Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a natural paradise with a landscape of verdant mountains, rainforests, paddy fields, tumbling waterfalls and sweeping gorges. From ancient Buddhist temples, the fortress of Sigiriya, the towns of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in the hill country, the wildlife of Yala National Park (which has one of the highest concentrations of leopards in the world), to the idyllic palm-fringed beaches of the south coast, this small island offers incredible variety, made extra special by its laid back atmosphere and hospitable people.
The group flight arrives at Colombo's Bandaranaike Airport and we transfer to our hotel approximately 30 minutes away. Those not travelling on the group flight, please ensure you provide your flight details at least 2 weeks prior to arrival to secure your airport transfer. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, your Leader will advise the time and location. Accommodation: Arie Lagoon (or similar)
We depart after breakfast and for approximately 4 hours' drive through lush green countryside (a mix of coconut palms, paddy fields and banana plantations) through Kurunegala to Dambulla. Here we visit the magnificent Cave Temple, for some, the most impressive sight in Sri Lanka. There are colourful, well-preserved paintings and statues of Buddha inside the caves, which date back to the 1st century BC. After lunch, we continue to Sigiriya where we stay for the night. From our hotel we can see Lion Rock rising up from the plains. Accommodation: Aliya Resort & Spa (or similar)
This morning we drive to the foot of the Lion Rock at Sigiriya. The imposing 5th century rock fortress of Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, rises 600 feet from the plains overlooking the surrounding countryside and giving far-reaching views. Used as a safe haven from invaders, the route to the top goes via a series of steep steps and gangways. From the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens, we ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flat-topped summit of the rock are extensive remains of the King's Summer Palace. During the afternoon, there is a chance to enjoy an optional game drive in either Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park or the Hurulu Eco Park to see elephants in their natural habitat (which location depends on the elephant herd movements). For those who would prefer not to join the game drive, you can relax by the hotel pool. Accommodation: Aliya Resort & Spa (or similar)
This morning we have a short drive to Giritale. The island’s early inhabitants solved the dual problem of heat and lack of water in this dry area by constructing large tanks to act as reservoirs and cool the warm breeze. Nowadays they provide an important habitat for bird life, particularly from August to April. Today we hop on local bikes and enjoy a leisurely cycle through small villages and lakes. As an alternative to cycling, you can hire a tuk tuk locally for approximately 4,000 rupees and follow the group on their trail. Along the way, we should see plenty of bird life including Egrets, Brahmany kites, Kingfishers and Bulbuls. Breaking up the journey, we stop for lunch in a traditional village before returning to our hotel in Giritale by late afternoon. Accommodation: Deer Park Hotel (or similar)
After breakfast, we take a short drive to the 10th century capital of Sri Lanka; Polonnaruwa, the ancient capital of the Sinhalese. Here there are many Buddhist relics and ruins dating from a thousand years ago when Sinhalese culture reached its zenith. The city flourished in the 12th century after the decision was made to move the capital from Anuradhapura, so it was further away from incursions from Southern India. The ruins are therefore younger and better preserved than those at Anuradhapura. We visit many of the temples, palaces, huge dagobas (Buddhist stupas) and remarkable Buddhist sculptures. This afternoon, we head into the hills to the picturesque town of Kandy. Stopping on the way at a spice garden near Matale where we can learn about the various spices and herbs growing, and there is a chance to stock up on fresh spices, massage oils and Ayurvedic medicines. This is a long but fascinating day as we arrive at Kandy early evening. Accommodation: Grand Kandyan Hotel (or similar)
Kandy is located by a small lake and we spend two full days in and around the town. On the first day, we will visit the Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic. The Tooth of Buddha was taken from the funeral pyre in 543 BC and only found its way to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. There are literally hundreds of worshipers who visit the temple each day and in August, the most spectacular ceremony takes place. After our visit, we drive to a beautiful viewpoint over Kandy overlooked by a huge Buddha, and visit a gem museum where you can see the products of the traditional methods of gem extraction. Another highlight is the vast Peradeniya Botanical Garden with species of orchid that are endemic to Sri Lanka. Your second full day in Kandy is free to explore this wonderful town or take it slow starting the day relaxing by the hotel pool. The surrounding hills are wonderful, offering fantastic views of the town below and there are many handicraft stores and antique shops in which to browse. On either evening, you will have the option to attend a traditional performance of dancing and fire eating. Accommodation: Grand Kandyan Hotel (or similar)
Leaving Kandy early, we have a spectacular drive through the countryside on the way to Kitulgala. Here we have the opportunity of going on a walk through the jungle or local villages followed by an optional white water rafting excursion. The rafting is a supplement cost and requires minimum 4 people (see the Optional Excursions section of the trip notes), the activity lasts maximum of 1.5 hours and there is a choice of gentle or wild water (grade 3 rapids) depending on your preference. Those of us who do not wish to go rafting will be able to freshen up and relax by the water until the rafters return in time for lunch. Afterwards we will drive to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Accommodation: St Andrew's Hotel (or similar)
This morning we will have free time to explore the beautiful town of Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya was a popular hill station during the British era and is situated in the cool highland air at 1890m. Known locally as 'Little England' it is dotted with British style houses and parks and features a golf club and a racecourse! Following lunch, we will visit a nearby tea plantation and factory to learn about the process of tea production in this region. Accommodation: St Andrew's Hotel (or similar)
We have an early start this morning and take a 30km drive south to Horton Plains, a large plateau over 2,000m high, overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and the best way to explore is on foot. We take a guided walk through the rolling grasslands where we hope to see such animals as the Sambur and Purple Faced monkey. We also visit 'World's End', which is one of the most stunning sights in Sri Lanka where the ground drops 1050m to the plains. From Horton Plains, we catch a train from the highest railway station in the country and within an hour and a half we drop from 1889m to 1097m. The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, with breath-taking views of the lush valley below. We get off at Ella, a town that has recently flourished, where you'll find some shops and restaurants to wander around. Accommodation: Morning Dew (or similar)
Today we continue on to Ella Gap where we have spectacular views of the coastal plain nearly 1,000m below. Almost the entire southern part of the island is in view and on a particularly clear day the shimmering silver of the Indian Ocean is visible. Heading south out of the hills we travel to Tissamaharama on the plains; this is our base for visiting Sri Lanka's best known national park, Yala. The park is popular for elephant, leopard, bear, crocodile and Wild boar. At 97,800 hectares, this is the second largest of Sri Lanka's national parks. Its open undulating terrain made it famous for elephants for many years, but recently the park has also become better known for leopard. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and fresh water lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard per square kilometre in the world. (Please note that the sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the welfare of the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually Udawalawe National Park). Accommodation: Chaarya Resort (or similar)
Today we leave for the coast, with its beautiful palm fringed bays. Stopping on the way, walking to a nearby farm house where you'll be offered tea in a coconut shell along with a local snack. We will mix with real Sri Lankan life and take part in some traditional Sri Lankan games, returning to our bus in tractors used by the farmers. Continuing on to your beach resort, in the afternoon we arrive at our coastal hotel in Dickwella where you can relax for the rest of the day. Please note, the sea is often quite rough in southern Sri Lanka with rip currents and under tows present. Be careful when entering the water and follow local safety guidelines. Accommodation: Dickwella Resort (or similar)
Today is a free day to relax on the beach or by the hotel pool. There are also optional activities during the day including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon plantation. Usually whale watching season is from November but you may be lucky with some earlier sightings from October. Accommodation: Dickwella Resort (or similar)
We set off today and drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle, which dates back to the 17th century, and 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 amongst beautiful gardens. This afternoon, we continue along the expressway to Colombo reaching our city hotel in the late afternoon. Accommodation: Ramada Hotel (or similar)
The adventure ends today and you begin your return journey home. Those on the group flights will take a transfer to the airport this morning. If you are not travelling on the group flight, please ensure you provide your flight details at least 2 weeks prior to arrival to secure your airport transfer. If you’d like a bit more time to explore Sri Lanka or even hop across to the Maldives, speak to your sales representative about extending your stay.
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking.
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.
Here at Headwater we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can continue to develop, and where necessary improve, our services and ensure our holidays continue to be the best they can be. As this is a relatively new holiday, we don't yet have any customer reviews available from our customers, but here are the comments that have been received from previous Exodus travellers.
We travelled in February 2023 and there was no evidence of shortages of fuel or food and the people were very friendly and welcoming so please don't hesitate to visit Sri Lanka in Comfort! The hotels we used were always clean and well-maintained with comfortable beds, air-conditioning (except for Bandarawela), and extensive buffets so there is plenty of choice for all palates. Aliya Hotel in Sigiriya was my favourite with a large infinity pool with views of Sigiriya Rock in the distance. The optional game drive on Day 3 was really worthwhile as we saw several groups of elephants feeding, as well as having a solitary male take a run at our jeep to add to the experience. We saw many bird species including plenty of peacocks. On the game drive in Yala we only saw a couple of solitary tuskers as the herds were at that time in areas of the park which were not open to the public. No leopards spotted in Yala but plenty of birds, a crocodile, water buffalo, a mongoose and wild boar. We could not do the optional white-water rafting as the hydro electric plant had scheduled maintenance so we did not visit Kitugala or do the jungle walk. There doesn't currently seem to be a plan B for that day on the tripnotes. Also there were not enough people in our group who wanted to do the optional boat trip to do whale watching - it was very expensive -so that did not take place which was disappointing for those who were looking forward to the possibility of seeing whales. The walk on Horton Plains was excellent - a great day being out in the open with spectacular views from World's End and Little Worlds End. Some of the terrain was bouldery so would recommend walking boots rather than trainers. We spotted some giant tree squirrels and monkeys in the trees as well as birds of prey. We did spend a long time waiting for the train to Bandarawela and it was very full so not easy to get a seat with a view of the spectacular descent. The visit to see the ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is not to be missed. There are crowds and crowds of pilgrims all jostling to get a glance of the inner chamber when the moment comes for the monks to open it - not for the claustrophobic! Interesting to witness the dedication of the Buddhist followers. Kandy is in a beautiful location surrounded by hills - the views from the hotel are stunning and there is a lovely rooftop pool. The Dutch Fort of Galle looked very interesting but would have been better to visit earlier in the morning as it was so hot when we arrived there and a number of the group were not inclined to walk around so we did not have much time to explore. I think if the Trip Notes specified a walking tour led by the guide then this might make it more of a scheduled activity. The beach resort wasn't really safe for bathing - red flag was always up! The beach was small so you could not walk far. There are surely better options! I had some fabulous food - tried lots of different curries. Hoppers for breakfast are fab!
Without going into the interesting detail of the trip notes, this tour was well lead by Sujan who was very funny and knowledgeable. Compared to other Exodus holidays it is quite laid back with more time off on most days and reflects the laid back feel of Sri Lanka. The elephant safaris were wonderful and we saw 60 elephants in all.....a bit of excitement!!! had when one rammed the jeep in front, whale watching was fabulous too with 17 sightings of Blue Whale and some mating turtles. The cycling was very relaxed seeing plenty of interesting village life along the river. The hotels were mostly luxurious, always a welcome drink, barely had to move a suitcase as porters dealt with them all, most with pools and a feast for breakfast. Although it was very often only an omelette and fries or club sandwich option for lunch. Most evenings the dinners were in the hotels so this meant you could eat and go to bed when you felt like it. In Late March with 38 degrees and great humidity it was boiling but the air conditioned coach helped tremendously and there were no mosquitos. Do take an umbrella for sightseeing to keep out the sun as a hat didn’t feel enough. Drives that were set to be three hours turned out to be interesting stop and start drives as things were pointed out along the way, A trip I can recommend.
Following Exodus's usual formula of maximising a tour around a country to experience its cultural and history with the added benefit of premium hotels throughout (well one had and enchanting feel of colonial days but that was just one night) I experienced a fab time.
The trip was very well organised & the tour leader was efficient & knowledgeable. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, I would definitely return. Although this was advertised as a ‘premium’ trip a few of the hotels we went to were nowhere near what I’d describe as premium. (Although the majority of the hotels were very good).
An excellent trip, made by a wonderful leader. A really good variety of visits and activities. We gained a very good impression of Sri Lankan life, history, culture, natural history and politics.
2 weeks of ‘Heaven’ - a full on and busy trip with ‘free’ time if needed - the trip included a bit of everything - temples, Buddhist sculptures, tea plantations, ancient cities, history, religion, hiking, wildlife and amazing scenery etc. I loved meeting the tsunami victims and the local farmers and I loved the variety of transport - coach, jeeps, tuk tuks, cycles, tractor, train and ferry. The hotels were outstanding although the Bandarawela Hotel did not reach anywhere near the standard you would expect on a Premium trip - it was a very dated, tired hotel - luckily we only stayed there for one night.
Great trip with a busy itinerary. But also a few hours free to do what you want also. Well balanced trip. Weather was very hot some days and the 5 mile bike ride was too hot for some. Jungle walk was also very humid. Luckily Sigiri Rock was cool that am, but if it had been high 90s weather that am, then that would also be a tough climb for some. Whale watching was an optional extra but it was absolutely brilliant, we saw lots of whales. Being a bird watcher, I counted 83 different species throughout the holiday. Along with 100+ elephants in Kaudula National Park and the whales, the trip had lots of wildlife for people like me to see and enjoy. All in all, a great trip, but if you don’t like the heat, then be aware, that Sri Lanka is a hot country. There are a few early am wake up calls, but was always worth it. Lastly, the guide Sujeeva, was absolutely brilliant. He took us to some amazing restaurants (and family homes) to eat every evening. The Red Snapper on the beach was absolutely stunning. I would recommend this holiday for anyone thinking of going to Sri Lanka.
My overall experience of the holiday was fantastic and I was most impressed with Exodus as a company and will certainly be using them again. All members of the group of 16 were included in all activities and no-one was left out. It is a great way for singles to go on holiday and be assured of good company.
If you think India might be too much but really want to discover a different culture, this is the perfect trip to do. Full on and busy every day but with 'free time' just when you need it. So many experiences in 2 short weeks, cultural, home based, incredible climbs, bike rides, white water rafting, incredible views, ancient cities, spice garden tour with an expert, turtle hatchery, visiting a tea factory, and that is just to mention a few of the things we did. Our guide was so knowledgeable and soon became part of our group of 16, the bus driver was brilliant as was his support, we felt safe every time we went anywhere, Our Guide Nalaka was charming and always available to us and answered our numerous questions with charm and knowledge. All the hotels were of a high standard, only two were not that good but for one night they were fine, but throughout the tour we were given 5* treatment and courtesy.
Two weeks of absolute bliss. A group of 15 gelled magnificently considering age range was between 28- 72! Starting in the capitol, Columbo we ventured north to Dambulla + Sigiriya taking in Cave temples and climbing the impressive Lion Rock- what views! Something we would get used to over the course of the fortnight, each different view offering us an awesome insight to the lush, green island before us. Game parks - herds of elephants- not the odd one or two - dozens. Along with multitudinal birds of all colours , shapes, sizes and other animals( although the Leopard did not make an appearance this time )- Sri Lanka is a nature lovers paradise. Temples, architecture, stupas, sculptures in abundance enough to satisfy the cultural aspect of the trip. Cycling through paddy fields, white water rafting , whale watching all achieved and even if you were not athletically inclined the majority of luxurious hotels had a pool to lounge by and an informal game of cricket on the beach caught the imagination of even the most non sporting amongst us. Trips to a gem factory , woodcarving store, spice garden were also on the itinerary. There was something for everyone. Food was delicious - curry and rice but other 'western' food available. Beer relatively cheap. shopping in Kandy was a must - this definitely the place to get any souvenir or just to treat yourself. Can't believe we did so much and saw so much - the time flew by - even the 'free days'. Thoroughly recommend.
Beautiful and varied country with a lovely laid back and fascinating culture. The trip manages to combine a good mix of scenery, culture and history in a relaxed manner with outstanding food if you like moderately spicy curry. The logistics and transport were excellent. The hotels were superb except for one which we understand Exodus will not use in future.
Lovely country, lovely people. Trip had good variety of culture, scenery, wildlife and walking/cycling/rafting. Fairly active trip but with times to relax. Group mixed well which made the trip more enjoyable. Hotels good except at Kitulgala. Drives not too long - able to spread out in coach (driver and mate really good).
This holiday provides a really good overview of the highlights of Sri Lanka
A really varied tour with something for everyone - exactly as promised. Beautiful country, great people, delicious food (and if they say 'hot', they mean it!).
Good trip. Covered all the main places of interest in Sri Lanka
You can be confident that our pricing includes all the standard requirements of your holiday and many additional extras. Always ensure that you are comparing like for like when booking your holiday.
This 14 night guided walking holiday includes:
All breakfasts and 1 lunch
All accommodation (see below)
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Arrival & departure transfers
How to book:
To book this holidays speak to our sales team on 0044 1606 720199 or click on the appropriate 'book now' or 'check availability' button below.
To book this holiday call our sales team on 0044 1606 720199 or click on the appropriate 'Book now' or 'check availability' button below.
We do not currently have departure dates and prices available on-line. The season may have ended for this tour, or we are still in the process of adding these details to our website. Please contact us for further details.
This holiday is operated by our sister company, Exodus
14 nights premium hotels, all en suite
Travel by private bus
Additional travel by train, bicycle and jeep
Some long drives