Essential Sri Lanka

Lying off the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has attracted visitors for centuries with its natural beauty. Our 14-day tour to this delightful island nation gives a fascinating insight into its beautiful landscapes, friendly people and enduring traditions.

Sri Lanka has a vast array of natural riches and cultural treasures, yet Essential Sri Lanka unveils the island’s greatest asset: the resilience, kindness and optimism of its people. It is a country that, in the shadow of its northern neighbour, India, has remained largely untouched and unspoilt by mass Western tourism. Yet it is listed as the No 1 place to visit in the world in 2019 by many travel experts and travel guides: the country’s exquisite beauty, diversity and character may not be the world’s best kept travel secret for much longer. Timeless, relaxing and utterly compelling, Essential Sri Lanka is a wonderful exploration into this beautiful island nation at the foot of the Indian subcontinent.

Tour Fitness Level: Moderate

Highlights

Highlights

  • Enjoy an exciting jeep safari in Minneriya National Park
  • Take a hike up the Sigiriya Rock Fortress for amazing views
  • Have lunch overlooking a river where dozens of elephants bathe
  • Wander through Kandy’s world-famous botanical gardens
  • Enjoy spectacular views from the famous train between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya
  • Two-night stay at the extraordinary Heritance Tea Factory hotel in Nuwara Eliya
  • Watch the most wonderful sunset from The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
  • Take a jeep safari into Yala National Park in search of the majestic leopards
  • Watch the stilt fishermen at sunrise on Sri Lanka’s south coast

Inclusions

  • All flights between Australia and Sri Lanka and Australia
  • All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
  • All accommodation (twin-share)
  • All ground transportation and transfers
  • All meals as specified
  • Travel Directors tour escort throughout
  • Expert local guides
  • All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
  • All visas and courier fees
  • All tips and gratuities

Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final tour costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $2,000 paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.

Itinerary

23/10/2019 Australia – Singapore – Colombo

Check-in at your chosen Australian airport for the flight to Singapore, which then connects to Colombo.

Depart Singapore Airlines SQ 468, 22.40

Arrive Colombo 23.55

On arrival we transfer to our hotel.

Galle Face Hotel

Colombo

24/10/2019 Colombo (BLD)

Originally named Kolomtota, Colombo was the main seaport of Kotte, the country’s 15th- and 16th-century capital. The morning is at leisure. In the afternoon we embark on a city tour of the Sri Lankan capital by tuk tuk – a fun way to explore the beauty and heritage of Colombo. Among the sights we see are the famous port area, the Old Town Hall Museum, the remarkable Sri Kailasanthar Swami Devasthanam Temple, and the jail cell of the last king of Sri Lanka.

25/10/2019 Colombo – Dambulla (BLD)

After a leisurely breakfast we begin our drive to Dambulla. En route we stop at Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka from 5th century BC to 10th Century AD. This is the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities and is famous for its dagobas – or stupas – particularly the Thuparama dsagoba which is said to enshrine the right collarbone of Buddha. Anuradhapura’s most renowned relic is the sacred Bo tree which is said to have grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. After our visit here we continue on our drive to Dambulla.

Jetwing Lake Hotel

Dambulla

26/10/2019 Dambulla – Minneriya National Park – Dambulla (BLD)

This morning we drive to the ancient city of Polunnaruwa. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, it is a World Heritage site, where we see the ruins of the Royal Palace, the Gal Viharaya (4 huge states of Buddha carved out of rock), the Audience Hall and the Lotus Bath. After our visit here we continue on to Minneriya National Park where we board our jeeps for an exciting safari into the park. Based around a huge reservoir, the park serves as an important gathering place for Sri Lanka’s large elephant population. Besides elephants, Minneriya is also home to many species of mammals such as deer, sambur and sloth bear.

27/10/2019 Dambulla – Kandy (BLD)

Early this morning we head to the 5th-century rock fortress of Sigiriya, a superb World Heritage site which rises 200m from the jungle scrub. The ‘Lion Rock’ was the innermost stronghold of the 70-hectare fortified town. A moat, rampart and the renowned water gardens circle the base of the rock. We also visit the fantastic frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’ of Sigiriya, which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock. Afterwards we travel to the Matale spice plantation where we take a guided tour of the aromatic gardens. We then continue on to Kandy and check in to our hotel.

Golden Crown Hotel

Kandy

28/10/2019 Kandy (BLD)

The beautiful city of Kandy is nestled between green hills 500m above sea level. We begin to explore at the very centre where an artificial lake and the palace of the last Singhalese king are to be found. Later this morning we visit the world-famous Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya. The park dates back to 1371 when King Vikrama Bahu III held court here. During World War II the gardens served as headquarters for Earl Mountbatten, the supreme commander of the allied forces in Southeast Asia, who became the last Viceroy of India. The garden itself contains a large variety of orchids, spice trees, palms, tropical plants and flowers of all kinds. Later we visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic where Buddhists visit daily for holy rituals.

29/10/2019 Kandy – Nuwara Eliya (BLD)

After breakfast we board our train for the scenic journey to Nuwara Eliya. Over the next four hours the train moves rhythmically along the tracks and through tunnels as we pass through the mist-laden mountains and the breathtaking surrounds. Situated at 2,040m  Nuwara Eliya is often referred to as the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka: it is dominated by British colonial architecture of Queen Ann style mansions and houses like English country cottages. On arrival into Nuwara Elyra we transfer to our hotel.

Heritance Tea Factory

Nuwara Eliya

30/10/2019 Nuwara Eliya (BLD)

Tea is a huge industry in Sri Lanka and Ceylon tea is world famous for its taste, quality and health benefits. Today we visit a tea plantation and factory and see the complete process of turning the raw green leaf into the finished product – and of course, we get to taste a fresh cup of tea, straight from the factory.

31/10/2019 Nuwara Eliya – Yala (BLD)

Departing Nuwara Eliya we drive through breathtaking scenery to Yala. On the way we stop at one of the scenic small villages of Sri Lanka – Ella. The area is famous for its tea plantations, and also for the Ella Gap. The views through the Ella Gap are stunning, and, together with the friendly locals, are fast making Ella a great highlight of Sri Lanka. After our visit here we continue on to Yala arriving late afternoon.

Jetwing Yala Hotel

Yala

01/11/2019  Yala (BLD)

Today we enter Yala National Park, which is home to the largest leopard population in Sri Lanka, as well as elephant, crocodile, sambar, bear, wild buffalo and many other animals. It is also the home of more than 130 species of bird, including year-round residents and many migratory birds including flamingos. It is a unique park with diverse habitats such as dense jungles, lagoons and park areas.

02/11/2019 Yalla – Galle (BLD)

Today we make the 125km-drive south to Galle, the most ancient and important harbour of Sri Lanka before the Colombo harbour was established. Galle was captured by the Portuguese in 1587, the Dutch in 1640, and the British in 1796.  Known for its rich history and cultural beauty, most of the existing buildings date back to the Dutch period. Galle is also famous for lace making, ebony carving, and gem cutting and polishing.

Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel

Galle

03/11/2019 Galle (BLD)

One of the most significant sights in Galle is the 17th century Dutch fort – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today we embark on a city tour beginning at the historic fort which covers almost four square kilometres and is protected by 12 bastions and connecting ramparts. We take a walk along the sturdy ramparts and visit colonial period churches, the lighthouse and museums – which give us a memorable glimpse of life within Galle Fort, one of the best-preserved colonial forts in Asia. Late we wander through the maze of narrow cobblestone roadways lined with colonial period buildings and old merchant houses where Moorish families still live.

04/11/2019 Galle – Colombo (BLD)

Today we drive back to Colombo. In the evening we enjoy a wonderful farewell dinner before transferring to the airport for our homeward flight.

05/11/2019 Colombo – Singapore – Australia

Depart Colombo Singapore Airlines SQ 469, 01.10

Arrive Singapore 07.40

On arrival in Singapore we connect with the flight to our chosen Australian city.

FAQs

The tour flies via Singapore. Is it possible to have a stopover here?

Yes. Your consultant will be happy to assist you with arrangements to stay in Singapore either at the beginning or the end of the tour.

If I travel alone, do I have to pay the single supplement?

If you do not want to share a hotel room with another person in the group, you will have to pay the single supplement. However, if you are willing to share we will team you up with another passenger of the same sex and similar age in the hotels. If a match-up is not possible, we will upgrade you at our expense.

Do I need vaccinations for this journey?

No vaccinations are mandatory on this route but some health authorities recommend vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis. We would recommend you seek advice from your doctor. Tetanus should certainly be up to date and a flu jab is useful to help prevent colds.

What is the weather like in Sri Lanka at this time of year?

The weather can vary on this tour, from relatively humid in Colombo, to dry and more temperate in the hills. Typically, the weather is very pleasant at this time of year with temperatures ranging from 15 to 30 degrees.

A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?

We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore, practically everything is included in the tour cost.

Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?

We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The standard of hygiene is surprisingly high along the entire route.

What is the standard of the hotels?

We choose our hotels for their central locations, which we believe is very important. The hotels on Sri Lankan Sojourn are excellent and range from colonial classics, such as the Galle Face in Colombo to a converted tea factory! They are generally 4-star quality (or better), comfortable, clean and all with en-suites.

What currency do I need to take?

Unlike our other tours, there is no need to take anything other than Australian dollars on this tour. These are easily changed along the route.

How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?

Because almost everything is included, we would suggest an amount of $400 per person as being ample for the whole tour.

Are credit cards acceptable?

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the journey, however many souvenir shops will charge a 3-6% surcharge. ATMs are available along the entire route and it is possible to withdraw cash in local currency on your Australian debit card.

Are there internet facilities en-route?

All the hotels we use have internet facilities. Most have WiFi which is often available in the rooms as well as the public areas. In many cases it is free or extremely cheap.

Do mobile telephones work?

Telstra, Vodafone and Optus mobiles work throughout the entire journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming. Contact your service provider for further details. Note that Sri Lankan sim cards are extremely cheap and offer a very economic means of communication.

How much should we tip the guides and porters?

There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tips and gratuities are included in the tour cost.

Reading

Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.

The Village in the Jungle

Leonard Woolf

Mosquito

Roma Tearne

The Road from Elephant Pass

Nihal de Silva

Colombo: A Novel

Carl Muller

Running in the Family

Michael Ondaatje

Serendipity

Ashok Ferrey

Sri Lanka Handbook

Footprint