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Completing a circular journey this trip takes in ancient temples and fortresses, cycling through tea plantations and across the scenic trails of the Knuckles Range. Leaving the coast behind we explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa on two wheels before steadily climbing to wide plains. Search for leopard in Yala National Park before making our way to the beach for a well-earned rest.
Explore Tour Leader
11 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights premium hotel
1 nights comfortable tented camp
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our adventure begins in Negombo, just a short drive from the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. A coastal town known locally for its fishing industry and golden sands, Negombo is the perfect place to spot locals bringing in their catch and to watch the sunset.
The Tour Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting followed by our first group dinner to get to know your fellow travellers. If you would like an airport transfer today, you will need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), which is 30-minute drive from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day there is the option to take a short cycle ride in the late afternoon exploring the coast of Negombo with its colourful fishing boats and relaxed people. You will need to meet at reception at 4pm for this gentle introduction to Sri Lanka's beautiful landscapes, firstly spending some time to ensure everybody is happy with the bike fit and making any necessary adjustments. The ride covers some 10 kilometres before we head back to the hotel before dark.
Earls Regent Hotel (or similar)
Leaving after breakfast we drive (30mins) to Dankotuwa this morning, from where we begin our morning's cycle ride through small backroads, gravel or dirt roads (15km) and lovely forest to the outskirts of Kuliyapitya. Please note that the road surface for today's ride is in a poor state of repair. Arriving in Kuliyapitya, we then transfer by bus (2.5hrs) to Dambulla for a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, breaking our journey with a lunch stop in Kurunegala. Dambulla has a great series of caves which hide an incredible collection of temples, Buddhist images and Hindu sculptures that date back to the 1st century BC. After our visit we continue by bus (30mins) to our hotel in Sigiriya.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 38 kilometres (total 390 metres accumulated ascent and descent).
Kassapa Lions Rock (or similar)
First thing this morning we drive the short distance back to Dambulla then cycle (24km) alongside lakes and canals to Sigiriya. We then leave the bikes as we climb the imposing 'Sky Fortress' of King Kassapa, whose 5th century ruins are one of the country's major archaeological attractions. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress is accessed by way of a series of steep steps that take us past the famous frescoes of the 'Sigiriya Damsels'. Returning to the base of Lion Rock, we drive (45mins) to Minneriya where the second leg of todays ride commences. Back on our bikes we ride to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Our route follows a series of relatively straight and flat backroads through a landscape dotted with forests and villages, with around 10km on decent dirt road.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 50 kilometres (total 340 metres ascent and descent).
Hotel Sudu Araliya (or similar)
Polonnaruwa reached the height of its glory in the 12th century and the city is still blessed with a number of ancient monuments, including the spectacular ruins of its Royal Palace and the Circular Relic House, a curious structure with a beautifully preserved 'moonstone' carved at the foot of a flight of steps. We spend this morning cycling around some of the area's major archaeological sites, before continuing on bike after lunch to explore the villages near Parakkrama Lake, one of the country's most impressive ancient reservoirs. Around 4km of today's route is on gravel or dirt roads.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 33 kilometres (total 210 metres ascent and descent).
Today we cycle through the Knuckles Range and on to Kandy, one of Sri Lanka's cultural highlights. We begin our day's ride from our hotel and cycle alongside Parakrama Samudra reservoir - built by the Singhalese kings in the 12th century - always staying close to Wasgamuwa National Park. Our ride ends before we get to Pallegama and we get back in the vehicle to drive up into the Knuckles Mountain Range. These striking landscapes and isolated cloud forests provide a haven for a rich diversity of flora and fauna. After around an hour and a half we reach the highest point at Riverston pass. From here we descend for about another hour and half to Matale Spice Gardens where we plan to visit. Finally we drive (1hr) on to Kandy and our accommodation for the night.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 61 kilometres (total 600 metres ascent and 500 metres descent).
Hotel Casamara Kandy (or similar)
With no cycling planned for today we have some free time to enjoy one of the country's cultural gems. Lying in the mountains to the north-east of Colombo, Kandy is renowned as a centre of spiritual and cultural importance. The city is home to the famous 'Temple of the Tooth', whose jewelled shrine is believed to hold the left canine of the lord Buddha. It was also the last capital of the Sinhala Kings and still retains much of its old world charm; its wonderful mix of colour and vibrancy making it an ideal spot to explore at our own pace.
No cycling today.
Leaving Kandy this morning we drive for around two hours through a picturesque landscape of rolling, verdant hills into Sri Lanka's central highlands. On our journey we will stop at a tea estate to learn about tea picking and processing and to see the impressive Ramboda Falls. Keen cyclists have the option to ride on good (albeit steep!) tarmac before reaching the tea estate and there is also the option to ride the final 18km section up to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Following the tea factory visit we continue on foot through the tea plantations to a Tamil hamlet and will hopefully meet some families of tea pickers. Those not riding the optional sections will make the journey by bus. Nestling amongst the lush, cool hills, nearly 1,900 metres above sea level, Nuwara Eliya was once a summer retreat for the British and still retains a distinctly colonial feel that harks back to its 19th century origins.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 18 kilometres (optional) (total 900 metres ascent).
The Blackpool Hotel (or similar)
In the morning we leave the hotel, cycling out through the highlands towards Badulla. Later changing direction to ride through the tea estates to Haputale on the southern, increasingly lush and tropical slopes of the mountain. Whilst the overall bias is on downhill, later in the day there are a few undulating and hillier sections as well. Later we can make a de-tour to visit the Bambarakanda Waterfall, the highest in Sri Lanka, before arriving at our hotel. This evening dinner is included.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 68 kilometres (total approx 970 metres ascent and 2200 metres descent).
Senya Resort (or similar)
Today we cycle through the spectacular southern slopes of the highlands via Rajawaka and Pallebedda until reaching Highway 18 where our ride ends. We then drive (30mins) to the Elephant Transit home for the chance to see the feeding of baby elephants. Afterwards we either drive to our permanent tented camp with free time this afternoon to relax, or alternatively have an optional 4WD jeep safari in Udawalwe National Park. The park is famous for its large elephant herds and has many other game to look for, from buffalo to sambar deer plus many bird species. This evening dinner is included.
Tonight we sleep in a permanent tented camp close to nature on the banks of the Rakwana River, close to the National Park. Each large tent is equipped with twin beds, simple ensuite bathrooms, fans and fixed mosquito nets making this a comfortable style of camping and waking next to the river is ideal for a spot of early morning bird watching.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 37 kilometres (total 420 metres ascent and 830 metres descent).
Athgira River Camp (or similar)
Comfortable Tented Camp
Turning south-east this morning, our cycle route leads us to the town of Kataragama where we spend the night. We plan to visit the interesting local temple dedicated to Hindu and Buddhist gods. Lying close to the beautiful and abundant landscapes of Yala National Park, our afternoon arrival provides us with a chance to enjoy an optional game drive through the park. One of Sri Lanka's more popular reserves, Yala is home to a rich diversity of ecosystems and is blessed with an abundance of wildlife, including sea turtles, sloth bears, one of the world's highest concentrations of leopards and over 215 species of birds. We use one of the less frequented Yala park entrances, around 40 minutes drive from Kataragama.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 49 kilometres (total 320 metres ascent and 370 metres descent).
Kithala Resort (or similar)
This morning we drive (30 mins) to the coast and then cycle the first 23km section along the coast and Bundula National Park, giving us a good chance to spot crocodiles. We then get back in the vehicle and drive for around an hour to a point beyond Tangalla. From here we cycle again following back roads heading to the west. Our cycle ride ends in Matara where we get back on the bus again and drive (45 mins) to the hotel in Koggala. Around 20kms of today's ride is on gravel or dirt roads.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 65 kilometres (total 600 metres ascent and descent).
Koggala Beach Hotel (or similar)
We cycle from our hotel this morning, through the backroads. We explore the coastal and inland backroads, next to Koggala Lake on our bike route that eventually leads us back to the hotel in time for lunch. Later this afternoon we drive for around 40 mins to Galle for a stroll through the old town.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 33 kilometres (total 380 metres ascent and descent).
Today has been left free to enjoy the laid back ambience and turquoise waters of Sri Lanka's southern coast. Rich in biodiversity, colonial history and golden beaches, the area offers a wealth of options to make the most of our last day in the country. There are also snorkelling trips available, ayurvedic massages and even the possibility of enjoying a whale-watching trip during the migration season (December to April).
The trip ends at Colombo airport. There are two transfers planned today.
Departing Koggala this morning we drive for around 2 hours 45 mins to Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) in Colombo where our trip ends. The first transfer is planned to arrive at the airport at 10am, the second transfer is planned to arrive at the airport at 5.20pm and you will need to select which you want at the time of booking. The earliest your flight can depart is 1pm.
Total distance : 435 kilometres
Year round high temperatures in coastal regions: Colombo averages 27°C. It is much cooler in the hills with Kandy averaging 20°C and Nuwara Eliya down to 16°C. Springlike temperatures in the hill country, but chilly evenings. Two monsoon periods: Apr-Sep when rain is confined to the southwest; and Oct-Mar when it falls in the northeast.
3 Pin Round
Optional Jeep safari in Udawalawe - approximately 40 USD per person Optional game drive in Yala NP - approximately 40 USD per person
In general pack for warm and hot weather. However, you must bring a warm sweater or jacket for cycling on cool days and for wearing during the evenings. We recommend you bring padded cycle shorts, cycle gloves and quick drying cycle shirts. In case of rain, waterproofs are essential. When visiting religious sites you will need to dress respectfully by covering your knees and shoulders plus taking off your shoes and hats. You may like to wear socks for temple visits as the ground can get very hot and burn the soles of your feet. You will need to bring long trousers, or buy a sarong locally.
If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. SPD cycle shoes are not well suited to tours that combine sightseeing with cycling. Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.
We recommend you bring a daypack and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. Check the bike details section to see if a pannier or handlebar bag is provided on the bike. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage.
Comfortable - Our mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service often with other amenities such as a restaurant, bar, garden or swimming pool. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en-suite facilities. Simple - These are often small, family run establishments or campsites which provide a no-frills experience with adequate amenities and service standards. Sleeping arrangements are simple, sometimes with en suite facilities. Accommodation in Sri Lanka is as varied as the country itself. On the Cycle Sri Lanka itinerary, we stay in a mix of hotels of varying standards. Most of these are decent 2 to 3 star hotels, but you may sometimes feel that a hotel is simpler than expected as the standard can vary from standards in the UK. So, it's best to approach each accommodation with an open mind. Service can be slow in places especially when travelling with a group.
Traditional Sri Lankan cuisine is excellent, and although it can be very spicy there are many dishes that feature cooling coconut milk or have a spicy sambar on the side to allow you to adjust the meal to your taste. There isn't a culture of eating out in Sri Lanka, most locals will eat at home, and as such there are very few restaurants around, and those that exist tend to be in hotels. As tourism develops a few independent restaurants are beginning to appear, mainly in Colombo but also in Kandy, Galle and in the coastal resorts. During the tour we will endeavour to eat out at local restaurants wherever possible but for many nights, at this point in time, the hotel restaurants are the only option available.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Sri Lanka: All foreign nationals who intend to visit Sri Lanka for a short stay of up to six months, including transit passengers, must apply for travel authorization online prior to travel to the country. All UK, EU, US, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian nationals can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for a fee of 50USD. To do so you must visit \ul \ulnone and apply for it prior to travel. It is strongly recommended that you print and bring a copy of the ETA approval notice with you. The Sri Lankan authorities require that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after departure from Sri Lanka. In addition to this, Sri Lanka has discontinued the use of paper land cards, and passengers are now required to fill out the following online arrival form, prior to arriving in Sri Lanka: 3\ul https://eservices.immigration.gov.lk/emb/eEmbarkation/'#/home-page 4\ulnone All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.4
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A plus Polio and diptheria. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. We strongly recommend the wearing long sleeved shirts and the liberal application of insect repellents containing DEET as a precautionary measure to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These precautions should be taken at all times as the mosquitoes are also active during daylight hours. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Why not extend your holiday with a few days on the beach at Unawatuna?