Discover the hidden gems of one of the most beautiful islands in the world on this 11-day vacation in the unique country of Sri Lanka! Filled with fun and exciting activities from white water rafting and canoeing in Kalutara, to Jeep safaris and trekking in the wilderness of the Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve, this trip has something awesome for everyone. Complete with transfers and accommodation, as well as guided city tours to get you acquainted with the rich culture and traditions of each area, this will be a vacation you won’t ever forget!
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will be met by a representative for your transfer to the ancient Singiriya Rock Fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage site is an enormous ancient fortress built on a boulder rising 200 meters out of the surrounding jungle, which served as a royal citadel with Sigiri graffiti and famous frescoes. It is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning, complete with a fully-functional swimming pool at the top. Next, you will visit the Dambulla Cave Temple, a vast cave complex which was converted into a rock temple. Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, this World Heritage Site has been a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries and is one of the largest and best-preserved cave temple complexes in the country. Covering the rock ceiling is the largest collection of paintings in Sri Lanka within a cave temple; this is also where you will see the highest number of Buddha statues found in one single place!
Overnight in Dambulla.
After breakfast, you will get on a bicycle to explore the 2nd kingdom of Sri Lanka, the ancient city Polonnaruwa. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will find an interesting blend of archaeological monuments such as the iconic man-made reservoir named Parakrama Samudra, or "the Sea of Parakrama," due to its enormous size. Look out for the famous Gal Viharaya or "Rock Temple" where you can see 4 colossal statues of the Buddha cut into stone, reflecting peace, serenity and strength. Polonnaruwa also boasts ruins of ancient palaces, intricately carved moon stones and royal baths.
In the evening, you will go on a jeep safari at the Minneriya National Park, located in the North Central district of Sri Lanka. This sanctuary for wildlife is one of the best places on the island to see the Sri Lankan elephant as well as a whole host of other mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians. You will also see one of the highlights of the park - the impressive Minneriya tank which is a reservoir built by an ancient civilization. If you are visiting between June and September, you are likely to experience the dry season when the reservoir slowly dries out, giving way to fresh grass and shoots and attracting large herds of elephants, deer and water buffalo.
Overnight in Dambulla (Breakfast).
Dambulla – Nuwara Eliya
Start off your day by going on a drive to the heart of Nuwara Eliya; the journey itself is a photographer’s paradise, with gushing waterfalls, vast tea terraces, old tea factories and expansive vegetable fields to feast your eyes on. Upon arrival, you will notice a sudden drop in temperature so make sure to bring heavy clothing. Here, you will see the charming log fires in the Victorian-style bungalows and the beautifully kept flower gardens, which is why Nuwara Eliya is nicknamed ‘Little England.’ You will visit the Hakgala Botanical Gardens or Gregory’s Lake or the Seetha Amman Hindu Temple (not included, to be paid in cash on site). Then, wander through the fruit and vegetable markets and strike a bargain at the Night Bale Market, before learning about the tea making process during your tea-tasting session with a planter in the evening. Afterwards, you will have a freshly-brewed cup of Ceylon tea and homemade strawberry jam on toast, or for those into golf, tee off at a golf club.
Overnight in Nuwara Eliya (Breakfast).
On this day, you will proceed to Kitulgala, a small town west of Sri Lanka where parts of the “Bridge on the River Kwai” movie was filmed. Flowing from the central highlands through Kitulgala, the Kelani River, which is the country’s 2nd largest river, flows through the rocky terrain, creating the perfect opportunity for white water rafting. With many of the rapids graded as 2 or 3, skilled experts will give you a full safety briefing including paddling techniques and will accompany you on your adventure whether you are a beginner or have more experience. For a more laid-back experience, the river also offers ideal spots for a relaxing dip as you slow down the pace to soak up the sun and absorb the stunning surroundings.
Overnight in Nuwara Eliya(Breakfast).
Nuwara Eliya - Tissamaharama
Today you will go on a 5.5-hour drive to Yala, passing through the Ella Gap from where you can get wonderful views of Sri Lanka's southern coastal plains on a sunny day. In the evening, you will go on a wild ride at the Yala National Park, which is mostly open parkland, making it easier to spot wildlife. With a landscape varying from rock outcrops to scrub jungle, lagoons, rivers and even beaches, Yala is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where you can spot a leopard strolling beside the track or draped elegantly on a tree branch. There are estimated to be around 35 leopards and 400 wild elephants, as well as wild buffalos, mongeese, pangolins, black bears, macaques, jackals and numerous species of bird. As the 2nd largest national park in Southern Sri Lanka, Yala has one of the richest ecosystems on the Island so make sure you have your camera on stand-by!
Overnight in Tissamaharama (Breakfast).
Tissamaharama - Kalawana
This morning you will leave for the stunning Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve where you will go on an evening walk along the rainforest with a designated trekker. Situated in the southwestern lowland wet zone, this UNESCO Natural Site is the largest forest reserve in Sri Lanka, and for keen birdwatchers, it offers a plethora of exotic species such as the Sri Lankan blue magpie and the red-faced malkoha with its brightly-colored plumage. As you trek through the rainforest, you should keep an eye out for beautiful orchids, ferns, entwined tree canopies and the freshwater streamlets, as well as some of Sri Lanka’s distinct mammals, butterflies, insects and rare amphibians.
Overnight in Kalawana (Breakfast).
On this day, you will go to the Waulpane Limestone Cave to see the only internal waterfall in Sri Lanka, before going on a safari to one of the best places in the country to see wild Asian elephants - in the Udawalawe National Park! Here, you will go on a game drive through the open grassland in the park, which is home to approximately 500 elephants usually moving in large numbers. This unique experience will give you an up close and personal view of elephants, deer, eagles, and many other animals in their natural habitat.
Overnight in Kalawana (Breakfast).
Kalawana – Hikkaduwa
After an early morning breakfast, you will proceed to the town of Kalutara for an exciting day of canoeing, followed by a delicious lunch by the riverbank. Then, you will canoe to the small town of Hikkaduwa on the southern coast of Sri Lanka to check in at your hotel. You will have the rest of the evening at leisure to relax by the beach or explore on your own.
Overnight in Hikkaduwa (Breakfast, Lunch).
Start off your day by heading to the coastal town of Bentota, located on the southern bank of the Bentota River. This town got its name from a mythical story where locals believed a demon named “Bem” ruled the riverbank. Here you could have lunch and/or enjoy the numerous beach activities at the Bentota water sports center (not included). You will have the rest of the day at leisure to enjoy the hotel services and amenities.
Overnight in Hikkaduwa (Breakfast).
Hikkaduwa – Colombo
Today you will proceed to Colombo and after checking-in at your hotel, you will join Mark Forbes - a native Dutch Burgher and passionate photographer – on a walking tour of the city. Starting at the 17th C Old Dutch Hospital, a colonial treasure which now hosts high-end restaurants and boutiques, you will continue into the commercial hub of Colombo Fort, away from the tourist hotspots. As you learn about the colonial buildings and important monuments that have shaped the Colombo of today, you could have a refreshing cup of Ceylon tea, before stopping at the bustling Pettah Bazaar. The bazaar is both a wholesale and retail market, selling everything from trinkets to textiles, from vegetables to electronics and of course, all kinds of exotic spices!
Overnight in Colombo (Breakfast).
After breakfast and check-out formalities at your hotel, you will be transferred to the airport (which is approximately an hour away) for your flight out.