Some people mistakenly assume that Sri Lanka is just a flatland like the Maldives because Sri Lanka is an island and small country. However it is not true at all, about 50% of Sri Lanka is categorized under low-country (located not above more than 500m from sea level), rest of the country is categorized under semi-mountain and mountain regions, where the altitude fluctuates between 500m to 2424m. The highest point of the island is Pidurutalagala, which is located 2524m above sea-level.
Sri Lanka has a beautiful strip along the coastline and it is very clean and made of gold coloured sand! white, and red, and yellow. Sri Lanka is pretty colourful though dominating colour is green, due to the extensive canopy made of trees and plants.
Sri Lanka Densely Populated Country
Even though Sri Lanka’s landmass is merely 65610 sq km, this tiny island is densely populated. Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million people. Especially the cities are crowded while the countryside is very sparse and there is a lot of untouched green cover to explore.
Opportunities for Holiday Lovers Beaches, Wildlife, Culture, History, Rainforests
Sri Lanka is not a big player in the adventure or nature tourism. But Sri Lanka has the capacity to be an important holiday destination for adventure enthusiast and nature lovers. Sri Lanka offers a large number of spots for trekking, hiking, mountain climbing, water rafting, kayaking, boating, mountain biking etc. Same times the sea around the island, rivers and other inland water resources awaits watersport lovers with year-round warm water and the fascinating underwater world.
Sri Lanka is a holiday destination comes with a large number of flavours. This beautiful tropical island offers historical monument, ancient cities some of them are UNESCO world heritage sites, wildlife sanctuaries, rainforests, pristine beaches and places for adventure activities. As far as my experience is concerned, the most Travellers who hit the island never forget to get engaged themselves in some of the activities that keep them busy during their Sri Lanka tour. It can be visiting a historical site, visiting a rainforest, doing whale watching or engage in water rafting etc, however, most tourists take at least few excursions to explore several important attractions in the island from their base in Colombo or beach resort.
Being a very popular beach holiday destination, most travellers in the island don’t forget their share on the beach hopping and stay several days on the beach. Some others do the sightseeing tours in Sri Lanka and allocate very limited time for their beach stay, while a limited portion of travellers in Sri Lanka just stay on the beach, and unfortunately forget the wealth of attractions this island offers. However, most travellers keep things well balanced and enjoy beautiful Sri Lanka with sightseeing tours while allocating time to relax on the beach.
The small town of Katunayake is the home for Sri Lanka’s main international airport, known as Bandaranayake international airport and Sri Lanka tour of most foreign traveller starts here. Katunayake International airport is located about 35 km north of Colombo, near the beach resort of Negombo. If you have only very limited time in Sri Lanka and wish to have a leisure in style best option for you is Negombo. A large number of hotels, guest houses, rest houses, restaurants, pubs and shops are scattered along the coastal belt. It has a real holiday type atmosphere, so head-on to Negombo for your brief stay in Sri Lanka.
Below is a tour itinerary most suitable for adult travellers who like to try some mild-adventure activities with a touch of wildlife and rainforest. Someone feels like this tour package is lack of cultural and historical attractions, and it is true up to certain level because many cultural attractions are eliminated from the program, in order to make room to accommodate natural attractions and adventure activities. You can spice it up with some more interesting places like Horton plains national park, Adams peak or add cultural attractions such as Temple of the tooth relic, Embekke Devala if you can find the time to accommodate it.
Travellers cover around 1000km of ground travelling in this 6 days tour. You may feel that it is a bit too much of travelling due to the time taken between sites, especially due to the traffic conditions. In this tour package, only the best sites are suggested for the sightseeing and activities even though it takes extra time of travelling, therefore the program will remain more spirited for the travellers.
How to Get Around Sri Lanka Tour
There is plenty of options to travel around the island but the time you spend for travelling is considerably higher compared to many other holiday destinations. Traffic congestion, mainly in the cities is the main reason that you need more time for travelling in Sri Lanka. Public transport such as buses, trains are the cheapest method to travel in Sri Lanka but they consume more time than other forms of transport. Tuk tuk, motorbike, a taxi can also be considered as better alternatives for public transport. Tuk Tuk or trishaw can be hired at all corners of the country and they are small in size but it can accommodate 2 persons without any trouble. Tuk Tuk or trishaw is very cheap and the cost per kilometre is around 50 rupees. However, the cost of the journey should be discussed and agreed with the driver before commencing the journey, otherwise, the cost of the hire could be many times than the usual rate. Tuk Tuk is a good alternative for taxis but not recommended for a long journey.
Journeying a helicopter or a sea place for your Sri Lanka tour but the availability is limited and therefore pre-booking is essential. Furthermore, some locations cannot be reached with a helicopter and you have to combine it with land transport such as a taxi. But it is advisable to have private transport for this type of holiday package because the time is a crucial factor since many sites should be covered within 6 days.
DAY 1: Exploring The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Most foreign travellers start their Sri Lanka tour at the international airport of Katunayake. Depending on the landing time in Sri Lanka one can set off with the tour immediately or have a leisurely station in a hotel nearby. If the flight lands in the evening or night, it is advisable to stay in a hotel nearby and start the tour on the day after. Otherwise, you miss the sightseeing and picturesque countryside on the way to the hotel in Kitulgala.
Importance Of the Experience of the Guide for the Success of Your Sri Lank Tour
It is very important to have plenty of time while you travel during the day because there are many sudden stops to make during the tour. It could be a rare species of birds that you can have a look into or wild elephant by the side of the main road that you don’t want to miss and make some photos. Maybe you like to make a stop and try some tasty Sri Lankan fresh fruit. Have time for a toilet stop or a refreshment, tea, coffee. It can be something else that compels you to stop on the way, like visiting a village school. So it is better to be prepared for it. Having an experienced driver/Guide immensely help you to cope-up with any kind of situation on the way. Knowledgeable driver/Guides know where about the wayside important attractions are and they can spot animals and birds easily as they are familiar with it. Therefore try to organize your Sri Lanka tour with an experienced driver/guide.
Elephant Orphanage Pinnawala
The first stop on the way to the hotel in Kitulgala is the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. This is one of the most loved attractions and it is part of most tour itineraries offered in Sri Lanka. The journey from the airport to Pinnwala takes around three hours and you drive through the beautiful countryside. It might take only two hours to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage if no busy cities with traffic congestion on the way to Pinnawala from the airport. There is a heavy traffic congestion, especially in Colombo and suburb.
Usually, the average traveller takes about one hour to explore this unusual sanctuary for elephants. Here you can have a closer look at the Asian giants, you can learn their lifestyle, their daily routine and how they are taken care of. Here you can see a large number of tamed elephants in different ages. They are gathered here from various parts of the country because they are sick, wounded or have become an orphan, therefore, not capable of surviving its own. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was started in 1979 with 5 orphan elephants, since then a large number of elephants were treated here and a large number of babies were born at the site.
None of the elephant being brought to the Orphanage is released to the jungle again because they get familiar with different lifestyle at the orphanage. Even those healthy babies that are born at the orphanage are not released to the jungle since they are not familiar with lifestyle in the jungle, this phenomenon has been identified as a serious disadvantage of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
The journey continues in the direction of Kitulgala after the Pinnawala elephant orphanage and reaches the hotel after about 2 hours journey. There are many options in Kitulgala with regards to the accommodation. Plenty of opportunities available from luxury boutique hotels to affordable guesthouses and resthouse. Kitulgala is not a major base for most travellers and therefore no risk of finding difficulties with accommodation. There are so much to do at Kitulgala it is necessary to have at least two nights stay. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, rainforest trekking, caving, bird watching, waterfall abseiling and many many more. Kiutlgala is ranked as the best spot for white water rafting in Sri Lanka. But in this sample itinerary, we have included only a km long white water rafting session and a bird watching tour parallel to the jungle trek with bird watching.
DAY 2: White Water Rafting and Bird Watching
Travellers can venture into this brave task to explore the pulsing mass of water that rushed along the banks of Kelaniya rivers it definitely is a fantastic experience to feel the power of the river. The river of Kelaniya creates beautiful scenery along its way to the sea from the mountains. In Kitulgala the river turns to be much more vigours as it flows through rough terrain. It changes its colour to white and descends more quickly creating best conditions for white water rafting. Kelaniya rive features three mini falls and five smaller falls where the white water rafting is undertaken.
Since this tour itinerary suggests only two nights in Kitulgala only limited number of activities included in the program. There is hardly any travelling on day two because all activities to be done around Kitulgala. Usually, the whitewater rafting is an adventurous activity that consumes your energy. Therefore you might need a rest after whitewater rafting because you have to boost your energy. The rafting can be done in the morning or in the afternoon if the water level is suitable. Most of the time the water level in the river is ideal for whitewater rafting and there is hardly any situation reported in which the water level is life-threatening for rafters.
Find Accommodation in Kitulgala
Whitewater rafting session lasts about 2 hours and can start after the breakfast or in the afternoon. Most accommodation providers have their hotels in and around Kitulgala, therefore travellers can find accommodation within easy reach of white water rafting starting point.
Rainforest Trek and Bird Watching
Bird watching is one of the most popular activities to be done in Kitulagal and Kitulgala has all the necessary features to be a full-blown bird watching hot spot. Most bird watching groups hit Kitulaga during their bird watching tour in Sri Lanka. The extensive forest cover and availability of water in the nearby Kelaniya river make Kitulgala one of the best residential quarters for many bird species in Sri Lanka. Kitulgala is one of the best places to watch rare endemic bird species such as Sri Lanka Orange-billed babbler and chestnut-backed owlet with many other resident bird species.
DAY 3: Kitulgala – Sinharaja Rainforest (UNESCO world heritage site)
Today the distance to cover is about 100 km and you drive through the beautiful countryside. You encounter beautiful countryside, paddy fields, tea plantations, rubber plantations, coconut plantation and patches of forests. It takes around two hours to reach Sinharaja entrance at Kalawana from Kitulgala by private transport. You have to ask the chauffeur specifically to go to the Kalawana entrance of Sinharaja forest reserve, the distance to Deniyaya entrance much greater and takes twice as much as the time taken to Kalawana entrance from Kitulgala.
Entire day should be reserved for the rainforest trek and for the journey from Kitulgala to Sinharaja. The journey from Kitulgala to Sinharaja lasts about 2 hours and subsequent rainforest trek lasts around 5 hours. Therefore it is advisable to leave Kitulgala without much delay (at least by 8 AM) so that you have time to check in to the hotel before heading to the rainforest. There is a large number of quality guest houses close to the rainforest entrance and most of them are on par with 3* standard accommodation.
Sinharaja Rainforest Trail
There are no trails in Sri Lanka such as “Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail”, that are often listed as best long-distance hikes in the world. But the trail in Singaraja is quite adventurous, interesting and enjoyable even though it is just about 10 kilometres in length. Mainly there are two entrances to the forest reserve, they are Kalawana entrance and Deniyaya entrance. For travellers who arrive from Kitulgala should use the Kalwana entrance, which is much much easy for them to reach and take far less time to reach than the other entrance. Travellers can hire a trained trecking guide at the entrance at cost of around $7 per trek, they are well trained well known about the fauna and flora of the forest reserve. The trek starts at the main entrance of the rainforest and takes you towards the interior of the forest. Depending on the physical fitness it can take between 3-5 hours to return to the starting point. Only limited number of people trek the trail every year, so you may don’t see anyone while you are trekking through the forest with your trekking guide. Here you can trek at any time of the year but is strongly advisable to carry a raincoat due to the sudden, unexpected torrential rain in the forest.
DAY 4: Udawalawe National Park
The day is reserved to explore the wildlife of Sri Lanka, the best time to visit the Udawlawe national park, like most other national parks, is in the evening or early morning. Distance from Sinharaja to Udawalawe is about 76 km and it takes around two hours to reach Udawalawe. One can easily reach the hotel in Udawalwe from Sinharaja for the lunch and visit the park in the evening. Usually, most animals wander in the park in the afternoon or before the noon searching for food and water. Water resources such as tanks, waterholes are good places to spot wild animals in the park. Jeep drivers are well aware of the places where animal gather and they take you to those places swiftly. Even though they don’t use GPRS system to track the animal gathering inter-communication using mobile phones between jeep drivers helps them to know about best places to take the guests to.
It is advisable to start the safari at around 2.00 pm, therefore you have plenty of time to reach the spots where animals hang around. A jeep can be hired at the entrance and it would cost around $30 per safari regardless the number of passengers. Usually, one jeep can accommodate about eight adults. Jeep drivers try their best to show as many animals as possible to the passengers and therefore safari may last more than two hours average.
Accommodation in Udawalawe
There are ample accommodation facilities in Udawalawe. There are several big properties and many small hotels and guesthouses. One can find the suitable accommodation depending on the budget. The Udawalawe national park is one of the best places to spot Sri Lanka wild elephants due to a large concentration of wild elephants. As Udawalawe national park established in 1950’s large number of wild animals residing in the surrounding area were caged into the national park. Therefore the park has the highest concentration of wild elephants compared to most other national parks in the region.
Elephant Orphanage Udawalawe
Udawalwe elephant orphanage is to be found near the national park and visitors can have the access to the orphanage by paying the entrance fee. Usually, the orphan elephants can be seen at the elephant orphanage during the feeding hours. Everyday orphan baby elephants are concentrated to the elephant orphanage for feeding organized by the park administration. All orphan babies are fed by the workers and each baby gets five litres of milk at a time. Every day there are five feeding occasions and orphan elephants reach the orphanage only during the feeding hours. Rest of the day they live in the jungle and mingle with the rest of the herd. Therefore these orphan elephant babies gradually get used to their natural habitat. The Udawalawe national park is established to accommodate the elephants who lost their habitats due to the expansion of the farmland in the Udawalawe region.
DAY 5: Mirissa
Mirissa is a laid-back beach resort in the deep-south Sri Lanka, which is not as popular as a many other beach holiday destination such as Bentota or Negombo. Despite its pristine beaches, it has not come under the purview of beach holiday lovers, perhaps due to its remoteness from Colombo. If you leave the hotel in Udawlawe after the breakfast, at around 9.00 am, you are well on its way to Mirissa before lunch, and rest of the day can be dedicated to beach hopping. One can enjoy palm-fringed sandy beaches of Mirissa with casual dips in the ocean. Mirissa is included in the tour, in order to make room for a whale watching tour. Being a secluded beach holiday resort in the deep south, you are able to have well deserved peaceful and relaxing time on the beach away from the crowd.
Find Accommodation in Mirissa
In Mirissa, you have much greater options for accommodation than anywhere else you encounter on this tour. It is very easy to find suitable accommodation for any type of budget. Whether it is affordable accommodation or luxury accommodation one can find something here.
DAY: Whale Watching, Madu River Boat Tour, Sea Turtle Farm, Mask Museum
Early morning leave for Mirissa harbour, where you take the yacht or boat for the whale watching trip. Usually, the most boats leave the harbour between 6.00 – 6.30 AM, because during the early hours you can spot more blue whales than during the day. After travelling about 10 minutes in the boat you are able to spot these giants, sometimes dolphins as well. Everyday large number of tourists gather to the Mirissa harbour in order to take part in whale watching tours. Whale watching tour cost $ 40 per person with breakfast onboard.
A large concentration of whales reported in the sea off Mirissa. Most of the whales seen here are resident whales while some other whales move to Mirissa from the Arabian sea, with the phenomenon called whale migration, but the migrated whales occur here only from November to April and rest of the year they move to their residence in the Arabian sea. Today Sri Lanka is a top-notch whale watching destination in the world and Sri Lanka is one of the best few spots to see giant blue whales.
Galle Fortress and Sightseeing in the Galle City
Galle is one of the biggest cities in terms of population and economic activities in southern Sri Lanka. Galle is a picturesque city, located bordering the Indian ocean. Today the city is most popular due to its historically important landmark known as Galle fortress, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. The fort was built during the Portuguese administration in the island and used as the administration centre of the Portuguese administration in Sri Lanka. Later it was occupied by the Dutch civilians who lived here when Dutch administration prevailed in the country. Today this fortified beautiful city is occupied by a large number of mansions, houses, motels, guest houses and residential places built after the typical Dutch architecture.
Madu River Boat Tour
After the sightseeing tour in Galle, the next important activity of the day is the boat tour at river Madu. This is a two hours boat tour or so-called river safari on the Ramsar wetland of Madu river. Click on the link to read more information on the boat tour.
Mask Museum of Amblangoda
This could be an important highlight for tourists, who is fond of handcrafts and artefacts. Ariyapala mask museum is located near the city of Ambalangoda and showcases a large collection of rare and old masks, costumes, puppets and many other important historical artefacts. A large number of masks are manufactured at the workshop of the museum, here you can witness how the masks are been carved and painted. At the mask shop, you can buy masks, statues, leather products, clothes and many other useful items.
Sea Turtle Farm
Sea turtle is a protected animal in Sri Lanka. They occur mostly in the western and southern coast of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka beach one of the few places in the world, where five species of sea turtles can be spotted. Green turtles, leatherback sea turtle, olive ridley turtle, Hawksbills and Loggerheads are the five species found on the island. Sea turtles come to the beaches of Sri Lanka for nesting. Usually, sea turtles come to the shore after the sunset and lay the eggs. After about two months incubation period hatchling emerges from the nest and go to the sea.
There are many sea turtle conservation centres established along the west and southern coast of Sri Lanka. These centres suppose to provide the protection for the wounded sea turtles found in the sea. They also claim to salvage sea turtle eggs that are been sold for consumption by individuals, which suppose to be against the law. Those eggs are bought and incubated on the farm and later babies are released to the sea. Most of these properties are privately owned and visitors are allowed to see the turtles with paying an entrance fee.