The Highlights of Sri Lanka 13 Days

Sri Lanka Travel – Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Sri Lanka Travel Agent – This classic itinerary takes you on a tour of Sri Lanka’s essential sights and showcases the huge variation that is crammed into this small Island. The tour starts with a night in Negombo near to the airport to recover from your flight before driving to the cultural triangle region to explore the Buddhist relics and Ancient Cities at the heart of the country.

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Head south for 2 nights in Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, home to the temple of the sacred Buddha’s tooth before making your way by train through the tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya at the heart of the Hill Country where the climate is much cooler. After visiting the unique Horton Plains National Park, continue south, back down through the hills and the sleepy village of Ella to the Yala National Park with its abundant wildlife. From there drive along the south coast, spending two nights in the famous Dutch Fort of Galle, before your final night in Sri Lanka’s sprawling capital, Colombo.

Day 1: Colombo – Negombo

On arrival in Colombo you will be welcomed to Sri Lanka by your private driver and transferred to your hotel in nearby Negombo.

This afternoon is at leisure to relax at your hotel or visit the nearby beach.

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Day 2: Negombo – Dambulla – Habarana

After breakfast, your driver will meet you at your hotel and you will set off for Dambulla, in the cultural triangle region, a journey of approximately 3 hours.

On arrival in Dambulla you will be taken on a tour to the famous Golden Rock Cave Temple complex. The caves are located at the top of a hill and the only access is on a pathway and stairs carved into the hillside, it is possible to drive up to a point about half way up for those who don’t fancy walking all the way from the bottom.

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At the top you are rewarded with 5 magical and dimly lit caves crammed with Buddhist statues and murals. Dating back over 2000 years the caves are of huge significance to Sri Lanka’s Buddhists. After exploring the caves and taking in the impressive views from the top (on a clear day you will get a very good view of Sigiriya Rock), descend the hill, back to the comfort of your air-conditioned car.

Continue by road to your hotel in the nearby town of Habarana, about 30 minutes’ drive from Dambulla.

Day 3: Habarana – Sigiriya – Minneriya National Park – Habarana

Early this morning you will be driven to the bottom of the Sigiriya rock, one of Sri Lanka’s most famous and striking attractions. The rock is best climbed early in the morning and depending on your time of departure, you may wish to arrange for a packed breakfast to be taken with you, this can be arranged at your hotel the night before.

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On arrival at the rock you will commence the climb with an expert local guide who will explain the ancient history of this unique rock fortress. Walk through the extensive gardens, ringed by an intimidating moat and up the steep steps, passing through the famous Lion’s Paw to the summit where you will enjoy the jaw-dropping views out over the Sri Lankan countryside. After some time to rest, descend the rock and meet up with your driver who will take you for lunch at a local restaurant (payable locally).

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In the afternoon you will be driven about 30 minutes north-east from Sigiriya for a private jeep safari. Depending on the season and conditions on the ground, the safari will either be in the Minneriya National Park or the Hurulu Eco-Park, both famed for their elephant populations. This area is known locally as the ‘elephant corridor’ due to the large number of elephants that pass through at certain times of year when the water dries up in different parts of the country. As well as elephants you are also likely to see deer, monkeys and many rare species of bird. Return to your hotel after your safari and spend the evening at leisure.

Day 4: Habarana – Polonnaruwa – Habarana

After breakfast this morning you will be taken on a tour of the ruined ancient city of Polonnaruwa. A well-planned city defended by enclosing walls (around 5 km of which still remain), graced by palaces, shrines, monasteries, pavilions, parks, ponds and irrigation lakes. Polonnaruwa is strewn with ruins in a resplendent state of preservation.

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This afternoon is at leisure to relax back at your hotel or explore the area around Habarana and the nearby lakes independently. Bicycles can be rented locally and are a good way to explore.

Day 5: Habarana – Pinnawala – Kandy

After breakfast, head south by road to the Millenium Elephant Foundation in Pinnawala. En-route, stop near the city of Matale to visit a Spice Garden. The total journey time is approximately 4 hours.

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This afternoon, you will visit the Millennium Elephant Foundation. The foundation was set up in 1999 on an old estate to help to care for and protect Sri Lankan elephants. Visitors can help to wash the elephants and take a short ride on an elephant around the estate. The MEF is open from 9am to 4pm daily and you can discuss with your driver how long you would like to spend there. A short elephant ride is included in the cost of entry, but longer rides are available and the extra cost payable locally.

After visiting the Elephant Foundation you will be driven to the bustling hill capital of Kandy and check into your hotel.

Day 6: Kandy

After breakfast visit the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, where a rare collection of tropical exotic and indigenous flora including the famous Orchid House could be viewed. The Gardens are renowned for the collection of a variety of orchids and include more than 4000 species of plants, including of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Attached to the gardens is the National Herbarium. Your guide will leave you to have some time at leisure to potter around the area and explore independently before being taken back into Kandy, where you will have the opportunity if you wish to visit a local gem museum to learn about the vast selection of gems that are mined in the nearby countryside.

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After lunch at a local restaurant, you will be driven up the hill south of the lake to a special vista point, where you can get a bird’s eye view of this remarkable city. The famous Kandy Lake was built in 1807 and forms an attractive centre-piece for the town. Return to your hotel in the afternoon for some time at leisure to relax. In the late afternoon you will be met again by your guide and taken to the atmospheric old Red Cross Hall in the centre of the city to see a Kandyan Cultural Show.

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The show features graceful and rhythmic dancers and drummers demonstrating some traditional Kandyan dance and music. The show culminates in an impressive fire-walking display. After the show take a short walk along the lakeside to visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most important places in all of Sri Lanka, housing the country’s most sacred religious relic, the tooth of the Buddha. You will arrive in time to see the evening ‘Puja’ or ceremony which lasts for around one hour and involves lots of noisy drumming and excitement. Most of the ceremony actually takes place behind closed doors, but at the end, the tooth relic is opened to the public gaze. Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.

Day 7: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya

After breakfast you will be transported to the train station in Peradeniya, just outside Kandy, and board your train up into the hill station. The railway ride up through the hill country is slow but unforgettable and you will take in some breath-taking vistas as you pass through the small villages and tea plantations of the hill country region. The journey to Nanu Oya, just outside Nuwara Eliya, takes around 4 hours and your driver will go by car with your luggage and meet you at the station the other end and transfer you to your hotel.

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Please note that whilst we will endeavour to get the best available seats for you on the train, the facilities on board will not be as comfortable as you are used to on western trains.

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This afternoon you will be taken out of Nuwara Eliya to visit a nearby tea-factory. Here you can learn about the process involved in the manufacturing of tea from plucking the green leaves on the hill side to packing up the processed tea ready to export around the world. Enjoy a fresh cup after looking around the factory before returning to your hotel in Nuwara Eliya.

Day 8: Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains National Park – Nuwara Eliya

Rise early this morning, collect your packed breakfast from reception and leave for the Horton Plains National Park, the highest plateau in the country. Horton Plains is one of the most important national parks in Sri Lanka particularly for its topographical variations. It has unique vegetation and is famous for many rare and endemic highland birds.

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The most awesome physical feature of the Horton Plains is the escarpment that falls 880 meters to the lowlands of the southern region of the island. Aptly known as the ‘World’s End’ the view from the precipice of the countryside below towards the south coast is breath-taking. There are a number of trekking routes around the park which you can take depending on how long you would like to walk for. Your driver will wait for you at the park entrance and you will be accompanied on your trek by a local English speaking guide.

Return to Nuwara Eliya in the afternoon for some time at leisure.

Day 9: Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Yala National Park

After breakfast, your driver will transfer you south-west, out of the hill country to the Yala National Park on the south coast. En-route, stop in the sleepy village of Ella for lunch and some time to see the nearby Rawana Ella Falls and cave. Continue to your hotel in Tissamaharama, on the south-east edge of the park.

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In the late afternoon you will be taken on a safari tour of the Yala National Park in a private open-air jeep. Yala is the most famous park in Sri Lanka and boasts one of the most abundant and accessible wildlife populations in Asia. Keep your eyes peeled for Elephants, Deer, wild Boar, wild Buffaloes, Monkeys, Sloth-Bears, Crocodiles and Leopards, as well as a huge variety of exciting birdlife.

Day 10: Yala National Park – Galle

Early this morning, collect your packed breakfast and set off for a morning jeep safari in the park, returning to your hotel in the mid-morning to freshen up.

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Set off from your hotel, heading west along the south coast of the island towards the famous Dutch settlement of Galle, now one of Sri Lanka’s largest cities. En-route, pass through the sleepy coastal village of Tangalle and stop to visit the famous lighthouse at Dondra Head. Dondra Head is the southernmost point in the Indian sub-continent. The 160 foot British period lighthouse is located in a beautiful garden and is considered the highest lighthouse in Asia. It is 161 feet in height and contains 7 floors, 14 two-panel yellow colour windows and 196 steps to the top. All the building material including bricks, steel were imported from England.

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The lighthouse is still active and helps guide ships and boats which sail on the Indian Ocean. Over 250 ships are said to pass this area daily and although they now have GPS, most of them still use the signals beamed by the lighthouse. It also transmits radio wave signals to surrounding lighthouses in Sri Lanka. Between the Lighthouse and Antarctica lies nothing but 20,000km of empty ocean. On arrival, check-into your hotel in the Galle Fort. Your total driving time today is approximately 5 hours.

Day 11: Galle

This morning your driver will take you into the famous Galle Fort. The magnificent Dutch fort is the most popular attraction of the town and is one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The old colonial atmosphere is still very much alive around the fort and amidst its many historical buildings. Walk around the fort stopping at various points of interest and soaking in the fine views out over the Indian Ocean and into the famous Galle Cricket Ground.

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This afternoon return to your hotel for some time at leisure.

Day 12: Galle – Colombo

This morning you will be met at your hotel and transferred north, along the new Southern Expressway, to Colombo, a journey of approximately 1 hour depending on traffic conditions.

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This afternoon drive through the commercial and city centre area known as the “Fort”, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century where grand colonial era buildings stand alongside the huge modern office structures of this fast moving city. Drive past the Town hall, and the Independence Square. Visit a Buddhist temple and a Hindu Kovil to experience the diversity of religion, ethnicity and customs of the people.

Day 13: Sri Lanka Departure

After an early breakfast you will be met by your driver and transferred to the airport for your flight home. Sri Lanka Travel – Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Sri Lanka Travel Agent,

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