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Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

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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

2022 Tour code: SLG22

About the tour

Explore Sri Lanka, a land of pristine beaches, coconut and cinnamon plantations, peaceful lagoons and of course, tea. Its many glorious attractions, from its charming coastal cities and elusive leopards to its ancient palaces and magnificent Buddhist monuments, come to life on this holiday.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London to Colombo

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

Day 2 - Colombo

Arriving on Day 2, we transfer to our hotel for the night and the rest of the day is free to relax and settle in.

Day 3 – Colombo and Habarana

We take a sightseeing tour of Colombo, Sri Lanka's largest city and its capital, seeing beautiful temples and open green spaces amongst the grand Colonial architecture and towering skyscrapers. We visit some of the main sights, including the magnificent Colombo Museum, Ganagrama Temple and Independence Square. This afternoon, we travel by coach to Habarana for two nights, a great location for exploring the nearby attractions.

Day 4 - Sigiriya

On Day 4, we enjoy a coach excursion to Sigiriya, home to the ancient 'Lion's Rock Fortress', one of Sri Lanka's most awe-inspiring sights. A steep climb to the top takes us past well-preserved frescoes, and 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 glory days. 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 visit Dambulla by coach on our way to Kandy for two nights, visiting the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temples. These are a magnificent series of five cave temples dating back to the 1st century BC, which are all concealed by one vast overhanging rock. Home to more than 150 different statues of Buddha, as well as murals depicting the various stages of his life, there are also a few statues of Hindu deities, including Vishnu and Ganesha to admire.

Day 6 - Kandy

We explore Kandy on Day 6, beginning at the Peradeniya botanical gardens. Previously reserved exclusively for royalty, these beautiful gardens are Sri Lanka's largest and most impressive. We stop for lunch ahead of a guided city tour of Kandy, 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 a variety exotic tropical fruits, spices and authentic crafts.

Day 7 - Nuwara Eliya

We travel by coach and rail to Nanu Oya along a route famous for its picturesque scenery. From the train, we marvel at the views of paddy fields lined with palm trees before climbing into the mountains where the train navigates a series of slopes in preparation to cross the stunning Mahaweli Valley. On arrival, we transfer to nearby Nuwara Eliya, known locally as 'Little England' and set against a backdrop of soaring mountains, verdant valleys and mighty water-falls. Its comparatively cold climate made Nuwara Elia a favoured retreat for British civil servants, and we enjoy a two-night stay in the heart of the city.

Day 8 - Ramboda

On Day 8, we take a tour of a tea plantation and factory in Ramboda, where we get a hands-on experience plucking tea leaves ahead of a well-deserved tasting. Back at our hotel, we sit down to a decadent high tea overlooking the manicured gardens

Day 9 - Leopards at Yala National Park

Our coach takes us to Ella where we have some free time before continuing our journey to Tissamaharama, home to one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in Sri Lanka. We arrive in Yala for a two-night stay.

Day 10 - Yala National Park

Early on Day 10, we enter the national park itself, the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka and made up of a diverse landscape of monsoon forests, dusty planes and marine wetlands. We set out on a Jeep safari, searching for leopards, wild boar and other rare animals with our local guide. To increase our chances of a sighting, we take a second game drive this afternoon.

Day 11 - Beruwela

We drive to Beruwela 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 in the company of an expert guide.

Day 12 - At leisure

Day 12 is free, and 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. 

Day 13 - At leisure

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 14 – Negombo

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

Day 15 - Colombo to London

On Day 15, we return to Colombo for our flight back to London Heathrow 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

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Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

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Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana

Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana

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Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

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Jetwing Lagoon, Negombo

Jetwing Lagoon, Negombo

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The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

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Tharya Resort & Spa, Tissamaharama

Tharya Resort & Spa, Tissamaharama

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Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

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

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Lynne Broadley
Lynne
Luke Simpson
Luke
Helen Laverack
Helen