest known meeting place for Asian elephants, Minneriya National Park provides the natural corridor amidst tropical dry mixed evergreen forests that attract herds of these wild creatures. Observe the largest mammal as it searches for food and water while making its way to the shores of a rainwater reservoir. Bring a pair of binoculars to examine more than 170 species of birds, like the woodsand piper, rufus woodpecker, or the lesser adjutant. The wildlife reserve also harbors many endemic amphibians and reptiles. Remember to keep a safe distance from the mugger crocodile, regardless of its relatively calm nature. Temperatures in the park can soar, so bring extra water.