- Start and end the trip relaxing on west coast beaches (think sunsets)
- Partake in several safaris and a boat tour searching for wildlife
- Climb 1,200 steps for Sri Lanka's most famous archaeological site
- See Buddhist relics, statues, and paintings at Temple of the Tooth
- Hike along beautiful trails in the rainforest and central highlands
|Day 1||Arrive in Colombo - Transfer to Negombo||Negombo|
|Day 2||Negombo to Wilpattu||Wilpattu|
|Day 3||Wilpattu to Trincomalee||Trincomalee|
|Day 4||Whale-Watching in Trincomalee||Trincomalee|
|Day 5||Trincomalee to Sigiriya||Sigiriya|
|Day 6||Sigiriya to Kandy||Kandy|
|Day 7||Kandy to Ella||Ella|
|Day 8||Ella to Yala||Yala|
|Day 9||Yala to Udawalawe||Udawalawe|
|Day 10||Udawalawe to Sinharaja||Sinharaja|
|Day 11||Sinharaja to Bentota||Bentota|
|Day 12||Depart Sri Lanka|
Day 1: Arrive in Colombo - Transfer to Negombo
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel in Negombo, a nearby fishing town with a fascinating colonial past.
British, Dutch, and Portuguese have fought over this town since it was a lucrative source of cinnamon, a highly sought-after product in the spice trade. Though the cinnamon industry impacted the economic future of this town, a stronger influence came from the colonizer’s historic Catholic church.
Today, Negombo is alive with its unique blend of cultures and religions including Buddhism (the state religion), Hinduism, and Islam, though you'll notice more Christian places of worship in Negombo than anywhere else in Sri Lanka.
Take the rest of the day to rest and relax at the hotel pool or beach. If you're feeling energized, take a walk through town and look for colonial-style architecture, along with interesting shops and restaurants.
Day 2: Negombo to Wilpattu
After breakfast at your hotel in Negombo, you'll transfer north along the coast to Wilpattu National Park (3 hours by car). This magnificent park retains its status as a preferred safari destination due to a strong prevalence of elusive leopard. Though the present number of Sri Lankan leopards in the park is unknown, it is one of the preferred wildlife safari destinations to observe these big cats. Another highlight here is the dense population of Sri Lankan sloth bears which are a highly threatened subspecies of the sloth bear that exist only on the island.
Upon arrival in Wilpattu, you'll check into your accommodations at the Big Game Camp followed by an afternoon safari in the park. Keep your camera close!
Day 3: Wilpattu to Trincomalee
Today you'll wake up for an early morning safari and the chance to see more of the park's wildlife in their natural habitat.
Following the excursion, you'll depart Wilpattu and transfer to Trincomalee (2.5 hours by car), Sri Lanka's eastern capital, where you'll stay two nights in a hotel along the coast. You'll have the rest of the afternoon to relax at the pool or head for the shore, which offers a range of watersports. Or perhaps just take a long beach stroll before dinner.
Day 4: Whale-Watching in Trincomalee
This morning you will join a fun whale-watching excursion off the coast of Trincomalee. Sri Lanka is considered to be one of the best places in the world for whale and dolphin watching with as many as 26 species in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
The country has a unique position that provides the perfect habitat for whales looking for deep waters who also benefit from the nutrients found closer to the shore. Blue whales (plus smaller numbers of sperm whales, as well as dolphins) can regularly be spotted east of Trincomalee (about half an hour by boat)—as well as onshore, especially at Swami Rock, which has a good vantage point.
After the excursion, you'll have the rest of the day to relax at your hotel or partake in more activities.
Day 5: Trincomalee to Sigiriya
Today, you'll leave the coast and head towards Sigiriya (2 hours by car). This ancient city is a premier eco-tourism destination in Sri Lanka, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. It is also proposed that the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids.
In the afternoon, you'll climb the impressive rock fortress and learn some history from your guide. The topography of the area is flat except for the massive rock outcrop of the fortress itself, which reaches an incredible 660 feet (200 m) from the jungle below.
You can climb the 1,200 steps to explore one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning. Make sure to look for the colorful frescoes that adorn the walls, as well as the gigantic paws sculpted into the side of the rock. From the top enjoy the stunning panoramic views down over the plains and dry hills.
Following the hike, you'll be transferred to your hotel for some free time to relax.
Day 6: Sigiriya to Kandy
Today you'll make the scenic drive to Kandy (3 hours by car), the capital of the Central province. Strategically nestled amidst three mountain ranges and known as the gateway to the hill country, Kandy was initially built in this location as a natural fortress against attack as it was not an easy target for foreign invaders. Nowadays, the city of Kandy is well known as one of Sri Lanka’s best attractions among both local and international tourists.
You'll spend some time visiting the charming city and its most sacred site: The Temple of the Tooth. Located on the edge of a lake, the temple is said to house a tooth relic of the Buddha. Venerated as the most important object in the Buddhist world, the sacred relic was brought here from India 2,500 years ago and is protected in a gold casket inside the Inner Chamber. Each morning at dawn, a steady stream of white-clad devotees partake in an offering and prayer ceremony which is something really special to see. There is an evening session also, but the morning one is not attended by as many tourists, so you can get a more authentic experience.
In addition to the relic, you'll also have time to visit the temple complex, which is made up of numerous buildings, most of which are highly decorated with paintings and carvings depicting Buddha.
Later in the day, you'll visit Bahirawakanda Temple. This beautifully sculpted white statue displays Buddha in the seated Nirvana pose and can be seen from the entire city of Kandy that sprawls out before it. It stands at 88 feet (27 m) in height and is one of the biggest Buddha statues in Sri Lanka.
Day 7: Kandy to Ella
After breakfast in Kandy, you'll make your way to Ella (4 hours by car)—a small town that is home of Ella Rock, famous for its breathtaking views across the Hill Country.
If you're feeling energized, take the two-hour hike to the top starting from Ella railway station. From there, you will walk along the train tracks and continue through the villages, plantations, and bushes. The last part with a steep ascent to the top is rather physical, but all your efforts are well worth it with you see the beautiful view over the mountain ranges and valley below.
If this sounds like too much exertion, you can also spend the afternoon at your resort for the night, relaxing and enjoying the pool and serenity of the area.
Day 8: Ella to Yala
Today, you'll start the day with a morning trek at Little Adam's Peak before making the drive to Yala National Park, situated in the southeast region of the country.
Covering almost 621 square miles (1000 km), this is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. In fact, Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals and has an important role in the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards, and aquatic birds.
Upon arrival, you'll take an afternoon safari and then stay overnight at the Big Game Camp.
Day 9: Yala to Udawalawe
Kick off the day with an early morning safari to experience more wildlife in Yala National Park.
You'll then transfer to Udawalawe, which is located on the boundary of Sri Lanka's wet and dry zones for diversity in both flora and fauna. The area, with its fascinating history and culture, offers an array of historical sites and natural wonders, guaranteed to satisfy even the most seasoned traveler. With approximately 400 elephants residing within the park's boundaries, it is not unusual to see big herds gathering to feed and bath at the waterholes in Udawalawe.
In addition to this main attraction, Udawalawe is home to many water buffalo, water monitor lizards, sambar deer, monkeys, and the occasional leopard. Bird enthusiasts shall be in their own winged paradise with not only for the variety but also quantity of bird species in the park. There are many endemic bird species including various types of hornbills, eagles, bee-eaters, and the peculiar red-faced malkoha. You'll be able to see some of these highlights during an afternoon safari.
Following both safaris (one in Yala, the other in Udawalawe), you'll be transferred to your accommodations in the area with time to rest and relax.
Day 10: Udawalawe to Sinharaja
Today you'll make the transfer (3.5 hours by car) to Sinharaja Rainforest—a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1988. Sinharaja is also listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles highlight the importance of the forest reserve in terms of its biodiversity and fragility.
You'll get up close to all the natural wonders during a hike in the rainforest. From here, transfer to your eco-lodge and spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the grounds and serenity of the area.
Day 11: Sinharaja to Bentota
Today, you'll make the drive to Bentota (3 hours by car) for your last night of the trip! Bentota is famed as the prime beach destination of the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. During Sri Lanka's high season—November to April—calm seas make the golden sands of Bentota beach a playground for those seeking sun and fun. The area is also ideal for snorkeling, diving, sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, and deep-sea fishing on a traditional outrigger canoe.
Upon arrival in the early afternoon, you'll have the rest of the day to spend as you please. Make sure to head outside during sunset.
Day 12: Depart Sri Lanka
It's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka! After breakfast at your hotel in Bentota, you'll be picked up and transferred to Bandaranaike International Airport for your departure flight home. Safe travels!