From £2,970 per person.
Includes B&B, H/B or AI accommodation, a/c transport with chauffeur guide, entrance fees & activities, and taxes.
Arrive Colombo airport and greeted by your dedicated Tikalanka chauffeur guide.
Head north along the west coast onto Kalpitiya peninsula, famous for kite surfing, dolphins and quiet, unspoiled beaches.
Two nights stay at Bar Reef Resort, which is a captivatingly quirky retreat of rustic cabanas and villas situated on a tranquil two-kilometre stretch of pristine beach in an undiscovered part of the island. The resort offers a relaxing and discrete getaway for a sand-between-the-toes, Robinson Crusoe experience!
There's lots to do locally near Alankuda Beach including whale and dolphin watching (season from November to April), wind and kite surfing, water skiing, fishing, cycling, kayaking, SCUBA diving and snorkelling, and yoga. Or just relax by the beach or next to the salt-water swimming pool at this 'no news, no shoes' resort.
Further afield (not included in price):
- Jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park, which is the island’s largest wildlife reserve at 131,693 hectares as well as one of the oldest and most important protected areas in Sri Lanka. Principally a dry lowland zone, the main topographical feature in the park is the concentration of ‘villus’. Though looking like lakes, these ‘villus’ are in fact basin-like fault depressions in the earth that fill with rain water during the monsoon season. The ‘villus’ attract a variety of animals including leopards, elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles, water buffalos and deer as well as resident and migratory waterfowl.
- Visit Anuradhapura, the first capital of ancient Lanka in the 3rd century BC, for a guided tour of the historic city, with visits to the preserved and partially restored ruins of the three principal monasteries: Mahavihara, Abhayagiriya and Jetavanarama. Absorb the atmosphere of Ruvanveliseya Dagoba and Sri Maha Bodhi, the sacred Bo Tree and the oldest recorded tree in the world.
- Visit the hilltop temple of Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and enjoy a guided walking tour of this historic site.
Drive southeast to Habarana, the ‘crossroads’ of the Cultural Triangle.
Two nights stay at Galkadawala Forest Lodge, which is an open-plan forest lodge built sensitively with its natural surroundings and nestled in ‘jungle’ near a picturesque lake. It is a unique property in a stunning setting with an eclectic charm at every turn, an ideal retreat for nature lovers.
Early morning hot air balloon flight around the Sigiriya and Dambulla area to view the surrounding countryside at dawn – a very special experience indeed. Wind conditions permitting. Season from November to April.
Jeep safari in Minneriya NP, which forms an ‘elephant corridor’, along with Kaudulla NP, for the vast herds roaming the eastern region of the country from Trincomalee through to Wasgamuwa, Maduru Oya and Gal Oya NPs further south. The park is home to a variety of animals such as elephants, leopards, toque macaques, purple faced langurs, sloth bears, sambar and spotted deer, and about 160 bird species, including many endemics. Minneriya is home to the ‘gathering’ between August and October, when large herds of elephants congregate around Minneriya Lake to seek the last available water at the end of the dry season.
Head south to the Knuckles Mountain Range, a World Heritage Site of majestic mountains, lush green valleys and crystal clear streams. Known locally as Dumbara Kanduvetiya, or "mist-laden mountains", the entire region is characterised by astounding landscapes often enveloped in thick layers of cloud, which imbues an ethereal charm. The area is a climatic microcosm of the island as a whole, with typical conditions of all climatic zones being displayed in the massif. At higher elevations, there is a series of isolated cloud forests, harbouring a variety of flora and fauna, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although the range constitutes only a tiny fraction of the island’s total area it is home to a significantly higher proportion of the country’s biodiversity.
The Knuckles, named after a series of peaks in the west of the massif that resemble the knuckles of a clenched fist, is an ideal area for hiking and trekking or kicking back and communing with nature. The region is still a tourist backwater, which will appeal to many visitors.
Two nights stay at Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge, which offers eco lodges scattered over a terraced hillside tea estate centred on a faux tea planter’s bungalow encircled by a colonnaded veranda furnished with reclining ’steamer’ chairs and a large swimming pool affording possibly one of the finest views anywhere on the island.
Suggested actvities (not included in price):
- Hiking and trekking – various trails are available winding across crystal clear streams, attractive waterfalls, dense forests and terraced paddy fields.
- Bird watching and wildlife – the Knuckles Mountain Range is a unique ecosystem in comparison to the rest of Sri Lanka’s central hills, with more than 120 bird species on record including many endemics. Other wildlife sighted in the area include the rare white sambhur, barking and mouse deer, and the giant squirrel as well as elephants and leopards.
- Camping safari – spend a night camping out in the wilderness with an expert tracker.
- Tea Factory visit and tea picking.
- Local community activities including garland making and volunteering for children’s club programmes.
Continue to Kitulgala in the foothills of the western Hill Country. Southwest of Kandy and north of Adam's Peak, Kitulgala hugs the Kelani Ganga (river) as it meanders through the Sri Lankan 'jungle'. Made famous by the Oscar-winning epic Bridge on the River Kwai, which was filmed here in 1956 by Sir David Lean, Kitulgala is now a popular area for nature walks and bird watching, and it is one of the few places in Sri Lanka where white-water rafting is possible.
Two nights stay at Borderlands Eco Lodge, which provides eco lodges and a jungle camp overlooking the Kelani River. This is a rustic ‘glamping’ experience for those who need a certain degree of comfort. Surrounded by mountains and the clear, rushing river below, the site is truly stunning.
An adrenaline-pumping start to the day with a white-water rafting expedition over eight, Grade 2-3 rapids along a 7 km stretch of the Kelani River! The Kelani River has been dammed for a hydroelectric plant upstream so the river’s flow is dependent on the plant’s requirements.
Visit Belilena Cave, one of the larger prehistoric caves on the island, where the 30,000-year-old skeletal remains of 'Balangoda Man' (Homo sapien balangodensis) have been found in addition to microliths, bone implements, and food remnants.
Wander through the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, which is a particularly good area for spotting lowland endemics including the Sri Lanka myna, green-billed coucal, spot-winged thrush, Sri Lanka blue magpie, Sri Lanka spurfowl, brown-capped babbler & red-faced malkoha.
Leisurely drive through spectacular mountain scenery and Sri Lankan 'jungle' to Dalhousie, or, more correctly, Nallathanniya in Sinhala.
One night in a simple guesthouse near to the start of the pilgrimage trail to sacred Adam's Peak.
Reveille at 01.30 to join the pilgrimage trail to sacred Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada; 2243 metres). The 6000 or so steps take 3-4 hours to climb at a leisurely pace and are interspersed with tea stops, chats with locals and blessings from sadhus. An awe-inspiring sunrise producing the famous spectacle known as the ‘Shadow of the Peak’ is your reward. December to April is the pilgrimage season when the climb to Adam’s Peak can be very congested, especially at weekends, and on public holidays and Poya (full moon) days. This may mean you might not reach the peak!
Continue into the upper Hill Country, following the winding, vertiginous roads through the velveteen slopes of verdant tea plantations and past spectacular waterfalls and impressive mountain scenery on your way to Nuwara Eliya, the British colonial capital of the Hill Country and the highest town in Sri Lanka at 1900 metres above sea level.
Amble around the ‘City of Lights’ and enjoy a little piece of England in the tropics!
Scenic train journey to Ella in the southern Hill Country - subject to availability.
Two nights stay at AMBA Estate, which is an organic farm and guesthouse perched in a tranquil, unspoiled valley above Ravana Falls, with spectacular views of Ella Rock and Lipton’s Seat. The 100-year-old estate bungalow is a full-service guesthouse, offering guests the opportunity to learn more about organic farming and artisanal tea-making. More accommodation is available in a former estate manager's bungalow and a converted estate outbuilding.
Most visitors want to stay at the estate to learn more about organic farming and artisanal product-making. Guests can join the daily public tour at 11.00 or they can book to do a private tour and tasting at other times. For guests who want to spend time with village families learning about local food and handicrafts, help to collect honey and kithul treacle from the forest, explore the farm and learn about organic farming, and try their hand at plucking and rolling their own tea, peeling cinnamon, roasting coffee or making jams and chutneys, a range of hands-on experiences are offered, from 1 to 5 days in length.
There are also various walks in the locale as well as further afield to the viewpoints of Lipton’s Seat, Little Adam's Peak and Ella Rock, an exploration of Ravana’s Cave, which is the mythical hideout of the Ramayana where the demon king of Lanka imprisoned Rama's wife, Sita, and a visit to Bambarakanda Falls, Sri Lanka’s highest waterfall.
Drop down to the hot and dry southern plain before continuing south to Yala.
Afternoon jeep safari in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s principal wildlife reserve, with an expert tracker and specialised game viewing jeep designed to camouflage you from the wildlife while enhancing your viewing opportunities.
Two nights stay at Mahoora Premium Camp, which is a jungle campsite spanning four hectares of private dry zone forest, bordering the elephant fence of Yala NP. The campsite includes a picturesque pond with tall reeds and pathways home to giant squirrels, birds, butterflies and reptiles. The tents are handmade locally and comprise of an intimate bedroom with raised double bed, mosquito net, fan, private en suite bathroom, cosy veranda and 24-hour electricity.
All-day jeep safari in Yala NP, which is one of the island's best-known reserves and one of its largest. This region, known as the "Dry Zone", has mostly dry thorn scrub, interspersed with small dusty glades – the ideal habitat to view elephants, Sri Lanka's largest mammal. The park does have a varied landscape, however, from parkland to dense jungle on the plains, scrubland with rocky outcrops and several streams, small lakes and lagoons. The picturesque ocean frontage to the east has wide beaches and high sand dunes. A former hunting reserve, which was transformed into a nature park in 1938, Yala NP, also called “Ruhuna”, is currently home to over 390 elephants, several of which are tuskers, and about 120 leopards, reportedly the highest density of leopards in the wild anywhere in the world. Watching elephants go for their bath at sunset or seeing leopards laze about on the rocks at dusk are the most popular natural spectacles at Yala NP. However, you may also see other species of mammals such as sambar and spotted deer, wild boar, buffalo, musk deer, black bear, the unique small Loris, toque macaque and langur monkeys, jackal, mongoose, porcupine, civet cat, anteater, and the enigmatic sloth bear. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded in Yala NP, including the Sri Lankan junglefowl, white-bellied fish eagle, painted stork, black-necked stork, lesser adjutant, pompadour green pigeon, orange-breasted green pigeon, brown fish owl, red-faced malkoha, three species of bee-eaters, and large numbers of waders (including three species of pratincole and two thick-knees).
IMPORTANT – Yala NP is closed from 01 September for up to 2 months annually as a respite period for the animals and environment at the end of the dry season.
Early morning jeep safari in Yala NP.
Head west along the picturesque and cove-sprinkled southern coastline to the attractive crescent-shaped bay of Mirissa, which is popular for surfing, snorkelling and whale watching.
Two nights stay at Villa Atulya, which is a home-away-from-home on the beachfront, with five ocean-facing, spacious air-conditioned rooms. The villa is located on a quiet beach where the Indian Ocean laps at the edge of the property and local fisherman offer their catch at the door. There are rock pools full of colourful fish to explore and long stretches of beach for leisurely walks at sunset. On moonlit nights, turtles from the deep visit the sandy beach nearby to lay their eggs.
Suggested activity (not included in price):
- Early morning boat safari off the south coast to spot blue whales, the largest animal on Earth! Sperm, humpback and orca whales as well as large pods of dolphins are also regular sightings. Season from November to April.
Continue further west along the southern coastline to Galle, famed for its exquisite colonial-era Dutch Fort, another of the island's World Heritage Sites.
Suggested activity (not included in price):
- Late afternoon’s cycle ride around the paddy fields and local villages around Galle.
Two nights stay at Fort Bliss, which is a comfortable four-bedroom town villa with courtyard garden and sit-out veranda within the Fort. Elegantly furnished and built in harmony with the original colonial Dutch architecture of the 17th century, it is located only a few metres from the famous ramparts.
Early morning boat safari through the mangroves and lush vegetation along the Mahamodara River, which offers great opportunities for spotting birds, butterflies, monitor lizards, and much more! A variety of water-borne birds can be seen including purple and grey herons, large and little egrets, Indian shag, and white-breasted, common and Indian-pied kingfishers. Among the forest dwelling birds are the spotted dove, pompadour green pigeon, drongos, bee-eaters, parakeets, coucals, and barbets. The birds of prey include the Brahmini kite, white-bellied sea eagle and the tank eagle.
Amble around the ramparts and stroll through the Arab Quarter of Galle Fort.
The following day, transfer to the airport for your flight home.