This fantastic tour covers the highlights of Sri Lanka from ancient cities to charming hill stations and awesome beaches. Sumptuous scenery, abundant wildlife, great food and welcoming people – Sri Lanka is a wonderful country. We start near to Colombo and head north, visiting an elephant orphanage along the way before exploring the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, as well as Sigiriya rock fortress and the Buddhist cave paintings at Dambulla. From there we head south into the hilly tea plantation region, visiting Matale’s spice gardens, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, where we stay in a heritage bungalow. After trekking to the spectacular lookout at World’s End, we take a nature walk through a beautiful forested area and then hop aboard a train for the spectacular journey to Ella, which offers awesome views down to the south coast.
Highlights of Sri Lanka
We enjoy time on the beach before heading back toward Colombo for our flight home.
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Wattala, situated about 15 minutes drive from Bandaranaike International Airport (the country's only international airport). No activities are planned fpor today, although a pre-departure meeting takes place this evening at the hotel. Please also bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the meeting. Afterwards we have the opportunity to go out for an optional group dinner.
Depending on the time of day you can get a taxi from Negombo to the capital, Colombo (should you wish to check it out), for about US$50 and it takes about an hour each way. However, at ‘rush hour’ times (early morning and late afternoon) the roads in and out of Colombo become extremely congested and it can take hours to get anywhere. Colombo has a few points of interest but we have chosen Negombo as our starting point because of its proximity to the airport and easy accessibility. Consider spending an extra night at the end of your trip should you wish to explore Colombo.
Pinnawela - Mihintale - Anuradhapura
After breakfast we proceed to Anuradhapura. Along the way we visit the famous elephant sanctuary at Pinnawela, home to 60-odd elephants who were orphaned, abandoned or injured by poachers. It’s a moving experience and visiting this place enables us to support a worthy project. The next stop is Mihintale – the birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism. The walk up 1840 granite steps (no kidding) is rewarded by awesome views and Buddhist monuments of great significance. We spend the evening in the town of Anuradhapura. (B)
We enjoy insights into Sri Lanka’s history on this action packed day. In the morning we explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura, built in the 3rd century BC and regarded as the most important of the ancient cities. It is home to a sacred bo or bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. It is supposedly the oldest living tree in documented history. Nearby we find the remnants of the Brazen Palace, the enormous Ruwanveliseya Dagoba, the seated Samadhi Buddha and the remains of various temples and palaces that bear testament to the proud and imaginative people of this ancient kingdom. Next, we check out the extraordinary Sigiriya (Lion Rock) rock fortress. King Kassapa, who had killed his father and feared retribution, built this virtually impregnable fortress 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) and a further walk to the summit offers great views, as we explore the ponds and structures that cover the top of the rock. The fascinating 1500-year-old frescoes are remarkably well preserved. (B)
Let’s hire some bikes and explore this second ancient city! Built after the decline of Anuradhapura, this medieval capital is well preserved and allows great insights into the lives led by its inhabitants over a thousand years ago. The unique irrigation complex, known as the Sea of Parakrama, and the enormous man-made reservoir are fascinating, as are the many buildings many adorned by carved faces and Buddha images. In the evening there is the option (time permitting) of a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park. Home to elephants, leopards, macaques, sambar deer and many species of the birds, it is a favourite haunt of wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. Allow about US$35 (depending on how many people are keen) if you’re interested in joining a game drive. (B)
Dambulla Cave Temples - Spice Garden - Kandy
We check out the well-known Dambulla Cave Temples first thing in the morning. A series of five caves are home to some fascinating rock art and many Buddha statues and are well worth a visit. From there we travel to Kandy, via the Matale Spice Garden, where many of Sri Lanka’s world-famous spices are grown. Kandy is a charming town and we spend two nights here and visit the Temple of the Tooth, where we witness the daily Thewawa ceremony. The ‘tooth’ in question is said to have been snatched from Buddha’s funeral pyre in 543BC. In the evening we enjoy a Sri Lankan cultural show. (Please ensure that you wear long pants or a long dress when visiting the temple, out of respect to the local community.) The following day we take a tour around Kandy, visiting a few of the highlights including the world-class botanical gardens and the local market. There is also plenty of free time to explore this pretty town on your own. (2B)
Tea Plantation - Nuwara Eliya
We travel from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, known as 'Little England' because of its British-influenced cottages and mansions. Overlooking pretty valleys with beautiful mountains forming a backdrop, it is a beautiful spot to spend a day or two and offers respite from the heat in hotter months. We spend the night in a rest house, with our own cook who will prepare for us some Sri Lankan delicacies – feel free to help out! (B)
World’s End - Belihul Oya - Ella
We rise early, and take a packed lunch to the Horton Plains Nature Reserve. Set on a 2,000-metre-high plateau and overlooked by some of the highest peaks in Sri Lanka, it is a beautiful spot. We take a guided walk through the forest and grassland to ‘World’s End’. Options are a 9 km or 22 km walk - you may need walking shoes ). If you are not keen to participate, you can proceed to the next hotel by the vehicle. World’s End offers a mind-blowing view from the 328-metre precipice to the Indian Ocean - over 50 kilometres away (keep your fingers crossed for a clear day though!).
We spend the night in a rest house in the pretty hill region of Belihul Oya. The rest house is a great place to spend the night and it sits next to a small stream that rushes down from the Horton Plains. Why not take a refreshing dip in the rock pool? The following day, we take a nature walk to make the most of the awesome views, then continue on to Haputale, where a scenic train trip takes us to Ella. Ella is a small town with awesome views over the hills towards the coast. (2B, L)
After several days of cooler temperatures in the high altitude of the hills, we descend toward the south coast and its amazing beaches. Travelling along the coast, we past small seaside villages and sweeping bays before arriving at the funky beach town ahangama. We chose this spot for its great beach, good vibe and proximity to Galle. On Day 11 we can laze on the beach, head down the road to check out the famous stilt fishermen or visit Galle – a fascinating historic city with much to see. (2B)
In the morning we head back to Colombo and arrive around lunchtime. The afternoon is free to explore this busy and chaotic city. Galle Face Green contains vestiges of Dutch and British colonial influences and the historic Galle Face Hotel is a great place to enjoy a drink on the terrace and look out over the ocean. In the evening, why not enjoy a final meal with new friends? (B)
Our trip ends today after breakfast. If you wish to stay on in Colombo, please pre-book your post-tour accommodation before you commence your travels. (B)
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.
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner