A superb itinerary which combines some of the country’s finest nationals parks for wildlife with the island’s culturally significant locations and historic temples.
Travelling on this itinerary will reveal some of the many wildlife, cultural and historical highlights that Sri Lanka has to offer. Including safaris at three national parks, Yala, Udawalawe and Bundala, which are home to leopards, elephants and (in season) leatherback turtles, the itinerary will be polished with some of the country’s cultural sights to offer a fascinating and well rounded insight into the teardrop isle’s rich historical tapestry.
The island itself covers an area of just under 70,000 square kilometres and, despite its relatively small size, Sri Lanka has some of the finest wildlife and best preserved historical sights in the sub-continent. This expertly-designed itinerary allows you to enjoy all the wildlife and cultural highlights of the country at a leisurely pace in keeping with the relaxed atmosphere of this fascinating island.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Colombo & drive to Sigiriya
On arrival in Colombo, you will be met by your driver-guide and transferred to your hotel in Sigiriya, where you are free to relax for the remainder of the day.
Accommodation: Kassapa Lions Rock Hotel, 2-nights
Day3: Visit Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya
Today you’ll visit Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes remnants of palaces, shrines, temples and dagobas built by King Parakrama Bahu the Great. Here you will see the famous reclining Buddha statue, and there is also a well-arranged museum. At Polonnaruwa you will encounter troupes of toque macaques and Hanuman langur; you may also see the dry zone race of purple-faced leaf monkeys.
You will also be able to visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a staggering feat of construction consisting of an entire palace and garden complex laid out on a one and a half hectare site on top of a huge rock that rises out of the plains. This citadel is reached by climbing flights of steps hewn out of the solid rock; during the climb you can see a few frescoes - all that remain of some 500 paintings that formerly graced the rock walls.
Day4: Transfer to Kandy; visit Dambulla Caves & Temple of the Tooth
Depart Sigiriya and drive to Kandy, visiting Dambulla Caves en route. The temple houses some of the most spectacular ceiling paintings found anywhere in the world, dating back to the 1st Century B.C.
In Kandy there will be a visit to the Temple of the Tooth and possibly the nearby Peradiniya Botanical Gardens.
Accommodation: Hotel Thilanka, 1-night
Days5-6: Transfer to Yala; vehicle & foot safaris
You continue your journey in Sri Lanka with a drive to Yala National Park on the island’s south coast. Yala is arguably the most iconic national park in Sri Lanka and it can offer some excellent wildlife sightings. Two nights here will provide plenty of opportunities to see some of the best wildlife on the island.
The lakeside city of Kandy boasts a wealth of treasures, and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Surrounded by hills, lush, valleys, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, its forests and the surrounding Udawattakele Forest Reserve are home to endemic birds. The nearby Paradiniya Botanical Gardens house 4,000 plant species.
Where: Central Province
Ideal for viewing: Asian palm civet, mouse deer, muntjac, porcupine, toque macaque
Excellent for: Birdwatching
Walawe Reservoir and Udawalawe National Park comprise an area of open plains and hills at the foot of the Kaltota Escarpment. The park is good for elephants with herds of 50 to 60 individuals regularly seen and game drives are in open-top jeeps, accompanied by local wildlife guides.
Where: Sabaragamuwa & Uva Provinces
Ideal for viewing: chital, Asian elephant, sambar, wild boar, rusty-spotted cat
Excellent for: Birdwatching
Yala National Park is Sri Lanka’s oldest wildlife reserve and famous for one of the world’s highest densities of leopard. It has a variety of ecosystems including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, freshwater and marine wetlands, and sandy beaches.
Where: Eastern Province
Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, leopard, marsh mugger crocodile, sambar, sloth bear
Excellent for: Vehicle safaris
Bundala, Lewaya and Kalametiya are the south coast’s major wetland areas. Home to almost all of Sri Lanka’s resident water birds, the area attracts countless migrants between November and March. Highlights include greater flamingo, lesser adjutant and painted stork, as well as a variety of mammals.
Where: Southern Province
Ideal for viewing: chital, gharial crocodile, grey langur, African elephant, water monitor
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Birdwatching
Suggested accommodation is shown below.
for further recommendations.
This resort-style hotel borders Yala National Park, and has approximately 70 spacious jungle and beach chalets. There is a pool and observation deck with panoramic vistas, and naturalist guides lead excursions into the park to search for Yala’s famous leopards and its 200+ bird species.