Tour Sri Lanka!
A serendipitous multi-activity adventure
Serendip/Serendipity – noun
- a name given to Sri Lanka by Arab traders who were enchanted with its discovery
- a happy discovery made by chance
Our Sri Lanka adventure is truly serendipitous! Imagine exploring a place the size of Ireland, with high, rugged mountains, pristine tropical forests, huge white sand beaches, great surf and incredible wildlife including leopards, whales and 6000 free roaming elephants. One of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, with over twenty wildlife reserves, its cultural, ethnic and religious heritages are equally diverse and rich. On Sri Lanka there is so much to experience, creating an itinerary to do it justice wasn’t easy – but we think we’ve been more than successful!
This Sri Lanka multi-activity tour takes you on a magical journey across an astonishing island. You will experience the ‘must see’ sights, including six of its eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, but you go way beyond that to hidden gems we have discovered. You’ll receive a blessing under the world’s oldest tree, take a heritage train past majestic mountains and rushing waterfalls, cycle through ancient ruins to massive stone Buddha carvings, climb countless steps to an astonishing fortress, observe elephants up close in the wild and orphan elephants being fed, go on a night safari to spot the elusive Slow Lori, meet local farmers, witness moving religious rituals and intricate traditional dancing, walk though tea plantations and to World’s End – and much more!
Our Sri Lanka odyssey begins with a night in a colonial manor house set in lush gardens. Next we set off to the ‘Kings’ Land’ now known as the Cultural Triangle, the crucible of Sinhalese civilization. During three days we explore four UNESCO World Heritage sites, by bike and on foot: the evocative ruins of two ancient cities with massive stupas and Buddha statues carved from rock bluffs; a complex of beautifully preserved 1st century Buddhist cave temples; and an astounding fortress built in 400 AD atop a massive 660 ft. high rock with jaw dropping views.
This Sri Lanka adventure features elephants, and we meet them in both Minneriya National Park, and in Udawalawe National Park, where we also go behind the scenes at an elephant rehabilitation centre. Along the way we spot many other animals, including the elusive slow lori, a fabulous array of birds, and, with luck, a leopard.
One of Sri Lanka’s jewels is the sacred City of Kandy, our fourth UNESCO World Heritage site. We stay in a colonial hotel, right next to the lake where corpulent monitor lizards laze under huge rain trees, and steps away from the Temple of the Tooth, where we witness a colourful and noisy puja.
To reach Sri Lanka’s misty highlands, we take one of the greatest heritage train rides in the world, up into the land of tea and Sri Lanka’s colonial past. We explore the town of Nuwara Eliya, ‘Little England’, and enjoy sweeping vistas from our beautiful lodge set among tea plantations at 6000 feet. We hike through the grasslands and pristine cloud forests of Horton Plains National Park or, for a gentler stroll, walk up to ‘Little Adam’s Peak’.
Our Sri Lanka adventure reaches a new high with a three-day stay in the stunning walled settlement of Galle Fort. Established by the Portuguese in 1588, and fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century, it is now protected by its UNESCO World Heritage status. From our historic hotel we take walking tours of the cobbled streets and along the fabulous ramparts, with time to stop for a drink and watch the world go by, or find some treasures in this shoppers’ paradise. We head to a nearby lowland tea plantation where ‘virgin’ tea is grown, and have lunch in a spot that defines ‘divine’.
Sri Lanka’s is ocean is calling, so we hang out on our favourite beach, where you can swim, body surf, or just kick up your heels in the sun with a cocktail. And if you want to extend your Sri Lanka adventure with some extra beach time, let us know and we can help you arrange a very special experience. Oh, and did we mention the delicious cuisine and fabulous accommodations?
Sri Lanka is just a short hop from India, yet its culture, history and landscapes are unique and its pace of life incredibly relaxed. Join us for a journey full of happy discoveries!
We have carefully crafted and polished a spectacular trip in what has become one of our favourite places on earth. The result is a fresh and vibrant itinerary sprinkled with astonishing highlights and little surprises with just the right balance of physical activity, culture and natural history. You will discover exquisite eateries and rest comfortably in some of the best boutique and heritage accommodations the island has to offer.
This year we have added an additional day just so that we can slow down a bit more and take in everything this wonderful tropical idyll has to offer. And we’ve also added a couple more bicycles excursions. We think you’d love this trip and we hope you’ll join us!
Day 1: Arrival in Colombo
Fly into Colombo Airport, and transfer to our hotel, a restored manor house set in tranquil gardens. Relax and enjoy our welcome dinner.
Day 2: Negombo to Anuradhapura
Head to ‘Kings’ Land’ now known as the Cultural Triangle, the crucible of Sinhalese civilization. En route we stop at a Buddhist temple to receive a blessing for our onward journey. Arrive at an astonishing (and hidden) accommodation where we have time to explore the surroundings, do some bird-watching or, with luck, spot elephants directly from our rooms!
Day 3: Anuradhapura – Cycling
Today we hop on bikes to explore the amazing ruins of Anuradhapura. Founded in the 4th Century BC, this was the epicenter of the country’s civilization for a thousand years, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 4: Anuradhapura to Sigiriya – Cycling
Two UNESO World Heritage Sites in one day! Wander between the beautifully preserved Buddhist cave temples in Dambulla, dating from the 1st century BC. Later in the day, burn a few calories cycling to the base of the 660 ft. high Lion Rock and then ascending its many steps to the astounding fortress on top. Dating from 400 AD, this is a perfect sundown spot, with 360 views.
Day 5: Polonaruwa – Cycling
Cycle through the ancient city of Polonaruwa with it’s enormous stone Buddha carvings. In the afternoon, drive though a national park keeping an eye out for elephants and, with great luck, sloth bears. As evening falls we walk through the forest to look for the very rare and elusive slow lori.
Day 6: Kandy
Drive south to Kandy, the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, and one of our favorite towns. Visit the famous Temple of the Tooth, then attend a stunning dance performance.
Day 7: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Pre breakfast, walk out of our hotel and around the lake to see giant monitor lizards lazing under the huge rain trees, and pilgrims buying offerings from aromatic flower stands.Visit the local market then take a train to the highlands of Nuwara Eliya, chugging past majestic peaks and rushing waterfalls.
Day 8: Nuwara Eliya – Ella
Have a dawn start for a rugged trek across the sweeping grasslands of Horton Plains National Park to World’s End, or sleep in and explore quirky Nuwara Eliya, known as ‘Little England’. Jump back on the train and get transported to the land of rolling tea plantations, and our lodge set amongst them.
Day 9: Ella – Udawalawe
Wander through the tea plantations, hike up to ‘Little Adam’s Peak’, or have a cup of tea in tiny Ella town. Then head down from the hills and south to Udawalawe. Take a game drive to see elephants, fabulous birds, and – fingers crossed – maybe a leopard.
Day 10: Udawalawe To Galle Fort
Watch the orphaned ellies coming from the forest to get their milk at the Elephant Transit Home, and have a special access visit with the veterinarian. Then it’s time for the coast! Stop for lunch on a beautiful beach, and carry on to historic Galle Fort. Settle into our iconic hotel, then take a walking tour and watch sundown from our favourite bar next to the ramparts.
Day 11: Galle Fort – Cycling
Check out more of the fort area, and the fish market right outside its ancient walls, on a relaxed walking tour. Cycle on back roads to a lowland tea plantation to sample exquisite ‘virgin tea’, see the antique (and still working) machinery used to process the tea and meet the eccentric and entertaining owner.
Day 12: Galle Fort
A free day to decide your own itinerary. Stay in the fort area to do some shopping, relax in a spa, head to the beach, go whale watching or take a cookery lesson – let us know your desires and we’ll help you arrange them! In the evening regroup to celebrate our Sri Lanka adventure with a special farewell dinner.
Day 13: Galle Fort – Colombo Airport
After sad goodbyes, transfer to Colombo Airport – approximately a two hour ride – for your homeward or onward journeys.
Please note: this itinerary serves as an example of trip highlights and is subject to change.
We think of our itineraries as melodies: they have a beginning and an end, a certain arc, dramatic highlights and a few surprises. We like to improvise, to adapt to the mood of our guests or to circumstances that arise — an invitation to a traditional wedding, say, or a local ethnic festival…
Crafting beautiful, harmonious trips with delightful twists is our trade mark and passion.
What's special about Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka’s natural and cultural diversity is simply astonishing. It is only size of Ireland, yet has mountains cloaked in pristine forests, rolling tea plantations, wild coastlines, sublime beaches, ancient ruins, old colonial cities and a host of national parks. One of the world’s bio-diversity hot spots, 13% of the country is protected as parks, reserves, sanctuaries and jungle corridors . The wildlife is profuse, including 6000 free roaming wild elephants and a high number of endemic species of mammals and birds. The society is multi-ethnic and multi-religious, the country is now at peace, and there is a newly elected and liberal president making great changes. Sri Lankans are warm, friendly and hospitable, and always pleased that outsiders are interested in and appreciative of their home. It’s also a very well organized and clean country, with very little garbage.
What is the food like?
The cultivation of many types of spices, rice, vegetables and fruit, and the influence of various cultures over the centuries makes for a varied and interesting cuisine. On our trip we try the local delicacies such as string hoppers, lamprais, the every popular ‘rice and curry’ and of course the local fish. And we also sample fine dining from around the world, made from locally sourced foods.
Where does the trip start and end?
It starts in Negombo, which is close to Bandaranaike International Airport. It ends in Galle Fort. We provide airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, to Negombo and from Galle Fort.
How do I get to Sri Lanka?
To reach Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport from North America you can route through the Middle East with Qatar Airways, Emirates or Etihad Airways; though India with Virgin Airways or Jet Airways; through the UK with Sri Lanka Airways (direct) 0r British Airways via Delhi or Bombay.
What are the physical activities on the trip and what level of fitness do I need?
The cycling is very easy on flat roads. Most of the walking and hiking is gentle. If you wish to opt out of any activities, such as the longer hike to World’s End, or the walk up numerous steep stone stairways of Lion’s Rock, that is no problem, and we can come up with nice alternatives!
I’m a vegetarian, is that a problem?
This is not a problem on any of our trips; you just need to let us know in advance what you can and can’t eat. In Sri Lanka there are so many wonderful vegetables, fruit and varieties of rice, you will always be satisfied!
What will the weather be like?
We can expect an array of weather as we move through the country. Along the west and south coast it will be hot and dry, with temperatures up to 30°C. In the highlands it will be cooler, ranging from 16° to 20° and with a good chance of showers.
Do I need a visa?
Yes, and it is very straightforward to get it. At least two weeks before your departure you should get an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) via this link: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US
Do I need insurance?
Medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, is mandatory on all our trips. We also strongly advise you to purchase trip cancellation insurance which should be done within a few days of making your booking.
Do I need vaccinations?
Your routine vaccinations (tetanus/diphtheria, polio, etc.) must be up to date. Another general precaution for travelers anywhere in the world is a hepatitis A and possibly a typhoid vaccination. Please consult with your physician or local travel health clinic.
What about malaria?
Malaria is present in many areas of Sri Lanka, so please consult with your local travel clinic about suitable malarial medication. Dengue fever is also present in Sri Lanka. This is mosquito-borne, and the only preventative is to protect yourself by covering up with shoes, socks and long pants and using mosquito repellant. NOTE: mosquitoes are attracted by dark colors, so it’s best to wear light colored clothing. They also like to hide in dark places in rooms and especially in luggage, so make sure you always close your bags when they are not in use.
What does the trip price cover?
Airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, all tour guiding, excursions and entrance fees, all accommodation, all meals, and water.
What does the trip price not cover?
International flights, airport transfers not on the first or last days of the trip, soft and alcoholic drinks, personal insurance and gratuities.
How can I access cash when I'm on the trip?
ATMs are available throughout Sri Lanka.
What clothes and equipment will I need?
When you sign up for the trip, we will provide you with a comprehensive clothes and equipment list.
I’m travelling alone, is that a problem?
Absolutely not. We have many guests who travel with us on their own. They appreciate the camaraderie of our Hidden Places groups, and usually go home with newfound friends.
Can I talk to someone who has previously travelled with you?
Of course. Just ask and we will be happy to put you in touch with one of our Hidden Places guests.
From US $4890 per person
Private: Nov through Mar
12 nights, 13 days
Cycling (easy), cultural tours, game drives, hiking (easy to moderate), cookery lessons, tea tastings
Boutique and heritage hotels
Colombo International Airport
I loved Sri Lanka. Thank you for an in depth introduction to this enchanting island and its people.
When it comes to finding hidden places, Maria and Dag are aces! Thank you for bringing us to Sri Lanka!
The magical island of Ceylon – so complex and diverse, with beautiful people and landscapes. You took us from mountains to elephants to the surf. I am forever changed.
Oh Boy, what a trip! So many new experiences!
The trip was beyond our wildest expectations. The hotels and food were super. The Sri Lankan people were so friendly and honest with genuine smiles that never left their faces. Thank you so much for a very memorable experience. Our third trip with Hidden Places and you continue to amaze us!
Twelve days of nothing but highlights! A magical trip.
We had the time of our lives, as we always do with you!
There were so many memorable moments – the verdant landscapes, the lovely people and of course the many elephants. Hidden Places is such a well organized company, and I really appreciated all your attention to detail. I look forward to my next trip with you.
I went with the flow – and what a flow it was! A surprise, a delight and something of memorable beauty was in store everyday. Thanks for an experience I’ll never forget.
I can’t think of anywhere else with so much geographical and cultural diversity. All those different greens! Thanks for arranging a splendid trip.
Every day was a surprise and discovery; the trip was perfect, lovely, amazing and full of wonder. I enjoyed the mix of luxury hotels, each with an artistic beauty, and meeting the real Sri Lanka and its people. This sets Hidden Places apart from any other company.