This exciting tour is perfect for outdoorsy types who love history and animals. Upon arriving in Colombo, you'll be whisked straight to the countryside to explore a Buddhist cave complex and see hundreds of elephants. Continue hitting the classics with a range of guided excursions to see UNESCO-listed sites, hiking trails, and leopards. Finish with two nights on the beach, where you can explore an enormous colonial fort and learn how sea turtles are released back into the Indian Ocean.


  • Take a half-day safari ride in a national park that contains 700 Asian elephants 
  • Climb 1,200 granite steps to explore a UNESCO-listed ancient rock fortress
  • Go hiking and cool off with a swim in a three-tiered waterfall near the town of Ella
  • Tour a traditional tea plantation and factory and learn how Ceylon tea is produced

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Habarana Habarana
Day 2 Village Cycling Tour at Hiriwadunna, Safari at Minneriya National Park Habarana
Day 3 Transfer to Kandy, Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Visit the Matale Spice Garden Kandy
Day 4 Transfer to Gal Oya National Park, Jungle Night Walk Gal Oya
Day 5 Guided Bird Walk, Animal Monitoring Program Tour Gal Oya
Day 6 Sunrise Hike to Monkey Mountain, Transfer to Ella Ella
Day 7 Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Swim in the Ravana Falls Ella
Day 8 Transfer to Yala, Visit the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home Yala
Day 9 Safari in Yala National Park, Visit a Tea Estate, Transfer to Wadduwa Wadduwa
Day 10 Tour of Galle, Explore the Yatagala Rock Temple, Visit a Turtle Hatchery Wadduwa
Day 11 Transfer to Colombo, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Habarana

Check out some of the 153 Buddha statues in Dambulla's cave complex

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival in the country's largest city, Colombo, you'll be picked up by a driver and transferred north to the small city of Habarana—a journey of about 3.5 hours. This is a popular jumping-off point for excursions in the surrounding countryside.

Once settled, you can explore the nearby cave temple complex of Dambulla, a UNESCO-listed site that dates back to the third century BCE. Take your time as you wind deep into the rock-cut, cliffside caves to admire some of the country's most important religious art. Look for gilded interiors, painted frescoes, and over 153 Buddha statues lining the cave interiors, some of which are still used for meditation by monks. Make sure to climb to the top of the site's dramatic clifftops for panoramic views of the area.

Day 2: Village Cycling Tour at Hiriwadunna, Safari at Minneriya National Park

Take a safari in a national park known for Asian elephants

After a good night's rest, you'll begin the day with a guided and relaxing 1.8-mile (3 km) bike tour through rice paddies as you keep an eye out for native birds and wildlife. You and your guide will stop at a local house for a refreshing cup of tea served by a villager and then continue to a local temple for a good luck blessing. End the tour with an authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch freshly prepared by a local family (you can also join them for a cooking session).

The adventure doesn't end there; in the afternoon, you'll hop in a 4WD vehicle for a safari in Minneriya National Park. This 34-square-mile (89 sq km) protected area is the largest gathering place for Asian elephants on earth (about 700). During the dry summer season, the elephants migrate from all over the country to the ancient Minneriya Tank Reservoir, which was built in the third century BCE. This freshwater source is where they congregate in order to drink, bathe, and socialize. Also keep an eye out for rare Sri Lankan leopards, sloth bears, and langur monkeys. 

Day 3: Transfer to Kandy, Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Visit the Matale Spice Garden

Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Take an epic climb to the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer to the UNESCO-listed Sigiriya Rock Fortress en route to the ancient city of Kandy. Also known as the "Lion Fortress," Sigiriya sits 1,144 feet (349 m) atop a granite monolith and was built in the late fifth century CE by King Kashyapa, the leader of the Sinhalese Kingdom. Climb 1,200 granite steps through rock walls adorned with colorful frescoes to reach the gardens, defensive structures, esplanades, and sweeping vistas of the surrounding plains.

Another stop on the way to Kandy is Matale's National Spice Garden, home to an exotic collection of trees, bushes, and flowers, which lend their flavors and spices to the diverse melting pot of Sri Lanka's cuisine. Follow a local guide as he or she leads you on a journey through aromatic cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, chocolate, vanilla, and pepper. You can even buy some of your favorite spices to bring home with you. 

Plan your trip to Sri Lanka
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Once you've arrived in Kandy, you can explore the city at your own pace. This cultural center was the last stronghold of the Sinhala Kings, so there's plenty of history. A good place to start is by visiting the Royal Palace, where you can see the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha enshrined at the Dalada Maligawa

Day 4: Transfer to Gal Oya National Park, Jungle Night Walk

Look for nocturnal creatures like the pangolin
Look for nocturnal creatures like the pangolin on a nighttime jungle tour

Enjoy some free time this morning to explore more of Kandy before your departure. Perhaps you want to stroll through the lively city streets and visit the unique Gem Museum, where you will be captivated by the wonders of the exhibits' beauty. Make your city tour complete by visiting arts and crafts shops, as well as batik factories where you can pick up fabric as a souvenir.

From here, transfer to the Gal Oya Lodge, an eco-resort with 20 acres (8 ha) of private jungle, where you'll stay for two nights. Take time to relax and enjoy dinner, and then join one of the lodge's resident naturalists for a nighttime walk in the surrounding forests to see some of your nocturnal neighbors as they emerge from their daily resting spots. One of the highlights of this adventure is the chance to spot the bizarre-looking frog-mouth bird and the endangered thick-skinned pangolin.

Day 5: Guided Bird Walk, Animal Monitoring Program Tour

Look for Sri Lanka's colorful kingfisher
Look for Sri Lanka's colorful kingfisher on a bird-watching tour

Today is a free day to enjoy the resort and surrounding jungle however you wish! One option is to join a resident naturalist for a daytime walk around the lodge, where you can enjoy abundant birdlife and beautiful surroundings. The tour offers a number of possible routes through the trees and around the nearby lake, where you can observe a wide range of species, such as kingfishers, eagles, and kites, as well as several species of aquatic birds.

Later in the day, there will be an opportunity to join the naturalists yet again as they set up camera traps as part of an ongoing project to record and monitor the lodge's diverse population of wildlife. Learn more about the efforts to help conserve the local wildlife while catching a glimpse of an animal or two along the way. 

Day 6: Sunrise Hike to Monkey Mountain, Transfer to Ella

Rise early for a sunrise trek up Monkey Mountain
Take a memorable sunrise hike up Monkey Mountain

Adventurous early risers can join their naturalist guide this morning for an unforgettable 1.5-hour trek to the summit of nearby Monkey Mountain. From the top, you'll be rewarded with dramatic 180-degree views over the large forested valley as a colorful sunrise illuminates the distant hills and never-ending jungle canopy below. Then return to the hotel for a well-earned breakfast. 

In the early afternoon, you'll transfer to the pretty town of Ella, where you'll stay two nights during the next round of adventures. Enjoy the scenery along the way as you'll pass through beautiful mountains, rolling green tea plantations, and occasional waterfalls.  

Day 7: Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Swim in the Ravana Falls

Join a mix of locals and travelers as they swim in the Ravana Waterfall

Put on a sturdy pair of shoes this morning and take a memorable climb past lush tea estates, waterfalls, and rice fields to reach one of Sri Lanka's highest peaks. Rising 3,743 feet (1,141 m) above the surrounding landscape, the gentle trek up to Little Adam's Peak rewards hikers with panoramic views across the valleys and fields below. Next, you can admire a marvel of Sri Lankan engineering with a visit to the famous Nine Arch Bridge. Located along the beautiful winding Demodara railway loop, the gracefully arched bridge spans 298 feet (91 m) and rises 78 feet (24 m) above the dense jungle and pastoral fields.

Then it's time to cool off with a trip to the three-tier cascading Ravana Falls near Ella. The water plummets 82 feet (25 m) from an oval concave rock, creating peaceful rock pools on the way. Situated next to a road in the misty mountains, it's also one of the most accessible of Sri Lanka's waterfalls and is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip after a day of exploring the area.

Day 8: Transfer to Yala, Visit the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

Take a tour of a halfway home for elephants
Take a tour of a halfway home for elephants
It's time to continue the journey toward Yala National Park on Sri Lanka's south coast. This is your home for one night before an exciting safari. Along the route, you'll stop by the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, located about 3.2 miles (5 km) from the Udawalawe National Park. This organization cares for elephants in need and acts as a halfway home so that the elephants can be released back into the wild. Meet some local residents and learn about the organization's core values from a staff member. 

Day 9: Safari in Yala National Park, Visit a Tea Estate, Transfer to Wadduwa,

A lounging leopard at Yala National Park
A lounging leopard at Yala National Park

Rise early this morning to search for the elusive Sri Lankan leopard in the wilds of Yala National Park. Covering 378 square miles (978 sq km), the second-largest national park in Sri Lanka was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and its savanna-like landscape of dry thorn scrub and forest glades makes it the perfect environment for wildlife spotting. On today's half-day Jeep safari, you'll spot a diverse array of flora and fauna, including peacocks and elephants—and, if lucky, one of Sri Lanka's biggest cats.

From here, tea lovers can pay a visit to the Handunugoda Low Country Tea Plantation and Tea Factory. During the tour, you will learn the intricate art of making tea as you stroll through acres of lush tea bushes in the picturesque countryside. Then head back to the antique tea factory and learn how the tea is collected, dried, withered, and processed before making its way to your cup. While this is no longer a fully-functioning factory, you can still admire the processes and old machinery as most of the factory has been converted into a museum.

In the afternoon, you'll begin the journey to the beach town of Wadduwa, where you'll stay your last two nights. Enjoy a sunset from this west coast position!

Day 10: Tour of Galle, Explore the Yatagala Rock Temple, Visit a Turtle Hatchery

The Galle Lighthouse overlooks the Indian Ocean
The Galle Lighthouse overlooks the Indian Ocean

Today begins with a scenic guided tour of Galle. This beautiful colonial town is surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean and houses the largest occupied fort in Asia. Built by the Portuguese and later extended by the Dutch in 1663, the UNESCO-listed site spans over 90 acres (36 ha). Amid the wealth of fascinating architecture, you'll find Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, and museums, as well as stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers.

In the afternoon, take a short drive inland to get to Yatagala Temple. This quaint Buddhist temple is built within and around giant boulder-like rock formations and is believed to have been established during the first kingdom of Sri Lanka. Secluded and mostly visited by locals, the temple looks out over lush paddy fields and small villages. Look for a reclining Buddha image, which is 30 feet (9 m) in length, and a ceiling adorned with intricate paintings depicting significant events of the Buddha's life.

Next, pay a visit to the Sea Turtle Hatchery in Habaraduwa. This organization was first established in 1986 in order to protect various species of sea turtles from poachers and to prevent their extinction. Since baby turtles are supposed to be released into the ocean within four days, visitors may get the opportunity to see this process and help set them free.

Day 11: Transfer to Colombo, Depart

Sri Lanka's growing capital of Colombo
It's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka! At the appointed time, you'll be transferred to the Colombo airport for your departure flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Sri Lanka Classic Outdoor Adventure - 11 Days
Map of Sri Lanka Classic Outdoor Adventure - 11 Days