The combination of visits to ancient cities, a great train ride through the beautiful hill country, diverse wildlife and the opportunity to relax on two of the many beautiful beaches is sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor.
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Your island adventure starts at Colombo Airport, where we will pick you up and take you to your first hotel on Negombo Beach, 40 km away. A quick check-in and you’re ready to spend the rest of the day as you please.
The romantic seaside town of Negombo, near Bandaranaike International Airport, is not only the perfect place for a short seaside vacation with its pristine beaches, it also boasts some of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. Use your time in Negombo, fondly referred to as Little Rome, to hit the beach and feast on fresh seafood before heading out the next day to explore the rest of the island nation of Sri Lanka. The Pearl of the Indian Ocean has so much to offer the visitor.
A wonderful adventure begins: The tropical island of Sri Lanka will enchant you and appeal to all your senses with unforgettable images, sounds, tastes and experiences.
The fish market of Negombo beckons. You have to get up early in order not to miss the activity since the fish market itself is not a tourist place, but quite authentic and no consideration is given to late risers. Located at the northern end of a lagoon famous for the delicious species of crab, shrimp and lobster, you’re sure to hear traders and bidders shouting enthusiastically as you approach. You can watch barracudas, sharks, rays, tuna and all sorts of impossible looking sea creatures being auctioned off, and of course the surrounding hotels and restaurants shop here too. It then takes about an hour to drive to a coconut plantation, where you’ll get another glimpse of the local industry and learn about the ways in which every part of the coconut palm plays an important role in everyday life. Here you can also enjoy the aromatic coconut water of a King Coconut, a superfood of Sri Lanka. It is a natural isotonic drink and highly appreciated by the locals. But you also have to taste a so-called Toddy at least once, palm wine rich in sugar, which the Toddy-tappers conjure out of the coconut palm.
Afterwards, you will be driven to Dambulla in the interior of the country and will be on the road for about three hours, passing dense, lush green jungle with the occasional huge glittering lake, rice paddies, fields of pineapple and extensive coconut palm groves. You will also see loincloth-clad farmers working the rice fields with their buffaloes and working elephants with attentive handlers, called mahouts, along the way. Your Sri Lanka adventure is not just about arriving – the journey is part of the excitement and experience.
Visit to the Dambulla Caves: The island has not less than eight World Heritage Sites and the most impressive of these are the impressive Dambulla Caves. Not only do they have a long history, but the artistry is magnificent with painting of the deities following the contours of the cave walls. One has to visit this site in person to fully take in every detail.
These five caves, located at the foot of a rock 160 meters high, have been a destination for pilgrims for centuries. Because of the discovery of human skeletons from 3000 years ago in this area, it is believed that prehistoric inhabitants lived in these caves.
There are five caves inside, each with a different statues and appearance, although many people assume at first glance that they are quite similar. The monastery dates back to the first century BCE, when the caves were probably remodeled. It was expanded over the years and housed many different religions. The caves you can visit today were restored and repainted in the 18th century by the Kingdom of Kandy.
OPTIONAL: DAY TRIP TO HIRIWADUNNA VILLAGE WITH LUNCH
This private four-hour trip takes you to the village of Hiriwadunna, and right into the heart of authentic rural Sri Lanka with its unhurried village life. The drive is only half an hour. Enjoy the cool morning air as you travel, again you will hardly be able to get enough of the lush Sri Lankan countryside. After arriving in Hiriwadunna, the man-made reservoir on the outskirts of the village is on the agenda. Here you can admire birds and butterflies, and even the occasional crocodile! You will also be able to observe the daily life of the villagers as they fish and do their laundry. Take part in the activities on the water and cross the lake by boat. Afterwards, take a ride in a traditional ox cart, a real experience, and the rice and vegetable fields always provide nice photo opportunities. Your eyes have had their fill, now it’s time for your belly. A traditional Sri Lanka-style lunch awaits you in a village house before it’s time to say goodbye to Hiriwadunna. Your transfer back to the comfort of your hotel in Dambulla or Sigiriya is ready.
Sigiriya, the Lion Rock, awaits you this morning, and we guarantee that you will be highly impressed with this colossus of granite, a dizzying 183 meters high, with steep cliffs on all sides. And that’s not all; the remains of a 1500-year-old royal palace is the crown on top of Lion Rock. A moat and protective wall extend around the entire complex. Water gardens of various kinds, remnants of numerous historical buildings and caves, some of the most exquisite murals in the country, cultural treasures and the breath of history at Sigiriya will leave a lasting impression on you. Perhaps most enchanting is the Cloud Maidens you’ll see under a rocky outcrop. Women in beautiful dresses and jewelry carrying lilies and lotus flowers as offerings of thanksgiving, form a procession in finely crafted detail. And now you probably want to know why it is called Lion’s Rock. In times long past, a huge lion’s head made of bricks and plaster guarded the fortress and visitors had to enter through its mouth. Just try to imagine this terrifying experience. Today, only the front paws remain of this perhaps most imposing of all entrances. But the lion still guards his rock, even if only the menacingly extended claws can be seen while the rest of the lion only appears in the visitor’s mind’s eye.
Important information: The climb to the top of the Lion Rock consists of numerous steps. However, this should not be a problem for travelers with normal mobility, and the phenomenal view is more than worth the small effort.
Polonnaruwa, the capital of the district with the same name, and the second oldest city in Sri Lanka, is our second stop this day. King Vijayabāhu I established this fascinating city as the capital of Sri Lanka’s second oldest kingdom in the 11th century, so many interesting ruins, famous monuments and other ancient buildings await you here. Gal Vihara beckons with its four images of Buddha skillfully carved into the rock, and the ruins of the Royal Palace is one of the main attractions of Polonnaruwa, as well as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remember the video for the song Save a Prayer by Duran Duran, the top band of the 80s? This is where it was filmed.
After this excursion, you’ve now earned some free time and can spend the rest of the day at your leisure, enjoying the pool and other amenities at your hotel to relax.
OPTIONAL EXCURSION: THREE-STOP AFTERNOON SAFARI IN MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK
If you leave Polonnaruwa around 1:45pm, you will be in Minneriya National Park by 2:30pm and can go on a safari in the beautiful natural surroundings. If you are lucky enough to be here at the right time of year, Minneriya has something very special to offer you – it is the only place in the world where you can watch the famous elephant gatherings when hundreds of elephants socialize and play, a sight you will never forget. But even if you miss this attraction, the safari is an exciting experience as there are many other species to watch out for and observe. At 5:30pm, you will return to your hotel in Habarana to conclude another great day on your Sri Lanka trip.
This morning we bid farewell to Sigiriya and head to the city of Kandy (2 hours), capital of the country’s Central Province in the highlands of Sri Lanka. You’ll love the fresher climate.
Your hotel for the night is the four-star Cinnamon Citadel Hotel. It’s beautifully situated, surrounded by peaceful forested hills and overlooking the picturesque Mahaweli, Sri Lanka’s longest river, which flows around Kandy. A pool, also overlooking the river, a stylish pillared lobby, a charming bar, and the restaurant where you’ll have your dinner will make your stay in Kandy pleasant and offer relaxation from the bustling city life.
A full day in Kandy! The hustle and bustle, and all the coming and going in the streets of this lively city, the center of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, give you ample opportunity to observe the people of Sri Lanka. Everyday life, art, culture and commerce in myriad stores and stalls; you’ll find plenty of everything here. Another pretty sight is the many children in white school uniforms on their way to school or back home. A little peace and quiet from all this activity is offered by the beautiful lake in the center of Kandy, which the last king of Sri Lanka built at the beginning of the 19th century, to adorn and beautify the Tooth Temple area, the true heart of the city. The Tooth Temple or Sri Dalada Maligawa is the holiest shrine on the island, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. You may be lucky enough to observe one of the many ceremonies held there by the extremely religious inhabitants during our visit.
A visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens, which are stunning not only for lovers of flora, is also included on our itinerary. 150 acres of land house thousands of plant species cultivated over the course of more than 150 years. A walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens takes us past many wonderful specimens of old tropical trees, gardens, shady avenues, carefully tended flower beds, and exotic birds and butterflies. You can also admire trees planted in memory of Edward VII, George VI, Princess Anne and the Queen of England, as well as Lord Mountbatten’s imposing World War II headquarters. Other highlights include the Avenue of Royal Palms and definitely the Bat Drive – you simply must see the large fruit-eating bats that hang out there!
In the evening we will experience a colorful and incredibly skilful demonstration of the traditional art of dance, for which Kandy is famous.
KANDY FESTIVAL TOUR – During August Only
Maybe you have planned your trip to Sri Lanka especially to be in Kandy for the very famous festival of Sri Lanka, Esala Perahera. Wonderful, then we can witness the colorful procession in the evening, and there are several more opportunities to watch celebration as we continue our city tour in Kandy the next day. This ancient festival, originally held as an appeal for rain, but now dedicated to the veneration of the relic of the Buddha’s Tooth, makes for an incredible ten days of celebrations of spirituality and the joy of life, consisting of large and small ceremonies galore.
Immerse yourself in the magic of Esala Perahera, the festival of the Tooth of Buddha, one of the oldest Buddhist festivals ever, enjoy the sight of all the splendor and color, the beautiful silk costumes of the graceful dancers, the elephants led in a parade through the city to the rhythm of drums. Fire and whip artists, stick dancing and other traditional dance performances can also be seen.
The biggest attraction, of course, is the actual procession, which has been taking place since 310 BCE and begins at the Temple of the Tooth. A replica of the revered relic is carried on the back of the main elephant of the Tooth Temple through the city, accompanied by drummers, dancers, religious and other dignitaries, and of course all the faithful from Kandy and all over the island. We guarantee that you will never forget the sight of the elephants decorated with magnificent fabrics, illuminated by small lights – literally a glamorous highlight of your trip.
Optionally, we have organized an evening with a Sinhalese family for you, perfect for those with a sweet tooth. You can satisfy your hunger for sugar with delicious desserts after a good Sri Lanka dinner, Kandy style, and learn to prepare one or two such delicacies yourself in a cooking demonstration. We can highly recommend the chicken curry with spiced coconut milk, a dish that is more like a Thai curry than a classic North Indian curry. Afterwards, you can feast on sweet specialties influenced by the dessert traditions of the Dutch and Portuguese who came to Ceylon in the 16th and 17th centuries. And during your cooking lesson, you might try your luck at making the perfect hopper, a pancake-like snack said to take some practice to master. The question is, can you do it in the short time available?
What most people immediately think of when they Sri Lanka, or Ceylon, comes to mind is of course tea. Sri Lanka, tea and tourism are inseparable and for good reason. Therefore, today a visit to the large tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya is on your itinerary. You will have a leisurely breakfast and then leave Kandy, heading through the increasingly mountainous landscape towards Sri Lanka’s main tea growing region. Higher and higher the road goes, and tall pine forests replace the lush tropical jungle. Eventually you spy the first scattered tea bushes, more and more of them, until eventually every part of the landscape seems to be covered by a magnificent green carpet. A visit to one of the most famous tea plantations now invites you to see how our favorite beverage is created, how the leaves are rolled, dried and sorted. The heavenly scent of genuine pure Ceylon tea envelops you as you watch the hissing machines that ensure that the black gold will soon end up in the cups of its many lovers all around the world. Don’t forget to top off your visit to the tea factory in style with a cup of Ceylon tea, so your taste buds won’t miss out on this culinary experience.
As you continue your journey to Nuwara Eliya, enjoy the magical atmosphere of the steep misty road winding through the greenery of the lush tea bushes. The welcome cooler climate up here, and later the atmosphere reminiscent of English shore excursions, indicate to visitors that they are approaching the well-known retreat from British colonial times, Nuwara Eliya, the City of Light. You’ll still find colonial-era bungalows, hedges and gardens once built and landscaped by plantation owners from England and Scotland, as well as one of the best 18-hole golf courses in the world. It’s no wonder that this idyllic spot with the hill country’s main railroad station, and spring-like climate nearly 7,000 ft./2,100 m above sea level, is called Little England.
Perhaps the surroundings will inspire you to take high tea, served in style, at your hotel, the Jetwing St. Andrews Hotel, which is reminiscent of an English country estate. The hotel was originally the summer home of Sir Edward Barnes, famous for its 19th-century guest rooms and pretty flowerbeds in the English tradition.
Spend your afternoon relaxing as you please, or perhaps you might feel like going on a hike. Green meadows and red brick walls, breath-taking views of a bustling rural hamlet are yours to enjoy. Or drive through the green valleys of the hill country, stopping for picturesque views of endless waterfalls and tea pickers in colorful saris, enchanting opportunities for photography lovers are plentiful. If you enjoy the fresh air, you can rent a bike and cycle along the shore of Lake Gregory to enjoy the view.
EXCURSION: TRAIN RIDE TO NUWARA ELIYA
The morning leaves you free before the transfer to the train station, so you have the option for a two-hour scenic train ride. Green tea plantations and eucalyptus forests hug the winding mountain passes as far as the eye can see, waterfalls, suspension bridges, tea pickers at work and low clouds – you can’t imagine a more beautiful scenery for a train ride. At the end of the journey, you will be met at Nanu Oya station by your driver and transferred safely to your resort in Nuwara Eliya, overlooking the green valley of the tea in less than 30 minutes.
This morning, say goodbye to Sri Lanka’s hill country and head south to Yala National Park
You’ll spend two nights at the hotel in Yala, just 4 kilometers outside the national park, at the excellent Jetwing Yala Hotel, four-star comfort and dinner included. A pool, bar, restaurant, not to mention beachfront location, make staying there a pleasure.
Afternoon 3 to 4-hour jeep safari in Yala National Park.
Yala, with its whopping near 1500 square kilometers of vast bush and dune lands, basins, grass savannah and the wildlife that inhabits each, is rightly known as the heartland of Sri Lanka’s fauna. Your jeep jolts through the huge gates and you find yourself not only in the island’s most visited national park, but also driving through the land of a civilization that had its heyday under the rule of Sri Lanka’s kings. The national park is officially called Ruhuna National Park, after the kingdom of the same name. Fauna, flora, history, culture – Yala has it all, so enjoy your safari!
The most exciting and most sought after experience on safari for many travelers is to see big cats. These big cats live in high concentrations in Yala, so you have a good chance of spotting some of the leopards that normally like to escape people’s attention. They are also the main predators of the island and therefore much less shy than elsewhere in the world. But Yala is also famous for its axis deer, elephants, langurs, sloth bears, saltwater crocodiles, jackals, pangolins, monitor lizards, wild boars, etc. On top of that, there is an abundance of our feathered friends, you can see blue peacocks, colorful storks, Malabar hornbills, malkohas and many more. The ride in the safari jeep, over rocks and past tight bends, the calls and sounds of the wild in the background all provide an exuberant atmosphere and you will long remember this unique experience under the tropical sun of Sri Lanka.
Our early start this morning is rewarded with the unique soundscape of a tropical dawn chorus. By the time the morning mist disappears with the rising of the sun, you’ll be ready to explore the jungle and its incredible biodiversity of wildlife in the 4-wheel drive vehicle.
After a late breakfast you can cool down and relax at the hotel pool, and later drive to Mirissa beach (3 hours).
If you wish, we will make a tour (45 km round trip) to Udawalawe National Park, famous for its elephant rearing station, supported by the British Born Free Foundation. There you can observe young orphaned elephants during one of their daily feedings.
Upon arrival in Mirissa, transfer to your beach resort.
How about a particularly sweet start to the day? Your breakfast buffet offers buffalo curd, a kind of cheese dish and extremely popular with Sri Lankans, who are known to have a real sweet tooth. It doesn’t get much sweeter than this, and this dish is served in colorful terracotta bowls with thick, golden syrup, as a snack, a side dish to a meal, or a dessert. You see, according to the locals, there’s apparently no wrong time to enjoy buffalo curd.
Let’s go – the beach of Mirissa is waiting.
Pure relaxation, a long gently curving beach on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, golden sand, calm clear water for swimming, a romantic sunset – in short, a paradise that will be hard to say goodbye to. If you’re in an enterprising mood, you can also take a trip by bike or tuk tuk to nearby Weligama, a small fishing village where you can admire surfers ride the waves, and watch the fishing boats of all different colors bring in their catch to sell on the shore, all while you enjoy a snack and wash down all that chili with a cold beer.
Today’s destination is Galle (about 50 minutes), a perfectly preserved colonial walled city, and one of the most interesting places on the island with an incredibly vibrant historical atmosphere. You will find history at your fingertips at every turn.
Stroll through the streets of Galle where the sound of creaking doors and the traditional architecture evoking old Holland, mingle with South Asian traditions and modern architecture to create an amalgamation of cultures and architectural styles that delights visitors from all over the world with its own unique charm. In the winding passages of the venerable Dutch Fort, you will experience the atmosphere that 400 years of eventful history have created in the labyrinth of gallery-filled narrow streets. You will see the ramparts and bastions that have been preserved to this day and bear witness to the rich heritage of over three and a half centuries.
To make sure you don’t miss anything, it is advisable to walk clockwise inside the fort, past the Old Gate with the British coat of arms, the Zwart Bastion, and the lighthouse, over 5 meters high, that proudly stands next to the Utrecht Bastion. The streets that crisscross the fort in a rectangular pattern in this idyll of colonial Holland and the houses with verandas in Dutch colonial style are a pretty sight, adding to the fascinating flair of Galle as an Elysium of architecture. All that history hasn’t turned Galle into an open-air museum, however – the fort’s streets are as busy as ever with administration offices, court complexes, churches, and commercial buildings like the Dutch Hospital shopping complex, bringing life to the old walls.
Now you have time for a little shopping. You will find a wide selection of souvenirs in the Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex, as well as cute boutiques. Soon the many wonderful cafes and inviting bars in pretty streets will tempt you with the prospect of a drink.
We then head north for two and a half hours to Colombo, capital and commercial center of Sri Lanka. The city has grown up around the former fishing village on a natural harbor. Its favorable location on a peninsula made it a sought-after port for the spice trade. This is reflected in the city’s name, as Kolamba, or the anglicized name Colombo, is Sinhala for port. Colombo is the last stop on this interesting island adventure.
On the way, if desired (optional), we can make a visit to the Turtles Hatchery of Kosgoda. This hatchery was founded in 1981 by a cameraman from Sweden to help counteract the worldwide decline in the turtle population. Fishermen in the region can hand in turtle eggs they find and even receive money in exchange for them. This way, the local population are encouraged to protect the environment and the animals in need or the eggs arrive safely at the station. The delivered eggs are then buried again by the employees, of course according to the information of when and where the eggs were found. After hatching, the animals are placed in a large holding tank for a few days where they spend their first days of life together with countless other baby turtles. Finally, after three to four days, they are released into the sea at night.
Colombo’s character is defined by its multi-ethnic and multicultural population. This diversity is also reflected in the exotic and charming mix of vibrant street markets, colonial-style buildings, restaurants for all tastes, and great shopping opportunities. An orientation walk will take you through the bustling Pettah Bazaar with its thousands of stalls vying for customers’ favor, past a variety of opportunities for one, two or perhaps three quick street food snacks and many friendly smiling people. Enjoy a final Dutch-inspired meal and celebrate the end of your culinary adventure tour with new friends.
Transfer to the hotel near the airport for day use, where you can freshen up and have dinner before your onward flight from Bandaranaike International Airport.
If your flight is early in the morning or the next day, you can stay overnight in Colombo.
• Price based on two persons in a double room
• Prices are in USD Excluding international flights
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Keywords: 10 days vacation in sri lanka, sri lanka 10 days in vacation
Negombo Beach ➜ Wilpattu National Park ➜ Anuradhapura (optional Bicycle Tour) ➜ Dambulla Caves ➜ Kandy (Tooth Temple) ➜ Polonnaruwa ➜ Sigiriya Rock Fortress ➜ Nuwara Eliya ➜ Colombo (City Tour)
Negombo Beach ➜ Dambulla Caves ➜ Climb the Rock Fortress Sigiriya ➜ Polonnaruwa & Minneriya National Park ➜ Spice Gardens in Matale ➜ Kandy (Temple of the Tooth) ➜ Nuwara Eliya (Train Ride Through Tea Plantations) ➜ Optional Morning Hike in Horton Plains National Park ➜ Safaris in Yala National Park ➜ Colombo ➜ Maldives ➜ 3 Nights at Beach Resort in Maafushi Island in Maldives ➜ 3 Nights All Inclusive Resort in Maldives
Colombo (Beach Hotel in Negombo) ➜ Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage ➜ Dambulla Caves ➜ Habrana ➜ Sigiriya Rock fortress ➜ Polonnaruwa ➜ Anuradhapura & Mihintale ➜ Minneriya National park ➜ Matale Spice Gardens ➜ Kandy (Temple of Tooth) ➜ Nuwara Eliya ➜ Horton Plain ➜ Train Ride to Ella ➜ Yala National Park ➜ Ahangama or Galle Coast (Whale Watching Excursion (November to April) ➜ Colombo
Negombo Beach ➜ Wilpattu National Park ➜ Anuradhapura (optional Bicycle Tour) ➜ Mihintale Spice Gardens ➜ Jaffna (including Nainativu Island) ➜ Trincomalee Beach (Nilaveli) ➜ Optional Pigeon Island Marine-Nationalpark & Whale watching in Trincomalee ➜ Dambulla Caves ➜ Minneriya National Park ➜ Optional Hiriwadunna Village Tour with Lunch ➜ Kandy (Tooth Temple) ➜ Sigiriya Rock Fortress ➜ Nuwara Eliya (Train Ride) ➜ Colombo