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Sri Lanka World Heritage Tour

A 2-week circular tour of Sri Lanka including 7 of the Island''s spectacular World Heritage Sites

The Cultural Triangle, Central Highlands and South Coast

This fascinating 2-week Sri Lanka World Heritage tour takes you from our starting point in coastal Negombo, into the interior for an exciting visit – and overnight ‘glamping’ – to Wilpattu National Park, the country’s largest but one of its least visited, protected areas. From here we continue into the island’s centre to discover the spectacular ancient cities and UNESCO-listed sites of the Central Plains and the ‘Cultural Triangle’.

Heading into the Hill Country, by way of the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temples, we explore historic Kandy and the faded colonial splendour of the old hill station Nuwara Eliya before heading to the south coast and the picturesque fishing port of Tangalle. After a stay in a charming beach-side resort, we’ll complete our circular tour of the island with a drive along the coast to another World Heritage site, the walled town of Galle – perched on a rock jutting spectacularly into the Indian Ocean.

Along the way, we’ll discover the flourishing wildlife and stunning landscapes of Horton Plains and World’s End 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 along the way include a jeep safari, an early morning ascent of the dramatic rock fortress of Sigiriya with its famous Maidens of the Clouds, joining a ceremony at Kandy’s prestigious Temple of the Tooth, tea tasting at highland plantations and a scenic ride through the hills on a local train. Weather permitting – an optional whale-watching trip at Mirissa is also on the menu.

With a wide variety of sites, landscapes, flora, fauna and activities, not forgetting, of course, the wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine as well as plenty of opportunities to meet the very welcoming locals, this tour is a perfect introduction to the magnificent island of Sri Lanka.

Note, below is our itinerary for November to April. From May to October we tweak the programme to include a beach stay on the sheltered northeast coast at Nilaveli. (See our Island of Serendipity tour.)

Includes: Meals: B x 13, L x 5, High Tea x 1, D x 5

Sri Lanka

Itinerary

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

Sri Lanka, Camelot Beach Hotel, Negombo

Day 1 - Arrival and check-in to a beach resort

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: Taxi, Walk,  Meals: D, 

Sri Lanka, Negombo port

Day 2 - Negombo and Colombo day tour

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.

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

Leopard - Wilpattu National Park

Day 3 - Jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park

Departing Negombo, we’ll head north to Wilpattu National Park – Sri Lanka’s largest, yet one of its least visited national parks. (The park is renowned for its leopard population but sees far less visitors than the much better-known Yala.) Afternoon jeep safari and overnight stay in a comfortable tented camp.

Overnight: Safari Camp Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, L, D, 

Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura ceremony

Day 4 - Anuradhapura ancient city and Mihintale

Late morning departure for the ancient UNESCO-listed site of Anuradhapura. In the afternoon we’ll continue to Habarana – our base for exploring the famous Cultural Triangle’, with a stop at 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.

Overnight: Habarana Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, 

Sri Lanka, Sigiriya

Day 5 - Cultural Triangle; Sigiriya 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: Habarana Transport: Minibus, Bike, Walk,  Meals: B, D, 

Dambulla Sri Lanka

Day 6 - Dambulla Cave Temples and south to Kandy

Departure south for Kandy with stops en route to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Dambulla – whose fabulous cave temples date to the 1st century BCE – as well Matale for a tour of a spice garden plus a short local cookery demonstration. Late afternoon arrival in Kandy with perhaps time for a sunset stroll around the lake.

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

Sri Lanka, Kandy

Day 7 - Kandy tour

Tour of the UNESCO-listed town 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 at leisure; perhaps continue your exploration at your own pace or even try out one of the country’s renowned Ayurvedic massages – before before joining an evening ceremony at the highly prestigious Temple of the Tooth. In the evening, we’ll continue our tour of Sri Lankan food with dinner at a local-style Tamil restaurant.

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

Sri Lanka tour, The Island of Serendipity

Day 8 - Through the Central Highlands and tea country

Morning departure by local train on a picturesque ride through the hills to Nuwara Eliya including the opportunity to visit one of the area’s famous tea plantations as well as high tea at the old colonial-style Grand Hotel. Some free time allows for a stroll around Victoria Park and the opportunity to check out some of the town’s colonial architectural heritage.

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

Horton Plains National Park

Day 9 - Horton Plains and World's End

An early start for a drive to the Horton Plains National Park and a 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 opportunities to discover the region’s fantastic flora and fauna and take in the beautiful Baker’s Falls before an afternoon transfer to the picturesque town of Ella with, time permitting, a stroll to Little Adam’s Peak and the famous Nine Arch Bridge.

Overnight: Ella Transport: Minibus, Walk,  Meals: B, 

Sri Lanka, Tangalle beach surise

Day 10 - On to the coast and the fishing port of Tangalle

Time to head south with a stop at the famous Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe – an elephant orphanage and rehabilitation centre – before continuing to the picturesque coastal town and fishing port of Tangalle. Afternoon at leisure and accommodation at a small, boutique-style, beachside resort

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

Sri Lanka, Tangalle fishing port

Day 11 - At leisure in Tangalle

Day at leisure in Tangalle. Check out the quaint town with its bustling fishing port while optional activities include a bird and wildlife spotting boat tour through the protected mangroves of nearby Kalametiya Sanctuary.

Overnight: Tangalle Transport: Walk,  Meals: B, 

Sri Lanka World Heritage Tour

Day 12 - Follow the coast to Galle

Leisurely departure for a drive west along the scenic coastline to historic Galle where we’ll stay in a boutique-style, beachside resort at nearby Tartaruga.

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

Sri Lanka, old town Galle

Day 13 - Explore the World Heritage town

Morning at leisure in Tartaruga with an afternoon tour of UNESCO-listed Galle – a spectacularly sited walled town jutting into the Indian Ocean on a rocky peninsula. * Discover the narrow lanes and quaint cafes of the old Moorish Quarter with a sunset hike along the ramparts of the Old Dutch Fort before it’s time for a farewell dinner in an old town café. (*Weather permitting, an optional whale-watching tour at nearby Mirissa can be arranged.)

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

Sri Lanka, Sayura Beach Resort

Day 14 - Transfer to Colombo International Airport or extend your beach stay

Free morning in Unawatuna and departure at your leisure for the international airport.

Transport: Taxi,  Meals: B, 

Print Itinerary

Details

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

What's the food like in Sri Lanka

Just a few of the many highlights

Includes 7 of the country's UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites: Galle, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and the Central Highlands

  • Comprehensive but leisurely-paced tour
  • jeep safari and overnight 'glamping' in Wilpattu National Park
  • Small group sizes allows us to include small, boutique-style hotels and local, family restaurants
  • Inlcues 7 of Sri Lanka's UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites
  • A tour iof the island's cuisine with Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim meals plus dinner with a local family
  • Flexible actiivties can cater to a variety of fitness levels

Air Departures (UK) *From

  • 12 October 24 2,485 GBP
  • 16 November 24 2,485 GBP
  • 14 December 24 2,485 GBP
  • 11 January 25 2,435 GBP
  • 8 February 25 2,435 GBP
  • 15 March 25 2,435 GBP
  • 12 April 25 2,435 GBP
  • 4 October 25 2,435 GBP
  • 1 November 25 2,435 GBP
  • 6 December 25 2,535 GBP

Land Departures

  • 13 October 24 1,675 GBP
  • 17 November 24 1,675 GBP
  • 15 December 24 1,675 GBP
  • 12 January 25 1,725 GBP
  • 9 February 25 1,725 GBP
  • 16 March 25 1,725 GBP
  • 13 April 25 1,725 GBP
  • 5 October 25 1,725 GBP
  • 2 November 25 1,725 GBP
  • 7 December 25 1,725 GBP

Guaranteed Places Left Special Price Solo Traveller Closed

*As fares are fluctuating wildly at present all ‘with flight’ prices are approximate.

*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...

Sri Lanka, Camelot Beach Hotel, Negombo

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
Big Game camp

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
Sri Lanka tour, Hotel Suisse, Kandy

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 Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya

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
Ambiente Hotel Ella

Ambiente Hotel Ella view

  • Small, comfortable, family run hotel
  • Spectacular views of the Ella Gap
  • Quiet location but walking distance of the town centre
Palm Paradise Cabanas Tangalle

Palm Paradise Cabanas Tangalle view

  • Individual chalets in a tropical garden setting
  • Great location with a secluded, unspoilt beach
  • Easy access to Tangalle Town for cafes, restaurants etc

*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 speeds 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.

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