SRI LANKA: CULTURAL TRIANGLE, EASTERN BEACHES AND HILL COUNTRY
21 days, from £1,400 per person, based on a family of 4 sharing.
Plus international flights from £450 per adult.
Recommended for travel between January - October.
Travel Style: Guided.
Experience rural Sri Lanka on a working coconut plantation.
Early morning climb up Lion Rock to Sigiriya.
Build sandcastles on the beautiful beaches of Nilaveli and Pasikudah.
Snorkel amongst tropical fish, off the shores of Pigeon Island.
Watch elephants swim in Gal Oya NP.
Sip Ceylon tea and walk through the Hill Country to hidden waterfalls.
THE BORING (BUT NECESSARY) BITS
Average flight time from UK: 10.5 hours (direct) 12.5 hours (indirect).
Total drive time: 14.5 hours
Longest drive: 4 hours
Short Stay Visa required for UK passport holders (apply online).
This itinerary offers a route less travelled around east and central Sri Lanka. You’ll explore the ancient wonders of the Cultural Triangle, relax on remote eastern beaches, roam wildlife rich national parks and trek through the stunning scenery of the Hill Country. It’s an action-packed adventure that still has plenty of chilled-out beach time – a perfect combination to get the most from this wonderful island.
Day 1 – 3 Sri Lankan Countryside
You’ll transfer just 45 minutes from the airport but feel like you’ve driven hours into rural Sri Lanka as your adventure begins on a working coconut plantation. Enjoy bullock-cart rides around the organic farm and trips to local markets where old-fashioned balance scales meet weird and wonderful local produce. A quick dip in the swimming pool should leave you and the little-ones refreshed and ready to enjoy your first taste of homemade Sri Lankan cuisine, using fresh ingredients that you may well have picked earlier that day!
Day 3 – 6 The Cultural Triangle
It’s into the heart of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle next, as you transfer from languid rurality to jungle-clad ancient kingdoms. The highlight is undoubtedly the spectacular Sigiriya. Rising on near vertical walls, the remains of an ancient civilisation sits majestically some 700 feet above the central plains. We recommend an early morning visit when the kids can manage the rock-carved staircase and your reward is stunning views of the mist-covered forests below. Alternatively, for those that want to avoid the crowds, Pidurangala Rock is a fantastic alternative with stunning views of Sigiriya and beyond from its summit. There’s a seventh century citadel to explore at the top and crumbling temple ruins to see as you scramble over boulders to reach the peak.
The surrounding area includes Minneriya National Park, with fantastic elephant viewing during the ‘gathering’ (July – September) where hundreds descend on the rich and fertile grasses of the Minneriya reservoir. Slightly south-east lies the ancient city ruins of Polonnaruwa, where we’ll arm your young adventurers with a treasure map or scavenger hunt to keep them fully immersed in the crumbling temples and giant buddhas. Dambulla, home to your boutique chalet-style accommodation, is also rife for exploration with cave temples and ancient tombs nearby.
Day 6 – 10 Trincomalee and north-east beaches
Time for some old-fashioned R&R as you complete your journey from west to east coast, and forest gives way to golden sands and the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. The super-chilled beach village of Nilaveli is home for the next few days; where palm trees outnumber people and you’ll stay in a boutique beach-side guesthouse. There’s a beautiful white sandy beach and the warm, calm waters are home to tropical fish and vibrant coral. Snorkelling here is some of Sri Lanka’s best, particularly at the nearby Pigeon Island National Park, an easy day-trip with the kids. The city of Trincomalee, lying between Indian Ocean, Inner Harbour and the imposing Swami Rock is a short car-ride away and well worth an explore. It has an understated charm that stems from a diverse population. Old colonial churches that sit side-by-side with mosques and Hindu temples, give a decidedly Indian flavour as they ring with the sound of bells and music for late-afternoon Puja.
Day 10 – 14 Pasikudah and Kalkudah
Pick between high-end luxury and cast-away style tranquillity next, as you travel a relatively short distance down Sri Lanka’s East Coast to the beaches of Pasikudah and Kalkudah. Having survived civil war and Tsunami, the two towns are sleepy, relaxed and still some way off your average tourist’s radar. Both offer excellent family beaches. Kalkudah has a glorious sweep of powder-fine sands that remains mercifully deserted and unspoilt. Pasikudah has one of the world’s longest stretches of shallow coastline, pure heaven for your little adventurers who will love wandering out into the warm shallow waters in search of tiny fish shoals.
Day 14 – 17 Gal Oya National Park
Time to leave the sand and sea behind as you travel into Sri Lanka’s highlands where forests, jungle and elephants rule. First stop is the seldom visited Gal Oya National Park which provides excellent wildlife viewing without the queues of trailing safari jeeps. The park has a large elephant population, some of the best bird-watching opportunities on the island, and frequent sightings of deer, leopard and sloth bear. There’s also the opportunity to spend time with the Vedda community – the forest dwelling, indigenous people of Central Sri Lanka – and go on a jungle trail with their chief.
We want you and your Tribe to experience nature in the best way for you; boat safari’s, jungle drives, bicycle tours, riverside picnics, bird walks, naturalist treks and park hikes are all available with our expert local guides. Sound hectic? Worry not, as your fabulous eco-lodge accommodation will provide the necessary luxury for you and the kids to unwind at the end of a busy day, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Days 17 – 20 Hill Country
Embark on a scenic drive through Sri Lanka’s Hill Country, as you travel over endless hillsides carpeted green with tea plantations stretching as far as the eye can see. Your Tribe will be staying up in the Knuckles Mountains, north of Kandy, in luxurious canvas lodges on a working tea estate. Enjoy early morning breakfasts to the sound of birdsong, fabulous treks through the stunning countryside, and educational walks around the estate to see how the perfect cup of Ceylon tea is made. There are numerous waterfalls that can be incorporated into any trail and the kids will love cooling off with a dip in the freshwater pools. Evening yoga sessions and cooking classes will keep everyone entertained and you can also visit several sustainable, community-led development programs in the area.
Day 20 – 21 Kandy and Negombo
Spend the day exploring the city of Kandy. The hill-country’s capital is a colourful colonial treat, with a beautiful lake centre-piece that provides an ideal playground for big and little adventurers a-like. The city is also home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth (arguably Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist shrine), beautiful botanical gardens and many excellent museums and shops. After a full day exploring you’ll be transferred to the beach town of Negombo for a final day of sand and sea, before your flight home.