Welcome to “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” Serendib, also spelled Serendip, Arabic Sarandīb, the name for the island of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The name, Arabic in origin, was recorded in use at least as early as AD 361.
Endless sand beaches ring Sri Lanka, with central cool, highland mountains hosting tea plantations, tropical jungle rain forest in the east, dry scrub in the southern provinces and ancient monasteries and ruins scattered in Anuradhapura.
Buddhist stupas are everywhere and many holy sites are dotted through the landscape to serve the nation's worshippers. Remnants of colonial times are seen in Galle - the town the Portuguese and later the Dutch, fortified. Small boutiques, pretty cafes and hotels fill the old town while local kids dive from the ramparts into the ocean.
This tour is the best of Sri Lanka - including visiting world heritage sites, leopard safaris, rain forest trek, elephant orphanage, the best beach in Sri Lanka and taking a train trip dubbed the most beautiful in the world! Beautiful single accommodations and two luxury stays.
DAY 1 Airport pick-up - transfer to Negombo
Negombo is a city on the west coast of Sri Lanka, north of the capital, Colombo. This pretty, quiet beach town is perfect to relax after a long flight. Dinner to meet your driver and other guests. Overnight Negombo.
DAY 2 Negombo to Anuradhapura
After breakfast, we will make our way to UNESCO World Heritage Site Anuradhapura. This sacred city was established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again.
We will visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage - a organization that cares for abandoned, maimed and orphan elephants on our way as well as the sacred rock temple of Mihintale.
Sited on a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka Mihintale is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight Anuradhapura
DAY 3 Explore Anuradhapura
Today we explore Anuradhapura after breakfast. Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first planned city and the historical capital of Sri Lanka, founded in 5th century BC. The site gives a fascinating glimpse of a stately, well laid-out pre-christian metropolis of massive Buddhist shrines and monasteries, splendid palaces, pavilions, and parks, bathing ponds and vast reservoirs, many of them are masterpieces of architecture, art, sculpture and engineering.
Dinner at the hotel. Overnight Anuradhapura
DAY 4 Anuradhapura to Dambulla
After breakfast, travel to UNESCO World Heritage Site Polonnaruwa. Starting at the Polonnaruwa Visitor Centre and Museum, (built with the help of the Dutch government), we will see a model layout built to scale of the complex. The museum on the banks of the lake, uses high quality displays, detailed descriptive texts and a five-minute video presentation to complement its collection of archaeological finds.
From here we'll move on to the Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple.
A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight Dambulla.
DAY 5 Dambulla to Sigiriya
After breakfast this morning, we'll visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Sigiriya, one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains. The climb is about 2.5 - 3 hours up and back and is worthwhile for the fabulous frescoes half way up and the amazing view at the top.
In the afternoon we will visit Minneriya National Park and have an elephant safari. Large numbers of Sri Lankan elephants are attracted to the grass fields on the edges of the Minneriya tank during the dry season. The Minneriya tank contributes to sustain a large herd along with rare birds and mammals endemic to the region.
Dinner at the hotel. Overnight Dambulla.
DAY 6 Dambulla to Kandy
Today we'll visit Kandy after breakfast and see it's sacred Temple of the Tooth. Free time to wander the grounds and temple of this complex. Take in the view from Kandy Lake afterwards followed by a Traditional Kandy Dance demonstration. Dinner at your leisure. Overnight Kandy.
DAY 7 Kandy
After breakfast, visit the amazing Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens and wander through the beautiful mature gardens - each representing a part of the island's varied landscapes. The Orchid House alone showcases a fine collection of orchid species and some of them are very rare. The largest orchid of the world known as Grammatophyllum speciosum and many other hardy tropical orchids can be seen here.
Afternoon free time to explore the town or visit the many craft sellers. Dinner at your leisure. Overnight Kandy.
DAY 8 Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Today we will be travelling through the highlands of Sri Lanka. Our first stop will be a Tea Factory and plantation for a demonstration of the tea process. We will stop at scenic Ramboda Waterfalls and take in the beautiful scenery along the way. Afternoon free time to tour the city and it's stately colonial past. Dinner at your leisure.
Overnight Nuwara Eliya
DAY 9 Nuwara Eliya
Early start today to visit Horton Plains National Park and World’s
End. Located at an elevation of 2,100–2,300 m and encompassing montane grassland and cloud forest, it is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. The Horton Plains plateau comes to a sudden end at World's End, a stunning escarpment that plunges 880m. The walk here is 4km, but the trail then loops back to Baker's Falls and continues back to the entrance. The round trip takes a leisurely three hours.
Afternoon free time to explore more of the town. Dinner at your leisure. Overnight Nuwara Eliya.
DAY 10 Nuwara Eliya
Leisurely day exploring the beautiful mountains and waterfalls around Nuwara Eliya. First visit to look-off - Moon Plains - one of the best places to have a panoramic view of the mountains in Sri Lanka. In the wide open area below, there is a chance of seeing wild boar, cows, buffalo and deer. A total of 105 bird species are recorded in the area, of which 16 are endemic to Sri Lanka. At the viewpoint, you will be able to see the peak point of 9 mountains in Sri Lanka.
Visit to Hindu temple Sri Seethai Amman
Sri Seethai Amman temple is a unique temple made at the place where Seeta Mata spent her days in the prison of Ravana around 5000 years ago. It is also unique in a way that it is one of the very few temples dedicated to Seeta. The ornate temple known as the place where Sita was held prisoner in the Hindu epic "Ramayana."
Last we'll see the second largest gardens in Sri Lanka but quite different from Kandy. Hakgala Gardens has a cool temperate climate due to the high altitude of 5,400 feet above the sea level. Beautiful ferns, Japanese gardens and waterfalls make for a pleasant walk before we head back for free time in the afternoon.
DAY 13 Tissamaharamaya - Matara
Leave for an early visit to Bundala National Park - an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbours 197 species of birds, the highlight being the greater flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was the first wetland designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. We'll go by jeep and park naturalist. Afterwards, drive to Matara.
DAY 14 Matara
Breakfast and relaxed day to explore Matara. Optional visits to the Dutch Fort and market, Paravi Duwa Temple (located on Pigeon Island with a suspension bridge access), Dondra Head Lighthouse, the southernmost point in Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka's tallest lighthouse or relax on the beach at our resort. Dinner at your leisure.
DAY 15 Matara - Galle
A short drive today with stops in Tangalle Beach and Mirissa Beach for lunch. Arrive and check-in and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle Fort in the afternoon. Free time to explore on your own. Dinner at your leisure. Overnight Galle Fort.
DAY 16 Galle
After breakfast, optional visit to the Sea Turtle Hatchery and optional backwater river cruise. Afternoon free to relax on the beach, explore the beachside town of Unawatuna or re-visit Old Galle Fort.
Dinner at the hotel. Overnight Unawatuna.
DAY 17 Unawatuna To Sinharaja Eco-Lodge
Leave early today to Sinharaja for a rainforest hike and overnight stay at the rainforest eco-lodge. Pamper yourself at the spa after a rainforest trek with your naturalist guide. You will have the afternoon to yourself! Sinharaja, the largest great lowland Gondwanan Rainforest in Southern Asia is the richest store of biodiversity in Sri Lanka making it a unique site for scientists, naturalists and Eco tourists. Dinner at the resort. Overnight Eco-Lodge.
DAY 18 Sinharaja to Negombo
Depart for Negombo and the last night of your adventure. Arrive by afternoon and relax and reminisce about all the great experiences you had. Farewell dinner at the hotel together. Overnight Negombo.
DAY 19 Negombo to Colombo Airport
Drop to airport for onward travel.
18 nights deluxe accommodation in single room
Lunches as indicated
Dinner as indicated
English speaking driver
Driver expenses, fuel, parking and tolls
All entry fees to monuments, gardens and National Parks
Sinharaja Rain Forest Trek
Horton Plains Trek
Minneriya National Park Elephant Safari
Yala National Park Leopard Safari
Airport pick-up and drop
Luxury train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella
Tea Factory and Plantation visit
Moon Plains Scenic Lookout
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens visit
Sri Seethai Amman temple
Hakgala Botanical Gardens
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:
Tips and gratuities or any expenses incurred outside of the trip itinerary, dates and times
Travel Insurance (mandatory)
Any charges for video cameras, still cameras, etc.
Alcohol, soft drinks, beverages, etc.
Personal expenses like telephone calls, laundry, etc.
What our guests say:
We had a wonderful tour through the hill country around Ella, to the national parks of Udawalawe and Yala and along the coast via Tangalle and Galle to Colombo. Our guide came up with a great itinerary for our short 5-day trip and booked excellent accommodation for us. He was friendly, knowledgable and has good links with other high quality operators. We thoroughly enjoyed our five day trip. It was hassle-free and really delivered on our request for scenic beauty and wildlife. We got to see beautiful birds, elephants, a leopard, a Sloth bear and a Blue whale in 3 days!! ... and it didn't feel rushed! Our guide listened to what we wanted, added extra value with his local knowledge and was very professional. Recommend ++. Jacqui M, NZ