Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a natural paradise. From ancient Buddhist temples, the fortress of Sigiriya, the hill country towns of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya and the wildlife of Yala National Park, this small island offers incredible variety, made extra special by its laid back atmosphere and hospitable people.

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Why We Love It

Discover Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of the Sinhalese and home to a number of Buddhist relics.

Chance to spend time in the cool hill stations and at tea plantations through the highlands, sampling colonial Sri Lanka.

Relax on the beautiful white sand beaches that dot the island and swim in quiet palm fringed bays.

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Day by day Itinerary

Discover Sri Lanka

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Day 1

Marawila

Transfer from Colombo Airport to our hotel at Watalla on the coast, approximately one hour north of Colombo. 

Day 2

Marawila - Sigiriya

Depart after breakfast for the drive (approx 4 hours) through lush green countryside, a mix of coconut palms, paddy fields and banana plantations, through Kurunegala to Dambulla. Here visit the magnificent Cave Temple, for some, the most impressive sight in Sri Lanka. There are colourful, well preserved paintings and statues of Buddha inside the caves, which date back to the 1st century BC. After lunch continue on to Sirigriya for the night. From the hotel that the tour usually usees, you can see Lions Rock rising up from the plains (occasionally the tour may stay nearer to Dambulla due to hotel availability).

Day 3

Sigiriya

This morning drive to the foot of the Lions Rock at Sigiriya. The imposing 5th century rock fortress of Sigiriya rises 600 feet from the plains overlooking the surrounding countryside giving far-reaching views. Used as a safe haven from invaders, the route to the top is up a series of steep steps and gangways. From the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens, ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit of the rock are extensive remains of the King's Summer Palace from where there are breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. The descent is much easier and you can cool off in the hotel pool at dusk. This afternoon there is a chance to enjoy an optional game drive in either Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park or the Hurulu Eco Park to see elephants in their natural habitat. For those who don’t want to take part, there is time to relax at the hotel.

Day 4

Sigiriya - Giritale

This morning there will be a short drive to Giritale where your usual hotel overlooks Giritale Tank - the islands early inhabitants solved the dual problem of heat and lack of water in this dry area by constructing large tanks to act as reservoirs and cool the warm breeze. Nowadays they provide an important habitat for bird life, particularly from August to April. Today take to bikes and cycle at a leisurely pace through a series of small villages and lakes (if you don't want to cycle you can follow the group in the support vehicle). You should see plenty of bird life including egrets, Brahmany kites, kingfishers and bulbuls. Stopping for lunch in a traditional village will break up the journey. In the late afternoon return to your hotel in Giritale.

Day 5

Giritale - Kandy

After breakfast take a short drive to the 10th century capital of Sri Lanka; Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of the Sinhalese. Here there are many Buddhist relics and ruins dating from a thousand years ago when Sinhalese culture reached its zenith. The city flourished in the 12th century, after the decision was made to move the capital from Anuradhapura, so it was further away from incursions from southern India. The ruins are therefore younger and better preserved than those at Anuradhapura. Visit many of the temples, palaces, huge dagobas (Buddhist stupas) and remarkable Buddhist sculptures. After lunch head into the hills to the picturesque town of Kandy. Stopping on the way at a spice garden near Matale where you can see various spices and herbs growing, and here there is a chance to stock up on massage oils, spices and Ayurvedic medicines. This is a long but fascinating day and you will arrive at Kandy in the early evening.

Day 6

Kandy

Kandy is located on a small lake and you will spend two full days in and around the town. On the first day visit the Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic. The Tooth of Buddha was taken from the funeral pyre in 543 BC and only found its way to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. There are literally hundreds of worshippers who visit the temple each day and in August the most spectacular ceremony takes place. Some of our trips in August should coincide with the Kandy festival, but the exact dates, decided by priests, are not known until 5 months prior to the event. After your visit drive to a beautiful viewpoint over Kandy overlooked by a huge Buddha, and visit a gem museum where you can see the products of the traditional methods of gem extraction. Another highlight is the vast Peradeniya Botanical Garden with species of orchid, plants unique to Sri Lanka. In the evening you may have the chance to attend a performance of the athletic Kandian Dancing and fire eating. The second day is free to explore this wonderful town. The surrounding hills are wonderful, offering fantastic views of the town below and there are many handicraft stores and antique shops in which to browse.

Day 7

Kandy

The second day in Kandy is free to explore this wonderful town. The surrounding hills are wonderful, offering fantastic views of the town below and there are many handicraft stores and antique shops in which to browse.

Day 8

Kandy - Kitulgala

Heading out of Kandy, travel through tea plantations to Kitulgala in time for lunch; on the way visit a tea factory where you see how a cup of tea is produced! Your hotel is beautifully located on a large river, surrounded by thick jungle; this is a great place to relax after the previous days sightseeing. You can swim in the river, relax in the garden or take part in a number of activities such as jungle walks or white water rafting. The rafting is optional and costs extra and there is a choice of gentle or wild water (grade 3 rapids) depending on your preferences. (Please note that from the full moon day of December to the full moon day of May it is possible to climb Adams Peak.This would be an optional extra and you need to be very fit to attempt this. You would leave Kitulgala at midnight on day 8 and drive to the base of the peak. From here it is a strenuous 4-hour climb to the top in time for sunrise. You then return to Kitulagala to rejoin the group at lunch on day 9).

Day 9

Kitulgala - Nuwara Eliya

There will be a jungle walk this morning at Kitulgala. After lunch make the spectacular drive through tea plantation districts to Nurawa Eliya. This was the favourite hill station during the British era and situated in the cool highland air at 1890m with a very British feel to it. Known locally as 'Little England' it is dotted with British style houses, hotels and even has a racecourse! There will be time this afternoon to look around the town.

Day 10

Nurawa Eliya - Bandarawela

There is an early start this morning. Take a 30km drive south to Horton Plains, a large plateau over 2000m high, overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and the best way to explore is on foot. Take a guided walk through the rolling grasslands, seeing forest, unusual wildlife, such as the sambur and purple faced monkey and visit 'World's End' one of the most stunning sights in Sri Lanka where the ground drops 1050m to the plains. Then catch the train from the highest railway station in the country and within an hour and a half drop from 1889m to 1097m. The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, the views are breathtaking. Get off at Bandarawela, a town untouched by tourism.

Day 11

Bandarawela - Kataragama

Today continue on to Ella Gap where wyou will have spectacular views of the coastal plain nearly 1000m below. Almost the whole of the southern part of the island is in view and on a particularly clear day the shimmering silver of the Indian Ocean is visible. At the times of year our trips take place, the weather is normally clear in the mornings, however, as in any mountainous area, bad weather does sometimes occur which will obviously limit the view. We then head south out of the hills to Kataragama down on the plains; this is our base for visiting Sri Lanka's best known National Park, Yala. The park is popular for elephant, leopard, bear, crocodile and wild boar. More than three times larger than Udawalawe at 97,800 hectares, this is the second largest of Sri Lanka's national parks. Its open undulating terrain made it famous for elephants for many years, but recently the park has become well known for leopard. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and fresh water lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard per square kilometre in the world. (Please note that the sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. The trip will therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park.)

Day 12

Kataragama - Ahangama

Today leave for the coast, with its beautiful palm fringed bays. Stopping on the way at Hambantota and walking to a nearby farm house where you be offered tea in a coconut shell along with a local snack. You will mix with real Sri Lankan life and take part in some traditional Sri Lankan sport activities, returning to your bus in little tractors used by the farmers. Enjoy lunch (optional) at one of the houses built by Exodus for Tsunami victims; this may be one of the best curries of your trip! Continuing on to Ahangama in the afternoon you will arrive at your coastal hotel and you can relax for the rest of the day.

Day 13

Ahangama

Free day to relax on the beach or by the pool. There are also numerous optional activities that you can take part in during the day including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon plantation or, from November to April you can go whale watching off Dondra head, one of the best places in the world for seeing Blue and Sperm whales. Huge pods of dolphins are also often seen playing alongside the boats.

Day 14

Ahangama - Galle - Colombo

Set off today and drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle, visiting a turtle hatchery on the way. Galle dates back to the 17th century, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the express way to Colombo reaching your hotel in the late afternoon.

Day 15

Colombo

Your trip ends this morning.

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