Explore ruins, relax on stunning beaches, and discover secrets and hidden beauty of Sri Lanka

Drive along the road in Sri Lanka and you can pass Hindu temples, Buddhist shrines, churches and mosques all on the same stretch. This fusion – found in the history, the culture, the Arabian, Indian and European-inspired food – makes Sri Lanka a delicious melting pot to explore. From laid-back Negombo venture through ancient Anuradhapura to the lesser explored north, the secrets and hidden places of Jaffna, and on to the beautiful coastline of Trincomalee. Discover the spiritual heart of the country in the temples of Kandy, and enjoy the natural world too, in a country that overflows with plants and wildlife. Spend time with locals keen to share their homes, food, and stories on an adventure that will leave you with many of your own to tell.


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

Why we love this trip

  • The best way to rediscover the once lost city of Anuradhapura is by bicycle. Cycle around the stupas, citadel and monasteries of this ancient capital

  • Considered to be off-limits for years due to the civil war, the gates to culture filled Jaffna are open to adventurers once more. Discover Tamil culture in this colourful city

  • Open skies, swaying palm trees and glittering waters – Trincomalee beach is a postcard-perfect landscape for relaxation. Kick back in the sun on this bright and sandy shoreline

  • Witness ritual and devotion in the spiritual heart of the country during an evening puja at Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth

Is this trip right for you?

  • Jaffna has opened up to tourism after being off-limits to visitors for the past 30 years, meaning it is quieter, less developed and services and accommodation are not yet quite up to the same standard as the rest of the country.

  • Though its equatorial position means fairly constant year-round temperatures, the summer months in Sri Lanka are very hot with short, sharp monsoons in the south-west of the country. Be sure to use adequate sun protection and drink plenty of water.

  • This trip involves a trip on a local public bus from Jaffna to Trincomalee on Day 6 (approximately 5 hours). While conditions are basic, this is a great way to rub shoulders with the locals while enjoying the passing scenery.

Itinerary

Ayu-bowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. Your journey starts from the coastal town of Negombo, a short drive from 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, when insurance details and next of kin information are collected. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, 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. Continue on to a coconut plantation to learn how all parts of the tree play an important part in daily life and sip the refreshing water of a king coconut. Travel north by private vehicle (approximately 5 hours) to Anuradhapura, stopping at Wilpattu National Park en route. This fine National Park is filled with unique water basins and lakes and is known for the leopards, elephants and sloth bears that call it home.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Negombo - Fish market
  • Negombo - Coconut plantation visit
  • Wilpattu - National Park
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The grand ruins of Anuradhapura point to its status as Sri Lanka’s ruling city for almost one and a half millennia. Take a guided cycling tour of the large number of archaeological sites – the stupas, citadel and monasteries – and stop by the Bodhi Tree Temple, the second-most sacred site in Sri Lanka.


Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Anuradhapura - Ancient site
  • Anuradhapura - Bike tour
  • Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
If you don't feel like cycling, there’s the option to have a wander around the ruins on foot or hire a rickshaw to follow the group.
Transfer in the morning to catch the train north (approximately 4 hours) to the coastal Tamil town of Jaffna, inaccessible for years due to the civil war. Journey around the Jaffna Peninsula, taking in Point Pedro (Sri Lanka’s northernmost point), the healing waters of Keerimalai Spring, the ruined dagobas of Kantarodai, and Nilawari, a bottomless well where it’s said that the Hindu God, Rama, shot an arrow to get water.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today we have plenty of time to explore Jaffna. Visit Nagadipa Temple on Nainativu Island, the only major Buddhist site in the north of the country (where Buddha himself is said to have visited to settle a dispute between two local kings) and accessible by local ferry. Just by the jetty is also the Naga Pooshani Amman Kovil, a colourful Hindu Temple dedicated to Meenakshi. Back in Jaffna, tour the city including the beautiful library that has been lovingly restored after being detroyed in the war, and the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, an important local Hindu site. In the evening, spend time with a local family and learn to cook traditional Jaffna cuisine.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaffna - Cooking class & family visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Leave Jaffna today and transfer to Trincomalee by public bus (approximately 4 hours). Discover the beach vibes of "Trinco", relax in the shade of a palm tree and try ‘toddy’ straight from its flowers. Trincomalee was one of the world’s finest deep-water harbours, attracting famous sailors like Marco Polo to its shores. There are no activities planned today, so there's plenty of time to relax around the pool or beach.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take the free day to enjoy a range of optional activities like snorkelling at Pigeon Island, or climb aboard a boat for some whale and dolphin watching in the bay. Don’t feel like doing anything? Then simply sit back, relax and enjoy the peaceful beach lifestyle.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Drive from Trincomalee towards Habarana (approximately 2 hours), a small but scenic village that serves as a base to exploring the colourful Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka. Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple. This wondrous UNESCO Heritage-listed site is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, many of which are full of colourful, large statues and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life. After returning to Habarana, there’s the option of going elephant, sambar deer and leopard watching on a safari in the evergreen scrublands of Minneriya National Park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dambulla - Cave Temples
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Leave Dambulla and head onwards to Kandy (approximately 3 hours), the last capital of Sri Lanka’s ancient kings era. En route, visit Sigiriya's Lion Rock, an ancient carved-rock fortress that rises dramatically above the surrounding plains. As you continue on, a stop in at a spice garden might yield scents of cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, vanilla and more as you learn the secrets of cultivating these palate pleasers. After arriving in Kandy, visit a Kandayan dance show to experience the colourful traditional costumes and evocative performances live in action.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kandy - Cultural performance
  • Sigiriya - Lion Rock
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Start the day off in Kandy with a visit to the Giragama Tea Factory for an insight into local production techniques, then head to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This golden roofed temple is home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. Afterwards, enjoy the rest of the day with free exploration of the city. Perhaps take a walk around the beautiful lake in the centre of town, explore the local Buddhist temple or while away the afternoon amongst the trees and flowers of the Royal Palace Park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kandy - Temple of the Tooth
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Drive onwards to Colombo. After arriving in the city, set off for a guided walk past some of the city’s iconic sites. Visit the bustling Petta Bazaar, Independence Square, Parliament and the National Museum before finishing up with a shopping opportunity at the Barefoot fair trade store. Perhaps pick up a few final souvenirs while here, keeping in mind that all proceeds go towards helping the country’s small cottage industries. Celebrate the end of this Sri Lanka adventure with an optional final night group dinner.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
There are no activities planned for day 12 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. Additional accommodation is available through your booking agent at the time of booking your trip.
Optional Activities
  • Colombo - Colombo by Tuk Tuk Urban Adventure - USD55
  • Colombo - Eat, Eat, Repeat Urban Adventure - USD55
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

10 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Train

Accommodation

Hotel (11 nights)

Included activities

  • Negombo - Fish market
  • Negombo - Coconut plantation visit
  • Wilpattu - National Park
  • Anuradhapura - Ancient site
  • Anuradhapura - Bike tour
  • Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
  • Jaffna - Cooking class & family visit
  • Dambulla - Cave Temples
  • Kandy - Cultural performance
  • Sigiriya - Lion Rock
  • Kandy - Temple of the Tooth

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip and is applicable for all nights on tour.
2. This trip begins with a welcome meeting at 5:30pm on Day 1.
3. The Esala Perahera is a 10 day period of evening processions to honour the Sacred Tooth, which is enshrined at Kandy's Temple of the Tooth. In 2018 Esala Perahera will take place from 18-28th July. Each night features thousands of dancers and drummers, and a parade of more than 50 decorated elephants. Due to Intrepid's stance on animal protection we do not visit the Perahera and cannot purchase tickets on your behalf.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.