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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the
2014 Sri Lanka Nature's Paradise Tour
 

Me - David Rowell - your hopefully friendly, helpful and possibly even intrepid tour leader.

Pictured here with a local guide and tour members in the background on our 2012 North Korean tour.

 

Sri Lanka tour itinerary mapTour Itinerary

This tour gives you an opportunity to visit all the key sights and experiences that Sri Lanka has to offer visitors.

We start in the nation's capital of Colombo, go up to the extraordinary concentration of historical sights in the island's 'cultural triangle', visit the high country region, then head down to the coast, around, and back to Negombo, all the time accompanied by not just one, but two guides.

We'll see animals galore, lots of beautiful scenery, and plenty of friendly people.

In total, you'll enjoy a complete 13 day tour of this natural paradise.

 

After you've finished viewing this daily detailed itinerary, please click here to return to the main Sri Lanka Nature's Paradise Tour page.


Itinerary

Day 0  (possibly Friday 14 Feb - or earlier)  Leave the US

To arrive in Sri Lanka on Saturday 15 Feb, you probably need to take a flight the day before.

You should make your own arrangements to fly to Sri Lanka, so as to arrive in Colombo on or prior to Saturday 15 Feb.

If you choose to also enjoy our pre-tour option in Singapore, obviously your travels need to start earlier.

 

Day 1 (Saturday 15 Feb - or earlier) Arrive in Sri Lanka - Colombo

Colombo is a beautiful city in a lovely setting.
Welcome to Sri Lanka!

Our tour starts with your arrival today, although many people will probably choose either to arrive a day or so early for 'just in case' delays and to beat the jet-lag, or will take advantage of our pre-tour option in Singapore.

Maybe enjoy a dinner this evening at one of the many very fine restaurants that Colombo is well known for.

Our hotel for the two nights we are in Colombo is the award winning Cinnamon Grand.

 

Day 2 (Sunday 16 Feb) :  Colombo City Sightseeing

Colombo is a mix of old and new, western and eastern.
 
Another view of Colombo.
The colorful Pettah Bazaar.

After breakfast this morning we'll go on a half day sightseeing tour of the city.

We'll see a fascinating mix of different sights, ranging from the local bazaar and trading area to temples and churches, the main residential neighborhoods, the commercial area, and the restored Dutch Hospital development.

Our afternoon is free to spend as we wish, and there are, for sure, plenty of choices for how to enjoy our time.

This evening we'll have a group welcome dinner, giving you a relaxed opportunity to meet your fellow Travel Insiders and to start new friendships (or renew existing friendships).

Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner.
Special Features - City tour, Welcome Dinner

 

Day 3 (Monday 17 Feb) :  To Habarana, evening Wildlife Tour

We can't promise the exact same experience at Minneriya National Park when we visit, but we sure can hope!
 
 
Our award winning hotel for the next three nights, nestled in a beautiful natural setting.

After breakfast this morning we head inland and up to what is known as the 'cultural triangle' of the country; the region around Habarana, where we will be staying three nights.

Our route takes us through the 'Dry Zone' of the country, but an elaborate network of canals and lakes ensures fertile ground and plentiful irrigation.

Our hotel for the three nights we're experiencing this region is the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana.  It won the Sri Lankan Tourism Award in 2011 for being the best Five Star Resort in the entire country, and was named the second best hotel in Sri Lanka for 2013 by TripAdvisor.

This evening we go on a 4WD jeep safari through the nearby Minneriya National Park.  Chances are good we'll see some elephants, and probably plenty of other animals too.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Jeep Safari into Minneriya National Park

 

Day 4 (Tuesday 18 Feb) :  Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya

The impressive ruins and remains at Polonnaruwa.
 
The distinctive rock fortress at Sigiriya.

After breakfast this morning we travel north to the World Heritage site at Polonnaruwa, a former capital of Sri Lanka in the 10th - 12th centuries, where we'll see the ruins of the Royal Palace complex, the Gal Viharaya with its four Buddha statues in different poses, a Shiva temple, and a former Temple of the Sacred Tooth (which is now displayed in Kandy).

Also today we go to another World Heritage site -  Sigiriya and its spectacular rock fortress, dating back to 477AD.

The 'Lion Rock' rises some 650 ft, and within the palace remains are world-renowned frescoes.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features - Visit two World Heritage sites

 

Day 5 (Wednesday 19 Feb) :  Anuradapura, Mihintale, Avukana

Anuradapura - the grandest and most ancient of the former capitals we will be visiting.
 
A view from the Mihintale hilltop.


The enormous Buddha carved out of the side of the granite rock at Avukana.

Another experience filled day today.  We first visit the ancient capital city of Anuradapura (our third World Heritage site).  This - the grandest of Sri Lanka's ancient cities - dates back as far as the 5th century BC.  As well as many structures and monuments and relics, we'll also see the oldest historically documented tree in the world (2,200 yrs old).

Next we travel a short distance to Mihintale, significant for being the place where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka.  If you choose to walk up to the summit, fine views of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed.

On the journey back to Habarana, we stop at the Avukana Buddha statue - carved out of the granite rock face and over 40 ft tall.

The statue dates back to the 5th century.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Feature -
World Heritage site visit, plus Mihintale and Avukana too

 

Day 6 (Thursday 20 Feb) :  To Kandy via Dambulla and a Spice Market; the Temple of the Tooth

The entrance to the Dambulla Cave Temples.
Inside one of the many cave chambers at Dambulla.

The Temple of the Tooth complex in Kandy.

We leave Habarana after breakfast this morning and travel to Kandy where we'll stay for two nights.

We start off with an elephant ride, but don't worry - most of our journey to Kandy will be in the comfort of our coach!

A feature of the journey is a visit to a Spice Market where we see some of the traditional spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cloves and lots of others (not all of which begin with the letter 'C') that form a part of Sri Lankan (and Indian) cuisine.

We stop at the Dambulla Cave Temples; a series of five major caves (with about 80 more nearby) and a World Heritage site.

We are staying at the Cinnamon Citadel in Kandy, and we are treating all of us to upgraded deluxe rooms at this lovely hotel.

We will also visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth - where a relic believed to be one of the Buddha's teeth is displayed.

Custodianship of the tooth has symbolized the right to rule in Sri Lanka, and the tooth has been located in many other cities/palaces prior to its current domicile.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
World Heritage site, Elephant Ride, Spice Garden visit, Dambulla caves, Temple of the Tooth

 

Day 7 (Friday 21 Feb) :  Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy City Tour

Elephants of all sizes at Pinnawala.
 
Over 4,000 plant species are displayed at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Kandy - the last royal capital of Sri Lanka.
 

We've a great day of varied sightseeing experiences arranged for you today.  Let's start at the lovely Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage - the only such institution in the world, where we'll see baby elephants being cared for.

A different form of natural beauty can be experienced at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya.  With over 4,000 plant species and 10,000 trees spread over 150 acres, this is a glorious paradise of plants.

At curious odds with the peaceful tranquility, this was the site of Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral of the Fleet the Right Honorable Earl Mountbatten's SE Asian headquarters during WW2 - some consider him the finest Englishman of the 20th century.

We then return to Kandy for a tour around Kandy itself - one of the most beautiful cities in Sri Lanka and another World Heritage site.

As part of our tour we will experience a demonstration of Batik, which will conclude this great and varied day of experiences.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features - World Heritage Site, Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy touring, Batik demonstration

 

Day 8 (Saturday 22 Feb) :  A train and some tea - Nuwara Eliya

We'll enjoy a beautiful scenic journey in an open sightseeing carriage on the train.



Tea growing at Nuwara Eliya.

This morning we travel the short distance to Peradeniya, and we can't be late, because we've a train to catch.

We will enjoy a marvelous train journey from Peradeniya to Nanu Oya.  Although the distance isn't great (60 miles), the train goes slowly, winding through the hills, going through dark tunnels and passing by beautiful waterfalls, and makes stops en route.  The total experience is just over three hours.

Our coach is waiting for us when we get off the train and takes us on to our destination for the night, Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is definitely up in the highlands of Sri Lanka.  It is more than 5280 ft above sea level - more than a mile above sea level (hint, hint).  It is also in the heart of the tea growing area, and so we'll visit a tea plantation and learn about how the tea is grown, picked, and prepared for retail sale and our tea pot.

We spend one night at the St Andrews Hotel.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Scenic train ride, tea plantation tour

 

Day 9 (Sunday 23 Feb) :  From Nuwara Eliya to Yala


Charming Ella - not exactly the largest city you've ever visited!
 
The pool area at the award winning Chaaya Wild Resort.

Our coach takes us down out of the Sri Lankan highlands today, with us arriving on the outskirts of the enormous Yala National Park, back at sea level, late this afternoon.

We'll enjoy two nights at the Chaaya Wild Resort, winner of various awards, including the Best Wildlife Accommodation Award in the 2011 Sri Lankan Tourism Awards.

On the way we stop in Ella, a charming little village where we can 'go for a wander' and do some exploring as we wish.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Freestyle exploring around Ella, scenic drive to Yalla

 

Day 10 (Monday 24 Feb) :  A Day at Yala

The population of leopards is more densely concentrated at Yalla than anwywhere else.  Hopefully that means we'll see some.
 
As well as elephants, leopards, and other animals, you may see some sea turtles and other aquatic life - oh yes, and some of the 215 bird species too.
 
The entrance to the Kataragama temple.

Decisions, decisions.  You have a choice today - do you want to go on the early morning jeep safari or the late afternoon jeep safari?

Oh yes, if you would like to do both, we can arrange for you to do the extra tour, too.  There are different animals to be seen in the early morning than in the late afternoon, so perhaps this is an appropriate treat to give yourself.

Yala National Park is the most popular of Sri Lanka's national parks, and spans about 370 sq miles.

It is home to 44 different species of mammal, including some of the greatest densities of leopards of anywhere in the world, lots of elephants, and 215 bird species.

Sloth bears, water buffalo, crocodiles, sea turtles, and many other creatures are also sometimes seen.

We will also visit the pilgrimage town of Kataragama and its temple - which (unusually) is venerated by all three major groups in Sri Lanka - the Buddhists, the Hindus, and the indigenous Vedda people.  It also has a Muslim mosque within its structure.

Talking about old - there are signs of human civilization around Kataragama dating back 125,000 years.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
Yala wildlife safari, Kataragama
Optional second wildlife safari

Option :  You can choose a second wildlife safari if you wish, enabling you to see different animals in both the morning and evening.

 

Day 11 (Tuesday 25 Feb) :  Yala to Galle


The 90 acre fort at Galle.
 
One of the entrances to the fort, looking much the same as it has for centuries.
 
Dutch colonial style architecture in Galle.
 
The Lighthouse Hotel where we'll stay the night.

We travel around the southern shores of Sri Lanka today on our way to Galle, where we'll spend one night at the award winning Lighthouse Hotel nearby.

The Lighthouse Hotel was named fourth best hotel in Sri Lanka by TripAdvisor in 2013.

We will tour the Dutch-constructed fort at Galle, and visit the museum within the fort's grounds, and also see the modern day Galle township too.

Galle is a World Heritage Site, and has lots of evidence of the former Dutch presence .  But its history starts way further back - it is said to be the city of Tarshish where King Solomon obtained gems and spices.

The Portugese first settled in Galle in the late 1500s, and then were displaced by the Dutch in from the mid 17th century.

Perhaps the fort's severest test was in 2004 when the Boxing Day tsunami devastated much of Galle city (now rebuilt).  The fort itself, however, withstood the tsunami.

Included Meals - Breakfast
Special Features -
World Heritage Site

 

Day 12 (Wednesday 26 Feb) :  Galle and up to Negombo


Perhaps to remind themselves of home, the Dutch built a canal in Negombo (to transport spices).



Fisherman eager to show - and sell - their catch in Negombo.
 

The Jetwing Lagoon Hotel in the evening.

We leave our hotel this morning and make our way in an easy leisurely way up to Negombo, a lovely seaside town (well, actually, the fourth largest city in the country, with a population of about 130,000 people).

Negombo is slightly north of Colombo and close to the airport, and was formerly the center of the cinnamon trade.  It also has an active fishing industry.

We'll spend our last night at the award winning Jetwing Lagoon Hotel.

Depending on what we feel like, we might spend some more time in Galle, we'll probably visit a seaside town or two as we drive up north, possibly stopping in Bentota for lunch.

Or maybe we'll stop back in Colombo for a last shopping opportunity - if we haven't all filled our suitcases with souvenirs already!

We'll conclude the touring with a sightseeing visit around Negombo, and a stop at their local fish market.

For dinner tonight, we have a special farewell dinner planned.  Assuming the weather cooperates, we'll take advantage of the lovely warm evenings and hold it outdoors on the shore of the lagoon.

Included Meals - Breakfast, Dinner.

Special Features - Coastal touring, Negombo tour, fish market, farewell dinner


Day 13 (Thursday 27 Feb) :  Tour ends in Negombo


Our lovely visit to the island paradise of Sri Lanka comes to an end.
 

We hope you enjoyed last night's festive farewell dinner.

And now, after one last breakfast, our tour comes to an end.

We plan to offer a short post-tour option in Bangkok.  You are of course welcome to either join us for that, or do something else, somewhere else, or simply return home, back to a hopefully not too cold winter after your tropical paradise experience.

Options :  You can now choose to either immediately travel on from Sri Lanka, either to Bangkok for our post tour option, or of course anywhere else you choose.

And, if you want to, you can also stay longer in beautiful Sri Lanka.

Included Meals - Breakfast

For More Information

Please return to the main page for more information about our 2014 Sri Lanka Nature's Paradise Tour.  And here's a link to jump you directly down to the booking form.

The Travel Insider is licensed by the State of Washington as a seller of travel - registration number 602 036 247.
 

Originally published 25 April 2013, last update 21 Jul 2020

 
 
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