Enchanting Sri Lanka

19 days

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You’ll be fascinated at every turn of this captivating and in-depth journey through Sri Lanka’s key highlights, along with lesser-known but equally rewarding experiences. Tea plantations, waterfalls, and verdent tropical landscapes are waiting to be explored. Journey off-the-beaten-path with indigenous tribespeople, soar high above the ground on a sunrise hot air balloon, and adventure through jungles on action-packed safaris in search of leopards, elephants and primates. Your journey culminates in seaside villages, meandering amid fisherman’s markets, and admiring magnificent views of the Indian Ocean.

Highlights

  • Jeep safaris to Yala’s leopards, Polonnaruwa’s primates and Minneriya’s elephant herds
  • Visit the Vedda indigenous tribe in Gal Oya
  • See the Weligama stilt fisherman
  • Embark on a sunrise hot air balloon above Sigiriya
  • Appreciate the Buddhist way of life—both ancient and modern
Olympus Digital Camera

Itinerary

DAY 1

Arrive Colombo – Evening at Leisure

Upon arrival in Colombo today, transfer to the nearby town of Negombo. Explore the fisherman markets and drive past sandy beaches on your way to your accommodation for the evening, the Wallawwa. A tranquil boutique hotel with tropical gardens, this afternoon is yours to rest after your flight. Perhaps take a dip in the pool, indulge in a spa treatment or join a Sri Lankan cooking class.

DAY 2

Wilpattu National Park – Safari Game Drive and Sunset Picnic

Enjoy a delicious breakfast in the garden and transfer to the airport for your charter flight to Sigiriya. Upon arrival, drive to Wilpattu National Park, dotted with lakes and wildlife habitats. Leopard are commonly sighted here, along with elephant, sloth bear, wild boar, and monkey. This afternoon, embark on a jeep safari in search of wildlife, ending with a sunset picnic and tea in the national park. Finally, settle into Leopard Trails, your accommodation for the next three nights.

DAY 3

Wilpattu National Park – Safari Game Drive, Bush Walk, Dinner in the Jungle

As the sun shines on a new day in the jungle, head out on a game drive to discover the incredible array of wildlife that resides in Wilpattu. Late in the day, embark with your expert guide on a wildlife safari on foot. You’ll be focusing on the ‘smaller things’, at a gentle pace. This evening, dine alfresco in the jungle under a blaze of stars, surrounded by lanterns. Reflect on a day of reconnection with nature before you drift off to sleep.

DAY 4

Wilpattu National Park – Game Drive, Boat Safari, Dégustation of Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sunrise beckons. Coffee first…then, enjoy another game drive through this action-packed national park bearing witness to wildlife as it begins to stir. Exceptional wildlife dramas may unfold. In the afternoon, board a traditional boat and float across the lake, keeping an eye out for elephants swimming and bathing at the lake’s edge as the sun slips below the horizon. Tonight indulge in a culinary journey through Sri Lanka, with an 8-10 course dégustation menu of local cuisines, served by the crackling campfire with your favorite beverage in hand.

DAY 5

Sigiriya – Anuradhapura Historic Tour and Habarana Cultural Interactions

Start your day with a drive to the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the country’s capital in the 5th century B.C., and the heart of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist civilization today. Explore Buddhist shrines, temples, and monuments embellished with stone carvings and sculptures dating back to the 3rd century B.C. then participate in a Buddhist blessing, and explore Abhayagiri Dagoba, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Journey onward to the remote hidden village of Habarana to witness Sri Lanka’s indigenous form of martial arts, and a war dance of the villagers. As the sun sets, drive to the majestic Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Retire to your accommodation for the next three nights, the Sigiriya Water Garden. Manicured gardens, romantic nooks, dedicated butler service and stylish luxury await.

DAY 6

Sigiriya – Primate Research at Polonnaruwa, Elephant Tracking at Minneriya

Venture out on a full-day exploration of the region’s best-known wildlife. Polonnaruwa is home to thriving populations of Torque macaques, Grey langurs, and Purple-faced leaf eaters. Join a Sminthsonian primate researcher to gain insight into the social lives of these inhabitants. Lunch will be served at a traditional farmer’s house, prepared using clay pots over a wood fire. Later today, game drive inside Minneriya National Park, famous for its large wild elephant herds, which congregate around water holes to drink and bathe. Return to your accommodation in Sigiriya for an evening at leisure.

DAY 7

Sigiriya – Hot Air Balloon Ride, Dambulla Caves Ramble

Soar above the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka this morning at dawn, in the basket of your hot air balloon. Savor a resplendent sunrise over the 2,000year-old ruins enveloped in the jungles of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, and iconic Sigiriya. Following your balloon experience, you’ll be greeted with a glass of champagne to toast a magnificent start to your day. Later this morning, drive to the enchanting Dambulla Caves to investigate the temple complexes and appreciate exquisite hand-painted carvings, shrines, and monuments, along with panoramic views of the surrounds. The remainder of the day is at leisure for a game of archery, croquet, or perhaps a cooking demonstration.

DAY 8

Kandy – Kandy City Tour and Traditional Dance Performance

After a delicious breakfast, a scenic road transfer brings you to the emerald landscapes of Kandy in Sri Lanka’s interior. Meander the local markets and lake lined with trees, learning why Kandy is now the center of Buddhism, arts, crafts, and culture. This afternoon, enjoy a cultural show throbbing with the vibrant traditional dances of the region and a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, dating to the 4th Century. Choose how you will spend your evening at the King’s Pavillion, a centrally-located hideaway nestled in the misty mountains surrounding Kandy.

DAY 9

Gal Oya – Vedda Indigenous Tribe Visit, Evening Jungle Cooking Class

Set out on a scenic drive to Gal Oya for a unique encounter with one of the last remaining indigenous communities, the Vedda tribe. Accompanied by the village chief, walk the paths of his ancestors as you discover ancient hunting grounds and understanding into their use of medicinal plants. Enjoy the next three nights at the luxury eco-lodge, Gal Oya Lodge, nestled within the untouched jungle. Tonight, journey to the outdoor jungle kitchen for and the chance to prepare a traditional meal such as thalapa, thumba, fish curry, spiced yams, and forest salad.

DAY 10

Gal Oya – Boat Safari, Game Drive

With the sunrise, wildlife awakens. Float across the lake by boat, observing the morning routine of birds and wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as monkey, elephant, and wild boar drinking at the water’s edge. A picnic lunch is served in the jungle, before your afternoon wildlife viewing activity by jeep in search of elephant herds, deer and bird species. After an exciting day of wildlife adventures, return to your lodge to unwind.

DAY 11

Gal Oya – Game Drive and Walk, Jungle Night Walk

An early morning game drive today with your professional guide provides the opportunity for more wildlife encounters. Enjoy dinner at the lodge before an exhilarating evening jungle walk. Flashilght in hand, your naturalist guide will point out the resident nocturnal wildlife in the area, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Challenge yourself to locate the bizarre-looking Frog-mouth bird (and let us know if you find it)!

DAY 12

Ella – Scenic Drive, Picnic Lunch, Colonial Towns

A scenic road transfer takes you to the mountain village of Ella, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. En-route, stop at a panoramic lookout over the tea plantations for a picnic lunch. You’ll arrive at your accommodation in the late afternoon, in time for a gourmet meal, and perhaps a spa treatment if you wish. Spend two nights at the colonial homestead of Nine Skies, situated on a tea-fringed hill.

DAY 13

Ella – Hike Little Adam’s Peak, Discover the Nine Arch Bridge and Ravana Waterfall

Today’s action-packed adventures begin with a guided hike to Little Adam’s Peak. Sitting at 3,800 feet (1,141 m), walk past lush green tea plantations, paddy fields and waterfalls as you reach the peak for a stunning panoramic view over the mountains. After your hike, incredible scenery greets you at every turn on your drive to the Nine Arch Bridge on the famous Demodara Loop drive. The afternoon is spent at the 82 foot (25 m) high Ravana Falls, the source of many local legends. Take a well-earned rest this evening, after your thrilling day.

DAY 14

Yala National Park – Game Viewing Experience, Dinner Among The Dunes

Depart by road to Yala National Park today. Yala is essential for the conservation of the Sri Lankan elephant and boasts the highest concentration of leopard in the world. Have lunch once you settle into your accommodation, the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, which offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean. This afternoon, embark on a jeep safari in the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. Elephants are abundant. Tonight, a truly magical dining experience awaits. With a blanket of stars overhead, sand dunes surrounding you and the sound of the ocean in the distance, this is an indeliable evening.

DAY 15

Yala National Park – Safari Game Drives and a Sri Lankan Cooking Class

On your early safari drive with your expert tracker read the ‘morning news’—the tracks and signs of the wildlife who traveled during the night. Follow those trails, binoculars in hand, eyes scanning the terrain. Perhaps you will spy a leopard, limbs dangling from a tree or maybe your path will cross a a herd of elephants traversing a deserted beach. The remainder of your morning brings the chance to get your hands dirty. Mix your own spices and season ingredients as you prepare a delicious meal guided by a local chef. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and a siesta. As wildlife stirs again in the late afternoon, your guide whisks you out on safari once more.

DAY 16

Weligama –Stilt Fisherman and Cycling

Your destination today is the seaside town of Weligama. Here, that iconic photograph of enigmatic fishermen perched like curious birds on stilts in the ocean comes to life. Your guide will explain the method of stilt fishing, a sight that has made this town famous. Arrive at your accommodation for the next three nights, Cape Weligama. Time slows down in this haven of 12 pristine acres perched above the Indian Ocean. Spend the afternoon on a guided bicycle ride gliding through rural life or perhaps brave the waves in a surf lesson. Splendid sunsets and ocean breezes are best captured over dinner or by the infinity pool.

DAY 17

Weligama – Mirissa Whale Watching and Indian Ocean snorkeling

Rise with the sun today, and explore the region of Mirissa on a marine safari. Your captain has well-trained eyes, and is on the lookout for whales and dolphins; from December to April you may even spot a Sperm or Blue whale during their migration. Drop anchor at a picturesque location for a delicious breakfast onboard the boat. Cruise onward to the nearby islands, for swimming, snorkeling, and a hearty lunch. Return to the Cape Weligama for an evening at leisure.

DAY 18

Weligama – Galle Fort

After coffee, drive to the Galle Fort with your professional guide to explore the bastions, grass-covered ramparts, small cobbled streets, and intriguing buildings on 150 acre. Delve into historic tales of its creations and threats, and journey through history discovering stories of religion, architecture, daily life and the devastation of the 2004 tsunami. Relish your final evening at leisure, reliving all of the memorable moments of your Sri Lankan journey, while the sunset dazzles you one last time on the Tear Drop Isle.

DAY 19

Departure Day

Today you’ll transfer to the airport for your international flight home. A journey embracing a myriad adventures, depart Sri Lanka with a full heart and a multitude of memories.