Considered to be off-limits for years due to the civil war, the gates to culture filled Jaffna are open to adventurers once more. Discover Tamil culture in this colourful city. Open skies, swaying palm trees and glittering waters – Trincomalee beach is a postcard-perfect landscape for relaxation. Kick back in the sun on this bright and sandy shoreline. Witness ritual and devotion in the spiritual heart of the country during a visit to Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth. Observe wild elephants from basic ‘tree houses’ and hopefully catch an outstanding sunset in Wasgamuwa National Park, one of the most biodiverse protected areas in Sri Lanka
Drive along the road in Sri Lanka and you can pass Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, churches and mosques all on the same stretch. This fusion – found in the history, the culture, the Arabian, Indian and European-inspired food – makes Sri Lanka a delicious melting pot to explore. From laid-back Negombo venture through ancient Anuradhapura to the lesser explored north, the secrets and hidden places of Jaffna, and on to the beautiful coastline of Trincomalee. Discover the spiritual heart of the country in the temples of Kandy, and enjoy the natural world too, in a country that overflows with plants and wildlife. Spend time with locals keen to share their homes, food, and stories on an adventure that will leave you with many of your own to tell.
Breakfast Included: 10 Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 2
Ayu-bowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. Your adventure begins in the town of Negombo, located close to the international airport. You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 5.30 pm. Those arriving early can get into the spirit of seaside Sri Lanka by observing the local fishing craft and perhaps feasting on fresh seafood. The beautiful surrounding countryside is best explored on a bicycle, which you can rent with help from the hotel reception.
Travel north by private vehicle (approximately 4 hours) to Anuradhapura. The grand ruins of Anuradhapura point to its status as Sri Lanka’s ruling city for almost one and a half millennia. Take a guided cycling tour of the large number of archaeological sites – the stupas, citadel and monasteries – and stop by the Bodhi Tree Temple, the second-most sacred site in Sri Lanka.
Travel north (approximately 4 hours) to the coastal Tamil town of Jaffna, inaccessible for years due to the civil war. Journey around the Jaffna Peninsula, taking in Point Pedro (Sri Lanka’s northernmost point), the healing waters of Keerimalai Spring, the ruined dagobas of Kantarodai, and Nilawari, a bottomless well where it’s said that the Hindu God, Rama, shot an arrow to get water.
Today we have plenty of time to explore more of Jaffna. Visit Nagadipa Temple on Nainativu Island, the only major Buddhist site in the north of the country (where Buddha himself is said to have visited to settle a dispute between two local kings) and accessible by local ferry. Just by the jetty is also the Naga Pooshani Amman Kovil, a colourful Hindu Temple dedicated to Meenakshi. Back in Jaffna, tour the city including the beautiful library that has been lovingly restored after being detroyed in the war, and the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, an important local Hindu site. In the evening, spend time with a local family and learn to cook traditional Jaffna cuisine.
Leave Jaffna today and travel to Trincomalee (approximately 4 hours). Discover the beach vibes of "Trinco", relax in the shade of a palm tree and try ‘toddy’ straight from its flowers. Trincomalee was one of the world’s finest deep-water harbours, attracting famous sailors like Marco Polo to its shores. There are no activities planned today, so there's plenty of time to relax around the pool or beach.
Take the free day to enjoy a range of optional activities like visiting the colorful and intricate Pathirakali Amman Hindu temple, or climb aboard a boat for some whale and dolphin watching in the bay. Don’t feel like doing anything? Then simply sit back, relax and enjoy the peaceful beach lifestyle.
Habarana - Dambulla
Drive from Trincomalee towards Habarana (approximately 2 hours), a small but scenic village that serves as a base to exploring the colourful Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka. Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple. This wondrous UNESCO Heritage-listed site is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, many of which are full of colourful, large statues and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life. After returning to Habarana, there’s the option of going elephant, sambar deer and leopard watching on a safari in the evergreen scrublands of Minneriya National Park.
Sigiriya - Wasgomuwa National Park
Today we head towards Wasgomuwa National Park, one of the most biodiverse protected areas in Sri Lanka, by private vehicle (approximately 2.5 hours). En route, visit Sigiriya's Lion Rock, an ancient carved-rock fortress that rises dramatically above the surrounding plains. Spend the rest of the day at Project Orange Elephant, a local non-government organisation helping protect elephants in Sri Lanka while supporting farmers to develop sustainable incomes. Meet some of the local farmers and have the chance to see elephants and other wildlife that live in the area. Wasgamuwa National Park is home to wild Asian elephants, sloth bears, leopards and many other endangered wildlife.
Leave Wasgomuwa and head onwards to Kandy (approximately 3.5 hours), the last capital of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings era. As you continue on, a stop in at a spice garden might yield scents of cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, vanilla and more as you learn the secrets of cultivating these palate pleasers. After arriving in Kandy, visit a Kandayan dance show to experience the colourful traditional costumes and evocative performances live in action.
Start the day off in Kandy with a visit to the Giragama Tea Factory for an insight into local production techniques, then head to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This golden roofed temple is home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. Afterwards, enjoy the rest of the day with free exploration of the city. Perhaps take a walk around the beautiful lake in the centre of town, explore the local Buddhist temple or while away the afternoon amongst the trees and flowers of the Royal Palace Park.
Drive on towards Colombo today, the nation's capital. Stop by some of the city's main sights on a bus tour including Independence Square, Parliament, and past the National Museum, finishing with a shopping opportunity for a good cause at the Barefoot Fair trade Store. Here you can find a collection of handicrafts from around the country and support small cottage industries. If you are lucky enough to be in Colombo on a Saturday, visit Good Market, a local market full of stalls showcasing social enterprises and responsible businesses. Tonight there's an optional final group dinner to celebrate your journey together.
There are no activities planned for day 12 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. Additional accommodation is available through your booking agent at the time of booking your trip.