Designed with the first time visitor in mind, this Sri Lanka holiday offer tour explores the island’s highlights without rushing through.
Highlights: Uncover ancient history in the cultural triangle, be mesmerised by one of the most beautiful train journeys on earth through Sri Lanka’s tea hills, elephants and beach days.
Travel dates: 1 November 2021 – 15 December 2021
Duration: 14 days
Sri Lanka Holiday Offer price: £2,508 per person (includes 20% saving of £627 per person)
Offer includes: International flights, accommodation, transfers, private tours
Dive in to the beauty that awaits you below….
Day One – Fasten your seatbelts
Enjoy hearing those joyful words once you’ve boarded your overnight flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Day Two – Arrive in Colombo
Upon arrival you will be met by your private chauffeur guide and vehicle, and then transferred to the quaint fishing town of Negombo to relax after the journey. With its Dutch canals and fish markets, there’s plenty to explore and only a 20 minute transfer from the airport Negombo proves to be a great place to start your tour.
Day Three – Bicycle tour in Sigiriya
This morning you will be driven to the ancient city of Sigiriya, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’. This journey should take around 3.5 hours.
We have arranged for you to do a private guided bicycle tour in Sigiriya, which will take around 4 hrs and covers approximately 20 kms. You will pass by the famous Lion’s Rock for a brief history and the opportunity to take some stunning photos of this unique UNESCO Heritage site. The tour will then continue through the paddy fields, enabling you to get a glimpse of local village life, whilst taking in the jungle greenery. You will also visit a village house and learn to make a local sweet. Water and seasonal cut fruits will be provided during this half-day tour.
Day Four – Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Early this morning you will enjoy a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site at Sigiriya. The ancient remains of Sigiriya fortress sit atop a giant rock; it’s a bit of a climb so we recommend getting up nice and early to avoid the heat (around 7am), but is well worth the effort. Otherwise known as the ‘Lion’s Rock’, Sigiriya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and it remains one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic attractions. It’s not only a unique archaeological site but also an incredible geological formation that offers outstanding views of the scenery below. Please note that if you have an issue with heights, you might like to opt out of this one. This can be a little strenuous in places and there are lots of rough, narrow steps and tight walkways to overcome, but you can take it at your own pace and there are a couple of spots where you can stop and take a breath.
The visit will take around 3.5 hrs and begins by looking around the water garden, boulder garden, Sigiriya Frescos and the mirror wall. After approx. 1.5 hours you’ll pass through a narrow pathway at the northern side of the rock, and arrive at two magnificent lion’s paws carved into the stone, dating back to the 5th century. The remainder of the climb takes 30 minutes and when you reach the top you will be greeted with the ruins of an ancient palace atop the rock, along with the most spectacular 360 degree views of the Sri Lankan jungle.
This afternoon you will be taken for a tour around the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa ruins. It’s the second great capital of Sri Lanka, after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Polonnaruwa is arguably better preserved than Anuradhapura and is certainly more accessible. It’s made up of both Bramanic monuments built by the Cholas, as well as the ruins of a fantastic garden city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.
Day Five – Kandy
Today you will head south to Kandy. This journey normally takes approximately 3hrs but you will be visiting The Golden Temple of Dambulla en route. About 30 minutes south of Sigiriya, it acted a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. It is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s best preserved and largest cave temple, with a total of five sanctuaries. Deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Golden Temple of Dambulla is an outstanding example of Sri Lanka’s religious art, with Buddhist mural paintings covering an area of 2100 m2 along with 157 Buddhist statues.
Once settled in to your hotel, we’d recommend spending some time at leisure in Kandy. We’d suggest heading down to the market and surrounding streets where you can find delicious street food! Egg hoppers, string hoppers, roti and kottu are must-haves!
Day Six – Royal Botanical Gardens and the Temple of the Tooth
Today you will have a short Tour of Kandy, during which you will visit Kandy Lake, market place, and the Arts and Crafts Centre to watch the local craftsmen work. You will then drive out to Peradeniya on the outskirts of Kandy to explore the striking and historic Royal Botanical Gardens which started off as pleasure gardens for Sinhalese royalty, before being turned into a botanical garden by the British. It’s the largest botanical garden in Sri Lanka and arguably one of the finest in the subcontinent, with an incredible selection of orchids and a stately avenue of royal palms.
This evening you will head to the famous Temple of the Tooth to experience the evening puja ceremony. As the legend goes, the Buddha’s tooth was given to the Sri Lankan monarchy in ancient times, and was passed around through various kings and holy men who hid, moved, and relocated the tooth a number of times across the centuries. Now the tooth is housed in a dedicated temple where worshippers can visit the relic, which is held in a golden stupa inside the two-story shrine. Although parts of the shrine were destroyed and rebuilt over the years in various bombings and acts of war, the building still retains its opulent style of gold and moonstone, surrounded by Buddhist carvings and offerings.
Day Seven – One of the most beautiful train journeys on earth
Today might well be one of your top highlights of your Sri Lanka holiday. You will take the train from Kandy station and travel through the hills and tea estates to Nuwara Eliya, which will take approx. 3.5 hours. This is regarded as one of the most scenic train journeys you can do in the world!
Spot the colourful traditional tea pickers in the lush plantations, glorious mountain views, old bridges, waterfalls, and small villages. At each stop along the way there will be sellers hustling tasty treats such as mango with cinnamon, buttered corn and veggie fritters. Your chauffeur guide will drop you off at the station, help you with the tickets and find your seats, then he will drive the same route with your main luggage and meet you at Nuwara Eliya train station, then dropping you off at your next hotel. Please note that train tickets are bookable 30 days prior to travel in Sri Lanka, and are subject to availability especially during peak season – if tickets cannot be secured your chauffeur guide will drive you the same route instead so that you can still experience the incredible vistas!
Day Eight – Highlights of Nuwara Eliya
Your chauffeur-guide will take you for a short tour around Nuwara Eliya and the surrounding area to take in the highlights. Established by the British in the 19th century, Nuwara Eliya is Sri Lanka’s highest town and often referred to as the island’s ‘Little England’. The views have remained fairly untouched since the 1800’s, with a glorious landscape still peppered with tea planters’ bungalows and colourfully adorned ladies picking tea by hand. Drive around the hill capital and see some interesting buildings of mock Tudor and Georgian architecture including the St Andrews hotel, Hill Club, Grand Hotel and the Race course where horse racing continues to be a sought after social attraction. Continue your drive around the Lake Gregory situated in the heart of the town. Walk through the busy town centre where you can visit the fruit and vegetable market where fresh produce from the region is brought for sale.
This afternoon you’ll visit a tea factory visit educating you on the entire tea manufacturing process used in most parts of Sri Lanka. You will firstly watch the tea pickers as they nimbly walk up the hillside with their baskets, picking tea leaves as they have done for centuries. Afterwards you will visit the factory; here a friendly staff member will take you around explaining the process of fermentation, rolling, drying, cutting, sieving and the grading of tea. There are machines for almost every part of the process except the all-important tea tasting at the end of the process to determine the quality of the tea. The tea factory visit normally lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
Day Nine – Uda Walawe National Park
No Sri Lanka holiday would be complete without coming face to face with its magnificent elephant population. Today you will leave the tea growing region and you will head 4 hours south to Uda Walawe National Park, a park famed for its elephants.
This afternoon you will enjoy an exciting 3-4 hour jeep safari in the Udawalawe National Park in a 4×4 with an experienced guide and tracker. The park sits with the hill country as its backdrop. It’s a glorious but flat park that is home to some 600 elephants, along with sloth bear, crocodiles and many rare and endemic birds.
Day Ten – Visit the elephant orphanage before travelling to Galle
This morning you will visit the local elephant transit centre. This operates as an information centre and elephant orphanage and is supported by the Born Free Foundation. The aim of the simple but effective project is to rehabilitate the young orphaned elephants and release them back into the wild – Udawalawe National Park next door. There is a viewing platform where you can see the orphaned elephants being fed, and a small museum for you to learn about the scheme that the Wildlife Conservation Trust have set up to care for and protect these wonderful mammals.
Following your adventure with the nellies, your chauffeur-guide will transfer you down to the south coast, towards Galle, a journey which will take approx. 3 hours. If you are lucky you might spot the fishermen on stilts!
Day Eleven – Galle Walking Tour
Your chauffeur guide will take you on a walking tour of Galle Fort exploring the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a spellbinding mixture of Dutch, Portuguese and British history. It oozes colonial charm with an eclectic range of low rise European architecture, tucked down a lace of narrow lanes and alleyways.
Wander around this charming old town within the Fort walls, stroll the cobbled streets lined with artisan workshops, boutique shops and wonderful local eateries. Be sure to check out the old Dutch Hospital which is now an upmarket shopping arcade, the morning fish market and get a scenic photo of the lighthouse. Our favourite shops are KK by George (Pedlar Street) for women’s clothes & jewellery, Exotic Roots (Lighthouse Street) for beautiful arty souvenirs, Barefoot (Pedlar Street) for chic, colourful handcrafted sarongs, textiles, tea, beauty products, stationary and boutique bric a brac, and Stick No Bills (Church Street) where you can find kitsch, retro-inspired poster art dating back to the post-war Ceylon period.
Venture out early evening – locals gather with their friends and family to socialise, eat street food and gelato (check out the quirky gelateria ‘Isle of Gelato’), and watch the stunning sunsets across the horizon! Our personal recommendations for food would be the Lucky Fort Galle restaurant offering 10 curries for around £9, Hoppa which specialises in the infamous Sri Lankan hopper an seafood at The Fort Printers. The á la carte menu at Church Street Social in Fort Bazaar is a particular treat, A Minute By Tuk Tuk (Dutch Hospital) offers glorious views, and finally a visit to Galle would not be complete without an authentic street food pre-dinner appetizer – check out the wade cart opposite The Bartizan hotel.
Day Twelve – Head to the beach
Today you will be transferred 1 hour up the coast to your beach hotel on the west coast – get ready to relax!
You’ll spend the next two nights at the beautiful Shinagawa Beach hotel. It’s a bit of a rare find in this part of Sri Lanka’s coast; Small (only 26 rooms), secluded and also pretty good value. The hotel lies on the southern end of a beautiful, sandy beach, that in turn is a few bays south of Bentota. It’s a pretty quiet part of the coast, but there is enough around to keep you busy if you fancy a trip out one day. Overall, we recommend this property as a good choice if you want the boutique feel, a peaceful location and a great beach!
Day Thirteen – Much needed R&R
The Shinagawa Beach is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing, however, if laying on the sand isn’t your style, there is plenty to keep you busy nearby. Visit a turtle hatchery, the Tsunami Community Museum and memorials, try your hand at some water sports, check out Geoffrey Bawa’s Lunuganga Gardens, or the Madu Ganga River safari is a must-do for nature lovers! This area is also well known for the ancient tradition of mask making. Finished masks are used to decorate homes, in dance performances and festivals. Alternatively, you can simply relax by the pool, wander along the long sandy beach, or explore the local town.
Day Fourteen – Home time
It’s time to shake off the sand and transfer back up to Colombo for your flight home. This journey normally takes 2-2.5 hours depending on traffic.
It’s so rare we do offers here at HA as we’re always working our hardest behind the scenes to ensure we’re offering the very best price possible to you. However, due to the impact of the last year or so on the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, we’ve been able to work closely with our ground agents to secure this fantastic Sri Lanka holiday offer. The availability is very limited, so we recommend getting in touch as soon as you can to chat to Rebecca, our Sri Lanka specialist, more about this holiday if it tickles your fancy! She’d be so delighted to talk you through this fantastic Sri Lanka holiday offer and share her personal highlights and stories of her travels. You can give her a call on 01242 253 073 or email her at [email protected] if you want to chat more about it!