Hill country to Colombo, fuelled by curry and cups of tea

This tour eliminates guess work and immerses you in the must-sees, must-tastes and must-meets of this beautiful country. In other words, the best stuff. Like summiting Lion Rock in Sigiriya, cycling through sprawling ancient city ruins in Anuradhapura and touring massive granite Buddha carvings in Polonnaruwa. But the best doesn’t just mean the biggest. The best is also having lunch with a Tamil tea worker in their home, relaxing with a cold beer and your feet in the sand in Mirissa and hiking between plantations and villages in Haputale. In fact, we think the best is doing all that and more in one 15-day tour.


Start
Negombo, Sri Lanka
Finish
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination
Sri Lanka
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
HPSH
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Ride around the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura on a bike tour, cycling through jungle to see the dagobas, palaces and pools of a city abandoned over 1000 years ago.

  • Climb the rock fortress of Sigiriya to the ancient ruins that lie atop the 200-metre-high summit and get panoramic views over the surrounding wilderness.

  • Explore the divine city of Kandy, mingling with pilgrims at the Temple of the Tooth, touring a tea factory and taking in the views of this lush lakefront town.

  • Fall in love with Sri Lankan food and get to know locals during experiences like lunching with a Tamil tea worker, a home-cooking demonstration and a riverside barbecue.

  • Unwind on the sandy beaches of Mirissa, where the waters are clear and warm, and monkeys play in the swaying palms that line the shores.

Is this trip right for you?

  • The recent terrorist attacks were a tragic event and have had a serious impact on tourism in the country. Intrepid has a strong commitment to our local staff and the communities we visit and are continuing to operate all our trips in Sri Lanka. We continue to follow government travel advisories and local authorities in operating our trips in Sri Lanka. The security situation is now much more stable and we don't anticipate major changes to your itinerary at this time.

  • The summer months in Sri Lanka are very hot with short, sharp monsoons in the southwest of the country. Please consider your suitability to the time of year you wish to travel and be sure to use adequate sun protection and drink plenty of water.

  • This trip includes hiking on days 9 and 10, an awesome way to see the picturesque hill country and interact with the local Tamil people. The hiking is on relatively flat ground and covers 12—20 kilometres each day. While it isn’t physically demanding, some trails are on rough ground which can be muddy and slippery if it’s been raining. If you don't feel you are able to complete these walks, we can arrange vehicle transport for you.

  • The views from the top of Lion Rock in Sigiriya are spectacular, but getting there involves walking up uneven, narrow steps and navigating tight walkways. If you’ve got a fear of heights or conditions that affect mobility you may wish to sit this activity out.

  • The drive from Bandarawela to Mirissa on day 11 is downhill, windy and slow. Motion sickness has been an issue for some travellers in the past. If you believe you might be affected, speak with your GP before travelling about medication that can help.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019.
View the 2020 itinerary
Ayu-bowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. Your adventure begins in the town of Negombo, located close to the international airport. There are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 5.30 pm. Those who arrive early can dive straight into it by joining our local Urban Adventure - Spirit of Negombo. First check out the sights on foot and then take a leisurely boat tour, all while soaking up some epic views and learning all about the history and culture of Negombo. If you’d prefer to explore on your own, perhaps stroll the seaside 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Negombo - Spirit of Negombo Urban Adventure - USD60
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Those who arrive early can dive straight into it by joining our local Urban Adventure - Spirit of Negombo. First check out the sights on foot and then take a leisurely boat tour, all while soaking up some epic views and learning all about the history and culture of Negombo. If you’d prefer to explore on your own, perhaps stroll the seaside 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.

The area around St Sebastian's Church in Negombo is currently a restricted zone following the bombing on 21 April 2019. Please avoid this area as per g
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
  • Anuradhapura - Bike tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
For the temple visits here and on other days you will need to remove your shoes (leaving socks on is acceptable, and recommeded on hot days) and ensure you have your shoulders and legs covered. 
Travel on to Polonnaruwa (approximately 2.5 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Polonnaruwa - Bike Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dambulla - Cave Temples
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kandy - Temple of the Tooth
  • Sigiriya - Lion Rock
Optional Activities
  • Kandy - Botanical Gardens - LKR2000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 it's 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tea Factory Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take a scenic train 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bandarawela - Cooking demonstration & local meal
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hill Country trek
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
The hike requires good walking shoes, as the 'track' is in parts rocky and with vegetation, and if there has been recent 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 the rough and unsteady ground. Our usual route is about 20 kilometres in total. If you don't feel you are able to complete the hike, you can be taken by vehicle to our lodge in Haputale and wait for the group to arrive.
Drive to the nearby starting point for our walk 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 tea pickers along the way and stop for an included lunch in Bambarakanda. We will then proceed to Kuda Oya and spend the evening at Gangadhara riverside jungle camp. Engage with local Sri Lankans, fish, and enjoy an included barbecue dinner around a fire.
Accommodation
  • Permanent tented camp (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
If you don't feel you are able to complete todays hike, you can be taken by vehicle to Bambarakanda to enjoy lunch with the rest of the group.
Set off for the beach and enjoy the changing views from jungle hills to Sri Lanka's south coast by private bus (approximately 4 hours) to the beach of Mirissa. This is your paradise for two days of relaxation, with your comfortable accommodation just metres from the water.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information

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. The local cottage industry of lace products is also well worth a look. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Mirissa - Whale Watching (Nov to Mar) - USD45
  • Galle - Bikesplore Galle Urban Adventure - USD49
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Galle - Walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Leaving Galle, we travel on to Colombo by train, 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Colombo - City Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your trip comes to an end today, with no activities planned. Checkout time at the hotel is 12 noon. If you are keen to explore more of Colombo, check out our Urban Adventures day tours - your leader can help you book.
Optional Activities
  • Colombo - Eat, Eat, Repeat Urban Adventure - USD55
  • Colombo - Colombo by Tuk Tuk Urban Adventure - USD55
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

11 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Train, Bicycle

Accommodation

Hotels (12 nights), Local Lodge (1 night), Permanent Tented Camp (with basic facilities) (1 nt)

Included activities

  • Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
  • Anuradhapura - Bike tour
  • Polonnaruwa - Bike Tour
  • Dambulla - Cave Temples
  • Kandy - Temple of the Tooth
  • Sigiriya - Lion Rock
  • Tea Factory Visit
  • Bandarawela - Cooking demonstration & local meal
  • Hill Country trek
  • Galle - Walking tour
  • Colombo - City Tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip and is valid for all nights of tour with the exception of night 13.
2. In the wet season, we occasionally need to alter the length and itinerary of the Hill Country hike due to weather conditions.
3. PASSPORT DETAILS: Full passport details are required for the train journey. Without them we cannot purchase train tickets. Please advise them at the time of booking.

Essential trip information

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