Discover the best Sri Lanka has to offer, from pristine beaches to Buddhist temples. This extensive tour takes you across the island's eastern coast and inner highlands, where will encounter three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and countless natural and man-made wonders.

Highlights

  • Explore both the bustling cities and rural villages of Sri Lanka
  • Spot leopards and sloth bears in Wilpattu National Park 
  • Discover historic Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa
  • See spectacular highland views in Kandy and Ella
  • Relax on the pristine beaches of Pasikudah and Unawatuna

Overview

Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for anyone looking for a getaway that balances spectacular natural beauty with rich historical sightseeing. This tour provides a comprehensive experience that allows you to see the best eastern Sri Lanka has to offer, starting in the eastern coastal city of Negombo, traveling inland towards Anuradhapura, south to Kandy and Galle, and finally looping back to Negombo. Sri Lanka's small size allows for convenient domestic travel, but since it is affected by two distinct monsoon patterns, weather can be inconsistent. Nonetheless, the country's climate is warm year-round, and since the itinerary is concentrated on the east, visiting anytime between April and September is ideal.

Most meals on this tour are inclusive, as is all ground transportation to destinations. Accommodations vary from a comfortable campsite to luxurious hotels, all in splendid condition. In addition, you will be able to spend at least two days in every destination, allowing for a more immersive experience. Whether you seek jungle thrills and adventure or want a more peaceful experience, this tour will be able to suit any of your tastes.

Brief Itinerary

Day Destination Overnight
Day 1 Airport - Negombo Goldi Sands Hotel (Negombo)
Day 2 Negombo Goldi Sands Hotel (Negombo)
Day 3 Negombo - Wilpattu Big Game Safari Campsite (Wilpattu)
Day 4 Wilpattu Big Game Safari Campsite (Wilpattu)
Day 5 Wilpattu - Anuradhapura - Sigiriya Hotel Sigiriya (Sigiriya)
Day 6 Sigiriya Hotel Sigiriya (Sigiriya)
Day 7 Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Pasikudah Anilana Pasikudah Hotel (Pasikudah)
Day 8-9 Pasikudah Anilana Pasikudah Hotel (Pasikudah)
Day 10 Pasikudah - Dambulla - Kandy Viyana Boutique Hotel (Kandy)
Day 11 Kandy Viyana Boutique Hotel (Kandy)
Day 12 Kandy - Ella 98 Acres Resort (Ella)
Day 13 Ella 98 Acres Resort (Ella)
Day 14 Ella - Unawatuna Cantaloupe Aqua Hotel (Unawatuna)
Day 15 Unawatuna - Galle - Unawatuna Cantaloupe Aqua Hotel (Unawatuna)
Day 16 Unawatuna - Airport N/A
 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Airport - Negombo

A Dhow in Negombo

Arrive in Sri Lanka at Negombo's Bandaranaike International Airport and receive a warm welcome. A small port city with tropical beaches and a fascinating colonial legacy, Negombo has previously been the target of British, Dutch, and Portuguese traders who all competed to control the local source of highly-prized cinnamon. While the spice trade shaped the port's economy as it grew into a city, the Catholic church also influenced the local way of life.

Today, Negombo continues to thrive with a blend of multiple cultures and religions, as colonial-style architecture exists alongside palm trees and traditional fishing boats. Get your first look at the city and its many sights along the 30-minute drive to your hotel. Check in at the modern and upscale Goldi Sands Hotel, eat dinner, and rest up for your adventures ahead!

Day 2: Negombo

Tuk-Tuk Tour

Wake up and enjoy a scenic breakfast at the hotel before heading out of the city. In the outskirts of Negombo, ride a tuk-tuk (an auto rickshaw) through the countryside and see what rural life in Sri Lanka is like. Stop to meet the locals, eat lunch with them, and listen to their stories. Tour the village and enjoy a traditional dinner before heading back to your hotel.

Day 3: Negombo - Wilpattu

Big Game Safari Campsite

After breakfast, take the morning to explore the local fish market in Negombo, a bustling hub for locals who gather to pick up their share of the daily catch. Then, drive 3.5 hours north along the coast to Wilpattu National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka and home to several various forest ecosystems.

One of Sri Lanka's original national parks, Wilpattu continues to host over 30 species of mammals, including leopards, sloth bears, Sri Lankan elephants, and spotted deer. Wetland bird species such as the pintail, whistling teal spoonbill, and the white ibis can also be found within park grounds, flying high among the trees. Check into the big game safari campsite and enjoy a BBQ dinner.

Day 4: Wilpattu

Leopard in Wilpattu National Park

Spend a full day in Wilpattu National Park and explore the habitat of countless native species through a safari adventure that includes breakfast, lunch, and all transportation. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive leopard, as although their current population is unknown, the park is one of the only places where they can be spotted. A large group of Sri Lankan Sloth Bears, Sri Lanka's only endemic bear species, also lives within the park. If you're lucky, you will get to track down these rare creatures and observe them in their natural surroundings. After a long day, return to the camp for dinner and head to bed.

Day 5: Wilpattu - Anuradhapura - Sigiriya

Ruwanweli Maha Saya

This morning, head to your next destination: Anuradhapura. With a large number of ancient monuments and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Anuradhapura is one of the best places to discover the Sinhala civilization that once flourished in Sri Lanka. This ancient city was the seat of power for great Sinhala kings over 1,400 years ago and has preserved a plethora architectural and engineering marvels.

See the tallest dagoba (Buddhist stupa) in Sri Lanka, Ruwanweli Maha Saya, as well as the remains of palaces, temples, monasteries, ceremonial baths, and the temple of the holy Bo-tree (Sri Maha Bodhi). The Sri Maha Bodhi Bo tree is especially famous, as locals say it grew from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. After an extensive tour of Anuradhapura, transfer to the area surrounding Sigiriya to eat dinner and stay overnight at Hotel Sigiriya.

Day 6: Sigiriya

Sigiriya From Above

Explore Sigiriya, a fortress-palace which has been considered a premier eco-tourism destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. The structure rises up from the flatlands surrounding it, towering over 600 feet above the jungle.

Sigiriya, meaning 'Lion Rock' in English, is named after the lion-shaped gateway carved into the palace's massive rocky base. Visitors follow the monument to ascend to the top through the lion's throat and open jaws. Unfortunately, the only remaining part of the lion that has not faded over the centuris are the set of stone paws. Once you finish visiting the fortress, take the rest of the afternoon to relax with some time off before returning to Hotel Sigiriya.

Day 7: Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Pasikudah

The Ruins of Polonnaruwa

Head out in to morning and begin your journey to the eastern shore of Sri Lanka. Along the way, visit the ruins of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site and capital of Sri Lanka from 11th to 13th century. Enclosed by stone walls, the city was dotted with palaces, shrines, monasteries, pavilions, parks, ponds, and irrigation lakes. Many of these still stand today, with the most spectacular being the Gal Vihara temple complex. The structure was cut from a single granite wall and contains dozens of statues of reclining, sitting, and standing Buddhas, making it one of the true masterpieces of Sri Lankan Art.

Take the afternoon to tour the entire complex, then continue driving until you reach the coastal town of Pasikudah. After a trip that totals three hours, check in to the Anilana Pasikudah hotel, eat dinner, and retreat to your room for the night.

Days 8 and 9: Pasikudah

Pasikudah's Shallow Coastline

Situated on the eastern coast of the country, Pasikudah is known for having one of the longest stretches of shallow reef coastline in the world, as most coasts in Sri Lanka are deep and experience stronger currents. Walk for miles in calm, crystal-clear water only a few inches deep and go scuba diving or snorkeling at any one of the coast's ideal spots. The surrounding reef contains all kinds of tropical fish, and if you're lucky, you might even spot whales, dolphins, mantra rays, reef sharks, and other exotic sea animals. The hotel also has all the resort offerings you could ever ask for, including a spa, pool, and fine dining.

Day 10: Pasikudah - Dambulla - Kandy

The Entrance to Dambulla 

Depart from Pasikudah and visit Dambulla, an ancient city is known for its beautiful cave temples and large Buddha statue. The temple complex spans a total of 5 caves, contains over 150 Buddha images, and served as King Valagambahu's refuge back in 1st century BC. The second cave is the largest and most elaborately decorated. It contains a large reclining Buddha statue as well as statues of Valagambahu and Nissankamalla, two of Sri Lanka's most famous kings. A large basin sits at the center of the cave, collecting the water that drips from the rock ceiling.

Get the chance to see each of the caves in detail, and enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Then, continue on your five hour, 78-mile drive to Kandy and stay overnight at the Viyana Boutique Hotel.

Day 11: Kandy

Kandy's Traditional Architecture

Kandy, the capital of the Sri Lanka's central province, was initially built as a natural fortress against attack. Since it was not an easy target during the foreign invasions, much of the original architecture has been preserved. Nowadays, the city of Kandy is well known as one of Sri Lanka’s best attractions for both local and international tourists.

Explore the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site strategically nestled amidst three mountain ranges and the gateway to the hill country. Next, travel to the nearby suburb of Peradeniya and visit the Royal Botanical Garden, renown worldwide for its collection of orchids, medicinal plants, and palm trees. Return to the Viyana Boutique Hotel at night.

Day 12: Kandy - Ella

Waterfall in Ella

After breakfast, go on a scenic train ride to the sleepy mountain village of Ella. Located in the cool central highlands, Ella's elevation allows you to see miles of Sri Lanka's south coast on a clear day. Walk through local tea plantations, temples, and waterfalls and relax in the soothing jungle climate before enjoying dinner at the 98 Acres Resort, where you will be staying overnight.

Day 13: Ella

Tea Leaves from Ella

Today, visit a tea plantation and factory in Ella to gain a new perspective of one of the world's most popular drinks. Ceylon Tea is undoubtedly one some of the best tea in the world, and is one of Sri Lanka's main exports. Drive through the plantation and watch as colorfully dressed tea-pickers roam the sloping hills among lush tea bushes. These workers gather stacks of tea leaves each day with incredible skill, and then process the leaves using a traditional technique. Watch the process in its entirety, from crop to teapot, before returning to your hotel.

Day 14: Ella - Unawatuna

Unawatuna Beach

Drive 4.5 hours out to Unawatuna, a picturesque beach sitting within a cozy semicircular bay. With rows of palm trees, turquoise waters, and some of Sri Lanka's best restaurants, Unawatuna is a great place to wind down and get some sun. After you arrive and explore the beach area, grab dinner and check into your room at the Cantaloupe Aqua hotel.

Day 15: Unawatuna - Galle - Unawatuna

Galle Fort Oceanfront

Today, go on an excursion to the bustling provincial capital and administrative center of Galle. Sri Lanka's first center for international commerce and trade center, the ancient port city is conveniently located right within Unawatuna Bay. The city is famous for the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Portuguese and Dutch origins that overlooks the Indian Ocean. The sprawling fortress is surrounded by water on three sides, and within its ramparts, hosts houses, churches, warehouses, a harbor, and the Arab quarter.

After checking out the fort, spend some time to sightsee around Galle's other remarkable ancient sites, which define the city's characteristic blend of old and new as modernization approaches at a rapid pace. Then, return to Unawatuna to relax on the beach before heading back to Cantaloupe Aqua.

Day 16: Unawatuna - Airport

Enjoy one last breakfast in Unawatuna before transferring back to the Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo, a 93-mile drive out that takes about 2.5 hours. Then, it's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka and return home with new, unforgettable memories!