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Starting in Negombo, explore coconut plantations, cycle through the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, and taste traditional Northern Sri Lankan cuisine on this 14 day adventure combining coast and country.
Perfect for wildlife lovers, you can also visit the Elephant Transit Home during this trip - a very special place responsible for caring for sick, injured and orphaned baby elephants from all over Sri Lanka. This sample itinerary takes you through National Parks, cloud forests and to sacred pilgrimage sites, showcasing the rich landscapes and cultures of this captivating island country.
End your journey in Colombo or choose to extend your trip - it's up to you. As tailor made specialists we can create you the perfect personalised itinerary; all you need to do it ask.
Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport and transfer to nearby Negombo, a beach that provides a great place to unwind after your flight. Stretch your legs with some independent exploration of the interesting old quarter and meet the friendly local community.
Paradise Beach Hotel or similar
Drive inland to the world famous ruins of Anuradhapura, stopping at a coconut plantation long the way to discover why this ‘super food’ is so central to Sri Lankan life. Sip the water of a king coconut, watch ‘toddy tappers’ extract the palm wine from the coconut sap and taste the results.
After a tasty Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch, continue the journey through the countryside to your hotel near Anuradhapura.
Local Lunch – Sri Lankan rice and curry
Lakeside Nuwarawewa or similar
Enjoy a morning bicycle tour through Anuradhapura, the well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization. For over a thousand years it was the ancient capital of Sri Lanka yet lay in ruins for another 1000 years, hidden by the forest around it. Anuradhapura is one of the most sacred Buddhist towns in the world - in 288BC a shoot from the Bodhi tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment was planted in Anuradhapura. This sacred Sri Maha Bodh is still growing today and draws Buddhist pilgrims from across the globe.
Your first sight of the iconic Abhayagiri Dagaba (stupa) through a gap in the trees is sure to take your breath away. Originally 100 metres high it was one of the greatest structures in the ancient world rivalled only by the Pyramids of Giza.
Following the tour we drive through varied landscapes and small towns to the coastal city of Trincomalee. The coastline here is unquestionably beautiful with blue whales spotted between March and April and sperm whales between August and September. From May through to August when the whales are away you can enjoy the antics of hundreds of dolphins.
Stay in Trinco for two nights to give you plenty of time to see the marine life either from a boat or close up and personal snorkelling at Pigeon Island National Park.
Anuradhapura City tour by bicycle
Sea Lotus Park Hotel or similar
Today you are free to explore the historical, cultural and marine life found in Trincomalee – known as Trinco to the locals. There’s a fort, a World War 2 cemetery and the Hindu temple of Koneswaram. Both the fort and the temple provide stunning views down to Trinco and the surrounding Indian Ocean.
An early morning walk along the Harbour front at sunrise is not only a beautiful experience but may also reward you with the sight of whales and dolphins!
A short distance from town is the vivid blue and gold temple of Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Kovil dedicated to the Hindu supreme preserver Lord Vishnu. This was constructed in 2011 and is a replica of a South Indian Temple.
Sea Lotus Park Hotel or similar
Head inland to visit Polonnaruwa, the 5th century ancient city and second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, its beauty was used as a backdrop to scenes for the Duran Duran music video ‘Save a Prayer’! Its green environment, amazing ancient structures (including a huge lake built in 1200A.D.) and its warm, friendly people make it an attractive city to visit.
The Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and Museum bring this ancient city to life and a visit to both will prove useful before setting out to explore its fascinating sites. Later, continue on to your hotel in Dambulla.
Polonnaruwa World Heritage site
Thilanka Resort & Spa or similar
Explore the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples, located high on a stone cliff face and dating back to 103BC. A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries these five sanctuaries are home to 157 Buddha images and beautifully decorated with murals spanning the walls and ceilings. We start at Cave 5 and work our way back to enjoy the gradually increasing degree of magnificence culminating in Cave 2.
Later in the afternoon, enjoy a game drive in the Minneriya National Park - a haven for flora and fauna and in particular... elephants! As part of the elephant corridor, joining up with Kaudulla National Park and Wasgomuwa National Park, you have guaranteed sightings of elephants throughout the year.
Every year during August to October, one of the most awesome wildlife spectacles 'The Gathering' takes place. Over 300 elephants are seen making their way to the Minneriya Tank as the ancient reservoir slowly dries up giving way to fresh grass and shoots. Apart from elephants, there is a huge range of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and butterflies for you to encounter.
Thilanka Resort & Spa or similar
Travel to Pidurangala Royal Cave Temple, a couple of kilometres north of Sigiriya. Sigiriya or 'lion rock' is a massive rock 'fortress', jutting out from the green tropical forest surrounding it. Built by King Kasyapa, its construction was based on the mystical city of Alakamanda - a 'city of god amongst the clouds'. This site can often get crowded, therefore we also offer an alternative climbing experience at nearby Pidurangala, which is no less breathtaking.
Pidurangala has the benefit of being mostly overlooked by visitors and so provides an off-the-beaten track climbing experience while affording great views of Sigiriya and the surrounding countryside. It is a more strenuous climb than Sigiriya however the rewards at the top are well worth it.
Following your choice of climbing challenge, we continue on to Kandy, visiting one of the aroma-filled Spice Gardens of Matale along the way.
Later, visit a Sinhalese family to learn some of their culinary skills and share a traditional dinner of rice noodle nests (known as string hoppers), spicy chicken-coconut curry and a dessert of traditional Sri Lankan sweets.
Hotel Suisse or similar
After breakfast take a walk around the city of Kandy and explore the art of mat weaving, silver crafts, wood carving and lacquer ware.
Later, visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Tradition relates that a sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in 4th Century A.D. and was enshrined within the Dalada Maligawa. This sacred relic became and has always been the symbol of sovereignty for the Sinhalese kings. Prayer services are held daily at dawn, midday, and in the evening and can be viewed by visitors. If you would like to attend one of the prayer services we can adjust your personalised itinerary to make this possible.
Finish the day with a visit to a local dance school to learn about traditional Sri Lankan musical instruments and dancing.
Hotel Suisse or similar
Transfer to Peradeniya Station to board the train to Nanu Oya. This journey is considered as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world. The train winds its way through the highlands of Sri Lanka. As you pass through lush green tea estates look out for the bright coloured saris of the women who harvest the tea leaves. The mist covered mountains and scenic waterfalls truly compliment this beautiful landscape. Your driver will be waiting for you at Nanu Oya for the short drive to Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka's premier hill resort with a lush mountainous climate. Nuwara Eliya is also the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, producing some of the world’s finest teas. The mountain slopes and valleys are a carpet of velvety green tea plantations, interspersed with gushing streams and tumbling waterfalls.
Peradeniya to Nanu Oya Train ride
St Andrew’s Hotel or similar
Drive to Horton Plains National Park. At an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level, Horton Plains spreads over 3,169 hectares of the highest tableland on the island. This national park contains the most extensive area of cloud forest still in existence in Sri Lanka.
The Park is home to a wide variety of flora (57 species, 29 endemic to Sri Lanka) and 24 species of mammal such as elk, deer, giant squirrel, wild boar, wild hare, porcupine and leopard. For bird enthusiasts, there 87 species (14 of which are endemic), including many migratory birds. The Plains also feature many interesting attractions such as Bakers Falls, Chimney Pool and the famous World’s End (a 3700 ft sheer drop that offers fabulous views of the tea estates below and all the way out to the distant southern coastline).
After this magical day, return to your hotel.
Horton Plains National Park
St Andrew’s Hotel or similar
Travel to Udawalawa National Park to see the famous pachyderms of Sri Lanka at the Elephant Transit Home. Since its inception in 1995, the home has helped care for dozens of injured, sick, or orphaned baby elephants from all over Sri Lanka. Visitors to the home are able to observe an animated group of around 20 or 30 juvenile and teenage pachyderms, who are fed four times a day. The resident animals are looked after until they are deemed fit enough to be released back into the wild, after which they are closely monitored for investigational purposes, as well as their own safety.
This visit is in line with our responsible travel approach as the elephants are not touched or ridden by countless tourists. You will watch the babies from a viewing platform. After this visit, continue on to Yala National Park where you will stay overnight.
The Elephant Transit Home
Elephant Reach Hotel or similar
Visit Yala National Park (1,570-sq km) which is mostly open parkland, making the wildlife easy to see. The landscape is varied, with rock outcrops, scrub jungle, lagoons, lakes, rivers and even beaches. Yala is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where it is relatively easy to see a leopard, either strolling beside the track or, with luck, draped elegantly in a tree. There are estimated to be around 35 leopards and 400 wild elephants, as well as wild buffalos, musk deer, mongoose, pangolins, black bears, macaques, jackals and numerous species of bird.
From here we travel to Galle and indulge in some traditional treats along the way including buffalo curd served in bright terracotta pots with thick golden treacle, and dodol, a toffee-like delicacy made of coconut milk, rice flour, and kithul jaggery (from the sap of the toddy palm), which was introduced by Malays in the 17th century. Sri Lankan's are famed for their sweet tooth and dodol is just about as sweet as it gets.
Yala National Park
Lady Hill or similar
Tour the ancient trading post of Galle, purported to be the famous Tarshish of the Bible. Historically, this World Heritage fortified town was the essential port of call for Chinese, Persian, Arab and Indian traders. Javanese and Sumatrans came later followed by Moro Polo in 1299 AD. The Portuguese arrived in the 1500’s and built a settlement with a fort of palm trees and mud. This was captured by the Dutch (and finally the British!) who built the 400 year old fort with great ramparts and bastions to protect their presence.
From here, travel to your Colombo hotel and check in.
Our adventures don’t stop here as we move on to a Colombo walking tour via the colourful Pettah Bazaar on to Independence square, passing Parliament and the National museum. You may want to take something home to remind you of your adventures in Sri Lanka or pick up those last minute gifts with a visit to Barefoot fairtrade handicrafts centre.
Fairway Colombo or similar
Transfer to the airport after breakfast for your flight home.
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