Call to book01904 734 939
Tour Search
#Favourites

Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

Save

Discover the heritage of Sri Lanka and meet one of its most elusive residents, the leopard.

15 days From £2,595 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2023 Tour code: SLG23

About the tour

Explore Sri Lanka, a land of pristine beaches, coconut and cinnamon plantations, peaceful lagoons and tiered tea paddies. Its many glorious attractions, from its coastal cities and elusive leopards to its ancient palaces and Buddhist monuments, are uncovered as we explore this beautiful country as part of a small group.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London and Sri Lanka

We depart London Heathrow on our overnight flight to Colombo, travelling via Doha.

Day 2 - Colombo

Arriving into the Sri Lankan capital, we transfer to our hotel for the night and the rest of your day is free to relax and settle in.

Day 3 – Sightseeing in Colombo

We take a sightseeing tour of Colombo, admiring the beautiful temples and open green spaces set amongst the grand Colonial architecture and towering skyscrapers. Visiting some of the city's main sights, including the magnificent Colombo Museum, Ganagrama Temple and Independence Square, we learn more about its fascinating past; from pre-colonial times right through the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupations. We'll also soak up the lively atmosphere of Colombo, enjoying a slice of everyday life as we pass open-air food markets and Buddhist statues. Later in the afternoon, we travel by coach to Habarana for two nights.

Day 4 - Habarana

Our day begins with a coach excursion to Sigiriya, home to the ancient 'Lion Rock Fortress', one of Sri Lanka's most awe-inspiring and important historical sites. A steep climb to the top takes us past well-preserved frescoes before we're finally rewarded with stunning views of the ancient 'mirror walls', polished thoroughly enough for former kings to see their reflection. If you prefer, at the lower levels you can discover the ruins of the royal palace and the elegant gardens. Next, we visit Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. A thriving commercial and religious centre, the archaeological remains here tell tales of the city's former glory days and during our time here, we explore the incredible rock shrines, mighty monuments and vast, dome-shaped stupas that line the once-bustling streets of this ancient city.

Day 5 – Dambulla Cave

We stop in Dambulla as we journey to Kandy by coach for two nights, visiting the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temples. With the main entrance guarded by a giant golden Buddha, this is an important pilgrimage site where sacred cave temples, which date back to the 1st century BC and are concealed by a giant, overhanging rock, are filled with Buddhist iconography and provide a peaceful place of introspection. Home to more than 150 different statues of the Buddha, as well as murals depicting the various stages of his life, there are also statues of different Hindu deities, including Vishnu and Ganesha, to admire.

Day 6 - Kandy

We discover Kandy with a local guide today, beginning our explorations at the Peradeniya botanical gardens. Previously reserved exclusively for royalty, these beautiful gardens are Sri Lanka's largest and most impressive and are home to over 4,000 different types of flora, including a famous collection of orchids and an avenue of towering palms. We stop for lunch ahead of a guided city tour, during which we stop at the Temple of the Tooth Relic, said to be home to one of Buddha's actual teeth, before continuing to the city's market square. Here, local vendors sell an enticing range of tropical fruits, spices and authentic crafts.

Day 7 - Demodara

We travel to Nanu Oya where we join the train to Demodara. Travelling along a route famous for its picturesque scenery, we marvel at the views of paddy fields lined with palm trees before climbing into the mountains where we navigate a series of mountainous slopes in preparation to cross the stunning Mahaweli Valley. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel for a two-night stay.

Day 8 - Tea picking and tasting

Making our way to Ramboda, we enjoy a tour of a local tea plantation and factory. First of all, we're taken around the factory on a tour, learning about the different types of black tea produced here before getting the chance for a hands-on experience plucking the tea leaves straight from the plant. After this, we settle into our seats on the al fresco terrace for a well-deserved tasting overlooking the emerald-coloured tiers of tea. Back at our hotel, we sit down to a decadent high tea as we admire our scenic setting amid the manicured gardens.

Day 9 - Ella and Tissamaharama

Our coach takes us to Ella where we have some free time. You may like to unwind at one of the relaxed bars or cafés, each serving plenty of delicious local cuisine as well as some international favourites, before we continue our journey to Tissamaharama. Here, we find one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in Sri Lanka, believed to have been built to be built by King Kavantissa over 2,000 years ago. Set within an area of lush greenery, the white bubble-dome stands out against the surrounding countryside and was apparently consecrated by Buddha himself during his third visit to Sri Lanka. We arrive in Yala later on for a two-night stay.

Day 10 - Leopards at Yala National Park

Early this morning we make our way into Yala National Park itself, the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka and made up of a diverse landscape of monsoon forests, dusty planes and serene lagoons set against the backdrop of the Indian ocean. We set out on a Jeep safari, searching for leopards, wild boar elephants and even crocodiles with our local guide. There are also hundreds of different bird species which call this protected reserve home, including the crested serpent eagle and rare purple heron. To increase our chances of a wildlife sighting, we take a second game drive this afternoon.

Day 11 - Galle

We drive to Beruwala for three nights, an idyllic coastal town beside the Indian Ocean. Along the way, we stop in seaside Galle for a guided walking tour. Boasting a gorgeous natural harbour, a labyrinth of quaint narrow streets and a delightfully preserved, UNESCO protected fortress, Galle has much to recommend it. We explore the white-washed houses and grand religious buildings that jut out along the peninsula, as well as the 16th-century fortifications and car-free historical centre in the company of our expert guide.

Day 12 - Beruwela

With a free day, you may wish to join an optional whale watching trip from Mirissa Harbour. This stretch of coastline offers the highest concentration of blue whales in the world and is also a great place to see sperm whales. Alternatively, you could visit a nearby turtle hatchery to participate in their baby turtle release programme, enjoy an excursion to a nearby cinnamon plantation or participate in a cooking demonstration at our hotel.

Day 13 - Free time in Beruwala

Enjoy another free day to relax ahead of our journey homewards. Our 5-Star hotel is right next to the beach and offers the best of luxury and comfort. You could spend the day swimming in the warm Indian ocean or reading in the shade of a palm tree on the golden sands or make an appointment at the wellness centre, which offers a fantastic choice of treatments amid the tranquil surrounds of the Balinese-inspired spa.

Day 14 – Negombo

We transfer to Negombo for the night, a city on the west coast of Sri Lanka idyllically located between Negombo Lagoon and the Indian Ocean.

Day 15 - London

We return to Colombo for our flight back to London Heathrow, travelling via Doha.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Cinnamon Bey, Beruwala

Cinnamon Bey, Beruwala

View hotel

Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

View hotel

Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana

Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana

View hotel

Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

View hotel

Jetwing Lagoon, Negombo

Jetwing Lagoon, Negombo

View hotel

The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

View hotel

Tharya Resort & Spa, Tissamaharama

Tharya Resort & Spa, Tissamaharama

View hotel

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

UK rail connections
London hotels
Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

Discover the heritage of Sri Lanka and meet one of its most elusive residents, the leopard.

Call

Enquire
Lynne Broadley
Lynne
Ashleigh Howe
Ashleigh
Simon Laverack
Simon