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Sri Lanka: Highlights of the Sacred Island

Group Tour

14 Days From £2,475

Overview

Meaning ‘Sacred Island’, Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich wealth of scenic beauty, endemic wildlife and World Heritage treasures. Home to the Sinhalese since the late 6th century BC and colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, this exciting, 14-day adventure takes us into the beating heart of this extraordinary island.

Aside from visiting some of Sri Lanka’s most iconic highlights, including the rock-cut fortress of Sigiriya and the UNESCO riches of Anuradhapura, ...

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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

13 x Breakfasts
12 x Lunches
13 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

Minibuses and a train*.
*Please note that train tickets can be difficult to obtain during peak times. There may be the option to ride in standing class for a few stops and then drive the rest of the journey. On rare occasions, it may be necessary  to take the journey by road only.

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip.

On this particular trip we will be in hotels and basic tented camps (no air-conditioning) with en suite facilities. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE/HIGH: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-4hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-5 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

VERY HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 5-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Sri Lanka: Highlights of the Sacred Island
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: ARRIVE NEGOMBO

DAY 1: ARRIVE NEGOMBO

The tour starts this afternoon at the hotel in Negombo, the closest coastal town to Colombo Airport. In the evening we can enjoy a welcome dinner as we unwind with beautiful sunset views and ocean breezes.

Goldi Sands Hotel or similar
Dinner

DAY 2: NEGOMBO – WILPATTU

DAY 2: NEGOMBO – WILPATTU

After breakfast this morning we depart Negombo and drive north to Wilpattu National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka, stopping en route at a Kaffir Village. This afternoon we will go on a safari in the park following dirt tracks through mostly dry, dense forest, stopping at watering holes and lakes. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna including leopard, elephant, sloth bear, mongoose, buffalo, crocodiles and a myriad of birdlife. We then will enjoy an al fresco dinner at our tented camp, where there will also be the chance to go on a night walk in search of nocturnal wildlife.

Big Game Camp Wilpattu or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: WILPATTU – ANURADHAPURA – DAMBULLA

DAY 3: WILPATTU – ANURADHAPURA – DAMBULLA

An hour’s drive takes us to Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka, dating to the 5th century BC, and the most celebrated of Sri Lanka's ancient ruined cities. We will explore the widespread site which includes the first temple to be built in the island, the largest stupa on the island and the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree - which was planted from a sapling taken from the original tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Continuing to Dambulla, our next stop is at the sacred Buddhist caves, a UNESCO World Heritage setting and an important pilgrimage site that is home to a staggering collection of temples and statues that date back to the 1st century BC. We end the day at our hotel where we will spend the next two nights.

Sigiriana Resort & Spa or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: DAMBULLA: SIGIRIYA, VILLAGE TRAIL & ARBORETUM

DAY 4: DAMBULLA: SIGIRIYA, VILLAGE TRAIL & ARBORETUM

We make use of the morning’s cooler temperature and begin the day summitting Sigiriya’s famous “Lion Rock”. Built during the 5th century and one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions, the fortress sits on top of the imposing granite monolith of Lion Rock, some 200 metres above the surrounding countryside. Accessed by way of a steep staircase, from its lofty heights the 360 degree views out across the lush landscapes are truly spectacular. This afternoon we learn more about rural life on a village walk, followed by tea and snacks provided by a welcoming family in their home. Our final stop of the day is at the Sam Popham Arboretum, a sanctuary for native flora and fauna in the area, including an endangered sub-species of the grey slender loris. We will plant a native tree in the arboretum before going on a night walk in search of the loris.

Sigiriana Resort & Spa or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: DAMBULLA – POLONNARUWA – MADURU OYA – MAGIYANGANA

DAY 5: DAMBULLA – POLONNARUWA – MADURU OYA – MAGIYANGANA

An early start today sees us heading for the UNESCO setting of Polonnaruwa, the country’s old medieval capital. The ruins of the ancient city lie on the eastern shores of Topa Wewa Lake and a chance to explore it by bicycle provides a unique insight into its once great past. Following an early lunch, we continue on towards the Maduruoya National Park, where we can enjoy a three-hour jeep safari. Home to a variety of fabulous wildlife, this less-visited park is best known for its herds of Asian elephant. We will then transfer to our hotel in Mahiyanganaya for the evening.

Kevans Casa or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: MAGIYANGANA – DAMBANA - KNUCKLES

DAY 6: MAGIYANGANA – DAMBANA - KNUCKLES

This morning, we head to Dambana village - home to the last remaining indigenous tribe in Sri Lanka. There, we will spend some time with the local Vedda chief, learning more about the traditions and history of Sri Lanka’s indigenous people and enjoying a walk around the village and surrounding area. This afternoon we journey into the highlands and Knuckles Forest Reserve, where we will settle into our tented camp for the evening.

Big Game Camp Knuckles or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: KNUCKLES: HIKING

DAY 7: KNUCKLES: HIKING

We will spend the day hiking through the picturesque landscapes of Knuckles Forest Reserve. Beginning in the remote village of Pitawala, we will be able to observe day to day life, visit the village temple and enjoy a cup of tea and snacks in a local house. The 4-hour trail will take us past paddy fields, beautiful landscapes and water streams. We will meet our vehicle at the end of the trail, which will take us to start point of our next trek. The 2-3 hour walk to Sera Ella rewards us with a wild swimming spot beneath one of Sri Lanka’s most gorgeous waterfalls.

Big Game Camp Knuckles or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: KNUCKLES – KANDY

DAY 8: KNUCKLES – KANDY

This morning sees us setting off for the nearby city of Kandy, the last capital of the ancient Sri Lankan kings, and one of the country’s cultural and spiritual gems. We will be invited into a local house for a cooking lesson in order to discover the key spices and ingredients that make up Sri Lanka’s delicious cuisine. After sampling our tasty creations, we have some free time to relax or explore Kandy. Why not visit the immaculately kept botanical gardens, containing over 5,000 different species of flora, the revered Temple of the Tooth, home to Buddha’s left canine, go shopping for souvenirs or perhaps enjoy an Ayurvedic massage? This evening sees us travelling to Bahirawakanda Temple to meet with a Buddhist Monk, an intimate cultural exchange opportunity.

Thilanka Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: KANDY – NUWARA ELIYA

DAY 9: KANDY – NUWARA ELIYA

We will leave Kandy this morning to visit a village that specialises in the production of traditional drums. The artisans have been crafting Sri Lankan drums, used in religious and cultural ceremonies, for generations, and will show us the different stages of the creative process. We will then be taken to Gampola/Nawalapitiya to catch the train (subject to availability) to Nuwara Eliya, the British colonial capital of the Hill Country. The cooler climes of this area, at the foot of Sri Lanka’s highest peak (2,524m), are a welcome retreat. This afternoon we visit a tea factory and processing plant of the world famous "Ceylon Tea". The evening is free to walk through town or relax at the hotel. Train tickets are subject to availability and are difficult to obtain during peak times, especially seated tickets. There may be the option to ride in the standing class for a few stops and then drive the rest of the journey. On the rare occasion, the tour leader will decide to take the journey by road only.

Blackpool Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: NUWARA ELIYA – HORTON PLAINS - BELIHULOYA

DAY 10: NUWARA ELIYA – HORTON PLAINS - BELIHULOYA

Leaving early, we’ll head next for the misty grasslands of Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka’s highest and most isolated plateau. Armed with a packed breakfast, we’ll climb through a landscape of giant eucalyptus trees, reaching the park in time to walk to World’s End before the encroaching mist obscures the views below. Returning to the vehicles around mid-morning, we’ll then set off for Belihuloya, from where we’ll cycle or walk to a local natural swimming spot. We return to the hotel in time for tea at our hill country retreat.

Belihuloya Rest House or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: BELIHULOYA - SINHARAJA

DAY 11: BELIHULOYA - SINHARAJA

We begin the day driving to the contrasting environment of Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, a World Heritage Site and the only remaining virgin rain forest in all of Sri Lanka. Arriving in time for lunch, we will have the afternoon to stretch our legs on a walk through the forest. A footpath takes us through the heart of this primeval rainforest as we walk alongside our guide and learn more about the forest's many layers. Sinharaja is a haven for endemic flora and fauna and is most known for its abundance of birdlife.

Sinharaja Adventure Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: SINHARAJA - AHANGAMA

DAY 12: SINHARAJA - AHANGAMA

Following breakfast, we will have another guided walk through the forest before departing for the beaches of Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Our hotel is situated in the village of Ahangama - the perfect tranquil spot to unwind towards the end of our journey.

Insight Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: AHANGAMA - GALLE

DAY 13: AHANGAMA - GALLE

A free morning provides an opportunity to relax around the hotel or join an optional whale-watching excursion. Sri Lanka is becoming one of the best places to see both Blue and Sperm Whales, which can be found off the island's southern coast between November and April. This afternoon has then been set aside to visit the historic trading port of Galle, home to the largest European fortress left in Asia. Colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it is still infused with a graceful charm and a wealth of ageing colonial buildings. After our tour we will have our final dinner in this historic setting. Please let us know at the time of booking confirmation if you would like to book the optional Whale Watching excursion (currently approximately £65/$85, subject to change).

Insight Resort or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: GALLE – COLOMBO

DAY 14: GALLE – COLOMBO

Driving back along the coast to Colombo this morning, we will arrive in the Sri Lankan capital mid-morning where the tour officially ends. Those on the suggested group flights will be transferred directly to Colombo Airport.

Breakfast

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Sam Popham Arboretum

On Day 4 of this trip we will visit the Sam Popham Arboretum in Dambulla. Unfortunately, habitat degradation and deforestation has led to Sri Lanka’s unique wildlife being confined to small fragments of their former habitats. Surrounded by development, the 27-acre arboretum is a sanctuary for many medicinal plants, birds, reptiles and mammals, including an endangered sub-species of the grey slender loris. Here we will have the opportunity to plant our own native tree in support of the continued preservation of this important dry forest habitat. As the sun sets, we then go on a night walk through the arboretum in search of the grey slender loris as they wake for their nightly feed.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
UL 504 London Heathrow (LHR) 20:40 Colombo Airport (CMB) 12:40
UL 503 Colombo Airport (CMB) 12:50 London Heathrow (LHR) 19:10

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for Sri Lanka, which must be obtained before departure.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Southern Coast

If you would like some additional downtime before or after the group tour, we recommend booking a couple of extra nights on the southern coast. Sri Lanka is becoming one of the best places to see both Blue and Sperm Whales, which can be found off the island's southern coast between November and April. You can also see traditional stilt fishermen, Buddhist temples, elephants in Udawalawe National Park and go surfing (October to March). Allow approx. 2-3 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, but most travellers try to avoid the two annual monsoon seasons. May to July sees monsoon weather in the south-west of the country, and October to January sees monsoon weather in the north-east. Broadly speaking October to March tend to be the most pleasant months to travel in the areas we visit on the tour due to dry and sunny weather. Temperatures will range from 20C to 30C degrees but can sometimes drop much lower at night in areas of higher elevation, such as Nuwara Eliya (5C). The skies should be clear and sunny, but like anywhere in the tropics there is always the chance of rain!

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, however, please note the following:-

Several days involve 3-4 hours of hiking or walking, and one day involves 7 hours of walking. You must also be able to walk up Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which has several stairs and steps with little shade.
Three nights of the tour involve staying in basic tented camps with small en suite facilities but no air conditioning.
Train tickets are subject to availability, so there may be the chance you will have a standing ticket, however alternative transport will be arranged for those who do not wish to take this option.

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour. 

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £500 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 10828 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION

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