This family-friendly itinerary combines culture, wildlife, and beaches for a week-long Sri Lankan adventure to remember. Start in the country's Central Province, where you'll take a Jeep safari through Minneriya National Park, climb the ancient fortress of Sigiriya, and meet the famous monkey colonies of Polonnaruwa. Get a glimpse of authentic Sri Lankan life as you cycle through the countryside and attend a colorful cultural show, then transfer to the west coast for two blissfully empty days on the golden beaches of Wadduwa.

Highlights

  • Visit the elephants of Minneriya National Park on a Jeep safari
  • Discover the famous "Monkey Kingdom" of Polonnaruwa
  • See acrobats and fire eaters at a Kandyan cultural show
  • Climb the fairy-tale tower of Ambuluwawa
  • Run and play on the secluded, golden beaches of Wadduwa

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Sigiriya, Safari at Minneriya National Park Sigiriya
Day 2 The Monkey Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, Village Cycling Tour of Hiriwadunna Sigiriya
Day 3 Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Transfer to Kandy, Visit the Temple of the Tooth Kandy
Day 4 Explore the Kotmale Dam, Traditional Music & Drumming at a Cultural Show Kandy
Day 5 Climb the Magical Tower of Ambuluwawa, Transfer to Wadduwa Wadduwa
Day 6 Free Day in Wadduwa Wadduwa
Day 7 Transfer to Colombo & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Sigiriya, Safari at Minneriya National Park

Elephants gathered on the shores of Minneriya Tank Reservoir
Elephants gathered on the shores of Minneriya Tank Reservoir

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, you'll get your first taste of the island's warm hospitality as you're greeted by your representative and escorted to Sigiriya. Get settled in at an idyllic nature resort, then head out on safari this afternoon at Minneriya National Park, the largest gathering place for Asian elephants on earth.

At the heart of the protected reserve, you'll find the great Minneriya Tank Reservoir, built in the 3rd century CE under the rule of King Mahasen. This vast freshwater source draws elephants from all over the country in the dry summer season, who congregate to drink, bathe, and socialize on its peaceful shores. While the elephants may be the star attractions, keep your eyes open as you explore the park by Jeep—its grasslands and forests are also home to rare Sri Lankan leopards, sloth bears, langur monkeys, and remarkable birdlife. 

Day 2: The Monkey Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, Village Cycling Tour of Hiriwadunna

Meet the residents of Polonnaruwa and the stars of Disney's Monkey Kingdom
Meet the residents of Polonnaruwa and the stars of Disney's Monkey Kingdom

Set out early this morning to the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, where you'll get to meet its clusters of curious primates and their devoted researchers. This UNESCO World Heritage site was once the medieval capital of Sri Lanka and today is dotted with the ruins of palaces, shrines, and statues. The city's stone walls are also home to a thriving population of monkey colonies, including torque macaques, gray langurs, and purple-faced leaf eaters.

Their dwindling numbers were saved by intervention from the Smithsonian Research Center, whose field researchers will guide you around the flourishing monkey kingdom. Children will be delighted by the social interactions and behaviors of the local troops as they stroll around a small part of this area, learning about the challenges and triumphs of monkey conservation.  

In the afternoon, you'll discover more of the surrounding countryside on a family cycling tour through rice paddies and back roads. Pedaling around a hidden lake, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the quiet as you spot native birds and wildlife en route. Along the way, you can stop at a local house for a refreshing cup of tea or herbal drink served by a villager, then continue to a local temple for a good luck blessing. After working up an appetite, end the ride with an authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch freshly prepared by a local family (if you are interested, you can also join them for a cooking session!).

Day 3: Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Transfer to Kandy, Visit the Temple of the Tooth 

Ascend the carved fortress of Sigiriya
Ascend the carved fortress of Sigiriya

Explore one of Sri Lanka's most treasured monuments today as you climb the 1,200 steps to Sigiriya Rock. Admire the intact 1,600-year-old frescoes and other relics of the carved fortress as you ascend through giant carved lion's paws to reach the top—where sweeping views across the surrounding countryside await. Countless hidden wonders along the way make the long climb relatively easy for the whole family, but younger children can also opt for a less strenuous hike to the halfway point.

Afterward, little ones can rest tired legs or grab a nap on the two-hour transfer to Kandy. Get settled into your accommodations in a peaceful country house hotel, then head out in the afternoon to discover the UNESCO-listed Royal Palace, which sits on the edge of serene Lake Kandy and houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha within the Dalada Maligwa (Temple of the Tooth). An important pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide, an evocative soundtrack of traditional drumming sets the scene as you explore the spectacular series of shrines, temples, and gardens.

Day 4: Explore the Kotmale Dam, Traditional Music & Drumming at a Cultural Show

Traditional Sri Lankan dancing, music, and acrobatics will delight the whole family

Start today with a trip to the nearby Kotmale Dam, build in the 1980s to harness the power of the great Mahaweli River. Your host will share fascinating details about its construction and guide you to a viewpoint for spectacular views across the reservoir. If the waters are low, you might even catch a glimpse of the ancient temples that were submerged during the dam's construction. Afterward, proceed to nearby Mahaweli Maha Seya, where a grand stupa (shrine) was built to replace the lost temples.

Spend the rest of the day enjoying the abundant nature and beautiful pool back at the country house. As evening falls, you'll head back to Kandy to experience a vibrant spectacle of a Kandyan cultural performance. Kids will be delighted by the traditional dances depicting the graceful movements of birds and animals, energetic, acrobatic performances of leaping pirouettes, and stunts like plate-spinning and the dramatic "fire walk" which ends the show.

Day 5: Climb the Magical Tower of Ambuluwawa, Transfer to Wadduwa

Climb the Magical Tower of Ambuluwawa
The whimsical, winding structure of Ambuluwawa

Climb toward the clouds today with a visit to the fairytale-like Ambuluwawa, a mountaintop tower in the ancient town of Gampola. A 15 to 25-minute tuk-tuk ride takes you through biodiverse landscapes of dense evergreen forests, flowering creeper vines, and medicinal plants to reach this whimsical landmark. Older children can brave the dizzying heights with a 3,567-foot (1,087 m) climb up the narrow, winding staircase, while younger ages can enjoy exploring the idyllic surroundings by tuk-tuk and on foot.

Next, you'll say your goodbyes to the Hill Country and head west toward the coast and your base for the next two nights—a secluded, beachfront resort set amid tropical gardens in the quiet village of Wadduwa

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Day 6: Free Day in Wadduwa

Fishermen pulling their lines ashore on the beaches of Wadduwa

Today is free for you to enjoy at your leisure. Kids can splash around in the resort pool, explore the acres of jungle-like gardens, or head to the beach for a relaxing afternoon of sand castles and sunbathing. If you feel like going farther afield, take a private motorboat excursion on the nearby Bolgoda Lake, Sri Lanka's largest and most diverse freshwater ecosystem.

Boasting the highest biodiversity on the island, the mangrove swamps, in particular, are home to a remarkable population of aquatic birds and fauna. Spot purple herons, pelicans, endless waders, wildfowl, cormorants, kingfishers, sea eagles, and more. The numerous species of plants and animals in this calm and tranquil environment are a naturalist's dream, while children will love observing the fishermen casting their lines and the unusual fence-like cane traps to capture the barramundi fish. 

Day 7: Transfer to Colombo & Depart

Enjoy a final morning at the beach

After a leisurely morning at the beach, it's time to bid Sri Lanka farewell as your driver transfers you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels and ayubowan (the traditional Sri Lankan blessing of long life).

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Map

Map of Family Fun in Sri Lanka: Sigiriya, Kandy & Wadduwa - 7 Days
Map of Family Fun in Sri Lanka: Sigiriya, Kandy & Wadduwa - 7 Days