Itinerary & Map
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Your journey begins with an overnight flight to Colombo.
Arrive in Sri Lanka
After your flight, you make the short 5 minute transfer to your first night’s accommodation at Minuwangoda. Here you can relax after your long flight and acclimatise near the pool or in the gardens of your hotel. Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception at 18.00 for a tour briefing. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night
Leaving Negombo behind you head inland to Dambulla. Your journey will take approximately 4 hours as you travel into the 'dry zone' in the heart of Sri Lanka's cultural triangle. The rest of the day is left free for you to relax or explore at will. Why not take an optional cycle around a local lake, or perhaps relax by the pool. Hotel (AA) - 2 nights (B)
Driving the short distance from Dambulla this morning, you’ll have the opportunity to climb to the summit of Sigiriya’s famous Lion Rock using a series of steps and walkways which zig-zag their way up the seemingly impenetrable rock cliffs. The site was occupied long before the citadel was built at the end of the 5th century, and it later became a monastery before falling into disrepair. From the base, a moat surrounds impressive water gardens of landscaped beauty. To reach the summit, you’ll ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit of the rock are the extensive remains of King Kasyapa’s summer palace from where there are breathtaking views.
This afternoon, you mount an elephant for an exciting elephant-back ride! Sitting in a howdah – an open basket fitted with safety rails and padded cushions - you roll gently from side to side as your elephants ramble for about an hour lazily through the bush. In the late afternoon you will return to your accommodation. (B)
Very early this morning you make the one and a half hours drive (complete with packed breakfast) to Parakrama Lake. You will drive via Minneriya National Park arriving at dawn, a very mystical way to start the day as the plains are covered in mist! Parakrama Lake is known as one of Sri Lanka’s greatest man-made lakes and you can watch the changing hues as the light comes up. These man-made lakes are known as 'wevas' to the Sri Lankan people and were created to provide irrigation. It’s a fun, friendly experience as you wait alongside the wives and young children of fisherman, who’ve gone out to retrieve their fishing nets laid out the night before - a great way to get to know the locals!
After the fishermen have sorted their catch, it’s time to head out on a catamaran across the lake; a real adventure! You may even be able to spot white bellied fish eagles, brahmini kites, ibis, cormorants and other native birds as you travel. In the middle of the lake is a small island, a rocky outcrop that provides great 360° views of the lake and forests beyond.
NB – The catamaran ride is subject to water levels and not usually available from June to September.
Bidding the fishermen and their families’ farewell, you continue to your new hotel to check in. After a little time to refresh and to have some lunch, you'll continue to Polonnaruwa at about 2pm in order to explore the ancient ruins. Polonnaruwa was the capital from the 10th – 12th centuries, following the decline of Anuradhapura. Here you can explore many monuments which pay great testimony to the city’s important role in Sri Lanka’s history, such as the Royal Palace complex and the Gal Vihare complex, with four impressive Buddha images cut from a single slab of granite. In the late afternoon you will transfer back to your accommodation in Polonnaruwa. Hotel (AA) - 1 night (B)
This morning you explore Dambulla properly, to learn its fascinating history. The Sinhalese King, Valagam Bahu, took refuge here when he was ousted from his capital. He transformed the five caves of this granite outcrop into a rock temple, decorated by statues of Buddha and frescoes, some of which are over 2000 years old but still as brightly painted as ever. The steep 150m ascent to the top of the rock rewards you with more magnificent views down to the jungle and forest below. You then travel southward along the main trunk road to Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, a journey of around two hours. You'll pass through a fertile spice-growing area and plantations where coffee, cacao and rubber are cultivated.
This evening you’ll visit the Dalada Maligawa, the famous Temple of the Tooth. This is the major shrine where pilgrims have revered Buddha’s tooth since the 16th century; its gilded roof seems to act as a beacon to visitors throughout the day and into the evening. Your accommodation for the next two nights will be in Kandy. Hotel (AAA) - 2 nights (B)
The royal city of Kandy is pleasantly set on the edge of a lake surrounded by hills. It was once the capital of a kingdom, and managed to resist European dominance for hundreds of years - long after the coastal areas surrendered.
During your time in Kandy you will visit the magnificent Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, with their immense fig tree and exquisite orchid collection. You will also take in the sights of Kandy including a visit to the bazaar area and a visit to the citadel in time for sunset over the lake.
The rest of your time here is free to explore. You may wish to take a nature walk at Udawattakele Sanctuary, close to Kandy, which offers the chance to see flowers, birds and monkeys amid 160 acres of tropical rainforest. Kandy is perfect for those who enjoy walking - the town has many hidden corners to explore and views from walks around the lake are spectacular. (B)
Leaving Kandy you take a bus journey through the green ranks of tea bushes which cover the higher hillsides on your way to Kitulgala. Your journey takes around two and a half hours and you travel accompanied by exceptional all-round scenic views of the tea plantations as you head further into the hill country. You continue your drive through this beautiful landscape, descending to Kitulgala, to arrive around lunchtime.
Located amidst thick forest on Sri Lanka’s second-longest river, the Kelani, Kitulgala is rapidly becoming something of an adventure centre and is a great place for a variety of activities. The river, setting for the epic film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ is an ideal location for swimming and other water-based activities. The surrounding forests with their wide variety of flora and fauna offer you a variety of spectacular walks, with some stunning views over the valley.
This afternoon you will first cross the Kelani River on a suspension bridge used by the local villagers. Then you'll proceed to walk through the small village and the forest reserve on the opposite bank and finally re-emerge on the bank of the Kelani River to take a canoe to get across to the night night's accommodation. Tonight you will stay in rustic accommodation in Kitulgala. Resthouse (A) - 1 night (B)
Today you'll drive about 80km (approx 3hrs) along windy roads lined by green slopes of tea leaves. There’s plenty of interest along the way however, including a stop at some waterfalls. You'll reach Nuwara Eliya, heart of the tea growing industry and full of colonial charm. Built entirely during the 19th century, it's quirky architecture reflects what you'd normally expect to find in an English country town, which will make you feel like you've stepped back in time. Hotel (AA) - 1 night (B)
You set off through the hills once again. Along the way you’ll see tea pickers deftly plucking the tips of the plants and throwing them into the baskets carried on their backs. Taking the twisting roads of hill country, you'll pass through the lush greenery of this region. Today's journey will end at Bandarawela, another hill town once popular with British plantation managers. You can relax in the evening with an overnight’s stay here. Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
After a short walk around Bandarawella and the vegetable gardens that surround it, you set off on your way down out of the mountains towards your campsite, nestled in a clearing cut into the side of a tea mountain which overlooks a beautiful valley. This fantastic hillside location is a climatically transitional area, linking both the dry and wet zones and the hill and low country at an altitude of less than 1500m. At this altitude you can see the mist gathering across the hills. As a result, the vegetation consists of moist semi-evergreen forests, tropical savannah forests, dry patana grasslands and montane temperate forests, making it one of the richest biodiversity spots in Sri Lanka- a perfect location for nature lovers.
The camp site provided an ideal opportunity to experience nomadic style camping where your camp will be set up almost exclusively for Adventure Company groups, with all services being provided by our camp crew. The tents are very spacious, clean and modern and guests will drift to sleep listening to nature’s very own orchestra!
You’ll have the afternoon free for leisure activities before taking an early evening visit to the tea factory where you’ll see every step of the tea making process, from bush to cup! Campsite (CS) - 1 night (paddling opportunity in nearby stream) (BD)
Jungle Safari, elephant feeding time & the coast
This morning, you'll leave camp at approximately 8am. You'll continue south where you'll visit the Diyaluma Falls, one of Sri Lanka's most spectacular waterfalls, before venturing approaching Uda Walawe National Park. The 308km sq park has an amazing array of animal and birdlife; herds of wild elephant are more numerous here than anywhere else in Sri Lanka.
After lunch, you will visit the nearby Elephant Transit Home. Run by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation and set up in 1995, it provides shelter for orphaned or abandoned baby elephants, releasing them to the wild when they are strong enough to survive in their natural habitat. You will visit the Elephant Transit Home at feeding time and see the elephants from a viewing deck approximately 10m away; a great chance to learn more about Sri Lanka’s national animal.
Once feeding is over, you'll embark on a jeep safari inside the park. If you are really lucky you may also catch glimpses of macaque and larger monkeys, leopard, spotted deer and crocodile. This is a real safari experience; kids will love the thrill of coming across a herd of wild elephants; it’s nothing like a zoo or safari park!
Late on this afternoon, you continue your journey south to reach the coast at Nonagama. Here you’ll take a short drive along the coast road west and soon arrive at your hotel near the small fishing village of Tangalle where you'll arrive early evening in time for dinner. Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights (B)
Sri Lanka is justifiably famous for its exquisite beaches, washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Here, you have plenty of time to unwind on the white sandy beach listening to the lapping of the waves after the previous day’s travelling. Your time is your own here and you can either relax on the palm-fringed beach, splash around in the pool or explore further afield. (Bx2)
Please note that the seas along the south and west coast of Sri Lanka can be rough, with undertows. Whilst on the beach children should always be supervised by an adult.
Galle, turtles & transfer to Minuwangoda
After your time on the beach it's time to head north back to Minuwangoda. As you head out along the coast you reach the town of Galle. Here you can walk the walls of the famous Dutch fort or explore the maze of backstreets and market stalls. En route you can pay a visit to the turtle hatchery at Kosgoda. Turtles are kept here for the first few days of their lives before being released into the sea and the project does much to help safeguard the welfare of these endangered animals. Heading north, your last night will be spent at a hotel not far from the airport. Before you return home your Group Leader will probably arrange a final ‘last supper’ where you can reflect on the kaleidoscope of wonderful things you have seen. Hotel (AAA) – 1 night (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients at the hotel whilst those on group flights are transferred to the airport for the flight back home. (B)