Sri Lanka

Originally known as Ceylon this tropical island nation of Sri Lanka is where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes. Here nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoiled and offers its visitors a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences.

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Tour TypeTrip NameNo. DaysBookingsPrices per person
Independent TourClassic Sri Lanka15
Independent TourBoutique Sri Lanka15
Independent TourBackroads of Sri Lanka20

Classic Sri Lanka

With tea plantations, leopard safaris, a former British hill station and UNESCO World Heritage sites, this 15-day itinerary is an ideal introduction to Sri Lanka.

Itinerary 
Day 1: Arrive Colombo

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel near the airport for an overnight stay.

Day 2: Anuradhapura

Depart for Anuradhapura this morning. This was the first ancient capital of the ‘country of kings’ for approximately 1,400 years. At the pinnacle of its glory, the city extended over 52 square kilometres. Its magnificent monuments, refined sculpture and paintings are testimony to a veritable and original Sri Lankan culture. Check in to your accommodation on arrival and afterwards take in the sights of the ancient city, with its rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders.

Day 3: Sigiriya

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before departing for the 2-hour drive to Sigiriya. This afternoon visit one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Set in green scrub jungle, this massive rock was a retreat for Buddhist monks in ancient times. The well-planned monastic complex includes caved temples, frescoes, bathing pools, ponds and Asia’s oldest surviving landscaped gardens. Today Sigiriya is best known for its frescos painted in the pocket of the rock. Other highlights of the site include the ‘Lion Stairway’, the ‘Mirror Wall’ and the ‘Water Gardens’.

Day 4: Sigiriya

This morning visit Polonnaruwa (where you have the option to tour by bicycle). Once the medieval capital, this is one of the most beautiful centres in Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. Explore the ancient ruins and the Gal Vihara complex, where three gigantic Buddha statues are carved out of a single rock. This afternoon take a safari in to Minneriya National Park. Comprising 88.9 sq kms of scrub and light forest, it provides shelter for a number of animals, including toque macaques, sambar deer, leopards and elephants. The park is also of interest because of its ancient Minneriya Tank, which was built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century AD.

Day 5: Kandy

Depart for Kandy this morning, making stops en route to visit the Dambulla Rock Cave Temple and a spice garden at Matale. Another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Dambulla Rock cave temple is thought to date back to the 1st century BC; this is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country. Sri Lanka is famous for its spices. At Matale you will have an opportunity to explore the delightful green and fragrant Spice Garden. Trained staff will introduce you to different spices including nutmeg, pepper vines, cloves trees, curry, cinnamon, and the precious cardamom (which grows in the shade of high jungle trees and can only be harvested by hand). They will explain how some of these are grown and show you how they are processed. If you are interested, you can purchase spices, traditional remedies and cosmetics here. (A processing and training unit has been set up in the area and farmers are grouped in a cooperative to ensure fair prices). Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was established in the 14th century and the Kingdom of Kandy became the country’s capital city in the 16th century. Under the patronage of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka indigenous culture flourished for more than 2,500 years until the occupation by the British in 1815. Steeped in political, cultural and religious history, Kandy also played a central role in the tea plantation industry once tea production began in Ceylon.

Day 6: Kandy

After breakfast drive to Pinnawela to visit the Elephant Orphanage, which was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants abandoned by their mothers and displaced from their natural environment due to development projects. Most orphans cannot be introduced back into the wild, as other elephant family groups will not accept them. They enjoy a good life with their human ‘parents’ and many find foster homes in zoos around the world. Arrive at the Orphanage early this morning in order to see the baby elephants being bottle-fed. Afterwards, the entire herd is taken to the river for a bath. This afternoon, take a city tour. The charming, easy-going capital of the hill country, Kandy’s lovely centrepiece is Kandy Lake. An artificial lake 4 kilometres in circumference, it was created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy. The island in the centre was used as his personal harem, to which he crossed on a barge. Later the British used it as an ammunition store and added the fortress style parapet around the perimeter. The town centre, close to the lake is a delightful jumble of old shops, antique and gemstones specialists, a bustling market and a good selection of restaurants. You may also like to visit the Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya. Established in 1821, the garden is well known for its spectacular ornamental plants, large variety of tropical trees and creepers, including a nutmeg grove and its orchid house, which contains more than three hundred orchids. Later this afternoon visit the Dalada Maligawa – the Buddhist ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage site partly due to this temple. Here you can witness the puja ceremony, a daily religious observation that has been followed for generations. This evening, enjoy a Kandyan Dance performance; this traditional Sri Lankan dance flourished in the hill country during ancient times. The dancers, who are attired in frilled costumes with glistening head-dresses and breastplates, skip and whirl to the beat of drums executing astonishing acrobatics in mid-air; the highlight is the fire walking at the end of the performance.

Day 7: Nuwara Eliya

Transfer to the railway station this morning to board a train to Nuwara Eliya. Set in a picturesque landscape, it is located at an altitude of 1884 metres; it is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. The town was founded in about 1825 as a retreat for British civil servants and planters seeking to escape from the heat of the plains. A ‘hill station’, where they could indulge in pastimes such as fox hunting, polo, golf and cricket, it was known as “Little England” due to its picturesque landscape and cool climate and the many buildings that retain features from the colonial period.

Day 8: Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. This morning visit a tea plantation. The tour includes observing the day-to-day operations of an estate – and also enables you to participate in some activities such as tea picking, etc (and tea tasting, of course!). Return to your hotel and the remainder of the day is at leisure. You may like to take a stroll around the town; many of the buildings here, such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club and Town Post Office retain features from the colonial period; many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens.

Day 9: Yala National Park

Depart Nuwara Eliya this morning for Yala and your accommodation here, close to Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most visited wildlife reserve. Check in to your accommodation on arrival and afterwards take an afternoon jeep safari in to the park accompanied by a tracker. The park is home to herds of elephants, wild boar, wild buffalo, crocodiles, sloth bears, monkeys and other animals. Its most famous residents, however, are its elusive leopards. There are also about 130 species of resident and migrant birds in the park including fantailed peacocks, painted storks, jackals, serpent eagles, sea eagles and pelicans.

Day 10: Yala National Park

Enjoy an early morning jeep safari in to Yala National Park (breakfast packets will be provided). Return to your accommodation and the remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 11: Galle

Depart for Galle this morning. One of the best-preserved colonial-era cities in Southeast Asia, Galle has been declared a UNESCO `World Heritage City’. Galle was a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country as Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese were doing business through Galle port. The ‘modern’ history of the city began with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1502. In 1640, the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company and Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period.

Day 12: Galle

Full day at leisure. Galle Fort is a delightful place to explore with its narrow, cobbled streets, laid back cafes, boutique hotels, and artisan workshops. Outside the fort’s walls are long stretches of beach backed by coconut palms and lush hillsides.

Day 13: Colombo

After breakfast depart for Colombo. The largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo stretches for 14 kilometres along the western shore of the country. Due to its large harbour and strategic position along the East West sea-trade routes, it was well known to ancient traders as long as 2,000 years ago. Today it is a metropolis of over two million people where different ethnic groups, religions and cultures mingle. The contrast between high-rise hotels and colonial mansions, supermarkets and street bazaars, dazzling cars and motor-rickshaws, is found everywhere.

Day 14: Colombo

Spend today sightseeing with a local guide, including visits to many of the city’s famous landmarks such as Galle Face Green, Viharamahadevi Park, the National Museum, the Old Parliament, Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Independence Square, the Town Hall and Buddhist and Hindu Temples.

Day 15: Depart Colombo

Transfer to the airport to board your departure flight.

Inclusions: 
Meals:14 breakfasts
Transport: Airport transfers & private air-conditioned vehicle
Rail:Train Ticket: Kandy / Nuwara Eliya
Accommodation: 14 nights
Guide:Local English Speaking Guide
Entrance Fees & Touring:Entrance fees & activities as per itinerary

Boutique Sri Lanka

This leisurely paced 15 day itinerary features a selection of Sri Lanka’s unique and elegant boutique hotels – a truly indulgent way of touring this fascinating country.

Itinerary 
Day 1: Arrive Colombo

You will be met on arrival at Colombo International Airport and transferred to your hotel.
Hotel: The Wallawwa Hotel

Day 2: Dambulla

Depart for Dambulla, making a stop en route to visit the Dambulla Rock Cave Temple, one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Festooned with a marvellous array of sculptures and murals, these temples, dating from 1st century BC, are the most beautiful in the country. Continue on to your accommodation at Dambulla.
Hotel: Kalundewa Retreat, 2 nights

Day 3: Dambulla

Rise early this morning for your visit to another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the spectacular rock citadel of Sigiriya. Rising 200 metres above green scrub jungle, this massive rock embellished with the remains of one of the country’s most remarkable royal palaces is a stunning sight. It includes caved temples, frescoes, bathing pools, ponds and Asia’s oldest surviving landscaped gardens. Later drive to the marvellous ruined city of Polonnaruwa. Once the country’s capital, this is home to some of medieval Sri Lanka’s finest art and architecture, including the giant Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara.

Day 4: Madulkelle

Depart Dambulla this morning for Madulkelle, making a stop en route at Matale where you will have an opportunity at Matale to explore the delightful green and fragrant Spice Garden. Enjoy a hot cup of spice tea or cocoa tea as trained herbalists introduce you to a variety of different spices, explaining how they are grown and processed and their Ayurvedic uses.
Hotel: Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge, 2 nights

Day 5: Madulkelle

Today is at leisure. You can simply spend the day lazing by the infinity pool with its fabulous views of the Madulkelle Village and the majestic Knuckles Mountain range and indulge in a rejuvenating treatment in the Spa. Alternatively, the hotel offers a range of activities and excursions including: hiking and trekking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, yoga sessions and cooking classes.

Day 6: Kandy

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before departing Madukelle for the historic city of Kandy, located in the hills at the heart of Sri Lanka.
Hotel: Stone House Kandy, 2 nights

Day 7: Kandy

Kandy is a delight to explore. Spend this morning touring this atmospheric town with your guide, beginning with a drive around its lovely centrepiece, Kandy Lake. Stroll through the bustling town centre and colourful bazaar, visit the arts and crafts centre, a gem museum and a lapidary. You may also like to visit the lovely Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya. Once the pleasure garden of 14th century Kandyan queen, today it is one of the best gardens in Asia with over 4,000 tropical and subtropical flora, including spice and herbal gardens as well as a stunning collection of orchids. The afternoon is at leisure.

Day 8: Colombo

After breakfast depart for Colombo. You have the option to make a stop en route at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage – an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants. Established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation, today it houses the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. This is an opportunity to observe the care and daily routine of these gentle creatures, such as the bottle-feeding of calves, and to view elephants from the broad river bank as the herd interacts socially, bathing and playing.
Hotel: Lake Lodge, 2 nights

Day 9: Colombo

This morning enjoy a guided walk through the city of Colombo with its fascinating variety of colonial architecture, beautiful mosques and Hindu temples. Interact with locals as you shop for gifts from streets devoted to different products – from gold to Ayurveda items –and sample typical Sri Lankan food and beverages in the amazing atmosphere of the hundred year old vegetable market. This evening enjoy dinner at Ministry of Crab. Located in the Old Dutch Hospital district, this popular restaurant was started by a couple of Sri Lankan cricketers and deserves all the praise it’s getting.

Day 10: Galle

epart for Galle this morning. A UNESCO `World Heritage City’, this is the most perfectly preserved colonial town in Sri Lanka. Although a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country – Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese all traded through Galle port – the city’s ‘modern’ history began with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1502. In 1640, the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company and Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period.
Hotel: Taru Villas - Rampart Street, 3 nights

Day 11: Galle

Spend this morning with your guide exploring the fortified city of Galle. The Old Town of Galle and its fortifications were built by the Portuguese who arrived in the 16th century. Learn about some of the fort’s important heritage monuments, including the Dutch Reformed Church, the old Dutch government house, the residence of the Commander, the National Maritime Museum, the Old Dutch Hospital, Meera Mosque, All Saints Anglican Church, the Clock Tower and the Galle Lighthouse. The afternoon is at leisure. A nice end to a day here is a sunset walk along the fort’s ramparts overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Day 12: Galle

Today is at leisure. If shopping is of interest, Galle is renowned for its intricate lace and ebony carvings.

Day 13: Bentota

After a leisurely breakfast, depart Galle for the short drive to Bentota.
Hotel: Paradise Road The Villa Bentota, 2 nights

Day 14: Bentota

Today is at leisure. The beaches of Bentota are perfect for swimming, lounging and sunbathing and walking along. In addition, the hotel offers a number of activities. Just ten minutes down the Galle Road, the Bentota Lake provides the perfect location to water ski, ride a jet ski or go for a group trip on a banana boat. A boat safari is a unique experience for nature lovers. The mangroves of Sri Lanka are protected by the environmental authorities and contain some of the island’s beautiful wildlife. The lakes of Bentota and surrounding areas provide a memorable discovery trip with temples hidden on islands and breathtaking views. The turtle hatchery is another attraction. The hatcheries house turtles that have been saved from fisherman or injury and also play a huge role in protecting the endangered species by safely providing nesting grounds. On the right day visitors can help release baby turtles into the wild.

Day 15: Depart Colombo

Depart Bentota for the 2-hour drive to the Airport to board your flight home.

Inclusions: 
Meals:14 breakfasts
Transport: Airport transfers & private air-conditioned vehicle
Accommodation: 14 nights
Guide:Local English Speaking Guide
Entrance Fees & Touring:Entrance fees & activities as per itinerary

Backroads of Sri Lanka

The jewel of the Indian Ocean with its ancient sites, beautiful beaches, pristine wilderness, fascinating culture and delectable cuisine – Sri Lanka has it all! This fascinating journey includes some of the island’s better-known sites, as well as some of its more off-beat locations, with authentic dining experiences along the way.

Itinerary 
Day 1: Arrive Colombo

Upon arrival in Colombo you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 2: Horakelle

Begin your exploration of the small villages nearby with a locally guided tuk tuk ride on quiet roads of rural Horakelle. Stops are made along the way to sample the local curries that this area is famous for. Afternoon is at your leisure.

Day 3: Anamaduwa

Proceed to Anamaduwa – a sprawling 2,000-year-old archaeological treasure. Check in to The Mud House, a secluded eco retreat nestled at the foot of the ancient Rock Temple in Anamaduwa. Set amidst six acres of remote wilderness, tranquil lakes and abundant fauna and flora, there is plenty to see and do for the more adventurous.

Day 4: Anamaduwa

Steeped in myth and legend, the Paramankanda Rock Temple is said to hold mysterious powers found behind its trap doors and its rumored underground tunnel network. At ground level, the temple has a number of fascinating shrine rooms found under the overhanging rock and offers incredible views from atop its stone staircase. Later enjoy a lake swim or explore the surrounding villages.

Day 5: Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura – the city of Kings – was once the seat of power in Sri Lanka before being abandoned in search of a new capital after numerous invasions. Today Anuradhapura’s sacred Bodhi tree stands as majestic as it did during the reign of King Tissa – over 2,000 years ago.

Day 6: Jaffna

Travel by train to Jaffna – a city of attractive palm-shaded colonial-era suburbs and intriguing temples and churches. After meeting your host family, embark on an extensive guided city tour travelling like the locals, by bike. Later your host family will share with you a traditional Sri Lankan meal of various soups, curries and tropical fruits.

Day 7: Jaffna

Start this morning at the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, the city’s most important Hindu temple. Later, explore the city’s major sights including Kayts jetty, Hanuman temple, Kantharodai Buddhist miniature pagodas, Keerimalai pond and Naguleswaram temple. Lunch will be taken at a village home served on banana leaf in traditional Jaffna style. The rest of the afternoon is free to relax on the peaceful Casuarina beach.

Day 8: Delft Island

Delft Island is about as remote as it gets in Sri Lanka. A small and isolated island that due to civil war remained off limits from tourism for many years. The island is perhaps best known for its population of wild horses, which were left by the Portuguese and remain an iconic feature of the rural life here. Tour the islands other attractions before enjoying a seafood lunch at a local home on the island.

Day 9: Habarana

En route to our next destination – Habarana – we enter Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and continue onto the Ritigala Forest Monastery. Ritigala has the feel of an undiscovered world and archaeologists have uncovered various structures and implements dating back to the 4th century B.C. – proof of a once extensive monastic complex. The stone meditational pathways snaking through the jungle seem from another world. Spend the next few nights at Elephant Watch Hut – and as its name suggests, it is not unusual to be awoken in the wee hours by an elephant strolling by your stilted hut.

Day 10: Habarana

Visit Sigiriya. Rising over the dry and baron plains is the magnificent Rock Fortress of Sigiriya – also known as Lion Rock. Later a short journey north brings you to Pidurangala – a massive rock formation offering magnificent views of the lush forests below.

Day 11: Kandy

Proceed to Kandy, the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings and a city still in touch with its colonial past. Wander around the city’s lake and streets and explore the local markets. Located in the Royal Palace complex, also visit the revered Temple of the Tooth that houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha.

Day 12: Kandy

A great way to see Kandy at a slower pace is by bicycle. A guided tour on an older style Lumala bike will show you the backroads and narrow laneways of Kandy, travelling much as they did in Ceylon in the 1920’s. Along the way visit some interesting cottage industries, explore the tiny shops and pause for a snack break at a picturesque location.

Day 13: Ella

A train journey today will take you high up into the hills passing lush tea plantations and mist shrouded mountains before reaching the town of Ella. Here the air is cooler and the vegetation is lush. This is one of Sri Lanka’s prime hiking destinations yet at the same time is the perfect spot to unwind for a few days. Stay at a homestay where you can experience the genuine hospitality of the local families.

Day 14: Ella

An early morning optional leisurely hike to Little Adam’s Peak will be rewarded with stunning views across the valley of the surrounding hills.

Day 15: Gal Oya

Gal Oya is an unexplored treasure in Sri Lanka – a national park surrounded by water and islands. Safaris are conducted by boat giving you the opportunity to observe wildlife at close range as they gather at the water’s edge. Herds of elephant can often be seen swimming from one island to another – one of the many highlights this park has to offer. You can also join one of the resident naturalists for a walk to discover the beauty and birdlife around the lodge.

Day 16: Matara

Today proceed to Matara where you will spend two days at a secluded beach house. Enjoy walks along the beach, swim in the pool, and stroll along the tropical garden.

Day 17: Matara

A full day to relax and enjoy your surroundings and the facilities of your secluded and private beach house.

Day 18: Galle

Continue onto the coastal town of Galle – a town of great beauty where colonial architecture meets lush tropical vegetation and the glimmering sea. Galle Fort is a living-breathing city within a city complete with boutique shops, cafes and hotels. Take a walk and enjoy the views of the sunset from the ramparts of the fort – a short way from your accommodation.

Day 19: Galle

Morning at leisure. Later, visit Galle’s major sights. Spend time exploring the inner sanctum of Galle Fort where time seemingly has stood still for hundreds of years and marvel at the fortifications that resemble those in the coastal areas of Portugal. Dine tonight in a local home trying the many exotic curries this city is famous for.

Day 19: Depart Colombo

Your tour concludes today. Transfer to Colombo for international departing flight.

Inclusions: 
Meals:20 breakfasts, all meals at Anamaduwa and Jaffna, 1 dinner
Transport: Airport transfers & private air-conditioned vehicle
Rail: Train Ticket: Anuradhapura / Jaffna - Kandy / Ella
Accommodation: 20 nights
Guide:Local English Speaking Guide
Entrance Fees & Touring:Entrance fees & activities as per itinerary