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.
Leave Negombo after breakfast today. Your private vehicle takes you to ancient Anuradhapura via the small town of Chilaw (approximately 5 hours total travel time). Those keen on history and archaeology might like to visit Mihintale, the sacred birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, as a recommended optional activity. The price of this will depend on the number of people sharing the vehicle.
A guided bicycle tour of the city will take place today. Among the ruins you’ll see the sacred old Bo Tree, a spiritual reminder of the beginnings of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the inspiration for Anuradhapura’s great buildings. The ruins themselves are spread over quite an area, some in woodland settings and others appearing park-like with columns and ponds dotted about.
Travel by both public bus and private vehicle on to Polonnaruwa (approximately 2 hours), the capital of the Indian Chola Dynasty after Anuradhapura was conquered in the late 10th century. These ruins are close together and generally in much better repair than those you have just seen. Cycling amid the remains of 1,000-year-old Polonnaruwa is once again the best way to get around. Once the heat of the day has eased you’ll visit more palaces, temples and stupas. A likely highlight will be the massive stone Buddhas: 14-metre-high granite carvings of the iconic reclining Buddha which represent the zenith of Sinhalese rock carving. You’ll also visit the well laid-out museum, which has scale models of many of the buildings to show how they would have existed in their time.
Depart Polonnaruwa this morning and travel to Dambulla (approximately 2.5 hours). Explore the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples which are located high on a stone cliff face, with numerous steps to enter. Some 150 Buddha images adorn the five caves, with fascinating frescoes and paintings on the walls and roofs. In the afternoon, you may like to relax by the hotel pool or take an optional wildlife jeep safari to Minneriya, Kaudulla or Eco National Park where you might spot some wild elephants with a bit of luck. Which park is available to visit depends on the season, but both Minneriya and Kaudulla are within easy reach of Dambulla.
Sigiriya – Kandy
Early this morning, before the heat is too intense, head to Sigiriya (approximately 30 minutes). This ruined fortress is one of Sri Lanka’s premier sights. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with astounding views. Make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear, as this is a very steep climb with some uneven slopes. Those unable to climb to the top can explore the gardens at the base of the rock and still get some fantastic shots of the fortress from below. Return to the hotel to freshen up before heading to Kandy (approximately 3 hours). On the way, there’s the option of stopping at one of the region’s wonderful spice gardens for lunch and to learn about the medicinal properties of ingredients used in cooking and treatments. In beautifully located Kandy, visit the Dalada Maligawa (aka Temple of the Tooth), Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist site, and mingle with the white-clad pilgrims who come here to worship. Time permitting, you’ll have the option of visiting the National Museum or the world-class Botanical Gardens.
Today you will visit a nearby tea factory and take a guided tour to learn about the production of Sri Lanka’s best-known beverage. Of course, you will also sample some of the delicious varieties while you’re here. Your hotel in Kandy, located far from the noise and bustle of the city, is a great place to unwind with lovely views over the town.
Take a scenic journey into the highlands to Bandarawela (approximately 7 hours). Once in Bandarawela you will visit a local home for a cooking demonstration to learn some secrets of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Enjoy the delicious meal afterwards.
Drive to the starting point for our walk today (approximately 30 mins). This hike (approximately 4.5 hours) takes you through picturesque tea plantations and small Tamil villages. Lunch will be arranged at Tamil tea worker’s house. Tonight’s accommodation is in a comfortable local lodge.
Embrace an early start this morning and drive to the starting point for our walk today. The walk will take approximately 4.5 hours and will explore more of the beautiful surrounds of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. Enjoy this chance to meet the tea pickers along the way and stop for an included lunch in Bambarakanda. After eating, make the approximately 3-hour drive to tonight’s jungle camp accommodation, stopping en route at Diyaluma Falls. Your accommodation this evening is a lake-facing camp that backs onto a forest reserve where many herbs used in ayurvedic medicine are grown. On arrival, you can choose to go on a short tour of the local village.
There’s a chance this morning to take an optional excursion to Udawalawe National Park to look for elephants, just keep in mind that participating will require a wake-up call of around 4.30 am. Alternatively, you could sleep in and then choose to visit a local home to watch curd being made or head to a ayurvedic medicine manufacturing centre. Speak to your leader about these optional activities in advance for details. Later, set off for Mirissa by private bus (approximately 3.5 hours). This is your paradise for two days of relaxation, with your comfortable accommodation just metres from the water.
Enjoy a day of beach splendour in Mirissa. The beach itself is a long curve of sand with lovely clear waters for swimming – a great spot to watch the sunset. Consider taking a bicycle ride or tuk-tuk to nearby Weligama, where colourful fishing boats bring fresh fish to sell along the shore or ‘bikesplore’ the lesser known areas of nearby Galle on an Urban Adventure. From September to April there is an optional whale watching excursion. Please ask your leader as you’ll need to book at least one day in advance.
Head further down the coast. Arrive in Galle (approximately 1 hour), home to an impressive World Heritage-listed Dutch fort with extensive walls and many interesting old buildings. In the evening, enjoy a stroll around the historic fort and watch the sunset from the ramparts.
Leaving Galle, we travel on to Colombo, the nation’s capital (approximately 3 hours). 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.
Your trip comes to an end today, with no activities planned. Checkout time at the hotel is 12 noon.
Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
Anuradhapura - Bike tour
Polonnaruwa - Bike Tour
Dambulla - Cave Temples
Kandy - Temple of the Tooth entrance
Sigiriya - Lion Rock
Kandy - Tea factory visit
Bandarawela - Cooking demonstration & local meal
Hill Country trek
Galle - Walking tour
Colombo - City tour by bus