Day 1: New Zealand – – Colombo, Sri Lanka
Today, depart New Zealand for Sri Lanka! On arrival at Colombo international airport, you will be met by our tour representative and transferred to your hotel in Negombo.
Day 2: Negombo – Anuradhapura (B)
After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to Anuradhapura (approx. 3.5 hours driving). The ancient capital of Anuradhapura reigned supreme for over a millennium as one of the greatest monastic cities of the ancient world famed for Buddhist culture and architectural achievements across Asia and Europe. Ruled by 113 successive kings and 4 queens, Anuradhapura was a majestic sprawl of magnificent palaces, ornate pleasure gardens, exquisite sculptures, and vast Buddhist temples. The three main ‘dagabas’ are amongst the biggest architectural creations of the ancient world smaller in size only to the pyramids at Giza. Take an optional afternoon tour of these amazing ruins or spend the day at your leisure.
Optional Tour (at own expense): Sightseeing around ancient city of Anuradhapura
Day 3: Anuradhapura – Wilpattu National Park, Wildlife Safari (B)
An early start this morning as we take our packed breakfast and proceed to Wilpattu for an exhilarating jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park, declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1905 and is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest national parks. It covers an area of over 131,000 hectares stretching from the north western coast to the north central province, and comprises a complex of lakes called ‘Villus’ surrounded by grassy plains, set within scrub jungle. Although the biggest attraction at Wilpattu is the elusive Leopard, all of the `big game’ in Sri Lanka including elephant, sloth bear, water buffalo, and spotted dear are found in abundance here. Being less accessible than the other national parks, Wilpattu remains unspoilt and uncrowded – a haven frequented by true nature lovers. After the safari, we continue to the cultural area where you will spend the night.
Day 4: Sigiriya – Hiriwaduna – Minneriya (B)
This morning you have the option to climb “Sigiriya” or Lion’s Rock a UNESCO world heritage site, the unique icon of Sri Lanka. It is a steep climb with many steps and a decent level of fitness is required. A testimony to the inventiveness of the ancient civilisations of the land, the once impenetrable stronghold of King Kassapa, ‘Sihagiri’ or Lion’s Rock as it was called then, is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world today. The feats of artistry, architecture and engineering at Sigiriya continue to impress visitors with their utter magnificence, even thousands of years on. Intricately landscaped gardens sprawl out below the rock, giant lion paws hewn in stone mark the entrance to the fortress at its foot and a highly polished mirror wall still carries the scrawled writings of ancient poets. A somewhat treacherous climb up the rock is well worth it to see the impressive ruins of a once glorious city at the summit – 370m high, and the 360-degree view from the top is equally astounding.
Late morning we visit Hiriwaduna for a local Village tour. Take a fun ride in a bullock cart swaying from side to side on an unpaved trail, enjoy a nature walk through a scrub jungle, and wade through a local stream with low hanging branches and cross a lake in an ‘oruwa’, the traditional mode of over water transport. Spend time with a farmer harvesting crops under his guidance and taste authentic village cuisine prepared by the farmer’s family with freshly picked produce and local herbs cooked in clay pots over an open hearth fuelled by firewood.
In the afternoon, you have the option to take another safari through the Minneriya National Park, famous for its wildlife and especially the famous Elephant Gathering where you can see up to 300 majestic Asian elephants at once.
Optional Tours (at own expense): Climb Sigiriya and Minneriya Safari
Day 5: Cultural Area – Dambulla – Matale – Kandy (B)
After breakfast, we travel overland to Kandy stopping at the famous Dambulla Cave Temple (optional). Standing approximately 100m high, the approach to the entrance of the caves entails climbing up the face of the rock, although stone steps have now been cut to make the climb easier. Whilst climbing to the entrance of caves, take time to stop and enjoy the view of the surrounding area, which is truly breathtaking. On the way to Kandy you can visit a spice Garden in Matale, as well as also enjoy a Head massage. There are shops where you can purchase different spices of Sri Lanka.
In the evening, visit the sacred Temple of the sacred tooth relic (optional). Just north of the lake, the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth Houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. During puja (offerings or prayers), the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists. However, you don’t actually see the tooth. It’s kept in a gold casket shaped like a dagoba (stupa), which contains a series of six dagoba caskets of diminishing size. The entire temple complex covers a large area, and as well as the main shrine, there are numerous other temples and museums within the complex.
Optional Tours (at own expense): Dambulla Cave Temple and Temple of The Tooth
Day 6: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Train Ride to Ella (B)
Experience the beautiful countryside as we travel to Nuwara Eliya today, also known as “Little England”. Once here we take a short city tour before catching the train at Nanu Oya for the famous scenic train journey classed as one of the World’s best! Sit back and relax as the 2.5 hour journey glides through rolling hills and over bridges until you get to Ella in the heart of the country. Once in Ella, check in to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at your own leisure.
Please note – train tickets are issued by the railway on a manual basis exactly 1 month before arrival, therefore train journey is strictly on availability.
Day 7: Ella Sightseeing (B)
Enjoy a full day sightseeing around stunning Ella today, including Little Adams Peak, Nine Arches Bridge, Ravana waterfalls and Ella Gap. The main attraction of Ella is the breath-taking view from the ‘Ella Gap’ – looking out between the towering bulk of Ella Rock on the right and through a gap in the hills to the plains far, far below. While the village itself may not offer much in the way of attractions, the locality certainly makes up for it. The majestic Ella rock looming over the village provides an arduous but rewarding hike – and the views from the top are well worth the effort. The beautiful Ravana Ella waterfall is an impressive cascade – the widest in Sri Lanka, is also a sight not to miss. The nearby caves are steeped in legend according to which, the ancient king Ravana held the Indian princess Sita captive in them. Enjoy your second night in Ella.
Day 8: Ella – Mount Lavinia Beach (B)
After breakfast, we make the long drive back to the coast to enjoy your final two nights relaxing on Sri Lanka’s stunning coastline. (Travel time approx. 5.5 hours) On arrival, check in to your hotel and relax.
Day 9: Mount Lavinia Beach (B)
Spend the whole day at your own leisure, relaxing on the beach, sipping cocktails and reminiscing about everything you have experienced over the last 8 days. A trip to Sri Lanka is not complete without experience some quality time on the stunning beaches and treating yourself to some fresh seafood and cocktails!
Day 10: Colombo – – New Zealand (B)
Unfortunately, your holiday to Sri Lanka has come to an end. After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home.
Day 11: New Zealand
Arrive home today.