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Admire the colorful temples of Sri Lanka

Northern Sri Lanka Explorer

Example 12 Day Tour
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Get a glimpse into daily life, try the local cuisine, and immerse yourself in a culture that has largely remained unchanged for years during this 12-day tour. Journey through Northern Sri Lanka and get an authentic look at daily life. Explore the capital city of Colombo before touring Wilpattu National Park in search of spectacular wildlife. Take the train north to Jaffna through the vast landscape and visit local temples as you tour the northern region of the country. Learn its centuries-long history and visit with locals as you are welcomed into their homes for a meal. Finally, spend two days relaxing on the beach before departing for home.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive | Transfer to Colombo
Day 2 : Colombo to Wilpattu National Park
Day 3 : Wilpattu National Park
Day 4 : Anuradhapura | Jaffna
Day 5 : Jaffna
Day 6 : Sigiriya and Pidurangala
Day 7 : Sigiriya Hike and Ritigala Monastery
Day 8 : Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee
Days 9-10 : Kuchchaveli
Day 11 : Transfer to Negombo
Day 12 : Depart for Home

Highlights

  • Take the train to Jaffna, a town eagerly waiting to welcome travelers
  • Explore Colombo by foot and taste the local foods
  • Visit the ancient fortress of Sigiriya and discover the abode of King Kashyapa
  • Spot majestic elephants and if you're lucky, leopards, in Wilpattu National Park

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Independent

Activity Level

Relaxed

Trip Snapshots

Get stunning views of the Pidurangala region An elephant crosses the plains of Minneriya National Park Admire the colorful temples of Sri Lanka Explore Colombo Look for elephants and other wildlife in Wilpattu Marvel at the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya Visit the historic Dutch canals that flow through Sri Lanka
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Day 1 Arrive | Transfer to Colombo

  • 1 Dinner
Ayubowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka! On arrival to Colombo, clear immigration and customs. Proceed to the arrival area where you will be met by your private chauffeur guide and transferred to your hotel in Colombo. Colombo is Sri Lanka's biggest city and also its capital - for years’ visitors have avoided it and there were reasons behind it - it had a reputation of being drab and boring. However, that is changing. Colombo, unlike Bangkok or Jakarta, is easy to explore. True you have to prepare for some traffic but once you look past the busy avenues there is a rich world to discover. 

Your guide will take you on a walking tour through the crazy streets of the Slave Island. You will meet a lot of locals here and you can experience how their daily lifestyle is spent. No frills or scripts here, simply local life as it is! Also, you can visit a street food joint where you can have a Kottu Rotti, an everyday Sri Lankan meal not to be missed and best enjoyed on the street.

Day 2 Colombo to Wilpattu National Park

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today after breakfast, transfer to Wilpattu. Wilpattu National Park, the largest and popular for its sightings of majestic elephants, lithe leopards, spotted deer, sloth bears and gigantic crocodiles. You may also see striking flocks of peacocks, painted storks, jungle fowls as well as mongooses.

Settle into your luxury camping site and have time to relax after the drive. Later in the afternoon, partake in a game drive for a complete safari experience.

Day 3 Wilpattu National Park

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After breakfast, it’s safari time. Experience a full day game drive at Wilpattu national park with a naturalist who will explain to you about the wildlife. A packed lunch is included while on the safari ride. Don't forget to charge your camera battery!

Day 4 Anuradhapura | Jaffna

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
After a delicious breakfast drive to Anuradhapura in order to catch the train to Jaffna. The Queen of Jaffna Express train resumed its services a year ago. Jaffna and the North of Sri Lanka were cut off from the rest of the country and the world for a long 30 years. Now the veil is finally opening and Jaffna is eagerly waiting to welcome travelers again. 
 
Board the train for a three-hour ride that will take you across the barren landscape of the Vavuniya - controlled by the Tamil Tigers this area suffered from attacks from both the Sinhalese forces as well as the Tamils leaving thousands of people displaced. Looking out of the window at the dry landscape dotted with the occasional village is a somber reminder of the folly of men. On arrival in Jaffna take some time to freshen up a bit and rest at your hotel.

Next, experience how most people travel around Jaffna, on bicycles! Your bike tour will cover most of the city including the fort, library, Supramaniyam park, old park, coastal villages, Rio ice cream, the biggest church in Jaffna, Buddhist dagopa, statue of last king of Jaffna kingdom, arc of last kingdom’s palace, last king’s minister house.
 
Dinner will be arranged at a traditional Jaffna home and you will have the opportunity to experience the cultural values and understand the lifestyle of an ordinary family. Your local Tamil guide will be there to assist, translate and provide details. For the main course “Pittu” (made out of rice flour and coconut scrap) will be served with crab curry, fried prawns, cuttlefish, mashed omelets mixed with dry fish, dhal curry with fish and plain gravy this is the real deal a true Jaffna feast. Mangoes and jack fruits are available during the season and other periods, papaya and Jaffna’s special banana will fill that gap. Sounds delicious - wait till you try it! 

Day 5 Jaffna

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Begin your morning with a visit to Nallur temple. Traditional “shalve”/”Veddi” will be provided to wear when you enter the temple. Learn the history and importance of Nallur temple, and the basic principles of worshipping at a Hindu temple will be demonstrated. If you are keen on learning the way of reaching enlightenment and “Hatha Yoga” basics can be explained while traveling - you won't attain enlightenment in half an hour but it is worth a shot. Delve into Jaffna’s culture, similarities and differences of South Indian culture, the scar of war, and the effects of migration and exile has had in the region.

Later, explore Karainagar Kasurina beach, Kayts jetty, Hanuman temple, Kantharodai Buddhist miniature pagodas, deep well, Keerimalai pond, Naguleswaram temple. Lunch will be provided at a village home with fried cuttlefish, Jaffna prawn curry, toasted crab, fish masala, mashed brinjal, drumstick curry, fish gravy, etc. Meals will be served on a banana leaf as a traditional Jaffna style lunch.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax on the quiet Casuarina beach. If in season, try the fruit of the Palmyra tree. It is like nothing you ever had before a combination of coconut and jelly.

Day 6 Sigiriya and Pidurangala

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast transfer to Sigiriya. In Sigiriya settle into your hotel and spend some time relaxing.

In the afternoon, hike to Pidurangala, a massive rock formation that was named by the ancient Sri Lankans. This is said to be the site of the royal temple at the time when King Kashyapa was at the helm of the Sigiriya fortress. Be prepared to climb, the hike takes about one hour depending on fitness – the last part is a bit tricky over rocks but it can be done with care. It is all worth it once you reach the top and are rewarded with views of a green carpet of forest punctuated with Sigiriya rock in the distance. Breathe in the fresh air, you are on top of a magical place. After returning from your hike, spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Day 7 Sigiriya Hike and Ritigala Monastery

  • 1 Breakfast
Wake early this morning to climb the magnificent rock fortress of Sigiriya. Sigiriya, the marvelous rock fortress also known as Lion Rock is a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. The site was the domain of King Kashyapa whose aim was to build an impregnable fortress and within it, a heavenly abode. Rising over the dry plains of the Sigiriya district, the tough climb of 1200 footsteps up this flat-topped monodon ends with the most scenic bird’s-eye view of the emerald plains and leafy villages beneath. The skeletal layout of the ancient city within the fortress marvels its observers with the grandeur and complexity of the 5th-century urban-planning of Sri Lanka. On the way to the top one can observe the famous Sigiriya frescoes of the buxom, wasp-waisted maidens bearing flowers, amidst the wilderness and ancient ruins. The smoothly glazed ‘Mirror Wall’ located a few steps away has sealed the expressions of ancient visitors, inspired by the vibrant frescoes. The Sigiriya experience takes approximately 1.5 to 3 hours depending on the pace. After this morning's excursion, transfer to the hotel for breakfast.

In the afternoon, it’s time to visit Ritigala Archeological Monastery. Think of Indiana Jones – Ritigala in a way has that feel of undiscovered, a world away from the most famous sights in Sri Lanka. Make sure you take time to explore in-depth and walk all the way to the higher part of the complex. The archeological site bears a certain mysterious nature owing to the long meditational pathways that open into the thick jungle and large stone-lined reservoirs. Take time to sit down and connect with nature in this ancient meditation sacred grounds. Take the remainder of the afternoon to relax on your own.

Day 8 Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee

  • 1 Breakfast
After a relaxed breakfast transfer to Trincomalee via Polonnaruwa. Grand Palaces? Check! Monumental Stupas? Check! Life carved into harsh granite? Check!
Polonnaruwa, showcases the divine right of the King and his ardent devotion to the philosophy of Buddhism. This ranges from the colossal remnants of King Parakramabahu’s palace which was equal in splendor to the palace of Kubera, the Hindu God of wealth to the place where the stonemasons of yore showcased their greatest work in the mystical yet serene Image House at the Gal Vihara. The influence of the Chola invasion is clearly visible in the mastery of the surviving Shiva Temples, their structure and finish. The court of King Nissankamalla does not fall short of grace with its swaying pillars of rock reminiscent of lotus stems. Polonnaruwa is a sight to behold and after an eventful day, let the relaxing swaying waves of the Parakrama Samudra (literally translates to the “Sea of Parakrama”) take you down a lane of reverie.

Continue your journey to Trincomalee for the most-awaited beach stay. Drive around the city with your guide and head to Kuchchaveli.

Day 9-10 Kuchchaveli

  • 2 Breakfasts
After breakfast, spend these two days at your leisure enjoying the beauty of the beach. A vehicle will be available for you if you should choose to use it.

Day 11 Transfer to Negombo

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, start heading to Negombo for the last night in Sri Lanka. Dubbed Sri Lanka’s ‘Little Rome’, Negombo is a beach town with historical significance due to the strains of Dutch-influenced architecture that remain intact in the town’s landscape, not to mention the ancient Dutch Fort as well as several churches constructed during the Dutch Colonial era that are thronged by pilgrims daily.

Day 12 Depart for Home

  • 1 Breakfast
Sadly, it's time to leave the isle of Serendipity! Transfer to the airport to catch your flight home.
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Per person starting at
$3,351

Notes

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Included

  • 2 Dinners
  • 9 Nights Accommodations
  • 1 Day Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Professional, bilingual guide service as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Park Entrance Fee

Excluded

  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.
Nancy Sin
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Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.
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