Crisscross Sri Lanka on this 13-day adventure, hitting historic landmarks, highland wonders, and golden beaches. First up is a tour of a historic tea plantation followed by a hike in a national park and then a trip to the cultural hub of Kandy. Relax on east coast beaches for a few days, then tour some ancient cities before ending the trip with wildlife safaris in search of the elusive Sri Lankan leopard.


  • Visit tea plantations in Sri Lanka's beautiful Hill Country
  • Go on hikes and wildlife safaris in national parks
  • Laze on Pasikudah's golden beaches
  • Tour ancient cities and rock temples 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Nuwara Eliya, Visit a Tea Plantation Nuwara Eliya
Day 3 Horton Plains National Park Hike Nuwara Eliya
Day 4 Scenic Train to Kandy, City Tour Kandy
Day 5 Transfer to Pasikudah, Optional Activities Pasikudah
Days 6-7 Free Days in Pasikudah Pasikudah
Day 8 Transfer to Sigiriya, Tour Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 9 Visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress Sigiriya
Day 10 Transfer to Anuradhapura, Tour the Ancient City Anuradhapura
Day 11 Transfer to Wilpattu, Afternoon Safari Wilpattu
Day 12 Wilpattu Wildlife Safari Wilpattu
Day 13 Transfer to Colombo, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo

A fishing boat in laid-back Negombo

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Often overshadowed by its much larger neighbor India, this gem of the Indian Ocean is also a hotbed of culture, religion, and history. Its heritage is reflected throughout the island, from the ruins of ancient cities to majestic Buddhist and Hindu temples to colonial buildings and fortresses. And that's to say nothing of the almost endless natural beauty and bountiful wildlife in this country.

On arrival in the capital of Colombo, a driver will pick you up at the airport for the 45-minute ride north to the laid-back beach town of Negombo. Known for its Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences, Negombo's golden beaches, peaceful canals, colorful streets, and friendly locals are the perfect introduction to the island. Once here, you'll check in to your hotel and can unwind after the long flight. Perhaps head out on a self-guided walking tour around town.

Day 2: Transfer to Nuwara Eliya, Visit a Tea Plantation

Kids can join in and learn how to pick tea in the fields around Nuwara Eliya
Visit the tea fields in Nuwara Eliya

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the four-hour drive inland to the highland town of Nuwara Eliya. Located in Sri Lanka's beautiful Hill Country region, Nuwara Eliya is known as "Little England" for its cool climate and many historic colonial-style homes and gardens. Discover the highlights on a two-hour tour of the town's gardens, temples, and museums.

Later, take a fascinating look into Sri Lanka's most famous export on a tour of one of the region's historic tea estates. Work alongside the pickers to select leaves, then visit the on-site factory to learn the process of fermentation, rolling, drying, cutting, and grading. At the end, you'll participate in the all-important tasting to learn the difference between varieties and qualities of Ceylon tea. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Day 3: Horton Plains National Park Hike

Baker's Falls in Horton Plains National Park
Today starts bright and early with a transfer to Horton Plains National Park. Located in the heart of Sri Lanka, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its sweeping green plains, tropical montane forests, and romantic waterfalls. Explore this biodiverse ecosystem on a 6-mile (9.5 km) hike to the aptly-named World's End. The edge of this towering mountain escarpment drops dramatically and features breathtaking views all the way to the southern coast. Keep an eye out for exotic birdlife, sambar deer, wild boar, and the park's rare leopard residents.

Day 4: Scenic Train to Kandy, City Tour

Scenic Train Journey to Kandy
Scenic train ride to Kandy

Transfer to the rail station in Nuwara Eliya and board a train for the three-hour ride north to the historic lakeside city of Kandy. Considered one of the most spectacular rail journeys on earth, this route winds through the cool and misty valleys of Hill Country, passing lush tea plantations, dramatic waterfalls, and green fields dotted with pickers draped in brightly-colored saris. Upon arrival in Kandy, you'll transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Later, you'll head out on a tour of this UNESCO World Heritage city, known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. One highlight is a visit to the Royal Palace, which overlooks serene Lake Kandy and houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha in the Dalada Maligwa ("Temple of the Tooth"). An important pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide, the highlights of this complex include a series of shrines, temples, and gardens. After the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 5: Transfer to Pasikudah, Optional Activities

Trade the mountains for the beach
Plan your trip to Sri Lanka
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the three-hour transfer east to the coast and the resort area of Pasikudah. Now is the part of the itinerary where you'll get to enjoy a few days of sun and sand. This coastal retreat has long and inviting beaches but is less well-known than other nearby resort towns. Fewer tourists mean a more intimate experience, and you'll be able to enjoy the beaches in relative solitude.

Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and can spend the rest of the day relaxing. Perhaps head to the beach for a swim or enjoy water sports at the resort. In the evening, do some stargazing or watch a movie on an outdoor screen.

Days 6-7: Free Days in Pasikudah

Leisure Day
Relax in Pasikudah
The next couple of days are yours to enjoy Pasikudah however you like. If you prefer, spend a few hours relaxing at the hotel bar with a tropical drink while listening to music. Maybe take a stroll on the beach. There are many optional activities here, including yoga classes and cycling around the countryside. Another option is to discover the joys of all things coconut with a visit to Coconut Cultural Park. The staff here provides an overview of growing the trees and how they prepare a wide variety of coconut products. They also serve coconut ice cream and coconut honey.

Day 8: Transfer to Sigiriya, Tour Polonnaruwa

The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa

In the morning, you'll leave Pasikudah and transfer 2.5 hours west back to the interior of the country. Your destination is the famous rock fortress of Sigiriya. On the way, you'll stop at Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka's medieval capital. Once a thriving city that ruled the island from the 11th-13th centuries, today, you'll find its well-preserved ruins dotted around the ancient reservoir of Parakrama Samudra.

On a 1.5-hour tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll visit impressive palaces, shrines, and statues. Don't miss Gal Vihara, which features dozens of giant statues of Buddha carved right into the walls of this rock temple. After the tour, you'll continue to your hotel Sigirya. 

Day 9: Visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The Sigiriya rock fortress
Discover one of Sri Lanka's most treasured monuments today as you climb the 1,200 steps to Sigiriya, the remains of a spectacular rock fortress from the late fifth century CE. Ascend through giant carved lion's paws to reach the top of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you'll be rewarded with sweeping views across the surrounding countryside. The countless hidden wonders along the way, like 1,600-year-old frescoes and other relics, make the long climb an enjoyable one, but you can also opt for a less strenuous hike to the halfway point.

Day 10: Transfer to Anuradhapura, Tour the Ancient City

Jetavana Dagoba is one of the central landmarks of the sacred city of Anuradhapura
The ancient city of Anuradhapura

Transfer about an hour north of Sigiriya today to explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura. From the fourth century BCE to the 11th century CE, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was governed by various dynasties, making it one of the longest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Even today, it remains the heart of Sri Lanka's Buddhist culture, with many pilgrimage sites and wonders to discover.

On a tour of Anuradhapura, you'll visit the country's oldest Buddhist shrines (some dating back to the third century BCE), as well as monasteries, temples, white dagabas (relic chambers), and intricately carved monuments. There's also an impressive ancient irrigation system comprised of reservoirs and canals. Be sure to stop at Sri Maha Bodhi, the oldest documented tree on earth, which was grown from a branch of the sacred tree where Buddha gained enlightenment. After the tour, you'll head to a hotel in the area, where you'll overnight.

Day 11: Transfer to Wilpattu, Afternoon Safari

Engage on an afternoon jungle safari ride at Wilpattu
Engage on an afternoon jungle safari ride at Wilpattu

Today takes you 45 minutes west to Wilpattu National Park. Founded in 1938, Wilpattu is located on the west coast and is the largest national park in Sri Lanka (it covers 508 sq mi/1,317 sq km). Among other things, this park is known for its high leopard population, and a safari here is a great opportunity to see much of Sri Lanka's exotic wildlife in one place.

During this two-hour excursion, keep an eye out for the Sri Lankan leopard, currently the largest species of leopard living in Asia. You'll also probably spot herds of elephants, monkeys, and other exotic animals. After the safari, you'll transfer to a lodge in the area, where you'll overnight. 

Day 12: Wilpattu Wildlife Safari

See herds of elephants in Wilpattu

Wake up early and embark on another safari in Wilpattu. It's a great opportunity to try and spot the Sri Lankan leopard if you missed it yesterday. But besides the famous big cat, this reserve is home to over 30 other mammal species like sloth bears and spotted deer. Various wetland bird species, such as the pintail, whistling teal spoonbill, and white ibis, also live here. After the safari, you'll return to your lodge and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 13: Transfer to Colombo, Depart

Sunset in Colombo

Wake up early and enjoy one last leisurely breakfast amid the incredible scenery of Wilpattu National Park. Then hop in the car for the 3.5-hour drive down the coast to the airport in Colombo, where you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!

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