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Join us on an action-packed family adventure across this spiritual island. Search for leopard in Wilpattu National Park, staying overnight in a tented safari camp; cycle the backroads to discover ancient Buddhist cities in ancient Polonnaruwa and raft the white waters of the Central Highlands. Blessed with sun soaked beaches and a breadth of fun activities, its little surprise that Sri Lanka is one of our most popular family holiday destinations.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights comfortable camping
5 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights premium hotel
1 nights simple lodge
12 - 18
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Negombo, a beach resort a short distance from Sri Lanka's capital city situated on the Indian Ocean.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Negombo at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International airport (airport code CMB), which is 14km, 40 minutes from the 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 head to the beach or make use of the hotel facilities which features a swimming pool and gardens overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Earls Regent Hotel (or similar)
Leaving Negombo we travel north following the coastal road to Wilpattu National Park, a journey of around 4.5 hours including stops. Here we will leave our bus and change to jeeps for an afternoon safari through the park hoping to spot Sri Lanka's most elusive resident, the leopard. Despite Wilpattu National Park's location in Sri Lanka's dry zone, it boasts nearly 60 lakes and is renowned for leopard, elephant and sambar deer sightings.
Tonight we stay in a large fixed tented camp located close to the Southern boundary, on the boundary of a lake surrounded by bush forest. Each tent is well appointed with raised beds and comfortable mattresses, there is plenty of space to move around; en-suite private bathrooms are located in adjoining individual tents. Pillows, bed linen, towels, a flashlight and an umbrella are also provided. In the evening guests are invited to retire to the campfire after dinner.
Big Game Safari Camp Wilpattu (or similar)
Heading inland we drive two hours to Habarana, the cultural hub of Sri Lanka. Tuk tuks are the transport of choice here, and we'll switch out the bus for a tuk tuk ride to the community's vegetable garden. Walk around and help the villagers select a choice of homegrown vegetables, which will all go into preparing our traditional Sri Lankan lunch. Watch and join in if you like as delicious curries and rice are prepared. After sharing the meal, we have the chance to take a serene canoe ride on the village lake. After spending time in the village we make our way back to our bus and onto Polonnaruwa, just under an hour's drive.
This afternoon we visit the ancient city by bicycle and on foot, taking in the spectacular ruins of the Royal Palace and its Audience Hall, Bathing Pool and Quadrangle - a wonderfully compact collection of ruins. We stay overnight close to Polonnaruwa.
Acme Hotel (or similar)
An early transfer this morning takes us to the start of our ascent up the imposing Lion Rock for the climb to the redoubtable Sky Fortress, soaring dramatically up from the flat central plains. The ruins of this 5th century World Heritage site fortress are one of Sri Lanka's major attractions. A switchback series of steps (sometimes very steep and somewhat precarious) ascends to the top and half-way up, tucked beneath a sheltering overhang of rock, are the famous Sigiriya Damsels. These frescoes, their ancient colours still glowing, once covered an area of some 140 metres in length and are the only ancient non-religious paintings to have survived into modern times. On arriving at the summit (200m) we are presented with some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, as well as the remains of what is left of the palace of King Kassapa.
Leaving Sigiriya we drive to Kandy located just outside the city. We wander through the lush Royal Botanical Gardens which boasts more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, medicinal plants and palm trees. Join our tour leader for a short walking tour of Kandy which will include visiting the town's narrow streets lined with old buildings and colourful and interesting markets. Buddhists from all over the world come to this highland town specifically to visit the Temple of the Tooth or Dalada Maligawa and there is the option to visit the temple, should you wish. You may wish to continue shopping at the Kandyan Art Association's workshops, which has plenty of brassware, batik, lacquer work and other craft items which make excellent souvenirs or presents.
Late afternoon we transfer to our hotel located 4km outside of Kandy overlooking the Mahaweli River (Sri Lanka's longest), allowing easy access to Kandy without the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The hotel has beautiful gardens, an open air restaurant and swimming pool.
Mahaweli Reach Hotel (or similar)
Our drive this morning takes us to Kitulgala, a journey of around two hours. Set amongst the fertile and lush western highlands with towering cliffs and wild water, the Kelani Ganga provides some of the best white water rafting in the country. The grade 2-3 rapids provide us with the perfect combination of fun and excitement, as we spend the afternoon rafting down the river towards our eco lodge accommodation in the jungle outside Kitulgala.
We cover a seven kilometre section of the river through eight rapids. It will usually take approximately one to two hours to cover the section but this depends on water levels. Taking lunch en route, we should arrive at our overnight lodge late this afternoon and, after a chance to freshen up. This evening there will be a chance to join an optional trek across the river and through the jungle to a hidden waterfall.
Our night spent at Kitulgala is more basic with ten eco lodge tree houses roofed with palm leaves set two metres above ground level. The ensuite huts are open to the forest, providing a close to nature feeling, the sounds of the river running close by only adds to the feeling of being in the wilderness (ear plugs can come in handy). All beds are fitted with mosquito nets.
Rafters Retreat (or similar)
Wake up to the sounds of the jungle. After breakfast head to the coast to Hikkaduwa on a drive that should take about 4 hours. Our hotel is located on the beach in Hikkaduwa, which is famous for its marine sanctuary, wide palm dotted beach and coral sanctuary. If we're lucky we may get to see turtles and other marine life just off the beach.
Coral Rock by Bansai (or similar)
The next day and a half is free to enjoy the laid back ambience and turquoise waters of Sri Lanka's southern coast. Rich in colonial history and golden beaches, the region offers us a wealth of options to enjoy the most of our time here.
In the morning we have a surf lesson. Hikkaduwa is one of the premier surfing destinations in Sri Lanka. Our two hour lesson can be tailored for beginners or more advanced surfers to make the most of your time on the Indian Ocean. Other activities include snorkelling trips and for those wanting pure relaxation there are plenty of spots to enjoy an Ayurvedic massage. You could also pay a visit to the city of Galle and its historic colonial fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that remains one of the best preserved examples of colonial fortification in the world.
Enjoy a free morning on the beach. This afternoon we take a local train from Hikkaduwa to Colombo with fine views of the Indian ocean as we make our way up the west coast. With many Sri Lankans using the coastal network every day it is the perfect opportunity to meet local families.
We make the final part of our journey by bus, returning to the small town of Negombo for our final night in Sri Lanka.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Negombo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Negombo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Colombo's Bandaranaike International airport (airport code CMB), which is 14km, 40 minutes from the hotel.
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
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. Day 4 - Kandy: Cultural show - £5.00 Temple of the Tooth - £8.00
Select your clothes carefully, bearing in mind that the climate is tropical and that upland areas are cooler and more temperate. Lightweight rainwear is also essential, and warmer clothing for the highland walks and chilly night temperatures in the mountains. When visiting religious sites you will need to dress respectfully by covering you 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.
Lightweight shoes and sandals. Be prepared to get footware wet on the whitewater rafting and canoeing activities.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack. Remember, hotel porters are not always available, so don't overload yourself.
It is always a good idea to travel with ear plugs. A water bottle and a torch. Whilst camping all bed linen is supplied on our overnight camp - there is no need to bring any extra equipment or sleeping bags.You may like to bring your own snorkel and mask for the nights on the coast. Bring a torch. Also high factor sun protection and a hat. We recommend Factor 30 plus for snorkelling as the water intensifies the sun's strength. A waterproof bag will also be handy to store personal possessions for the white water rafting and canoeing activities.
4WD, Minibus, On Foot, Train
Comfortable - We have endeavoured to provide as much variety as possible on this family adventure holiday in Sri Lanka. 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. In Wilpattu National Park we stay in tented camps located close to the Southern boundary, on the boundary of a lake surrounded by bush forest. Beds are raised and are fitted with comfortable mattresses; private bathrooms are en suite adjoining individual tents. Pillows, bed linen, towels, a flashlight and an umbrella are also provided. In the evening guests are invited to retire to the campfire after dinner. Our one night spent at Kitulgala is more basic with ten eco lodge tree houses roofed with palm leaves set six feet above ground level. Huts are open to the forest, providing a close to nature feeling, the sounds of the river running close by only adds to the feeling of being in the wilderness. Nature and the river can appear loud at night so you may want to bring along ear plugs. Food: 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, a lentil based vegetable chowder 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. You'll have a chance to try home cooking on day 3 in Habarana when we have a cooking demonstration followed by lunch with a local family. 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 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.