Perfect for active travelers and nature-lovers, this 10-day tour covers everything from sunny coastlines to national parks to tea plantations. Walk, swim, and drive your way through rainforests, across sandy beaches, and - if you're lucky - past some of the country's most exotic wildlife.

Highlights

  • Explore the pretty, walled port city of Galle
  • A visit to the most popular, beautiful beach in Sri Lanka
  • Stroll through Sri Lankan tea fields
  • Cycle through the hilly highlands
  • Learn to cook traditional Sri Lankan food
  • Watch an authentic Buddhist prayer ceremony

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive & transfer to Galle Galle
Day 2 Galle & Unawatuna Beach Galle
Day 3 Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve  Deniyaya
Day 4 Yala National Park  Kataragama
Day 5 Exploring Ella - the town on a hillside Ella
Day 6 Hiking in the tea country Ella
Day 7 Cycling through the highlands Nuwara Eliya
Day 8 The Worlds End Lookout Nuwara Eliya
Day 9 The bustling town of Kandy Kandy
Day 10 Cooking classes and temple visits  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive & transfer to Galle

The gorgeous Galle lighthouse

Make your way from Colombo International Airport to the seaside town of Galle, about 4.5 hours away by car. When you arrive, check into your boutique guesthouse in the center of the old walled fort town, with its colonial architecture and surplus of palm trees. This area is rich in history, personal stories, and family heritage. Great food options abound - and so does peace and quiet - making it the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon recovering from your flight.

Day 2: Galle & Unawatuna Beach

The palm-lined Unawatuna Beach

Start your day with a morning walk guided by a local to hear the stories of the families who have lived here for generations, get to know some of the colorful local characters, and take a stroll along the city's ramparts. Then board a van bound for Unawatuna Beach, a lively, sandy, palm-lined stretch that attracts travelers from around the world. Here, stop for a pizza overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in the country before heading out for a swim. Don't forget to keep an eye out for sea turtles: they're sometimes spotted here.

Day 3: Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve 

A bright rainforest bird

Greet the day with a scenic 2.5-hour drive from the coast up into the hinterland to Sinharaja - one of the few national parks in Sri Lanka where you can walk and enjoy the park without the noise and hassle of motor traffic. A designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, Sinharaja is home to a huge number of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The birds tend to be the most social, so watch out for Jungle Fowl and Blue Magpies as you take a three-hour afternoon hike through the lush jungle landscape, stopping for a hearty packed lunch along the way.

Day 4: Yala National Park

An elusive leopard peers out from the treetops

Spend a lazy morning lounging at your remote jungle eco-lodge, taking short walks through the jungle, and eating breakfast in the open-plan restaurant with views over the grounds. By late morning, it's time to board the van for a three-hour drive to Kataragama - a town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Vedda pilgrims located right next to Yala National Park. After checking into your hotel, head out again for a 2.5-hour Jeep safari through a secluded section of the park. Your chances of seeing elephants here are high and if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of the area's more elusive big mammal: the magnificent leopard.

Day 5: Ella 

Sri Lankan jungle scenery

This morning, a two-hour drive takes you to Ella - a quaint hilltop town with growing popularity. On the way, you'll pass through two more sections of national parkland, so keep your eyes peeled for elephants and other wildlife. Make some time to stroll around town for stunning views of the valleys below and to enjoy the town's unique vibe.

After lunch, take the pretty trek to Little Adam's Peak, an enjoyable three-hour hike on a larger pilgrimage trail. Expect sweeping mountain views and charming village scenes along the way (don't forget your camera). When you circle back to the village, freshen up and head out for dinner at one of the traditional restaurants in town. Popular Sri Lankan dishes include fish curry with mixed rice, Sri Lankan dhal curry, and young jackfruit curry.

Day 6: Hiking in tea country

Hiking in tea country

Wake up in Ella and take in the lovely mountaintop views over a leisurely breakfast. Then head out on today's mountain trek through tea plantations and small villages. Along the way, you'll strike up conversations with locals who don’t often meet foreigners and are always interested in a chat (pro tip: ask about Cricket; it's a national obsession here). Halfway through your lush mountain stroll, a simple lunch of curry and rice awaits in a small village, followed by the pretty walk back to Ella. 

The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore. Popular attractions in the area include Ravana Falls and its famous cave, the iconic Nine Arches Bridge, and the Dhowa Rock Temple, where you'll find a 38-foot Buddha carved into stone. There are also cooking classes and plenty of great restaurants around town.

Day 7: Cycle through the highlands

Cycling Sri Lanka

Board a late morning train from Ella with your packed lunch and enjoy a leisurely two-hour ride through scenic countryside. Disembark in Ambewela - a small town in an area known as "little New Zealand" at the foot of Horton Plains Park. Here a small fleet of bicycles awaits. Pedal through the undulating terrain and lush greenery of Sri Lanka's high country where villages haven't changed in hundreds of years. By late afternoon, you'll roll into Nuwara Eliya and check into your charming heritage hotel.

Day 8: Nuwara Eliya

A Sri Lankan viewing platform looks out over the mountains

Rise before the sun on day eight and head to Horton Plains, where a misty sunrise hike will take you to the sweeping lookout known as World's End. It's a popular hike, so come prepared to share the trail with other nature enthusiasts, even at this early hour. By the time the mist clears and clouds roll in over the valley for the day, you'll be at the lookout point, watching it all unfold below your feet. Continue on the trail as it loops back to the car, passing the famous, rhododendron-lined Baker's Falls along the way. Keep an eye out for Langur Monkeys and deer along the way.

By lunchtime, you'll be back in town with the rest of the afternoon off to explore. Boating, fishing, golf, and birdwatching are popular pastimes here. The area is also one of the most popular tea production areas in the country, so tea lovers may enjoy a visit to a local tea estate or garden.

Day 9: Kandy

A Sri Lankan train winds through the jungle

Start the day with a scenic train ride from Nanu Oya to Kandy alongside chatty locals. The views out the window are breathtaking, especially if the day's a rainy one and small waterfalls stream from the escarpment. Once you reach the valley beside Kandy, disembark and head to the car to save time getting into the busy city.

Check into your hotel and then head out for an orientation walk to get familiar with Kandy's streets. The rest of the afternoon is all yours. Kandy Lake, the war cemeteries, Kandy Viewpoint, and the Cylon Tea Museum are popular sights. And there are plenty of specialty shops, food tours, spice gardens, and off-the-beaten-track city corners to explore.

Day 10: Cooking classes & The Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of the Tooth

The Temple of The Tooth - located at the edge of Kandy Lake - is the most sacred site in Sri Lanka. Said to house a tooth relic from the Buddha, each morning at dawn, it attracts a steady stream of white-clad devotees, there to partake in an offering and prayer ceremony. There is a second session in the evening, but the morning one is quieter and less touristy, so start your day here for a truly authentic experience of Kandy.

After breakfast back at the hotel and perhaps a short walk to work it off, head out of town to a homestead by the river where a local woman who has been cooking for her family since she could reach the stove will impart some of her significant knowledge of home-cooked Sri Lankan cuisine. Learn about Sri Lanka's traditional herbs and spices and their role in both food and health, and then indulge in the traditional lunch you've helped prepare. After lunch, the drive back to Colombo Airport takes about 3.5 hours.

Map

Map of Southern Sri Lanka: Active Adventure - 10 Days
Map of Southern Sri Lanka: Active Adventure - 10 Days