From £2,345 per person
Includes B&B or H/B 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.
Guided tour of the historic temples and exquisitely carved statues of the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, with visits to the Quadrangle, Northern Monuments, Royal Citadel Group and Southern Group. Bicycles are available to hire for your own self-guided tour, if preferred.
Jeep safari in Minneriya National Park, 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.
Early morning ascent of 200-metre high ‘Lion Rock’ at Sigiriya to view the surrounding countryside at dawn – a very special experience indeed. The unique rock fortress of Sigiriya is a national icon, despite its origins as a usurper’s pleasure palace housing erotic frescoes! Guided tour of the rock palace and ornamental gardens.
Climb gently up the granite massif at Dambulla to visit the most impressive cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, with five ornately and intricately decorated caverns under a vast overhanging rock.
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 Kandy, one of the principal points of the Cultural Triangle and the seat of the last Sinhalese kingdom.
Two nights stay at Hanthana House, which is a friendly and welcoming homestay guesthouse offering a comfortable stay in attractive surroundings in an area famous for cultivating some of the first tea grown on the island, with the added benefit of tasty and authentic Sri Lankan home cooking!
Experience the Buddhist puja (blessing ceremony) at the Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka’s most revered religious relic.
Guided walking tour of Kandy, which will take in the Hindu temples, the lake and the municipal market.
Visit the beautifully kept and well-presented Peradeniya Botanic Gardens on the outskirts of Kandy.
Head 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 to Udawalawe.
Two nights stay at Kalu's Hideaway, which is nestled in a beautifully manicured garden of two hectares, including raised organic vegetable beds, swimming pool and spa. This rustic countryside hotel is close to Udawalawe reservoir and surrounded by lush woodland and paddy fields.
Early morning and afternoon jeep safaris in Udawalawe National Park, which is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and wealth of animal species, particularly mammals and birds. The park is centred on the large Udawalawe Reservoir, fed by the Walawe Ganga that originates in the southern Hill Country. Of all Sri Lanka's national parks, this best rivals the savanna reserves of Africa, with herds of elephants, wild buffaloes and sambar deer, and leopards. There are about 500 elephants in the park in herds of up to 100 individuals. Udawalawe NP is known to be the best place to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka, because of the elephant-proof fence surrounding the reserve, which prevents elephants from getting out and cattle from getting in. There are also populations of spotted and barking deer as well as wild boar. Other mammals include toque macaque and common langur monkeys, silver-backed jackals, sloth bears, toddy and civet cats, and mongooses. For bird watchers, there are large numbers of warblers, together with the usual low country birds in forested areas, and a variety of raptors. Water birds found on the reservoir include rare visitors and breeding residents such as the Indian cormorant and osprey. Notable endemic species are the Sri Lanka spurfowl and junglefowl, Malabar pied hornbill, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, and the brown-capped babbler
Head to Tangalle on the island's picturesque and cove-sprinkled south coast.
Two nights stay at Buckingham Place, which is contemporary and stylish in design, but not sterile or soulless. Expect something different at Nick Buckingham’s masterpiece, which is nestled between a deserted Indian Ocean beach and Rekawa Lagoon close to the fisher and farmer village of Rekawa.
Suggested activities (not included in price):
- Guided tour of the imposing rock temple of Mulkirigala Raja Maha Viharaya, which is situated about 15 km inland from Tangalle on an isolated rock 210 metres high rising almost vertically from the surrounding forest and believed to have been founded around 130 BC.
- Boat safari in Kalametiya Sanctuary, which is an extensive area of wetland with brackish lagoons, mangrove swamps, open grassy areas and pockets of scrub jungle. It is an important site for migrant waders and provides an important refuge (one of the few remaining on the southern coastal strip) for smaller mammals.
- Early morning boat safari off the south coast from Mirissa 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 west along the southern coastline to Galle, famed for its exquisite colonial-era Dutch Fort, another of the island's World Heritage Sites.
Amble around the ramparts and stroll through the Arab Quarter of Galle Fort..
Two nights stay at 41 Lighthouse Street, which in a sensitively renovated 17th century Dutch colonial-era villa retaining its heritage with huge open arches, exposed beams, and black and white chequered floors. The villa has a walled internal courtyard bedecked with lush tropical vegetation surrounding a crystal-clear pool and terrace.
Suggested activities (not included in price):
- 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!
- Guided cycling tours of the lush paddy fields and local villages around Galle.
Transfer north to the airport for your flight home, with a mind full of wonderful memories and thoughts of returning again next year...