Embark on a unique, fun, culture-rich tour of Sri Lanka

A jewel in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is jam-packed with ancient sites, fascinating culture, beautiful wilderness and idyllic beaches. From ancient Anuradhapura city and the well-preserved Polonnaruwa ruins, to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the impressive Sigiriya rock fortress, Sri Lankan culture spans more than 2,000 years and still remains vibrant and alive today. Trek through lush tea plantations, indulge in seafood feasts in quaint fishing villages and dip your toes in the calm, clear waters of Mirissa beach on this all-encompassing adventure for those seeking a unique travel experience.

PLEASE NOTE:
Bandaranaike International airport in Colombo Sri Lanka will undergo maintenance work daily between the hours of 0830am – 1630 (430pm) between 05th Jan – 05Apr 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.

Start
Negombo, Sri Lanka
Finish
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Countries
Sri Lanka
Themes
Explorer
Code
HPSH
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
224kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Explore the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa,
  • Wander throught the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relicin Kandy
  • Lion Rock at Sigiriya is an amazing ruined fort and one of the highlights of this fine country
  • Trek through lush tea plantations
  • Indulge in seafood feasts in quaint fishing villages
  • Dip your toes in the calm, clear waters off the beach at Mirissa

Itinerary

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). A guided bicycle tour of the city will take place either today or on the morning of Day 3, depending on our arrival time and the weather. 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.
If you've already had your bicycle tour of the ruins of ancient Anuradhapura, there is no shortage of further options today. Those keen on history and archaeology might like to visit one of the local museums. Mihintale, the sacred birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, is recommended. The price of this will depend on the number of people sharing the vehicle.
Take a local bus to Polonnaruwa (approximately 4.5 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 by local bus (approximately 2.5 hours). Explore the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples which are located high on a stone cliff face. 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 visit to a nearby wildlife reserve 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.

Notes: There are numerous steps to get to the caves. You will need to remove your shoes and be dressed appropriately, with shoulders and legs covered, to enter.
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 4 hours). On the way, there's the option of stopping at one of the region's wonderful spice gardens for lunch. 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. Another great option is an early-evening performance of the famed Kandyan dancers, drummers and and fire-walkers.
Special Information
The visit to Lion Rock takes around  3.5 hrs. Start around 7am, reaching the lion paw around 8.30 am. On the way visit the water garden, boulder garden, Sigiriya Frescos and the mirror wall.
After the Lion Paw its a steep climb with plenty of steps and walkways along the side of the rock. This part of the climb takes around 30 minutes.
Those not wanting to go to the top can rest at the lion paw until the rest of the group return.


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 train journey into the highlands and disembark at Bandarawela (approximately 7 hours). Here you will visit a local home for a cooking demonstration to learn some secrets of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Enjoy the delicious meal afterwards. Your accommodation tonight is a simple but pleasant guesthouse located in a quiet part of town.
Take a local bus to the starting point for our walk today (approximately 45mins). This hike (approximately 6.5 hours) takes you through picturesque tea plantations and small Tamil villages. Tonight's accommodation is a comfortable local guesthouse where the accomodation is in single sex multi share rooms.

Notes: The walks require good walking shoes, as the 'track' is often just rocks under shrubs, and if there has been rain it can get very muddy and slippery. You do need to be fit, because although the walk is not too demanding, it can be difficult walking on rough and unsteady ground. Our usual route is about 20 kilometres in total. If you don't feel you are able to complete these walks, you can take an option to either stay in Bandarawela for an extra night, or if you don't wish to complete the second day's walk to Haputale your group leader will be able to organise a transport alternative. These options would be at your own expense.
Set off for some more walking today (approximately 4.5 hours) to explore more of the beautiful surrounds of Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Enjoy this chance to meet the curious friendly children and tea pickers along the way. Stop for an included lunch in Bambarakanda. You'll stay in a guesthouse in Haputale tonight.
Set off south for the coast, stopping at the Elephant Transit Home en route. At this special organisation you'll experience feeding time for baby orphaned elephants and learn more about their rehabilitation. Then drive further along the Sri Lankan south coast by private bus (approximately 7 hours) to the beach of Mirissa. 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. The local cottage industry of lace products is also well worth a look.
Head further down the coast, possibly stopping for a photo opportunity with the famous stilt fishermen casting lines from their traditional poles. 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. In Galle you'll stay inside the fort itself – in a 250-year-old Dutch villa that has been converted into a guesthouse. Although facilities are basic, the atmosphere and hospitality are warm, as your local host family prepares you dinner.

Notes: Galle and Mirissa were severely damaged by the December 2004 Tsunami. Project work continues to repair the lives and homes of thousands of people in the area.
Leaving Galle, we take a classic train ride, catching glimpses of the beautiful coastline before rolling into Colombo (approximately 3 hours). After checking in, you'll set off for a city walk via the bustling Petta Bazaar, Independence Square, Parliament, and past the National Museum, finishing with a shopping opportunity for a good cause at the Barefoot fairtrade store. Here you can find a collection of handicrafts from around the country and support small cottage industries. Tonight there's an optional final group dinner to celebrate your journey.
Your trip comes to an end today, with no activities planned. Checkout time at the hotel is 12 noon.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
9 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners
Transport
Auto rickshaw, Bicycle, Bus, Private Bus, Public bus, Train, Trishaw
Accommodation
Guesthouse (3 nights), Hotel (11 nights)
Included activities
  • Anuradhapura - Bike Tour
  • Anuradhapura - Sri Maha Bo Tree
  • Anuradhapura - Ancient Site
  • Polonnaruwa - Bike Tour
  • Dambulla - Cave temples
  • Kandy - Temple of the Tooth
  • Sigiriya - Rock Fortress
  • Kandy - Cultural Dance & Fire Walking Show
  • Kandy - Tea Factory, Spice & Herb Garden visit
  • Bandarawela Cookery Demonstration and Local Meal
  • Haputale - Tea Plantations, Hill Country & Local Villages trek
  • Udewalawa - Elephant Transit Home Visit
  • Galle - Fort Walking Tour
  • Colombo - Walking tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. In the wet season, we occasionally need o alter the length of the hike due to wet weather.
3. PERAHERA FESTIVAL: is a 10 day period of evening processions to honour the Sacred Tooth, which is enshrined at Kandy's Temple of the Tooth. Each night features thousands of dancers and drummers, and a parade of more than 50 decorated elephants. Due to Intrepid's stance on Elephant cruelty we do not visit the Perahera and cannot purchase tickets on your behalf. .

PLEASE NOTE:
Bandaranaike International airport in Colombo Sri Lanka will undergo maintenance work daily between the hours of 0830am – 1630 (430pm) between 05th Jan – 05Apr 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

Reviews

Our Circle Sri Lanka trips score an average of 4.76 out of 5 based on 238 reviews in the last year.

Circle Sri Lanka , July 2016

Circle Sri Lanka , July 2016