Sri Lanka

Walking Trails of Sri Lanka

Trip code: W14SL

Guided group walking

14 nights,
hotel-to-hotel

Level: 3
Stretching

Operated by
Exodus Travels

SUMMARY

  • Operated by our sister company, Exodus
  • Walk through paddies and tea plantations Explore trails rarely taken by tourists Visit the beautiful lakeside town of Kandy Enjoy sunrise on Adam's Peak (seasonal) Search for leopards in Yala National Park

WHAT'S INCLUDED?

  •  All breakfasts, five lunches and one dinner included All accommodation All transport Entrance fees for listed activities Tour leader throughout

TRIP DESCRIPTION

When the typical tourist route takes in dazzling beaches, fragrant spice gardens, emerald tea hills, safari wildlife and a glut of Unesco-listed landmarks, it’s no wonder few leave the well-worn path in Sri Lanka. But go beyond the classic circuit and you’ll discover a wealth of beauty and intrigue that you don’t need to share with anyone else. This two-week walking adventure combines the can’t-miss highlights, including the Sigiriya rock fortress, sacred Adam’s Peak and the wildlife of Yala National Park, with the lesser-visited trails of the Knuckles Mountain Range, where we pass rice paddies and villages virtually undiscovered by the tourist hordes. 

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DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

 

Day 1: Start Dambulla

The group flight arrives at Colombo's Katunayake Airport and we transfer to our hotel at Dambulla (100mi/160km, four hours' drive). Those not flying with the group can meet us at the hotel or the airport in time for the transfer. Please be aware, if you are meeting the group at the airport for a transfer you might need to purchase a ticket outside to enter the arrivals hall. We make our way to the hotel in Dambulla (100mi/160km, four hours’ drive). Accommodation: Pelwehera Village Resort (or similar)

You stay at Hotels and Camping.

hotel details

 equivalent

Hotels and Camping, Sri Lanka


You will stay 13 nights in hotels all of which have en suite facilities; all hotels have twin bedded rooms with attached bathrooms. There will also be 1 night of full service camping. The tents have two camp beds with bedding. There is a toilet tent with sit down toilet and a shower tent. A cook team will prepare meals which are usually served outside. Wi-Fi is available at the majority of places, either in the rooms or the communal areas.

Eating and Drinking

We suggest allowing about GBP10-15 (approx. USD16-24) per day for all other meals and drinks. Sri Lankan cuisine is a fascinating reflection of the island's heritage; there is a unique fusion of fresh local produce with spices brought to the island over the centuries by Malays, Arabs, Indians as well as the Dutch, Portuguese and English.

Despite (or perhaps because of) these influences, Sri Lankan cuisine is often referred to as simply 'Rice and Curry'. This is the staple dish in most restaurants and is usually a serving of rice accompanied by assorted meat and vegetable curries as well as various pickles, 'sambols,' and a handful of tiny poppadoms - all using the contrasting flavours of coconut, chilli, curry leaves, cinnamon and garlic.

Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests. Please note that in Sri Lanka the availability of certain products is minimal or non-existent, for example wheat or dairy-free. Please be prepared for this and you may need to bring these from home. Spicier food can be avoided easily and lots of the hotels will serve Western options alongside traditional food.

Drinking water is provided in large containers where available so you need only bring a re-usable bottle to top up along the way.


Day 2: Visit Dambulla Caves, village walk towards Sigiriya; afternoon visit to Lion Rock fortress

After breakfast, we visit the magnificent Cave Temple at Dambulla, one of the most impressive sights in Sri Lanka. There are colourful, well-preserved paintings and statues of Buddha inside, dating to the first century BCE. We then have a short, gentle, warm-up walk through villages and rice paddies and on towards Sigiriya, where we have lunch. In the afternoon, we visit the imposing fifth-century rock fortress, which rises 590ft (180m) from the plains overlooking the countryside with far-reaching views. The route to the top is up a series of steep steps and gangways. From the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens, we ascend 655ft (200m) and pass an overhanging rock, under which superb portraits of indigenous maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the walls. Crowning the flat-topped summit are extensive remains of the King's Summer Palace from where there are breath-taking views of the countryside. The descent is much easier and we have a final 35-minute drive back to our hotel in Dambulla. Accommodation: Pelwehera Village Resort (or similar)

Day 3: Drive to Illukkumbura; walk the Manigala Trail in the Knuckles Mountain Range

The next two days takes us across the Knuckles Mountain Range. We start early with a three-hour drive to the start of our walk, where we begin with an easy descent past paddies and through the villages of Pitawala Patana and Etanwala. Descending to the river, we cross a small bridge and climb up through more farmland. Finally, emerging at the top of an escarpment, we are rewarded with great views of the countryside. An easy trail takes us along the escarpment to Manigala Top at 3,660ft (1,115m), the high point of today. Next, we descend to the Mahalakotuwa village area, which leads to the main road and then it’s a 20-minute walk to our campsite by the river where we can bathe in the cool, refreshing water. Accommodation: Camping at Knuckles with Eco Team (or similar) (Occasionally, we use an alternative campsite due to high water levels, which is about 40 minutes’ drive from Illikumbura).

Day 4: Walk through forests to Meemure; transfer to Orutota

We begin with a half-hour drive to the Narangamuwa Temple at Ranamuregama. Starting our walk, we pass paddies and coconut groves before we enter a heavily forested area. The trail climbs gently for an hour and then levels out before undulating though this lush forest. The only sound we can hear is the birdsong around us. Emerging from the forest in the village of Meemure, make sure to look back for a spectacular view of the Lakegala peaks. Passing farms growing pepper and other spices, we come to a small tea shop where we have lunch. After, we take a truck or rickshaws for a bumpy 90-minute ride to Corbett’s Gap, a much-loved viewpoint. Our bus meets us here for the 1hr 30min drive to our hotel at Orutota overlooking the Victoria Reservoir. Accommodation: Oruthota Chalets (or similar)

Day 5: To Kandy; visit the Temple of the Tooth

We enjoy a relaxing morning in the hotel garden and pool. Mid-morning, we have an 11mi (18km) drive to Kandy and the afternoon to explore. The town is located around a small lake and we can walk round to look for water birds and large water monitors. Later, we visit the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka, the Tooth of Buddha, which was taken from the funeral pyre in India in 543 BCE and found its way to Sri Lanka in the fourth century. Hundreds of worshippers visit the temple each day and in July/August the most spectacular ceremony takes place. Accommodation: Hotel Suisse (or similar)

Day 6: Ascend Adam’s Peak

This morning, we drive to Dickoya (three hours), where we stay for two nights in a simple summer house with a wonderful view of the Castlereagh Reservoir. On a clear day, we can see the outline of Adam’s Peak in the distance. In the pilgrim season (December to May), we have the day to relax or you can take a walk around the lake (approximately 3.7mi/6km). We leave around midnight for the walk up Adam’s Peak (approximately 8.7mi/14km). This will take around four hours and we should reach the top with the many pilgrims at sunrise. In the off season (May to November), we spend the first day at Dickoya and can walk around the lake and we climb Adam’s Peak during daylight hours on the following day. (Day 6: B) (Day 7: B,L) Accommodation: Summer House Hatton (or similar)

Day 7: Drive to Nuwara Eliya; optional walk to explore the town

This morning, we have a wonderful drive through tea plantation districts to Nuwara Eliya. This was the favourite hill station during the British era, situated in the cool highland air. Known locally as Little England, it is dotted with British-style houses, hotels and a racecourse. There will be an optional walk into the hills around the town and also time to explore the bazaar. Accommodation: Windsor Hotel (or similar)

Day 8: Early morning to Horton Plains; walk to World's End viewpoint; to Ella by train

Today we drive to Horton Plains, a large plateau more than 6,560ft (2,000m) above sea level, overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and best explored on foot. We trek through the rolling grasslands, seeing forest and unusual wildlife, such as the sambar deer and purple-faced monkey, all the way to World's End, one of the most stunning sights in Sri Lanka. Here the ground drops 3,445ft (1,050m) to the plains below. We then catch the train from the highest railway station in the country; within two hours we go from 6,197ft (1,889m) to 3,599ft (1,097m). The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, the views are spectacular; we disembark at Ella. Accommodation: Hotel Country Comfort (or similar)

Day 9: Morning trek to Ella Rock; Free afternoon

This morning, we set out to ascend the iconic Ella Rock, the highest point in Ella standing 3,743ft (1,140m). The round trip to Ella Rock takes about four to five hours. Starting off gently with flat trail where you walk through farm land, passing by locals as they get on with their day to day life. The second phase is a gradual ascent to reach the top. You look out over the Ella gap, a deep valley connecting the city of Ella with the low country. The afternoon is free to explore the vibrant and busy Ella town. Accommodation: Hotel Country Comfort (or similar)

Day 10: Drive to Yala National Park; afternoon game drive

We now head south of the hills to Tissamaharama down the plains. On the way, we stop at Ella Gap where the most of the southern part of the island is in view and the shimmering silver of the ocean is visible on a clear day . We continue on our journey visiting the spectacular Ravana waterfalls, which is 82ft (25m) tall and one of the widest waterfalls in the country. We also stop at the Buduruwagala Temple, where we see seven statues of Buddha carved out of a rock that dates to the 10th century. Tissamaharama is our base for visiting Yala National Park – its open terrain was well known for elephants for many years, but recently the park has become better known as a place to spot leopards. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and freshwater lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard in the world. We have a game drive in the afternoon. (Please note, the sanctuary may be closed for four to six weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. In this instance, we visit a nearby alternative, usually Udawalawe National Park). Accommodation: Chaarya Resort (or similar)

Day 11: Walk around Yodakandiya Lake; transfer to the coast.

This morning, we drive to the beautiful Yodakandiya Lake in Tissamaharama where we walk for approximately 3hr 30min (approximately 3mi/5km). This is an opportunity to see the day-to-day life of the local people plus a range of birdlife. In the late afternoon, we drive for approximately four hours to the coast and your beach front hotel. Accommodation: Insight Resort (or similar)

Day 12: Free day to relax on the beach or optional activities including whale watching (November to April)

We have a free day to relax on the beach or by the pool. There are also numerous optional activities including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon plantation or you can go whale watching off Dondra Head from November to April. This is one of the best places in the world for seeing blue and sperm whales. Accommodation: Insight Resort (or similar)

Day 13: To Galle; transfer to Colombo

We drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle, which dates to the 17th century and is now a Unesco World Heritage site. On the way, we stop at a small folk museum inspired by the local writer Martin Wickramasinghe. The museum is a typical house from the Koggala region and is set among beautiful gardens. We continue along the expressway to Colombo reaching our hotel in the late afternoon (the drive takes around two to three hours plus stops). Accommodation: Hotel Cinnamon Red (or similar)

Day 14: End Colombo

Today is the end of your journey. If you are travelling on the group flight we will have a morning transfer to the airport for the daytime international flight. The arrangements for those not flying with the group ends after breakfast. If you would like to continue the adventure with our post-trip extension to the Maldives or a beach stay in Ahangama, speak to your sales representative.

CHOOSE A DEPARTURE DATE

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These tour only prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £390.

These flight inclusive prices are based on two people sharing. Single supplement from £390.

Single supplements are available on request (not available for 3 nights). Please note paying the single supplement may not mean that you receive a double or twin room for sole use. The room you are allocated may differ from hotel to hotel , and on some nights a smaller room for one person may well be allocated. Tour Only dates will commence the following day (on day 2).

TRAVEL DETAILS

Our aim is to provide holidays that are unbeatable for choice and flexibility. We've listed our most popular travel options below, however you aren't limited to these - we can tailor-make virtually any holiday to suit.

To find out more about the travel options available call our sales team on 01606 720199 or email sales@headwater.com

Transportation

We use an air-conditioned minibus but depending on the size there may be two; however, vehicles in Sri Lanka tend to have limited legroom, so we try to stop for comfort breaks as needed. The back-up vehicles drop us at the start of the walks and meet us again at the end, transporting all our luggage. In Yala National Park, we use smaller 4x4s. The train ride to Ella will be in the second-class carriage, an authentic experience and great chance for some fun local interactions. Due to the Sri Lankan rail booking system, tickets are purchased on the day from the railway station ticket office and seats cannot be reserved in advance, so we sit where we can once on board. Please Note: We will endeavour to secure train tickets from Pattipola to Ella as per the itinerary. However, during peak holiday seasons/busy periods, if the train coming from Kandy is sold out or overcrowded, your leader will action an alternative plan. The group will travel by road to Ella railway station and from there (where most travellers disembark) you will be able to enjoy the train ride from Ella to Badulla. The journey will be approximately one hour journey and has the highlight of passing over the world famous Nine Arch bridge.

Joining Instructions

nKey information Start hotel: Pelwehera Village Resort, Bulagala Junction, Habarana Road, Dambulla 21120 Phone: +94 662 284 281 Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately Airport: Colombo Airport (CMB) Getting to the start hotel The start hotel is approximately four hours’ drive from Colombo Airport. Exodus provides one group arrival transfer from the airport, which is timed to coincide with the arrival of a chosen flight from London, UK. You may join this transfer at no extra cost, provided you can be at the airport before the transfer leaves. Speak to your sales representative for the group arrival transfer times or to arrange a private transfer. If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative. Catching your return flight There’s a group departure transfer to Colombo Airport for customers who Exodus booked onto a chosen flight to London, UK. Please speak to your sales representative if you wish to join. If the group departure transfer does not suit your flight time, speak to your sales representative to arrange an alternative transfer. n

REVIEWS

Great trip, covering a lot of the best of Sri Lanka. Wholly recommend this trip.

Great trip from start to finish showcasing lots of different parts of Sri Lanka. The hiking was great and really got you away from the tourist hot spots. Beautiful scenery up in the mountains and forests, tea plantations, lakes, waterfalls. It was more beautiful than I had imagined. Hotels were all of a good standard, several with pools. I would have preferred not to camp the one night but that is just me! I liked that there weren't lots of long road journeys and the itinerary was well paced. Lots of opportunities to sample Sri Lankan food. Great wildlife and birds. We were lucky enough to spot a leopard but the safari would have been fun even if we hadn't as there was still lots to see. Overall, a brilliant trip as you see and do so much in the 15 days.

I have recently returned from the most incredible walking trip in Sri Lanka. The walks were very diverse, up mountains, through rainforests and around serene lakes. We also explored the cities, beaches and National Parks (where we were lucky enough to see a Leopard!). Our leader, Ruwan, was first class - he was very organised, friendly, told us interesting stories about the culture and history and took us to meet lots of local families, who were all lovely. I couldn't speak of this trip more highly.

This was a wonderful trip with an excellent guide

Neelanka made this an amazing trip

His English and knowledge of nature and local culture was very good

His efficiency in allocating room keys was one of the best - very important after a long drive

We did not need to touch our luggage from exiting the airport to arriving back

Our strap broke and within half an hour it was repaired!!!!

Water was freely available from large containers that we could fill our reusable bottles or containers and complimentary

Sigiriya and the Lion Rock Fortress was an amazing visit

Unfortunately we did not get to the summit of Adams Peak due to the masses of mainly local people. However I did feel the experience was something like I have experienced before with family carrying the frail and old, babies being carried and some only in flip flops or barefeet

Leech socks used and needed

A first class holiday experience with all the hall marks we have come to love from Exodus holidays. An efficient engaged leader with a real love of his country and ability to show us so many insights into the nuances of Sri Lanka..... even though the weather was changeable we had a fantastic trip made up of interesting walks, wild life and getting to know the local culture and people of the highlands.

A first class holiday experience with all the hall marks we have come to love from Exodus holidays. An efficient engaged leader with a real love of his country and ability to show us so many insights into the nuances of Sri Lanka..... even though the weather was changeable we had a fantastic trip made up of interesting walks, wild life and getting to know the local culture and people of the highlands.

This was an amazing tour. It was very well organised. The walking was good. The countryside and people were fantastic and the guide himself was very personable and knowledgeable. It was totally enjoyable. I would recommend going up Adam's peak on a Monday-Thursday evening to avoid the crowds, but that is the only thing I would have changed.

Sri Lanka is a very beatiful island with loads of natural and cultural highlights,



The tour is descrfibed as walking and treking. If you read the detailed notes it's fair to say that, yes there are walks, but nothing that I would describe as treking. The walks are comparatively gentle; the jungle walks a bit like Lakeland walks underfoot - but in forest. The climb up Adam's Peak certainly got the heart pumping, although with the crowds of pilgrims all around there were plkenty of enforced spots where you rested.



There was a lot of travel time in vehicles. All as described in the trip details -

Well organised tour and great tour leader and with plenty of activities and reasonable accommodation. Offers lovely scenery and some challenging hikes, recommended!

The trip was extremely well organised! The day walks were challenging but beautiful and climbing Adams Peak is a must! Our leader Ruwan was exceptional. He really helped us connect with the locals and showed us the culture of Sri Lankan villages. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone who is curious to see what Sri Lanka has to offer.

A thoroughly enjoyable and well planned trip. Our guide Sujan was great. Hotels of good standard. Good bunch of people.

Two weeks walking tour in Sri Lank. through cultural hotspots, mountain ranges, tea plantations, national parks. An excellent programme for a first discovery of the Country, its traditions, its people and its wildlife.

Good walking and sight seeing and experience of Sri Lanka. Adequate/good hotels.

A wonderful experience in a beautiful country.

A totally encompassing experience. Sujee the guide shared many different aspects of such a wonderful country. Not always easy =as in walking in the rain with leeches(leech socks were invaluable!). We saw many beautiful and diverse places, animals and met very friendly and hospitable people.

This was one of the best trips I have ever done. The country was beautiful and very varied with excellent walking. The superb local and historical knowledge of our extremely friendly and able guide Ruwan made the trip come alive and he introduced us to many local people all of whom were incredibly friendly and warm. The local food was delicious and the locations well chosen

Were can I begin as this was the most amazing holiday I have ever had .

From the beginning to the end there was so many great things I did, everyday was so different filled with so many great experiences.

The people are so friendly,with breathtaking views,to the white sandy beaches,even to the hustle and bustle of the city

I would highly recommend this wonderful part of the world as there is something for everyone to enjoy

We thoroughly enjoyed our Sri Lankan experience and found it to be very good value and well organised. It is such a stunningly beautiful green and lush country and the views often made us gasp with delight!

The locals were very welcoming and kind and friendly.

The trip was very varied and each day was a new and different experience.

Our group was mixed but we got along fine and had some great laughs along the way!

A fantastic experience. The weather wasn't always with us, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. The treks were varied and very interesting. The whale watching trip is well worth the extra money, so do it!

A thoroughly enjoyable group tour of the southern half of Sri Lanka. Highlights included an overnight ascent of Adam's Peak and whale watching off the south coast.

We enjoyed this holiday immensely. It gave us an insight into a beautiful country and its people, history, geography and development. Much of this was made posible by an exceptional leder,Ruwan Balasooriya who managed to combine organisational skills and knowledge with a pleasing sense of humour. Walking companions proved good company and generally accommodation, travel and food were up to expectations. It was one of our best-ever holidays.

A really varied trip in a very beautiful country, giving a great mix of culture, walking and nature amid some stunning scenery. Coming from the UK winter, the lush greenery and fabulous flora and fauna of Sri Lanka was a joy, and the leader and other local staff ensured everything ran like clockwork and everyone was well looked after and kept happy.

Exhausting, exhilarating, exceptional, exciting.

Once again I had a fantastic time on a trip with Exodus, this time to Sri Lanka. The guide was excellent, very informative and friendly, in fact he couldn't do enough for us. The driver, co driver and luggage driver were also happy to help with anything we asked of them. The country is beautiful and full of amazing things to see, the people were extremely friendly and the local guides were very helpful. I would recommend this trip to anybody.

All the hotels we stayed in were lovely, the staff were friendly and the food was great.

The perfect combination - a wonderful walking tour visiting some of the many and varied splendid sights of Sri Lanka followed by a few days winding down in the Maldives! Sri Lanka lived up to its name 'Resplendent Island' and the places visited, walks walked, sights seen, people met and food eaten, all backed up by a first class leader, made this an adventure to remember and recommend to others.

We have just returned from the late January / early February slot and had an excellent time. The tour ran as per the itinerary with no disruption as a consequence of the heavy rain back in December, and offered a good balance between walking and culture / sightseeing. The Group all got on well together and we enjoyed plenty of laughs. We were looked after incredibly well by the whole 'crew' throughout our stay.

My first hiking tour, my favorite walks were the jungle walks and those through the rice patty fields in the small villages. Amazingly beautiful and very old Buddhist art work in the Dambulla Caves. The Sri Lankan people are friendly and welcoming, the country has an old world feeling, very green, very laid back, the land of elephants and coconuts.

There is a lot packed into this holiday, some stunning walks and a chance to see some great historical sites. It's a fantastic holiday destination.

what a wonderful way to see the real sri lanka. The walks were fun and scenic, the locals warm and friendly. Our guide was perfect, and we had enough time to ourselves to really enjoy the tour.

This was not a shopping tour, and that's what made it so very special. There were parts of the trip that were just so unique! You will love the bungalow!

Highly recommended. A beautiful country and a beautiful way to see it. The tour was well organised, the accommodation was as described, and the Sri Lankan people were friendly and welcoming. Try and see it now before the extra 50 000 new hotel  beds come online in the next year or so. The lack of a sophisticated tourist infrastructure is part of the charm of the country.

We thought that Sri Lanka is simply amazing. Our guide Sampath Kulatunge was the best we have ever had in any of our travels. All of the people of Sri Lanka seem to be open, friendly but shy. We climbed Adams peak on New Years Day and everbody was telling us "Good Morning & Happy New Year".

Great place to go: cheap, warm, safe, wonderful scenery and interesting culture.  Brilliant challenging itinerary.

We saw and learnt a lot about the country and its peoples. The days were packed with exotic sights, tastes, sounds, smells ...... 

Excellent customer service and seamless booking process, we have used Headwater a few times now and not been disappointed.

Alexander Milne, 23 Nov 2023

Your representative was very helpful, and suggested some better alternative arrangements to some of those laid out in the holiday plan as laid out in the Headwater brochure and website.

25 Jun 2023



1 Jan 1970


Guided group walking

14 nights,
hotel-to-hotel

Level: 3
Stretching

Operated by
Exodus Travels

14 nights from £2199

CHOOSE A DEPARTURE

Call: 01606 720199