Included trips to key sites and plenty of free time to discover Sri Lanka yourself, this trip is the perfect balance between guidance and space. Contrast the mix of incredible landscapes, as you weave through the city, relax on white sandy beaches, delve into temple caves and wander ancient sites. With a history touched by Portuguese, Dutch and British influences and a society with a devout adherence to the Buddhist faith, this island-nation has incredible diversity.
Sri Lanka has just about everything a traveller could want – superb ancient sites, magnificent scenery, amazing wildlife, delicious cuisine, incredibly friendly and welcoming locals and lovely palm-fringed, white sandy beaches. Add to this a history touched by Portuguese, Dutch and British influences and a society with a strong and devout adherence to the Buddhist faith and we find an island-nation of incredibly rich diversity with much to offer. We discover all of this and more on a comprehensive journey of what has been affectionately called, due to its shape, the ‘Teardrop Isle’.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2018:
The final departure of this itinerary will be on 28th January 2018. For another great trip in Sri Lanka, please see our new Jewels of Sri Lanka (PISJ) trip.
Breakfast Included: 14 Lunches Included: 1 Lunches Included:
Welcome to Sri Lanka. Upon arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport (the country's only international airport), you'll be met and transferred to your hotel close to Negombo, which is situated north of Colombo. Your airport representative will be waiting in the arrival hall, located after passing through the customs area. Please look out for the signboard with your surname on it. A welcome meeting with your trip leader will take place at around 6 pm, so check with reception or the noticeboard for details.
Although Colombo is the commercial capital and by far the largest city in Sri Lanka, it's still relatively small. You won't be staying in the capital itself, but in a place by the beach. If you have time, you can hire a bike here to explore the town or simply relax on the beach.
After breakfast this morning, head to the fish market in Negombo. This can be quite an intense affair, but the variety of fish being presented by the locals is a great experience. Afterwards, venture out in a private vehicle for around four and a half hours to the ancient city of Sigiriya. En route, stop at a coconut plantation and pineapple plantation, where you'll be able to see these tropical fruits in their perfect habitats. Late this afternoon, head out for one of the highlights of any visit to Sri Lanka, a visit to the magnificent palace of Sigiriya (Lion Rock). This dramatic rocky outcrop, rising from the surrounding plains is topped by a ruined palace. Its a good work out to climb to the top, but well worth the effort. This evening relax by the pool in your resort.
Drive to Anuradhapura in a private vehicle after breakfast this morning, which should take around one and a half hours. The sacred city of Anuradhapura is one of the main shrines of Buddhism in the country. Take a walk through intricate monuments and amazing architecture. After your visit to this ancient city, head back to Sigiriya. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
After breakfast, journey out to another of the area's ancient landmarks in Polonnaruwa (approximately 1.5 hours each way). There are plenty of temples, tombs and stupas to discover, as well as the spectacular Quadrangle. Later in the afternoon, head back to Sigiriya where you can have an optional ayurvedic massage.
Make the short drive to Dambulla Caves Temple this morning and explore this magnificent cave complex. The World Heritage listed monastery has been a pilgrimage site for 22 centuries and for good reason. In the afternoon, venture out in your private vehicle for around two and half hours to Kandy. You'll also visit a spice garden in Matale on the way. On arrival, check in to your hotel and head out to explore.
Start your day with breakfast and a city tour of Kandy. While this city is the second largest in the country and capital of the central hill regions, it's very much a peaceful and attractive place. There are plenty of scenic walks through the hills and forests that surround the town, as well as along the lake that forms its centre. In the heart of the town is the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa), the most important shrine in the country, which houses a relic of a tooth of Buddha taken from his funeral pyre. It's also renowned for its daily 'Thewawa' ceremony. You'll also visit the world-class botanical gardens and the local market. There will be plenty of free time to explore this pretty town on your own. Tonight enjoy a traditional Kandyan Dance performance with fire walking.
Say farewell to Kandy after breakfast and take the scenic train ride to Bandarawela, which can take around five hours. On arrival, check in to your accommodation and head out to explore the town. This place is known for its markets, so wander around and see what you can find.
Venture out this morning after breakfast and walk to a nearby tea plantation and factory. In the afternoon, you'll sit down for lunch at a local planter's bungalow, before having the rest of the day free to relax.
Ella Gap/Yala National Park/Kataragama
Travel from Bandarawela to Kataragama after breakfast, which usually takes around three hours. On your way to Kataragama you'll stop at Ella Gap for a scenic panorama of the stunning valley. On arrival into Kataragama, settle into your accommodation and then head out for an evening jeep safari of Yala National Park. This is a unique opportunity to witness Sri Lanka's native wildlife in their natural environment.
Visit Kataragama Temple in the morning to see the shrine that's dedicated to Kataragama Deviyo (resident god). Later on, jump in the car once again and head to Galle (approximately three hours). On the way you'll come across the amazing sight of the stilt fisherman, who sit perched far from shore on contraptions of sticks, dangling makeshift fishing rods into the water. Your evening is then free to explore Galle.
Today is free to do as you wish in Galle. Have some breakfast and then perhaps hire a bike, so you can get to see as much as you can in the time that you have. Between the months of November to April, whale watching is also a possibility in this area. If you have time in the day, pay a visit to the Handunugoda white tea plantation for a lesson in history and process. In the evening, head out for an included guided walk around the Galle Royal Dutch Fort.
Leave Galle behind today and travel for around two hours to the scenic resort town of Kalutara. This afternoon is free to relax on this lovely stretch of coastline. In the evening, perhaps take a walk down the beach as the sunsets.