The Undiscovered North of Sri Lanka 14 Days
Sri Lanka Tour – Sri Lanka Holidays – Sri Lanka Vacations – This adventurous and unique tour gives you a taste of Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern Provinces, which are re-emerging after over 25 years of isolation during the Sri Lankan Civil War. This is a varied itinerary with elements to satisfy every seasoned traveller, from those who love ancient culture, to wildlife enthusiasts, to those whose ideal holiday involves time relaxing on untouched beaches and exploring undiscovered Islands.
The itinerary moves from the bustling capital, Colombo, to the ancient capital of Anuradhapura, travelling by train. Here you will see the sacred Buddhist heart of the cultural triangle and do a private wildlife safari in Wilpattu National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s less visited, before continuing north to the previously closed off city of Jaffna. Spend 3 days exploring Jaffna and its nearby islands with their colourful Hindu temples and distinctly Tamil culture, quite different from elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
Continue down the east coast, spending 4 days split between 2 fabulous beach resorts in the quiet village of Kuchchaveli, near Trincomalee and on the white sand of Passekudah beach. Stop for 2 further nights in the Cultural Triangle on the way back to the west coast, climbing Sigirya Rock and indulging in another wildlife safari, this time in the Minneriya National Park, before your final night in a fabulous boutique hotel just a short drive from the airport.
Day 1: Colombo
On arrival in Colombo you will be welcomed to Sri Lanka by your private driver and transferred to your hotel in the city. This afternoon is at leisure to relax at your hotel or explore the capital independently.
Day 2: Colombo
This morning 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 the famous Gangaramaya Buddhist temple and a Hindu Kovil to experience the diversity of religion, ethnicity and customs of the people. Finish your morning with a visit to the National Museum, home to a large collection of important Sri Lankan regalia. This afternoon is at leisure to relax at your hotel or explore the capital independently.
Day 3: Colombo – Anuradhapura
After an early breakfast you will be met by your driver and transferred to the railway station for your train journey to Anuradhapura.
Catch the 07.15 train from nearby Colombo Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Watch the countryside change as the train meanders its way north through the heart of Sri Lanka. The train is scheduled to arrive at Anuradhapura at 11.17 and on disembarking your driver will be at the station to meet you.
On arrival, you will be met and taken to visit the ancient remains of Mihintale, a sacred place which is regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The rock is dotted with shrines and rock dwellings. A grand stairway of 1840 steps made of granite slabs, 5 meters wide, leads to the summit with its splendid views of the surrounding countryside. Unless otherwise requested, your driver will take you to a point about half of the way up to cut out the walking. The most interesting and important sights of Mihintale are at the top.
After exploring Mihintale, continue to the ancient city of Anuradhapura itself. Founded in the 4th century B.C., Anuradhapura has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982. It has the largest number of ancient monuments of the great Sinhala civilization which has flourished in Sri Lanka. You will see some of the most famous as well as the tallest Dagobas of Sri Lanka, Ruwanweliseya Dagoba, built in the 2nd century BC and famous for its elephant walls and the Thuparama Dagoba, built in the 3rd century.
The ‘Sri Maha Bodhi’ or the sacred Bo tree at the heart of Anuradhapura is over 2200 years old and reputed to have grown from a branch of the very tree under which “The Buddha” attained enlightenment – making it the oldest historically documented tree in the world. Continue to your hotel in the late afternoon to check-in and spend the evening at leisure. Dinner is included at your hotel.
Day 4: Anuradhapura – Wilpattu National Park – Jaffna
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and head to nearby Wilpattu, for a private jeep safari. Wilpattu is one of Sri Lanka’s largest and most interesting national parks. The wildlife population is starting to return after years of abuse and the park today is home to countless mammals, reptiles and rare birdlife and offers one of the best nature experiences anywhere on the island.
After your excursion, continue by road to Jaffna. This is a long drive of 4-5 hours, depending on stops. En-route, pass through the town of Vavuniya, a town re-emerging from a troubled past on the front line of the civil war. Arrive in Jaffna in the late afternoon and check into your hotel.
Day 5: Jaffna – Nainativu Island – Jaffna
After an early breakfast drive for around 90 minutes to Kurikadduvan jetty (Kurikattuvan). The road from Jaffna runs along a causeway to Kayts Island and another causeway connects Kayts with Punkudutivu Island. At the far end of Punkudutivu Island is Kurikadduvan Jetty from where you will catch the ferry bound for Nainativa Island.
The ferry ride lasts about 15 minutes. Nainativu island, also known as Nagadeepa Island, is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the Gulf of Mannar and lies about 30 miles from Sri Lanka (Jaffna) and 35 miles from India. Merchants have long come here, and the surrounding islands, to buy conch shells that have been harvested in the warm shallow waters in the Gulf. On the island you will visit the temple and stupa at Nagadeepa Vihara. It is said that Lord Buddha preached Dhamma to two warring Naga kings, Mahodara and his nephew Chulodara, at this site during his second visit to Sri Lanka (five years after attaining Enlightenment).
The Lord Buddha also intervened, and mediated, in a dispute between these kings over the possession of a gem-studded throne and they as a mark of reverence offered it to the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha returned the throne to them and they later enshrined it in the stupa located next to the temple. Afterwards you will visit a second temple – Naga Pooshani Amman Kovil. The original temple was built by a rich foreign trader, but was demolished in the 16th century by Portuguese. The present day temple was rebuilt in the 18th century. Many parents bring their new-born babies to this temple seeking the blessing of Goddess Meenkashi (wife of Shiva) to whom the temple is now dedicated. After the sightseeing you will take the ferry back to the mainland.
This afternoon take a brief city tour starting with a drive through the city centre to view the Jaffna Library, which was burnt down on the night of the 31 May 1981, the Dutch Fort which was initially built by the Portuguese in 1619 and then re-built, and expanded, by the Dutch during the second half of the 17th & 18th centuries, and the Thuraiyappa Stadium which is named after the late Mayor of Jaffna. You will also see the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil which is one of the most important Hindu temples in Sri Lanka. Originally founded in 948AD, the present building dates back to the 18th Century. The original temple used to stand on the site presently occupied by St. James Church about a quarter mile from the present temple, but this was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1620. The modern day temple plays host to the most important religious festival of the Jaffna Peninsula – the 26 day long annual chariot festival which ends on the August full moon.
Day 6: Jaffna – Delft Island – Jaffna
Rise early, collect your packed breakfast and leave for Kurikadduvan jetty to catch the 06:30 am ferry to Delft Island. The ferry journey takes around 30 minutes to reach the island which is just 50 square kilometres in size and is surrounded by shallow waters. Locally-hired transport (around US$35) will take you on an excursion around the island. Roots of the Dutch era are still clearly visible with scattered ruins of the Dutch Fort and Court House located in the grounds of Delft Hospital.
This hospital plays an important role in the lives of the islanders as snake-bites are responsible for a high number of fatalities here. On the tour you will also see a giant hollow ‘baobab tree’ big enough for about five people to stand comfortably in its cavity, the old stables of the Dutch era and ‘giant foot prints’ which Hindus refer to as the foot prints of Lord Hanuman (the monkey god of Ramayana mythology).
Other sites include ancient Buddhist ruins at one end of the island and to the west of the island temple ruins that were designed in South Indian Chola style. You may also see a pigeon house designed by the Portuguese, when pigeons were used as a mode of communication, and groups of wild ponies as you travel around. After the sightseeing you can have lunch at the missionary school (payable locally) before making your way back to Jaffna.
This afternoon take a tour around Jaffna peninsula. Your first stop will be at the ‘Kandurugoda Stupas’ (Kantharodai Vihara), a Buddhist site consisting of 60 Dagobas believed to contain holy relics of Arahant monks. It is also believed that the Lord Buddha visited this site during his second visit to Sri Lanka. Afterwards move on to the ‘Nilavarai Bottomless well’. Villagers narrate stories as to how numerous experiments have been carried out to determine the depth of the well: according to one, a cord was dropped down with a video camera fixed to it. The experiment was aborted when the cord marked a depth of 500m yet the bottom was not reached. Hindu devotees believe this well to be a ‘handiwork’ of Lord Rama, who could not find a drop of water to quench His thirst thus took the form of an arrow and hit the ground creating this bottomless well.
From the bottomless well move on to the ‘Keerimalai Natural Pond’ which is believed to possess miraculous curative effects. According to legend, the pond dates back to ancient times when a man whose face resembled a horse, due to a deformity, took a dip in this pond and found himself cured! This legend is commemorated by a statue that stands by the side of the pond inviting visitors to bathe. Next you will proceed to ‘Dambakolapatuna Vihara’, a Buddhist site that dates back to the era of the King Dewanampiyatissa (307 BC to 267 BC). Here the king went down chest-deep to the sea to welcome Arahant Sangamitta Thero who had sailed from India with a sapling of the holy Bo-Tree ‘Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi’ under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. As well as the above sites you will also have a chance to visit Casuarina Beach and the Point Pedro Lighthouse.
Day 7: Jaffna – Kuchchaveli
After breakfast check out of your hotel and drive down the east coast to your resort in Kuchchaveli. The total journey time today is about 4 hours. On arrival, check into your idyllic beach resort and relax for the rest of the day.
Day 8: Kuchchaveli
Today is at leisure to explore independently or relax on the beach. A range of water sports and excursions, including whale & dolphin watching when in season, can be arranged through your resort.
Day 9: Kuchchaveli – Trincomalee – Passekudah
After breakfast, head south to Trincomalee for a brief city tour. En-route, stop at the Kanniya Hot Springs before continuing into the city for a tour of the harbour, the fish market, the interesting old fort and the colourful Hindu Temples inside it. After your tour, continue south to Passekudah Beach, check into your hotel and relax for the rest of the day.
Day 10: Passekudah
Today is at leisure to relax on the beach or explore the local area independently.
Day 11: Passekudah – Polonnaruwa – Habarana (The Cultural Triangle)
After breakfast this morning, check out of your hotel and 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.
After your tour, continue to your resort in Habarana, in the very centre of the Cultural Triangle region. Dinner is included during your stay.
Day 12: The Cultural Triangle
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. On arrival at the rock you will be 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).
This afternoon, you will set off on 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.
Day 13: The Cultural Triangle – Kotugoda
This morning you will be transferred south west from your hotel to the small village of Kotugoda, a journey of approximately 3 hours depending on traffic conditions. Arrive at the Walawwa in time for afternoon tea.
Day 14: Sri Lanka Departure
After breakfast you will be met by your driver and transferred to the airport for your flight home. Sri Lanka Tour – Sri Lanka Holidays – Sri Lanka Vacations
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