Discover Sri Lanka’s culture and beauty on this comprehensive 15 day privately escorted tour taking you from Negombo on the west coast to Jaffna in the north and on to Unawatuna in the very south. Visit ancient temples and monasteries, rural villages, colonial cities, former capitals and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spot wildlife on national park safaris, deep in the stunningly lush Hill Country, learn all about tea and marvel at the striking scenery from Nuwara Eliya to Ella on what is considered one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.
Including international return flights with Sri Lankan Airlines, private transfers, the services of English–speaking representatives and guides, and all accommodation on half board basis.
Safari in Wilpattu National Park, the dramatic, near vertical granite walls soaring above the rainforest in Sigiriya and the train journey between Nuwara Eliya and Ella; awe-inspiring hill country scenery of cloud shrouded mountains, steep valleys, countless tea plantations and lush, intensely green vegetation, plus numerous mountain tunnels.
Depart the UK on an overnight flight to Colombo
Late morning arrival. Be met by our English-speaking representative at Colombo airport and be transferred to your hotel in Negombo. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure and dinner at your hotel. Stay at Pledge Scape, Negombo for 1 night on half board basis.
Depart after breakfast for the two and half hour drive to the ruins of the dramatic Yapahuwa Rock Fortress. This ancient fortress, protected by two moats and ramparts and with a dauntingly steep stone staircase, was once the location of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, which can now be found in Kandy. From here continue on to Avukana to see the 12m standing statue of Buddha carved out of a large granite rock face in the 5th century, before arriving in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Settle into your hotel for the next two nights and enjoy dinner and a relaxed evening. Stay at Ulagalla Resort, Anuradhapura for 2 nights on half board basis.
Dating back more than two thousand years, the well-preserved, UNESCO World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura was the island’s first capital and is home to magnificent monuments, intricate sculptures, crumbling temples, imposing brick stupas and ancient pools. After breakfast visit some of the notable sites including the Temple of the Sacred Fig Tree, Isurumuniya Temple, Abhayagiriya Monastery, Thuparama stupa and the Kuttam Pokuna twin ponds. Continue the day travelling up to the north west corner of the island to discover Wilpattu National Park. A great safari location, the park is home to leopard, sloth bear, deer, crocodile, elephant and a large variety of birdlife. View animals gathering around the sand rimmed water basins and lakes and explore the open grasslands and areas of thick jungle.
After breakfast catch the train from Anuradhapura to Jaffna, the capital city of the Northern Province. Check in at your hotel and spend the rest of the day at your leisure, with dinner at the hotel and a late evening city tour of Jaffna. Stay at Fox Resort, Jaffna for 2 nights on half board basis.
Enjoy a short morning’s boat ride to the ancient Nagadeepa Temple, one of the sixteen most sacred places of worship for Sri Lankan Buddhists, followed by a visit to the Naga Pooshani Ambal Temple set on a small islet.
Leave Jaffna for the 278km, around six hour, drive south to Sigiriya. First stop along the way is the sacred rock mountain Mihintale, regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Climb the 1,840 granite steps connecting the site and be rewarded with numerous temples, beautiful shrines, stupas and several splendid statues of Buddha. From here the journey continues to Ritigala Mountain and the enchanting ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery set deep within the forest of the nature reserve. On arrival in Sigiriya check into your hotel and enjoy dinner and a relaxed evening. Stay at Aliya Resort & Spa, Sigiriya for 1 nights on half board basis.
Sigiriya is Sri Lanka’s single most dramatic sight. Near vertical granite walls soar above the canopy of the rainforest to the ruins of an almost impregnable ancient fortified palace dating back to the 5th century. Having scaled vertiginous staircases attached to sheer rock walls, the rewards are unforgettable: spellbinding views of mist-wrapped forests, water gardens and cave shrines. After hiking to the rock fortress continue to the Ederagala Temple and witness the monk’s daily prayer rituals.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast and depart for a three and a half hour drive to Knuckles, stopping at the Dambulla Cave Temple en route. Founded in the 1st century and also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, there are ancient sculptures and paintings of Buddha as well as various Hindu deities located within five central caves. Journey on to the UNESCO-listed Knuckles Forest Reserve, home to some stunning scenery and extraordinary range of flora and fauna. Settle in to your comfortable tent accommodation amidst the lush, undulating hills for a glamping experience. Visit the Deanston Conservation Centre for fascinating vistas of the Knuckles Mountain Range; enjoy the breathtaking views from Mini World’s End and marvel at the unique vegetation at Corbet’s Gap. Stay at Wild Glamping, Knuckles for 1 night on a half board basis.
Start the morning with a gentle trek to the rural village of Heel Oya at the foothills of Knuckles, passing pine forests, tea estates, waterways and viewpoints that take your breath away. Journey to the city of Kandy, home to the one of Buddhism’s holiest shrines, the Temple of the Tooth, within the royal palace complex. This former capital city is also the gateway to Sri Lanka’s tea country. In the afternoon enjoy a city tour and visit to the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth, a drive around Kandy Lake and a stop at the bustling bazaar. Stay at Mountbatten Bungalow, Kandy for 1 night on half board basis.
Spend the morning at the beautiful Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya. Established in 1821 the 140 acres located near the Mahaweli River contains one of the world’s largest collections of flora from sub–tropical climates; its fine orchids and giant Javan fig tree are of particular note. From here drive to the small village of Mandaram Nuwara, also known as the Misty City, at the foot of the Pidurutalagala. Check in to your hotel set in a 19th century, still working, tea factory with views of the surrounding, mist-covered mountains. Explore the natural surroundings on a guided walk with a naturalist. Stay at Tea & Experience Factory, Mandaram Nuwara. Breakfast and dinner included.
Start your day with breakfast in the hotel’s colonial tea factory setting, before embarking on the unique Leaf to Cup experience. Under the guidance of the resort’s tea expert learn to weigh, roll, ferment, wither, grade and pack a box of tea which you can then take back home. Enjoy an afternoon of leisure at the hotel where a spa offers a range of tea-based treatments (treatments payable locally).
Leave the beautifully scenic Mandaram Nuwara and drive to Nuwara Eliya around 90 minutes away for a tour of this English–village style City of Lights. It is often referred to as ‘Little England’ with its colonial-era hotels, race course, pretty gardens and golf course. Continue to the railway station in Nanuoya and board the train to Ella for one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. As the train travels up through Sri Lanka’s southern hill country with its numerous tea plantations it breaks through the clouds before descending to the small town of Ella taking in the lush valleys and meadows, intense greenery, mountains and the occasional distant waterfall along the way. Enjoy dinner and glorious views at your boutique hotel located on a scenic tea estate. Stay at 98 Acres Resort & Spa, Ella for 1 night on full board basis.
After breakfast drive to the most south easterly point of the island and Yala National Park for a jeep safari. With its thorny scrub forest reminiscent of the African bush, it is home to herds of elephants, deer, wild buffalo, wild boar, monkeys and crocodiles, plus the harder to spot, sloth bear and leopard. Settle in to your jungle chalet and enjoy the facilities, and glimpses of the local wildlife; you might spot a herd of wild boar stroll past or an elephant drinking from the little lake bordering the resort. Stay at Cinnamon Wild Yala, Yala for 1 night on half board basis.
Leave for Unawatuna town in the morning, and spend the day exploring independently, or simply relax on its palm-lined beach. In the evening enjoy a tour of fashionable Galle just across the bay. Once the island’s main port, Galle is full of reminders of its colonial past, with a striking 16th century Portuguese and Dutch fortress along with old British residences and various Arabic influenced mosques, alongside a vibrant culinary and art scene. Stay at Coco Bay, Unawatuna for 1 night on half board basis.
Transfer to Colombo airport for your return flight to the UK.
Add a beach stay to your tour and make the most of the white sand beaches of Sri Lanka.