Highlights of Sri Lanka Itinerary showcases the best of Sri Lanka’s history, culture, wildlife, and architecture. Visit the cities of Colombo, Kandy, and Galle. See the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Polonnaruwa, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. Enjoy the hill country of Ella and the wildlife of Gal Oya National Park. Learn about Sri Lankan cooking, meet a father and daughter who are both artists, hike, and enjoy whale watching. This itinerary definitely covers the highlights of Sri Lanka.
Welcome to Sri Lanka!
Arrive at Colombo International Airport, and after immigration, baggage, and customs, exit the arrival hall. A Geringer Global Travel representative will greet you with a placard bearing your name.
You will be assisted and transferred (approximately 1 hour) to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Colombo is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Located on the west coast, it is a busy and vibrant city with architecture that spans centuries and depicts various styles. Many colonial buildings were influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. They exist alongside structures built in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Indian, and Contemporary architectural styles. In no other place is this more evident than in the heart of the city at the Fort.
After breakfast, take a walking tour in Colombo with resident expert Mark Forbes (or one of his colleagues). Explore the amazing architecture that the Dutch and English left behind and enjoy some local food. The walk takes about 3 – 4 hours.
After lunch, take a guided tour around Colombo with a focus on Sri Lanka’s great architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Tour Bawa’s home with those who worked for him and still look after the house. They will share countless stories. Continue to Gallery Café, which he designed, for a drink. Visit Seema Malaka Temple on Beira Lake, which he redesigned in the 1970s.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Sigiriya (approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes) and visit Dambulla Cave Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings, and 4 statues of gods and goddesses.
After lunch, take a jeep to a remote village in Habarana for a private demonstration of Sri Lanka’s indigenous form of martial arts, Angampora. The warriors will perform their War Dance, that was taught from generation to generation.
After breakfast, visit the magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 5th century rock citadel was built by King Kasyapa as his new capital on top of the rock. Halfway up the side of the rock, he built a gateway in the form of a large lion. The royal palace and capital were abandoned after the king’s death and was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. This is one of the best – preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
Visit the museum at Sigiriya.
Take a walk to Hiriwadunna Village for lunch. With the guidance of a farmer, pick some fresh vegetables for the meal prepared in the traditional method using earthenware pots and firewood. This is a great opportunity to sample authentic local cuisine.
Drive to and explore the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, established by the Cholas as their capital. It was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993.
Return to the hotel.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Kandy, also referred to as the Royal City of Sri Lanka (approximately 3 hours). En route, visit a spice garden in Matale. The spice garden in Matale is renowned for its spices. Since ancient times, traders from all around the world who came to Sri Lanka brought their native cuisines to the island, resulting in a rich diversity of cooking styles and techniques. At the spice garden, you will learn about cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, and pepper, and many other favorites such as chocolate and vanilla.
Arrive in Kandy, a UNESCO Heritage Site, and check into the hotel. Kandy was last ruled by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe before the British ruled Sri Lanka in 1815. Kandy is the last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings.
Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that was established in the 4th century when Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka hidden from sacrilegious hands in an Orissan princess’s hair.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a cultural program that offers a vibrant and unique show of Sri Lankan traditional dances. As many as 12 different folk and traditional dances are performed by the Kandy Lake Club Dance Troup.
After breakfast, visit the local market and learn about seasonal vegetables and tropical fruit. Try different types of fruit like soursop, ambarella, nelli, passion fruit, jackfruit, and a variety of bananas grown in Sri Lanka.
Afterwards, join your host Suzy and her team in her traditional kitchen built by her husband’s great – grandfather. Assist in the preparation of lunch. Learn to prepare a complete meal using ancient tools such as the coconut scraper, the traditional mortar and pestle, the grinding stone, and seasoned clay pots. Witness the starting of the firewood and controlling of the temperature while the curries are cooking. Finally, your lunch will be served on a heated banana leaf accompanied with papadam and home-prepared chutneys.
After lunch, learn the vibrant art of traditional drums and understand how they influence Sri Lankan culture. Take a lesson from a professional teacher, who descends from a long line of traditional drummers, in his home.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Gal Oya (approximately 3 hours, 30 minutes), to the eastern side of Sri Lanka, which is a scenic drive.
Check into the hotel.
After lunch, take a 4-hour jungle drive into the Nilgala section of the park. Gal Oya National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s undiscovered natural treasures. Its diverse terrain of jungle forest and lakes are home to Asian elephants, water buffalos, leopards, sloth bears, and different species of birds.
After breakfast, visit the forest dwelling indigenous people of Sri Lanka, the Veddas. The village chief will take you on a walk through the jungles of his ancestors. Discover and learn about local nature as he brings the forest alive, explaining his tribes use of medicinal plants, ancient hunting grounds, indigenous sports, and cave dwellings. It is a fascinating insight into how the hunter-gatherers lived in the jungles of Gal Oya.
After lunch, join your naturalist for a hike through the local area.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to the hill country of Ella (approximately 3 hours). Ella is known as a favorite hill country village only 8 km from Bandarawela. This small town is used as a base for trekking expeditions to the surrounding countryside.
After lunch, visit the Bogoda Bridge in Bandarawela. Built in the 16th century, it is known to be the oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka. Visit the Buddhist temple beside the bridge.
After breakfast, hike to a waterfall and explore a working organic farm located in the Uva Highlands. With a past rooted in cultivation, the estate supports local educational, economic, and environmental initiatives, while its teas, coffees and preserves are stocked by the likes of Fortnum and Mason in London. Enjoy a home – produced vegetarian lunch at the farm.
After lunch, walk with your guide through fields where tea, cinnamon and lemongrass are expertly cultivated. Cross a hidden rope bridge to the incredible Ravana-Ella Falls and its secret pools. At the farm, learn the secrets of artisanal production and enjoy a tasting of four signature handmade teas at a picturesque point overlooking Ella Gap.
Visit Dhowa Rock Temple with a large ornamental gateway. A special feature of the Dhowa Rock Temple is the 38 feet Buddha statue.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Galle (approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes), at the southern tip of Sri Lanka.
After lunch, explore Yatagala Rock Temple built in the Anuradhapura Period. This Buddhist temple is built around giant boulder rock formations. This is the only temple where Buddhist monks have been living for the last 1,500 years.
Early this morning with packed breakfast, proceed to Mirissa for whale watching. See whales such as Blue, Bryde´s, Sperm, and Fin whales. Also see many different dolphins such as the Common, Bottlenose, Spinner, Risso’s, and Striped dolphins.
Return to the hotel.
After lunch, take a hike exploring rice paddies and cinnamon plantations. Experience village life. Walk past tea bushes, banana trees, jaggery, pineapple plantations, and coconut palm.
After breakfast, take a guided walk of battles and bastions around Galle Fort, hearing captivating stories about its history. Visit the iconic lighthouse overlooking the Japanese Peace Pagoda.
After lunch, drive to Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery (approximately 40 minutes) famous for its sea turtle conservation project operated by the Wildlife Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Understand the role it plays in turtle survival. It has tanks for injured turtles, including albino turtles that would not survive in the wild. The hatchery buries turtle eggs in sand, and when they hatch around 50 days later, the baby turtles are released into the sea at night. Only about one in 1,000 turtles survive to maturity.
Check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport for the flight home.