A Taste of Sri Lanka Holiday

9 day holiday from -  £1,345 per person based on 2 adults sharing a twin or double room. Excluding international flights.

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Tour Highlights

  • Voyage along the languid beauty of the canals and lagoon at Negombo
  • Join pilgrims at the sacred splendour of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy   
  • Take a stunningly scenic train journey into the hills of the tea country
  • Relax or take walks in the laid back hill town of Ella   
  • Enjoy the amazing array of bird and animal life on safari at the incomparable Yala National Park
  • View wild elephant herds at Udawalawe National Park
  • Patrol the ramparts of the Asia’s largest remaining colonial fortress in historic Galle

Suggested A Taste of Sri Lanka Holiday

Day 1 – Arrive Negombo (30 minutes journey time approx.)
On arrival, transfer to your hotel to relax after your journey. Overnight Villa Hundhira Standard Room (Standard option) or The Wallawwa Garden Suite (Deluxe option) (B)

Negombo (literally ‘Group of Bees’) sits on the west coast of Sri Lanka, at the mouth of the Negombo River alongside the vibrant and wildlife-prolific lagoon.  The city is bisected by the Dutch canal which indicates a vital element of the city’s more modern development.  Until the 16th century, the Moors dominated the settlement and held a virtual monopoly over its extraordinarily fine and endless supply of cinnamon; at this point the Portuguese arrived and drove out the Arab powers, building settlements and seizing the cinnamon trade, earning the town the nickname ‘Little Rome’ – St Mary’s Church is the most significant religious relic of the Portuguese dominance.  By the 1630s the neighbouring kingdom of Kandy attacked and, asking for Dutch backing, saw the city captured and placed directly under Dutch control.  This led to the building of its finest installations, including Negombo fort (1672) and the extensive canal system which linked it to Colombo and beyond. The capture of the region by the British in 1815 coincided with a decline in the cinnamon trade and the colonial power encouraged the development of plantations of coconuts, tea and coffee which still abound today. Beyond the multi-faith array of sacred buildings, Negombo still has a busy fishing industry and draws visitors on account of its golden sands in close proximity to the airport.

Day 2 – Lagoon and Canals of Negombo – Kandy (Drive time approximately – 3½ hours)    
Visit the atmospheric fish market (closed on Sundays); following this, take a boat trip around the Negombo lagoon and the old Dutch-built canals. The narrow waterways of the canals allow fascinating glimpses of local life. Upon entering the vast lagoon, your vessel gently cruises through the plentiful mangrove swamps, on the lookout for birdlife – you can expect to spot Stork-billed and White-throated kingfisher, Striated and Purple heron, Yellow bittern, Brahminy Kite, Shikra, Lesser whistling teals, Pheasant-tailed jaçanas and White-breasted water hens amongst others. Water monitor and crocodile sightings as well as the endemic Toque monkey are also common.  On the return voyage, the dazzling kaleidoscope of colourful fishing boats of Negombo’s fleet provide wonderful photo opportunities. This afternoon, transfer 3½ hours south-east to Kandy, via a road which dramatically rises into the hill country. Overnight Hotel Suisse Standard Room (Standard option) or The Kandy House Deluxe Room (Deluxe option). (B)   

Set in a relatively temperate zone, Kandy is encircled by lofty hills and lies at the heart of the hill-country. Its altitude makes it cooler than the coast, but it lies in a basin alongside the River Mahaweli and so can still be hotter and drier than surrounding hill towns. The kingdom of Kandy dates back to the 14th century and saw a fiercely independent and successful era, repelling a series of invasions from the Portuguese, Dutch and British until finally succumbing to colonial rule under George III of Britain in 1815. The city has continued to grow, being the Allied headquarters for South-East Asia in World War 2 and the modern, vibrant culture is based around the gemstone, tea and textile industries, the wares of which are all worth perusing during your visit. Visitors come largely to see the religious site at the Temple of the Tooth, a major pilgrimage destination, the delightful botanical gardens and the fascinating museum.  Further afield, the hills and peaks afford superb trekking opportunities.

Day 3 – Temple of the Tooth – Kandy at leisure    
This morning join the throng of pilgrims to visit the fascinating Temple of the Tooth (a UNESCO world heritage site), so called because it contains a sacred tooth belonging to Lord Buddha. The rest of the day will be at leisure for you to explore Kandy. Take a stroll by the picturesque lake, Kiri Muhuda (‘Sea of Milk’) which was created in the early nineteenth century and borders the temple location, or explore the local markets and the idyllic Botanical Gardens. Overnight Hotel Suisse Standard Room (Standard option) or The Kandy House Deluxe Room (Deluxe option). (B)    
Day 4 – Kandy to Nanu Oya – Ella (Drive – 3 hours; Train – 2 hours)
This morning your journey involves a glorious drive up into the hills, via the picturesque Pidurutalagala region; en route, the vivid topaz swathes of tea plantations and the romantic cascade at Ramboda Falls will compel you to stop to enshrine your passage in photographic memories. At Nanu Oya, a village named after the river which snakes its way through the tea-clad valley, you board the train and take the much sought after train journey to Ella. The next two hours are an invigorating assault on the senses: each twist, turn and tunnel opens up a new and incredible sweeping vista, whilst the engine trundles its clanking way through increasingly exotic landscapes. On arrival in Ella, transfer to your hotel. Overnight Mountain Heavens Non AC Standard Room (Standard option) or 98 Acres Resort Non AC Premium Deluxe (Deluxe option). (B)

Ella is a seductively beautiful setting in which to spend a few memorable days. Tea is ubiquitous – its endless ranks of burgeoning plants, catching the light on its silky leaves and the delicate aroma that the humidity draws out on the gentle hill zephyrs. It was here, in 1890, that the Lipton tea production sowed its first seeds and the small town remains a vital source of tea production.  Apart from luxuriating in the warm days and cool nights, wandering through the lazy streets and enjoying the laid-back tone that pervades the whole place, Ella is an invigorating place from which to launch superb, but very accessible treks and walks – viewpoints and small peaks are easily attained and, on good days, the coast is visible – whilst the waterfalls which gave the settlement its name are wonderful places to swim, bathe or simply relax.

Day 5 – Ella
If you feel inclined to stretch your legs this morning, a 1½ hour walk to Little Adams Peak is highly recommended for its amazing views. Visit a local tea factory (closed on Sundays – a Monday option is available) and take a fascinating guided tour which retraces the footsteps of tea from the succulent, aromatic green leaves to the final packaged product. The remainder of the day is given up to either enjoying the relaxed vibe of Ella and kicking back in one of the many cafés, sampling the fare at the myriad of fresh fruit and veg stalls that line the streets or exploring other nearby walks. Overnight Mountain Heavens Non AC Standard Room (Standard option) or 98 Acres Resort Non AC Premium Deluxe Room (Deluxe option). (B)

Day 6 – Ella – Yala National Park (Driving time – 4 hours approximately)    
After breakfast you depart the languid escape of Ella’s hills and follow the meanderingly mesmeric road down towards the coast and towards Yala National Park. The park is internationally acclaimed as the jewel in Lanka’s wildlife viewing crown. After check in, you will take a late afternoon safari which will offer fine opportunities of viewing the wonderful array of species here: from Leopard and Elephant to Crocodile and many species of birds. Overnight Kithala Resort Standard Room (Standard option) or Cinnamon Wild Jungle Chalet (Deluxe option). (B, D)

Yala National Park
Yala proudly boasts that it possesses a higher leopard density than anywhere else in the world and this is sufficient to make it famous as a site where leopard viewing is an excellent possibility.  Founded as a National park in 1938, Yala has always been a wilderness area and the park now consists of 5 designated areas, two of which are open for public safaris.  In the rainy season the water sources and rivers are abundant, but by the drier months wildlife tends to congregate around pools, lagoon and tanks to feed, offering some superb chances for observing some of the 350 elephants, 25 leopards and countless water buffalo, toque macaque, civets, fishing cat and sloth bears.  Bird watchers will find Yala equally rewarding – pelicans, flamingos, eagles and flycatchers are some of the families amongst the 215 species recorded here, whilst special treats come with the seven endemics – Blue-tailed bee-eater Sri Lanka wood pigeon, Crimson-fronted barbet, Black-capped bulbul, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka junglefowl and Brown-capped babbler.  A useful tip is to be willing to travel some distance: the quieter areas tend to be the less disturbed and offer the most rewarding and breathtaking vision of what Yala truly has to offer.

Day 7 – Yala National Park – Udawalawe National Park (Driving time – 2 hours approx.)    
At dawn, you’ll be woken so that you can take advantage of a different area of the park in all its finest glory: keen birdwatchers will gravitate towards Bundala National Park; if you like to get off the beaten track and into the wild away from the usual safari vehicles looking for Leopard, then Lunugamvehera National Park should appeal – the rewards are often spectacular. Return to your hotel for a late but rewarding breakfast and then transfer to Udawalawe where the rest of the day is entirely at your leisure. Overnight Udawalawe Safari Resort – standard room or suite. (B, D)

Udawalawe National Park
Established only as recently as 1972, the Park is in area of former ‘chena’ farming – a form of shifting cultivation that has kept the landscape relatively youthful and hence a thriving habitat for a rich diversity of wildlife across its 199 square miles. Much of the vegetation is low scrub, marshes and water fringes, so viewing animals is relatively straightforward; however, there are rivers, wooded areas and hill ranges which add to the variety of species here. Central to it all, and the major draw for many species is the reservoir, offering a stable water source, marshy fringes covered in thousands of wading birds and enough prey to draw in a host of eagle species to hunt and fish. As with most safaris, the prize species such as the 250 elephants – which give fabulous views – and leopard are only the tip of the iceberg and the park is dripping with birds, reptiles, deer, wild boar, civets, etc.  Amongst the fascinating cross-section of fauna are the delightful Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, the Golden jackal, the threatened Golden palm civets and Mugger crocodiles. Those keen on birding may well be rewarded with sightings of endemics such as Red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and Sri Lanka junglefowl and few can fail to be impressed by views of the splendid Indian peafowl or the exotic Malabar pied hornbill Although well-visited, the grandeur and breadth of the vistas gives a sense of solitude and separation from other safari vehicles and you can expect a busy, action-packed visit where you rarely are able to put down you cameras or binoculars.

Day 8 – Udawalawe National Park – Galle (Driving time – 2½ hours approximately)
Once again, take advantage of the excellent light and conditions in the early morning to take a safari in the National Park. Udawalawe’s reputation is rooted in its superb elephant herd, offering you excellent chances of spotting many jumbos. The birdlife here is also excellent and the scenery compelling in early morning light which lends itself to photography.  After returning to the hotel and a late breakfast, transfer to Galle. On arrival, check in to the hotel and then start to explore the atmospheric old streets and the fort ramparts.
Overnight Mango House Garden Room (Standard option) or Fort Bazaar - Bazaar Bedroom (Deluxe option). (B)

A fascinating blend of cultures lends Galle a sense of being a step back in time. The effervescent Sri Lankan spirit abounds, yet here it is set in a world of Dutch and British colonial influence. The old town is positioned on a peninsula on Sri Lanka’s south west coats and circuitous and seductive cobbled streets open out into grand military edifices: Galle’s history as a vital trading post for hundreds of years is never far from the consciousness here.  The sea air combines with the tropical warmth to lend a languor and dreaminess to a visit.  As evening approaches, the ramparts of the fort which lies at the heart of the old city swell with people coming to view the simply breath-taking silence of the iridescent sunset. Alongside, the city’s obsession with cricket is everywhere, with games seemingly springing up on every street corner. Galle’s significance as a port dates back to at least 1400 BC and cinnamon has long been exported throughout the Mediterranean and beyond, a prized trading partner of such as the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Chinese and Malays.  European domination is relatively modern, though the fort, Jesuit cathedral and Amangalla historic hotel are major draws to visitors, alongside the Shiva temple, the close-by beautiful beaches, and the buzzing cafés and gelaterias.

Day 9 – Galle – Colombo Airport (3½ hours)
Spend your final day in Sri Lanka at leisure. You can remain in the old town of Galle searching the many boutiques for a souvenir, or perhaps you may wish to take the short journey to the nearby famous white sands of Unawatuna Beach for some relaxation and a morning swim. After lunch, head up the expressway back to the airport for your evening flight onward from Sri Lanka. A hotel will be available for you to freshen up close to the airport before your journey. (B)

Please let us know if you wish to extend your trip with a beach stay either on the tropical South or West coast.