I had never really considered Sri Lanka as a safari holiday destination before, but I was...
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Sri Lankan Discovery
Transport - Charterbus, boat, 4WD, train, bicycle, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotels and guesthouses (14nts).
Meals - 14 breakfasts.
Transport - Charterbus, boat, 4WD, train, bicycle, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotels and guesthouses (14nts).
Meals - 14 breakfasts.
Discovery and adventure on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. Fascinating culture, varied landscapes and abundant wildlife make this the perfect trip for those wanting a comprehensive exploration of the very best this tropical paradise has to offer, with a little relaxation at the end. Sri Lanka was known by the ancient name of Serendip because of constant surprises and delightful accidental discoveries made on the island - it's sure to live up to its name.
Fly to Colombo
Overnight flight to Colombo.
Arrive in Sri Lanka
After your flight, you make the short 5 minute transfer to your first night’s accommodation. You'll have a short briefing with your tour leader at 17.00 in the hotel reception about the trip ahead and for the rest of the day you are free to relax and to acclimatis to the time zone and heat. Hotel - 1 night
The 'Dry Zone'
This morning, you will head inland. The journey will take approximately 4hrs. Long journeys are typical of travel in Sri Lanka -the area you will cover is vast, so this journey will allow you to become accustomed to road travel in Sri Lanka. On arrival, you'll have time to settle into your hotel.
In the evening, you will join a local fishermen on their catamarans and watch while they cast and retrieve their nets. Gliding along the lake which is dotted by lush lily pads and vibrant water lilies while the sun sets and casts a crimson hue over the area is a magical experience. The birdlife at this time of day is also fantastic.
In the so-called ‘dry zone,’ north of the hill country is an area of fascinating lost cities. Here stand many Buddhist ruins dating from over a thousand years ago. A must on any trip to this area is a visit to the impressive ruins of 1000-year-old Polonnaruwa, a vast imperial city which became the capital of the occupying south Indian Chola dynasty, before being finally abandoned in 1288. UNESCO-sponsored restoration has carefully recreated the immense complex of temples, palaces and remarkable Buddhist sculptures. This is one of the best places to learn more about Buddhism, one of Asia’s most important religions, which even today guides a whole section of Sinhalese society in their day to day lives. Hotel - 3 nights (Bx2)
Taking advantage of the cool of the morning, you climb the steep pinnacle of Lion Rock at Sigiriya to its imposing summit fortress. From the base, where a moat surrounds the lovely water gardens, you ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock. Underneath, some original portraits of native maidens still adorn the rock wall, having withstood the ravages of time. The climb is not for the fainthearted, but those who make it to the vertiginous Summer Palace on the flat-topped summit will enjoy exceptional views of the surrounding countryside.
After your visit you will explore the local area on a cycle ride through nearby villages and forests where, if you wish, you can stop and try local delicacies. (B)
This morning you visit the Dambulla Cave Temples to learn about 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. The steep 150m ascent to the top of the rock rewards you with more magnificent views.
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 before finally arriving in Kandy.
You will have most of the afternoon free to explore at your leisure. Visit Peradeniya, if you wish, home of Sri Lanka’s premier Botanical Gardens. The gardens are home to a massive weeping fig tree (Ficus benjamina), a packed orchid house and some of the few specimens of the rare Coco de Mer coconut tree. In all there are 4000 labelled species of plants and trees and a visit makes an entertaining couple of hours.
Alternatively, there is plenty of free time to wander alone and discover Kandy's quiet corners. Take a walk around the lake to enjoy the lovely views or take a nature walk in nearby Udawattakele Sanctuary, a mini tropical rainforest. Others may prefer to explore some of the many other temples that dot the area. Hotel - 2 nights (B)
NB. If you choose to do any of the above activities in your free time, they will be at your own cost.
The royal city of Kandy was once the capital of a kingdom that resisted European dominance for a further 300 years after the coastal areas capitulated. It is pleasantly set on the edge of a lake, surrounded by hills. During your time in Kandy you 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.
In the afternoon, you'll visit a nearby tea factory where you can see every step of the tea making process from bush to cup. (B)
From Kandy you take a train that twists and turns through the lush hills, stopping at small village stations and as you climb higher, passing through the green ranks of tea bushes which cover the higher hillsides on the way to Hatton. This is a real authentic Sri Lankan experience - you may have to stand for most of the journey and depending on the time of year, conditions may feel a little cramped, however, there'll be great views and it'll be a really insightful experience. For those who feel this may not be for them, there may be a support vehicle available for the journey - please discuss this with your group leader.
The topography changes as you continue your journey by road and soon you are passing through the very heart of the tea growing area. The old British hill station of Nuwara Eliya (sometimes referred to as the Garden City), standing in the lee of the island’s highest mountain, Pidurutalagala (2524m), feels curiously familiar due to its colonial houses, well-tended lawns and neat, colourful gardens. On arrival here, you have the rest of the day free to explore this charming town. Hotel - 1 night (B)
From Nuwara Eliya you continue through the hills to Bandarawela, another hill town once popular with British plantation managers. Today the twisting roads of the hill country make for a total of some 3-4 hours driving. However as you set off down from the mountains, there’s plenty of interest along the way and after 1 ½ - 2 hours, you will make a stop at the Horton Plains, site of the ‘Worlds End’ and spectacular Bakers Falls.
Horton Plains is Sri Lanka's highest plateau 7200 ft above sea level in the central mountain country. This ‘Fen” is a very scenic region with an astounding variety of scenery from mountains to grasslands, from marshes to trout streams. Sri Lanka's best flavoured high grown teas are cultivated in the surrounding areas.
The view from 'Worlds End' is breathtaking, as the plateau plunges a thousand feet in a straight sheer drop. The climate is cool and bracing, excellent for trout fishing and very good hiking country. The area is characterised by distinctive flora (many English field flowers grow on the plains) colourful butterflies and many rare highland birds.
You'll take a fairly easy hike around an 9.5km circular walk which normally takes around 3hrs. You'll take in Bakers Falls, World's End and Mini World's End. Like the scenery, the weather can also seem strangely familiar - changable weather with showers and drizzle is common, so it's a good idea to take with you a waterproof and some suitable footwear. The walk will be worth the effort, however, as these fantastic sights can only be accessed on foot. Hotel – 1 night (B)
This morning, you set off on your way down out of the mountains, making a short stop along the way at Ella. You have a spectacular view through the Ella Gap where on a clear day it is said you can see as far as the coast. Just below this you see the Rawana Ella Falls, where the water leaps down the mountainside making it Sri Lanka’s wildest-looking waterfall.
On your journey you will visit the Elephant Transit Home at Udawalawe National Park. 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 (the only time visits are allowed) and see the elephants from a viewing deck approximately 10m away – a great chance to learn more about Sri Lanka’s national animal.
You'll continue your drive for approximately 2hrs to Tissahamarama in south east Sri Lanka; only half an hour from Yala National Park. The following morning you'll have some free time to relax before heading to Yala for an afternoon jeep safari. The park has an amazing array of animal and birdlife; herds of wild elephant, macaque and larger monkeys, leopard, spotted deer and crocodile. Yala is the National Park with the highest population density of leopard in Sri Lanka. No promises, but if you keep your eyes peeled you may be lucky enough to spot this elusive creature. Hotel - 2 nights (Bx2)
South Coast Stay
You’ll travel south and will soon arrive at your hotel on the coast. Here as elsewhere up and down the coast, a wide variety of fish are caught by local fishermen in the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Your time is your own here and you can either relax on the palm-fringed beach or explore further afield. On the afternoon of day 14 you will visit the Mulkirigale (rock) temple which has caves of elaborate and intricate paintings on three different levels. Hotel - 3 nights (Bx3)
Journey back up the coast, via Galle
This morning you transfer to Galle. The journey takes you along the coast and gives you yet another perspective as you travel north, catching glimpses of the Indian Ocean through swaying palm trees, passing rural villages and busy resorts.
On your arrival in Galle, there should be a little time to explore the famous Dutch Fort. Rightly declared a World Heritage Site in 1988, the old fort area contains houses, lovely churches and other imposing buildings, and was once a hub of activity on the island. It is a joy to explore the now quiet back streets of this colonial city and be transported back in time as you marvel at the magnificent buildings where the Dutch, Portuguese and British once traded spices.
You'll continue back up the coast to your hotel near the airport. As this is your last evening, your Group Leader will no doubt organise a traditional ‘last supper’. Hotel - 1 night (B)
The trip ends for Land Only clients. Those on group flights transfer to the airport and fly home.
Giant Buddhas & Ancient Sigiriya
Your exploration of Sri Lanka begins in the cultural north and ends on the island’s famous tropical coast with a series of unforgettable sights and adventures sandwiched in between. First stop is a nature walk and boat ride with local fishermen followed by a visit to the ancient ruins and giant Buddha statues at Polonnaruwa. Nearby lies distinctive Sigiriya Rock, where a climb to the top is rewarded with magnificent views of the lush countryside, later explored on an easy village to village bike ride.
Kandy, Jungle Camp & Beach
Kandy is home to the holiest Buddhist shrine - the Temple of the Tooth. You’ll explore the surrounding hills and tea country of Sri Lanka by local train. Then you can enjoy a walk to World’s End at Horton Plains,before descending to Yala National Park for a wildlife safari. Finally there is time for some relaxation by the Indian Ocean on the superb palm-fringed beaches Sri Lanka has to offer. This trip is ideal for solo travellers and groups.
Adams Peak Itinerary
Between January and April we vary our Sri Lanka discovery itinerary to include an ascent of Adam’s Peak – sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.
Our Sri Lankan Discovery trip is just one of our many Sri Lanka tours. To find out more visit our Sri Lanka holidays page.