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Sri Lanka Discovery

Our May to October itinerary takes in Galle, the Hill Country, Cultural Triangle and the sheltered northeast coast, avoiding the southern monsoons

Ancient Cities, Hill Country and the east coast

Our Sri Lanka tour, Ancient Cities and the Tea Country. This 2-week tour of central and northern Sri Lanka takes in the picturesque Hill Country with its famous tea plantations, the ancient cities of the famous Cultural Triangle, and the unspoilt north-east coast where the stunning beaches around Trincomalee are now opening up after being off limits during the tragic civil war.

Featuring no less than 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites, our tour takes in the historic walled city of Galle, the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the awe-inspiring mountain-top fortress of Sigiriya and it’s famous Cloud Maidens; the atmospheric cave temples of Dambulla, the celebrated Temple of the Tooth in the mountain capital Kandy, and the landscapes of the country’s Central Highlands including the stunning Horton Plains National Park.

As well as a hike across Horton Plains to the aptly named and truly awesome World’s End, we’ll take a jeep safari in Minneriya – one of Sri Lanka’s most spectacular national parks.  With luck, we’ll be able to see the famous ‘Gathering’, where huge herds of wild elephants congregate around, what in the dry season, is one of the last remaining watering holes. Other varied activities include cycling (or tuk-tuk) visits to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa plus a Colombo street-food tour, while optional activities on offer during our Nilaveli beach stay include whale watching, and snorkelling or diving.

For our November to April the itinerary, please see our Isle of Serendipity tour.

For anyone with a bit more time to spare, we propose two extensions to the nearby Maldive Islands – just one hour’s flight from Colombo – comprising of either a 6-day off-the-beaten-track ‘Hidden Maldives’, or a stay at an island eco-resort.

 

Sri Lanka

Itinerary

Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.

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Day 1 - Negombo and arrival in Sri Lanka

Arrival in Colombo, and transfer to a beach-side resort at nearby Negombo on the island’s west coast for some relaxation time after your flight.

Airport transfers are included if you purchase the 'with flights' package.

Overnight: Negombo Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: D, 

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Day 2 - Columbo - city tour and the night bazaar

Morning at leisure to perhaps recover from jet-lag by the pool, relax on the beach, or check out the local cafes. In the afternoon we’ll drive into Colombo for a guided tour of the City, including visits to the National Museum, Beira Lake, the old Parliament Building and a stroll along Galle Face Green.  An evening tour of the bustling Pettah Bazaar with an opportunity to sample some of the wonderful street food concludes the day.

Overnight: Negombo Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, D, 

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Day 3 - Galle - Negombo to World Heritage Galle

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 of the old Moorish Quarter and stroll along the walls of the old Dutch fortress built on a rock jutting into the ocean.

Overnight: Galle Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 4 - Nuwara Eliya - tea country tour

Head up into the tea growing area with a drive through some spectacular scenery into Sri Lanka’s hill country for a stay in the old colonial period town of Nuwara Eliya. 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.

Overnight: Nuwara Eliya Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 5 - Horton Plains - visit the National Park

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 take in the beautiful Baker’s Falls. Afternoon return to Nuwara Eliya with time at leisure to explore the town’s architecture or take a walk in Victoria Park.

Overnight: Nuwara Eliya Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 6 - Hill Country - slow train to Kandy

Morning ride by local train through the picturesque hills to Kandy, the country’s second city and capital of the hill country. Kandy is nestled amongst wooded hills, with many of its historic buildings laid out around a lake – part of the former ancient city’s moat. Time to explore the town, with an optional evening, traditional dance show.

Overnight: Kandy Transport: Train, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 7 - Kandy - old town tour and botanical gardens

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 – one of Buddha’s teeth. After a local-style lunch in town, we’ll head out to the beautiful Peradeniya Botanic Gardens.

Overnight: Kandy Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, 

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Day 8 - Cultural Triangle - Dambulla and Sigiriya

Time to head north, stopping at a fascinating spice garden at Matale.  We will travel 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. This 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 the summit for some equally amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

Overnight: Polonnaruwa Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 9 - Cultural Triangle - Polonnaruwa and Minneriya National Park

Another World Heritage Site is on this morning’s menu with a cycling tour of the historic temples and exquisitely carved statues of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa. Afternoon jeep safari in Minneriya National Park to spot 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 herds of hundreds of elephants congregate around Minneriya Lake. (Depending upon season our safari may be changed to an adjacent national park.)

Overnight: Polonnaruwa Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 10 - Trincomalee - tour of the old port and on to Nilaveli

Today we’ll travel north to the coastal town and ancient port of Trincomalee. Our tour will include 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.

Overnight: Nilaveli Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 11 - Nilaveli - relax at the beach or whale watching

A day at leisure in this charming spot.   Laze on the magnificent beach or explore the local area.  More adventurous options include whale watching, (sperm and blue whales are regularly sighted off the coast), a snorkelling trip on the colourful reef around Pigeon Island, or scuba diving.

Overnight: Nilaveli Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, D, 

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Day 12 - Anuradhapura - tour of the ancient World Heritage Site

Late morning departure travelling southwest back into the interior to another ancient city – Anuradhapura, the 3rd-century capital – for a late afternoon cycling tour along the tree (and monkey) lined lanes winding between ruins and temples.

A tuk-tuk option is available for those who prefer

Overnight: Anuradhapura Transport: Minibus, Bike, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 13 - Negombo

Return to Negombo with a stop on route at the scenic and highly prestigious site of Mihintale, a revered 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.

Overnight: Negombo Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, L, D, 

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Day 14 - Negombo

Morning at leisure,  Tour ends and departure at your convenience.

Airport transfers are included if you purchase the ‘with flights’ package. If you purchased your own flights, airport transfers can be arranged.

Extra accommodation in Negombo before or after your tour is available if required.

Transport: Minibus,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary

Details

The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.

Sri Lanka, holy man in Trincomalee

Just a few of the many highlights

No less than 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites include; Kandy, the Dambulla cave temples, ancient cities of Sigirya, Polonnaruwa and, Anuradhapura, historic Galle and Horton Plains National Park

  • Includes visits to no less than seven of Sri Lanka's UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Visit the dramatic Sigiriya rock fortress and its famous Cloud Maidens, truly spectacular and another World Heritage Site
  • Visit the charming lakeside town of Kandy, home to the famous Temple of the Tooth and the fantastic Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
  • Stay in the former Governor's residence in the old colonial hill-country town of Nuwura Eliya
  • Relax (or whale watch) at the stunning and unspoilt coast around the old port of Trincomalee in the northeast of the Island
  • Jeep safari to see the 'Gathering' in Minneriya National Park

Air Departures (UK)

  • 25 May 19 2,390 GBP
  • 29 June 19 2,390 GBP
  • 27 July 19 2,490 GBP
  • 7 September 19 2,390 GBP
  • 12 October 19 2,390 GBP

Land Departures

  • 26 May 19 1,540 GBP
  • 30 June 19 1,540 GBP
  • 28 July 19 1,540 GBP
  • 8 September 19 1,540 GBP
  • 13 October 19 1,540 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Colombo

*Land departure dates correspond to the FIRST day of the itinerary.

We choose our hotels based on a combination of location, comfort and convenience. Here is a *selection of the types of hotel/rooms you can expect to stay at on this tour...

Giritale Hotel, Polonnaruwa view

  • Secluded resort on a forested hillside overlooking a lake
  • Well located for Polonnaruwa plus Minneriya NP
  • Great spot for sundowners and fine curries

Pigeon Island Resort, Nilaveli view

  • A cosy and comfortable, low-key beachside resort in Nilaveli
  • Situated just north of the old port of Trincomalee
  • Options include snorkelling, fishing and whale watching

Hotel Suisse, Kandy view

  • A restored, former British governor’s residence
  • Wonderful, central, lake-side location in Kandy
  • Pool, garden, spa, bar and restaurant

The Lakeside, Nuwarawewa view

  • Friendly, low-key resort style accommodation
  • Our hopping off pint for UNESCO Anuradhapura
  • Lawn, pool and pleasant terrace area

*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.

Visa Info & Notes

Sri Lanka: visas are available on arrival at Colombo International Airport for $40, or we recommend you obtain an electronic travel authorisation (ETA) in advance for $35.

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Extensions

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