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…
Sri Lanka for Teenagers
Kotugoda, Anamaduwa, Pallepolla, Passikudah, Gal Oya National Park, Kandy
Best for: Family, Off the beaten track, Culture History
Designed with teenage families in mind, this adventurous and active journey explores Sri Lanka's wilder side, perfect for energetic teens looking for something unique. With time on the stunning east coast, this trip is perfect during the summer holidays.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This truly unique itinerary explores a hidden and more active side of Sri Lanka, which is perfect for active families or even couples. With time spent in remote rural areas ripe for exploring by bicycle or in undiscovered national parks home to lake swimming elephants and indigenous tribes, this journey is incredibly exciting and diverse. This, combined with historic Kandy and pristine beaches, results in a perfect itinerary for all the family. Enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, trekking, game drives and simply relaxing on the beach. A truly magical itinerary that gets you off-the-beaten-track and under the skin of this tiny island.
Day 1 - 2 : Kotugoda (near Colombo), Sri Lanka
Stay at The Wallawwa for 1 night
Arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport where you will be collected from the airport by your private chauffeur. From the airport you will be driven to the nearby Wallawwa for a leisurely afternoon after your longhaul flight. Only 15 minutes from the airport, this old plantation house is beautifully set in five acres of tropically landscaped gardens. The Wallawwa offers 17 tastefully furnished bedrooms and suites, a lovely terrace perfect for afternoon tea and a restaurant serving asian fusion cuisine overlooking the beautiful gardens. This hotel is the perfect choice for the start or end of a trip to Sri Lanka.
Days 2 - 4 : Anamaduwa, Sri Lanka
Stay at The Mudhouse for 2 nights
Drive north to Anamaduwa and to your next accommodation, The Mud House. This unique property consists of a collection of huts made out of mud in Sri Lanka's countryside. This retreat is perfect for families looking for an adventure. Spend your afternoon at leisure and explore the beautiful local area. For the more active guests you can take part in activities such as cycling, kayaking and walks along the many beautiful nature trails. It is also highly recommended to visit the nearby small intimate temples (such as the rock temple at Muligama). You can also take part in authentic cookery lessons and enjoy a lakeside picnic.
Days 4 - 7 : Pallepolla, Sri Lanka
Stay at Jim's Farm Villas for 3 nights
From The Mudhouse you will have a few hours drive to Pallepolla, to Jim's Farm Villa where you will stay for the next three nights. Located between the 'Cultural Triangle' and Kandy, Jims Farm is a beautiful boutique property on an organic farm. Enjoy exploring the surrounding area by foot, eating traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, relaxing by the pool or discovering the local spice plantation. During your time at Jim's Farm guests will also have the opportunity to visit Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an ancient rock fortress that soars nearly 200 metres high. Once also a buddhist monastery this site is a great example of Sri Lanka's entralling and diverse history.
Days 7 - 10 : Pasikudah, Sri Lanka
Stay at Uga Bay for 3 nights
From Jims Farm travel to Uga Bay with your private driver. Sitting on Sri Lanka's picturesque East Coast, Uga Bay is a beautiful hotel located on Pasikudah Bay, an area still relatively untouched. All Studios, Suites and Villas offer stunning views from the privacy of your very own balcony or private outdoor terrace. On your way to Pasikudah stop by Polannaruwa, one of Sri Lanka's finest UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Once a royal ancient city with a thriving commercial and religious centre, Polannaruwa now showcases many archaeolgical treasures indicating what the area would have looked like 800 years ago. It's one of our favourite historical sites.
Days 10 - 12 : Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka
Stay at Gal Oya Lodge for 2 nights
From Pasikudah you will drive to Gal Oya National Park. Explore this untouched area, home to lake swimming elephants and Sri Lanka's remote indigenous population, the Vedda. Guests have the opportunity to visit a Vedda village and meet the local chief. Throughout your time in the area guests will stay at Gal Oya Lodge. This lodge specialises in good quality environmentally responsible tourism. The intimate and comfortable nine rooms are all constructed from natural and locally sourced materials, truly symapthetic to the surroundings.
Days 12 - 14 : Kegalle (near Kandy), Sri Lanka
Stay at Rosyth Estate for 2 nights
This morning you will travel inland to Kandy and have some time to relax. On day 2 in Kandy guests are taken to visit The Temple Of The Tooth, located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, housing the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. For two nights you will stay at Rosyth Estate. The Estate House is an old colonial planter's bungalow set in a 62 acre private working tea and rubber estate. Discover how a rubber and tea plantation is run and all processes involved.
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.
Uga Bay - Sea Kayaking
This thrilling sea kayaking experiences is a popular choice from Uga Bay’s selection of ocean adventures. Take out two kayaks, which can fit 4 people, for an unforgettable group experience.
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.
Jungle Beach - Visit Ancient Trincomalee
Known as the ‘Rome of the Pagans of the Orient’, visiting Trincomalee will offer the chance to understand the myths and legends that surround the ancient temples and colonial forts in the area.
Jungle Beach - Fishing in the Mangroves
Enjoy how peaceful the mangroves are at dusk and the slow pace of life that the fishermen here enjoy. There are plenty of endemic and migratory bird species to spot as well as lots of other wildlife in this pristine area.
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.
Uga Bay - Ideas for your free time
Uga Bay offers lots of fun activities for guests of all ages, which can be easily arranged. Track leopards in Wilpattu, tour the countryside on a bike, or try your hand at cooking. Enjoy a whale watching trip and explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
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.
Boat safari in Gal Oya Park
Enjoy a morning boat safari followed by a lovely picnic in the Gal Oya Park. This is a unique opportunity to observe the local wildlife from the stunning Gal Oya Lake.
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.
Mask Making in Balapitya
Learn to craft your own mask in Balapitya using traditional tools at the workshop in Ambalangoda, supervised by an experienced master craftsman.
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.
Uga Bay - Snorkeling and Diving
With kaleidoscopic marine life and miles of coral reefs and ancient shipwrecks, the ocean off Passikudah’s coast is an underwater adventure playground for snorkelers and divers alike.
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.
Jungle Beach - Ideas for your free time
Jungle Beach is very relaxing but there are also plenty of fun activities on offer. Enjoy a bike tour of the local communities, help the children make kites, or enjoy a cooking class. You could even go whale watching or try scuba diving.
Uga Bay - Sailing Trips
Uga Bay’s sailing trips are ideal for those wanting to explore the ocean on Passikudah’s coast. Enjoy a thrilling trip out on the water that lasts for a minimum of 90 minutes.
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.
Jungle Beach - Sea Fishing
Keen anglers will love the thrill of fishing out on the open ocean accompanied by a knowledgeable local fisherman. Equipment and refreshments are provided so you can make a brilliant morning of it.
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.