Treasures of Sri Lanka Trip Notes
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
Trip code : PISL
Trip length : 15
Trip starts in : Colombo
Trip ends in : Colombo
Maximum group size : maximum 16
- Old British hill station of Nuwara Eliya
- UNESCO World Heritage-listed Dambulla Rock Temples
- The rock-carved Buddha statues of UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient city of Polonnaruwa
Sri Maha Bodhi, a cutting from the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment, is the oldest recorded tree in the world. For the past 2250 years, monks have faithfully chronicled the tree; first on dried banana leaves, then books and now on the Internet at its own website.
Colombo - Wattala
- Upon arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport (the country's only international airport), you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Wattala, situated just north of Colombo.
- Your airport representative will be waiting in the arrival hall, located after passing through the customs area. Look out for the signboard with your surname on it.
- Although Colombo is the commercial capital and by far the largest city in Sri Lanka, it is still relatively small by Asian standards.
- You will not stay in the capital itself, but in a place by the beach. Here, you can hire a bike to explore the town or relax on the beach and soak up the sun, sand and surf before heading off on your tour.
- After breakfast, you will proceed to Mihintale – the birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism. It was here that the King of Anuradhapura was deer hunting when he met Mahinda, and was converted to Buddhism in 247 BC.
- Mihintale is therefore regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka; as a result there are a number of pagodas, monasteries and caves worth visiting. To reach the site, you will need to climb 1840 stone steps, but you will be rewarded at the top with absolutely spectacular views over the surrounding plains.
- A 20-minute drive takes you to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, built in the 3rd century BC, it was the capital of the Sinhalese people for 1000 years from the 4th century BC, despite frequent invasions from southern India.
- Today you will see the largest and most important ancient site in Sri Lanka, there are a wealth of old palaces, temples, 'dagobas' (Buddhist monument) and Buddha statues to explore, covering a huge area.
- The most visited part is the sacred Bodhi tree. It is believed to be a direct descendant of the tree where Buddha gained enlightenment, growing from a sapling that was found at the original tree. Sangamitta, the daughter of the great Indian emperor, Ashoka, who had sent his own son, Arahath Mahinda, to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka, brought the sapling from India. It is one of the most important pilgrimage places in the country. (Driving time: approximately 6½ hours)
- Today you will take to bikes and cycle at a leisurely pace through a series of small villages to Dambalawewa Lake.
- Please note that you will receive the best available bikes, but these are not of a great standard and are certainly not comparable to those that you might be used to at home. Please don't expect a deluxe model!
- Along the way you will pass many locals washing their clothes in the huge tanks (man-made lakes) - a very colourful spectacle. You should see plenty of bird life including egrets, brahminy kites, kingfishers and bulbuls.
- You will enjoy a traditional Sri Lankan lunch today in a village. Your overnight accommodation is in a hotel on the banks of the picturesque Giritale Lake, located near the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. (Driving time: approximately 2 hours)
- After breakfast you will explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, with its immense Buddhas statues carved from the rock. This ancient city is a delight to wander through. Although not as important historically as Anuradhapura, the remains are better preserved and there are some truly awe-inspiring monuments to be seen.
- Some of the most impressive monuments are the massive carvings of Buddha, hewn out of bare rock. It is not difficult to take a step back in time here and imagine life as it must have been almost a thousand years ago.
- The city itself was established when the Sinhalese moved their capital from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa in the early 12th century.
- Later in that century, the city experienced its heyday under the ruling of Parakramabahu. He went on a building spree, constructing the huge lake and the many large buildings and parks that you will visit.
Sigiriya - Dambulla - Kandy
- After breakfast you will continue to Sigiriya, an extraordinary citadel built on top of an immense rock. King Kassapa who killed his father and feared retribution, built this virtually impenetrable structure in 471AD.
- It's a challenging walk to the terrace, which sits beneath enormous carved lion paws (remnants of the lion façade that once protruded from the edifice). A further walk to the summit offers great views as you explore the ponds and structures that cover the top of the rock. The interesting 1500-year-old frescoes are remarkably well preserved.
- There are about 750 steps to the top of the fort. Most people take around 90 min – 2 hours round trip. There’s also a number of paths and areas to explore at the top. The steps are steep and uneven in places.
- Weather can be hot and we start the climb early morning to try to avoid the heat and crowds but pax should take plenty of water and good sun protection, comfortable clothes & shoes etc. It can also be very windy near the top.
- You will then continue your journey to Dambulla, where you will visit Dambulla Rock Temple - a series of five caves that is home to some fascinating rock art and many Buddha statues.
- Carved out of the rock, this extensive series of caves are covered from floor to ceiling with extraordinarily well-preserved frescoes depicting all kinds of Buddhist imagery.
- The complex is the largest of its kind in the world and the biggest cave is over 50 metres long. The caves have been places of worship for more than 2000 years, although the frescoes have been added at various times through the ages.
- From there you will travel to Kandy, via Matale Spice Garden, where many of Sri Lanka's world-famous spices are grown.
- Sri Lanka has a long history of producing spices. The climate required for production of many crops is actually quite restrictive and only a small area of the country offers ideal conditions.
- At these small roadside gardens, a local specialist will guide you through the many varied plants and explain their uses. Some species, like cinnamon, coffee, and vanilla you might be familiar with, but slightly more obscure varieties with interesting ayurvedic uses, you may not. In the evening you will enjoy a Sri Lankan cultural show in Kandy. (Driving time: approximately 4½ hours)
- While Kandy is the 2nd largest city in the country after Colombo and capital of the central hill regions, it is a peaceful and attractive place. There are plenty of scenic walks through the hills and forests that surround the town as well as along the lake that forms its centre.
- You will start your day with a city tour. In the heart of the town is the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa), the most important shrine in the country, which houses a relic of a tooth of Buddha taken from his funeral pyre in 543 BC.
- It is renowned for its daily 'Thewawa' ceremony. Each evening, the day's worship culminates when the casket containing the tooth relic is put on display for devotees who have travelled from all over the Buddhist world.
- Sri Lanka's most famous festival (the Esala Perahera) takes place in Kandy every July or August. Unfortunately the exact dates are not known more than a couple of weeks in advance, as the most auspicious dates must be obtained from an astrologer.
- This is one of the most amazing festivals to witness with thousands of dancers and performers and hundreds of elephants marching through the town. (Please ensure that you wear long pants or a long dress when visiting the temple out of respect to the local community).
- You will also visit the world-class botanical gardens and the local market. There will be plenty of free time to explore this pretty town on your own.
- The river's clear water is born in the heart of the peak wilderness reserve and tumbles through a rocky gorge just above Kitulgala. As the river widens, you will pass the scenic area that was used as a location in the Academy Award-winning movie ''The Bridge Over the River Kwai'', which was filmed here in 1956.
- This is a great place to jump in for a refreshing swim.
- In the evening you will enjoy a pleasant nature walk at Kitulgala. (Driving time: approximately 3 hours)
- After travelling over Ramboda Pass, surrounded by green hills covered with tea, you will reach Nuwara Eliya - an old British hill station. Nuwara Eliya itself dates back to British times, officials and planters headed here in summer to escape the heat of the plains.
- There are great views over surrounding hills and the town lies in the shadows of Pidurutalagala - Sri Lanka's highest mountain. You will have a free afternoon to do your own exploration.
- Whilst the colonial charm in the main part of town has faded somewhat, it can still be seen in some of the old hotels like the Grand, where you can take afternoon tea.
- Another place to try is the colonial Hill Club. There may also be time to take a short optional hike to the picturesque Lover's Leap Waterfall, from where there are good views out over the town. (Driving time: approximately 3 ½ hours, plus 1 hour transfer to hotel)
- You will rise early and take a packed lunch on a hike along the hilly slopes through montane forests and tea plantations to World's End. Here the ground drops beneath your feet and there are stunning views out across the plains.
- The landscape of Horton Plains is unlike anything else in Sri Lanka – in fact it is more reminiscent of the landscape in Scotland.
- At 2500 metres, the area is frequently shrouded in cloud and mist and is only sparsely covered with vegetation. There are sambar deer as well as a number of leopards.
- World's End itself offers magnificent views – the ground drops beneath your feet and the lowlands are visible 1000 metres below. Over 50 kilometres away the Indian Ocean can sometimes be seen - keep your fingers crossed for a clear day.
- You will hike along pathways enjoying stunning views of the plains as you wind your way to see Baker’s Falls and World’s End.
- The round trip takes around 3 hours at a leisurely pace. It is 4km to Worlds End, 2km to Bakers Fallas and a total of 9.5 km. Weather is very misty from 9am so we need to start the walk very early. Weather can change quickly, so bring extra warm clothing layers. There are no safety rails around Worlds End and at times the path takes you along the cliff edge. It can be very muddy and some parts of the trail are very steep, but the majority is sloping and gently hilly.
- Hike back to the main entrance of Horton Plains and drive back through cloud forests and remote villages to Haputale, and then to Beragala where a breathtaking view is offered at your resort.
- After an early breakfast, you will commence a hike from Belagala which takes approximately one hour. During the hike you will enjoy the panoramic view of the dry zone from the hill country.
- At one point you will experience a panoramic 360⁰ view of Horton Plains, the mountain range, coastal plain, a few lakes and a dagoba. You’ll be picked up by a vehicle and continue to Athuthusevena in time to witness feeding of the baby elephants.
- On the way, you will stop at Diyaluma Falls, which is the 2nd highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. (Driving time: approximately 4 hours).
Yala National Park - Galle
- Yala National Park is the largest in Sri Lanka and home to all the big mammals found in the country. Elephant, leopard, sloth bear, spotted deer (chital), wild boar and sambar deer all inhabit the park, as with all wildlife experiences though, the sightings of some species depend on a degree of good fortune.
- Apart from the lager species, small mammals such as black-naped hare, grey mongoose, ruddy mongoose, striped-necked mongoose, grey Langur and porcupine are also common.
- The park is also famous for its abundant bird life, with over 140 species recorded so far within its boundaries. These birds include hawk-eagle, crested serpent eagle, Malabar pied hornbill, jungle fowl, painted stork, white ibis and black-necked stork.
- After your sojourn in Yala National Park, you will then proceed to Galle. Galle was once the chief port of Sri Lanka. It is still well known for handmade lace.
- Here you can visit the World Heritage-listed Galle Fort (spanning 90 acres), which was originally built by the Portuguese and later extended by the Dutch in 1663. (Driving time: approximately 4 hours)
- Please note: Yala National Park will be closed for the month of September 2013 – instead passengers will visit the Uda Walawe National Park.
- You will be transferred to Kalutara today, visiting the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery en route, where you will see several species of turtles. A number of of these species, especially the hawksbill, are endangered. Most vulnerable of all are their eggs, which are left uncovered on beaches all around the coast.
- You will stay at a beachside resort on Sri Lanka’s beautiful south-west coast. Here you will have the opportunity to relax on a beautiful sandy beach and perhaps enjoy a swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and basically unwind in this tropical haven. (Driving time: approximately 1½ hours)
- In the morning, you can choose to partake in a two hour yoga session, or a perhaps go for a swim or walk though the surrounding forest and village. You will then return to Colombo around lunchtime. After arriving in Colombo you will check in at the hotel. You may like to enjoy an optional night on the town tonight to celebrate the end of the trip. (Driving time: approximately 3 hours)
- Your trip will come to an end in Colombo this morning after breakfast. Check out time is usually between late morning and midday, but may vary. If your flight leaves in the evening you may wish to book additional accommodation so you have a room until departure. Your tour leader will be on hand to assist with transfers to the airport. These are not included, but can be booked through your travel agent or us.
While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.
- Enjoy a destination in depth and comfort
- Tourist class hotels and family homestays
- Both private and local transport
- A number of included activities and meals throughout
- Fully trained and experienced leader.
Our Plus tours allow you to immerse yourself within a destination or culture whilst travelling and sleeping in comfort. They are packed with highlights to ensure you get the most out of your valuable time away yet are also slower paced allowing you time to savour the culture, traditions and sights of your destination – the perfect balance.
On some trips we’ll push you out of your comfort zone to ensure an authentic experience, on other trips you will stay in amazing places where there is no ‘roughing it’ involved. There is plenty of choice so you can select a trip with as much activity or as little as you wish. Our small groups ensure a more intimate experience and that the impact on the local environment and community is kept to a minimum. Extra Comfort tours offer rich and rewarding adventures and are stress-free, safe and, most importantly, fun!
- Innovative itineraries offering authentic travel encounters
- A mix of active adventure, culture, wildlife, sightseeing and relaxation
- Well appointed, quality hotels in central locations
- Arrival transfers, transport (mostly private) and accommodation included
- Many meals and adventure activities also included
- Fully trained and experienced local leaders
This tour is operated by our partners Peregrine Adventures
- English-speaking local tour leader throughout the tour, and local guides at some sites
- Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): ancient city of Anuradhapura; ancient city of Polonnaruwa; Dambulla Rock Temple caves; Matale Spice Garden; World Heritage-listed Galle Fort; Yala National Park; and Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery
- Walk up to Mihintale – the birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism and Sigiriya (Lion Rock) fortress
- Bike ride to Dambalawewa Lake, Sri Lankan lunch included
- Visit to Kithulgala wilderness reserve including a swim and nature walk
- Guided walk to ‘World’s End’, Baker’s Fall and Horton Plains
- Visit to Ath Athuru Sevana’s Elephant Transit Home
- Sightseeing of Kandy including a visit to the Temple of the Tooth to witness the daily Thewawa ceremony
- Free time to explore Kandy and Nuwara Eliya
- Arrival transfer.
International flights, airport departure taxes, airport departure transfer, visas, insurance, other meals including most lunches and all dinners, any optional tours and activities during free time, excess baggage charges, tips, items of a personal nature and camera fees (some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally).
14 breakfasts, 2 lunches,
Most of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.
Entrance fees are included for all other sites visited as part of the itinerary. Any camera fees charged are not included. Sri Lanka also has a wealth of other historical attractions that you may wish to visit in your free time. Entrance fees to these are not included.