Day 1 Departure from UK.
Day 2 Arrival in Colombo, meet your tour-leader and transfer to a beach-side resort at nearby Negombo on the island’s west coast for some relaxation time after your flight.
Day 3 Morning at leisure to perhaps recover from jet-lag by the pool, put in a bit of beach time or check out the local cafes. In the afternoon we’ll drive into Colombo for a guided half day tour of the city including visits to the National Museum, Beira Lake, the old Parliament Building and Galle Face Green. We’ll also include an evening tour of the bustling Pettah Bazaar with an opportunity to sample some of the wonderful street food.
Day 4 Morning drive down the coast to the famous walled city of Galle before an afternoon walking tour of the beautifully preserved, historic and now UNESCO World Heritage town. Explore the narrow lanes and stroll along the walls of the old Dutch fortress built on a rock jutting into the ocean.
Day 5 Time to head up into the tea growing area with a morning transfer through some spectacular scenery into Sri Lanka’s hill country. We’ll stay in the old, colonial period town of Nuwara Eliya in the former governor’s residence now converted into an atmospheric hotel. An afternoon tour of the surrounding area with its pine forests, tea plantations and waterfalls, plus of course an opportunity to sample the famous local brews and check out the tea producing process.
Day 6 An early start for a hike across the Horton Plains National Park to the famous and aptly named World’s End, where the plains abruptly drop over 1,000 metres to lush forests below. A truly awe-inspiring sight! We’ll also have plenty of opportunities to discover the region’s fantastic flora and fauna, and time to take in the beautiful Baker’s Falls. In the afternoon we’ll return to Nuwara Eliya where you’ll have free time to explore the town, walk in Victoria Park or check out the local market.
Day 7 Morning ride by local train through the picturesque hills to Kandy, the country’s second city and capital of the hill country. The town is nestled amongst wooded hills and many of it's historic buildings are laid out around a lake, part of the former ancient city’s moat. Check-in to a lakeside hotel, also a former governor’s residence, with time to explore the town before a late afternoon traditional dance show. (Regular travellers with us will know we don’t usually go in for dance shows and such, but this one is definitely worth checking out!)
Day 8 In the morning, experience the Buddhist puja (blessing ceremony) at the famous and highly prestigious Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka’s most revered religious relic. (Yes… one of Buddha’s teeth!) After a local style lunch in town, we’ll head out to the beautifully kept and well-presented Peradeniya Botanic Gardens.
Day 9 Time to head north, via a fascinating spice garden at Matale, into what’s known as Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’. Visiting no less than 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the fabulous Dambulla Cave Temples, dating back to the 1st century BC, plus a late afternoon ascent of the dramatic rock fortress of Sigiriya. The ancient site is built atop a sheer sided rock outcrop, and we’ll take in the amazing ‘Maidens of the Clouds’ on our way up to the summit for some equally amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
Day 10 Yet another World Heritage Site is on this morning’s menu, with a cycling tour of the historic temples and exquisitely carved statues of the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa. The afternoon proceeds with a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park spotting elephants, langurs and a spectacular array of Sri Lankan bird life. During the August to October period we may be lucky enough to see the 'Gathering', where hundreds of elephants from all over the area congregate around Minneriya Lake to seek the last available water at the end of the dry season. (Depending upon season and location of the herds our safari may be changed to an adjacent national park.)
Day 11 Today we’ll travel north to the coastal town and ancient port of Trincomalee. A tour of China Bay, the old Dutch Fort Frederik and the town’s lively bazaar, before continuing a short distance up the coast to the beach-side town of Nilaveli for accommodation in a small resort looking onto the Indian Ocean.
Day 12 A day at leisure in this charming spot. Activities can include lazing on the beach or by the pool, exploring the local area, while more adventurous options include either whale watching, (sperm and blue whales are regular sightings off the coast), a snorkelling trip on the colourful reef around Pigeon Island, or scuba diving.
Day 13 Late morning departure travelling southwest back into the interior to another ancient city, Anuradhapura, the 3rd century capital, for a late afternoon cycling tour of the scattered ruins and temples. The site linked by tree and monkey lined lanes, also features a 2,300 year old bodhi tree said to have been grown from a cutting of the original tree Buddha sat under when he achieved enlightenment.
Day 14 Return to Negombo with a stop on route at the scenic and highly prestigious Mihintale, a pilgrimage site considered to be the founding place of Buddhism on the island. As well as an array of historic temples and religious sites, the rocky hill affords spectacular views across the surrounding countryside. Afternoon arrival at Negombo.
Day 15 Transfer to the airport for your return or onward flight.
Note: for those with a few days to spare we offer a choice of extensions to the nearby Maldive Islands, an hour’s flight from Colombo, including our 6 day off the beaten track, ‘Hidden Maldives’, or a stay at an island eco-resort.
Note: This tour is offered with or without return flights from London to Colombo - those persons not wishing to take up the flight option should join the tour on day 2 in Colombo and would finish the tour in Colombo on day 15.
Please note these are photos of sample hotels and resorts; accommodation options may vary and are subject to availability
The comfortable Paradise Beach Resort with a garden and pool facing the Indian Ocean itself is our choice for a beginning and end of tour relaxation spot conveniently close to Colombo Airport
Secluded resort on a forested hillside overlooking a nearby lake. Giritale has great rooms and on a good day you can spot wild elephants by the lake at the same time as you sup a g and t on their spectacularly situated terrace.
The cosy, beach-side Pigeon Island Resort in the small east coast town of Nilaveli north of the fishing port of Trincomalee
Hotel Suisse in Kandy. A former British governor’s residence located in the heart of the town by the scenic lake
The atmospheric former governor’s residence is our choice in the old colonial tea capital of Nuwara Eliya. Convenient central location opposite Victoria Park and the town’s racecourse
Charming, resort style but low key Lakeside at Nuwarawewa with spacious garden and pool and comfortable rooms with balconies on the outskirts of Anuradhapura Town.
"Overall an excellent experience. Guide was flexible in modifying the itinerary to take advantage of opportunities and our needs, he was a very helpful and personable individual with a strong command of the cultural and historical aspects of all of the places we visited."
Glenn and Marcella July 2015
Please find below a list of suggested extensions for this tour. For reservations please use the tour booking form on the same page
Our Hidden Maldives tour aims to provide you with some glimpses into the real country, people and culture that few visitors get to see. It’s more..
For our Maldives eco-resort stay, we’ve chosen the excellent Barefoot Eco Hotel on the north Maldives island of Hanimadhoo. This is a ‘local’ island as more..