Sri Lanka tour | ‘The Island of Serendipity’
Our 2-week Sri Lanka tour takes you from World Heritage ancient cities, through Kandy and the scenic hill country, to spectacular national parks and unspoilt coastline
Including 7 of the country's World Heritage sites
This fascinating 2-week Sri Lanka tour takes you from our starting point in coastal Negombo, via the walled city and World Heritage site Galle – perched on a rock jutting spectacularly into the Indian Ocean – through the scenic hill country with its tea estates and national parks. Travelling by road and rail we’ll discover the ancient capital Kandy and faded colonial splendour of Nuwara Eliya before continuing north to the ancient cities and UNESCO-listed sites of the Central Plains and Cultural Triangle.
Our tour continues to the little-visited old port of Trincomalee and a stay on an unspoilt stretch of northeastern coastline before returning into the interior for a jeep safari in the vast Wilpattu National Park.
Along the way, we’ll discover the flourishing wildlife and stunning landscapes of Horton Plains and Minneriya National Parks as well as visiting no less than 7 of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites while ensuring a leisurely pace and ample time for relaxation and opportunities to ‘do your own thing’.
Some of the exciting and varied activities include a jeep safari to the world-famous ‘elephant gathering’, an early morning ascent of the dramatic rock fortress of Sigiriya with its famous Maidens of the Clouds, a visit to Kandy’s prestigious Temple of the Tooth, tea tasting at highland plantations, a ride through the hills on a local train plus – weather permitting – whale watching options at Mirissa or Trincomalee.
With a wide variety of sites, landscapes, flora and fauna and activities (not forgetting, of course, the wonderful Sri Lankan curries(!), this tour is a perfect introduction to the magnificent island of Sri Lanka.
Note also that for those with a few more days to spare and in addition to beach extensions in various parts of the island, we propose a highly unusual and fascinating off-the-beaten-track Hidden Maldives tour or a more classic stay at a Maldive Islands’ island eco-resort.
Since airfares are fluctuating wildly at present, as well as varying considerably from period to period, our ‘with flight’ prices, below, are approximate only.
Includes: Meals: B x 13, L x 7, D x 6
Here's an idea of what you can expect to do and see day-to-day.
Day 1 - Arrival at Colombo and transfer to the coast
Arrival at Colombo International Airport and transfer to a beachside resort in nearby Negombo Town. Time to unwind before a late afternoon briefing and first opportunity to sample the justly celebrated Sri Lankan cuisine with a local-style welcome dinner.
Overnight: Negombo Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: D,
Day 2 - Colombo city tour
Optional early morning visit to Negombo’s bustling fish market before a short drive to Colombo and a tour of some of the sights of the capital including the National Museum, a look at some of the city’s colonial architecture and a walk through the hectic but fascinating Pettah Bazaar street market. After lunch, we’ll continue south to the historic town of Galle, in the country’s southwest.
Overnight: Galle Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 3 - Galle
Morning walking tour of UNESCO-listed Galle – a spectacularly-sited walled town jutting into the Indian Ocean on a rocky peninsula – and a hike along the ramparts of the Old Dutch Fort with some free time in the afternoon to continue your exploration of the narrow lanes of the old Moorish Quarter at your own pace.
Overnight: Galle Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B,
Day 4 - Elephant Rehabilitation Centre and Ella
Departure into the interior and the small, picturesque mountain town of Ella. On route we’ll stop at the famous Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe – an elephant orphanage and rehabilitation centre – as well as the scenic Rawana Falls. Check-in to our boutique-style hotel before an afternoon walk to Little Adam’s Peak and the famous Nine Arch Bridge.
Overnight: Ella Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 5 - Horton Plains hike
An early start for a drive to the Horton Plains National Park and morning hike to the famous, and aptly named, World’s End where the plains drop abruptly 1,000 metres to lush forests below. We’ll also have plenty of opportunities to discover the region’s fantastic flora and fauna and take in the beautiful Baker’s Falls while in the afternoon we’ll continue to Nuwara Eliya for a visit and tasting at one of the area’s famous tea plantations as well as high tea at the old colonial-style Hill Club Hotel.
Overnight: Nuwara Eliya Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 6 - Train journey through the Hill Country
Morning departure by local train with a picturesque ride through the hills to Kandy, the country’s second city and capital of the hill country. Free time to explore the picturesque old town or perhaps take a hike around Kandy Lake before joining an evening ceremony at the highly prestigious Temple of the Tooth. We’ll continue our discovery of Sri Lankan food with an evening meal at a local-style Tamil restaurant and overnight accommodation at a Victorian-era, lakeside hotel.
Overnight: Kandy Transport: Train, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 7 - Explore World Heritage Kandy
Tour of the UNESCO-listed town and surrounding area including Arthur’s Seat viewpoint, the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and a walk through a bustling local market. Our tour of Sri Lankan cuisine continues with lunch at one of the town’s Muslim restaurants. The afternoon is at leisure to explore at your pace or even try out one of the country’s renowned Ayurvedic massages.
Overnight: Kandy Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 8 - Dambulla and afternoon jeep safari
Time to head north to discover the UNESCO World Heritage site of Dambulla – whose cave temples date to the 1st century BC. In the afternoon we’ll take a jeep safari in one of the area’s national parks where abundant wildlife includes elephants, langurs and a spectacular array of Sri Lankan birdlife. (The guide will decide between Minneriya or Kaudulla parks depending on the movement of elephant herds at the time.)
Overnight: Sigiriya Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 9 - Sigirya and Polonnaruwa
Early morning 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. Another World Heritage Site is on the afternoon’s menu with a cycling tour of the historic temples and exquisitely carved statues of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa. Evening home cooking style dinner as guests of a local Sinhalese family.
Overnight: Sigiriya Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, D,
Day 10 - North to Trincomalee
Today we’ll travel north to the coastal town and ancient port of Trincomalee. A morning tour will include China Bay, the old Dutch Fort Frederik, the Maritime and Naval History Museum and the town’s lively bazaar, before continuing a short distance up the coast for accommodation in a small resort on the Indian Ocean coast.
Overnight: Trincomalee Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L,
Day 11 - Day at leisure in Trincomalee
A day at leisure in this charming location; 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 at certain times of the year), a snorkelling trip on the colourful reef around Pigeon Island, or even scuba diving.
Overnight: Trincomalee Transport: Walk, Meals: B,
Day 12 - Mihintale and jeep safari in Wilpattu
Late morning departure for Mihintale, a scenic and 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. In the afternoon we’ll continue, via the ancient UNESCO-listed site of Anuradhapura, to nearby Wilpattu National Park – Sri Lanka’s largest, yet one of its least visited national parks. Afternoon jeep safari and overnight stay in a comfortable tented camp.
Overnight: Wilpattu Camp Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, L, D,
Day 13 - Wilpattu and on to Colombo
Optional early morning jeep safari followed by a return south to Negombo. Afternoon at leisure for perhaps a last dip in the Indian Ocean or a stroll along Negombo’s picturesque old Dutch-period canals before a local-style farewell dinner.
Overnight: Negombo Transport: Minibus, Walk, Meals: B, D,
The nitty-gritty, the things you need to know, the answers to your burning questions.
Just a few of the many highlights
Wonderful and highly varied scenery, national parks and their abundant wildlife, relaxing at the coast, plus 7 of Sri Lanka's 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Tour the picturesque Hill Country - serene landscapes, waterfalls and of course tea plantations!
- Historic Galle - a walled port town perched dramatically on a headland jutting into the Indian Ocean
- Visit the dramatic Sigiriya rock fortress - truly spectacular and another World Heritage Site
- Visit the charming lakeside town of Kandy nestled in the mountains - home to the famous Temple of the Tooth
- Wildlife spotting jeep safaris through Wilpattu National Park and a hike across Horton Plains
- And last but not least, plenty of opportunities to meet the friendly inhabitants and sample the superb local food
Air Departures (UK) *From
- 26 December 23 2,425 GBP
- 13 January 24 2,425 GBP
- 3 February 24 2,425 GBP
- 2 March 24 2,425 GBP
- 12 April 24 2,425 GBP
- 10 May 24 2,435 GBP
- 14 June 24 2,435 GBP
- 12 July 24 2,435 GBP
- 27 December 23 1,675 GBP
- 14 January 24 1,675 GBP
- 4 February 24 1,675 GBP
- 3 March 24 1,675 GBP
- 13 April 24 1,675 GBP
- 11 May 24 1,635 GBP
- 15 June 24 1,635 GBP
- 13 July 24 1,635 GBP
Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed
*Air departures are from the UK. Land departures start from Negombo
*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...
Camelot Beach Hotel Negombo view
- Odd name but top spot to relax in before or after your tour
- Comfortable rooms, great service and Indian Ocean views
- Walking distance of market, fishing port and plenty of cafes
Tartaruga Hotel view
- Comortable, well-appointed resort with beach front location
- Located in Unawatuna Bay a short diatcxne from Galle Town
- Excellent in-house restaurant and well-stocked pool bar
Oak Ray Ella Gap view
- Convenient, central location in popular Ella Town
- Well-appointed with pool, bar, restaurant and WiFi
- Set amid the spectacular mountain scenery of the Ella Gap
The Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya view
- Former plantation owners' club now converted to hotel
- Set in lush botanical gardens on the edge of Nuwara Eliya
- Billiard room, ballroom etc - it's just missing Col Mustard
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 Other Corner Habarana view
- Delightful, eco-style nature resort in a forest setting
- Individual wooden, stilt chalets with private balconies
- Well-appointed with pool, air-con, restaurant and bar
Safari Camp Wilpattu view
- Comfortable 'glamping' style tented camp
- Excellent location on the edge of Wilpattu National Park
- En-suite showers plus on-site restaurant and bar
*This list should be considered a guide only, hotels/rooms may change (without notice) depending on availability.
Visa Info & Notes
Visas: Although visa on arrival service is available at Colombo International Airport, obtaining an electronic travel authorisation (ETA or e-visa) in advance of travel is strongly recommended and considerably speedsa up arrival procedures. The cost is c. $50 (US dollars). 3 days is officially required but processing is usually the same (working) day.
Passport: Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Cambodia. You may be refused entry if your passport is damaged, in poor condition or does not have at least 2 blank pages remaining.
Tipping: We recommend a kitty system for smaller, daily tips such as hotel/restaurant staff and local drivers and guides but which could also include minor expenses such as group tea/coffee breaks etc. Amounts inevitably vary with group size but would generally be in the region of £25-35 or $30-$40 total per person for the 2-week tour. For your driver and guide/tour-leader tips – both of whom will accompany you for the duration of your 2-week tour – we’d recommend approximately $25 per person total for the latter and $20 for the former though of course, this is always discretionary and performance-related. (Local currency or USD are fine.)
Meals: Breakfasts are generally hotel buffets with lunch and dinners based on local food. Typical traditional meals involve fish or chicken curry with a selection of accompanying vegetable dishes and salads, Dishes are usually only mildly spicy and both vegetarians and vegans are very easily catered for. For any other likes and dislikes please remind your tour leader at the start of the tour. A number of meals are not included, which allows you to ‘do your own thing’ or take a break if you’re feeling ‘riced out’.
Accommodation: all choices fall into the comfortable 3-4* range and are en-suite and air-conditioned. (Our 1-night camping is en-suite but fan only.) We have posted a selection of sample accommodation on the lefthand hotel tab but please note that as we try and avoid the larger hotels, availability, in high season particularly, means we use several options in each destination.
Activities: note that no activities are compulsory and that any offered can be tailored for various fitness levels or alternatives suggested.
Further info: detailed descriptions and photos can be found on the corresponding page of our travel blog.
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