A jewel in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is jam-packed with ancient sites, fascinating culture, beautiful wilderness and idyllic beaches
A jewel in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is jam-packed with ancient sites, fascinating culture, beautiful wilderness and idyllic beaches. On this adventure, designed for solo travellers only, you will enjoy all that this stunning island has to offer. From ancient Anuradhapura city and the well-preserved Polonnaruwa ruins, to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the impressive Sigiriya rock fortress, Sri Lankan culture spans more than 2000 years and still remains vibrant and alive today. Trek through lush tea plantations, indulge in seafood feasts in quaint fishing villages and dip your toes in the calm, clear waters of Mirissa beach on this all-encompassing adventure for those seeking a unique travel experience.
- Ride around the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura on a bike tour, cycling through jungle to see the dagobas, palaces and pools of a city abandoned over 1000 years ago.
- Climb the rock fortress of Sigiriya to the ancient ruins that lie atop the 200-metre-high summit and get panoramic views over the surrounding wilderness.
- Explore the divine city of Kandy, mingling with pilgrims at the Temple of the Tooth, touring a tea factory and taking in the views of this lush lakefront town.
- Fall in love with Sri Lankan food and get to know locals during experiences like lunching with a Tamil tea worker and a homecooking demonstration.
- Unwind on the sandy beaches of Mirissa, where the waters are clear and warm, and monkeys play in the swaying palms that line the shores.
- Anuradhapura - Bodhi Tree Temple
- Anuradhapura - Bike tour
- Polonnaruwa - Bike Tour
- Dambulla - Cave Temples
- Kandy - Temple of the Tooth
- Sigiriya - Lion Rock
- Kandy - Tea Factory Visit
- Bandarawela - Cooking demonstration & local meal
- Hill Country trek
- Galle - Walking tour
- Colombo - City tour by bus
- Private vehicle , Train , Bicycle
- Hotels (12 nights), Local Lodge (1 night), Permanent Tented Camp (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Day 1 Negombo
Ayu-bowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka. Your adventure begins in the town of Negombo, located close to the international airport. You can arrive at any time on Day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 5.30 pm. Those arriving early can get into the spirit of seaside Sri Lanka by observing the local fishing craft and perhaps feasting on fresh seafood. The beautiful surrounding countryside is best explored on a bicycle, which you can rent with help from the hotel reception.
Day 2 Anuradhapura
Leave Negombo after breakfast today. Your private vehicle takes you to ancient Anuradhapura via the small town of Chilaw (approximately 5 hours total travel time). Those keen on history and archaeology might like to visit Mihintale, the sacred birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhism, as a recommended optional activity. The price of this will depend on the number of people sharing the vehicle.
Day 3 Anuradhapura
A guided bicycle tour of the city will take place today. Among the ruins you'll see the sacred old Bo Tree, a spiritual reminder of the beginnings of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and the inspiration for Anuradhapura's great buildings. The ruins themselves are spread over quite an area, some in woodland settings and others appearing park-like with columns and ponds dotted about.
Day 4 Polonnaruwa
Travel by both public bus and private vehicle on to Polonnaruwa (approximately 2 hours), the capital of the Indian Chola Dynasty after Anuradhapura was conquered in the late 10th century. These ruins are close together and generally in much better repair than those you have just seen. Cycling amid the remains of 1,000-year-old Polonnaruwa is once again the best way to get around. Once the heat of the day has eased you'll visit more palaces, temples and stupas. A likely highlight will be the massive stone Buddhas: 14-metre-high granite carvings of the iconic reclining Buddha which represent the zenith of Sinhalese rock carving. You'll also visit the well laid-out museum, which has scale models of many of the buildings to show how they would have existed in their time.
Day 5 Dambulla
Depart Polonnaruwa this morning and travel to Dambulla (approximately 2.5 hours). Explore the amazing Dambulla Cave Temples which are located high on a stone cliff face, with numerous steps to enter. Some 150 Buddha images adorn the five caves, with fascinating frescoes and paintings on the walls and roofs. In the afternoon, you may like to relax by the hotel pool or take an optional wildlife jeep safari to Minneriya, Kaudulla or Eco National Park where you might spot some wild elephants with a bit of luck. Which park is available to visit depends on the season, but both Minneriya and Kaudulla are within easy reach of Dambulla.
Day 6 Sigiriya - Kandy
Early this morning, before the heat is too intense, head to Sigiriya (approximately 30 minutes). This ruined fortress is one of Sri Lanka's premier sights. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with astounding views. Make sure you are wearing sturdy footwear, as this is a very steep climb with some uneven slopes. Those unable to climb to the top can explore the gardens at the base of the rock and still get some fantastic shots of the fortress from below. Return to the hotel to freshen up before heading to Kandy (approximately 3 hours). On the way, there's the option of stopping at one of the region's wonderful spice gardens for lunch and to learn about the medicinal properties of ingredients used in cooking and treatments. In beautifully located Kandy, visit the Dalada Maligawa (aka Temple of the Tooth), Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist site, and mingle with the white-clad pilgrims who come here to worship. Time permitting, you'll have the option of visiting the National Museum or the world-class Botanical Gardens.
Day 7 Kandy
Today you will visit a nearby tea factory and take a guided tour to learn about the production of Sri Lanka's best-known beverage. Of course, you will also sample some of the delicious varieties while you're here. Your hotel in Kandy, located far from the noise and bustle of the city, is a great place to unwind with lovely views over the town.
Day 8 Bandarawela
Take a scenic journey into the highlands to Bandarawela (approximately 7 hours). Once in Bandarawela you will visit a local home for a cooking demonstration to learn some secrets of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Enjoy the delicious meal afterwards.
Day 9 Haputale
Drive to the starting point for our walk today (approximately 30 mins). This hike (approximately 4.5 hours) takes you through picturesque tea plantations and small Tamil villages. Lunch will be arranged at Tamil tea worker’s house. Tonight's accommodation is in a comfortable local lodge.
Day 10 Jungle Camp
Embrace an early start this morning and drive to the starting point for our walk today. The walk will take approximately 4.5 hours and will explore more of the beautiful surrounds of Sri Lanka's Hill Country. Enjoy this chance to meet the tea pickers along the way and stop for an included lunch in Bambarakanda. After eating, make the approximately 3-hour drive to tonight’s jungle camp accommodation, stopping en route at Diyaluma Falls. Your accommodation this evening is a lake-facing camp that backs onto a forest reserve where many herbs used in ayurvedic medicine are grown. On arrival, you can choose to go on a short tour of the local village.
Day 11 Mirissa
There’s a chance this morning to take an optional excursion to Udawalawe National Park to look for elephants, just keep in mind that participating will require a wake-up call of around 4.30 am. Alternatively, you could sleep in and then choose to visit a local home to watch curd being made or head to a ayurvedic medicine manufacturing centre. Speak to your leader about these optional activities in advance for details. Later, set off for Mirissa by private bus (approximately 3.5 hours). This is your paradise for two days of relaxation, with your comfortable accommodation just metres from the water.
Day 12 Mirissa
Enjoy a day of beach splendour in Mirissa. The beach itself is a long curve of sand with lovely clear waters for swimming – a great spot to watch the sunset. Consider taking a bicycle ride or tuk-tuk to nearby Weligama, where colourful fishing boats bring fresh fish to sell along the shore or 'bikesplore' the lesser known areas of nearby Galle on an Urban Adventure. From September to April there is an optional whale watching excursion. Please ask your leader as you'll need to book at least one day in advance.
Day 13 Galle
Head further down the coast. Arrive in Galle (approximately 1 hour), home to an impressive World Heritage-listed Dutch fort with extensive walls and many interesting old buildings. In the evening, enjoy a stroll around the historic fort and watch the sunset from the ramparts.
Day 14 Colombo
Leaving Galle, we travel on to Colombo, the nation's capital (approximately 3 hours). Stop by some of the city's main sights on a bus tour including Independence Square, Parliament, and past the National Museum, finishing with a shopping opportunity for a good cause at the Barefoot Fair trade Store. Here you can find a collection of handicrafts from around the country and support small cottage industries. If you are lucky enough to be in Colombo on a Saturday, visit Good Market, a local market full of stalls showcasing social enterprises and responsible businesses. Tonight there's an optional final group dinner to celebrate your journey together.
Day 15 Colombo
Your trip comes to an end today, with no activities planned. Checkout time at the hotel is 12 noon.
Touring with Intrepid Travel
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After three decades, founders Darrell and Manch, feel they know what travellers want. They get that it’s a big decision to fly across the world to wander the souks of Marrakech or enjoy a dreamy Angkor sunrise. They understand that you’re looking for a balance of inclusions and free time, a mix of classic highlights and local secrets you won’t find on Google. And of course, an authentic real life experience. Their leaders are born and raised in-country and they know their destination better than anyone. So you’ll do more than just see a place, you’ll live it. Small groups, big adventures and responsible travel – that’s Intrepid’s thing. With 1,000 trips in a variety of styles across 100 countries, you’re sure to find something you like.
Intrepid believe the real magic happens well away from the beaten path. It’s the little noodle bars, hidden galleries and backstreet bodegas and real life experiences you won’t find in a search engine. Real life experiences are those moments you know you’re really alive and experiencing something special. While it could be the instant you see one of the world’s great icons for the first time, it is more likely to be the moment you find yourself in the middle of a village square soccer game, being treated to a home-cooked meal by your new local friends or sharing a laugh with your fellow travellers as you try a new mode of transport … camel anyone? These unexpected moments are what travelling with Intrepid is all about, giving you a trip like no other.
Intrepid realises the world is a really big place. And there’s a plethora of different languages to learn, borders to cross and cultures to negotiate. Small group adventure travel makes these things easy and allows you to maximise your precious time off. Instead of worrying about logistics, you can focus all your energy on having the experience of a lifetime. Their tour groups are small enough to feel like you’re exploring a destination independently, but big enough to create a good social vibe. Group size will vary depending on where and how you’re travelling, but the average group size is about 10.
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