Sri Lanka Off The Beaten Track
Type: Exploration Tour
Duration: 13 Days
Best Time to Travel: September – March
Places you'll discover
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Sri Lanka Off The Beaten Track - Itinerary
Uncover some of Sri Lanka’s less frequented areas on this captivating tour of the country. Discover the diversity of marine life at Kalpitiya and marvel at the water basins for which Wilpattu is renowned. The area is home to large number of birds and the ever elusive leopard. We spend time in Knuckles Forest situated in the evocatively named Misty Valley in Sri Lanka’s hill country. This is an area of the island that receives few visitors and is an area of natural beauty.
Colombo - Kalpitiya
Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport Colombo where you will be met and welcomed by your Sri Lankan guide. Transfer by road to Kalpitiya (approx. 170km) and your hotel for checking-in and briefing of the tour. The remainder of the day is free at leisure.
Kalpitiya is a peninsula situated between Puttalam Lagoon to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west and provides marvellous views of the blue ocean, golden beaches and unspoilt islands in the large lagoon. It has a diverse marine habitat boasting bar reefs, salt marshes, sand dune beaches, saltpans and mangrove swamps.
Kalpitiya – Wilpattu
Depart Kalpitiya by boat for Wilpattu National Park.
Upon arrival in Wilpattu we take to jeeps to explore the wildlife of the park. Wilpattu means 'natural lakes' in Sinhala. The lakes (of which there are sixty) are natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. At 1,085 sq km it is Sri Lanka’s largest national park. As well as lakes you'll also find huge swathes of dense, dry country woodland, masses of birds and, with a little luck, an impressive array of wildlife including leopards.
Wilpattu - Sigiriya
After breakfast we drive to the imposing Sigiriya Rock which we ascend for some amazing panoramic views of the area.
Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning. It is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion.
From Sigiriya we proceed to Dambulla Cave, Sri Lanka’s largest and best-preserved cave temple complex.
There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four of gods and goddesses.
Sigiriya – Knuckles Forest
After breakfast we drive to Polonnaruwa. The second capital (846 – 1302 AD) of Sri Lanka is a well-preserved city of ancient dagobas, moonstones, beautiful parks, massive buildings and stunningly beautiful statues. The majestic King's Council Chamber, the Lotus Bath, the Lanka Thilaka Viharaya, the Gal Viharaya (rock temple) and the statue of one of Polonnaruwa's great kings, Parakramabahu, are a few of this capital's memorable sights. The Sea of Parakrama - a vast 12th century man-made reservoir dominates the city. Although it is nearly 1,000 years old, it is much younger than Anuradhapura, and in much better repair.
Depart Polonnaruwa for Knuckles Mountain Range via Mahiyanganaya and our accommodation at the Dambangala Chalet situated inside Knuckles Forest.
Today is at leisure to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of ‘Knuckles’ as the area is popularly referred to.
The Knuckles Mountain Range is part of the Hill Country of Sri Lanka and is 915m above sea level. The region is also known as Knuckles Peaks or simply as Knuckles. It gets its name due to the mountain having five peaks that resemble the knuckles of a clenched fist, especially when viewed from Kandy. The Sri Lankan name for this mountainous area is "Dumbara Mitiyawatha" which means" The Misty Valley ".
Knuckles Forest - Kandy
After breakfast we drive to nearby Kandy.
In the afternoon we have a guided sightseeing tour of the city. A lively city, Kandy is surrounded by rolling hills and forest. The last capital of the Singhalese Kingdom, this hill country city is famed for its lake and the Temple of the Tooth.
In the evening we visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. Ever since it was founded in the 16th Century, it has housed one of the most sacred relics of Buddhism – a tooth of Buddha collected from his funeral pyre and which is now protected within the gold-roofed Temple of the Tooth. See the blessing ceremony with all the fanfare, drums, trumpets and brightly coloured Monks performing their rituals.
Kandy - Nuwara Eliya
Take the train to Nuwara Eliya which takes approx. 5 ½ hours. Set in the cool and misty hilly interior at an altitude of 1800m is the colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya. Built by the British in the 19th century as an escape from the sweltering heat of the lowlands it came complete with half-timbered mock-Tudor houses with inglenook fireplaces & billiard tables, a golf course, race track, gentlemen’s clubs and botanical gardens. Now a bustling town and the vegetable garden of Sri Lanka it nonetheless gives you a glimpse into life in the colonial heyday.
Upon arrival we travel the rest of the way by car to the hotel stopping en route to visit a local tea plantation.
Nuwara Eliya - Udawalawe
Drive to Udawalawe. Udawalawe National Park is most famous for the many elephants that live there. In addition to this main attraction, the park is also home to water buffalo, water monitor lizard, sambar deer monkeys and the occasional leopard. The park is also an exciting location for bird enthusiasts.
We embark on an evening game drive through Udawalawe National Park. During a game drive, it is not unusual to see whole herds of adults and young elephants - feeding or bathing and playing in the water. Our accommodation for two nights is at the Athgira River Campsite within the national park.
Udawalawe – Yala National Park
Depart by road for Yala National Park. Yala National Park (1,570 sq km) was created in 1938. Its diverse range of habitats, including scrub jungle, brackish lagoons, lakes and rivers are home to approximately 400 elephants and around 40 leopards in addition to wild buffalo, sambhur deer, musk deer, black bears, macaques, jackals and a numerous variety of birds.
We have an afternoon jeep safari in the park before returning to our camp site in Udawalawe.
Udawalawe - Mirissa
Visit the elephant transit home in Udawalawe. Udawalawe Elephant Transit home is a refuge for a baby elephant, the majority of which have been affected by the tragic elephant – human conflict (when mothers are often separated from their young or even killed). This incredible project provides food, medical care, and anything else a baby elephant needs. When the elephant are big and strong enough, they are released back into the wilderness to start living a ‘normal’ elephant life.
Drive to Mirissa. Mirissa is the largest fishing port on the south coast and is known for its tuna, mullet, snapper and butterfish but its real claim to fame is as one of the best places in the world for blue whale and sperm whale watching.
Early morning with packed breakfast for Dolphin and whale watching. The seas off the coast of Mirissa are some of the world’s best for blue and sperm whale watching, an entrancing experience not to be missed. With the continental shelf so close to the surface, these magnificent creatures are continuously in view as they travel their ancient migration routes. Your early-morning expedition will be accompanied by a naturalist guide who will ensure you get the best views—and the best opportunities to capture once-in-a-lifetime wildlife photographs. You will then return to you hotel for some well-earned rest and relaxation.
Mirissa – Galle - Mirissa
Depart Mirissa for Galle. The coastal town of Galle, the capital of the Southern Province, is best known for its impressive fort: a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best preserved colonial sea fortress in Asia. The fort was built and modified over 4 centuries; started by the Portuguese in the late 16th century it was later taken over by the Dutch and eventually by the British. Protected within its walls, bastions and ramparts is a complete town with narrow streets, churches and cloistered inner courtyards of shuttered mansions, which clearly bear testament to their colonial past. The fort today offers a plethora of cafes, restaurants, vintage shops, chic boutiques and art galleries. These have taken the place of 17th and 18th century vendors who would have traded in cinnamon, lace and elephants.
Enjoy a fascinating evening walking tour of Galle Fort. The tour is part driven and part walking and covers the important highlights within the fort. These include the thick walled ramparts that withstood the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Explore the chain of huge bastions that guard Galle Fort, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Dutch Government House and the Maritime Museum. Also see Meera Mosque, built in 1904 as well as the All Saints Church.
Mirissa - Colombo
Return to Colombo to the airport for your onward flight.
What's Not Included?
- Drinks during meals
- Optional tours
- Sri Lanka visa
- Any personal expenses such as laundry, hotel phone etc
- Tips and gratuities
- Kalpitiya – Bar Reef (Cabanas)
- Wilpattu – Dambale Boutique Hotel (Luxury Villa)
- Knuckles – Dambangala Chalet (Standard Room)
- Kandy – Sweet Cinnamon Hotel (Deluxe Room)
- Nuriya Eliya – 99 Acres (Deluxe Room)
- Udawalawe – Athgira River Camping (Standard Tent)
- Mirissa – Ubuntu By Lantern (Courtyard Room)