elephants on the beach; reclining buddha statue

Natural and cultural delights of Sri Lanka

Ancient Buddhist shrines, tea plantations, wildlife reserves where elephants roam the beach—these are the wonders of tropical Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5495  
Length: 13 days
Arrive: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Depart: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Lodging: 12 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level: A mix of easy to moderate walks and hikes, cultural explorations
2p

Highlights

  • Full moon festival in Colombo, complete with elephant processions
  • Accompany elephants to the river for their daily bath at an elephant sanctuary
  • Evocative Anuradhapura, where Buddhist shrines date to the 3rd century BC
  • Colonial Nuwara Eliya and the highland tea estates
  • Visit six World Heritage Sites, including the cave temples of Dambulla
  • Wonderful accommodations, from oceanside hotels to a resort overlooking the rock fortress of Sigiriya


A wonderful experience. I so enjoyed the diversity of the island.Nancy B.—Charlestown, MA

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

The storied isle of Sri Lanka has always charmed travelers, and it is full of treasures, from rainforests where elephants roam to 2,000-year-old ruined royal cities (and eight World Heritage Sites!). On this grand adventure, you’ll explore the glorious legacy of an early Buddhist civilization, visit with tea planters and young Buddhist monks, sample fragrant curries, and view the wildlife of beautiful Yala National Park, with its extraordinary birdlife and elephant herds. Colorful festivals are a wonderful part of Sri Lanka’s heritage, and you’ll witness a vibrant Poya festival, celebrated on the full-moon day of each month.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
Colombo / Poya Festival / Dambulla / Anuradhapura / Habarana / Sigiriya / Polonnaruwa

In Colombo, we attend a Poya Festival, a spectacular pageant held during the full moon of the month, then accompany elephants to the river for their daily bath at the Millennium Elephant Foundation. After exploring the ancient cave temples at Dambulla, we see the island’s oldest Buddhist shrines at Anuradhapura and enjoy a jeep safari in Habarana, habitat for Sri Lanka’s incredible biodiversity. The highlight of Sigiriya is the famed rock fortress of King Kashyapa, with its pavilions and pleasure gardens, and we visit Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s lovely medieval capital.

Days 6-9
Kandy / Pilimatalawa / Nuwara Eliya

Heading to Kandy, we explore its golden-roofed 16th century Temple of the Tooth and visit the 14th century temples near Pilimatalawa. From our charming tea factory-turned-hotel above the beautiful colonial town of Nuwara Eliya, we walk through tea plantations and learn the fine art of “tasting” tea.

Days 10-13
Ella / Yala National Park / Galle

A walk through lush tea plantations, rice paddies, and past waterfalls leads to the summit of Little Adam’s Peak (3,743'), with its fabulous views in all directions. Heading to Yala National Park, we search for painted storks, troops of monkeys, and elephant herds (Sri Lanka is home to the last of the world’s wild Asian elephants). Explore the ancient trading post of Galle, a World Heritage Site, before departing on Day 13 via Colombo.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated 2+, easy to moderate, with some optional short hikes and several nature walks at archaeological sites. Accommodations are in lovely hotels, including one night in a converted tea factory! Comfortable walking shoes are recommended and occasionally we must take off shoes to visit temples.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2016
Jan 22-Feb 3, 2016*  Duruthu Perahera Festival

Feb 21-Mar 4, 2016  Navam Perahera Festival

*Please note: date change since catalog publication

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2016
$5495 (13-16 members)
$5795 (10-12 members)
$6095 (7-9 members)
Single supplement: $1395
Forced single supplement: $1195
more on pricing

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations in hotels
  • All meals included except 1 lunch
  • Tea and coffee at all meals
  • Ground transportation and entrance fees
  • Group airport transfers for passengers arriving Day 1 and departing Day 13

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, meals not specified after each itinerary day (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner), airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, hotels en route to or on return from Colombo or additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, individual arrival/departure airport transfers, visa fees, cost of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, bottled water laundry, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

2016 Departures

Arrival:
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Date: Day 1

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Bandaranaike Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka (airport code CMB)
Suggested arrival time: by 3:00 pm
Departure:
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Date: Day 13

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Bandaranaike Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka (airport code CMB)
Suggested departure time: anytime

Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face Hotel

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Colombo, Sri Lanka

Combining old world charm and elegance with modern amenities, the historic Galle Face Hotel enjoys a wonderful location, right on the beach and ...
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Aliya Resort

Aliya Resort

Days 3 to 5 (3 nights), Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

From this hotel, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the verdant landscape and Sigiriya, or "Lion’s Rock," an ancient palace once home to ...
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Cinnamon Citadel Hotel

Cinnamon Citadel Hotel

Days 6 to 7 (2 nights), Kandy, Sri Lanka

The hills above the Mahaweli River provide a tranquil setting for this hotel in Kandy. Take in the views of the river and the surrounding greenery ...
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Heritance Tea Factory

Heritance Tea Factory

Day 8 (1 night), Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

This restored tea factory-turned-hotel makes for a unique stay in the hills above Nuwara Eliya. Its remote mountainside setting is a bit of an ...
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Heaven’s Edge

Heaven’s Edge

Days 9 to 10 (2 nights), Ella, Sri Lanka

One of the best things about this hotel is its captivating views—probably the best you’ll get from any hotel in Sri Lanka! Set at the ...
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Jetwing Yala

Jetwing Yala

Day 11 (1 night), Tissamaharana, Sri Lanka

Facing Yala Beach and adjacent to Yala National Park, this 80-room hotel is an excellent base for our game drives in search for painted storks and ...
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Lighthouse Hotel Galle

Lighthouse Hotel Galle

Day 12 (1 night), Galle, Sri Lanka

Listen to surf crash against the rocks at this luxurious oceanfront hotel designed by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Each of the hotel’s ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Annie Hawkins

Annie Hawkins, born and raised in a small village in Burgundy, is a passionate world traveler and one of our most enchanting Trip Leaders. After studying art history in Provence, Annie moved to California, where she led adventure tours in the American Southwest and realized that leading adventure trips was her vocation—nothing would keep her inside an office again! She has led exclusively for Wilderness Travel since 1995 and has helped us create journeys in France, Spain, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Niger, and Angola, and is thrilled to be leading our first-ever trip to the Desert Kingdom of Oman. “As a Trip Leader, I see myself as the personal ambassador to a place. In France, I love introducing the products of the “terroir” such as wine or cheese, or in southern Spain, taking the group to my home to share a paella with them. And in the Sahara, I have a passion for the wind-created landscape I call “the yellow circle” and the ingenuity of the people who live in this place of extremes. I'm also fascinated by the friendships that people forge while traveling together day after day. I remember how six guests become lifetime friends after our trip in Niger—this warms my heart!” While scouting our trip in southern Spain in 1999, Annie bought a 300-year-old house in a village clinging on the flanks of the highest mountains in Spain. It took her three years to transform it into the home she calls La Casa del Milagro. She divides her time between Europe and San Francisco, where she lives with her husband.

Upcoming Trips:

Hiking the French Pyrenees, September 7-15, 2015
Desert Kingdom of Oman, October 19-30, 2015
Sri Lanka, January 22-February 3, 2016
Sri Lanka, February 21-March 4, 2016
Southern Spain to Morocco, May 8-19, 2016
Hiking the French Pyrenees, June 30-July 8, 2016
Hiking the French Pyrenees, September 11-19, 2016
Desert Kingdom of Oman, October 24-November 4, 2016
Desert Kingdom of Oman, October 30-November 10, 2017

Client Testimonials:


Once again Annie proved her competence with graciousness and charm. You are so lucky to have her. We will travel with Annie again! Julie R., Bainbridge Island WA Annie is everything a guide should be and even more. She is your best ‘advertisement!" Emond D., Claymont DE Annie was incredibly excellent! Bill U., Mechanicsville, VA
Hiking the Haute Route
Annie is a great leader, a great person to be with. She was always able to convey a complete understanding of the place in its physical sense as well as its culture, which made it even more interesting. Maria A., New York NY
Hiking the Haute Route
Annie took my breath away. She could not have been more caring, fun, concerned. What a joy she is to everyone. Pamela R., LA Jolla CA
Great Alpine Traverse
Annie was by far the best leader we’ve ever had, and we’ve had a lot of excellent leaders with Wilderness Travel Hugh and Wendy K., Anacortes WA
Great Alpine Traverse
Annie was first rate. She charmed everyone, her knowledge of the area was superb, and she handled all the logistics and contributed to a very enjoyable trip. Larry S., Boise ID
Great Alpine Traverse
Annie was such a superb guide. Her love of the places we visited was evident in her enthusiastic nightly briefings. Angela S., Wrightsville Beach NC
Great Alpine Traverse
Annie Hawkins was terrific, outstanding in every way. She is so lovely and we had total confidence in her leadership. We hope to do another trip with her some day. Linda and Ira G., West Hartford, CT
Hiking in the Cortina Dolomites
Annie Hawkins is a marvelous Trip Leader in every way. She is a delightful personality and charming company. She oversaw all the details and added her own special touches that made our adventure really superb. Hala A., Oakland, CA
Niger: The Wodabe Gerewol Festival
Annie is better than excellent! She is professional, competent, and absolutely enchanting. We will plan another WT trip with her schedule in mind. Julie R., Bainbridge Island WA
Tour du Mont Blanc
Annie was terrific! A key part of the wonderful memory I have of this trip. Marrie C.l, Marblehead MA
Tour du Mont Blanc
Annie was terrific. She adapted her itinerary to the group beautifully and managed to cater to all levels of fitness and interest. She did a great job. Elaine H., Verona WI
Hiking in the Pyrenees
We loved Annie. She is obviously a very experienced leader. She was always enthusiastic and knew the area very well. Steve H., Verona WI
Hiking in the Pyrenees
Annie is a very resourceful leader, a professional who loves her job and shows it. Marwan B., San Jose CA
Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean
Annie Hawkins was one of the most attentive, sincere, and enjoyable guides we’ve ever had. She was spontaneous and up for any opportunity that presented itself. Craig & Debbie D., Nichols Hills, OK
Southern Spain to Morocco
Annie Hawkins is a treasure. She’s an amazing person and superb Trip Leader. I can’t wait to travel with her again. Judith K., South Portland ME
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie Hawkins is the best—she is warm, engaging, caring, enhthusiastic, humorous, knowledgeable, and just a super person. Steve T., Santa Rosa, CA
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie's 'eating, drinking and exploring old France' trip was just as wonderful as we expected! Jack H., Cockeysville, MD
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie lives up to her fabulous reputation. She is charming, friendly, engaging, knowledgeable, completely in tune with everything going on, and totally devoted to all travelers having the best possible experience. Susan W., Albuquerque, NM
Bilbao and the Picos de Europa
Annie MADE the trip. Her enthusiasm, knowledge, and over the top attention to customer needs is unsurpassed. Lesly H., Mill Valley, CA
Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean
Annie is an ACE. I don't think you could find a better guide. Tom L., Hanalei, HI
Southern Spain to Morocco
Experienced, enthusiastic, highly knowledgeable about the Lot Valley, including the history and culture of the area. She constantly worked to enhance the experience for all of us. Tom M., Arden Hills, MN
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie is fantastic, a very warm, engaging person with an exceptional knowledge of the area. And wow does she know restaurants! Linda H., La Canada, CA
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie was amazing and it would be hard to top her for knowledge and charm Jeanne S., Mill Valley, CA
Granada to Sevilla
Annie is outstanding! What a special lady. You have a real gem here! Fantastic people and organizationl skills, great sense of humor. I didn't want the trip to end. Janice G., Edmonton, Canada
Granada to Sevilla
Annie's reputation as the best of the best is well deserved. One of the reasons we were treated so well, I believe, is every guide, driver, hotel and restaurant proprietor—man or woman—is totally in love with her. She is a treasure! Suzy M., Pittsburgh, PA
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie was a breath of fresh air and has a subtle, fantastic sense of humor. Her coordination of picnics, meals, treats, etc. was outstanding. She has a unique talent to gauge each participant and address needs with compassion. Alan S., Oakton, VA
Heart of Switzerland
Annie's passion for and knowledge of the Granada to Seville region made this a fantastic trip. I felt I came away with a greater understanding of the culture, much more information than I would ever have gotten on my own. The trip Annie designed was a delight, with a mixture of hiking and cultural experiences. In each of the villages we passed through, she knew the route, the history, and wonderful places to eat. Ann S., Los Alamos, NM
Granada to Sevilla
Annie is the finest WT trip leader we have had, over our many trips. She felt more like a knowledgeable dear friend than the leader of a tour group. Robin G., Washington, DC
Granada to Sevilla
This was our second trip with Annie for good reason—she is fantastic. Very astute at reading the group dynamics and delivering a trip to meet all needs. The culture and history flow from her in a storytelling way. I look forward to many more trips with her at the helm. William S., Spring, TX
Granada to Sevilla
Annie is a treasure: passionate, expressive, caring, a great sense of humor, full of joie de vivre, a master at handling all the behind-the-scenes details seamlessly. Dena B., Albany, CA
Medieval France: The Lot Valley
Annie is personable, extremely capable, caring about the individual, and is respected as such. She is a charming leader, and it was easy to travel with her as our guide. Rollie A., Fort Collins, CO
Great Alpine Traverse
I would actively seek to travel with Annie again. She is fun, caring, and amazing person! Adrienne K., Bell Canyon, CA
Ultimate Dolomites
Annie is simply one of our favorite WT leaders, a many-faceted gem. Inge K., Concord, MA
Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean