Trip Ideas

Our signature trip ideas are an indication of what's possible in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, an insight into the rich diversity that makes Sri Lanka so enchanting. Alluring and atmospheric, they take you on a journey into a country that's stayed off the more trodden traveler trail. Ambitious itineraries are the norm here, the short distances allowing you to explore and experience more than would be possible in other countries. Think a visit to the Pinawalla elephant orphanage then horseback riding through the vivid tea plantations of Nuwara Eliy. Or meditating at sacred ruins followed by a cooking class and sunset from a white sandy beach.

These trip ideas are a starting point as Sri Lanka is a country that truly celebrates the concept of customized travel. All the country's destinations are within reach and we work with you to fully tailor a private Sri Lanka tour.

The evocative and beautifully diverse highlights of a land like no other

JWhat is the iconic Sri Lankan experience? Perhaps being baffled by a herd of elephants emerging from the jungle? Exploring Buddhist caves hiding on remote mountains? Immersed in the tea plantations or lost in crumbling cities from kingdom's past? It could be a hot air balloon ride above Sigiriya, a Jeep safari searching for leopards, or riding a horse to World's End. This classic Sri Lanka tour goes in search of the most iconic, incorporating all the exclusive angles and experiences that make the country so rewarding. Handcrafted with exceptional hotels and guides, it is 12 days that capture the heart of Sri Lanka.

Go in search of the iconic, on a journey to the heart of a country with a seductive atmosphere. Sri Lanka offers so much in such a compact area, so with 12 days you can fully explore the diversity, each day offering very distinctive highlights. There's city color and colonial charm, wilderness and wildlife that baffles the camera, odes to the old world and artistic memoirs to the contemporary. On some days it seems that every hour brings something more iconic, like a hot air balloon ride above a mountaintop fortress followed by a safari searching for leopards and elephants.

Luxury Hotels That Complement the Destinations

In 12 days you loop around the south and center of Sri Lanka, staying at a handpicked collection of the country's finest hotels. The accommodation complements the atmosphere, ensuring you are always fully immersed in a paradigm. Sleep at a lodge surrounded by tea plantations, escape to a boutique resort hanging over the ocean, spend a night amid the remains of Sri Lanka's best colonial fort, and watch the fireflies dance around an ecolodge in the wetlands. With this luxury accommodation the discovery never stops, the relaxed evenings enhancing the sights of the day.

An Iconic 12-Day Loop Across the Country

Fly in to Colombo, a city of contrasts, from the colonial leftovers to a thriving contemporary art scene told to you by the gallery directors. Travel north into the Cultural Triangle, where Buddhist caves and ruined ancient capitals are seen along with herds of elephants. On day four you hot air balloon above Sigiriya before spending the afternoon on an exhilarating wildlife safari.

Keep exploring, a day in Kandy and two days in the bucolic landscapes of the tea plantations, before an adventurous hike or horse ride along rugged trails to World's End. You'll see the old hill station Nuwara Eliya and inhale the fresh fragrances, before two days on the deserted southern coastline of Tangalle, where the beaches are devoid of footprints. Complete this Sri Lanka luxury tour in World Heritage Galle, meeting the locals and spending the night enveloped by history. From here it's a short drive back to Colombo and your departing flight.

Highlights and Exclusive Experiences on This Luxury Sri Lanka Tour

  • Meet the artists and gallery directors on a day exploring Colombo's blossoming art scene.
  • Get intimate with elephants at an excellent inland sanctuary, admiring the herds wander elegantly through the jungle.
  • Uncover Sri Lanka's cultural heart, discovering ruined royal palaces and ancient capital cities.
  • Immerse yourself in the juxtapositions of local culture, like the Buddhist cave temples of Dambulla and lines of pilgrims in Kandy.
  • Hot air balloon above the fabulous interior landscapes, gazing down on the massive rock fortress of Sigiriya.
  • Take a Jeep safari through one of Sri Lanka's excellent national parks, in search of elephants, leopards, langurs and a whole array of exotic monkeys.
  • Open your senses to the beauty of the tea plantations, exploring all sides of this iconic plant and spending two nights at a sumptuous lodge amid the plantations.
  • Hike or horse ride to World's End, an adventure through a green wilderness that celebrates the raw beauty of Sri Lanka's mountainous interior.
  • Expert guides ensure a detailed insight into the country's delightful towns; in Kandy and Galle you'll see the sights but also meet the locals and find a hidden side to the cities.
  • Spend two days relaxing on the pristine rocky coastline of the south, a beach break in Tangalle perfect for indulging and escaping.

Day by Day

Day 1

Odes to History in Colombo

Heritage is reflected in the architecture of Colombo, from sprawling parks dotted with temples to leftovers from when Ceylon was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. While the capital can seen crowded there is plenty of charm, particularly in the old lanes around your hotel. You'll be greeted at the airport and transferred to a vintage five-star hotel in the city, the historical home of two Sri Lankan prime ministers. The guide takes you on a relaxed city tour in the afternoon, culminating with a refreshing lime soda in Southeast Asia's oldest hotel, the sunset glistening across the Indian Ocean beach below.

Day 2

Expressive Art in the Capital

Like all great capital cities, Colombo has an art scene that loves to surprise. Modern artist Pala Pothupitiye is a reflection of changing styles, his lineage including traditional craft artists, goldsmiths, ritual healers and medicine men. His works display strong expressions of Sri Lanka's contemporary social and political culture. After meeting the artist you move on to two distinctive galleries, a tuk tuk ride providing a window onto the city before the gallery owners take you around an ever-changing roster of exhibitions and instillations. Along the way there's chance to stop at some of the iconic sights, like Pettah Hindy Temples, the Old City Hall and Jami Ul Alfar Mosque.

Day 3

Sri Lanka's Cultural Heart

Today's three-hour drive takes you into the heart of the island's interior and the so-called Cultural Triangle, a web of Sri Lanka's most important ancient sites. Monkeys guard the entrance to the sprawling old city of Polonnaruwa, watching you explore the ruins of a magnificent royal palace. Nearby are the ruins of the king's receiving room, one of the most beautifully crafted structures at the site, followed by temples and tangles of lush jungle. It is the third and final stop in Polonnaruwa in which the full artistry of these unknown medieval craftsmen is most vividly realized, Gal Vihara, a 30-meter-long stretch of stone from which four Buddhas have been carved.

Continue the luxury Sri Lanka tour at an elephant sanctuary, no better place to get close to the pachyderms than in Pinnawela. Completing the day is another unusual and enigmatic sight, the Buddhist cave temples of Dambulla. There are about 80 caves in this first century b.c. complex that was once inhabited by monks and hermits and you'll be visiting the five most important. Among them are happy juxtapositions that assert themselves in this ancient multi-religious country, like a Hindu shrine dedicated to Vishnu; the Buddha, of course, was a man, not a god, and so is not worshiped. Spend the night in an ecolodge nearby, immersed in a protected wetland of tropical birdlife.

Day 4

Hot Air Balloon Above Sigiriya and Jeep Safari

Rise in a hot air balloon at sunrise, soaring over the magical landscapes of Sri Lanka's interior. Prominent from the air is the spectacular Sigiriya, or Lion's Rock, a massive rock fortress built in the 5th Century CE, a UNESCO World Heritage site wonder of ancient engineering, art and culture. The palace complex at the foot of the rock still has the remains of four indoor swimming pools where the king's estimated 500 concubines, from all parts of the world, bathed. This is a vast royal compound with beautiful symmetries and planning that rivals that of Ephesus and Volubilis. It's the highlight of the three to four-hour untethered flight. Alternatively, you can choose the challenging hike to Sigiriya rather than the flight.

Into the afternoon and Sri Lanka's remarkable animals dominate the memories, nearby Minnerriya national park a protected home for elephants, leopards, macaques, sambar deer and some 150 bird species. Encounters have an intimacy, the wild animals just a few meters away, seen on a Jeep safari that bounces across rugged dirt tracks. Back at the ecolodge, the spectacular wildlife scenes continue as fireflies illuminate the night.

Day 5

The Last Royal Capital, Kandy

Pilgrims come daily to bring colorful offerings of flowers, lines of robed monks waiting patiently to enter the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of Buddhism's holiest shrines. After the shrine, stroll the lush surroundings of Kandy, including the Matale Spice Garden and Perdeniya Botanical Gardens, where James Taylor first planted tea. The bush he planted is still here, unkept and standing more than six meters tall. The gardens stretch for over 60 hectares and feature an arboretum, orchid house and huge colonies of flying foxes. On a relaxed day you also explore the Garrison Cemetery and go searching for wild monkeys in the jungle, before a night of decadence at a tea plantation lodge perched high above the city.

Day 6

Immersed in the Tea

Explore the vibrant colors of busy Kandy Market, sunrise the best time to discover a wonderfully wide contrast of ethnicities and religious backgrounds. Make a stop at the great Red Mosque before heading outside of town to a fragrant tea factory, witnessing the processing up close and marveling at the beauty of the tea plants; there is no more stunning landscape in Sri Lanka than the hills terraced with tea. Giragama Tea Plantation provides an insight into the refinery of delicious teas, from green to Earl Grey, with taste and smell being your main mode of discovery. In the evening you watch a traditional Kandyan Dance, before some authentic Sri Lankan cuisine at the Kandy Muslim Hotel.

Day 7

The Iconic Hill Station of Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya, the city of lights, the highest town in Sri Lanka and a former hill-station for the British, shown through the period architecture and the lush tea plantations that surround it on all sides. You'll visit a family to learn about their work on the plantations, before a couple of panoramic viewpoints present infinite shades of green. You have an option of hiking to the top of Single Tree Mountain, or exploring the vast green fields by horseback or mountain bike, riding for three to four hours until lunch.

In the afternoon visit the Sita Eliya Temple which marks the spot where Sita, the heroine from the Indian epic Ramayana, was held captive by her abductor, King Ravana. Continue to Hakgala Botanical Gardens and National Park, the latter home to a variety of wildlife including bears, purple¬-faced leaf monkeys and sambur deer. Completing the immersion in Sri Lanka's natural splendor is a night in the Tea Factory, the scents and sights of a plantation all around.

Day 8

Spectacular Hike or Horse Ride to World's End

Remote Sri Lanka is extraordinary, early-morning frost glistening on the grass as you hike or horse ride onto the high grassland plateau. The trail swerves through thick patches of forest, past giant ferns and tiny lakes, the eyes of monkeys and langurs watching you pass. Keep ascending, until the famous views over a 700-meter drop, World's End plunging down to the valley floor. It's a morning of adventure, followed by a relaxed afternoon on the tea plantation, complimented by the most colonial of inventions: high tea.

Day 9-10

Rocky Beauty of the Remote Southern Coastline

Weave downhill, through rural Sri Lanka to the small coastal town of Tangalle, a 3 1/2-hour drive that is like so many in the country, packed with the sights and sounds of a country mostly unchanged over the centuries. For the rest of the two days you relax on the black rock coastline that distinguishes the southern part of the island, the boulders enveloping snippets of mostly private beaches, which look out towards traditional pole fisherman. Your luxury hotel has an Italian influence, the two nights on the coast combining Sri Lankan flavors with Western indulgences.

Day 11

The Jewel of Sri Lanka, Galle

Bid good-bye to Tangalle after breakfast on the veranda, heading west along the coast for about 50 miles toward the fortified city of Galle: the jewel, some might say, of Sri Lanka, and certainly for many years its most important trading post. The city was founded in 1505 by a Portuguese captain after he took refuge from a storm here on his way to the Maldives. Of course, what he found—spices galore, including the world's best cinnamon, a laid-back people and a beautiful coastline—was arguably better than what he had been seeking.

Start by circumnavigating Galle atop the old ramparts of the castle, which offer gorgeous views of the clear and rocky sea below. Explore the mazy lanes of the old city, so many chances to meet the locals and enjoy the poetry of tradition. Head to Lighthouse Beach, a strip of sand directly beneath the lighthouse, where the water is shockingly clear and busy with tiny tropical fish and cauliflower-like bunches of coral. You can immediately see that this is the same white coral from which many of the city's buildings and walls were built. You'll be staying in this old Dutch fortress, in a hotel that screams of old-world grandeur, with signature house cocktails on the verandah as the sun goes down.

Day 12

Galle to Colombo and Departure

Relax at the resort or enjoy a swim at the beach in the morning. After lunch, depart back to Colombo by private car, where there's time for some last-minute shopping in Sri Lanka's commercial capital before traveling to the airport for your international flight.

Call us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788 or submit your contact information below to have us contact you.

INDOCHINA Travel Company

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Phone: (415) 680-3788