From £2,774 pp incl. UK flights
Day 1: Depart on a choice of flights to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Day 2: Arrive Colombo. Private transfer to Horathapola Estate for 1 nt.
Day 3: Continue on to Cutural Triangle for 3 nts
Day 4: Cutural Triangle - Village Walking Tour & Minneriya National Park Jeep Safari
Day 5: Cutural Triangle - Tour of Sigiriya Rock & Polonnaruwa
Day 6: Dambulla Cave Temple. Continue on to Kandy for 2 nts
Day 7: Kandy - City tour including Temple of the Tooth
Day 8: White water rafting. 2 nts Hatton Tea Country in original plantation bungalow
Day 9: Hatton Tea Country- Free day to explore tea country & enjoy the wonderful setting
Day 10: Train ride through beautiful hill country. Udawalawe National Park for 2 nts
Day 11: Elephant Transit Home private guided tour & Udawalawe National Park jeep safari
Day 12: Transfer to Sinharaja Forest Reserve for 2 nts.
Day 13: Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Escorted forest day walk
Days 14: Transfer to your choice of beach resort for 4 nts (or more).
Days 15-17: Free days on the beach and perhaps include a dolphin / whale watching tour
Day 18: Private transfer back up to Colombo in time for your flight home.
Day 19: Arrive home.
Day 1: UK Airport / Colombo, Sri Lanka
Depart on a choice of overnight flights to Colombo. Direct flights are with Sri Lanka Airlines from Heathrow, otherwise there are a range of one stop options with such airlines as British Airways, Qatar and Emirates.
Day 2: Arrive Colombo - Transfer to Horathapola Estate
On arrival you’ll be met by your private guide and transferred (1 hour) to the Horathapola Estate for 1 night.. The Horathapola Estate is a luxurious boutique hotel set within a 50 acre working coconut plantation. Relax by the large salt water swimming pool or explore the plantation's walking trails, where apart from coconuts, you’ll find tropical fruits, spices and rice grown. You can also take a bullock cart or ride a bike through the plantation and out to the neighbouring village. Don’t wander too far as afternoon tea is a celebrated event at Horathapola! Dinner is served looking out over the garden as you enjoy a selection of Sri Lankan curries prepared with estate-grown produce. All in all a gentle, authentic introduction to Sri Lanka.
Day 3: Horathapola Estate (B) - Transfer to Cultural Triangle
After a leisurely breakfast looking out over the garden, transfer 3 hours to the Cultural Triangle for 3 nights at your choice of hotel. Afternoon free.Within the Cultural Triangle you have a range of places to base yourself during your stay and we’d be happy to discuss this with you. With some much to do in the area it’s the perfect place to start your holiday, enjoy a variety of experiences and get yourself onto Sri Lanka time.
Day 6: Cultural Triangle (B) - Village Walking Tour & Minneriya National Park Jeep Safari
The area around Habarana and Sigiriya is ideal for those looking to have easy access to the culture of rural Sri Lanka. This morning join your private guide for a walk down small rural roads and sandy tracks to explore village life and gain an insight into their lifestyle, culture and hospitality.
Wake up early and drive to Hiriwaduna, a village that hugs Habarana Lake. Begin your walk along a shaded, gravel path that leads up to the reservoir. Keep your eyes out for the raptors that make the ashen trunks of long dead trees the perfect roosting spots. Enjoy a picnic breakfast in the cool shade and then cross the reservoir by boat. From here make your way along a narrow, shady path that cuts through a banana plantation until you reach a clearing in which stands a house of wattle and daub, the home of a chena farmer and his family. Enjoy a cool, sweet drink of king coconut before you begin the next phase of your walk that will lead you through vegetable plots, paddy fields and into a scrub forest. Interspersed amongst the fields you’ll see makeshift tree houses from which farmers keep watch and drive-away the wild animals during the night. This is a great way to start your Sri Lanka holiday, a gentle introduction to a side of the country that’s slowly disappearing but remains a vital part of Sri Lanka’s character.
Back to the hotel and the rest of the morning is free, then re-join your guide for an afternoon jeep safari through Minneriya National Park which is 30 minutes away. Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8,890 hectares of Minneriya National Park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to favourites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants. The park’s main attraction is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3rd century AD by King Mahasena) and is often the best place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze, as well as huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters. Back at the hotel early evening.
Day 5: Cultural Triangle (B) - Private guided Tour of Sigiriya Rock & Polonnaruwa
This morning your private guide will collect you for a tour of the Lion Rock of Sigiriya, one of Sri Lanka’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites and a must see in any visit to the Cultural Triangle as a testament to ancient artistry and architectural ingenuity. Built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa as a fortress and pleasure palace it dominates the surrounding landscape, rising 200 metres above the ground. The entrance to the original fortress was through the mouth of a lion, however the ravages of time mean that only a part of the massive paws remain today. The view from the flattened summit of the rock is spectacular and well worth the climb, but those without a head for heights can stroll around the ramparts and pleasure gardens, or take in the famous Sigiriya frescoes that can be found partway up the rock.
From here you continue on to the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa: a UNESCO World Heritage site built over one thousand years ago alongside the spectacular, carefully-engineered reservoirs that provide the region's water to this day. In its day Polonnaruwa was a thriving commercial and religious centre and as you stroll around the ruins you’ll get a feel for what life was like back then. The tour will include the statue of the great Sinhalese King Parakramabahu who built the reservoirs and the city's well preserved ruins: notable highlights of which is the fascinating area known as the Quadrangle and the impressive Gal Vihara - four separate Buddha images perfectly sculpted into one large piece of granite. If you’re interested the tour can be made by bike. Back at the hotel early afternoon.
Day 6: Cultural Triangle (B) - Dambulla Cave Temple - Kandy
After breakfast your guide will pick you up for the 2.5 hour transfer to the Ancient Capital of Kandy, stopping at the Dambulla Cave Temple en route. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 1st century BC and the cave system has been in continuous use for over 2000 years. First used as a refuge by an ancient king, who on regaining his throne commissioned magnificent carved images within the living rock. Later kings made further additions and the caves contain over 150 images of the Buddha, the largest of which is a colossal figure spanning 15 metres. Cave inscriptions from the 2nd Century BC are found and on the walls are many paintings most of which belong to the Kandy period (early 19th century). This temple is the perfect place in which to see the evolution of ancient Sri Lankan art and is an important historical site due to the amalgamation of material from many eras. From here continue on to Kandy and check-in to your choice of hotel for 2 nights.
Day 7: Kandy (B) - Private City Tour including Temple of the Tooth
Morning free then join your private guide for an afternoon’s tour of the ancient city that was the capital from 1592 until the rule of the British in the 19th Century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's an extremely picturesque setting with steep, green valleys running away from it in all directions. This afternoon’s highlights will include the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens that’s modelled on Britain's Kew Gardens, the Temple of the Tooth Relic where Buddhists believe they have enshrined a tooth of the Lord Buddha and the 88 foot tall Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue that looms protectively over the city and offers panoramic views over Kandy. Soak up the views before returning to your hotel.
Day 8: Kandy (B / D) - White Water Rafting - Tea Plantations - Hatton Bungalows
This morning head deeper into the hills and enjoy a change of pace as you board your raft at Kitulgala for a white water rafting adventure, 1.5 hours away. En route to the Hill Country this can be added to any itinerary boasting medium level (depending on time of year) white water rafting on the majestic Kelani River surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. As a nod to the film industry, its claim to fame is that it was used as the location for the film "Bridge on the River Kwai", although the bridge no longer exists. With a double monsoon, low water is rarely a problem and the best conditions are during the summer and November / December. For a more peaceful ride travel from January to April.
Lunch can be enjoyed (own expense) at the rafting centre and then it’s just a short drive (1-1.5 hours) to the Hatton, home to some of the most beautiful and iconic tea estates and atmospheric luxury accommodation options.
The landscape here has a softness to it, as the perfectly manicured tea bushes follow the folds of the gently undulating hills and the narrow roads forms ribbons that reveal one majestic vista after another, whether it be the tree studded estates, the tea pickers hard at work or lake views. No large hotels, instead you’re treated to a range of century old British tea estate managers’ bungalows that have been largely restored to their former glory. Top of the pile as the historic houses that have been impeccably restored by Dilmah Tea Company. Each of the 5 bungalows is exactly as you imagine a colonial tea plantation bungalow to be like: parquet and dark wood floors, open fire places, wide verandas that lead out to landscaped gardens complete with herbaceous borders and magnificent views across the tea plantations.
On arrival check-in to your choice of bungalow for 2 nights. The bungalows are relatively isolated and so they are all-inclusive, including all the meals and most drinks. After you settle in make your way to the veranda for afternoon tea. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore, play a game of croquet, take a swim or relax in the sitting room with your favourite book. Dinner is then served on the veranda or in the dining room.
Day 9: Hatton Tea Country- Free day to explore tea country and enjoy the wonderful setting (B / L / D)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then the day’s yours. Tea bushes seem to cover every square inch, to create mile upon mile of perfectly manicured tea terraces that are systematically swept of their tender top leaves by gangs of pickers. These images fill brochures and one of the most popular activities whilst here is to take one of the self-guided trails through the estates to a neighbouring bungalow, where you enjoy lunch (included) and are then transferred back when ready. Alternatively you can walk on or return by a different route to work up an appetite for afternoon tea!
Other popular activities include a tour of the estate’s tea factory. If you’re feeling more energetic mountain bikes are available and Adam’s Peak, one of Sri Lanka’s highest peaks and famous for Budha’s footprint near the summit can be reached from here. Start at 2am the climb takes approx. 4 hours so it’s timed that you enjoy sunrise at the peak. However we wouldn’t recommend you plan too much as the pure joy of staying somewhere like this supersedes everything else.
Day 10: Hatton (B / L) - Hill Train - Udawalawe
This morning we can include a tour of the tea factory to learn more about the processes that go into manufacturing some of the best tea in world, then it’s time to leave, a picnic lunch will be packed.
Travelling by car in air-conditioned comfort has a lot going for it, but swapping this for the train allows you to immerse yourself more into Sri Lanka life, and from Nuwara Eliya to Ella riding the rails offers the best views of the tea estates, forests, waterfalls and village life. This morning your guide will take you to the station, make sure you get on board and then meet you at Ella station. The journey takes about 4 hours as you follow the beautiful curves and ridges of the hill country landscape.
Time for lunch in Ella and then it’s time to leave the hills behind for the 4 hour drive south to Udawalawe. The changes in scenery are stunning as you start up amongst the tea plantations and then head down through jagged hills along winding roads that dramatically drop away from you to reveal amazing views. Once at the bottom tea bushes are replaced by coconut and paddy fields as you’ve dropped back into the tropics. The day will give you a full sense of the variety Sri Lanka has to offer. On arrival check in to Kalu’s Hideaway for 2 nights, a lodge like hotel on the banks of the Walawe River.
Day 11: Udawalawe (B) - Elephant Transit Home & Udawalawe National Park Jeep Safari
This morning leave the hotel and travel a short way past the Udawalawe Reservoir to the Elephant Transit Home. On the way keep your eyes out for the “beggars”, adult elephants from the park who skirt the reservoir and beg for food over the fence.
The Elephant Transit Home is sponsored by the Born Free Trust and was established in 1995 with the primary objective of the rehabilitation of orphaned baby elephants and their release back to the wild. There’s no riding or real interaction with the babies, just the pure joy and anarchy of feeding time. The elephants are largely free to wander around the grounds of the home and because it’s just across the lake to the national park it’s a much easier transition when they’re ready to join the herd.
Back to the hotel for lunch at own expense then re-join your guide for a late afternoon safari through the beautiful scenery of Udawalawe National Park. Udawalawe National Park covers an area of 31,800 hectares and was declared a protected sanctuary with full national park status in 1972. Surrounded by mountain ranges, the terrain of the park is a mixture of grassland, which of all Sri Lanka’s wildlife reserves, best rivals the Savanna of Africa and shrub jungle. Teak plantations, water holes and two important factors make this park special, the large Udawalawe Reservoir and the Walewe River, which ensure a supply of water for the fauna within. Internationally renowned for its large herd of elephants, the park is also known for several species of deer, wild boar, buffalo, jackal and very rare sightings of leopard.
Day 12: Udawalawe (B) - Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Breakfast then leave for the adventurous journey (3 hours) further cross country to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. More of a tour than a transfer, the drive will take you off the main tourist trail and so be all the more enjoyable for it. The last 10kms is along a narrow road up into the hills and gives you an early insight into what a special place this is. On arrival check-in to the Rainforest Eco Lodge for 2 nights.
The setting is superb in one of the island’s most beautiful locations rich in endemic birdlife and tropical forest. Set on a hillside looking out towards Sinharaja’s UNESCO Biosphere it offers easy access to one of Sri Lanka’s last remaining areas of virgin rainforest. A sense of adventure and engagement will definitely help get the most from your stay, a must for bird-watchers. Late afternoon & evening free to immerse yourself in your new environment.
Day 13: Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Guided Day Walk (B / L)
Sinharaja's upland landscape, with rolling ridges and valleys of dense forest, threaded with streams, pools and rivers, is a perfect refuge for birds. The climate is hot and wet, ideal for leeches and exotic tropical birds, including 18 of Sri Lanka's 20 endemic rainforest species such as the Dusky Blue Flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Blue Magpie. Sinharaja is also famous for its unusual mixed feeding flocks, usually dominated by Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the Orange-billed Babbler. Wildlife also includes Purple-faced Langurs, Toque Monkeys, wild pigs, Mouse and Barking Deer, and very rare sightings of leopards and Fishing Cats.
This morning join a local tracker for a private guided tour of the rainforest. The exact tour can be adapted to suit your interests and energy levels, but the guide will help you understand what makes Sinharaja so special and point out the wildlife, birds, plants and trees that thrive here. If you go for the day the walk will also include Kekuna Ella and Pathan Oya, 2 of the many waterfalls that dot the forest. Lunch will be a simple picnic. Back at the hotel before nightfall.
Day 14: Sinharaja (B) - Beach
This itinerary is jammed packed and a few days relaxing on the beach and reflecting on the previous 13 days wouldn’t go amiss! This morning the touring section of your holiday ends as you’re transferred out to the beautiful coastline and 4 nights (or more / less) nights on your choice of beach on the south or west coast.
Sri Lanka boasts an incredible range of resorts and hotels and so we’ll offer a selection of suggestions that we hope will fit the mark. If you’ve time a 5 minute conversation can often help us refine the choice to fit in with the style, budget and position you’re looking for.
Days 15-17: Beach Days (B)
3 full days to enjoy your beachside location and perhaps explore a bit further. Dolphin and whale watching tours are particularly popular off the south coast, as is a visit to Galle.
Day 18: Beach (B) / Home
Day free until your airport transfer and overnight flight home.
Day 14: Arrive home
Each featured itinerary is really a starting point from which to create your ideal holiday.
We can include as much or as little as you like, mix and match hotels, excursions and experiences, add extra nights and change the destinations you'd like to visit.
The common thread is that each is a privately guided holiday, allowing you to travel where and when you want, with your own private transport and dedicated guide.
- Return scheduled international flights (optional if you would like to arrange your own)
- English speaking, local guide & driver
- Choice of hotel accommodation
- Transport in private air-conditioned vehicles
- Domestic flights detailed in itinerary
- Admission fees to all attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals as detailed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entry visas International airport departure taxes if payable locally
- Optional Tours / Excursions
- Any meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses
- Tips for Guides / Drivers (discretionary)
- Travel insurance
- Any camera or video fees charged at sites
The hotels below are there as examples, designed to act as a starting point from which to create your holiday. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from and when we quote we will include other suggestions so we get to understand your likes and dislikes. Quite often clients mix and match hotel categories throughout their holiday.
Pre & Post Hotel Suggestions
Sri Lanka is rich in small hotels that offer a superb introduction or perfect conclusion to any holiday.
Hotels within Cultural Triangle
The Cultural Triangle shouldn't be missed and there's a superb range of hotel options here.
Hotels in Kandy
Sri Lanka’s last royal capital, Kandy sits high in the hills and is home to the Temple of the Tooth.
Hotels in Hatton Tea Country
Atmospheric luxury colonial tea houses are dotted across idyllic working tea country estates.
Hotels in Udawalawe National Park
One of the most beautiful parks centred on a large lake around which elephants and other wildlife thrive.
Hotels in Sinharaja Forest Reserve
This reserve is one of the island’s last remaining areas of virgin rainforest. Great bird watching.
Hotels on the South Coast Beaches
The continuous ribbon of bays offers a wide selection of hotels from large developments, through hideaway luxury resorts down to colonial style villas. The most popular beach destination during our winter months.
Hotels on the West Coast Beaches
The West Coast boast as string of established beach resorts that offer a fantastic range of luxury beach hotels with good water sport facilities.