There’s a new adventure on every plate with this food exploration of Sri Lanka

Leave moderation at home and indulge on this gourmet adventure in Sri Lanka. Lie back on the coast, cool down in the highlands and weave through the streets of the buzzing capital. Taste melt-in-the mouth desserts, cook seafood straight out of the hands of a fisherman, uncover fiery curries and spend time with welcoming locals keen to share the mysteries of Sri Lankan cuisine. There’s also time to explore the rich culture of Sri Lanka: elaborate temples, ancient fortresses and wildlife-filled countryside. This is truly an adventure for the senses.

Bandaranaike International airport in Colombo Sri Lanka will undergo maintenance work daily between the hours of 0830am – 1630 (430pm) between 05th Jan – 05th Apr 2017.
All flights scheduled to arrive or depart during these times will be affected and be subject to a schedule change. Please consult your airline or travel agent with regards to changes and advise Intrepid as soon as possible so we can rebook arrival and/or departure transfers. Please note that during this time, your flight may change several times. It’s a good idea to recheck your flight details several days prior to travelling.

Negombo, Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
179kg pp per trip


  • Witness the amazing Sri Lankan seafood on offer at the Negombo seafood market
  • Spend time with welcoming locals keen to share the mysteries of Sri Lankan cuisine – learn Tamil, Sinhalese, and Bergher cooking in their homes
  • Soak up the scenery while sipping a glass of the local arak – Sri Lanka’s signature local liquor
  • High up in the tea plantations of Bandarawela, dine in a restored tea planter’s bungalow on a meal expertly prepared by an ‘Appu’ who, in former times, would cook for the colonial planters
  • Spoil your tastebuds with flavour-filled curries and sweet desserts, and treat your eyes to banquets of rainbow spices, vibrant vegetables and colourful sambol


This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Sri Lanka. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, the island offers travellers palm-studded beaches, rolling plantations, and sacred sights steeped in spirituality. With charming people, mysterious ruins and some of the best cuisine in the world, Sri Lanka’s hypnotic essence will remain with you long after you come home. You’ll begin your adventure by getting in the seaside spirit in Negombo, a historical commercial centre surrounded by a fascinating network of canals teeming with rural life. Pull up a deck chair on Negombo’s huge, sweeping beach and enjoy the Indian Ocean before meeting up with your group and leader at a welcome meeting tonight at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We’ll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have these for your leader. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. Spend your first night enjoying the coastline, getting to know your fellow travellers and watching the fishing boats float by. Perhaps go out for a meal together for your first taste of Sri Lankan cuisine.
In the morning, wake early and pick your way through large hessian sheets covered in drying fish at Negombo fish market. This intense, salty concoction is one of the essential building blocks of the Sri Lankan kitchen. The town is situated at the northern end of a lagoon renowned for lobsters, crabs and prawns. Weave through stalls piled with shark, squid, barracuda and unheard of sea creatures as the sellers call out their wares, and get a great insight into local commerce. Continue on to a coconut plantation (approximately 1 hour) to discover why this ‘superfood’ is so central to life in Sri Lanka. Learn how all parts of the tree play an important part in daily life, sip the water of a king coconut, watch ‘toddy tappers’ extract the palm wine from the coconut sap and taste the results. Enjoy a Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch filled with Chilaw prawns and cashews. Head inland to Dambulla (approximately 2 hours), home to vibrantly decorated cave-temples and a great base to explore the wide array of natural wonders and historic sites in this fascinating area. Your evening is free to explore. Alternatively join your leader on an optional street food crawl for an introduction to some staple Sri Lankan 'short eats', including hoppers and the famous kotthu roti.
After breakfast, drive to Sigiriya (approximately 30 minutes) and take a leisurely walk back in time to the top of enormous Sigiriya rock and its elaborate ancient fortress complex (approximately 2.5 hours round-trip walk). The 200 metre high ancient remains of a defensive capital built by a fearful king, ‘Lion’s Rock’ houses dynamic 5th century frescos, terraced gardens and splashing fountains. Next, observe age-old traditions at a nearby chena cultivation area, one of the oldest forms of agriculture known to humans. It’s particularly popular in the dry zone of the country where it rains only for few months for the year. Principal crops are tropical vegetables, cereals, grains, yams and corn. Then feast on tropical vegetables, curry made with tapioca and fried fish caught in the nearby lake for lunch. In the late afternoon, return to Dambulla to explore the Wholesale Market and dodge the trucks and people piled high with every type of produce imaginable. Boasting an incredible array of fresh food, much of which is subsequently transported to Colombo for sale, this is the perfect place to get a sense of Sri Lanka's agricultural diversity. The rest of the evening is free for your own food adventures. Use the free evening to poke around the town or sit back with a drink. There are plenty of restaurants surrounding the markets. Your leader will also have some tips on where to find the best roti in town.
On the way to the physical and spiritual heart of the country and the former home of the last Sri Lankan king, stop for lunch at a spice garden in the renowned spice-growing region of Matale. Sri Lankan’s are the masters of spice and here you can learn how spices aren’t just used in food, but also cosmetics and ayurvedic medicine. Smell the fragrant odours of cumin, cinnamon and curry leaves before tasting pumpkin curry flavoured with aromatic fenugreek, with a side of dry chilli sambol and the uniquely Sri Lankan coconut roti. As the spice gardens here are popular with tourists, you will find the prices to be higher than outside, but it is the ideal place to learn about the best Sri Lankan spices. Continue on to Kandy and arrive by late afternoon (approximately 2 hours). Kandy is a pleasant city surrounded by lush green countryside, and it’s home to a picturesque lake, old shops, a bustling market and some great restaurants. This evening observe locals worshiping in Kandy’s Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), one of Sri Lanka’s most sacred shrines that houses a tooth relic of the Lord Buddha. Contrast the holy hush of the temple with the booming, energetic drums that accompany the elaborately costumed performers of a Kandyan dance show. With your free evening, perhaps follow the sound of rhythmic chopping to watch a chef transform a ball of dough into a huge sheet of wafer-thin roti, skilfully slice, griddle, mix with vegetables and spices and create Kothu Roti.
This morning you’ll enjoy a guided walk around Kandy's peaceful city centre, including a tour of the Central Market (be sure to get your hands on the ‘short eat’ of a hopper, a bowl-liked pancake, soft and doughy at the bottom with a fried egg in the middle). The rest of the day is free for you to explore. Kandy is home to a National Museum, monasteries and there are many scenic walks around town. The botanical gardens here are among the best in Asia. In the early evening, join a Sinhalese family to spoil your sweet tooth with a Kandyan sweet-filled Sri Lankan dinner and cooking class. Try your hand at crafting the perfect hopper (this is an art that takes some practice to master!), and then prepare some traditional Sri Lankan sweets. Start with tangled nests of rice noodles called string hoppers and then chicken curry made with spice-infused coconut milk, closer to a Thai curry than a classic North Indian one. Then fill up on specialty sweets inspired by Dutch and Portuguese dessert traditions.
This morning you will take an incredibly picturesque train ride to the town of Bandarawela (approximately 6 hours). Climb past waterfalls, little villages and up through the mountains on the scenic railway to this town in the cool highlands, once popular with British plantation managers. Look down over a sweeping vista filled with bright green tea bushes and vegetable gardens. Tonight you are invited to a local home for a tea-infused meal.

Note: Due to recent flooding in Sri Lanka, there is no longer safe access to the planters' bungalow previously used for dinner this evening. This dinner has been relocated until further notice.
Rise early for a trek through the verdant surrounds of the region's tea plantations and a crop to cup experience. Learn about the country’s most important export at the Dambetenna tea factory, one of the oldest in the area, and taste the signature brews. Meet with some of the plantation workers and, depending on the season, try your hand at picking tea leaves as well. Travel out to the town of Haputale (approximately 1 hour) for a home-cooked lunch with a Tamil family. Tear into traditional Tamil cuisine with Dosa, a crispy rice pancake, and idli, a savoury steamed rice cake served with curry sauces or chutneys. Pick up a few cooking tips before returning to Bandarawela in the late afternoon. Soak up the rural charm of the town and the beautiful surrounding landscapes.
Start the day sweetly with a visit to the home of the curd and dodal industry, two of Sri Lanka's favourite ingredients. Try buffalo curd, served in bright terracotta pots with thick, golden treacle, often eaten as a snack, as an accompaniment to meals or as a desert. You’ll visit a local producer of buffalo curd and discover the process of making this important staple. Then test your teeth on a big block of dodol, a toffee-like delicacy made of coconut milk, rice flour, and kithul jaggery (from the sap of the toddy palm), which was introduced by Malays in 17th century. Sri Lankan's are famed for their sweet tooth and dodol is just about as sweet as it gets. Next you’ll drive to the wilderness of Yala National Park (approximately 2 hours). Encompassing a variety of diverse ecosystems, the park has an impressive array of wildlife, including sloth bears and lots of birds. In the evening take a safari tour and get the binoculars out to search for the leopards that lounge in trees or stalk through the brush, crocodiles that patrol the river or wild elephants that graze across the savanna.
Special Information
Yala National Park is closed for visitors from 01 September - 15 October 2016 to facilitate infrastructure development and to allow rehabilitation of flora and fauna in the park. As a result , today you will visit the Uda Walawe National Park where you will visit the Elephant Transit Home and enjoy a jeep safari where you are likely to see elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and keep your eyes open to spot a leopard. Your accommodation will still be in Tissamahamara tonight and the buffalo curd and dodol (candy) will be done on day 9 en-route to Mirissa.
En route to the beautiful beach village of Mirissa (approximately 3 hours), discover the Muslim influence on Sri Lankan food with dishes like biryani and watalappam at lunch in Hambantota. Spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring the golden sands of Sri Lanka’s southern coastline. The beach is a long curve of sand and has lovely calm clear waters for swimming, and the sunsets are great too. This is a paradise that you won't want to leave. Perhaps consider taking a bicycle ride or tuk tuk to nearby Weligama, where colourful fishing boats bring back their loads of fresh fish to sell along the shore. Maybe take a boat to spot whales and dolphins, or wash down all that chilli with a beer, while watching surfers take on the waves.
Special Information
Whale watching season is from November to April. Your tour leader will be able to recommend an agent to book this optional activity through.
Witness the art of stilt fishing, a method unique to Sri Lanka. Meet with a local fisherman and learn about their craft, and how their lives have changed after the tsunami. Eat with the fisherman's family for the freshest seafood lunch possible – a wonderful crab curry is likely to be on the menu. You may even get the chance to taste the local drop, toddy (or coconut arrack), a popular drink made from palm tree sap. Continue on to the perfectly preserved colonial township of Galle (approximately 1 hour) and its blend of European architecture and South Asian traditions. In the evening take a tour of the Royal Dutch Fort, exploring the winding passageways, maze of gallery-filled narrow streets and 400 years of rich history. If you are still hungry, your leader can take you on a progressive dinner through town, sampling local delicacies straight off the street stalls, while you watch the spectacular pinks and violets of the sunset. You will then return to Mirissa for the night (approximately 40 minutes).
Head north for the final stop on this gastronomic adventure and Sri Lanka’s commercial heart, Colombo (approximately 2.5 hours). The city is a cosmopolitan mix of vibrant street markets, colonial buildings, interesting museums, fine restaurants and great shopping opportunities. On an orientation walk through the city, stroll through the buzzing bazaar in Pettah, where Sri Lanka’s multi-cultural character is so clear and thousands of stalls vie for business. Snack your way around lanes filled with ‘short eats’, street-food possibilities and bustling local eateries. Share a final feast with new friends at a Dutch Burgher dinner, a group whose food (specialties such as lamprais rice) brings together the many culinary influences of the Sri Lankan table.
This trip concludes this morning. There are no activities planned for this final day and you are free to leave at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


10 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 4 dinners
Private vehicle, Safari Vehicle, Train
Hotel (11 nights)
Included activities
  • Negombo - coconut plantation visit and lunch
  • Negombo - Fish Market Tour
  • Dambulla - Wholesale Markets tour
  • Sigiriya - Lion Rock
  • Dambulla - Chena Farm Visit and Lunch
  • Matale - Spice Garden Tour and Lunch
  • Kandy - Temple of Tooth
  • Kandy - Cooking Class in a Sinhalese Home
  • Haputale - Tea Factory Visit
  • Haputale - Tamil family lunch
  • Tissamahamara - Buffalo Curd Tasting
  • Yala National Park Jeep safari
  • Lunch with a Muslim family
  • Mirrissa - Stilt fisherman meeting
  • Colombo - Walking tour
  • Colombo - Dutch Burgher Farewell Dinner


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Important notes

Bandaranaike International airport in Colombo Sri Lanka will undergo maintenance work daily between the hours of 0830am – 1630 (430pm) between 05th Jan – 05th Apr 2017.
All flights scheduled to arrive or depart during these times will be affected and be subject to a schedule change. Please consult your airline or travel agent with regards to changes and advise Intrepid as soon as possible so we can rebook arrival and/or departure transfers. Please note that during this time, your flight may change several times. It’s a good idea to recheck your flight details several days prior to travelling.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


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Real Food Adventure - Sri Lanka , August 2016

Real Food Adventure - Sri Lanka , August 2016