Discover Sri Lanka ? Temples, Tea Trails and Safari

Trip Length 12 Days
Group Size 4-12
Difficulty
Starting from
$3,599 for REI Members
$3,959 for non-members
Departures Mar 2020-Dec 2020

Go on a 12-day odyssey through stunning Sri Lanka. Encounter jungles, temples, ruins, highland tea fields and exotic wildlife.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful subtropical island steeped in culture and history stretching back to the ancient Spice Routes. Staying in comfortable eco-lodges, with local guides leading the way, we wander through days of hiking, gentle cycling, and cultural exploration. We marvel at Sri Lanka?s jewels and savor its everyday moments, from village markets and tuk-tuk tours to waterfalls and bathing elephants. Around every corner is something new to learn about this land of cinnamon and adventure.

Every day adds to your life?s book of stories. Hike in misty highlands terraced with fields of fine Ceylon tea. Stalk leopards on safari in Yala National Park. Spy a ruined temple peeking through the jungle. Be welcomed into a local home and practice stirring up fragrant Sinhalese curries. Learn forest secrets from a member of the Vedda tribe. At the dreamlike, thousand-year-old fortress of Sigiriya (Lion?s Rock), walk between massive paws carved into stone. Our odyssey ends with sun and relaxation on the beaches of the south coast.

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Trip Highlights

  • Cycle village pathways and hike up the 1500 year old Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Learn from a Sinhalese Buddhist monk and visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
  • Hike the verdant highlands and tea fields near the Campbell?s Lane Forest Reserve
  • Go deep in Gal Oya and explore the forest through the eyes of the Vedda tribe
  • Search for leopard and other wildlife in Sri Lanka?s famous Yala National Park

Activities

This trip is rated Easy Active [2]. The primary activities are hiking/walking, safari and one afternoon of cycling. All activities are set at a relaxed pace. Participants should be able to comfortably hike 4 - 8 miles and cycle up to 10 miles on dirt roads/trails. Participants should arrive in good physical condition and have some hiking and biking experience.

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Safari
  • Walking
  • Wildlife Viewing

What's Included

Double-occupancy accommodations and meals as noted in the daily itinerary; bi-lingual guides; 24-speed mountain bikes with front suspension and bike helmets; entrance fees to parks and temples; gratuities to service staff and station guides; Private transportation throughout Sri Lanka; Airport transfers on Day 1 and Day 12.

Accommodations

Hotels and Eco Lodges, 11 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Ayubowan Sri Lanka! Relax at a lodge on a coconut and spice farm.

Arrive into Negombo, Sri Lanka, this morning where we are met at the Bandaranaike International Airport. The remainder of the day is for rest and recuperation at our lovely lodge set amidst the tranquil environs of a working coconut and spice farm. In the afternoon, we can join an optional outing by tuk-tuk to explore the surrounding area and local industries. This evening, we convene for orientation and our first tastes of Sri Lankan cuisine. Dinner included.

Day 2

Roam the jungle-tangled ruins of Ritigala Buddhist Monastery.

After breakfast we drive to the interior of the island and the epicenter of the great Sinhalese dynasties. Here the central highlands tumble into a mass of green jungle. Our first warm up hike and introduction to the storied past of Sri Lanka is to the ancient Buddhist monastery of Ritigala. Tucked into the mountainside, we follow forested pathways to ruins and steles bearing engravings dating back to the 1st century BCE. Overnight at a comfortable eco lodge. All meals included.

Hiking: 2 miles, 2 hours on a mix of stone pathways, steps and uneven dirt trails.

Day 3

Cycle village pathways. Explore an ancient Kingdom.

This morning we jump on bikes for an easy ride through small villages and around recessed reservoirs created by the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. After lunch, we venture out to explore the 11th-century city of Polonnaruwa. We return in the afternoon to enjoy a cooling dip in the pool and rest at our eco-lodge. All meals included.

Cycling: Up to 10 miles, 1.5 hours on flat uneven dirt roads.

Day 4

Climb an epic stone fortress. Ascend into lush tea highlands.

Rise early this morning to explore Sigiriya, the marvelous rock fortress also known as Lion Rock. It's a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. With massive carved paws, the fortress rises some 1200 steps to a flat-topped palace with a stunning view of the emerald plains and gardens below. Next, we drive into the highlands. Winding our way past villages, fields, and farms, we climb into the misty upper country, known for producing some of the finest tea in the world. En route, we enjoy a tasty lunch at one of our secret spots. Situated in the highlands, our eco-lodge for the next two nights features gorgeous views over the valley of verdant tea fields below. This afternoon we learn the harvest, production and brewing techniques of fine Ceylon tea. Overnight on a working tea estate. All meals included.

Hiking: 2.5 miles, 2 hours, elevation gain/loss +610/-610' on stone paths and fixed staircases; Driving: 3 hours.

Day 5

Journey into a forest reserve to a spectacular waterfall overlook.

Lace up your hiking shoes for a great hike this morning into the Campbell?s Lane Forest Reserve. Departing directly from the tea estate, our hike climbs modestly through rows of tea fields into the highland forest. Samba Deer and bountiful bird life are frequently spotted. Our naturalist guide will keep us tuned in to all of the unique flora and fauna. After reaching a stunning waterfall overlook, we return to the lodge. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Enjoy a float in the pool, relaxing massage or catch up on some journaling. Overnight on a working tea estate. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Hiking: 5 miles, 3.5 hours; elevation gain/loss +1,050/-1,050? on a rocky trail with a steady incline.

Day 6

Savor a home cooking class. Tour the Temple of the Tooth.

Bidding farewell to our leafy abode we descend towards Kandy town, the religious and cultural capital of Sri Lanka. En route, we visit a nearby temple for a morning discussion with a Buddhist monk. Their insights and personal story lend context to the significance of our upcoming visit to the Temple of the Tooth and Sri Lanka's deep connection to Buddhism. Next, we break at a local home to enjoy some of our own cooking. That's right! Our hosts will show us the unique spice blends and techniques used to create sumptuous Sinhalese curries. Arriving into Kandy in the afternoon, we walk through town, exploring the local market before arriving at the Temple of the Tooth. This venerated temple is a sight to behold and an incredible ending to our fun-filled day of adventure. Overnight at a hotel in Kandy. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Walking: 3 hours; Driving: 2 hours.

Day 7

Hike and marvel at nature?s beauty in remote Gal Oya National Park.

Today begins with a long journey to the lake and forest filled expanse of Gal Oya National Park, one of the most remote and untouched wilderness treasures of Sri Lanka. En route we visit the Dumbara Valley, famous for their handloom heritage of intricate patterns and vibrant colors. In the afternoon we head out on a nature hike with a naturalist guide. With over 32 terrestrial mammals, 150 species of birds, and rare endemic plants there are countless opportunities for discovery and learning. Overnight at an eco-lodge in Gal Oya National Park. All meals included.

Hiking: 2 hours; Driving: 4 hours.

Day 8

See islands and wading elephants by boat. Hike with Vedda guides.

Gal Oya Lake is the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka; its rocky inland islands are a haven for birds. The surrounding forest hosts a multitude of wildlife that come to drink at the water?s edge. With luck we spot elephants tromping about or snorkeling through the water. Returning to the lodge, we enjoy a mid-afternoon break before heading out on another nature walk. Our guides this evening, forest denizens of the Vedda tribe, impart their well-honed knowledge of the plant-life and its Ayurvedic medicinal attributes. Overnight at an eco-lodge in Gal Oya National Park. All meals included.

Boat Safari: 5 hours; Hiking: 2 hours.

Day 9

Go on safari in Yala National Park in search of leopards.

For those feeling extra energetic this morning, head out on an optional sunrise hike to Monkey Mountain. After breakfast we head out for Yala National Park, which boasts the highest density of leopards in the world. Under the care of our expert safari guide we learn about all the unique inhabitants of this national park. But, we keep our fingers crossed to see one of the majestic felines! Overnight at a safari lodge near Yala National Park. All Meals Included.

Safari: 3 hours; Optional Hike: 4 hours; elevation gain/loss +480/-480? challenging hike with scramble climbing; Driving: 2.5 hours.

Day 10

Pair a morning safari with beach resort relaxation on the south coast.

We embark on an early morning safari in Yala National Park, tracking last night?s paw prints in hopes of glimpsing a spotted cat. Today's drive follows the southern coast to our final stop in our Sri Lankan adventure. The south coast is famous for surfing, fishing and is the historical beachhead for commercial trade. This afternoon is open; choose to relax poolside at our seaside resort, unwind with an Ayurvedic massage, stroll the beach or hire a tuk-tuk to explore the nearby fort town of Galle. Overnight at a beach side resort. Breakfast and Lunch included.

Safari: 2-3 hours; Driving: 3 hours.

Day 11

Wander gorgeous Galle with its azure waters and historic fort.

Sri Lanka has been a key port of trade for over two thousand years. The natural southern harbor of Galle linked the Arab, Chinese and Roman world and was a strategic position for maritime commerce and dominion. The Portuguese built the first fort followed by the Dutch, who expanded and fortified the area. Today, cobblestone streets lead throughout the quaint city. Our walk today is one filled with history and charm. Return to the hotel in the afternoon to relax or linger in town for some self-exploration and window shopping. Overnight at a beach side resort and join the group for a farewell dinner. All meals included.

Walking: 3-4 hours.

Day 12

Linger for one last morning before bidding farewell to Sri Lanka.

After a leisurely last morning, we make our way back towards the airport. We have use of a hotel until our evening departure tonight. Breakfast included.

Driving: 2.5 hours.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering.�To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection.�This gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip.�Try to bring only what is necessary.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport and Visa

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.