If idyllic palm-fringed golden shores, lush tea country and eight UNESCO world heritage sites aren’t enough reason to visit Sri Lanka, try ancient cities, timeless ruins, wild elephants and the world’s highest density of leopard. Here’s how we suggest packing it all in.
Enjoy the ultimate soft landing into Sri Lanka with a relaxing night on arrival at The Wallawwa. Suitably rested, the next morning you journey north to the Cultural Triangle region for a three-night stay. Wander the temples, tombs and ruined palaces of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa, come face to face with the Buddhist statues of the Dambulla Caves, and hop in a jeep to see the elephants of Minneriya National Park. Pass remarkable frescos on your way to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which rises a dramatic 200 metres from the central plains, where outstanding views of the below water gardens await.
Temple of the Tooth
Continue south to Kandy for two nights. The last stronghold of the Kandyan Kings and the symbolic heart of hill country, it’s a great place to take in old customs, arts and crafts. You’ll visit one of Buddhism’s most sacred shrines, the atmospheric Temple of the Tooth, and explore the beautiful open spaces of the Botanical Gardens. If you travel in August you may be able to witness the Esala Perehera, a festival of cultural dances and fantastically decorated elephants in procession.
Hop on the train for a winding journey past lush plantations, majestic peaks and rushing waterfalls into tea country. On arrival, you’ll be met and transferred to Ceylon Tea Trails for an indulgent three-night stay. It’s the perfect place to slow the pace while taking in the breathtaking, emerald panoramas from the veranda. Learn about the age-old tea making process from a resident planter, hike through tea plantations, or just sit back and enjoy a fresh brew with a view.
Safaris & Sundowners
Journey to the southern coast for two nights at Wild Coast Tented Lodge. Set on a pristine beach and ideally positioned on the edge of Yala National Park, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Guides will whisk you to the quietest corners of Yala’s arid boulder-scattered parklands in search of elephants, sloth bears and the leopards for which it is famed. Spend your downtime relaxing with sundowner cocktails and picnics on the sand dunes as dusk settles over the Indian Ocean.
Now it’s time for some serious relaxation on the seductive sands of Tangalle. A short journey west along the southern coast, you’ll spend two nights in maximum beachfront comfort. Explore sleepy fishing villages, take to the waters for snorkelling and surfing adventures or spot blue whales during their annual migration from December to April.
End your trip with two nights in UNESCO heritage site of colonial Galle Fort. Walk the 17th century Dutch ramparts and wander atmospheric narrow streets, while nearby beaches like Unawatuna and Wijaya offer reef protected swimming.