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Day trips and tours from Mirissa, Sri Lanka

by Natalia
Polhena Beach - one of the best day trips from Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Last Updated on December 8, 2021 by Sam

Situated on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Mirissa Beach is well located for taking some memorable day trips, tours and excursions. The town is famous for being one of the best places in the world to see blue whales, which alone is enough reason to include it on your Sri Lanka itinerary. Aside from whale watching tours, other day trips from Mirissa include visits to Yala National Park, Galle Fort, Dondra Head Lighthouse and Udawalawe National Park. Check out our guide to the best tours, excursions and day trips from Mirissa below!

Check out our Mirissa travel guide for more great info on visiting the area!

Top day trips and tours from Mirissa

Yala National Park

One of the best day trips from Mirissa is to the famous Yala National Park. Boasting the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world, Yala is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka.

Due to the density of leopards in the park it’s widely regarded as one of the best places in the world to see these majestic animals in the wild. Seeing a leopard in the wild is an unforgettable experience, which makes a day trip from Mirissa to Yala National Park a great option for wildlife lovers!

Although Yala is most famous for its leopards, there’s plenty of other amazing wildlife in the park too. Other animals you may encounter on a safari in Yala National Park include sloth bears, elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles and monkeys, as well as several species of birds – from kingfishers to hornbills to eagles.

Although Yala National Park is around 150 kilometres away from Mirissa, day trips are still possible. A day trip to the park from Mirissa lasts around 8-9 hours and should include return transport to the national park and the safari itself. Entrance fees to the national park aren’t always included in the price, so make sure to factor this into your budget.

The easiest way to book a day trip from Mirissa to Yala National Park is via Klook. They work with local operators to provide a high quality service, offering private tours for groups of up to 6 people. If you’re travelling in a group of more than 6 then you can simply book as many jeeps as you need to fit everyone!

Prices for a day trip to Yala from Mirissa start from as little as $33 USD (6,170 rupees) per person through Klook. This price does exclude the entrance fee to the national park, which should be around $20 USD (3,740 rupees) extra per person.

Click here to book an amazing day trip to Yala National Park!

A leopard in Yala National Park - an incredible day trip from Mirissa

Udawalawe National Park

Another option for wildlife lovers is to take a day trip from Mirissa to Udawalawe National Park – one of the best places to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka. The park is home to around 500 elephants, which can often be seen in large herds of up to 100 at a time.

Udawalawe is a much quieter national park than Yala, so you won’t see as many other jeeps whilst you’re on safari here. At times you may even be the only jeep watching a herd of elephants, which is a special thing to have all to yourself!

Other animals found in the park include water buffalo, jackals, deer, monkeys and wild boar. Leopards and sloth bears are also present in the park, but are very rarely seen in Udawalawe – so if these are a priority your chances are much higher in Yala!

The easiest way to arrange a day trip to Udawalawe from Mirissa is also through Klook, as they arrange return transport to the national park as well as the safari itself. Like in Yala, the jeeps can fit up to 6 people, so if you have a larger group just make separate bookings per each group of 6.

Prices for a day trip from Mirissa to Udawalawe start from as little as $32 (5,985 rupees) per person through Klook. This doesn’t include the entrance fee to the national park, which should cost around $18-$27 (3,365-5,050 rupees) per person depending on your group size.

Click here to book a brilliant day trip to Udawalawe National Park!

There are several different fees that need to be paid for entrance to the park, including the entrance fee, a service charge, a jeep fee and VAT. Prices per person depend on your group size as some of the fees are a set rate, whereas some are per person.

Unsure which national park to visit? Check out our guide on whether to visit Udawalawe or Yala!

Elephants in Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Galle

Galle is one of the most popular cities to visit in Sri Lanka, and thankfully it’s easy to visit on a day trip from Mirissa. The city is best known for Galle Fort, a fortified Old City dating back to the 16th century.

There is a mix of architecture inside the fort, dating back to periods of Dutch, Portuguese and British rule in Sri Lanka. Inside the fort you can visit churches and the famous Galle Fort lighthouse, admire the architecture and wander along the fort walls.

Aside from wander around the fort, there isn’t too much else to do in Galle. We’d heard lots of positive things about Galle before visiting, and many people seem to think it’s one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.

Personally, we were slightly disappointed as we expected the city and fort to be more interesting, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re interested in Sri Lanka’s history.

The cheapest way to get to Galle from Mirissa is to take a bus. All buses running to Colombo should stop in Galle, and there are regular services throughout the day.

Ticket prices do tend to vary depending on what they feel like charging you, but we paid 80 rupees per person one-way, so use that as a ballpark figure.

Before travelling by bus we recommend reading our guide to public transport in Sri Lanka. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or tuk-tuk from Mirissa to Galle, but this will be considerably more expensive.

Galle Fort Lighthouse, Sri Lanka

Polhena Beach

If you’re looking for a simple but fun day trip from Mirissa then Polhena Beach is the perfect spot! As well as being a lovely beach in its own right, it’s also one of the best places to go snorkelling with turtles in Sri Lanka.

Getting to the beach is easy enough, just take a bus in the direction of Tangalle or Matara and ask to get off at Polhena Beach. The bus should cost around 50 rupees per person, making it one of the best budget day trips from Mirissa.

Snorkels are available to rent if you want to swim with the turtles, but if you have your own then add it to your Sri Lanka packing list to avoid paying to rent one! Getting to see turtles in the wild is an amazing experience, just make sure to keep your distance so as not to intimidate them – and definitely don’t touch or feed them like some idiots do!

For more information make sure to check out our article about snorkelling with turtles at Polhena Beach.

Snorkelling with turtles at Polhena Beach on a day trip from Mirissa

Dondra Head Lighthouse

Dondra Head Lighthouse is the southernmost point in Sri Lanka, situated in the small town of Dondra. Dating back to 1980, the lighthouse is a popular attraction thanks to its picturesque setting amongst palm trees and where the coastline meets the Indian Ocean.

We recommend combining a day trip from Mirissa to both Polhena Beach and Dondra Head Lighthouse. Dondra is approximately 20 minutes away from Polhena by bus, and so by combining both into one day you can spend more time in Mirissa itself or taking other day trips.

A bus from Polhena to Dondra should cost no more than 50 rupees one-way, or around 100 rupees one-way from Mirissa to Dondra.

You’ll be dropped off around a 20-30 minute walk from the lighthouse itself. We recommend using downloading an offline version of Google Maps or using Maps.me to find your way there.

There isn’t too much to do other than wander around the lighthouse, as it’s not possible to go inside. Just enjoy the lovely scenery before walking back and catching the bus back to Mirissa!

Dondra Head Lighthouse - an easy day trip from Mirissa

Whale watching

By far one of the most memorable day trips possible from Mirissa is a whale watching tour, giving you a rare chance to see blue whales in the wild. Mirissa is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent creatures, so it’s an opportunity not to be missed!

The whale watching tours are a truly incredible experience, but obviously sightings can’t be guaranteed. We’ve been lucky enough to go whale watching in Mirissa twice, and we managed to see over 10 whales on our first trip and over 20 whales on our second trip!

In our opinion, whale watching is not only one of the best day trips from Mirissa, but also one of the best day trips in the world!

As one of the most popular things to do in the area, there are a number of operators offering whale watching tours. Make sure to do some research before booking as unfortunately there are several unethical whale watching tour operators in Mirissa.

Unethical whale watching tours chase these magnificent animals and overcrowd them by surrounding them with boats. In our opinion the best whale watching companies in Mirissa are Whale Watching Club, Raja & the Whales and Whale Warriors, as they provide ethical tours which don’t harass or overcrowd the whales.

Blue whale sighting on a whale watching tour - one of the best day trips from Mirissa

It can cost slightly more to book with an ethical operator, but it’s well worth it for two reasons. Firstly, these operators run longer tours so you’ll normally end up seeing more whales. In contrast, the unethical operators rush their tours and head back after seeing a few whales.

Secondly, and more importantly, by booking an ethical tour you’re supporting sustainable and responsible wildlife tourism. If you book with one of the cheaper, unethical operators then it just encourages people to exploit these incredible animals for profit.

Prices for ethical whale watching boat tours in Mirissa start from around $21.50 USD (4,000 rupees) per person. On top of this you need to pay an additional $18.50 (3,460 rupees) per person to cover government fees and taxes.

For more information make sure to check out our guide to ethical whale watching in Mirissa!

The duration of these tours vary depending on how long it takes to find the whales, but they normally last around 5-8 hours. With some luck you should have lots of sightings, just like we have on both of our trips!

We strongly recommend taking dramamine before your whale watching tour, as the sea can be quite rough. Even if you don’t normally get seasick it’s definitely worth taking this precaution!

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