See the best that Sri Lanka has to offer on this week-long itinerary around the country's cultural monuments and natural wonders. You'll visit historic temples in Kandy and Sigiriya, see the colorful fish market of Negombo, and learn about tea production in Hill Country. The trip features not one but two Jeep safaris in national parks, providing ample opportunities to see elephants, monkeys, and rare birds in their natural habitats.

Highlights

  • Go on Jeep safaris in Wilpattu National Park and Udawalawe National Park
  • Visit ancient temples and monuments in Anuradhapura, Dambulla, and Sigiriya
  • Tour the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy
  • Learn about tea production in Sri Lanka's Hill Country & Nuwara Eliya

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore "Little Rome" in Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Visit the Fish Market in Negombo & Continue to Wilpattu Wilpattu
Day 3 Go on a Safari in Wilpattu & Sightsee in Anuradhapura  Sigiriya
Day 4 Visit Temples in Dambulla & Sigiriya Kandy
Day 5 Tour Kandy & Learn About Tea in Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya
Day 6 Spot Elephants in the Wild in Udawalawe National Park  Udawalawe
Day 7 Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore "Little Rome" in Negombo

Catamaran on the Beach in Negombo
A traditional sailboat on the beach in Negombo

Welcome to Sri Lanka! You'll start in Negombo, known as “Little Rome” for its strong Catholic influence. The town transitioned through Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial rule, and remnants of those cultures remain today. The city's intriguing past will reveal itself as you meander past colonial architecture and quiet canals to reach a lagoon abundant with marine life. 

Day 2: Visit the Fish Market in Negombo & Continue to Wilpattu

Fish market
A colorful scene from the fish market in Negombo

Local fishermen have been harvesting lobsters, crabs, and prawns in Negombo for centuries. You'll learn about it firsthand when you visit the Negombo Fish Market early this morning (the market is held every day of the week except Sunday). This colorful and traditional market is a great place to observe the local fishing trade in action and see the amazing variety of fish and seafood that is offloaded from the boats.

Continue on to Wilpattu, where you'll check into a safari camp. Then you'll go on a Jeep safari around Wilpattu National Park, the largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park has an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna: it's home to over 30 mammal species, including leopard, sloth bear, Sri Lankan elephant, and spotted deer. Various wetland bird species also live here, such as the pintail, whistling teal spoonbill, and white ibis.

Day 3: Go on a Safari in Wilpattu & Sightsee in Anuradhapura 

Ruwanweli Stupa

A stupa (Buddhist shrine) in Anuradhapura

Wake up early for a second Jeep safari around Wilpattu National Park. Keep your eyes open for the Sri Lankan Leopard, currently the largest species of leopard living in Asia. Wilpattu National Park is known for its numerous opportunities to film and photograph these wonderful animals. In addition, Wilpattu is home to Sri Lankan sloth bears, best seen during June and July.

Continue on to Anuradhapura, a city with a large number of ancient monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is a great place to learn about the great Sinhala civilization that flourished in this region when Anuradhapura was the seat of power over 1400 years ago. Architectural and engineering marvels range from historical palaces, temples, monasteries, and ceremonial baths to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This sacred bo tree was grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Later, you'll move on to Sigiriya, where you'll spend the night.  

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Day 4: Visit Temples in Dambulla & Sigiriya

Lion's Paw at Sigiriya Rock Fortress
The massive stone-carved lion's paws at Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Head to the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya today, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Some say the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world. 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. The fortress, rising up high from the jungle, is an incredible sight to see. 

Continue to Dambulla. It's known for its Cave Temple, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Featuring impressive mural paintings and 157 statues, including a massive Buddha monument, it's a sacred pilgrimage site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the place dates back to the first century BCE, when King Valagambahu took refuge here. Today, it's worth visiting not only for the cave temple but also for the beautiful view over the countryside. You'll transfer to Kandy for an overnight.

Day 5: Tour Kandy & Learn About Tea in Nuwara Eliya

Kandy Temple
The historic temple complex in Kandy

Wake up in Kandy, strategically situated between three mountain ranges. The main highlight here is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The impressive temple complex, dating back to the 16th century, is made up of numerous buildings decorated with paintings and carvings depicting Buddha. As the name suggests, it's home to an important relic, the tooth of the Buddha, which is carefully guarded by security night and day. 

Continue onward to Nuwara Eliya, often referred to as "Little England." Colonized by the British, Sri Lanka’s highest town still retains an old-world grandeur. You'll see old colonial-style hotels, a golf club that dates back to 1889, and abundant rose gardens. The climate here is unlike anywhere else in Sri Lanka. Due to the high elevation, it offers a cooler, invigorating atmosphere that makes for a pleasant journey as you travel to a tea plantation in the afternoon. There, you'll learn about Ceylon tea, one of Sri Lanka's main exports. Observe colorfully dressed tea leaf-pickers hard at work on the sloping hills. With incredible dexterity, they fill several sacks of tea leaves each day. You'll get to see the entire process, from tea bush to teapot, on this dedicated tour. Return to Nuwara Eliya to spend the night. 

Day 6: Spot Elephants in the Wild in Udawalawe National Park 

Udawalawe National Park
Elephants crossing the path in Udawalawe National Park

Located on the boundary of Sri Lanka's wet and dry zones, Udawalawe National Park is one of the best places in the world to see wild elephants. It's not unusual to see big herds gathering to feed and bath by the waterholes — the resident population is around 400. In addition to this main attraction, Udawalawe is home to many water buffalo, lizards, sambar deer, monkeys, and a huge variety of birds. You'll have ample opportunities to enjoy native wildlife during an afternoon game drive in the park before spending the night in a luxury tented camp.

Day 7: Depart 

A massive Buddha statue, Sri Lanka

The trip comes to a close today. You'll transfer to the airport to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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