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Sri Lanka: Ancient Kingdoms, Nature and Wildlife

12 days 11 nights


Category Sri Lanka Classic Tours

  • Group Size 2-16 persons
  • Difficulty Level 3
  • Trip Starts From Negombo
  • Trip Ends At Colombo
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Negombo Sigiriya Polonnaruwa Kandy Nuwara Eliya Ella Yala Galle Bentota Colombo
Dates & Prices
Please, contact us for the price and the dates for this trip


Get ready to escape to a unique land of Sri Lanka! Formerly Ceylon, this island country in South Asia is relatively small in size yet remarkably beautiful shaped by its history, traditions, different languages, ethnicities, and other factors. The culture of Sri Lanka dates back over 2500 years, and it is influenced primarily by Buddhism and Hinduism.

Once you arrive here, we make sure we provide you the authentic essence of Sri Lanka; thus, we have included the best of everything on this trip. Major attractions of this trip are Pollonnaruwa- the ancient royal capital, Dambulla Caves with ancient statues and frescoes, Sigiriya Rock Fortress on 660 ft high rock column – a UNESCO world heritage site, the sacred Temple of Tooth in Kandy, Nine Arch Bridge- an iconic engineering marvel-built without the use of steel. Also, Galle Fort- another UNESCO recognized site – to witness the European influence in South Asia, or you can unwind in the beaches of the coastal town of Bentota.

The trip also takes you to Minneriya National Park and Yala National Park, home to hundreds of wild elephants and leopards, among others. We will have stops in the spice gardens, tea factories and enjoy hiking on the scenic trails to the World's End in Horton plains!

Highlights of the trip

  • Polonnaruwa- the ancient Royal Capital- the best planned archaeological relic cities in the country.
  • Dambulla Caves- the largest and the best-preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka, dating back to the first century BC.
  • Climb the Sigiriya Rock Fortress on 660 ft high rock column! A UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Exciting jeep safari in Minneriya National Park and Yala National Park and the view of the Asian elephants in the wild, leopard, deer, and much other wildlife.
  • Visit the most sacred Buddhist temple in Kandy- The Temple of Tooth that enshrines the tooth relic of Buddha.
  • Enjoy the hill country scenery, tea estates, lake, and the natural scenery in the colonial hill resort of Nuwara Eliya.
  • Hike the World's End in Horton's Plains National Park.
  • Walk on the Nine Arch Bridge- an iconic engineering marvel, built without the use of steel, in Ella.
  • Witness the European influence in South Asia when you visit the Galle Fort- a UNESCO recognized the site.
  • Relax on the beaches of the coastal town of Bentota.
  • Explore the city's attractions and the Galle Face Green in Colombo.
  • Take a chance to watch the traditional Sri Lankan dances.

Is this trip for you?

  • Sri Lanka has a typical tropical climate, and it's scorching during the mid-day (86-90 degree) and has extreme sunlight.
  • This trip has some long day drives. The longest journey is from Yala to Bentota, which is about 5.5 hours. Roads are generally in good condition.
  • Climbing Sigiriya Rock Fort is strenuous, and it's not for everyone! People with knee problems and height issues should not attempt it! The steps are uneven walkways narrow.
  • The trip includes a good number of temples and religious shrines. You need to remove your shoes, including socks, and walk barefoot and so need to avoid the mid-day heat as the stone slabs or walkways are very hot. Please dress modestly, covering your arms and legs.
  • En suite bathroom with running hot and cold water and western style flush toilets are available in tourist class restaurants and hotels.
  • The trip does not include meals, but all the hotels do have on-site restaurants and dining places in the town, and they serve local as well as western-style dishes!

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Colombo. Transfer to Negombo

Upon arrival at Colombo International Airport, complete immigration and customs formalities and meet your chauffeur guide at the arrival gate. You can obtain electronic travel authorization ETA online in advance and get an actual visa sticker on your passport upon arrival!

From the airport, take a scenic half an hour drive to Negombo- a beach town. Check-in hotel and the rest of the day is at leisure. Negombo is a historically a commercial town, and there is not much cultural or archaeological importance to see. But it has a fascinating network of canals teeming with rural life and vast, sweeping beach of Indian Ocean. Spend the first day leisurely walking along the coastline and watching the fishermen's boat or strolling through the street and getting familiarized!

If time permits, ask your driver to take you to Negombo's Fish Market. The fish market visit can be a slippery, smelly, and also noisy affair, but it's exciting. It's the largest fish market right on the beach and sells the fresh catch from the ocean that includes the lobsters, crabs, and prawns. Make your way through the stalls piled with a shark, squid, barracuda, and unheard of sea creatures as the sellers yell out for their catches.

Day 02~Minneriya National Park

After breakfast in the hotel, we set off for Sigiriya (80 miles, 4.5 hours). Check-in, your hotel in Habarana. You will have time to settle into your room and take some rest. After that, we proceed for a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park (Entrance fee and Jeep cost are exclusive. Pay on the spot).

Minneriya National Park was created to preserve the massive ancient reservoir built by King Mahasen of Anuradhapura in the third century AD. Initially, the reservoir covered 4670 acres. The reservoir and the area around now makes a great ecosystem and habitat to the diverse wildlife that includes elephants, deer, leopards and various species of birds such as storks, pelicans, hornbills, cormorants, herons, bulbuls and more!

In three hours long safari, we can see several herds of elephants-adults and calves, gathering and grazing in the shores of the reservoir during the dry season.

Overnight hotel in Habarana.


Meals : Breakfast
Day 03~Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa

After breakfast, we proceed to the famous Lion Rock Fortress of Sigiriya. This rock citadel of King Kasyapa on a 660 ft high rock culminating dates back to the 5th-century, and it is ideally the engineering wonder of ancient Sri Lanka.  Ramparts and moats surround the Lion Rock are also coated by frescoes that relate to Gupta style paintings found in the Ajanta caves of India. We walk in the shade of an eminent 'mirror wall' embracing the western face of Sigiriya, representing an artistic hundred meters laminated with graffiti.

There are 1200 steps up to the top and can take about 2 hours for a total trip up and down. The spiral staircase upward the Lion's Paw is strenuous and is not for faint-hearted and people with height issues.

Afternoon time is for the excursion to Polonnaruwa (approximately 1.5 hrs.)- the capital of Sri Lanka between the 11th and 13th centuries AD. The ancient kingdom contained royal castles, bathing pools, temples, monasteries, and dagabas- reflecting a combination of Sinhalese and South Indian culture and architecture. Ravaged much by invasion at different times, the ancient capital now exists in ruins but still with former grandeur.

We walk across the spread walls and admire the ancient Sri Lankan engineering wonders of this World Heritage Site. We will see stupas with resting Buddha statues, irrigation canals. And also fantastically carved Hindu sculptures while observing the relic house Watadage that boasts of beautiful stone carvings.

Overnight hotel in Habarana.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 04~Dambulla Caves, Matale Spice Garden and Kandy

After breakfast, we leave for Kandy- the largest city in central Sri Lanka and the last capital of Royal Sri Lanka. Shortly after, on the road, we stop to visit the magnificent Dambulla Caves. It is located high on a cliff face, and the caves house many Buddha images, frescoes, and paintings. Each of them tells the history and religion and leaves you with a unique sense of spirituality. We avoid the mid-day heat as it requires good 30 or 40 minutes of a challenging climb through the stone stairs. Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, dating back to the first century BCE.

On the way, at Matale (44 miles), we will stop in one of the several spice gardens that we can see along. Sri Lankan spices and herbs are world-renowned. And here, you will be amazed to learn that they aren't just used in food but also on many cosmetics and ayurvedic medicines. We will have an in-house spice and herb specialist guide who will lead us through the various plants that include cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, and what not! They also have a small showroom, but the price offered is inflated. It's not obligatory to purchase here, but the tour gives an insight into Sri Lankan spices.

Overnight hotel in Kandy.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 05~Kandy: Visit the city highlights

After breakfast, we begin our city exploration from the Temple of Sacred Tooth that enshrines the sacred tooth relic of Buddha. The relic has been significant since ancient times not only for a religious reason but also in local politics as whoever owned the relic, also held the governing power of the country!

Next, we visit the International Buddhist Museum- the world's first International Buddhist Museum built with contributions of the world's 17 countries. These countries are Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Bhutan, and Afghanistan!

Nearby is Kandy Lake- an artificial lake built in the early 19th century. We will take a scenic drive around and stop to visit a local bazaar. We walk through the market to see stalls filled with fresh fruit, produce, and other merchandise; and eating Sri Lankan street food such as koththu.

Optional: Cultural Program.

The cultural program showcases the traditional songs and dances of Kandy. The show lasts about an hour and includes several different items and end with fire-eating and fire-walking shows outside the hall! While the songs and dances are great, do not expect much on the hall ambiance and decoration part.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 06~Nuwara Eliya

After breakfast, we leave for Nuwara Eliya (4.5 hours), which is amidst the tea country hills of central Sri Lanka. Situated at an altitude of 6128 ft., Nuwara Eliya has a temperate and cool climate and is the most cooling area in Sri Lanka.

It's a scenic drive through tea estates. We will enjoy the hill country scenery and waterfalls, appreciate the nature-friendly trail abundant with green filled mountains and waterfalls wrapping the mountains with scenic beauty. And also beautiful tea plantations that are draping down from the sides of the mountains as you pass by. We will stop in a tea factory to learn about the world-famous Ceylon Teas production. 

In Nuwara Eliya, enjoy the beauty of Gregory Lake, constructed during the period of British Governor William Gregory. There are quite a few activities offered by locals like canoeing, boating, games if you wish to partake in or gaze the beauty of the area from one of the restaurants on the shore.

Another attraction of Nuwara Eliya is the Haggala botanical garden, where you can take a stroll and learn about the wondrous flora. The garden is located at an altitude of 1745m above sea level under the shadow of the Haggala Rock and offers scenic views of Madulsima and the Namunukula mountain range. The garden has more than 1000 different species that include orchids and roses.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 07~Horton's Plains and Ella

Optional: Excursion of Horton's Plains National Park (There is no jeep and entrance fee included).

Horton Plains is a beautiful highland plateau famous for hiking to the fabled viewpoint of the World's End.

The entrance of the park is 20 miles from Nuwara Eliya, and one needs a 4WD vehicle to get there due to adverse road conditions. From the trailhead, the World's End is about 2.5 miles, but the trail makes a nice look via Baker's Fall and then back to the entrance (3.5 miles) in approximately 3-hours. We walk on a relaxed pace on a well-trodden path through cloud forests and grasslands and arrive at the World's End- the main attraction of the park. World's End is a spine chilling 2854 ft sheer drop with a view across the green mountains of the island country to clear blue coastline and beyond! We need to leave early morning so that we arrive at the trailhead around sunrise and make to the World's End before the clouds start rolling in and blocking the view.

The other attraction of the park is the Baker's Falls- named after Sir Samuel Baker- a famous explorer. Waters cascading down from the height of 66 and the environs creates a beautiful scene!

Back to the entrance of the park, we meet our transport and drive back to the hotel. After wash up and change, proceed for a scenic 2.5 hours drive to Ella.

Upon arrival, check into your accommodation and after wash up and change, proceed to Nine Arch Bridge, which is a leisurely walk of less than half an hour. The Nine Arch Bridge is on the Demodara loop of the railway line and spans nearly 300 ft. long and 78 ft high. The bridge is a very picturesque spot located in a dense jungle and agricultural setting, especially when the train is passing. Built without the use of steel, it's one of the iconic bridges and engineering marvels of the world! The legend goes that when this bridge was being planned, World War I broke out, and the steel consignment was diverted to the weapon factories, and so the engineers came up with the plan to build the bridge with brick and cement only!

Meals : Breakfast
Day 08~Yala National Park

After breakfast, leave for Yala National Park, which is less than three hours of drive. (The park is closed from 01 Sep to 15 the Oct for infrastructure repair and maintenance).

Yala is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and has the reputation of frequent sightings of leopards! Afternoon time is for jeep safari (jeep and entrance fee not included, book with your guide in advance) that takes you through the tropical wilderness and allows you to witness the awe-inspiring moments of wildlife and magnificent nature! Capture the glimpses of elusive leopards and enjoy as you watch the mud-bathing playful elephants. Other wildlife you may encounter is exclusive sloth bear, wild boar, water buffalo, spotted deer, sambar, and golden jackal. And many birds, such as peacocks, Flamingos, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Painted Storks, rare Black-necked Storks, Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Night Herons, Darters, Garganeys, Whimbrels, Pigeons, Flycatchers, etc. The afternoon safari usually starts at 3 p.m. and lasts in three hours.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 09~Galle Fort and Bentota Beaches

After breakfast, proceed on a long day drive to Bentota (approximate travel time 5.5 hours, 140 miles).

About 40 miles before Bentota, we stop to visit the Galle Fort. Initiated by Portuguese in 1588, the fort was later extensively modified and fortified by the Dutch. Then the British added a large gate at the main entrance, making it one of the most important archaeological, architectural, and historical monuments to illustrate the European influence in South East Asia! On three sides surrounded by the gorgeous ocean view, this UNESCO heritage site is a relaxing place. Visit the most impressive museums that include churches and museums. Browse through the beautiful shops- probably the best place to buy souvenirs for your friends and relatives back home, ocean views. And the Fort includes churches or walk to the Clock Tower from where you’ll have a beautiful view over the Fort and on the other side, Galle city.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 10~Leisurely time in Bentota

Spend the day at leisure in the coastal town of Bentota. Enjoy time at the famous beach, step into the sun sand and sea and wrap yourself with the warmth of tropical beaches of Southern Sri Lanka! You may visit the Turtle Hatchery Project that gathers turtle eggs and safeguard them until they hatch. After hatching, the babies are then safely released to the ocean. This increases their chance of survival.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 11~Colombo city highlights

After breakfast, transfer to Colombo; the journey of 37 miles takes about 2 hours. In Colombo, we visit the Gangarama Temple- an important Buddhist temple with a blend of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture. Then the British colonial Old Parliament building that houses the President's secretariat, the lighthouse at the harbor, and Independence Square with a memorial hall that was built to celebrate Sri Lanka's independence from the British, cafes, and shops. Enjoy the rest of the day with a relaxed stroll on the Galle Face Green- a 12 acres ocean-side urban park that stretches 1600 ft along the coast. This is a popular place for locals to hang out and very busy, especially during the weekend evening.

Meals : Breakfast
Day 12~Depart Colombo

The airport is nearly 1.5 hours' drive from the city and so plan to leave in time to the airport for your flight to the next destination.

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip includes

  • Eleven nights' hotel on a double occupancy basis.
  • Daily breakfast at the hotel.
  • Private vehicle with English speaking chauffer guide.
  • Local guide in Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Kandy.

The trip does not include

  • Sri Lanka Visa.
  • Airfares.
  • Lunch and dinner.
  • Drinks, tipping, laundry, phone, and other expenses of personal nature.
  • Sightseeing admission and activities fee (jeep safari in Sigiriya and Yala National Park and 4WD vehicle to Horton Plains National Park)-Total estimated $ 340 per person (there will be updated list with a breakdown on the final trip document).
  • Extra expenses due to nature and unforeseen events.
  • Extra mileage due to re-routing or deviation from the main program.

Sri Lanka Visa

The remaining validity of your passport must be a minimum of 6 months when you return from the trip. Make sure you have one blank visa page for the visa stamp on arrival.

You can obtain a Sri Lanka visa conventionally from any Sri Lanka embassy abroad. Or you can apply online the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which costs $ 35 for US citizens.
You can also obtain ETA upon arrival at Colombo International Airport, but it's always advisable to get it in advance.

Weather and climate

Sri Lanka is a year-round holiday and adventure destination.

Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons: The period between May and September is rainy season in the south-west of Sri Lanka, the dry season being from October through April. The north and east coastal areas receive monsoon between October and January, and its dry season is from February through September. There is also an inter-monsoonal period during October and the first half of November when rain and thunderstorms can occur across the country. So, the dry period for both the areas begins in December and lasts until mid-April, and obviously, this period is considered the best time to travel to Sri Lanka.

Colombo and the West Coastal areas, such as Negombo and Bentota, have the highest rainfall between June and September. The average high temperature is 86 degree F, and it rarely falls below that.

The Southern coastal areas of Galle and Yala experience similar weather patterns to the west coast with the best weather expected between late November and April.

Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Minneriya are located within the dry zone. With exceptions of high rainfall in November and December, the weather conditions remain somewhat arid throughout the year, but the months of June and July are scorching.

Kandy is in lower altitude, and so you can experience heat here, but as you travel to Nuwara Eliya and Ella, the temperature drop as you climb the higher altitude.

Travel with Chauffer Guide

You will travel with an English speaking chauffer guide whom you meet upon arrival at Colombo international airport. The chauffeur driver is a trained and certified professional. He will help you check-in hotels and coordinate sightseeing and other tour activities. We hire specialized local tour guides on some destinations such as Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy. For group size of 10 travelers or more, we will provide, we will provide an accompanying guide throughout the trip

Admission tickets and activities fee:

Sightseeing admission tickets and activities such as jeep safari, cultural program, etc. are not included. They are optional. In total, please, budget $350 per person for this itinerary. Break down of the admission tickets will be provided on the final trip dossier.

Accommodations & meals

The trip includes an 11-night hotel or resort accommodation. The hotels are superior or deluxe category properties and best available where choices are limited. The trip includes daily breakfast and dinner in the hotel. The trip does not include lunch. Please, budget $10-12 per meal.

Booking, deposit and payment schedule

We request US$ 300 per person along with the completed trip registration form. Balance payment is generally due 90 days before the trip date. However, some hotels or suppliers, particularly on busy tourist season, may ask for a non-refundable deposit to guarantee the booking, and in that case, we will advise you accordingly. 

Balance payment by credit card attracts an additional 3.5% fee. A personal check is welcome. We accept the payment from the traveler's account only. We reserve the right to refuse a certain form of payment. Wire transfer fees are to be borne by the traveler.


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