On this thrilling 10-day itinerary, you'll hike, raft, and zipline your way across Sri Lanka's most dramatic and diverse landscapes. Explore the fortresses and rock temples of the Cultural Triangle, brave waterfalls and whitewater rapids in the Hill Country, and go off-road to search for elephants in Udawalawe National Park. Your adventure ends on the south coast with some well-earned downtime on the tropical beaches of Unawatuna.

Highlights

  • Climb 1,200 steps to the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya 
  • Take a whitewater rafting trip down the Kelani River
  • Soar across Sri Lanka's lush tea country by zipline
  • Watch the sunrise from the sacred summit of Adam's Peak
  • Spot elephants on safari in Udawalawe National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Dambulla & Cave Temple Complex Dambulla
Day 2 Rural Village Trail in Habarana, Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress Dambulla
Day 3 Transfer to Kandy, Temple of the Sacred Tooth & Cultural Show Kandy
Day 4 Visit the Traditional Village of Heeloya Kandy
Day 5 White Water Rafting in Kitulgala, Transfer to Adam's Peak Adam's Peak
Day 6 Transfer to Ella & Sri Lanka's Tea Country Ella
Day 7 Flying Ravana Mega Zipline Ride, Hike to Diyaluma Waterfall Ella
Day 8 Transfer to Udawalawe, Safari in Udawalawe National Park Udawalawe
Day 9 Transfer to the Beaches of Unawatuna via Galle  Unawatuna
Day 10 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Dambulla & Cave Temple Complex

Intricate ancient art fills the cave temples of Dambulla

Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be greeted by your driver and transferred northeast to Dambulla in the heart of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle.

Spend the afternoon delving deep into Dambulla's magnificent UNESCO-listed cave temple complex. The ancient marvel is home to some of the country's most important religious artifacts dating back to the first century BCE. Wander through a series of caves to marvel at gilded interiors, dramatic murals, and an incredible collection of holy statues, including a 47-foot (14 m) reclining golden Buddha. Then climb to the temple's rocky clifftops for sweeping views across the surrounding forests and countryside.

Day 2: Rural Village Trail in Habarana, Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The iconic rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle
The rock fortress of Sigirya rises 1,124 feet (349 m) out of the jungle

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 a lunch of curry and rice with a local family inside a mud hut.

Next, you'll head to the iconic monument of Sigiriya, a UNESCO-listed site that rises high out of the surrounding jungle and is home to the remains of an ancient fortress built in the late fifth century CE. The name translates to "Lion Rock," a reference to how visitors traditionally began their final ascent to the top of the monument, passing through a lion's open jaws and throat. Today only the gigantic paws sculpted into the rock remain. Climb a series of dramatic stairways to find beautiful water fountains, boulder gardens, frescos, mirror walls, and relics of the castle.

Day 3: Transfer to Kandy, Temple of the Sacred Tooth & Cultural Show

Views across the serene Lake Kandy to the Royal Palace

Located next to the more famous Sigiriya, the magnificent rock temple of Pidurangala dates back to the 3rd century BCE and was the site of an ancient monastery. Once home to over 500 monks, today you can visit the vast reclining Buddha statue within and climb to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and nearby Sigiriya Rock. Afterward, your driver will be waiting to transfer you south to Kandy, Sri Lanka's cultural capital.

Strategically situated between three mountain ranges, the city serves as a welcoming gateway to Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Spend today touring the historic Royal Palace on the edge of Lake Kandy. Stroll through the palace's shrines, temples, and gardens before visiting its crown jewel: Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic). Dating to the 16th century, it holds Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic: a tooth from the Buddha. As the evening falls, you can attend a fascinating cultural show to see some great examples of traditional Sri Lankan music and dance.

Day 4: Visit the Traditional Village of Heeloya

A change of pace in the traditional village of Heeloya
A change of pace in the traditional village of Heeloya
Immerse yourself in the customs of local Sri Lankan life today with a day trip to the traditional village of Heeloya. You'll help pick fruit and vegetables in the village's fields and gardens, trek to a beautiful nearby waterfall, spot native wildlife, then sit down to a delicious meal of local specialties. After a day of new experiences and new friends, your driver will be waiting to transfer you back to Kandy in time for dinner.

Day 5: Whitewater Rafting in Kitulgala, Transfer to Adam's Peak 

Views from the summit of Adam's Peak

Head south with your driver today, stopping first for a morning of adventure in Kitulgala. Set within a lush wet zone rainforest, you might recognize this region as the filming location of David Lean's 1957 epic, "Bridge on the River Kwai." See the dramatic Kelani River's rocky gorges and rushing rapids up close with an unforgettable whitewater rafting excursion. Suitable for both beginners and experts, the 90-minute runs travel along 4 miles (6.5 km) of incredible Class II and III-rated rapids, with names like the "Rib Cage," "Head Chopper," and "Butter Crunch."

Afterward, get back on the road and continue to the central highlands and your hotel near Adam's Peak. Known as Sri Pada or the "sacred footprint," the mountain is a place of pilgrimage for all of Sri Lanka's ethnic communities. Buddhists believe that the peak features a footprint made by the Buddha, to Christians, it's the spot where Adam first set foot on earth, and for Hindus, it bears the footprint of Lord Shiva. Get to bed early tonight, and make sure to set your alarm—in the early hours of the morning, you'll ascend the mountain to reach the summit for a brilliant, cloud-free sunrise.

Day 6: Transfer to Ella & Sri Lanka's Tea Country

Views across the lush mountains and tea fields of Ella
Views across the lush mountains and tea fields of Ella
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A scenic transfer today 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.

Spend the rest of the day exploring your surroundings, with your 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 past railway tracks and tea plantations to reach Ella's Rock for breathtaking views across the countryside.

Day 7: Flying Ravana Mega Zipline Ride, Hike to Diyaluma Waterfall

Flying Ravana Mega Zip-Line Ride
Take flight with a zipline ride across the scenic Ella Gap

See the spectacular mountain scenery of Ella from a bird's eye perspective today as you soar across Mini Adam's Peak and the famous Ella Gap. The two-wire zipline stretches for more than 1,500 feet (457 m), slides at a maximum speed of 50 mph (80 kph), and offers breathtaking views over the iconic tea estates and lush greenery below.

Back on solid ground, set out on a hike through stunning highland scenery to reach Diyaluma Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the country. An enthralling trek 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 a refreshing swim at the top of the towering natural wonder. 

Day 8: Transfer to Udawalawe, Safari in Udawalawe National Park

Asian elephants grazing in Udawalawe National Park

Transfer southwest today, where you'll journey into the heart of Udawalawe National Park on an unforgettable wildlife safari. With an estimated 400 elephants living within the park's boundaries, you may be able to spot a herd gathering to feed and bathe at a waterhole. Keep an eye out for water buffalo, monkeys, water monitor lizards, sambar deer, and even the occasional leopard. You'll also spot many indigenous bird species like hornbills, eagles, and the distinctive red-faced malkoha.

Day 9: Transfer to the Beaches of Unawatuna via Galle

Tour the incredible fortified city of Galle
Tour the incredible fortified city of Galle

It's time to head to the beach! This morning your driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you southwest to the popular coastal town of Unawatuna. Stop en route at the UNESCO-listed city of Galle, where you can explore 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 browse its Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. Wander the streets and discover stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers. 

The rest of the day is free for you to unwind on the white sand beaches of Unawatuna. Sheltered by an offshore coral reef, the turquoise waters here are warm and tranquil, making them perfect for swimming and watersports. For a more active afternoon, hike the nearby Japanese Peace Pagoda for sweeping views over the coast, visit a local sea turtle farm and hatchery, or join a whale and dolphin watching boat trip. As evening falls, head to one of the many local restaurants serving mouthwatering Sri Lankan cuisine and watch a colorful sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Day 10: Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart

Spend a final morning at the beach before your departure
Enjoy a leisurely final morning on the beaches of Unawatuna. When the time comes, your driver will pick you up at the hotel and take you to the airport and your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Sri Lanka Outdoor Adventure: Dambulla to Unawatuna - 10 Days
Map of Sri Lanka Outdoor Adventure: Dambulla to Unawatuna - 10 Days