Sri Lanka was known by early Arab traders as “Serendib,” a name which gave rise to the English word “serendipity.” Set out on an adventure through this serendipitous Indian Ocean isle, exploring stunning palaces, ancient cities, and intricately decorated Buddhist temples. Take a stroll through fragrant spice gardens and lush tea plantations, tasting world-renowned Ceylon tea right at the source, and look out for elephants and leopards on safari in two celebrated national parks.
Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included.
Colombo/Wilpattu National Park
Begin the day with a visit to a coconut plantation. Coconut is one of Sri Lanka’s major exports, and many local industries utilize coconut-based by-products. Continue north to Wilpattu National Park, one of the oldest parks in the country and home to a significant leopard population. Explore the park on a 4x4 with a local expert, hearing about conservation efforts and the issues of human encroachment on wildlife reserves, and keep an eye out for elephants, wild boar, sloth bear, spotted deer, and of course, leopards. Spend the night at a safari camp located just outside the park.
Wilpattu National Park/Anuradhapura
Travel to the sacred city of Anuradhapura, an ancient capital of Sri Lanka dating to the third century B.C. Take your time to wander the palaces, gardens, Buddhist temples, and monasteries of this splendid UNESCO World Heritage site, and opt to explore the ruins by bike with a professional cycling guide.
Venture to the thriving village of Habarana, where we’ll get a chance to glimpse daily rural life. Explore the area by traditional bull cart, visiting lush vegetable fields and rice paddies. Take a stroll through town and meet some of Habarana’s residents. Float in a canoe down a picturesque lake, and sit down for a lunch of local specialties. Later, continue to Dambulla for the evening.
This morning, discover one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic sights—the striking fortress of Sigiriya, or the Lion’s Rock. This royal city and UNESCO World Heritage site was built in the fifth century on the slopes and summit of an imposing granite peak. Climb up a series of steep steps to reach the top, and encounter beautiful gardens, caves, monasteries, and palaces adorned with frescoes. Enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle, and return to Dambulla for some free time around town.
Set out to explore the impressive Dambulla Cave Temple, the largest and best-preserved collection of cave shrines in Sri Lanka. Admire stunning Buddhist murals and a trove of Buddha statues, including a spectacular reclining Buddha carved out of solid rock. Then visit a spice garden in Matale to learn about the therapeutic uses of local spices. Continue to Kandy and enjoy a tour of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, an important pilgrimage site which houses a tooth of the Buddha. This evening, we’ll take in a performance of traditional music at a cultural show.
Kandy served as the last capital of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala dynasty before the British took complete control of the island in 1815. Spend the day exploring the city, visiting the breathtaking Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya, once accessible only to the royal family. Afterward, stop by Sthree Craft Shop and Café, a G Adventures–supported social enterprise that works to empower local women and youth. View a handicraft demonstration and hear a talk about the enterprise before enjoying a tasting of local teas, accompanied by scones and pastries. Later, opt for a stroll through the city and around Kandy Lake, or enjoy a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage.
Travel through scenic mountains to the town of Nuwara Eliya, in the heart of Sri Lankan tea country. Visit a tea plantation to gain insight into the cultivation and production of this beloved beverage, and savour a cup of perfectly blended Ceylon tea. Then head out on a tour of Nuwara Eliya and its lush surroundings, once governed by English and Scottish planters, following cool, misty roads through blankets of tea bushes. This afternoon, opt to take high tea at the colonial-era Grand Hotel, originally the holiday home of Sir Edward Barnes, the fifth Governor of Ceylon.
NUWARA ELIYA/HORTON PLAINS NATIONAL PARK/UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK
Venture out early this morning into Horton Plains National Park, a protected natural area encompassing high altitude grasslands and hilly cloud forest. Enjoy a picnic breakfast, and culminate your trek at a point known as World’s End—a majestic drop that provides incredible views over the verdant plains and coastline to the south. Then continue to our tented camp on the border of Udawalawe National Park. This evening, enjoy a cooking demonstration by the camp chef, learning about local specialties.
UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK
A sanctuary for large herds of elephants, Udawalawe National Park is one of the best places in the world to observe these majestic pachyderms. Embark on a jeep safari through the park seeking out the abundant wildlife, including water buffalo, jackals, and various species of deer. Afterward, visit the Elephant Transit Home, a refuge and rehabilitation center for orphaned elephants. Watch the resident elephants as they feed, play, and mingle with each other, and hear from one of the facility’s conservationists.
Drive to Negombo and spend the day at leisure. This small port town has seen Portguese, Dutch, and British rule—reflected in the architecture of the old quarter—and used to be a centre of the cinnamon trade. Choose to visit the Old Dutch Fort, step into one of the town’s ornate Catholic churches, or enjoy a stroll on the beach.
Depart at any time.