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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.