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…
Northern Sri Lanka and the Maldives
Kotugoda, Wilpattu National Park, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Maldives
Best for: Beach, Culture History, Luxury
A perfect combination of the very best of Northern Sri Lanka with a luxurious stay in the Maldives. Ideal for those wanting to see Sri Lanka's cultural highlights and wildlife, but who also want to relax and unwind on a private island.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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Northern Sri Lanka and the Maldives is a brilliant and unique itinerary that encompasses the highlights of the 'Cultural Triangle', historic Kandy, wildlife in the remote Wilpattu National Park and an idyllic retreat in the Maldives. Suitable for the first time traveller or a returnee to Sri Lanka, and for those who want to truly relax at the end.
Beginning your epic journey on the outskirts of Colombo in a boutique retreat before travelling north-west to the Wilpattu National Park where sloth bears and leopards roam freely. From this untouched national park you will head north to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonarruwa before travelling south to Kandy in the hills. Return back to Colombo for a flight to the Maldives, where you speedboat awaits. Spend the next four nights truly unwinding before returning home.
Days 1 - 3 : Kotugoda (near Colombo), Sri Lanka
Stay at The Wallawwa for 2 nights
On arrival at Colombo International Airport, one of our private drivers will greet you and take you the fifteen minute drive to Kotugoda, where you will stay in The Wallawwa for two nights, the perfect place to unwind after your journey. Whether you choose to relax in the pristine gardens, enjoy the spa treatments or venture out to the bright city lights of Colombo, with a dedicated team of butlers to cater to your every need, this luxourious start with kick-start the holiday of a lifetime.
Days 3 - 5 : Puttalam (near Wilpattu), Sri Lanka
Stay at Bethany 101 for 2 nights
This morning, you will be taken to Wilpattu National Park where you will stay in the two hundred year old Bethany 101 for two nights. This paradise boutique hotel was built in 1836 and has been run by the same family ever since, the warm welcoming ambience is unbeatable and will make you feel completely at home. Nestled between Puttalam Lagoon and Puttalam town you have easy access to snorkelling, relaxing and exploring the local sites. In-house jeep safaris gives you the ultimate experience of Wilpattu National Park, with the chance to spot leopards and sloth bears.
Days 5 - 8 : Anuradhapura (The Cultural Triangle), Sri Lanka
Stay at Ulagalla for 3 nights
From here, you will be driven to the heart of the world-renowned cultural triange. You will stay in Ulagalla resort, a luxourious eco retreat for three nights. With spacious chalets and exquisite gardens, you can roam and relax with the occasional trip to the Coco Spa and world class cuisine served in the dining hall, poolside, lakeside, or picnic-style in a nearby paddy field is enough to tickle anyone's fancy. Just a short distance from Anuradhapura centre, you can explore ornate monastries and Buddhist temples and marvel at the intricate architecture.
Days 8 - 10 : Kandy, Sri Lanka
Stay at The Kandy House for 2 nights
On this day, you will be driven to Kandy, a cultural highlight of Sri Lanka, to stay in the unique manor house that is The Kandy House. Previously a home for a local artistocratic family, now beautifully renovated with private verandas and a spectacular infinity pool, with complementary yoga, board games and bicycles, there is plenty to keep you entertained in this elegant resort. Kandy itself, is a must-see in any Sri Lankan itinerary, with the Temple of Tooth, Degaldoruwa Cave Temple and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens to explore, the cultural attracts are endless.
Day 10 - 11 : Kaleliya, Sri Lanka
Stay at Casa Heliconia for 1 night
A private driver will collect you this morning and will drive you to Kaleliya, to stay in the intimate hideaway that is Casa Heliconia for a night before your flight to the Maldives. On the edge of a farming village, this peaceful paradise is just twenty-five km from Colombo Airport so is perfectly postitioned for some complete relaxation before you board your flight the next day.
Day 11 : Flight to Male, Maldives (1hr)
A private transfer will take you from Casa Heliconia to Colombo International Airport, to board your flight to Male, Maldives.
Days 11 - 15 : The Maldives
Stay at Velassaru for 4 nights
After you are collected from the airport, you will be driven to the elegant Velassaru in the South Male Atoll for four nights. It perfectly encapsulates affordable luxury, with pristine white beaches and crystal clear ocean, the water villas are effortlessly chic and with panoramic views and a private terrace and sun deck, it is an idyllic hideaway like no other. With world class cuisine, served in oceanfront dining areas, the food only adds to the excellance. A house reef provides a convineint location for both snorkellers and divers alike, and a spectacular infinity pool can become home to those who just wish to kick-back and relax before the journey home.
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.
Jeep Safari - Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national parks, with an area of over 130,000 hectares. Explore by jeep, driving past natural lakes, scrubland and dense jungle, possibly spotting sloth bear, leopard and wild elephant.
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.
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.
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.
Ulagalla - Ideas for your free time
During your stay at Ulagalla, enjoy a myriad of activities, including meditation and yoga, nature walks and horse riding, kite building and archery, and wildlife encounters in nearby Minneriya National Park and even whale watching excursions.
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.
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.
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.
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 $4585 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.