Some of the wildlife that can be spotted on a Sri Lanka holiday...
The teardrop island is particularly proud of its natural bounty, and rightly so. For thousands of years, vast swathes of land have been protected by Sri Lankan royalty, preserved as sanctuaries for nature to thrive and even today, countless areas of protected land exist on the island. Despite its small size, its diverse landscapes, contrasting seasons, unique climate and incredible biodiversity confirm it as an exceptional place for wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy year round.
Whether you’re a culture vulture keen to explore the impressive temples and UNESCO sites of the Cultural Triangle, a wildlife fanatic who hopes to spot the elusive leopard in Yala National Park, or a fervent foodie whose mouth waters at the tantalizing aromas of cardamom and coriander, here's our pick of the top Sri Lankan experiences that are not to be missed...
Here’s a guide to our favourite local street-food delicacies to sample during your stay…
Mirissa is the gateway to Dondra Point. This is one of the best spots to witness the whale migrations in Sri Lanka from the Bay of Bengal - Sri Lanka’s southern sea is calm offering up the perfect conditions.
On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, Ellis was bowled over by this unique and calm country which is worlds apart from nearby India. From the fascinating culture of the north, to the scenic rolling hills of Tea Country and the beautiful golden beaches on the coast, there is no end to the country's beauty.
In Sri Lanka, festivals are an integral part of life and culture; with a population composed of many races and religions and given its long, ancient history – they are never short of celebrations. Here are a few of the significant festivals:
Tea is part of Sri Lanka’s unique cultural heritage and some of the world’s finest teas are produced here. Due to Sri Lanka’s diverse climate each tea variety is uniquely different. The country is particularly famous for Ceylon tea, recognised over the world for its high quality and distinct aroma (crisp and citrus).
The best of Sri Lanka and The Maldives in this luxurious journey that takes in Sri Lanka's ancient cities and tea plantations before flying off to one of the finest islands in The Maldives. It combines culture with some of the world's finest beaches.
Spotting the Big Five in Africa is often hailed as the holy grail of wildlife holidays, but plenty of other places around the world offer animal sightings impressive enough to rival Africa's, and Sri Lanka is certainly one of them. Here, we introduce you to Sri Lanka's own Big Five and give you all the information you need to go in search of these wild beasts...
Here’s a guide to our favourite things to do in Galle…
Heart of Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sigiriya, Kandy, Tea Country
Best for: Culture History, Imagine Favourites, Luxury
This captivating itinerary takes in the central heartland of Sri Lanka. From the ancient cities to the tea growing region and from Kandy to Colombo, this shorter itinerary is ideal for those limited on time.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This itinerary really focuses on Sri Lanka’s interior with a private journey through the central heart of the island. Begin with the 'Cultural Triangle' and visit Sri Lanka's epic ancient cities such as Sigiriya, Anuradhapura and Polannaruwa. These intricate and sometimes crumbing ancient towns and soaring rock fortresses are now UNESCO World Heritage sites and easily rival similar sites across Asia.
From here head south to Kandy, via the extraordinary Dambulla Cave Temples, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Sri Lanka's most incredible ancient monuments. In Kandy, a hillside city surrounded by luminous forest, visit the Temple of the Tooth and go hiking in the Knuckles Mountain Range. Learn more about the city's beguiling history with your private guide and perhaps even visit the Botanical Gardens, one of the best in the Indian Subcontinent.
From Kandy it's a journey south on the train to Hatton in the tea growing region. This enchanting train ride takes you through the hills and into the a landcape completely carpeted in tea plantations. It's the most wonderful journey and a highlight of any trip. Spend the next few days unwinding in your luxurious tea planters' bungalow, go walking, enjoy high tea and learn all about how tea is made.
End your trip in Colombo for your final night before flying home after the most wonderful cultural and scenic journey through Sri Lanka.
Day 1 - 2 : Kotugoda (near Colombo), Sri Lanka
Stay at The Wallawwa for 1 night
On arrival in Colombo you will be warmly greeted by your private guide and driver and transferred to The Wallawwa where you will be spending your first night in Sri Lanka. Only 15 minutes away from the Bandaranaike International Airport, The Wallawwa is the perfect place to stop and re-energise after a long flight. The hotel itself sits within a pretty picturesque setting, surrounded by a 2-acre coconut estate and dense tropical gardens.
Days 2 - 5 : Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Stay at Vil Uyana for 3 nights
Next stop is north to the Cultural Triangle, staying 3 nights at the Vil Uyana. Although luxurious in style, the hotel still has a rustic element to it, and is an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding area. Accompanied by your very own private guide, head to the breath-taking Sigiriya Rock Fortress, one of Sri Lanka’s most impressive UNESCO listed sites. The next day can be spent wandering the streets of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s medieval capital, before enjoying an afternoon game drive in the fantastic Minneriya National Park.
Days 5 - 7 : Kandy, Sri Lanka
Stay at Ellerton Bungalow for 2 nights
On the morning of Day 5 you will be driven to Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, Kandy. Spend some time exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens or simply wander through Kandy’s colourful streets and browse the vibrant markets. Other options include joining the pilgrims as they worship at the sacred Temple of the Tooth, a visit to Dambulla Cave Temples and a walk in the Knuckles Mountain Range. During your time in Kandy you will be staying at Ellerton, a colonial bungalow and wonderfully inviting retreat for soaking up the charms of the Hill Country, located only 15 miles from Kandy.
Days 7 - 9 : Hatton, Sri Lanka
Stay at Ceylon Tea Trails for 2 nights
Today you will travel, via train, to Sri Lanka’s lovely central highlands. Once you arrive in Hatton you will be met and driven to Ceylon Tea Trails. Tea Trails are a collection of four charming bungalows that offer a wonderful glimpse into the lifestyle of the English colonial tea planter. Each bungalow has excellent service and spacious rooms with unbeatable panoramic views of the stunning tea region attached. Tea Trails is perfectly situated to allow easy exploration of the surrounding area, where you can enjoy walks, bike rides, rafting and intriguing guided tours. Alternatively indulge in a relaxing spa treatment, play croquet on the lawn or kick back poolside.
Day 9 - 10 : Colombo, Sri Lanka
Stay at Tintagel for 1 night
Ending your trip in the same location that you started it, today you will head back to cosmopolitan Colombo. When you arrive you will have the afternoon free, which could be spent meandering through the city’s streets and old market, or connecting with Colombo’s contemporary art scene. Unwind with sunset drinks at the legendary Galle Face Hotel, before ending your trip in style with a stay at the stunning heritage hotel that is the Tintagel.
Make this holiday idea yours.
Imagine your perfect holiday to Sri Lanka. Now let us design it for you using your ideas and our expertise. Call us on 020 3141 2850.
When to go
Sri Lanka is considered a sunny year round destination; there is always somewhere experiencing good weather on the island. However, there are huge regional differences. The Southwest ‘Yala’ Monsoons brings rain to the west and southwest coast, as well as the hill country, from April/May to September. During this time the north and east coasts are good. The northeast ‘Mahe’ monsoon is less extreme and brings rain to the east and north during October and November. This monsoon can bring a bit of rain to the south as well. Put simply; head to the south, central, hill country and western areas between December and March and ideally head to the north and eastern areas between April and September. We can never guarantee good weather but believe this is a good guide to follow.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
Things to do
Explore the immaculately preserved remnants of Buddhism’s second city. Polonnaruwa is grouped in clumps between enticing forests so that you can walk and cycle your way around giant Buddhas and impressive temples that are over 1,000 years old.
The Sigiriya Rock Fortress
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 'fortress in the sky' is one of Sri Lanka's most iconic landmarks. This 370-meter-high monument has 1,202 steps, a 5th century palace and 2 giant stone lion paws, as well as spectacular views.
Visit Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism
Mihintale is an important landmark in Buddhist culture. Climb 1,840 steps in the morning, surrounded by the sights and sounds of traders and pilgrims, before heading to Anuradhapura for a guided tour.
The Sacred City of Anuradhapura
Dating from the sixth century BC and one of Buddhism's holiest sites. A 2,200 year old tree, grown from a cutting of the branch beneath which Buddha found Enlightenment is a highlight. Ancient hospitals and baths add a sense of normality to it all.
Visit Dowa Temple from Ella
Visit this rock temple, which is one of Sri Lanka’s many important heritage sites and houses an enormous 38 ft. granite Buddha.
Colombo Tuk Tuk Safari
Enjoy this fun and hip way to take in Colombo, as your tuk tuk driver transports you to the ‘must see’ attractions of the city, from downtown landmarks to off-the-beaten-track secrets.
Visit Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Established in 1861 for Cinchona cultivation in Sri Lanka, the botanical gardens at Hakgala sit at about 1,745 meters and are some of the finest on the island. Covering 28 hectares, the experimental gardens are well worth a visit.
Trekking in Horton Plains Nature Reserve
Situated above 2,000 meters above sea level, Horton Plains covers rivers, waterfalls, unique fauna, and numerous landscapes. This 9km trek takes around 3 hours, with highlights such as the famous Baker Falls and ocean views from World’s End escarpment.
Escorted Climb of Adam's Peak
This experience begins at 1am, heading out to one of the most stunning mountains in Asia for a summit sunrise. The 5,200 steps offer plenty of rest opportunities as your rise above the clouds.
Polonnaruwa by bicycle
Enjoy an easy ride through the sights and enchanting ruins of UNESCO protected Polonnaruwa, a highlight of the cultural triangle. It was first declared a capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country.
Millennium Elephant Foundation
Visit rescued and orphaned elephants at the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF), established in August 1999 as a sanctuary of care, protection and medical services for elephants in Sri Lanka.
Old Colombo Walkabout
This Colombo walking tour is a leisurely 3-4 hour walk that celebrates the city’s Portuguese, Dutch and English heritage. With a specialist guide, you’ll also learn about modern Colombo and how locals conduct their business.
Dambulla Rock Cave Temple
The rich history of the huge rock temples involves Indian invaders being driven away through the strength of meditation in the first century BC. Its just as exciting today as you are guided through five intricately carved caves past giant stone statues.
Minneriya National Park
This afternoon experience takes you to Minneriya National Park, home to an enormous population of elephants. Enjoy a game drive with an experienced naturalist.
Rosyth Estate - Cooking Class
During your stay at Rosyth, we highly recommend that you try your hand in the kitchen at their cooking class, whipping up some delicious dishes using local produce.
Aukana Buddha Statue
An architectural marvel of the ancient Sinhalese, the Aukana Buddha statue stands at an impressive 39 feet tall. Visit the statue today alongside a visit to the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
Visit a Tea Plantation
Spend the day exploring the local area and enjoying the stunning scenery. You may wish to visit a local tea estate, where you can see the tea pluckers at work and visit a tea factory so that you can learn all about the tea making process.
Private Audience with a Monk in Colombo
Enjoy the chance to meet a resident monk at the Gangarama Temple in Colombo. Learn about the stories of Buddha’s life and how to achieve inner peace. Afterwards, experience some Buddhist practices and customs.
Colombo City Tour
This guided tour is a journey through Colombo’s highlights, from strolling along Galle Face Green overlooking the India Ocean, to the fort area and railway station. Enjoy parks, gardens, the town hall and the city’s famous Independence Square.
Ritigala Ancient Monastery
Not far from Anuradhapura, Ritigala is a unique nature reserve and an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back to the 1st century. Travel through tropical forest filled with monkeys, birds and butterflies until you reach the monastery.
Private Audience with a Monk in Dambulla
Achieve inner peace whilst listening to tales and teachings of Buddhism from one of the resident temple monks. Afterwards, enjoy ‘Dhamma’, 30 minutes of discussion, practices and customs.
Trekking in the Knuckles Range
This is a must for trekking enthusiasts, who will love the striking landscapes and ever-changing fauna on this 4-5 hour trek from Illukkumbura to Riverston. Expect sweeping panoramas and waterfalls in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Anuradhapura by bike
Explore the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura on a bicycle, riding past highlights such as stupas, bathing tanks, ancient hospitals, and allegedly the oldest tree in the world.
Night Cycling in Colombo
Pedal your way around an atmospheric dusky Colombo to reveal its hidden secrets. As some of the city goes to sleep, other parts come alive. Enjoy this little cycling adventure before dinner.
Cycle tour of Colombo
Explore Colombo on two wheels, passing museums, railways, parks and gardens with an experienced guide who will show you the best sights and short cuts in this bustling city. Galle Face Green, right next to the sea is a highlight.
Adam's Peak Descent
Make your way down from Adam’s Peak in the morning at a leisurely pace. The descent is much quicker although not necessarily easier as you may be tired from walking through the night.
Sri Lankan Cookery Experience
Unique and tantalising, Sri Lankan cuisine is rich in spices and complexity. Learn about the flavours of Sri Lanka and how to combine different spices in this simple lesson with a local cook. This is a fantastic way to understand the country’s cuisine.
Ulagalla - Village Bike Ride
This 2-hour guided mountain bike ride will allow you to meet the local community, practise spiritual temple meditation and spot abundant wildlife on your way back through the countryside.
Ulagalla - Organic Cooking Class
Take a tour around Ulagalla’s organic garden with a chef and handpick vegetables and herbs for your Sri Lankan coking class. Take home the recipes you learn so you can recreate the dishes for family and friends.
Ulagalla - Jungle Kayaking
Enjoy this kayaking experience in the serene Wannamaduwa Tank, observing wildlife and birdlife in their natural habitat as they paddle through the lotus flowers, water lilies and jungle trees.
From $2860 per person
International economy class flights and airport taxes from the UK
Meals as per itinerary
Private guide and driver
Ask our specialists for prices excluding flights from the UK. This price is as a guide only. The actual price is influenced by fluctuations in exchange rate, time of year, travel class of flights and the use of private versus shared excursions. Single supplements are likely to apply.