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National Geographic – Discover Sri Lanka

Be enchanted by Sri Lanka on an unforgettable 11-day journey. Explore Sigiriya Rock Fortress and refresh your spirit at the unusual Dambulla Cave Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stroll spice gardens and tea plantations, and ride through Wilpattu National Park with a forest ranger in search of elephants and leopards. Come away with a deep understanding of why early Arab traders called this island country ‘Serendib,’ a name that gave English speakers the word ‘serendipity.’

Board Basis: Mixed Meal Plan, Departure Date: Low Season, Departs: London Heathrow
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11nts from £1999

Our Opinion

This trip is one of the most action-packed tours available, and with some exclusive National Geographic trips and experiences, you really do get a great, in-depth journey around Sri Lanka.

 

Tour Highlights

  • Explore ruins and archaeological sites with local experts
  • Take in a lecture on Ayurvedic medicine by a local practitioner
  • Search out leopards at Wilpattu National Park
  • Enjoy “high tea” at the historic Grand Hotel
  • Help a farming family prepare lunch with local ingredients and flavours

Itinerary In Brief

  • Colombo – 1 night
  • Nuwara Eliya – 2 nights
  • Digana – 2 nights
  • Dambulla – 2 nights
  • Anuradhapura – 1 night
  • Wattala – 2 nights

Full Itinerary

Day 1 – Colombo: Arrive at any time (arrival transfer included) and enjoy your day. Please meet your CEO in the hotel lobby at 6:15PM for the welcome meeting.

Arrival Airport Transfer Bandaranaike International Airport – Colombo

You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel to start your adventure.

 

Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting 1h: The adventure begins tonight. Feel free to explore before your welcome meeting, but make sure you’re back in time to meet the group. After introductions, your CEO will review the details of your tour. Please note that normal check-in times apply at our start hotels, but you can usually store your luggage for the day if you arrive early.

 

Accommodation: The Steuart by Citrus (or similar)

 

Day 2 – Colombo/Nuwara Eliya: Discover Colombo on a city tour including the Fort and Pettah areas. Travel through scenic mountains to the tea-producing town of Nuwara Eliya, stopping in Kitulgala en route. Opt for a rafting excursion on the Kelani River.

City Tour Colombo: Enjoy a tour of the city, including the Fort area, the historic Pettah district, and the cinnamon gardens.

 

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle (4h30m)

 

Accommodation: Grand Hotel (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Optional Activities – Day 2: Kelani River Rafting Kitulgala – 20USD per person. Embark on an exciting whitewater rafting excursion on the Kelani River.

 

Day 3 – Newara Eliya: Enjoy a picnic breakfast and hike in Horton Plains National Park. Head back to Nuwara Eliya and indulge in high tea at the historic Grand Hotel. This evening, embark on a tuk-tuk ride and visit the town centre and market.

 

Horton Plains Trek Horton Plains Nature Reserve (4h-4h30m. 9km): Get close to nature and stunning scenery on this Horton Plains Trek. Hike 9km (6 mi) into the Horton Plains and walk through the clouds to discover a majestic drop that provides amazing views over the plains into the sea.

 

High Tea at the Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya: Step back in time and enjoy high tea at the historic Grand Hotel. Enjoy a lovely setting with Elizabethan-era architecture and beautiful gardens. The building was the former mansion of Sir Edward Barnes who was the Governor of Sri Lanka during 1830-1850.

 

Nuwara Eliya Tuk-tuk Tour Nuwara Eliya: Enjoy an evening tuk-tuk ride through the centre of town. Get out and explore the market and surrounds.

 

Private Vehicle Nuwara Eliya (2h): There is a 1 hour drive each way to Horton Plains.

 

Accommodation: Grand Hotel (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Day 4 – Nuwara Eliya/Digana: Travel to Kandy, stopping at a Ceylon tea plantation en route to learn about the production process. Enjoy a tour around the city and lake, with a guided visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

 

Private Vehicle Nuwara Eliya – Kandy (45m): Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Tea Plantation Visit Nuwara Eliya (1h-1h30m. 26km): The town of Nuwara Eliya produces the finest Orange Pekoe Ceylon tea, and is inhabited mainly by tea planters and plantation workers. Pay a visit to one of the factories to learn all about tea production.

 

Kandy Orientation Walk – Kandy (1h-1h30m. 3-5km): Walk through the city and around Kandy Lake to get a better feel for the place.

 

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Tour Kandy (1h. 1km): Enjoy a tour of the Temple of the Tooth, which houses an important relic – a tooth of Lord Buddha kept in a well-preserved golden casket. Learn about the importance of this site from local guides.

 

Private Vehicle Kandy – Digana (1h-1h30m. 25km): Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Meals included: Breakfast | Dinner

 

Day 5 – Digana: Set out for a hiking excursion in the Knuckles mountain range, following trails through lush forest past villages and tea plantations. Later, take in a lecture and demonstration on  Ayurveda by an expert local practitioner. Enjoy another night at the lodge (If you are not interested in hiking, feel free to stay at the hotel and relax this morning).

 

Knuckles Mountain Range Trek – Madulkele (3h): Embark on a trek in the Knuckles mountain range – named for five peaks which resemble the knuckles of a clenched fist. Hike through the woods on one of the exciting nature trails and you may come across tea plantations, farmers, waterfalls, and small villages. Enjoy the pristine beauty of the area, free of roads for motorised vehicles.

 

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives – Understanding Ayurveda: Enjoy a lecture on Ayurveda by a local practitioner. The talk includes history and a demonstration of traditional herbs used in the practice, as well as a discussion of the differences in using a holistic approach vs. modern medicine. We also are shown how herbs and spices can cure simple ailments, from headaches to fever and how these ancient methodologies of preparing medicine were pioneered.

 

Meals included: Breakfast | Dinner

 

Day 6 – Elkaduwa/Dambulla: Pay a morning visit to a spice garden in Matale before arriving at the archaeological site of Nalanda Gedige – home to a unique fusion of Hindu and Buddhist architecture and imagery. Continue on to the impressive Dambulla Cave Temple and admire ancient Buddhist murals and statues.

 

Spice Garden Excursion – Matale: Visit a spice garden and marvel at the various spices used as natural medicines and as condiments in food.

 

Nalanda Gedige Visit – Matale (45m-1h. 2-4km): Discover combined Buddhist and Hindu architecture on this visit to Nalanda Gedige, a small and less-visited ancient site. Some of the designs are clearly Hindu, yet no Hindu gods are depicted. Also see some erotic, but eroded, Tantric Buddhist carvings, reminiscent of the famous Khajuraho Temple in India.

 

Dambulla Cave Temple Visit – Sigiriya (1h-1h30m): Visit the ancient Dambulla cave temples at one of the most well-preserved temple and cave sites in Sri Lanka. See Buddhist mural paintings that line the walls of the seventh-century caves as well as a collection of hundreds of statues of Buddha in different poses.

 

Private Vehicle Anuradhapura – Dambulla (2h-2h30m. 85km): Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Accommodation: Thilanka Resorts & Spa (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Day 7 – Dambulla: Visit the CIC Hingurakgoda farm and learn how this ‘seed-to-shelf’ business is bringing together modern and traditional agricultural practices. Purchase local ingredients and head to a small farmhouse for lunch. Get to know the family and help prepare the meal, while getting an inside look at traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. After lunch, head to Sigiriya (Lion) rock fortress and climb the steps to the top of this captivating site to discover UNESCO-listed ruins and take in stellar views.

 

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives – Farm Visit and Local Lunch: Visit the CIC Hingurakgoda farm, part of a seed-to-shelf agri-business that works with over 20,000 rural farmers in Sri Lanka, in an effort to improve farmers’ income and quality of life, as well as the standards of food quality and production. The seed farm works toward implementing modern agricultural technology and enhanced mechanisation while still protecting the traditional knowledge of farmers. Here you will learn about various farming processes including irrigation, livestock (buffalo), and milk and curd production. After, we purchase some vegetables and buy fish from local fisherman and visit one of the smaller farmhouses. Here we assist the farming family with making our lunch, learning about traditional rural Sri Lankan cuisine.

 

Sigiriya Rock Fortress Visit – Sigiriya (2h-3h. 15-20km): Be mesmerised by this rock fortress, which captivates every visitor with its well-laid out gardens, caves, monasteries, and palaces adorned with beautiful wall motifs. Start at the water gardens and climb more than 1,200 steps to reach the top. Pass caves with frescoes and boulders to find the ruins of a palace on the flat surface of the old volcanic magma rock. The rock rests 370m (1,213 ft) above sea level with a shear drop on all sides.

 

Private Vehicle Dambulla: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Accommodation: Thilanka Resorts & Spa (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast | Lunch

 

Day 8 – Dambulla/Anuradhapura: Travel north to Wilpattu National Park, known for its leopard population. Explore the park by jeep and meet with a knowledgeable forest ranger to learn about conservation efforts and the issues of human encroachment on wildlife reserves. Continue to Anuradhapura for the night.

 

Private Vehicle Dambulla – Wilpattu National Park (2h): Settle in and scan the scenery from the  convenience of a private vehicle.

 

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives – Wilpattu Safari and Conservation Talk: Explore Wilpattu, one of the largest and oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka, renowned for its leopard population.  Explore the park by jeep with a local expert to observe the local flora and fauna, but be on the lookout for the parks most famed resident, the leopard. Also discuss wildlife conservation in the area and the conflicts of human encroachment on wildlife reserves.

 

Private Vehicle Wilpattu National Park – Anuradhapura: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Accommodation: Palm Garden Village (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast

 

Day 9 – Anuradhapura/Wattala: Explore the sacred city of Anuradhapura – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and discover ancient Buddhist monasteries. Later, travel south to coastal Wattala.

 

Anuradhapura Excursion – Anuradhapura: Tour the ruins and monasteries of Sri Lanka’s first capital. A symbol of Sinhalese power, this is the nation’s most extensive and important ancient city.

Private Vehicle Anuradhapura – Wattala (3h): Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Free Time – Wattala: Settle in at the hotel and enjoy free time to relax on the beach.

 

Accommodation: Pegasus Reef Hotel (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast | Dinner

 

Day 10 – Wattala: Enjoy a relaxing day at the beach.

Free Time – Wattala: Opt to explore or relax on the coast.

 

Accommodation: Pegasus Reef Hotel (or similar)

 

Meals included: Breakfast | Dinner

 

Day 11 – Wattala: Depart at any time.

Hotel check out is at 12:00pm. Your CEO can assist you with arranging an easy transfer to Colombo or the International airport.

 

Meals included: Breakfast

Extensions

Not ready to leave? We can help extend your trip, whether you want to spend a few days on the beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka or the Maldives, let us know your requirements and we can look to tailor the trip to your needs.

Need to Know

  • Travel Style: National Geographic Journeys: Greater exploration, insider access, and the freedom to roam – all without sacrificing comfort.
  • Service Level: Upgraded: Quality accommodations and more inclusions than on other G Adventures tours, like meals, private transport, and activities.
  • Physical Rating: 3 – Average: Some tours may include light hiking, biking, rafting, or kayaking in addition to walking.
  • Trip Type: Small group experience; Max 15, average 12
  • Age Requirement: All travellers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Minimum age 12.
For more information or to book, please contact the reservations team.

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