Discover the beauty of Sri Lanka's beaches and tea plantations with your family

Take the kids on an intrepid adventure to the island paradise of Sri Lanka. Set adrift in the middle of the Indian Ocean, this tropical land offers fascinating ancient history in incredible natural settings, making its sites ideal for inquiring minds to explore. Inspire children with the chance to get up close to wild elephants, turtles and perhaps even an elusive leopard. Challenge the family to something new, from bird-spotting from a catamaran and canoeing down a river to camping in a tea plantation. Set against an enthralling cultural backdrop and pristine white sand beaches, Sri Lanka is a wonderful destination to enjoy as a family.

Start
Katunayake, Sri Lanka
Finish
Bentota, Sri Lanka
Countries
Sri Lanka
Themes
Family, Wildlife
Code
HHFL
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 5
Group size
Min 2 Max 16
Carbon offset
295kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Imagine the once fearsome giant lion's head that marked the entrance to Sigiriya’s Lion Rock, then climb up to a 200 metre high abandoned palace fortress
  • Get up close to elephants in Udawalawe National Park, and learn about the nearby organisation that works with orphaned or abandoned baby elephants
  • Jump in a jeep to safari though national park, and feel the excitement and anticipation of maybe spotting a leopard
  • Watch the skills and precision of the local fishermen, and soak up the noise and smell at the Negombo fish market
  • See Buddha’s famous sacred tooth in Kandy, then watch out for the local monkeys as they hunt for snacks, drinks, trinkets – anything they can get their hands on!
  • Canoe down the picturesque yet feisty Kelani River, pass where the famous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ was filmed, and enjoy watery fun surrounded by stunning forests
  • After a fun and activity-filled Sri Lankan adventure, spend a few days relaxing on one of the country’s most beautiful beaches

Itinerary

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. There are no activities planned today so you're free to arrive at any time. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these with you. You’ll begin your adventure by getting in the seaside spirit in Seeduwa, halfway between Negombo and the commercial capital of Colombo. Negombo is a historical commercial centre surrounded by a fascinating network of canals teeming with rural life. You’ll stay by the Negombo Lagoon, about 10 kilometres away from Colombo International airport. After arriving in Seeduwa, there will be plenty of time for relaxing by the swimming pool and meeting the other members of your group.
In the morning, before you leave the coast behind, weave through stalls piled with shark, squid, barracuda and all types of sea creatures as the sellers call out their wares in Negombo fish market. It’s fun to pick your way through large sheets covered in drying fish, and a great insight into daily life and local commerce. Then drive inland to Dambulla and the “dry zone” in the heart of Sri Lanka's cultural triangle (approximately 3 hours). Dumbulla is 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. En-route you will visit a hand loom factory, where an old tradition is being revitalised. Continue to the Palwehera area of Dambulla, famous for its mangoes, and rest up in your eco-friendly accommodation, surrounded by green gardens and vast green paddy land. The rest of the day is free to relax by the pool or perhaps take an optional bike ride to check out the surrounding countryside.
This morning, drive from Dambulla to Sigiriya (approximately 30 minutes). Here you’ll have the chance to shake off any cobwebs with a climb/leisurely walk back in time to the top of enormous Sigiriya rock and its elaborate ancient fortress complex (approximately 2.5 hours round-trip). Climb this famous ‘Lion Rock’ via a series of steps and walkways, which zig-zag up the seemingly impenetrable rock cliffs. The site was occupied long before the 5th century citadel was built, and it later became a monastery before falling into disrepair. To reach the summit, you’ll ascend 200 metres past impressive water gardens of landscaped beauty and an overhanging rock, where superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit are the extensive remains of King Kasyapa’s summer palace, with breath-taking views. Later, keep the active theme going with an exploration of village life by bike. On an afternoon ride you may see fishermen at work, families washing their clothes and possibly even bathing by the lake. Witness the rituals of daily life unfolding around you, and cycle through some beautiful countryside and wildlife. In the late afternoon, return to your accommodation to relax.
Grab a packed breakfast for a very early start this morning, driving 1.5 hours to Parakrama Lake. Arrive at Minneriya National Park at dawn, a magical start to the day, with the plains covered in mist. Parakrama is one of Sri Lanka’s greatest man-made lakes (known as ‘wevas’ and created to provide irrigation), and you can watch the light play on the water and the changing colours as the sun comes up. It’s a fun, friendly experience as you wait alongside the wives and young children of the fisherman who’ve gone out to retrieve last night's fishing nets. It’s a great way to get to know the locals! After the fishermen have sorted their catch, it’s time for a real adventure – exploring the lake by catamaran. In the middle of the lake is a small island, a rocky outcrop that provides great 360-degree views of lake and forest beyond – keep an eye out for local birdlife as you travel. Return to shore and bid the fishermen families farewell, then continue the short distance to Polonnaruwa. Refresh and refuel with lunch, then explore some nearby ancient ruins around 2pm. Polonnaruwa was the capital from the 10th-12th centuries, and its monuments tell part of Sri Lanka’s history. See the Royal Palace complex and the Gal Vihare complex, with four impressive Buddha images cut from a single slab of granite. In the late afternoon return to your accommodation, maybe in time for a cooling swim.

Notes: The catamaran ride is subject to water levels and not usually available from June to September.
Leaving Polonnaruwa this morning, break up your journey to Kandy by stopping off to explore Dambulla properly and learn its fascinating history (approximately1.5 hours). The Sinhalese King, Valagam Bahu, took refuge here when he was ousted from his capital. He transformed five caves of a granite outcrop into a rock temple decorated with statues of Buddha and frescoes, some of which are over 2,000 years old but still as brightly painted as ever. The steep 150 metre ascent to the top of the rock will reward you with more magnificent views down to the jungle and forest below. You’ll then travel southward along the main trunk road to Sri Lanka’s second city and the physical and spiritual heart of the country – Kandy (approximately 2 hours). Keep an eye on the landscape as you’ll pass through a fertile spice-growing area and plantations where coffee, cacao and rubber are cultivated. This evening you’ll visit the Dalada Maligawa, the famous Temple of the Tooth. This is a 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. Your accommodation for the next two nights will be here in Kandy.
The royal city of Kandy is a pleasant city surrounded by lush green hilly countryside, and it’s home to a picturesque lake, old shops, a bustling market and some great restaurants. It was once the capital of the last Sri Lankan king, and the area managed to resist European control for hundreds of years, long after the coastal areas surrendered. This morning you’ll visit the magnificent Peradeniya Botanical Gardens – among the best in Asia – which has an immense fig tree and exquisite orchid collection and lots of space for kids to run around in. In the afternoon, walk through the town to take in the sights of Kandy, including an exploration of the bazaar area and a visit to the citadel in time for sunset over the lake. The rest of your time here is free to explore. Take a nature walk at Udawattakele Sanctuary, close to Kandy, which offers the chance to see flowers, birds and monkeys amid 160 acres of tropical rainforest. Kandy is perfect for those who enjoy walking – the town has many hidden corners to explore and views from walks around the lake are spectacular. Be sure to try some Sri Lanka food specialties today, like ‘short eats’ and Kothu Roti.
Leaving Kandy, take a bus journey through hill country and the green ranks of tea bushes that cover the higher hillsides on your way to Kitulgala (approximately 2.5 hours). Soak up this beautiful landscape, descending to Kitulgala, to arrive around lunchtime. Located in thick forest on Sri Lanka’s second-longest river, the Kelani, Kitulgala is rapidly becoming something of an adventure centre, and so is a great place for a variety of activities. The river, where the classic ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ was filmed (doubling up for Thailand), is an ideal location for swimming and other water-based activities. The surrounding forest, with their wide variety of flora and fauna, offers you a variety of spectacular walks and some stunning views over the valley. This afternoon you’ll get active, first crossing the Kelani River on a suspension bridge used by the local villagers, then walking through the small village and the forest reserve on the opposite bank. You’ll finally re-emerge on the bank of the Kelani River, and then cross the river in a canoe to tonight's accommodation. Tonight you’ll enjoy the rustic setting of your Kitulgala accommodation, with sweeping views across the river and forest.
Today you’ll enjoy a short but very scenic train journey to Nuwara Eliya, past lush green hills and gushing waterfalls (approximately 2 hours). This old British hill station is the heart of the tea growing industry and full of colonial charm. Built entirely during the 19th century, its quirky architecture reflects what you'd normally expect to find in an English country village, which will make you feel like you've stepped back in time. Once known as 'Little England' by British colonialists, it’s a fascinating mix of water buffalo and brick Victorian buildings, golf courses and tea plantations. En-route you will visit Devon and St Clair's waterfalls – the 97 metre high Devon waterfall is one of the most scenic in the country, while St Clair is sometimes exaggeratingly called the ‘Little Niagara of Sri Lanka’. Devon Falls are named after a pioneering English coffee planter – the failure of those plantations due to disease lead to the cultivation of tea, and the rest is history. This afternoon you’ll visit a tea factory to learn about the country’s most important export. You’ll see every step of the tea making process, from bush to cup, and sip on some local brews. Head to your accommodation and enjoy the views across the hills and tea plantations.
Today you set off through the hills once again (approximately 1.5 hours). Along the way, you’ll see tea pickers deftly plucking the tips of the plants and throwing them into the baskets carried on their backs. Taking the twisting roads of hill country, you’ll pass through the lush greenery of this region. Today's journey will end at Bandarawela, another hill town once popular with British plantation managers, where you'll look down over a sweeping vista filled with bright green tea bushes and vegetable gardens. Tonight’s accommodation will be a memorable experience – a camp nestled in a clearing cut into the side of a tea mountain. Surrounded by the Haputale mountain range, Horton Plain Range and the Hakgala Mountain Range, it has many round-topped peaks to look out on as the sun sets. The tents are very spacious, clean and modern, and you will drift off to sleep listening to nature's very own orchestra.
After breakfast, leave the campsite and head to tonight’s accommodation, where you can drop you bags and either head out to explore Bandarawela on your own, or just relax at the hotel. Bandarawela is an unhurried, unpretentious hill-country town that exists to supply the needs of the tea plantation workers, farmers and its hardworking inhabitants. The people of Bandarawela enjoy a simple way of life, where school children and grandparents together work the family plot for the home’s requirement of fruit and vegetable and also tend their cattle and goats. Another distinctive feature of Bandarawela is the colonial flavour still preserved in the many old buildings, including the Bandarawela Hotel and the old Cargill’s Supermarket.
Descend south from the highlands and stop by Diyaluma Falls, one of Sri Lanka's most spectacular waterfalls, before continuing on to Uda Walawe National Park (approximately 3 hours). The park has an amazing array of animal and birdlife, with herds of wild elephant more numerous here than anywhere else in Sri Lanka. After lunch, discover how the majestic elephant has been part of Sri Lankan culture for many centuries while visiting the nearby Elephant Transit Home. Run by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation, it provides shelter for orphaned or abandoned baby elephants with the aim of releasing them into the wild. Arrive at feeding time and see the elephants from a viewing deck just metres away! Once feeding is over, hop in a jeep for a safari inside the park. If you’re lucky, you may also catch glimpses of macaque and larger monkeys, leopard, spotted deer and crocodiles. This is a real safari experience, nothing like a zoo or safari park, and all ages will love the thrill of coming across a herd of wild elephants! Late on this afternoon, continue south to coastal Nonagama (approximately 1.5 hours). Head along the coast road west and by early evening, arrive at your hotel near the small fishing village of Tangalle (approximately 40 minutes). Enjoy dinner, and fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
Continue northwest along the coast today towards the perfectly preserved colonial township of Galle (approximately 2 hours), a blend of European architecture and South Asian traditions. Here you’ll visit the fabulous 400-year-old Dutch fort, exploring the winding passageways and maze of gallery-filled narrow streets, as well as the International cricket stadium. Travel on to the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery (approximately 1.5 hours), which was set up to help protect Sri Lanka’s turtles against the threat of extinction. This remarkable project has helped four million baby turtles get into the sea. Then, just up the coast is the beach town of Bentota – what better way to finish this Sri Lankan adventure than relaxing by the pool and enjoying some beach life. Bentota beach is made up of a wide stretch of sand backed by dense thickets of palm trees, and is one of the most attractive beaches on the island. You'll spend the next three nights here. Enjoy relaxing on the beach and sharing stories about your incredible Sri Lanka adventure. Low-key, quiet, and relaxing, Bentota is also the perfect place for water sports, with the turquoise waters are excellent for swimming, snorkelling, bodysurfing and diving. Sri Lanka’s hypnotic essence will remain with you long after you come home. The trip comes to an end on Day 14. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart your accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities. Those on group flights will be transferred to the airport for the flight back home.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
14 breakfasts, 2 dinners
Transport
4x4 Safari Vehicle, Kayak, Private Bus
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (1 night), Guesthouse (1 night), Hotel (12 nights)
Included activities
  • Negombo - Fish Market Tour
  • Climb Lion Rock
  • Boat ride Polonnaruwa
  • Polonnaruwa exploration
  • Dambulla - Cave temples
  • Temple of the Tooth
  • Kandy exploration walk
  • Canoe on Kelani River
  • St Clare Waterfall
  • Bandarawela walk
  • Diyaluma falls
  • Jeep Safari Uda Walawe National Park
  • Elephant Transit home
  • Galle Dutch Fort

Dates

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Important notes

Please note that these trips are for adults and children travelling together and there must be at least one child under 18 with you.
Minimum age for children on this trip is 5 years old.

A discount of 10% applies on this trip to children 14 years and under at time of travel.

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.

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Reviews

Our Sri Lanka Family Holiday trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Sri Lanka Family Holiday , March 2016

Sri Lanka Family Holiday , March 2016