Your browser does not support the HTML5 video element.
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip begins today in the coastal town of Negombo, famous for its fishing industry and golden sands. Our hotel is approximatley 30 minutes drive north of the airport and a great place to relax after the journey to Sri Lanka. We may see fishing boats bring in the day's catch or a stunning sunset over the ocean.
Your trip Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner as a group afterwards. There are no other activities planned for today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), which is around 30 minutes drive from our hotel.
Earls Regent Hotel (or similar)
We head inland today and stop to visit Dambulla, a complex of cave temples which date from the 1st century B.C. This atmospheric World Heritage Site still attracts scores of worshippers. We will visit five separate caves, which contain a large number of Buddha images and a few sculptures of Hindu Gods. In the early afternoon, we drive to either Minneriya or Kadaula National Park (depending on the season), where we enjoy a jeep safari to look for the herds of wild elephant that live here in large numbers. These parks are also home to an array of birdlife, including painted storks.
Acme Hotel (or similar)
We make an early start this morning, heading off with a packed breakfast through the jungle and on village trails, to the ancient site of Sigiriya. On arrival we will climb the 200m high iconic Lion Rock ahead of the crowds and whilst it is still relatively cool. The ruins of this 5th century 'Sky Fortress' are one of Sri Lanka's major attractions, a stupendous sight to behold and a feat of consummate engineering skill. The fortress was built in just seven years to protect the palace of merciless King Kassapa, who had assassinated his father and deposed his brother. Unfortunately for the king, despite its impregnable reputation, he was defeated here by his brother after a reign of 18 years. A series of steps and steel stairways ascend to the top of the rock and halfway up, tucked beneath a sheltering overhang of rock, are the famous frescoes - the Sigiriya Damsels, their colours still glowing. Before the final ascent to the summit, we pass between a set of enormous lion paws carved out of the rock - all that remain of an ancient gateway that gave Sigiriya, the 'Lion Rock', its name. From the summit there are magnificent views of the surrounding jungle and countryside.
In the afternoon we will explore another ancient site on foot, the remains of the city of Polonnaruwa, which reached the height of its glory in the 12th century, when it was a thriving commercial and religious centre. The city still maintains many of its spectacular buildings and monuments, with arguably the most impressive being the Quadrangle which contains a superbly decorated circular shrine. Another famous feature of this deserted city is the group of carved images of the Buddha, known as Galvihara. These four colossal figures are all hewn out of solid granite and the Reclining Buddha alone is no less than 14 metres long.
We can expect this morning's six kilometre hike to take around three hours including the ascent/descent of 200m Lion Rock. The afternoon walk at Polonnaruwa is around four kilometres and will take approximately three-and-a-half hours including sightseeing. The terrain is flat.
This morning we head south to the Knuckles Mountain Range for a hike through the region's abundant forests and grasslands. Resembling a clenched fist, the mountains are a remarkable microcosm of the country, the isolated cloud forests providing a haven for a rich diversity of flora and fauna. To the south and east of the Knuckles lies the Mahaveli Valley, whilst the Matale Valley (also known as the spice valley of Sri Lanka) to the west encircles a collection of peaks unrivalled anywhere else in the country.
Our hike today takes us along the mainly earth and gravel paths of the Manigala Trail and we plan to enjoy our picnic lunch among these beautiful surroundings. We spend the night at the characterful Sir John's Bungalow. Built by the British during the colonial era as a residence for the Superintendent of the 1,300 acre Laggala tea estate, the Bungalow was once the holiday home of Sir John Kotalawala, the third Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. On a clear day, the gardens and terrace enjoy sweeping vistas of the north eastern Knuckles. Sir John's Bungalow retains its old-world charms and comforts, including roaring fireplaces in the living and dining rooms The bedrooms at the bungalow are simply furnished in a traditional style and have attached bathrooms with hot water showers. As there are just 5 rooms, you may, depending on the size of the group, need to share with three or four others (of the same sex).
Today's 16 kilometre hike is expected to take around five to six hours.
Sir John's Bungalow (or similar)
There's an option this morning to make an early start before breakfast and set off on a short trek to a spectacular viewpoint known locally as Mini World's End (after the more famous World's End sheer precipice in Sri Lanka's Horton Plains National Park), where the scarp slope drops almost vertically for 1192 metres affording magnificent panoramic views over the often mist shrouded landscapes. We return to the bunglow for breakfast and a chance to freshen up before driving to Kandy.
Sitting on a plateau some 500 metres above sea level, Kandy served as the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom until falling to the British in 1815. It is a place of cultural and spiritual importance with Buddhists from all over the world coming here to visit its famous Temple of the Tooth, the Dalada Maligawa. The jewelled shrine of the Holy Tooth, said to be Buddha's left canine, is kept in the upper floor of the original building. The relic was brought from India 1,500 years ago and every year, at the time of the August full moon, it is paraded round the town with great pomp and circumstance during the festival of Perehera. We plan to go on an orientation walk in the city on arrival.
This morning's optional six kilometre hike is expected to take around two hours.
Hotel Casamara Kandy (or similar)
This morning we head out by bus into the hills surrounding Kandy for a hike on part of the Hantane Trail. Passing through beautiful tropical forest frequented by monkeys and a variety of birds, our trek ends at the Ceylon Tea Museum. The museum occupies the refurbished 1925-vintage Hantane Tea Factory and is supported by the Sri Lanka Tea Board and Planters' Association. There are exhibits on tea pioneers such as James Taylor and Thomas Lipton and after visiting we can enjoy a cuppa in the top-floor tearoom.
The afternoon is free to explore more of Kandy. You can visit the Temple of the Tooth or wander round the lake or through the lush Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, located just outside the city. Kandy has many handicraft workshops, which have plenty of brassware, batik, lacquer work and other craft items to choose from. Kandyan dancers can also be seen performing every night at one or two venues around town.
Today's nine kilometre hike is expected to take around four to five hours.
Departing Kandy this morning by train we will enjoy a scenic journey through Sri Lanka's Highlands to Hatton. As the train passes round hills and through valleys, strands of forest give way to the bright green tea bushes that cloak the landscape. Clusters of pickers, usually Tamil women, add splashes of colour in their colourful sarees. In an area known as 'Little England', where we will find red telephone boxes, Victorian colonial architecture and pretty rose gardens - Hatton served the coffee and tea estates of the colonial era. From Hatton its a short drive to Norwood from where we'll trek through the tea plantations and along the banks of the Castelreigh Reservoir. At the end of our walk, it's a short journey by bus to our guesthouse in Dalhousie, the town that is the base for anyone wanting to climb sacred Adam's Peak (2243m), known locally as Sri Pada. A depression at the top of the peak is said to be Buddha's footprint (or that of Shiva to Hindus and Adam to Christians and Muslims) and, each year during the period between the December and May full moon, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims climb to the top for sunrise.
A basic property, our accommodation in Dalhousie, the Punsisi Resthouse has clean and spacious rooms with en-suite bathrooms.
Today's 10 kilometre hike is expected to take around four hours.
Punsisi Rest Guest House (or similar)
During the pilgrimage season, the stone staircase to the top of the peak is floodlit and we will set out around midnight joining throngs of pilgrims on the 1000m ascent to the summit, in time for sunrise and amazing views. It can get very busy at times but our guides know some of the shorts cuts on the mountain to help us avoid any bottlenecks. Outside of the season, the path is not lit and we will depart later in the pre-dawn light to reach the summit later but still whilst the air is cool and to be back down at our guesthouse by early afternoon at the latest.
The Adam's Peak ascent is approximately 1000m the eight kilometre hike is expected to take around eight hours in total.
This morning we take the train again, alighting at Ohiya station from where we'll hike all the way down along the switchbacks of the Devils Staircase, passing through forests and tea plantations before eventually reaching the beautiful Bambarakanda Waterfall. At 263 metres it's the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. Reaching the road at Kalupahana Junction we meet our bus and drive to our overnight tented camp near the river at Belihuloya. This area experiences a specific climate linking the wet and dry zones with the hill country and the low country, all combining to make this an area of the country with a wide range of bio-diversity.
The tents we use at the Belihuloya camp are large walk-in pre-erected tents with camp beds and all bedding provided. A mess tent, table, chairs and all cutlery and utensils are also provided. A field toilet tent serves the camp and there are cold water camp showers.
Today's 15 kilometre hike is expected to take around four to five hours with a total ascent of 400 metres and descent of 1100 metres.
Kinchigune Camp Site (or similar)
After breakfast we take a walk through the rice paddies and villages in the Belihuloya area, eventually meeting up with our bus near Puwakgahawela. We then head for the Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, a World Heritage Site of lowland evergreen virgin rainforest that is a bird watchers' paradise - 282 species have been sighted here. Other fauna include a large variety of insects, reptiles and amphibians. Although there are a small number of leopards, these are very rarely seen due to the dense foliage. The word 'Sinharaja' means lion king and legend has it that the Sinhala people of Sri Lanka originated from the union between a princess and the lion king who once lived in the forest!
Blue Magpie Lodge is a family run lodge set in peaceful jungle surroundings just five minutes from Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The simply furnished rooms all have attached bathrooms, hot running water and a/c. The lodge restaurant serves typical Sri Lankan country style food and fresh fruits in season.
Today's 10 kilometre walk is expected to take around three hours.
Blue Magpie Lodge (or similar)
This morning we will enjoy a hike on some of the trails through the rainforest in the company of a specialist park guide who will point out some of the stunning plant, bird and animal-life of the reserve. Sinharaja is one of Sri Lanka's last areas of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. The forest is often shrouded by rainclouds and the trail may be slippery underfoot.
In the afternoon we head for the seaside village of Koggala on the south coast, not far from the historic port of Galle.
Today's eight kilometre rainforest hike is expected to take around three hours.
Koggala Beach Hotel (or similar)
Today is left free to enjoy Koggala and the surrounding area. You can choose to relax on the beach, or the pretty coastal town of Galle is just a few kilometres away and easily reached by local bus or taxi. An important trading centre since ancient times, the fortifications that can be seen today were built by the Portuguese and then the Dutch from the 16th to the 17th centuries. The fort ramparts of this World Heritage Site protect the harbour and a myriad of fascinating old houses, churches and warehouses. Today, the town has a strong arts vibe, with foreign and local artists, writers, photographers, designers and poets drawing inspiration from their surrounds. Boutique shops and cafes around the town showcase their work.
We catch an early morning train from Galle to the lively capital Colombo, and have a picnic breakfast on the train. On arrival at the station we will head straight out a walking tour of Colombo (our bags are taken to the hotel) which will take you through the city's commercial heritage in terms of Portuguese, Dutch, and English influences, dating back from 17th century to the 1990s. The afternoon is left free to explore the city further or perhaps do some shopping. In the evening there's the option to join a unique guided walk around some of Colombo's old drinking spots, not the trendy new ones but the old taverns and pubs.
Fairway Colombo (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Colombo.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Colombo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), which is around an hours' drive from our hotel.
Total distance : 91 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
Unawatuna - Whale and dolphin watching boat trip from Mirissa harbour (season runs from November through to April) - £60.00. Unawatuna - Sorkelling Trip - £5.00 Colombo - Evening Walking tour around city's night spots
Due to the diversity of altitude encountered on tour, you will need to bring a range of comfortable lightweight clothing that can be layered according to the fluctuating temperature. On the coast and at lower altitudes, you can expect both days and nights to be warm and humid and lightweight clothing is all that is needed. In the Central Highlands and especially on the pre-dawn Adam's Peak ascent, nights can be chilly. We recommend walking trousers and shorts, breathable T-shirtshirts, walking socks, fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, warm hat and gloves and sunhat. When it has rained there may be leeches in the jungle and we highly recommend bringing your own leech socks which can be bought through outdoor equipment providers or online through retailers such as Amazon. When visiting religious sites you will need to dress respectfully by covering you knees and shoulders plus taking off your shoes and hats.
We recommend you bring lightweight walking boots with ankle support, make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack, 30-35 litres recommended.
Bring a 2 litre water bottle, sun cream, sunglasses and head torch. Bring your walking poles if you usually use them. An umbrella is useful for both rain and as a sun shade. Although mosquito nets or screens are provided at most nightstops and in spite of fewer mosquitoes due to higher elevation, you may choose to bring your own (attachable with nails and tape) for use here. Alternatively, please bring mosquito coils.
Bus, 4WD, Train
Here is some information about the simple grade accommodation we stay at on this trip:- On day four we stay at the Sir John's Bungalow. Built by the British during the colonial era as a residence for the Superintendent of the 1,300 acre Laggala tea estate, the Bungalow was once the holiday home of Sir John Kotalawala, the third Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. On a clear day, the gardens and terrace enjoy sweeping vistas of the north eastern Knuckles. Sir John's Bungalow retains its old-world charms and comforts, including roaring fireplaces in the living and dining rooms The bedrooms at the bungalow are simply furnished in a traditional style and have attached bathrooms with hot water showers. As there are just 5 rooms, you may, depending on the size of the group, need to share with three or four others (of the same sex). On days seven and eight in Dalhousie we stay at Punsisi Guesthouse. The rooms are quite basic, however clean and spacious and feature mosquito nets and en-suite bathrooms. On day nine we stay at the Belihuloya tented camp which has large walk-in pre-erected tents with camp beds and all bedding provided. A mess tent, table, chairs and all cutlery and utensils are also provided. A field toilet tent serves the camp and there are cold water camp showers. On day ten you stay at Blue Magpie Lodge, a family run lodge set in peaceful jungle surroundings just five minutes from Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The simply furnished rooms all have attached bathrooms, hot running water and a/c. The lodge restaurant serves typical Sri Lankan country style food and fresh fruits in season.
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.
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.