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…
Signature Sri Lanka
Colombo, Kotugoda, Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Yala, Galle
Best for: Culture History, Highlights, Beach
A classic and wonderful journey taking in colonial towns, wildlife and the tea country, a landscape that is quintessential to Sri Lanka and absolutely stunning. End with time on the beach to completely unwind before returning home.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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Sri Lanka is a small country that packs so much in, and this itinerary really showcases what the island really offers. After a flight to Colombo you'll meet your private driver guide and transfer to Kotugoda, for just one night, to relax and unwind in your beautiful boutique hotel for just one night. From here you will continue onto Sigiriya where you will stay for the next three nights. Situated snugly under the world-renowned citadel, which you are able to climb should the physical challenge tempt you. From Sigiriya you can visit the rest of the Cultural Triangle, including Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Anuradhapura, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A two night stop in Kandy is next, one of Sri Lanka's most culturally rich towns, Kandy provides a memorable few days in the hills. An abundance of monasteries, relics and temples cater for those who are interested in Sri Lanka's enthralling and dramatic history and we highly recommend spending some time here. Tea country is next on the agenda, with a two night stop in Nuwara Eliya, famous for their tea plantations peppered with tea pickers at work. You can spot vibrant workers amongst the luminous hills as you journey down from Kandy on the train, one of Sri Lanka's true highlights. Finally, you will enjoy your final four nights in the famous Lighthouse Hotel just outside the historic fortified city of Galle; here you can savour the breath-taking coastline, or pop into Galle which is full of wonderful cafes, restaurants and boutiques. This itinerary would be perfectly suited for those wishing to experience every aspect of the rich culture, including major archaeological sites and delicious cuisine. Someone travelling to Sri Lanka for the first time would really enjoy this all encompassing and varied route with time to relax.
Day 1 - 2 : Kotugoda (near Colombo), Sri Lanka
Stay at The Wallawwa for 1 night
On arrival in Colombo, you will be welcomed by your private driver in the arrivals hall and will be whisked away to the secluded, boutique property of The Wallawwa in Kotugoda, where you will spend one night. With just 14 exquisite bedrooms, this property combines lavish comfort with an unrivalled setting to create an idyllic private hideaway. A large Buddhist complex centres Kotugoda, including exuberent grounds and surroundings that boast charming waterfalls. Whether relaxation or exploration are your objective, Kotugoda is the perfect destination to begin your Signature Sri Lanka journey.
Days 2 - 5 : Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Stay at Vil Uyana for 3 nights
A transfer to one of Sri Lanka's most unique accommodation, Vil Uyana, for 3 nights leaves you nestled in the wildneress beneath the infamous citadel in Sigiriya. Passing frescos and lion rock en route, you have the opportunity to ascend the iconic rocky outcrop once believed to be the epicenter of a prehistoric civilisation. Over the next few days visit Polonnaruwa, Sigiriaya, Anuradhapura and Minneriya National Park with your private guide.
Days 5 - 7 : Kandy, Sri Lanka
Stay at Ellerton Bungalow for 2 nights
Continuing onto the cultural haven of Sri Lanka, Kandy, you begin your two night stay at Ellerton Bungalow. This diverse city contrasts stunning archeological sights with a bustling little town centre and stunning hills that surround the city. From enjoying the multitude of monastries, temples and relics to kicking back next to the tranquil Kandy lake or at your wonderful boutiue hotel in the hills, this city accomodates lots of different interests.
Days 7 - 9 : Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
A transfer by train to Stafford Bungalow for a 2 night stay is one of the highlights of your trip as you pass through tiny villages and into the mountains carpeted with tea. Nuwara Eliya meaning City of Light, and affectionately coined Little England, is situated snugly in the crux of tea country. With a pleothera of tea plantations, restaurants and gardens, you can revel in the laid-back lifestyle that underpins life in Nuwara Eliya and in your remote accommodation nearby.
Days 9 - 11 : Yala, Sri Lanka
Stay at Cinnamon Wild Yala for 2 nights
From Yala you will travel south about 4 hours, where you will then arrive in your penultimate destination which is Yala National Park, here you will stay for two nights in Cinnamon Wild. Home to a great population of elephant, leopard and sloth bear, along with some fantastic bird life, Yala is a real highlight in Sri Lanka and enjoying a game drive by jeep is an exciting adventure.
Days 11 - 15 : Galle, Sri Lanka
Stay at Jetwing Lighthouse for 4 nights
To end your magical journey you will stay in the beautiful Lighthouse Hotel near Galle for four nights. This renowned hotel boasts an unbeatable seafront backdrop and has good service and wonderful rooms. Galle itself combines colonial old world charm with boutique cafes and restaurants. From here you will return to Colombo for your flight 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.
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.
Afternoon Jeep Safari - Yala National Park
Enjoy a late afternoon jeep safari through Yala National Park. The twilight is the best time to spot sloth bears as they come out of their daytime hiding spots and begin feeding. The famous Leopards of Yala might be around and bird life is aplenty.
Galle Cycling Tour - The Paddy Trail (12km)
Heading out of Galle, explore village life by bike in this charming experience. The 12km paddy trail is a great opportunity to see inland Sri Lanka and Koggala Lake.
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.
Culinary Tour of Galle
Learn the secret of Fort food on this great culinary tour. Gain knowledge of Sri Lankan street food whilst meeting several local characters along the way to bring the tour alive. Did you know that cinnamon helps improve your memory?
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.
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.
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.
Galle Fort Walking Tour with Sanjei
Enjoy a walking tour of Galle Fort led by Sanjej. Enjoy numerous stories as you venture into the little nooks and crannies that make Galle Fort so special.
Colombo Shopping Experience
Colombo is known for its small boutiques, handicrafts and beautiful hand-woven fabrics, as well as larger shops selling clothes and accessories. Explore the shopping area with your friendly guide on this flexible experience.
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.
Merchants of Galle Fort
Enjoy a fascinating walk through UNESCO listed Galle Fort with a guide who will take you behind the historic walls of this ancient citadel. Meet the ancestors of the original merchant families and learn about the spice trade and colonial history.
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.
Galle Fort Walking Tour
Walk along the ramparts and through the ancient streets of Galle Fort, founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Galle is rich with merchant history and colonial charm.
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.
Whale Watching from Mirissa
Explore the waters off Sri Lanka’s south coast from Mirissa fishing harbour. Enjoy 4 hours watching whales, spotting blue whales and spinner dolphin. The best spotting is between December and April.
Little Adams Peak and Ravana Ella Falls
Located just outside Ella, Little Adam’s Peak offers a short 30-minute climb to the 1,140-meter peak. Named after the more famous and arduous Adam’s Peak due to its close resemblance, this climb is on a small scale so a little easier.
Galle Cycling Tour - The Paddy Trail (30km)
Head out of Galle and discover village life by bicycle. The 30km paddy trail is a fantastic opportunity to see some of inland Sri Lanka and Koggala Lake. This is an ideal experience for those who consider themselves fit.
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.
Morning and Afternoon Jeep Safari - Yala National Park
Whilst at Yala National Park, enjoy a morning and afternoon game drive to witness the variety of wildlife, particularly leopards, for which the park is renowned. Yala is known to have the highest density of leopard on the planet.
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.
Morning Jeep Safari - Yala National Park
Enjoy a morning game drive in a jeep through Yala National Park, which has the highest leopard density in the world, making it incredibly popular. Various other mammals can often be spotted, including sloth bears.
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 $3401 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.