Grand Tour of Sri Lanka

21 Day – Private tour with air-conditioned car and driver
From £2895 low season & £3395 high season
ABTA and ATOL protected holidays

This Grand Sri Lanka Tour includes the major highlights covering the entire island. Starting in Colombo, you will travel to Wilpattu National Park before heading to the northern tip of Sri Lanka to visit Jaffna and some islands. Then you will visit the historic sites at Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla before travelling to Gal Oya National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s hidden gems. Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, Kandy, is your next stop before taking a scenic train ride to the mountain town of Ella. Then you visit Sri Lanka’s most famous national park, Yala, to spot leopards before concluding your tour in the historic seaside city of Galle with a trip to try and spot whales off the Mirissa coast. A fantastic combination of culture, history, wildlife, natural beauty and relaxation, awaits you on this truly epic journey of Sri Lanka.

Highlights of the Grand Sri Lanka Tour

Elephant family Udawalawe national park Sri Lanka
  • Wilpattu National Park to spot sloth bear
  • Jaffna – the northern most city of Sri Lanka
  • Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka
  • Unspoilt natural beauty and wildlife of Gal Oya
  • Tour of Kandy, the botanical gardens and cultural dance performance
  • Scenic train ride to Ella
  • Tea plantations in Ella
  • Leopard spotting in Yala
  • Elephant transit home in Udawalawe National Park
  • Whale watching in Mirissa
  • Historic city and beaches of Galle

On arrival at Colombo international airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

In the afternoon, it’s your first opportunity to start exploring with a sightseeing tour of Colombo. The tour includes the Colombo national and Dutch period museums, the old and new parliament houses, Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, the Town Hall and Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. You may also pick up a bargain in Pettah area of Colombo where you will see the pavement hawkers and traders.

Approximate travel time and distance: 1 hour, 40 kms
Accommodation: Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo
Meals Included: Half Board

This morning you can sit back and enjoy a scenic drive along the coast, northwards to Wilpattu National Park. The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the amazing setting of your luxury tent camp

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 – 5 hours, 175 kms
Accommodation: Leopard Trails Camp, Wilpattu
Meals Included: Full Board

Wilpattu National Park is one of the largest and the oldest national park in Sri Lanka. The park’s topography consists of lakes, large grass plains, thick forest and open white sand patches making it one of the most beautiful National Parks in the country. As you drive through on your morning game drive you will notice many small natural lakes or ‘Willu’. These are a key feature of the park, which hosts nearly sixty of them in total, peppered between low scrub vegetation and dense forests. Look out for the spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar and wild buffalo that roam through the park. If you are lucky, you may catch sight of the Sri Lankan sloth bears. Spotting the elusive Sri Lankan leopard is difficult, but not impossible.

Wilpattu is also a great place for bird watching with many resident and migratory species including Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Ceylon Grey Hornbill, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Spot billed Pelican, White rumped Shama, White bellied Sea Eagle, the Serpent Eagle, the Changeable Hawk Eagle and the Grey headed Fish Eagle are often encountered on a safari in Wilpattu.

Enjoy another game drive in the afternoon.

Accommodation: Leopard Trails Camp, Wilpattu
Meals Included: Full Board

After breakfast the adventure continues to Jaffna, on the northern tip of Sri Lanka.

The far north of Sri Lanka was the epi centre of the recent civil war but has witnessed a remarkable recovery over the past decade. Predominantly Hindu, Jaffna forms a fascinating contrast to this mainly Buddhist country.

In the afternoon, you will visit Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, one of the island’s most revered Hindu shrines. Dedicated to the God Murugan, Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is the region’s largest temple with huge gopura (towers). The temples ornately decorated walkways are flanked by rows of gold-arched alcoves and an impressive ablutions tank to worship at the main sanctum.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 hours, 90 kms
Accommodation: Fox Resort, Jaffna
Meals Included: Half Board

This morning, you will be transferred to Kurikkaddowan Jetty for a ferry to the very special, atmospheric island of Delft. It is the largest and most interesting of the many islands off the Jaffna Peninsula. Low-lying and largely arid, it is ringed with coral sand beaches and bands of shallow, turquoise water. You will visit an ancient Hindu temple and the ruins of a Dutch fort. Along the way you may catch sight of the wild ponies which are descendants of animals brought to the island by European settlers.

After lunch, you will return to the jetty for the ferry to Nagadeepa, believed to have been visited by Lord Buddha. Pilgrims from across Sri Lanka visit the site, marked with a silver painted stupa. You will also visit Naga Pooshani Amman Temple, a vibrantly decorated Hindu temple. Hundreds of thousands of devotees gather here to celebrate the annual festival in June.

Accommodation: Fox Resort, Jaffna
Meals Included: Half Board

Today’s sighseeing tour of Jaffna starts at the bustling market which is once again a thriving hub following the civil war. On sale is a spectacular array of local produce, including dried fish, chillies, buttermilk and ‘karthacolomban’, a type of succulent mango that’s unique to the region. Another regional specialty are the items made from the versatile palmyra palms, which includes hand-woven baskets and a type of sugar cane formed from the sap. It is also a good place to buy traditional sweet treats such as freshly baked peanut biscuits and fruit cordial.

Then you will visit the Dutch fort overlooking Jaffna Lagoon. This 17th century fort was the site of intense fighting during the civil war when government troops were besieged for 109 days by LTTE forces.  A small but interesting museum recounts the building’s history.

Later you will visit Point Pedro, the northern most point of Sri Lanka, to witness the scenic sunset. On the way, you will stop at Keerimalai Spring and if you like take a dip in a stepped pool of vivid turquoise water.

Accommodation: Fox Resort, Jaffna
Meals Included: Half Board

This morning your tour heads south to Sigiriya.

In the afternoon, you can explore a nearby village on a walking tour. There will be an opportunity to visit a local mud house to see how families’ traditionally live and sample some delicious homemade delicacies. You will see the family’s land where a variety of fruit and vegetables grow and learn about the traditional methods for preparing rice and curry.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 – 5 hours, 185 kms
Accommodation: Aliya Resort and Spa, Sigiriya
Meals Included: Half Board

It’s a day of culture and history today starting with Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage Site predominantly influenced by Buddhism. Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s first Capital Kingdom founded in the 5th Century BC.  As you enter this historic city, you will notice brilliant white, dome shaped Ruwanweliseya and Jethawanarama stupas or ‘dagobas’. These two stupas are more than two thousand years old,  with the Jethawanarama stupas being the size of the pyramids.  Your tour continues with the ‘Samadhi’ Buddha statue, a granite statue of Buddha in a meditative pose and a masterpiece of sculpture. If you wish you can receive a blessing near the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) which bears a branch brought over from India over 2500 years ago and is considered to be the oldest tree recorded in the world.

After lunch, it’s a short drive to Mihintale, the place where Buddhism was introduced and is popularly referred to as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Today Mihintale is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site dotted with religious monuments and ruins.

After exploring Mihintale, you continue to Ritigala. This forested mountain is home to the ruins of enigmatic Ritigala monastery. The oldest parts of the monastery are around two thousand years old and include long, stepped pavements which the monks used to follow during walking meditations.

Accommodation: Aliya Resort and Spa, Sigiriya
Meals Included: Half Board

This morning’s drive takes you to Sigiriya and the Sigiriya Rock fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage. The incredible rock fortress was built by King Kassyapa I in the 5th Century AD and served as a royal citadel for more than 18 years. It is an enormous rock boulder rising 200 metres from the jungle below. If you feel able to make the climb, take time to pause and admire the mirror wall, sigiri graffiti, the famous Sigiriya frescoes and the great lion paws. (You should have good fitness levels to climb the Rock fortress. The minimum duration to get to the top is about 1 hour at a moderate climbing pace.)

It is quite a hike but the magnificent 360 degree views of the surrounding jungle and hills are well worth the effort. As you wander through the ruins, appreciate the courage and work it must have taken to build this place especially the fully functional swimming pool.

A short drive of half an hour takes you to Dambulla, known for its richly painted cave temple. Dambulla’s vast cave complex was converted into a rock temple in the 1st century BC. This World Heritage Site is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka. The temple’s rock ceiling has the largest collection of paintings within a cave temple in Sri Lanka. The complex houses beautifully preserved 2000 years old murals and a large number of Buddha statues.

After exploring Dambulla caves, you will drive back to your hotel in Sigiriya.

Accommodation: Aliya Resort and Spa, Sigiriya
Meals Included: Half Board

The morning drive to Gal Oya National Park takes about 4 hours.

Relatively less visited by tourists, Gal Oya National Park has astounding scenery and plentiful wildlife. This is also the only reserve on the island where you can go on a safari by boat. In the afternoon, you will take a boat ride on the park’s Senanayake Samudray, the largest lake in Sri Lanka. Hopefully you will spot wild elephants swimming in the lake or crocodiles in the shallow lagoons, jackals and buffalo on the shoreline, and maybe a wild peacocks perched in the treetops.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 hours, 115 kms
Accommodation: Gal Oya Lodge
Meals Included: Half Board

It’s a chance to learn more about an indigenous minority group and their way of life with a visit to Vedda village this morning. Veddas, meaning people of the forests, are believed to be descended from the aboriginal inhabitants of Sri Lanka. They form a distinct minority with their own language and religious practices. Until recently, most were hunter gatherers, though these days they are settled in permanent villages. A major threat to the Vedda way of life has been the development of large scale hydro electric projects in the area, which has led to the migration of many families to the coastal towns and cities. Accompanied by your guide, you will meet a village elder who will explain how his ancestors built their huts out of tree bark and collected wild honey using hollowed out gourds.

Then you will visit the Monkey Mountain, one of the prominent peaks overlooking your Lodge. It takes around 90 minutes to reach the top, but you will be rewarded with an astounding view over the valley.

In the evening enjoy a torchlight night walk in the jungle. If you are lucky, you will spot Pangolins, along with numerous other kinds of insects and amphibians.

Accommodation: Gal Oya Lodge
Meals Included: Half Board

After breakfast your tour continues to Kandy.

Your afternoon tour of Kandy will showcase traditional Sinhalese arts and crafts like mat weaving, silverware, lacquer ware and wood carving. You can explore the craft villages set up by the Kandyan craftsmen and see the exquisite handmade items.

This is followed by the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most important temples for Buddhists as it houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. This beautiful temple with a shimmering golden roof was built during the 16th Century. The Relic of the Tooth is kept in a two story inner sanctum. The ‘Thevava’ or auspicious offering to the Sacred Tooth Relic takes place three times a day at pre-set times and a visit during this time is quite an experience.

Your full day concludes with a cultural show featuring a Kandyan dance performance.

Approximate travel time and distance: 3 – 4 hours, 115 kms
Accommodation: Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy
Meals Included: Half Board

Today is a treat for anyone interested in Flora and Fauna.

It begins with a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya. Originally created in the 14th century as a pleasure garden for the Queens, the Royal Botanical Gardens is spread over 147 acres and is bordered by the charming Mahaweli River.  This is the largest botanical garden in Sri Lanka with over 4,000 species of plants and 300 varieties of orchids.

Then Knuckles mountain range, a series of peaks that resemble the knuckles of a clinched fist is on your itinerary this afternoon. The range has nine peaks of over 4000 ft and are often enveloped by thick layers of cloud. This biodiversity hotspot is home to more than one third of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees, shrubs and herbs and is included in the UNESCO natural world heritage sites.

Accommodation: Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy
Meals Included: Half Board

It’s a highlight for many today.

You will be taken to Kandy Railway Station for an exciting train ride to Ella, travelling in an air-conditioned first class carriage (subject to availability). Enjoy the scenic journey with spectacular views of the countryside and tea plantations before arriving at Ella. You will be picked up from the station and transferred to your hotel.

Accommodation: 98 Acres Resort, Ella
Meals Included: Half Board

Today you can enjoy a lovely walk in the tea country to see the Demodara Loop. It is best known for an extraordinary stretch of mountain railway that corkscrews downhill, before emerging at the town’s little station. Local legend has it that the engineer responsible for this unique spiral design, had the idea after seeing his supervisor tying his turban one morning. Whatever the inspiration, the ‘Demodara Loop’ offers a memorable spectacle and the perfect place for a leisurely hill walk.

In the afternoon, you can learn more about the secrets of Sri Lankan Tea or as it is better known, Ceylon Tea, You tour begins with a gentle stroll through the tea terraces, where you can try your hand at harvesting alongside the team of local pluckers. Then you will visit the tea factory to see how tea is processed and there is also an option for a tea tasting session.

Accommodation: 98 Acres Resort, Ella
Meals Included: Half Board

This morning your scenic drive to Yala National Park is through the central highlands with many waterfalls and picturesque Ella Gap.

Yala is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national parks. The Sri Lankan leopard, sloth and elephant are part of Sri Lanka’s ‘Big Five’ endangered animals and they all inhabit the park. It is actually known to have on the world’s largest leopard populations. If you’re lucky, you may even see the three animals on one single game drive.

On arrival the rest of the day is at leisure.

Approximate travel time and distance: 5 – 6 hours, 180 kms
Accommodation: Cinnamon Wild Yala
Meals Included: Half Board

Today is dedicated to wildlife with a morning and afternoon game drive through the park. Apart from leopard, sloths and elephants the rich life of the park includes spotted deer, wild boar, wild buffaloes, langurs, crocodiles and peacocks. There are over 200 species of birds including large flocks of migratory birds.

If you choose there is also a short night safari option to experience . These safaris using involve night-vision infra red lights which can be good fun.

Accommodation: Cinnamon Wild Yala
Meals Included: Half Board

It’s a real ahh moment this morning with a visit to Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home. Established in 1995, this transit home cares for orphaned elephants. Here the abandoned elephant calves are nurtured and re-habilitated with the ultimate hope of re-introducing them back into the wild as soon as they are fit enough to fend for themselves. The elephant calves are fed daily with rich nutrient milk formula, making feeding time one of the best times of day to visit. They are allowed to graze freely during daylight hours but are constantly under the surveillance of a team of the staff.

Later you will continue to the historic city of Galle and a chance to discover this UNESCO World Heritage site. The city offers an exciting mix of the exotic with the colonial. The impressive fortress, originally built by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch, still exists today in almost it’s original form and is a fine example of the mix of between European architecture and South Asian traditions during the 16th to 19th Centuries. There will be time to explore Galle at your own pace, perhaps paying a visit to the Maritime Museum, the Old Dutch Reformed Church, the Sun and Moon bastions, the lighthouse and the array of trendy souvenir shops.

Approximate travel time and distance: 4 – 5 hours, 190 kms
Accommodation: Radisson Blu Resort, Galle
Meals Included: Half Board

It’s an exciting day today with a whale watching expedition in Mirissa.

The Mirissa area is one of world’s top places for sperm and blue whale sightings. Whilst wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, blue whales are frequently seen between December and March off the south and west coasts of Sri Lanka, due to their migration patterns. Whilst out on the boat it is also common to be accompanied by pods of acrobatic spinner dolphins.

Accommodation: Radisson Blu Resort, Galle
Meals Included: Half Board

Day at leisure to enjoy the beach and soak up some sunshine

Accommodation: Radisson Blu Resort, Galle
Meals Included: Half Board

You will be transferred to Colombo airport to board your return flight home.

Approximate travel time and distance: 2 hours, 110 kms
Meals Included: Breakfast

Images from the Grand Sri Lanka Tour

Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid Mosque, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Street Stall, Colombo
Aerial view of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Seema Malaka Temple on Beira Lake, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Seema Malaka Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Statues of Buddha in Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Tuk Tuk Taxi, Sri Lanka
Street Market, Sri Lanka
Public Library, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Jaffna's Port, Sri Lanka
Keerimalai Hot Springs, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Large Baobab Tree, Delft Island, Sri Lanka
Wild Sloth Bear, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
Large Hornbill, Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka
Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Village Life, Sri Lanka
Mahatupa Big Dagoba, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Monks at Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Samadhi Statue, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Brahmanic Monuments, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Buddha Statue, Mihintale, Sri Lanka
Giant Buddha Statue, Mihintale, Sri Lanka
UNESCO Heritage Site, The Golden Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka
Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka
Sunset at Gal Oya Reservoir, Sri Lanka
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lank
Traditional Kandy Dance, Sri Lanka
Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy to Ella train, Sri Lanka
Nine Arch Bridge, Ella, Sri Lanka
Landscape Nature Background, Ella, Sri Lanka
Tea Plantations, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Female Tea Pickers in Plantage, Sri Lanka
Coconut Plantation, Sri Lanka
Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Grey Langurr, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Jeep Safari at Yala National Park, Hambantota, Sri Lanka
Leopard Spotting at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka
Elephant family Udawalawe national park Sri Lanka
A group of baby elephants at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home
Vedda Village, Sri Lanka
Vedda People, Vedda, Sri Lanka
Stilt Fisherman, Galle, Sri Lanka
Galle Dutch Fort,. Sri Lanka
Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Galle, Sri Lanka
Galle, Sri Lanka
Dophins, Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Whale Watching Safari, Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Whale Watching Safari, Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, near Galle, Sri Lanka

Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or Red Masjid Mosque, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Street Stall, Colombo

Aerial view of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Seema Malaka Temple, Beira Lake, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Seema Malaka Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Statues of Buddha, Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tuk Tuk Taxi, Sri Lanka

Street Market, Sri Lanka

Public Library, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Jaffna's Port, Sri Lanka

Keerimalai Hot Springs, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Large Baobab Tree, Delft Island, Sri Lanka

Wild Sloth Bear, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka

Large Hornbill, Wilpattu National Park

Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka

Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Lion Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Village Life, Sri Lanka

Mahatupa Big Dagoba, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Samadhi Statue, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Brahmanic Monuments, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Buddha Statue, Mihintale, Sri Lanka

Giant Buddha Statue, Mihintale, Sri Lanka

The Golden Temple, Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka

Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka

Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

Sunset at Gal Oya Reservoir, Sri Lanka

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Traditional Kandy Dance, Sri Lanka

Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy to Ella train, Sri Lanka

Nine Arch Bridge, Ella, Sri Lanka

Landscape Nature Background, Ella, Sri Lanka

Tea Plantations, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Tea Plantations, Sri Lanka

Coconut Plantation, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Grey Langur, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Jeep Safari at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Leopard Spotting, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park, Sri Lanka

A group of baby elephants at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

Vedda Village, Sri Lanka

Vedda People, Vedda, Sri Lanka

Stilt Fisherman, Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle Dutch Fort,. Sri Lanka

Galle Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Dophins, Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Whale Watching Safari, Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Whale Watching Safari, Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Unawatuna Beach, near Galle, Sri Lanka

Places on the Grand Tour of Sri Lanka

Pricing and Inclusions

The price guide for this 21 day Sri Lanka tour is

  • £2895 in low season
  • £3395 in high season

Included in price:

  • Accommodation for 20 nights based on two people sharing
  • All internal road travel in a private air-conditioned car with English speaking chauffeur/guide.
  • All scheduled game drives in the national parks
  • Boat ride in Gal Oya
  • Train ticket from Kandy to Ella in best available class
  • Whale watching trip to Mirissa
  • Meals as indicated

Not included in price:

  • International flights
  • Sri Lanka visa costs
  • Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of personal nature (like room service, drinks, laundry, phone calls etc)
  • Camera fees at the monuments (nominal)Tips

ABTA and ATOL Protected Kerala Tour Package

Authentic India Tours is a member of ABTA and ATOL. All the holidays on this website are ABTA protected. If you would like us to arrange your holiday including flights we will be happy to provide a quote and your holiday will also be ATOL protected.