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 Highlights
Colombo, Ancient Cities, Kandy, Hatton, Yala National Park, Tangalle, Galle
Best for: Highlights, Imagine Favourites, Culture History
For a tiny island, Sri Lanka packs a huge amount in and this classic itinerary takes in its captivating highlights in style. From ancient cities to tracking leopards in Yala and from tea plantations to shimmering beaches, this itinerary has it all.
To start planning your tailor-made holiday, call us on (646) 934-8916
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This classic itinerary covers all of Sri Lanka's major highlights in two weeks. Taking in UNESCO protected Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Polonarruwa and Kandy along with undulating tea plantations, Yala National Park and Galle, this trip immerses you in local Sri Lankan culture and highlights Sri Lanka's dramatic history and glorious scenery. For those who love to combine wildlife with art, history, culture and relaxation, this trip is for you. It's perfect for the first time visitor, but our tailored experiences also mean you are able to really get under the skin of this enthralling island. A great all-round trip.
Day 1 - 2 : Kotugoda (near Colombo), Sri Lanka
Stay at The Wallawwa for 1 night
When you first arrive in Sri Lanka you will be met by your private chaffeur driver and you will be driven to your wonderful boutique hotek for the night, only a short distance away (15 minutes) from Bandaranaike International Airport. This charming boutique hotel is amazingly serene, and perfectly positioned in the midst of three acres of manicured gardens. In ideal haven for your first night.
Days 2 - 5 : Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Stay at Wild Grass for 3 nights
From The Wallawwa your driver will take you north to Sigiriya. This afternoon you will visit Minneriya Park, home to a vast amount of Sri Lankan wildlife including sambar deer and wild elephant. Throughout your time spent in the area you will visit Sigiriya Rock, an ancient rock fortress and Polannaruwa, the fascinating ruins of one of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms.
Whilst exploring the cultural triangle you will stay at Wild Grass Eco-Nature Resort. Relax in this jungle oasis whilst discovering and exploring the surrounding wonders of Sri Lanka.
Whilst in the Cultural Triangle you will stay at the Wild Grass eco-nature resort. This resort is ideal for nature lovers holding 5 villas in a secluded jungle getaway.
Days 5 - 7 : Kandy, Sri Lanka
Stay at Bougainvillea Retreat for 2 nights
Today you will drive south to Kandy via the ancient Dambulla Cave Temples. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to 157 Buddha statues and an exquisite selection of ancient artwork. Kandy is also home to The Temple of the Tooth, a Buddhist temple home to Lord Buddha's tooth, said to have been stolen from him as he lay on his funeral pyre. Peredeniya Botanical Gardens, located just west of the city of Kandy holds 60 hectares of beautifully maintained gardens showcasing some of Sri Lanka's stunning flora.
Throughout your time in Kandy you will be staying at Bougainvillea retreat, a perfect tranquil getaway set in a picturesque valley that's surrounded by the Knuckles Mountain Range.
Days 7 - 9 : Koslanda, Sri Lanka
Stay at Living Heritage Koslanda for 2 nights
Today drive south to Rothchild's Tea Estate for a visit before catching the train from Talawakelle to Haputale. On arrival in Haputale you will be transferred to your accommodation, Living Heritage in Koslanda. On the edge of the tea country, this unique boutique hotel is an ideal environment in which to relax and recharge before carrying on with your further adventures of this stunning country.
Days 9 - 11 : Yala, Sri Lanka
Stay at Cinnamon Wild Yala for 2 nights
Continue south to discover the wildlife wonders of Sri Lanka in Yala National Park, where you can spot herds of elephant, illusive leopard, sloth bear and a huge variety of endemic bird species. On the borders of the park, and where you will be staying, is the stylish Cinnamon Wild. This hotel has fantastic accommodation, boasting gorgeous jungle chalets with fabulous views of the surrounding jungle.
Days 11 - 14 : Thalpe (near Galle), Sri Lanka
Stay at Why House for 3 nights
Travel around the scenic south coast to the beaches just south of historic Galle. You will be staying in The Why House, a small and chic boutique hotel that can also be hired exclusively.
Head to the closely located Galle, a modern city full of old trader's bungalows and art with classic architecture and a colorful history. Galle Fort, an UNESCO World Heritage Site is Sri Lanka's best preserved townscape now filled with upmarket boutiques, small hotels and restaurants. If you are feeling active, a cycling trip around the nearby villages is highly advised. If visiting the area from November to March, whale watching is a must!
After a relaxing three nights on the beach, continue onto Colombo for your flight home.
Tailor this holiday to you
We are experts at designing India holidays, contact us on 020 3141 2850 to start designing your trip.
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.
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.
Tea Trails - Tea Trails Tea Experience
Guests staying in the bungalows can enjoy this experience free of charge. The resident tea planter will show you how to make tea, starting in the fields picking the plants.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 $2822 per person
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.