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Cycle, hike and paddle around the island of Sri Lanka on this two-week active adventure. Discover the sites of the cultural triangle by bike, try out a sunrise yoga session, hike on the Knuckles Range and whitewater raft on the Kelani River before relaxing on Hikkaduwa's pristine beaches.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple guesthouse
9 nights comfortable hotel
3 nights comfortable lodge
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip begins today in the coastal town of Negombo, famous for its fishing industry and golden sands. Located north of the airport it's a great place to relax after the journey and watch fishing boats bring in the day's catch or a stunning sunset over the ocean.
Your Tour Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner as a group afterwards. There are no other activities planned for today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), which is around 30 minutes' drive from our hotel.
Earls Regent Hotel (or similar)
We'll start the day by setting up our bikes and taking a short transfer to Nainamadama where we'll begin our morning ride. We follow the coast road and get to enjoy a constant view of the ocean to our left and villages and palm trees to the right. It's a gentle route, on the flat, and we'll cover approximately 30kms over three hours before stopping for lunch in Chilaw.
After a break for lunch we'll leave the bikes and transfer inland to the Backwaters Lodge, our base for the next three nights. Set on the banks of the Kala Oyu River, the lodge has been created by a passionate local team to highlight the natural environment and biodiversity of the region. Rooms here are upcycled shipping containers, fitted with large windows and decks to give uninterupted views out into the forest. Comfort hasn't been ignored though, each room has an ensuite bathroom, air-con and mesh screens so you can sleep close to nature without getting bitten!
The food here is sourced locally from nearby family run farms and we'll refuel on delicious traditional curries, rice and freshly made bread. For those that like a little spice there will be sambol and chutney to add as much heat as you fancy. There will be a mix of dishes with meat and seafood, alongside plenty of vegetarian dishes to sample.
Depending on the size of the group we may be split between accommodation at the Backwaters Lodge and the Wild Wadi Lodge which is a short walk away. The rooms at Wild Wadi are made using natural materials that blend in with the surroundings. There are plenty of realxing spots to take in the sunset, and a pool for cooling off after the days activities.
Backwaters Lodge (or similar)
Today starts with a yoga class. We'll place our mats close to the banks of the river and work through some gentle poses as the sun rises. The class will be led by a local instructor and suitable for complete beginners through to experienced yogis. At this time of day there will be at least one sun salutation included in the class!
There is also the option to skip the class and sleep in, or just watch the sunrise from your balcony.
After a hearty breakfast we'll head back to the waters edge and hop in to kayaks to explore the backwaters of the Kala Oyu River. The water is calm and peaceful so it's a great opportunity to try and spot birdlife as we paddle. No experience is necessary for this activity and there will be time to get comfortable in the kayaks before we begin exploring.
We'll have a relaxed lunch at the lodge and some time to chill out in the afternoon before taking to the water again. This time in a small boat for a sunset river safari before having dinner back at the lodge.
We're up early this morning for a Jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park. It's a short transfer and we'll leave just before sunrise so we can be in the park as the wildlife wakes and the light is ideal for photography. The park is known for leopard, elephant and sambar deer as well as an abundance of wildlife. We'll spend around four hours exploring and take a picnic breakfast to enjoy with the stunning backdrop of the park.
The afternoon is left free to relax at our lodge, exploring nearby villages on foot or by bike, or spend more time by the river perhaps swimming or kayaking. This evening we'll have a BBQ by the riverbank.
After breakfast we'll make our way to Anuradhapura where we'll get on our bikes and explore the ancient ruins at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Said to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world it dates back to 500 BC. We'll cycle to the Sacred Bodhi Tree, the Brazen Palace and the Ruvanvalisaya Dagoba - a 90 metre dome-shaped shrine with dominates the the landscape. The cycling is on the flat and we will cover approximately 10kms over the morning as we ride from site to site.
Today is a great chance to try one of Sri Lanka's best snacks, the hopper! These tasty treats are super thin rice flour pancakes, shaped in to a bowl. There is a huge variety of fillings available, from fried eggs at breakfast to rich tasty curries or vegetable dishes.
Lakeside at Nuwarawewa (or similar)
The landscape in this part of Sri Lanka is fairly flat and this morning we climb to the top of the sacred site of Mihintale. The steps to the top are a great way to get us moving for the day and our efforts will be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views.
Moving on to Habarana we'll have to work for our lunch as we explore an organic garden and pick the ingredients. These will then be expertly cooked up by chef Thusitha, who will talk us through how to make a traditional Sri Lankan lunch. We'll then feast on the results, vegetable curries, pol sambal (a spicy coconut salad), rice and pickles. The menu depends on which vegetables are read to harvest - this is truly food with no food miles.
After lunch we'll transfer to Giritale, where we spend the next two nights, taking a safari in Minneriya National Park on the way. The park is renowned for large herds of elephant which we will hopefully spot as we travel through.
Giritale Hotel (or similar)
The ruins of King Kassapa's Sky Fortress are our starting point for today. The ruins of this 5th century fort are located on top of a dramatic rocky outcrop known as Lion Rock. We'll climb the 1200 steps (around 200 metres ascent) to the top for beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, stopping along the way to view the Sigiriya Damsels, delicately painted frescos tucked beneath an overhanging rock. We'll also pause at the huge lion paws carved in to the rock, the original gateway to the fort.
We'll move on to another ancient site, this time the 12th century city of Polonnaruwa where we will take a break for lunch before an afternoon exploring. Bike is an ideal way to explore the historic site so this afternoon we plan to cycle around the site over a couple of hours, covering about 3-4km in total on the flat, stopping off to visit sites such as the decorated shrine at the Quadrangle and the impressive Galvihara stone carvings of Buddha, where the Reclining Buddha is 14 metres long!
Travelling south this morning we make our way to the Knuckles Mountain Range for a hike to Riverstone Point. The range gets it's name from it's resemblance to a clenched fist and as we walk we'll have dramatic views across the Mahaveli and Matale Valleys, a landscape that only occurs in this part of the island. Our walk will take us around 3 hours, a soft to moderate trek that takes us through a landscape of incredible historic and natural importance.
Returning to our bus, we then complete the journey to Kandy, descending into the Matale Valley also known as the spice valley of Sri Lanka, to arrive at our hotel late this afternoon. The town is famous for the Temple of the Tooth which we'll visit this evening. The temple contains the jewelled shrine of the Holy Tooth, Buddha's left canine, which is paraded around the town on the August full moon each year.
Hotel Casamara Kandy (or similar)
After breakfast this morning we take a scenic 2 hour drive up into tea country. Sri Lanka has a long tradition of growing quality tea and this morning we will visit the Blue Field tea plantation, walking through the hilly and beautiful estate. Our guide will explain the process and we will get to try our hand at picking, visit a tea pickers village and the tea factory. After lunch on the plantation we make our way back to Kandy, firstly by bus before catching the local train from Gampola the short distance back into Kandy. We will travel in 2nd or 3rd class carriages for this short journey in order to be a more authentic experience along with the locals. Upon arrival in the late afternoon there is free time to explore or relax and you may consider the Tropical Gardens if not too late.
Our drive this morning takes us to Ginigathhena, set amongst the fertile and lush western highlands, and should take us around 2.5 hours. Set amidst a dramatic landscape of towering cliffs and wild water, the Kelani River provides some of the best whitewater rafting in the country. The jungle around here was used as the back-drop for the 1957 film Bridge on the River Kwai and the grade 2-3 rapids provide us with the perfect combination of scenery and excitement. As we raft down to Kitulgala we cover a 7km section of the river through 8 rapids which will usually take approximately 1.5 hrs hours to cover (dependant on water levels).
We'll stop at the Kitugala Lodge for lunch before we make our way to Sinharaja Rainforest and our base for the night. The drive to Sinhajara should take about 4.5 hours including stops. The Blue Magpie Lodge is a family run lodge set in peaceful jungle surroundings on the edge of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The simply furnished rooms all have attached bathrooms, hot running water and a/c. The lodge restaurant serves typical Sri Lankan country style food and fresh fruits in season.
Blue Magpie Lodge (or similar)
We rise very early this morning for the best wildlife viewing conditions taking a packed breakfast with us. The 7km hike on trails through the rainforest is in the company of a specialist park guide who will point out some of the stunning plant, bird and animal-life of the reserve. Sinharaja is one of Sri Lanka's last areas of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. The forest is often shrouded by rainclouds and the trail may be slippery underfoot but we'll take our time (3-4hrs) and make the most of the chance to explore the nature environment. Back at the lodge we can freshen up and enjoy lunch before continuing our journey to the coastal town of Hikkaduwa and have a chance to experience Sri Lanka's beautiful west coast. The late afternoon is at leisure, taking in the beach and refreshing coastal airs.
Citrus Hikkaduwa (or similar)
We'll take to the water this morning with the chance to try out stand up paddleboards or sea kayaks. Leaving from the Old Pier in Galle we'll take a gentle paddle along the coast, stopping for lunch on a beach before paddling back. Suitable for beginners and those with paddling experience this is a great way to experience Sri Lanka's beautiful coastline.
The afternoon is left free to relax at the beach or explore the small town. There are many snack stalls in the town and lining the beachfront. You might want to listen out for the sound of clanging spatulas hitting metal pans, this is a sign that fresh kottu is being prepared. Kottu is a dish consisting of roti, vegetables, eggs and spices, all chopped up at speed over a hot, flat frying surface. The resulting dish is a Sri Lankan favourite, as always you can add sambol and chutney if you want to up the heat, or keep it cool and avoid the chillis.
In the late afternoon we'll take a short drive down to Galle and walk around the narrow lanes of this old Dutch fort. We'll make our way to the lighthouse in time to watch the sunset over the ocean and then find a local restaurant to try some of the days catch with a cold beer!
After a late breakfast we'll travel north to Colombo and explore the capital on a walking tour. The city is packed full of Portugues, Dutch and British influences and after exploring we'll stop at a roof top bar for a drink as the sunsets over the city.
Fairway Colombo (or similar)
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Colombo at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), which is one hours' drive from our hotel.
Year round high temperatures in coastal regions: Colombo averages 27°C. It is much cooler in the hills with Kandy averaging 20°C and Nuwara Eliya down to 16°C. Springlike temperatures in the hill country, but chilly evenings. Two monsoon periods: Apr-Sep when rain is confined to the southwest; and Oct-Mar when it falls in the northeast.
3 Pin Round
Select your clothes carefully, bearing in mind that the climate is tropical and that upland areas are cooler and more temperate. Lightweight rainwear is also essential, and warmer clothing for the highland walks and chilly night temperatures in the mountains. When visiting religious sites you will need to dress respectfully by covering you knees and shoulders plus taking off your shoes and hats. You may like to wear socks for temple visits as the ground can get very hot and burn the soles of your feet. You will need to bring long trousers, or buy a sarong locally.
Trainers or walking shoes are ideal for the hikes and cycling that are included. Flip Flops or sandals are best for the time at the beach and whilst relaxing in the evenings.
A suitcase, rucksack or holdall is suitable for this trip. You'll need to carry it from the bus to your accommodation so don't overpack!
All equipment will be provided for kayaking, rafting, yoga and paddleboarding. A bike is provided of course but you will need to bring a cycle helmet. Take a Water to Go filter bottle with you as the tap water isn't suitable to drink.
Bus, 4WD, Bicycle
On days 2, 3 and 4 you will stay at either the Backwaters Lodge or the Wild Wadi Lodge. Both properties are set on the egde of Wilpattu National Park and within walking distance of each other. Where you will stay depends on the size of the group, your Tour Leader will let you know during the trip briefing. On day 10 you stay at Blue Magpie Lodge, a family run lodge set in peaceful jungle surroundings just five minutes from Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The simply furnished rooms all have attached bathrooms, hot running water and a/c. The lodge restaurant serves typical Sri Lankan country style food and fresh fruits in season.
Traditional Sri Lankan cuisine is excellent, and although it can be very spicy there are many dishes that feature cooling coconut milk or have a spicy sambar on the side to allow you to adjust the meal to your taste. There isn't a culture of eating out in Sri Lanka, most locals will eat at home, and as such there are very few restaurants around, and those that exist tend to be in hotels. As tourism develops a few independent restaurants are beginning to appear, mainly in Colombo but also in Kandy, Galle and in the coastal resorts. During the tour we will endeavour to eat out at local restaurants wherever possible but for many nights, at this point in time, the hotel restaurants are the only option available.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Sri Lanka: All foreign nationals who intend to visit Sri Lanka for a short stay of up to six months, including transit passengers, must apply for travel authorization online prior to travel to the country. All UK, EU, US, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian nationals can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for a fee of 50USD. To do so you must visit \ul \ulnone and apply for it prior to travel. It is strongly recommended that you print and bring a copy of the ETA approval notice with you. The Sri Lankan authorities require that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after departure from Sri Lanka. In addition to this, Sri Lanka has discontinued the use of paper land cards, and passengers are now required to fill out the following online arrival form, prior to arriving in Sri Lanka: 3\ul https://eservices.immigration.gov.lk/emb/eEmbarkation/'#/home-page 4\ulnone All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related issues with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.4
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A plus Polio and diptheria. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. We strongly recommend the wearing long sleeved shirts and the liberal application of insect repellents containing DEET as a precautionary measure to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. These precautions should be taken at all times as the mosquitoes are also active during daylight hours. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.