Join us on an action-packed family adventure across this spiritual island. Search for leopard in Wilpattu National Park, staying overnight in a tented safari camp; cycle the backroads to discover ancient Buddhist cities in ancient Polonnaruwa and raft the white waters of the Central Highlands. Blessed with sun soaked beaches and a breadth of fun activities, its little surprise that Sri Lanka is one of our most popular family holiday destinations.
Wildlife - search for groups of Asian elephants, leopard, sloth bear, spotted deer, buffalo, sambar and mongoose
Beach time - relax on the tropical beaches of the Indian Ocean and take a surfing lesson (west coast version only)
Get active - White water rafting on the Kelani River, ideal for beginners or intermediate rafters
We offer an east and west coast version of this family holiday to benefit from the best weather conditions on each coast, staying on the east coast over the summer holidays and October half term and switching to the south west coast over Christmas, February and Easter.
- Wildlife - search for groups of Asian elephants, leopard, sloth bear, spotted deer, buffalo, sambar and mongoose.
- Beach time - relax on the tropical beaches of the Indian Ocean and take a surfing lesson (west coast version only)
- Get active - White water rafting on the Kelani River, ideal for beginners or intermediate rafters.
- Characterful accommodation - stay in a tented safari camp and a jungle lodge in the forest.
- Polonnaruwa - Explore this deserted ancient city on bikes and see the huge reclining Buddha.
- Sigiriya - climb to the top of Lions Rock for incredible views.
- Cookery class - take part in a cooking demonstration, enjoying a hearty lunch with a local family.
- Sri Lanka Holidays
- Sri Lanka
Day 1: Trip starts in Negombo
Arrive in Negombo, a beach resort a short distance from Sri Lanka's capital city situated on the Indian Ocean.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Negombo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International airport (airport code CMB), which is 14km, 40 minutes from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day there is the option to head to the beach or make use of the hotel facilities which features a swimming pool and gardens overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Day 2: Drive to Kitulgala, adventure capital of Sri Lanka. White water rafting and jungle walks. Stay in a jungle Camp.
Drive to Kitulgala, a journey of around three hours. Set amongst the fertile and lush western highlands with towering cliffs and wild water, the Kelani Ganga provides some of the best white water rafting in the country. The grade 2-3 rapids provide us with the perfect combination of fun and excitement, as we spend the afternoon rafting down the river towards our eco lodge accommodation in the jungle outside Kitulgala.
We cover a seven kilometre section of the river through eight rapids. It will usually take approximately one to two hours to cover the section but this depends on water levels. We should arrive at our overnight lodge late this afternoon. This evening there will be a chance to join an optional trek across the river and through the jungle to a hidden waterfall.
Our night spent at Kitulgala is more basic with ten eco lodge tree houses roofed with palm leaves set two meters above ground level. Huts are open to the forest, providing a close to nature feeling, the sounds of the river running close by only adds to the feeling of being in the wilderness. All beds are fitted with mosquito nets.
Day 3: Visit a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya, continue to a colonial style hotel in Ella
Wake up to the sounds of birds in the jungle. After breakfast head off across the highlands to the hill station of Nuwara Eliya. The area around Nuwara Eliya is the heart of the island's tea industry and we will visit one of the many estates to witness the production processes and sample the finished product.
The air is noticeably cooler as we enter a world of round green rolling hills covered in tea plantations. We continue our journey into the heart of the central highlands, arriving in the late afternoon at out hotel in the town of Ella, perched on the hillside amongst the lush green scenery.
Day 4: Leisurely morning. Drive to Passikudah beach on the Indian Ocean.
Enjoy a leisurely start to the day. We leave mid-morning, driving to the east coast resort on Passikudah beach.
The next day and a half is free to enjoy the laid back ambience and turquoise waters of Sri Lanka's east coast. Rich in colonial history and golden beaches, the region offers us a wealth of options to enjoy the most of our time here. Our hotel has a swimming pool and has easy access to the beach.
Day 5: Free day to enjoy the beach.
Passikudah has one of the finest beaches on the east coast of the island. The protected reef runs the length of the way making it an ideal resort for snorkelling and the shallow waters enable wading out 50 meters from the shore. For active families, there is a wide choice of water sports on offer, alternatively sit back and relax on the golden sandy beach or take a dip in the hotel swimming pool.
Day 6: Share a meal with locals in Habarana, travelling by canoe and tuk tuk; cycling tour of ancient Polonnaruwa.
Heading inland we drive two hours to Habarana, the cultural hub of Sri Lanka. Tuk tuks are the transport of choice here, and we'll switch out the bus for a tuk tuk ride to the community's vegetable garden. Walk around and help the villagers select a choice of homegrown vegetables, which will all go into preparing our traditional Sri Lankan lunch. Watch as delicious curries and fluffy rice are prepared and try out creating a traditional spicy sambar. After sharing the meal, we have the chance to take a serene canoe ride on the village lake. After spending time in the village we make our way back to our bus and onto Polonnaruwa, just under an hour's drive.
This afternoon we visit the ancient city by bicycle and on foot, taking in the spectacular ruins of the Royal Palace and its Audience Hall, Bathing Pool and Quadrangle - a wonderfully compact collection of ruins. We stay overnight close to Polonnaruwa.
Day 7: Climb to the top of Sigiriya's dramatic Lion's Rock, take a jeep safari in search of leopards in Wilpattu National Park, overnight tented camp.
An early transfer this morning takes us to the start of our ascent up the imposing Lion Rock for the climb to the redoubtable Sky Fortress, soaring dramatically up from the flat central plains. The ruins of this 5th century World Heritage site fortress are one of Sri Lanka's major attractions. A switchback series of steps (sometimes very steep and somewhat precarious) ascends to the top and half-way up, tucked beneath a sheltering overhang of rock, are the famous Sigiriya Damsels. These frescoes, their ancient colours still glowing, once covered an area of some 140 metres in length and are the only ancient non-religious paintings to have survived into modern times. On arriving at the summit (200m) we are presented with some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, as well as the remains of what is left of the palace of King Kassapa.
Leaving Sigiriya we drive to Wilpattu National Park. Here we will leave our bus and change to jeeps for an afternoon safari through the park hoping to spot Sri Lanka's most elusive resident, the leopard. Despite Wilpattu National Park's location in Sri Lanka's dry zone, it boasts nearly 60 lakes and is renowned for leopard, elephant and sambar deer sightings.
Tonight we stay in a large fixed tented camp located close to the Southern boundary, on the boundary of a lake surrounded by bush forest. Each tent is well appointed with raised beds and comfortable mattresses, there is plenty of space to move around; en-suite private bathrooms are located in adjoining individual tents. Pillows, bed linen, towels, a flashlight and an umbrella are also provided. In the evening guests are invited to retire to the campfire after dinner.
Day 8: Morning game drive, continue to Negombo.
Rise early for a game drive in Wilpattu National Park and a further opportunity for wildlife viewing, returning to our camp for breakfast. We make the final part of our journey by bus, returning to the small town of Negombo for our final night in Sri Lanka. The afternoon is free to enjoy a dip in the Indian Ocean or relax by the pool.
Day 9: Trip ends in Negombo.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Negombo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Negombo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Colombo's Bandaranaike International airport (airport code CMB), which is 14km, 40 minutes from the hotel.
Touring with Explore
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From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking on mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore. They will provide their expert knowledge, exciting itineraries and outstanding service as part of their sustainable travel experiences which take you under the skin of the country you're visiting for the adventure of a lifetime.