11 Days in Sri Lanka
Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as “undoubtedly the finest island of its size in the world”. Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean. Its diverse landscapes range from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. It’s famed for its ancient Buddhist ruins, including the 5th-century citadel Sigiriya, with its palace and frescoes. The city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, has many ruins dating back more than 2,000 years.
Some interesting facts about Sri Lanka:
- Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon before 1972.
- Sri Lanka is also known as ‘The Nation of Smiling People’.
- Sri Lanka is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.
- In Sri Lanka, when someone shakes their head from side to side, with a slight wiggle, it means: “yes”.
- Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea exporters.
- 92% of people living in the country are literate which means that they boast the highest literacy rate in the whole of South Asia.
Welcome to Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka, also known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is a lush, tropical island paradise, known to Arab traders as Serendib – therefore the word “serendipity”, meaning: ‘discovered by happy accident’.
The first thing that strikes you in Sri Lanka is just how friendly and helpful the locals are. This magnificent country offers tourists a wealth of pristine beaches, ancient attractions, wildlife reserves, lush tea estates, stunning waterfalls, and heaps of culture. With all types of accommodation to match all budgets. Our tour has highlighted 4 star hotels.
Day 1 – Negombo
Located just 30 minutes north of the capital Colombo, on the west coast of the island, Negombo is a major city in Sri Lanka. Negombo is the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka and it is the largest city in Gampaha District.
It is worth doing a Colombo city tour while you are in Negombo. Colombo is the business and commercial centre, while the new capital is Sri Jayawardhanapura Kotte is located just a few miles away. Colombo originally was a small seaport, but came into prominence in the 16th Century with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505.
Colombo became the capital of Sri Lanka in 1815 after Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to the British. The remains of the buildings during the period of the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule are found in every area of the city.
Visit the Portuguese & Dutch buildings and churches in the Fort & Pettah areas. Fort is the former British administrative centre and military garrison. Visit the Hindu Temple in the Bazaar area with its elaborate stone carvings and Kayman’s Gate with the Belfry at the original entrance gate to the Fort. The Davatagaha Mosque and the 1749 Dutch Wolfendhaal Church are also certainly worth visiting.
Beacon Beach Hotel – Negombo
The boutique style, 44 bedroom, Beacon Beach Hotel in Negombo offers a luxurious start to the tour. Negombo offers a pleasant experience in this vibrant, trendy beach belt of Sri Lanka.
The Sky Restaurant is an ideal place to relax and unwind with awesome view of the ocean and the city. The infinity pool is a relaxing and excellent venue where you can enjoy the sunset over the Indian Ocean while sipping on a cocktail.
Visiting the fish market is an awesome experience, it is one of the largest on the island, surrounded by the beach and lagoon. Thousands of fishing boats flit around, traders haggle amongst the catches, making it an exciting and memorable experience.
After breakfast the tour heads off to Habarana. The drive will take around 3 hours and it is worth stopping off at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage. The Pinnawela elephant orphanage was established in 1975 with just seven orphan elephants, today it is a successful installation that offers great insight into these magnificent animals.
In the afternoon visit Dambulla Rock Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. The largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, the rock from which the caves were carved towers 520 feet (160 metres) above the surrounding plains. A total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses adorn the site.
Danawwa Resort – Habarana
Check in for two nights at this glorious hotel in a brilliant location. The Danawwa Resort Habarana is one of the finest hotels near the UNESCO world heritage city of Anuradhapura.
The rooms are elegantly designed for a luxurious, cosy and comfortable stay. It comes with a king sized double bed fit for a king.
The hotel has just 35 bedrooms available in three convenient types; Double, Triple and Twin. All rooms have their own private balconies that overlook the surrounding wilderness. The rooms are well appointed with air conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities, flat screen TV, well-stocked mini bar and en-suite bathroom with hot & cold water, hair dryer and complimentary toiletries.
After breakfast visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and truly amazing. This is one of the most dramatic, inspiring, and beautiful historical locations in the world. A mythical past of feuding dynasties suits Sigiriya’s striking setting. Sigiriya was built in 5th century AD by king, Kasyapa, as a fortress-palace.
The palace complex at the foot of the rock still has the remains of four indoor swimming pools where the king’s 500 concubines bathed. The palace structure was built with complex water arteries in the walls that provided natural air conditioning in the hot climate. Metal staircases and ladders assist you in reaching the summit and it is worth the effort. With stunning views and a chance to see the remains of the palace walls, gardens and ponds. The mirror walls of the Sigiriya rock still retain the world-famous frescoes of the king’s concubines, who originated from all parts of the world.
An hour away is Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital and a World Heritage Site. This second capital city of Sri Lanka was built in the 11th and 12th centuries. Here you can enjoy the ruins of the Royal Palace, Lotus Bath and Polonnaruwa Statue and visit the Gal Vihare which has impressive statues of the Buddha carved out of rock.
Head south, along the scenic route to Kandy. This is great opportunity to visit a spice farm many of which are open to visitors. It’s a fantastic experience to stroll around the fragrant gardens learning about nutmeg, pepper vines, clove trees and curry, cinnamon and the precious cardamom, a relative of ginger. It grows in the shade of high jungle trees and can only be harvested by hand.
Kandy is a large city in central Sri Lanka. It’s set on a plateau surrounded by mountains, which are home to stunning tea plantations and a magnificent biodiversity rainforest. Packed with incredible Buddhist sites including the: Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This world heritage site is in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy. It’s a stunning city to visit.
Randholee Resort – Kandy
The mountain view rooms at this Kandy resort are superb. This resort is close to the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic as well as several other ancient and historic temples including the Gadaladeniya and Lankatillake temples and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Randholee Resort also offers boat rides in Kandy Lake and nature trails. If you feel like being pampered the resort offers excellent body and beauty treatments.
The infinity pool is seriously amazing, immerse yourself in the refreshing water or laze around beside the pool on the comfortable chaise lounges’ enjoying the stunning views and refreshments, pure paradise.
The palatial beds are fitted with soft cotton sheets, cool and crisp to the touch. The bathrooms include a large bathtub and a commodious counter. Equipped with amenities such as cable television, an international phone line and tea and coffee making facilities, the rooms combine the opulence of a palace with the comforts of home.
After breakfast visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, at Peradeniya. It’s renowned for its collection of a variety of orchids and over 4000 species of plants, including of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. Later travel south to Nuwara Eliya.
Known as “Little England”, Nuwara Eliya is a charming little town nestled in a valley beneath the misty clad Pedru mountain range (Piduruthalaga), set nearly two kilometres high up in the sky with an average annual temperature of 16°C it became the prime sanctuary and retreat of the colonial British Civil servants and planters of Sri Lanka.
Nuwara Eliya is a spectacular area, with hill upon hill covered with tea bushes, giving the entire area a most beautiful and tranquil feel. The area is famous for producing the finest of aromatic Ceylon Teas. Today, Nuwara Eliya retains its old English charm though in a more modern way with mock Tudor style cottages dotting the city slopes alongside the old venerated colonial era buildings.
Nuwara Eliya tends to be a sleepy town except for April when a riot of temperate climate flowers bloom and the school children of the area hold parades to welcome the spring, August when the expatriate Sri Lankan workers come to spend a holiday with the loved ones in cooler climes and December to experience the magic of Christmas in a chilly climate along with rare snow fall in the nights only to disappear in the morning tropical sun, just 50 degrees north of the equator!
St Andrew’s Hotel – Nuwara Eliya
Set amongst beautifully manicured gardens the St Andrew’s Hotel offers a peak back into a colonial-style country house. You will be amazed at the hospitality and comfort that this awesome hotel offers. The staff are memorable.
Fitted with fine wood furnishings and wooden flooring, spacious air-conditioned rooms have cosy fireplaces and heating facilities. The guest rooms are equipped with a safe, private bar and tea/coffee making amenities. Private bathrooms come with a bathtub and bathrobes. Each room offers free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and sitting areas.
There’s a refined restaurant and a traditional British pub with a snooker room.
Set 6,182 feet above sea level, St. Andrew’s offers guests a luxurious 5-star experience in Sri Lanka’s hill country of Nuwara Eliya.
Take a leisurely stroll in the beautifully manicured gardens. Other sites worth visiting are the Cloud Forest and Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Today we head off to Udawalawe. Break the 4-hour journey with a stop-over at the Rawana Ella Water Falls. Visit the spectacular Ella gap in the southern mountain wall where the land descends an astonishing 3000 feet (915m) onto the southern plains, the Ocean is visible on a clear day.
Udawalawe is located on the boundary of Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zones, which provides incredible diversity in both flora and fauna. The area, with its fascinating history and culture, offers an array of historical sites and natural wonders, guaranteed to satisfy even the most seasoned traveller.
Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort
Located within a 10-minute drive from the famous Udawalawe National Park, Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort features an spectacular outdoor swimming pool and offers spacious rooms with views of the surrounding nature.
The guest rooms are fitted with parquet flooring, air-conditioned rooms are furnished with a wardrobe, a flat-screen satellite TV, an electric kettle and ironing facilities. En-suite bathrooms come with a hairdryer, bathtub or shower facility, very comfortable.
The in-house restaurant serves up some delectable local and international dishes.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium is a 40-minute drive away and if there is a game on, it is worth a visit. The resort is also nearby the elephant orphanage of Eth Athuru Sevana.
Udawalawe National Park
Arrange a jeep safari in Uda Walawe National Park. Uda Walawe National Park was designated in 1972 to offer a refuge to migratory elephants, today it has also become a sanctuary for many other mammals, including spotted deer, toque monkey, wild pig, grey langur, leopard and sambar, as well as a spectacular variety of birdlife.
The rusty-spotted cat, fishing cat and Sri Lankan leopard are found in Udawalawe. The Sri Lankan sloth bear is seldom seen because of its rarity. Sri Lankan sambar deer, Sri Lankan axis deer, Indian muntjac, Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, wild boar and water buffalo are among other mammal species. Golden jackal, Asian palm civet, toque macaque, tufted grey langur and Indian hare also inhabit the park.
Udawalawe is renowned for its birdwatching. Endemic species include Sri Lanka spurfowl, red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, brown-capped babbler, and Sri Lanka junglefowl are among of the breeding resident birds. White wagtail and black-capped kingfisher are rare migrants. particularly rich in raptor species, among them white-bellied sea eagle, changeable hawk eagle and crested serpent eagle.
A variety of water birds visit the reservoir, including cormorants, the spot-billed pelican, Asian openbill, painted stork, black-headed ibis and Eurasian spoonbill. Painted storks are among the many water birds that migrate to the park.
Visit the Elephant Transit Home in the Udawalawe national park which shelters baby elephants found abandoned, stranded, orphaned or wounded in the jungles from all parts of the island. The “babies” are treated at the home and looked after till they are fit enough to be released back to the wild.
Time to head for the coast. Galle (pronounced ‘Gaul’) is the destination, stop off at Koggala, to watch the stilt fishermen ply their craft, just amazing. They fishing in the ocean, mounted on seated poles, just surreal to see.
Visit the Galle Fort
The narrow streets of Galle Fort are lined with Dutch merchant villas, pillared verandas, carved doors and windows.
Galle Fort is the finest and most intact fortified city built by the former European colonial powers in Asia. This is a living world heritage city, strolling along the high rampart walls you will see the Old Dutch and English churches, the Governor’s house, the massive VOC warehouses, the Square of Courts, the elegant pillared facade of the Old Dutch hospital, the Portuguese Black Fort, the lighthouse, the Clock Tower and much more.
Lady Hill Hotel, Galle
Check-in to the Lady Hill Hotel, nestled atop the highest point of the ancient port city of Galle. With breath-taking panoramic views over the lush green countryside stretching from the tea covered slopes of the Southern foothills all the way down until they merge with the brilliant blue waters of the Laccadive Sea.
Entering the portals of the Lady Hill, one is treated to an architectural edifice, echoing the legacy of the ancient Colonial Dutch period, from the imposing entrance archway, down to the natural cobblestone floor.
Lady Hill Hotel is located near the city’s pulsating heart and some of the best beaches on the Island, yet secluded enough to offer some tranquillity and serenity.
The guest rooms are found via a rustic granite stone stairway, flanked by a strip of fresh water fish ponds. The contemporary rooms contrast with the traditional feel of the common areas. Th ultra-modern futuristic style décor and state of the art facilities add a welcome twist to your journey. The Lady Hill offers a relaxing and enjoyable stay.
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel head north along the coast to Bentota. The trip to the Pandanus Beach Resort & Spa takes just two hours.
Pandanus Beach Resort & Spa
Time to chill out and work on that tan. The beaches here are superb. The resort is surrounded by fields of pandanus from which the Resort derives its name.
Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling town of Bentota.
The guest rooms have either a terrace or balcony from which you can soak up the amazing view of the beautiful Induruwa Beach. Grab a cocktail and let the soft lapping of waves send you into a calm and relaxed state of mind.
The hotel restaurant offers an excellent choice of cuisine. Diners can choose between the cool and comfortable air-conditioned restaurant or the patio with a beautiful view of the Ocean. Guests can savour the freshest seafood on the beach with the restaurant providing buffet and a-la-carte options.
The hotel arranges awesome ‘theme nights’ and entertainment on a fairly regular basis and they are worth attending. If you are in the mood for a romantic evening or have a ‘special occasion’ to celebrate the staff are excellent at setting-up and arranging a private celebration. Either on the deck alongside the sandy beach or for even more privacy they will set up the dining at a private cabana under the stars.
The Rooftop Bar is a brilliant venue to enjoy a cold beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail, while you enjoy the unsurpassed views over the Laccadive Sea. The bartenders are deft hands at shaking up a mean cocktail.
If you have the energy a visit to the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery is well worth the effort. Just seven miles south of Bentota this community based turtle hatchery and turtle watching project was set up by the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) in association with the Wildlife Department of Sri Lanka.
Inland from Bentota you will discover the Brief Garden which is the house and garden of renowned Sri Lankan landscape architect, Bevis Bawa. Located in Bentota, the Galapatha Raja Maha Vihare Buddhist temple contains stone inscriptions, stone carvings, pillars, ponds and troughs from the medieval period, worth a visit.
Time to pack up and bid Sri Lanka farewell. The transfer to the Colombo International Airport the drive will take approximately 2 hours.