Embark on a unique, fun, culture-rich tour of Sri Lanka.
A jewel in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is jam-packed with ancient sites, fascinating culture, beautiful wilderness and idyllic beaches. From ancient Anuradhapura city and the well-preserved Polonnaruwa ruins, to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the impressive Sigiriya rock fortress, Sri Lankan culture spans more than 2,000 years and still remains vibrant and alive today. Trek through lush tea plantations, indulge in seafood feasts in quaint fishing villages and dip your toes in the calm, clear waters of Mirissa beach on this all-encompassing adventure for those seeking a unique travel experience.
Day 1 Negombo
Ayu-bowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. Your adventure begins in the town of Negombo, located close to the international airport. Those arriving early can get into the spirit of seaside Sri Lanka by observing the local fishing craft and perhaps feasting on fresh seafood. The beautiful surrounding countryside is best explored on a bicycle, which you can rent with help from the hotel reception.
Day 2 Anuradhapura
Leave Negombo after breakfast today. Your private vehicle takes you to ancient Anuradhapura via the small town of Chilaw. A guided bicycle tour of the city will take place either today or on the morning of Day 3, depending on our arrival time and the weather. Among the ruins you’ll see the sacred old Bo Tree.
Day 3 Anuradhapura
If you’ve already had your bicycle tour of the ruins of ancient Anuradhapura, there is no shortage of further options today. Those keen on history and archaeology might like to visit one of the local museums. Mihintale, the sacred birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, is recommended.
Day 4 Polonnaruwa
Take a local bus to Polonnaruwa, the capital of the Indian Chola Dynasty after Anuradhapura was conquered in the late 10th century. Cycling amid the remains of 1,000-year-old Polonnaruwa is once again the best way to get around. Once the heat of the day has eased you’ll visit more palaces, temples and stupas. A likely highlight will be the massive stone Buddhas: 14-metre-high granite carvings of the iconic reclining Buddha which represent the zenith of Sinhalese rock carving. You’ll also visit the well laid-out museum, which has scale models of many of the buildings to show how they would have existed in their time.
Day 5 Dambulla
Depart Polonnaruwa this morning and travel to Dambulla by local bus. Explore the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples which are located high on a stone cliff face. In the afternoon, you may like to relax by the hotel pool or take an optional visit to a nearby wildlife reserve where you might spot some wild elephants with a bit of luck. Which park is available to visit depends on the season, but both Minneriya and Kaudulla are within easy reach of Dambulla.
Day 6 Kandy
Early this morning, before the heat is too intense, head to Sigiriya. This ruined fortress is one of Sri Lanka’s premier sights with astounding views. Those unable to climb to the top can explore the gardens at the base of the rock and still get some fantastic shots of the fortress from below.
Return to the hotel to freshen up before heading to Kandy. On the way, there’s the option of stopping at one of the region’s wonderful spice gardens for lunch. In beautifully located Kandy, visit the Dalada Maligawa (aka Temple of the Tooth), Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist site, and mingle with the white-clad pilgrims who come here to worship. Another great option is an early-evening performance of the famed Kandyan dancers, drummers and and fire-walkers.
Day 7 Kandy
Today you will visit a nearby tea factory and take a guided tour to learn about the production of Sri Lanka’s best-known beverage. Of course, you will also sample some of the delicious varieties while you’re here. Your hotel in Kandy, located far from the noise and bustle of the city, is a great place to unwind with lovely views over the town.
Day 8 Bandarawela
Take a scenic train journey into the highlands and disembark at Bandarawela. Here you will visit a local home for a cooking demonstration to learn some secrets of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Enjoy the delicious meal afterwards. Your accommodation tonight is a simple but pleasant guesthouse located in a quiet part of town.
Day 9 Udeweriya
Take a local bus to the starting point for our walk today. This hike takes you through picturesque tea plantations and small Tamil villages. Tonight’s accommodation is a comfortable local guesthouse where the accomodation is in single sex multi share rooms.
Day 10 Haputale
Set off for some more walking today to explore more of the beautiful surrounds of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. Enjoy this chance to meet the curious friendly children and tea pickers along the way. Stop for an included lunch in Bambarakanda. You’ll stay in a guesthouse in Haputale tonight.
Day 11 Mirissa
Set off south for the coast, stopping at the Elephant Transit Home en route. At this special organisation you’ll experience feeding time for baby orphaned elephants and learn more about their rehabilitation. Then drive further along the Sri Lankan south coast by private bus to the beach of Mirissa. This is your paradise for two days of relaxation, with your comfortable accommodation just meters from the water.
Day 12 Mirissa
Enjoy a day of beach splendour in Mirissa. The beach itself is a long curve of sand with lovely clear waters for swimming – a great spot to watch the sunset. Consider taking a bicycle ride or tuk-tuk to nearby Weligama, where colourful fishing boats bring fresh fish to sell along the shore. The local cottage industry of lace products is also well worth a look.
Day 13 Galle
Arrive in Galle , home to an impressive World Heritage-listed Dutch fort with extensive walls and many interesting old buildings. In the evening, enjoy a stroll around the historic fort and watch the sunset from the ramparts. In Galle you’ll stay inside the fort itself – in a 250-year-old Dutch villa that has been converted into a guesthouse.
Day 14 Colombo
Leaving Galle, we take a classic train ride, catching glimpses of the beautiful coastline before rolling into Colombo. After checking in, you’ll set off for a city walk via the bustling Petta Bazaar, Independence Square, Parliament, and past the National Museum, finishing with a shopping opportunity for a good cause at the Barefoot fairtrade store. Tonight there’s an optional final group dinner to celebrate your journey.
Day 15 Colombo
Your trip comes to an end today, with no activities planned. Checkout time at the hotel is 12 noon.
9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
Auto rickshaw, Bicycle, Bus, Private Bus, Public bus, Train, Trishaw
Guesthouse (3 nights), Hotel (11 nights)
- Anuradhapura – Bike Tour
- Anuradhapura – Sri Maha Bo Tree
- Anuradhapura – Ancient Site
- Polonnaruwa – Bike Tour
- Dambulla – Cave temples
- Kandy – Temple of the Tooth
- Sigiriya – Rock Fortress
- Kandy – Cultural Dance & Fire Walking Show
- Kandy – Tea Factory, Spice & Herb Garden visit
- Bandarawela Cookery Demonstration and Local Meal
- Haputale – Tea Plantations, Hill Country & Local Villages trek
- Udewalawa – Elephant Transit Home Visit
- Galle – Fort Walking Tour
- Colombo – Walking tour
Images courtesy of Intrepid Group