Sri Lanka's natural beauty takes center stage on this diverse and adventurous 13-day itinerary. Beginning and ending in the capital of Colombo, you'll spend your days exploring ancient temples and fortresses, hiking to secluded waterfalls, relaxing on idyllic beaches, and spotting rare wildlife in two of the country's most spectacular national parks. At night, the sounds and sights of nature will lull you to sleep at a succession of luxurious "glamping" properties.


  • Climb to the rock fortresses of Sigiriya & Pidurangala
  • Tour a working tea estate in the mountain paradise of Ella
  • Spot elephants & leopards on a safari through Yala National Park
  • Soak up some sun on the Indian Ocean beaches of Galle
  • Stay in a series of unique & luxurious glamping-style accommodations

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Kalpitiya Kalpitiya
Day 2 Explore Wilpattu National Park Kalpitiya
Day 3 Transfer to Sigiriya via Yapahuwa Kingdom & Pidurangala Rock Sigiriya
Day 4 Rural Cycling Adventure in Habarana, Visit Ancient Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 5 Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Transfer to Knuckles Knuckles
Day 6 Guided Trek in the Knuckles Mountain Range Knuckles
Day 7 Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton Seat & Tea Estate Ella
Day 8 Explore Ella Ella
Day 9 Transfer to Yala via Diyaluma Waterfall Yala
Day 10 Yala National Park Safari Yala
Day 11 Transfer to Galle, Tour the Historic Dutch Fort Galle
Day 12 Beach Day in Galle Galle
Day 13 Transfer to Colombo & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Kalpitiya

Mangrove swamps around Kalpitiya
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at Colombo Airport, you'll be met by your driver and transferred to the western coastal town of Kalpitiya. Known for its islands and marine life, Kalpitiya is an up-and-coming tourist destination, although it has a long history as an important stop-off for maritime trade and smuggling escapades. Home to a marine sanctuary that encompasses a variety of coastal habitats, from salt marshes to sand dunes to mangrove swamps, it also boasts the largest coral reef in the country. Boat trips from its Alankudah Beach offer visitors the chance to spot dolphins and even a rare blue or sperm whale. 
Get settled into your hotel, then spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach and enjoying a spectacular sunset.

Day 2: Explore Wilpattu National Park

A rare Sri Lankan leopard in Wilpattu National park
Today, you'll be picked up by your private driver to explore nearby Wilpattu National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka. The protected reserve has an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna: it's home to over 30 mammal species, including sloth bears, Sri Lankan elephants, and spotted deer. Various wetland bird species also live here, such as the pintail, whistling teal spoonbill, and white ibis. You'll have great opportunities for wildlife viewing en route—keep an eye out for the Sri Lankan leopard, currently the largest species of leopard living in Asia. After a day of stunning wildlife and natural beauty, you'll head back to Kalpitiya and spend the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure.

Day 3: Transfer to Sigiriya via Yapahuwa Kingdom & Pidurangala Rock

The 13th-century fortress of Yapahuwa
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for a scenic transfer inland towards the iconic Sri Lankan landmark of Sigiriya. Along the way, you'll stop to explore the ancient citadel of Yapahuwa, located midway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. The citadel was built around a huge granite rock that rises high above the surrounding lowlands and was once the capital of medieval Sri Lanka. Later abandoned, the fortress was transformed into a monastery by Buddhist monks. Tour the citadel to see the caves at the base of the rock (which served as shelter for the monks) and the Bodhi tree on the top.
Upon arrival in Sigiriya, climb to the top of the neighboring rock temple of Pidurangala, home to a monastery that dates back to the 3rd century BCE. You'll be met with breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and nearby Sigiriya Rock, and can pay a visit to the vast reclining Buddha statue within.

Day 4: Rural Cycling Adventure in Habarana, Visit Ancient Polonnaruwa

Explore the ruins of ancient Polonnaruwa
Set out into the countryside today on a guided cycling tour through rice paddies and back roads. You'll have the chance to interact with local farmers and learn about Sri Lankan rural life before pedaling to a quiet lake, where you can enjoy a scenic boat trip out onto the water. Afterward, cycle around the lake, keeping your eyes open for exotic birds. Break for a cup of tea or a fresh coconut along the journey, then sit down for lunch with a local family inside a mud hut.  
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In the afternoon, your driver will take you to visit the ruins of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site and capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th centuries. Enclosed by stone walls, the city was dotted with palaces, shrines, monasteries, pavilions, parks, ponds, and irrigation lakes. Many of these still stand today, with the most spectacular being the Gal Vihara temple complex. The structure was cut from a single granite wall and contains dozens of statues of reclining, sitting, and standing Buddhas, making it one of the true masterpieces of Sri Lankan art.
As evening falls, your driver will be waiting to transfer you back to Dambulla to relax after a long day.

Day 5: Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Transfer to Knuckles

Climb to the towering rock fortress of Sigiriya 
Spend the morning exploring the magnificent Sri Lankan monument of Sigiriya. The rocky monolith rises high out of the lush jungle and is home to the remains of an ancient fortress built in the late 5th century CE. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to the way visitors traditionally began their final ascent to the top of the monument, passing through the open jaws and throat of a lion. Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure today are the gigantic paws sculpted into the side of the rock. You'll find beautiful water fountains, boulder gardens, frescos, mirror walls, and relics of the castle within the UNESCO-listed site. 
Then it's time to meet your driver and transfer south to the lush, mist-laden mountains of Knuckles and your accommodations for the night.

Day 6: Guided Trek in the Knuckles Mountain Range

Trek through some of Sri Lanka's most spectacular mountain scenery today

Head deeper into the Knuckles Mountain Range today as you explore a true paradise for hikers. Today's 4-6 hour guided trek takes you along scenic mountain trails, across crystal clear rivers, and through dense forests to flowing waterfalls, lush tea plantations, and traditional small villages. Surrounded by colorful home gardens and terraced paddy fields, you'll feel a world away from fast-paced city life. The Knuckles area also represents a great variety of different forest types and climate zones, which makes it a perfect destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts of all kinds.

Day 7: Transfer to Ella, Visit Lipton Seat & Tea Estate

Views above the clouds at Lipton's Estate
Another scenic transfer this morning whisks you deep into the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, where you'll get settled in the charming mountain village of Ella. Blessed with a wonderfully cool climate, the village is surrounded by lush peaks and tea plantations, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the south coast of Sri Lanka.

In the afternoon, your driver will take you on a trip to Lipton’s Seat, one of Sri Lanka's most impressive viewpoints. The Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from this lofty spot, and today you can enjoy similar views looking out across emerald hills and tea estates. Learn more about the country's most famous export at the surrounding tea estate, where you'll tour the fields and factory and finish off the visit with a cup of world-class Ceylon tea before heading back to Ella for the evening. 

Day 8: Explore Ella

Views across the lush mountains and tea fields of Ella
Today is free to explore Ella at your leisure, with your private driver available for any transfers. This idyllic mountain town is the perfect base for relaxing, with lots of fantastic walks that lead through tea fields to temples and waterfalls. If you're feeling adventurous, take a scenic trek to Ravana Ella Falls for a quick dip in the cool waters, or climb up to Ella's Rock for breathtaking views across the countryside.

Day 9: Transfer to Yala via Diyaluma Waterfall

Climb to the top of Diyaluma Waterfall
Start this morning with a visit to Diyaluma Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the country. An enthralling and challenging hike takes you to the top of the 721-foot (220 m) drop, where several natural pools are surrounded by dense jungle and resplendent wilderness. Experience the thrill of swimming at the top of the towering natural wonder, before getting back on the road and continuing to Yala, located near Sri Lanka's southeastern coast, for the evening.

Day 10: Yala National Park Safari

Spot elephants on today's safari through Yala National Park
Covering almost 621 square miles (1000 km), the spectacular Yala National Park 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. The park's dry thorn scrub, interspersed with small dusty glades, is reminiscent of Africa, and a perfect environment for safaris.
Spend today exploring this natural wonder on a guided Jeep safari, taking your time as you search for rare flora and fauna and keeping an eye out for the park's most famous inhabitants—a sizeable herd of Sri Lankan elephants.

Day 11: Transfer to Galle, Tour the Historic Dutch Fort

Galle Dutch fort visit
Discover the historic UNESCO-listed city of Galle
A transfer down the coast today takes you to the fascinating UNESCO-listed city of Galle. Step back in time as you explore its 300-year-old Dutch fortifications, surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. After a tour of the city's historic past, you'll have time to explore its Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. Wander the streets and you'll discover stylish cafes, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers.
The city is also famous for Unawatuna Bay, a lovely cove protected by a reef. If you feel like cooling off, wrap up the afternoon with a dip in the ocean before getting settled into your accommodations for the evening. 

Day 12: Beach Day in Galle

Spend today relaxing at the beach
Spend the penultimate day of your trip at your leisure—relaxing on the beach, swimming in the warm seas, or soaking up some sun. Take a whale or dolphin watching excursion, explore more of the historic fort, or sample some mouth-watering Sri Lankan cuisine at one of the many excellent local restaurants. 

Day 13: Transfer to Colombo & Departure

Airport Departure transfer
Farewell, Sri Lanka!

After breakfast (and maybe one last morning at the beach) it's time to meet your driver for the transfer back to Colombo Airport and your departing flight. Safe travels!

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