- Climb atop the ancient Sigiriya rock, famous for its palace ruins and gardens
- Take a guided biking tour and stop to have tea and lunch with locals
- Pick up local spices and handmade batik cloth for one-of-a-kind souvenirs
- See a sacred fig tree that came from a branch where Buddha gained enlightenment
|Day 1||Arrive in Colombo, Explore||Colombo|
|Day 2||Transfer to Anuradhapura, Visit Mihintale Rock||Anuradhapura|
|Day 3||Discover Anuradhapura's Ancient Sites, Transfer to Sigiriya||Sigiriya|
|Day 4||Village Cycling Tour at Hiriwadunna, Explore Polonnaruwa||Sigiriya|
|Day 5||Transfer to Kandy, Visit the Matale Spice Garden||Kandy|
|Day 6||Tour of Historic Kandy, Transfer to Nuwara Eliya||Nuwara Eliya|
|Day 7||Transfer to Koslanda, Swim in the Ellewala Waterfall||Koslanda|
|Day 8||Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Swim in the Ravana Falls||Koslanda|
|Day 9||Visit the Elephant Transit Home, Climb Mulkirigala, Transfer to Tangalle||Tangalle|
|Day 10||Free Day in Tangalle||Tangalle|
|Day 11||Transfer to Colombo, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Explore
Welcome to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka! Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. Once you check into your hotel, take the rest of the day to explore at your own pace.
Colombo is a vibrant place where modern high-rise buildings rub shoulders with historic colonial architecture. Since this is your only day in the city, consider jumping in a tuk-tuk and hitting a few cultural highlights like the Red Mosque, Independence Square, Colombo Fort, and the Old Parliament. If you'd prefer quiet amid the city's hustle and bustle, head to the oceanfront Galle Face Green, a favorite hangout spot for locals and tourists alike—especially at sunset. Or take a break in Viharamahadevi Devi Park, the city's largest and oldest park, where you'll find tall flowering trees and ample green space.
Day 2: Transfer to Anuradhapura, Visit Mihintale Rock
After breakfast at your hotel in Colombo, you'll be picked up by a private driver for your four-hour transfer north to the UNESCO-listed city of Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. Upon arrival in the North Central Province, you'll have a few hours to spend at Mihintale Rock, the place that is historically recorded as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Legend has it that this rock was the meeting place of the Buddhist monk Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka of India, and King Devenampiyatissa.
Given this important slice of history, Mihintale is today a key pilgrimage site for Sri Lankan Buddhists and is home to several majestic religious monuments, including a magnificent 40-foot (12.2 m) stupa that dates back to the first century BCE. You can visit the site independently or with a local guide who is highly knowledgeable about Buddhism and Sri Lanka's ancient history.
Day 3: Discover Anuradhapura's Ancient Sites, Transfer to Sigiriya
Step into the past today as you explore more of the sacred city of Anuradhapura. Dating back to the fourth century BCE, Sri Lanka's ancient capital remains the heart of the island's Buddhist culture and heritage, with a remarkable number of important pilgrimage sites and world-renowned wonders in the vicinity. Not only will you find the island's oldest Buddhist shrines here, but also palaces, monasteries, temples, white dagobas (relic chambers), intricately carved monuments, and an irrigation system of reservoirs and canals.
While here, keep an eye out for the Brazen Palace, constructed by King Dutugemunu in the second century BCE. During its heydey, it had 1,600 granite columns supporting a nine-story structure topped with bronze tiles. Also pay a visit to the oldest documented tree on earth—Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree that was grown from a branch of the tree where Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment.
Day 4: Village Cycling Tour at Hiriwadunna, Explore Polonnaruwa
After breakfast, you'll head out into the countryside on a guided 1.8-mile (3 km) cycling tour through the area's picturesque rice paddies. As you pedal on back roads at a relaxed pace, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the peace and quiet while keeping an eye out for native birds and wildlife.
During the ride, you and your guide will stop at a local house for a refreshing cup of tea served by a villager. Then continue to a local temple for a good luck blessing before ending the adventure with an authentic Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch freshly prepared by a local family (you can also join them for a cooking session). This experience lasts about three hours.
You'll have the afternoon to explore the hidden history of UNESCO-listed Polonnaruwa, the second capital of Sri Lanka. Once a thriving city that ruled the island from the 11th through 13th centuries, today, you'll find the incredibly preserved ruins of this ancient city with impressive palaces, shrines, and statues. While here, wander through the Gal Vihara temple complex, where you'll find dozens of reclining, sitting, and standing Buddha statues.
Day 5: Transfer to Kandy, Visit the Matale Spice Garden
Today, you'll take a two to three-hour transfer to Sri Lanka's UNESCO-listed royal city of Kandy. This is also the gateway to Sri Lanka's picturesque Hill Country, an area that is surrounded by a stunning landscape of hills, valleys, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls.
Upon arrival, spend some time at the Matale Spice Garden for a fascinating insight into Sri Lankan history, botany, and gastronomy. Located just outside of Kandy, the fragrant gardens are home to an exotic collection of trees, bushes, and flowers, which all 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. At the end of the tour, you can buy some of your favorite spices to bring a little bit of Sri Lanka home.
Day 6: Tour of Historic Kandy, Transfer to Nuwara Eliya
Today begins with a guided tour of historic Kandy. This is a great opportunity to visit the Royal Palace overlooking serene Lake Kandy, which 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.
From here, you'll take an unforgettable journey through the heart of Sri Lanka's Hill Country, boarding a train to Nanu Oya, a small village in the foothills. The famously scenic three-hour route meanders through lush mountains and narrow tunnels, with sweeping views across manicured tea plantations, steep valleys, and dramatic waterfalls.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Transfer to Koslanda, Swim in the Ellewala WaterfallToday you'll make your way from Nuwara Eliya to Koslanda, a journey of about two to three hours, where you'll spend a few days in Sri Lanka's pristine natural surroundings. For a refreshing break, head to the Ellewala Waterfall near Wellawaya, where you can walk to a beautiful cascade hidden in the dense jungles. The gentle falls plunge into a natural turquoise swimming hole, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing swim—and it's even suitable for children with areas of shallow water.
Day 8: Hike to Little Adam's Peak, Swim in the Ravana Falls
Admire a marvel of Sri Lankan engineering today with a train ride over the famous Nine Arch Bridge in the town of Ella. 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.
Next, put on a pair of walking shoes and take a memorable climb past lush tea estates, waterfalls, and rice fields to reach one of Sri Lanka's highest trails. Rising 3,743 feet (1,141 m) above the surrounding landscape, the gentle trek up to Little Adam's Peak rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramic views across the valleys and fields below.
You'll then have the chance to cool off with a dip at Ravana Falls. Located in the misty mountains around Ella, the three-tier cascading waterfall is a must-see for adventurous types. The water plummets 82 feet (25 m) from an oval concave rock, creating peaceful rock pools on the way. Situated next to a road, it's also one of the most accessible of Sri Lanka's waterfalls and is the perfect spot to cool down after a day of exploring the mountains and villages in the area.
Day 9: Visit the Elephant Transit Home, Climb Mulkirigala, Transfer to Tangalle
Today you'll have an opportunity to visit an Elephant Transit Home, 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 when they are ready.Then it's time to stretch your legs again with a visit to the temples of Mulkirigala, whose magnificent rock-cut caves date back to the third century BCE. Walk up a series of stairways and terraces past ancient carvings, statues, and inscriptions toward a sacred fig tree. Admire the remarkable intact paintings depicting Buddhist history, and climb to the top to reach the historic white stupa, where you'll be rewarded with incredible views across the countryside. From here, you'll transfer two to three hours to a town on the south coast called Tangalle. Make sure to head to the coast in time for sunset!
Day 10: Free Day in Tangalle
It's time to hit the beach! Tangalle offers a protected bay and gorgeous white-sand shores, not to mention a mild climate, making it an ideal spot to kick back and enjoy the Indian Ocean.
If you have the energy for more sightseeing, you can always visit nearby Galle, which sits on a large bay and has the distinction of once being the chief port of Sri Lanka. The Dutch first arrived in 1602 and colonized the island mainly to protect their trading interests in the Indian Ocean. In this charming town, you'll find many well-preserved buildings that once acted as Dutch law courts and administrative centers. Today you'll find cafés, boutiques, and art galleries, instead.
However, the most iconic structure is Galle Fort, a UNESCO-listed site originally built by the Portuguese and later extended by the Dutch in 1663. The fort complex sits on a rocky peninsula on the bay's north end and spans about 130 acres. It also enjoys the distinction of being Asia's largest colonial-built fort.
Day 11: Transfer to Colombo, Depart
It's time to say goodbye to Sri Lanka! At the appointed time, your driver will pick you up for the drive up the coast to the airport in Colombo, where you'll catch your departing flight. Safe travels!
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