Sri Lanka Explorer - Hike, Bike, Surf & Safari | Under 35

Trip Length 10 Days
Group Size 4?14
Activity level
Starting from
$2,699 for REI Members
$2,959 for non-members
Departures Jul 2020-Dec 2021

Live your daydreams in lush Sri Lanka on a guided 10-day journey of epic moments, local secrets, and freedom to roam.

This is no ordinary place. Or trip. Meet Sri Lanka?a subtropical island nation off India?s coast, birthplace of cinnamon and Ceylon tea. There?s more to it, though. Think spice markets, misty mountains and boho surf towns (!). This trip is an indie-style small-group journey designed especially for travelers aged 18-35. (All 18+ are welcome.) Travel with a highly trained guide, wandering wilds and backroads with hiking, cycling and surfing. Savor extraordinary experiences of Sri Lanka?s culture, wildlife and beauty. Explore your way with ample free time. All the pluses of curated journeys with the vibe of independent travel? Yes, please.

Expect multiple bucket-list moments every day. Are you the wanderlust type? Then join us for an epic journey into lush, astonishing Sri Lanka.

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Trip Highlights

  • Seek leopards among lagoons and temple ruins on a naturalist-led safari
  • Ride a vintage train over the dizzying Nine Arch Bridge into the tea highlands
  • Bliss out beachside at an eco-surf resort
  • Photograph exotic birds in the Sinharaja Rainforest
  • Take a cooking lesson and learn the secrets of Sri Lanka?s bright, flavorful cuisine

Activities

This adventure is rated as Moderate [3]. All participants should be in good physical condition and capable of hiking, cycling and swimming. Participants should feel comfortable participating in 4?7 hours of activity on some days. One hike involves substantial elevation gain/loss (2,500') over rocky, uneven terrain and one day involves cycling up to 20 miles on undulating paved roads. Surfing lessons are for a novice skill level or it is possible to opt for yoga classes instead.

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Safari
  • Surfing
  • Walking
  • Wildlife Viewing

What's Included

Double-occupancy accommodations and meals as noted in the daily itinerary; bilingual guides; 24-speed mountain bikes with front suspension and bike helmets; surfing equipment; entrance fees to parks and temples; gratuities to service staff and station guides; private transportation throughout Sri Lanka; group airport transfer on Day 1 and Day 10.?

Accommodations

Hotels and Eco Lodges: 8 nights; Homestay: 1 night

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Spices and secrets of an old coastal city

Today, you leave your everyday life far behind. Arrive into Negombo, Sri Lanka, where we meet at the Bandaranaike International Airport. We set off straight away for the historic Galle Fort, a living pastiche of a Portuguese colonial past and vibrant melting-pot present, stirred by sea breezes. With hundreds of years of history, Galle Fort has become one of Sri Lanka?s must-visit locations. Our hotel is within the fort, putting us right in the heart of the action. The fort is a melting pot of cultures, each pebble-stone lane offers a completely different experience to the next. Tonight we explore some of the best hidden spots with our guide and sink our teeth into some fresh and flavorful Sri Lankan cuisine. Overnight in Galle Fort. Dinner Included.

Van transfer: 2.5 hours

Pinch-me moment: Realizing you did it?you?re actually here.

Day 2

Buddhist temples, local tales and a backroad bike tour

Wake up in Sri Lanka (!), perhaps for the first time. We start our day with a walk around Galle Fort. Founded by the Portuguese, occupied by the Dutch and then the British, the site is now a fascinating microcosm of ethnic and religious diversity. Mosques sit near churches and families live in 300 year old coral houses next to chic boutique hotels. There is a richness of history here that deserves a slow walk and requires a good storyteller (and fortunately we have one). Next, we get on our bikes for a ride into the countryside. We cycle along canals and rice paddy paths, through coconut groves and villages, absorbing the sights and sounds. A stop at Yatagala Temple introduces us to facets of Sinhalese Buddhist culture. Ending at the beach, we satisfy our well-earned appetite as the sun sets over crashing waves. Overnight in Galle Fort. All meals included.

Walking: 2 hours; Cycling: 12.5 miles on flat terrain

Pinch-me moment: Getting goosebumps amidst stone walls and haunting stories of this tropical fortress by the sea.

Day 3

Explore a rainforest kingdom: Sinharaja

Ever road-tripped to the rainforest? This morning we head to Sinharaja Rain Forest. One of Sri Lanka?s most significant biodiversity zones, the forest is home to over 150 species of birds. Even if birding is not your thing, you can?t help but being overwhelmed by the color, shape, size and numbers of birds within the forest. With the help of our eagle-eyed guide we hopefully spot a number of colorful species like the Blue Magpie, Yellow-eared Bulbul, and Sri Lankan Junglefowl. The walking is not too challenging, allowing us to focus on the wildlife as we weave through the lush forest. In the late afternoon we check into a simple, but pleasant guesthouse. All meals included.

Hiking: 4?5 miles (3 hours on forest trail)

Pinch-me moment: Watching a rare bird in the rainforest, feeling like you?ve stepped into an episode of Planet Earth 2.

Day 4

The glories of the Devil?s Staircase

Your quads may hate it, but your eyes and spirit will love it. The Devil?s Staircase is straight out of an adventure movie. If you look at a topographic map of Sri Lanka, you will see that, towards the center, there is a rapid increase in elevation. The Devil?s Staircase is a no-joke hike with rewarding views that will make us feel like real adventurers. Around each corner, the scenery changes. Tea plantations, forest, views out to the jagged peaks and rolling plains. We pass Bambarakanda Falls, the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, and enjoy a picnic lunch before ending near Horton Plains National Park. Tonight, we stay with a collection of families in the Ohiya area in a homestay-style accommodation. All meals included.

Hiking: 9 miles (6?7 hours on steep trails)

Pinch-me moment: Forgetting about everything except the 360-degree spectacle of wild beauty around you.

Day 5

Tea highlands by train

We love your stomach and strive to make it happy. So first things first: we delight in a home-cooked breakfast of fresh fruits, roti, hopper and samban before heading off to the train station. Like a daydream, this train journey carries us up into the green hills along a dizzyingly scenic route. We take in tea plantations, light-filled valleys, and villages clinging merrily to vertiginous hillsides. We pass over the vaulting stone Nine Arch Bridge as we approach Ella, a hip town tucked into the highlands of tea country. This afternoon, you?re free to explore Ella?s charms, footloose and hassle-free. (Our hotel is right in the heart of town.) We recommend a quick charge up Little Adams Peak for an incredible sunset view or a casual hike through the tea fields. Our guide is happy to show the way. Breakfast and lunch included.

Optional Hike: 2 hours; Train: 2 hours

Pinch-me moment: Crossing the Nine Arch Bridge in a weathered candy-colored train. Paging Wes Anderson ...

Day 6

A day of cycling and cooking in hill country

How?s this for a to-do list? Pedal along misty tea fields and learn to cook like a Sri Lankan. But first, sleep in! Due to the higher altitude we can enjoy a later start this morning with no need to beat the heat. Jumping on our bikes, we head out for a stunning loop ride around Ella. We take in incredible views over light hill climbs and make a thrilling (not tricky or technical) descent. Arriving back into town by mid-afternoon, we have the remainder of the afternoon for personal exploration. Tonight we are taking charge of our own dinner by joining some local chefs and learning to prepare some of Sri Lanka?s tastiest dishes. Overnight in Ella. All meals included.

Cycling: 20 miles on rolling terrain

Pinch-me moment: Feasting on flavorful, spice-tastic Sri Lankan cuisine you?ll be able to whip up at home anytime you want.

Day 7

Yala leopard safari

Back into the wilds today. Choose to chase morning views with a sunrise hike on Little Adam's Peak, or sleep in and enjoy the extra Zs. Later this morning, grab your binoculars because we?re off on safari. Yala National Park is known worldwide for its variety of wild animals including Asiatic elephant and leopard. Joining a park naturalist and hopping in a safari rig, we enter the park at the remote northern gate. Keep your eyes peeled as we circle round giant rocky outcrops and through dense forest in search of wildlife. At sunset we head to our comfortable lodge for dinner and a shower. All meals Included.

Safari: 3 hours

Pinch-me moment: Seeing a herd of Asiatic elephants or a sleek, slinky leopard in the wild.

Day 8

Escape to a blissed-out beach retreat

Beach o?clock and all is chill. From the mountains, rainforests and wildlife preserves, our next adventure is on Sri Lanka?s spectacular coast. Checking in to our beach side resort, we slip into our bathing suits and paddle out for our first surf lessons. If surfing isn?t your thing, you can join yoga classes at the resort?s beachside studio. The beach and full service spa are at your doorstep. Swim, lounge in a hammock or post up on the sand sipping a king coconut. Like you do. All meals included.

Surfing or yoga: 2 hours; Van transfer: 2.5 hours

Pinch-me moment: Realizing the most stressful thing you have to do today is choose between surfing, yoga and beach loafing.

Day 9

Surfing, hammocks and Om by the ocean

Wake up to another day in paradise. Morning is for a second surf lesson (or yoga session, if you prefer downward dog to hanging ten). Sunrise yoga beforehand may be an option, depending on demand. Afternoon is wide-open for you to savor as you please. Luxuriate in the feeling of tropical sunshine and hours of freedom stretching before you. Follow your bliss with a dip in the spacious freshwater lap pool, go for a swim in the ocean, wander the town, or kick back in a hammock on the white-sand beach. Interested in sustainable practices? Ask to see the impressive organic garden, compost-generating worm farm, or solar-powered systems. Tonight we gather for a final Sri Lankan dinner and toast to new friends, incredible memories and future adventures. All meals included.

Surfing or yoga: 2 hours

Pinch-me moment: Gliding across the glossy aqua waters of the Laccadive Sea.

Day 10

Tropical sunrise and Sri Lanka farewell

Good morning, sunshine! Enjoy one more morning of beaches and warm waves. After lunch, we embark on a mini road trip (3.5 hours) through some of the other south coast beach towns en route to Negombo?s international airport where our journey concludes. Staying in Sri Lanka longer? We can drop you at any of those beach towns along the way. Breakfast included.

Driving: 3.5 hours

Pinch-me moment: Catching an electric-orange tropical sunrise over the ocean.

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

You might also consider

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.