Delight your senses and broaden your palate with this nine-day exploration of Sri Lankan culture and cuisine. Beginning and ending in Colombo, you'll circle the island's south, checking off must-see highlights as you sample local dishes. Bike to a rural village for an unforgettable curry lunch, explore Kandy's colorful street food scene, see how world-class tea is made in Hill Country, and taste the freshest seafood on the tropical beaches of Ahangama.

Highlights

  • Discover Jaffna's unique & fiery cuisine in Colombo
  • Sit down to a traditional curry lunch in a rural village home
  • Take a flavorful journey through Kandy's street food 
  • Sip world-class Ceylon tea at Ella's finest tea estate
  • Savor fresh-caught seafood on the beaches of Ahangama

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Explore the City & Jaffna Dinner Colombo
Day 2 Transfer to Giritale via Dambulla Cave Temple Complex Giritale
Day 3 Rural Habarana Village Trail, Minneriya National Park Elephant Safari Giritale
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy via Sigiriya, Sacred Tooth Temple & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 5 Kandy Food Trail Kandy
Day 6 Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate Ella
Day 7 Transfer to the Beaches of Ahangama via Galle Dutch Fort  Ahangama
Day 8 Free Day at the Beach, Sri Lankan-Style Seafood Lunch Ahangama
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Explore the City & Jaffna Dinner

Statues along the waterfront of Colombo's Seema Malakaya Temple

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at the Colombo Airport, you'll be greeted by your driver and transferred to your hotel. After settling in, spend the rest of today exploring Sri Lanka's commercial capital and its largest metropolis. A lively city with a fascinating history, Arab sailors once frequented these ports to trade with the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists that occupied the city. Today, Colombo has something for everyone.

Visit the National Museum and Zoological Gardens, take a walk through the city's commercial center or stroll Pettah's vibrant markets and bazaars. In the evening, you'll sit down to an intimate dinner with a local host to discover Jaffna's distinctive (and spicy!) cuisine. Located in the island's far north, the city's Tamil influences and coastal location have shaped a unique gastronomy, which you'll explore with a procession of memorable dishes.

Day 2: Transfer to Giritale via Dambulla Cave Temple Complex

Marvel at the intricate interiors of the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex

Meet your driver for the journey north today towards Giritale and the heart of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. Along the way, you'll stop by a food stall beloved by local travelers for an authentic taste of the island's street food. Enjoy a hot cup of tea with roti (flatbread) or freshly roast corn as you experience eating like the locals and supporting the community. 

Nearing Giritale, you'll stop again to explore the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site of Dambulla. This sacred cave temple complex dates back to the 1st century BCE and is home to some of the country's most important religious artifacts. Wander through a series of caves to marvel at gilded interiors, dramatic murals, and an incredible collection of holy statues, including a 47-foot (14-m) reclining golden Buddha. Then climb to the temple's rocky clifftops for sweeping views across the surrounding forests and countryside.

Day 3: Rural Habarana Village Trail, Minneriya National Park Elephant Safari

See elephants up close on an afternoon safari to Minneriya National Park

Set out into the countryside today on a guided cycling tour through rice paddies and back roads. You'll have the chance to interact with local farmers and learn about Sri Lankan rural life before pedaling to a quiet lake, where you can enjoy a scenic boat trip out onto the water. Afterward, cycle around the lake, keeping your eyes open for exotic birds. Break for a cup of tea or a fresh coconut along the journey, then sit down for a lunch of curry and rice with a local family inside a mud hut.  

In the afternoon, you'll switch your bike for a Jeep and head out on safari in the wilds of Minneriya National Park. This vast preserve of forest, wetlands, and grasslands is home to elephants, leopards, sambar deer, and langur monkeys. At its heart is the great Minneriya Tank Reservoir, a feat of ancient engineering created by the Anuradhapura civilization over 1,800 years ago. Its peaceful shores are the perfect place to observe wild storks and herds of elephants. As the world's largest gathering place of Asian elephants, you're guaranteed to see these gentle giants up close. 

Day 4: Transfer to Kandy via Sigiriya, Sacred Tooth Temple & Cultural Show

The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle
The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle

Start this morning with an invigorating climb up Sigiriya, the UNESCO-listed site of an ancient fortress built in the late 5th century CE. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to how visitors traditionally began their final ascent to the top of the monument, passing through a lion's open jaws and throat. Today only the gigantic paws sculpted into the rock remain. Ascend a series of dramatic stairways to find beautiful water fountains, boulder gardens, frescos, mirror walls, and relics of the castle.

Afterward, your driver will be waiting to transfer you south into Kandy, the welcoming gateway to Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Spend the rest of the afternoon touring Kandy's historic Royal Palace on the edge of Lake Kandy. Stroll the palace's shrines, temples, and gardens before visiting its crown jewel: Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). Dating to the 16th century, it's home to Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic: a tooth from the Buddha. As evening falls, you can attend a fascinating cultural show to see some great examples of traditional Sri Lankan music and dance.

Day 5: Kandy Food Trail

Kandy Food Trail
Try a succession of Sri Lanka's best street food
Join a knowledgeable local today for a mouthwatering exploration of Kandy's best street food stalls. Between sampling spicy snacks, savory dishes, and sweet treats, you'll learn about how Kandyan food was influenced by both Buddhists and Hindus and gain insight into the cultural capital's rich culinary heritage. With mostly vegetarian and vegan meals and snacks on the menu, this excursion can be catered to everyone.

Day 6: Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton's Seat & Tea Estate

Views across the lush mountains and tea fields of Ella

A scenic transfer this morning whisks you deep into the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, where you'll get settled in the charming mountain village of Ella. This idyllic town is the perfect base for relaxing, with lots of fantastic walks that lead through tea fields to temples and waterfalls. If you're feeling adventurous, take a scenic trek to Ravana Ella Falls for a quick dip in the cool waters, or climb past railway tracks and tea plantations to reach Ella's Rock for breathtaking views across the countryside.

Don't miss a visit to Lipton’s Seat, one of Sri Lanka's most impressive viewpoints. The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from this lofty spot, and today you can enjoy similar views looking out across emerald hills and tea estates. Learn more about the country's most famous export at the surrounding tea estate, where you'll tour the fields and factory and finish off the visit with a cup of world-class Ceylon tea.

Day 7: Transfer to the Beaches of Ahangama via Galle Dutch Fort

Soak up some sun on Unawatuna's palm-lined beaches
Soak up some sun on Unawatuna's palm-lined beaches
It's time to head to the beach! This morning your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you west to Ahangama in the popular coastal town of Unawatuna. Stop en route at the UNESCO-listed city of Galle, where you can explore 300-year-old Dutch fortifications surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. After a tour of the city's storied past, you'll have time to browse its Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. Wander the streets to discover stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers. 

Day 8: Free Day at the Beach, Sri Lankan-Style Seafood Lunch

A vendor sells freshly-cooked seafood on the beaches near Unawatuna

The rest of the day is free for you to relax and unwind on the white sand beaches of Unawatuna. Sheltered by an offshore coral reef, the turquoise waters here are warm and tranquil, making them perfect for swimming and watersports. For a more active afternoon, hike the nearby Japanese Peace Pagoda for sweeping views over the coast, visit a local sea turtle farm and hatchery, or join a whale and dolphin watching boat trip.

For lunch, head to a favorite local beachfront restaurant for some of the region's freshest seafood, beautifully prepared. From calamari to prawns to crab and snapper, you can sample the day's fresh catch and enjoy a memorable lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean. 

Day 9: Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart

Sunrise over the beaches of Ahangama

After breakfast (and maybe one last morning at the beach), it's time to meet your driver for the transfer back to Colombo Airport and your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Flavors of Sri Lanka - 9 Days
Map of Flavors of Sri Lanka - 9 Days