Get off the beaten track in Sri Lanka’s formerly restricted Eastern zone, climb to the summit of sacred Adam’s Peak, discover the stunning beauty of the Knuckles mountains range and go wild on a jeep safari in Yala National Park. Add to this cultural wonders like Dambulla and Sigariya as well some coastal relaxation at Arugam Bay.
Day 1 Sigiriya
Colombo – Sigiriya. Arrive into Colombo and make your own way to the hotel in Sigiriya. This is the most convenient base for visiting the other ancient sites in this fascinating area. Our hotel is in a very quiet location near Lion Rock. The hotel has a swimming pool, bar and restaurant.
Overnight: Sigiriya | Dinner
Day 2 Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya
Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa – Sigiriya. This morning we drive to Polonnaruwa – one of Sri Lanka’s former capitals – it is now a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. Polonnaruwa has many man-made reservoirs including the Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama) which is bigger than the harbour in Colombo. This well preserved site paint a picture of the glory days of Sri Lanka’s ancient architecture. Highlights include the Royal Palace complex, the King’s Palace and Audience Hall and the Quadrangle with its concentration of ancient heritage and spectacular Gal Vihare complex – four massive images of Buddha made out of a single slab of granite.
Polonnaruwa was also the original location of the famous Temple of the Tooth before the relic was moved to its current location in Kandy. After lunch we climb to the top of the UNESCO listed Lion Rock fortress at Sigiriya. The most impressive parts of the complex are the Water Gardens, the frescoes of heavenly maidens, the Mirror Wall with its ancient graffiti and the Lion Platform at the very top. The most adventurous of us can climb up to the summit of the rock, which extends to 1.6 hectares and was once completely covered by buildings. Descending from the rock we have a short transfer back to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Overnight: Sigiriya | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 Dambulla & Kandy
Sigiriya – Dambulla – Kandy. This morning we visit the famous cave temples of Dambulla before heading south through rice paddies and jungle, small farms and bustling towns. Eventually we will begin to see the famous rolling hills of Sri Lanka’s tea country before arriving in to the charming town of Kandy. After hotel check in the remainder of the day is at leisure. Why not head into town and visit the famous Temple of the Tooth before returning to the hotel for a group dinner together.
Overnight: Kandy | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 Knuckles Forest Reserve
Kandy – Knuckles Forest Reserve. This morning after breakfast we take a transfer up to the Knuckles mountain range – they get their nickname from their resemblance to a clenched fist when viewed from Kandy. This mountain range exhibits about every climate zone in Sri Lanka starting at their base with the ‘Dry Zone’ moving up through lemongrass and flame trees and further up to the cloud forest complete with an abundance of wildlife and tumbling waterfalls.
Now a conservation area, the Knuckles used to be used to extensively grown cardamon – this sadly caused a large deforestation problem which urged the Sri Lankan government to step in. Nowadays the forests are looking very healthy and were made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010. Today we drive to our mountain lodge that looks out across the Knuckles valley. Once settled we head out on a our first trek through the rain forest giving us amazing views of the valley. We stop at a local village for lunch before heading back to the lodge.
Overnight: Knuckles Forest Reserve | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 Knuckles Valley
Today we transfer to a local village to begin our trek for the day. The trek today could be quite adventurous as we walk through scrub, jungle and forest with the possibility of needing to ford through some streams. We trek for about 3 hours before reaching the farming village of Meemure in the heart of the Knuckles Valley. Taking a break we visit the local shop and try some of the local elevenses treat of hot sweetened tea made from coconut sap. Later we continue our trek climbing out of the valley before making our way back to the lodge.
Overnight: Knuckles Forest Reserve | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 Corbet’s Gap
Knuckles Forest Reserve – Corbet’s Gap – Maskeliya. After breakfast we jump back in our vehicle and head to Corbet’s Gap (named after the Englishman who discovered it). The ‘gap’ is a vast split in the range of Kandyan Hills. On a really clear day, we can see views extend to the sea in both directions – which is a sight to behold. From here we continue to Maskeliya at the base of Adam’s Peak for an early dinner and some rest before our early start tomorrow.
Overnight: Adam’s Peak | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 Adam’s Peak
Maskeliya – Adam’s Peak – Nuwara Eliyah. The 2243m high Adam’s Peak presents visitors an unmissable challenge. The peak also has a wide ranging religious significance and is seen as sacred by no less than four religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity & Islam). There is what is known as the pilgrim season which runs from the full moon in December until the full moon in May where streams of pilgrims ascend the mountain at night. The 3306 steps to the summit are illuminated by street light and the steps are full of stalls selling tea, snacks and breakfasts – there is a real feel of festival throughout the climb.
We climb outside of this season, however we will also climb at night with only our head torches for guidance – there is also a good chance that we will be climbing alone. Our climb starts just after midnight and takes between 3 – 5 hours. Once at the summit we will be greeted by a 5 foot long footprint of buddha/Adam/Shiva depending on your beliefs. We will descend down the peak in the light of dawn for a couple of hours before returning to the guesthouse for a well earned breakfast.
After breakfast we drive to Sri Lanka’s famous hill country – Nuwara Eliyah. Home to world famous Ceylon Tea and some of the most verdant scenery in Sri Lanka. During their heyday the British tea planters turned many of their houses into replica homes from back in the UK and some would say the architecture wouldn’t look out of place in a Sussex village. The town is really charming and after checking into our guesthouse we have time to explore or just relax after our long walk this morning.
Overnight: Nuwara Eliya | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 Horton Plains & World’s End
Nuwara Eliyah- Horton Plains – Bandarawela. We have an early start as we drive up to Horton Plains for our trek to the World’s End and the beautiful Bakers Falls. Horton Plains is the highest plateau in Sri Lanka at an impressive 2200 metres (7200 feet) above sea level in the middle of the central mountain country. The scenery up here is simply stunning with grasslands and mountains, marshes and trout streams. Some of Sri Lanka’s best tea are grown up here in the high ground. The dramatic drop-off at the edge of the plateau is particularly well demonstrated at ‘World’s End,’ where there is a 300 metre (1000 foot) precipice. With a cool and bracing climate, this is excellent hiking country, with a distinctive flora, colourful butterflies and many rare highland birds. Later on we return to our vehicle to continue our journey to our next overnight stop – Bandarawela.
Overnight: Bandarawela | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9 Monaragala Lake
Today we take a short transfer to the Namunkula Range where we enjoy an amazing day of trekking beginning at the top of the lush green slopes of this beautiful tea country. Our walk today is mainly down hill as descend through local villages and farms as we approach the dry zone at Hingurukaduwa in Uva province. We will meet our vehicle at the bottom here to take us on a slightly rough road to Monaragala Lake. Here we explore the temple complex which includes a school for the local young Buddhist monks where we are invited to partake in the rituals of the temple and enjoy a meditation session. After our time at the temple we continue to our overnight accommodation.
Overnight: Monaragala Lake | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10 Arugam Bay
Today we trek through another unspoilt region as we head towards the east coast. We will pass through forests and lakes as well as local vegetable farms and orchards where we will witness some fantastic local hospitality and try some local fruits of the forest and field too. This part of the island is very much off the beaten track so we are likely to receive a really warm welcome here. This area is also famous for its amazing array of bird and animal life. At the end of today’s walk we return to our vehicle and drive onward to Arugam Bay on the Indian Ocean. Arugam Bay is very much a surfer’s paradise. Our hotel this evening is a stone’s throw from the beach and later on we can relax here before taking dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Overnight: Arugam Bay | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11 Pottuvil & Panama
The morning we have time to relax at the beach before heading out to explore the nearby town of Pottuvil and its local market. This afternoon we continue south to the small fishing village of Panama – close to the northern edge of Yala National Park. The area is a very unique part of Sri Lanka and during 30 years of civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sinhalese government – this are was essentially cut off from the resrt of the world and as a result it is evolving at a very much slower pace to the rest of the country.
Our local guide will walk us through the village including its fishing lake – a popular watering hole for lots of bird and animal life. Being so close to Yala NP we may see some elephants walking around. Later on we return to our coastal hotel for one last night on the beach.
Overnight: Arugam Bay | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 Yala National Park
This morning we leave our coastal paradise and head west to Buttala – the rice bowl of Sri Lanka. From here we follow the road to Lunugamwehera National Park which sits next to Yala Park to the east. we drive for 3 – 4 hours before arriving at Tissamaharama where our hotel is located. Once checked in we drive to Yala National Park for our jeep safari.
Yala National Park is quite possibly Sri Lanka’s most famous national park and is home to elephant, sloth bear, crocodile and wild boar. It is also the home to the ever illusive leopard and what is believed to be the highest concentration in the world. The areas where the leopard is more likely to be found are the rock strewn hillocks with dense shrub where the animals hide. After our safari we return to our hotel in Tissamaharama referred to locally as ‘Tissa’, a very pleasant rural township. The backdrop to the town is the large artificial lake of Tissa Wewa, where you can stroll along the shore and watch bathers mixing with flocks of aquatic birds. Nearby is also the beautifully restored 3rd century ‘Great Stupa’. The modern town is a bustling city with the main street lined with shops, cafes and kiosks.
Overnight: Tissamaharama | Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13 Kandy
Departing after breakfast our first stop of the day is Kataragama – one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka and home to a 95ft high Kiri Vehera stupa built by King Mahasena in the 3rd century BC. After a quick stop here we continue to the coastal town of Galle – a former Dutch colonial port. This original fortified town was built on a square shaped promontory that juts out into the ocean. Built in 1663 there have been a few changes over the years and walking around the town you will be transported back in time. Later on we continue to Negombo – a coastal lagoon town near to the international airport.
Overnight: Negombo | Breakfast
Day 14 Negombo
After breakfast we can take the single timed transfer to the airport.