Sri Lanka

Among the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world, the tear-drop shaped island of Sri Lanka lies just off the southern tip of India. Known as nature’s treasure chest, this varied nation is a haven for wildlife lovers, and home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world with written history dating back over 2,500 years. This glorious destination offers ancient historical sites and Buddhist temples with incredible stone carvings just begging to be explored at the Cultural Triangle, untamed wilderness areas like Yala National Park with its exotic wildlife, carefully tended fertile tea plantations and miles of gorgeous palm-fringed coastline. Combined with jubilant people and flavorful food, Sri Lanka goes well beyond what you might imagine at first glance.

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What to Expect

Wildlife and culture leave the biggest imprint on any traveler to Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese people have endured a rough past, yet they remain amazingly resilient, and eager to implement change.

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No culture embraces visitors the way the Sinhalese do; you are bound to receive shy waves and gentle smiles as you travel into the heart of the island. Head on safari to witness elephant migrations along with monkeys, buffalo, prolific bird life and search for the elusively rare jaguar. Take a tour through local tea plantations in the highlands and savor some of the best tea in the world. Have your taste buds tantalized with an array of delicious local dishes on offer. Hike to the top of mountainous peaks to witness sunrise over stunning landscapes or relax on tranquil palm-fringed beaches in between surf lessons and watching local fisherman catch the evening meal.

Don't Miss Out

The Essence of Sri Lanka — The heart of Sri Lanka beats in the Cultural Triangle, which reveals the country’s vibrant past and many of its current wonders.

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Polonnaruwa, once the commercial and religious center of Sri Lanka, is an ancient city full of ruins with intricately carved designs. Nearby lies perhaps the most striking natural feature in all the country; Sigiraya Rock. Once a fortress for Sinhalese kings, a hike to the top affords views of the surrounding landscape and ruins below. The sacred city of Anuradhapura is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, housing dozens of ancient Buddhist temples for a cultural exploration into the past. Completing the triangle is Kandy, nestled in the verdant highlands with its picturesque lake and home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth of Buddha.  Dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites are begging to be explored within the ‘triangle’.

Intrepid Explorations— For a remote wildlife experience, head to Gal Oya National Park, where you won’t be contending with convoys of safari jeeps jam-packed with tourists. Instead, you’ll explore a secluded and untouched area of Sri Lanka for the chance to spot elephants, sloth bear, water buffalo, monkeys and – if you are lucky – the shy and rare leopard. Gal Oya is the only place in Sri Lanka where you will have the opportunity to take a boat safari—hopefully catching glimpses of elephant swimming in their natural habitat and dozens of birds.

Beach Bonanza—Of course being an island, Sri Lanka has a diverse coastline packed with pristine and gorgeous beaches. In the South near Galle, you will be rewarded with sleepy villages with distinctive stilt fisherman patiently waiting for their catch and a languid lifestyle that is utterly charming. Seasonally, five species of whales including the Blue whale, Sperm whale and Minke whale as well as dolphins are regularly spotted in the waters offshore. We recommend including Mirissa Harbor in the South (Dec-Apr), Kalpitiya on the West Coast (Jan-Mar) or for a bit quieter whale watching experience, Trincomalee on the East Coast (Mar-Aug).

Hidden Gem – Delve into the spiritual side of Sri Lanka at the Aluvihara Cave Temple, outside of Kandy. These fascinating brightly colored frescoes and sacred inscriptions are in a series of boulder ensconced temples. It is here that the oral teachings of Buddha, known as the Tripitaka, were committed to writing back in the third century. Labyrinthine pathways and staircases take you through a jumble of temples which house these stunning paintings and an enormous reclining Buddha statue. This area allows for a more serene contemplation of the site compared to the magnetic Dambulla Cave Temple.

Need to know

Flights are easily arranged into Colombo from the major gateway cities like London, Dubai, and Delhi.

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  • We recommend 7-14 days in Sri Lanka and it pairs nicely with India and Nepal.
  • Sri Lanka is ideal for nature lovers; it oozes romantic adventure for honeymooners and offers wide-ranging options for families. For those who are curious about history and culture, Sri Lanka delivers.
  • Visas are required for most visitors and inoculations may be required based on itinerary. We suggest you visit a travel clinic for advice.
  • Both the Sri Lanka domestic flight network and road system are quite reliable and comfortable.
  • English is an official language of Sri Lanka and is widely spoken in the country, especially in the hospitality industry.
  • Sri Lanka boasts outstanding guides with excellent qualification programs.
  • Throughout your travels you will find varied international and local cuisine with fresh ingredients and robust flavors. Try some hoppers for breakfast!

When to go

Sri Lanka’s location near the equator makes it a year-round destination; however, it is complicated by two separate monsoon seasons. From mid-May to mid-September is the Southwest monsoon drenches the West, the Southwest coast and hill country during these months.

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The Northeast monsoon between mid-November to mid-February hits the East Coast. Temperatures remain consistently warm all year, averaging 79–86°F (26–30°C) during the daytime. The higher altitudes are considerably cooler with averages around 57–62°F (14–17°C). Night temperatures can get close to freezing at altitude. In the lowlands and the coast, humidity can be very high year-round. Our expert travel designers will steer you to the right part of the country based on your travel dates.

Accommodation

You will not lack for choice when deciding where to stay in Sri Lanka. Beach destinations have well-known international resort brands, in the highlands are boutique style accommodations affording views over the tea plantations, many cities have historical colonial-style hotels, and wilderness areas provide safari-style luxury tented camps.

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All deliver warm genuine Sri Lankan service with a smile. Locals are proud to offer rustic bungalows and simple boutique guesthouses throughout the countryside, with their own style of luxury and ambience. Each day more properties are popping up as Sri Lanka gains popularity in the tourism scene. We are happy to select properties to suit your desires and budget. Every property booked on a Rothschild Safari is vetted by staff and offer the highest standards in each category.

What our travelers say

Amy Lundberg

Wow, wow, wow!! We are back in LA now, recovering from jet lag and still in shock and awe regarding our experience. From the moment we landed in South Africa to the moment we touched down in LA, our experience was seamless and amazing. 

Betsy Robertson

We were thrilled with the trip. It was as good as or better than described at every turn. The prep, attention to detail, willingness to make changes and ensure we were ready and prepared was outstanding. Our Travel Designer was awesome! 

Dawn Jacobs

Choosing a safari expert is never easy given the choice and lists upon lists of "top suppliers"....but we made the BEST choice for us....why....because above all, Rothschild listened ....really listened to what we wanted to experience.

George Kowalski

It was a well organized trip. It was easy to get around since we were guided through all of our itinerary. Everyone was pleasant and very helpful. This is an excellent way to travel. Rothschild Safari did very well and brought a fantastic African experience to us.

Jackie Smith

My trip was beyond AMAZING! I truly enjoyed every moment. The itinerary allowed me to experience a variety of different activities all of which I enjoyed! When I originally thought of going to Africa I was just thinking of safaris. This trip opened my eyes (and my family/friend's) to so much more Africa has to offer.

Jamie Scarlett

Trip was PERFECT!! Every single detail was planned out and the accommodations and people were wonderful. This trip exceeded all of our wildest expectations. Every place we stayed was just lovely and each each camp had a different vibe, which was really neat. Everyone we worked with was outstanding. 

Joe Moravec

On behalf of the Moravec’s and the Stone’s……thank you for arranging a trip of a lifetime. Every detail was accounted for and all the recommendations were perfect. It honestly could not have gone any better.

Kim Mather

Meggan Woody and Kim Killick were extraordinary at crafting THE PERFECT safari for our family of 8. They both listened (actually 'read' my email) to EXACTLY what we wanted, within the budget that we needed, and miraculously pulled off miracles in obtaining the properties that we wanted! 

Lisa Anderson

Every aspect of my trip went according to plan and the plan Rothschild's help me to orchestrate was magnificent! I loved every lodge that I was blessed to be in! They were all very different yet all high end and very accommodating.

Mary & Rob Johannigman (and family)

It was the most exciting, scenic, inspiring trip we've ever taken. To say it was a trip of a lifetime doesn't begin to capture our experience. Pam Langhoff and the Rothschild team did an outstanding job of helping us plan this trip.