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Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

4.8 stars(5 reviews)

Discover the heritage of Sri Lanka and meet one of its most elusive residents, the leopard.

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15 days From £2,195 £1,995 per person
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2023 Tour code: SLG23

About the tour

Explore Sri Lanka, a land of pristine beaches, coconut and cinnamon plantations, peaceful lagoons and tiered tea plantations. Its many glorious attractions, from its coastal cities and elusive leopards to its ancient palaces and Buddhist monuments, are uncovered as we explore this beautiful country as part of a small group.


What’s included


Day 1 - London and Sri Lanka

We depart London Heathrow on our overnight flight to Colombo, travelling via Doha.

Day 2 - Colombo

Arriving into the Sri Lankan capital, we transfer to our hotel for the night and the rest of your day is free to relax and settle in.

Day 3 – Sightseeing in Colombo

We take a sightseeing tour of Colombo, admiring the beautiful temples and open green spaces set amongst the grand Colonial architecture and towering skyscrapers. Visiting some of the city's main sights, including the magnificent Colombo Museum, Ganagrama Temple and Independence Square, we learn more about its fascinating past; from pre-colonial times right through the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupations. We'll also soak up the lively atmosphere of Colombo, enjoying a slice of everyday life as we pass open-air food markets and Buddhist statues. Later in the afternoon, we travel by coach to Habarana for two nights.

Day 4 - Habarana

Our day begins with a coach excursion to Sigiriya, home to the ancient 'Lion Rock Fortress', one of Sri Lanka's most awe-inspiring and important historical sites. A steep climb to the top takes us past well-preserved frescoes before we're finally rewarded with stunning views of the ancient 'mirror walls', polished thoroughly enough for former kings to see their reflection. If you prefer, at the lower levels you can discover the ruins of the royal palace and the elegant gardens. Next, we visit Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. A thriving commercial and religious centre, the archaeological remains here tell tales of the city's former glory days and during our time here, we explore the incredible rock shrines, mighty monuments and vast, dome-shaped stupas that line the once-bustling streets of this ancient city.

Day 5 – Dambulla Caves

We stop in Dambulla as we journey to Kandy by coach for two nights, visiting the UNESCO-listed Dambulla Cave Temples. With the main entrance guarded by a giant golden Buddha, this is an important pilgrimage site where sacred cave temples, which date back to the 1st century BC and are concealed by a giant, overhanging rock, are filled with Buddhist iconography and provide a peaceful place of introspection. Home to more than 150 different statues of the Buddha, as well as murals depicting the various stages of his life, there are also statues of different Hindu deities, including Vishnu and Ganesha, to admire.

Day 6 - Kandy

We discover Kandy with a local guide today, beginning our explorations at the Peradeniya botanical gardens. Previously reserved exclusively for royalty, these beautiful gardens are Sri Lanka's largest and most impressive and are home to over 4,000 different types of flora, including a famous collection of orchids and an avenue of towering palms. We stop for lunch ahead of a guided city tour, during which we stop at the Temple of the Tooth Relic, said to be home to one of Buddha's actual teeth, before continuing to the city's market square. Here, local vendors sell an enticing range of tropical fruits, spices and authentic crafts.

Day 7 - Demodara

We make our way by rail to Nanu Oya, travelling along a route famous for its picturesque scenery, we marvel at the views of paddy fields lined with palm trees before climbing into the mountains where we navigate a series of mountainous slopes in preparation to cross the stunning Mahaweli Valley. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel for a two-night stay.

Day 8 - Tea picking and tasting

Making our way to Ramboda, we enjoy a tour of a local tea plantation and factory. First of all, we're taken around the factory on a tour, learning about the different types of black tea produced here before getting the chance for a hands-on experience plucking the tea leaves straight from the plant. After this, we settle into our seats on the al fresco terrace for a well-deserved tasting overlooking the emerald-coloured tiers of tea. Back at our hotel, we sit down to a decadent high tea as we admire our scenic setting amid the manicured gardens.

Day 9 - Ella and Tissamaharama

Our coach takes us to Ella where we have some free time. You may like to unwind at one of the relaxed bars or cafés, each serving plenty of delicious local cuisine as well as some international favourites, before we continue our journey to Tissamaharama. Here, we find one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in Sri Lanka, believed to have been built to be built by King Kavantissa over 2,000 years ago. Set within an area of lush greenery, the white bubble-dome stands out against the surrounding countryside and was apparently consecrated by Buddha himself during his third visit to Sri Lanka.

Day 10 - Leopards at Yala National Park

Early this morning we make our way into Yala National Park itself, the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka and made up of a diverse landscape of monsoon forests, dusty planes and serene lagoons set against the backdrop of the Indian ocean. We set out on a Jeep safari, searching for leopards, wild boar elephants and even crocodiles with our local guide. There are also hundreds of different bird species which call this protected reserve home, including the crested serpent eagle and rare purple heron. To increase our chances of a wildlife sighting, we take a second game drive this afternoon.

Day 11 - Galle

We drive to Beruwala for three nights, an idyllic coastal town beside the Indian Ocean. Along the way, we stop in seaside Galle for a guided walking tour. Boasting a gorgeous natural harbour, a labyrinth of quaint narrow streets and a delightfully preserved, UNESCO protected fortress, Galle has much to recommend it. We explore the white-washed houses and grand religious buildings that jut out along the peninsula, as well as the 16th-century fortifications and car-free historical centre in the company of our expert guide.

Day 12 - Beruwela

With a free day, you may wish to join an optional whale watching trip from Mirissa Harbour. This stretch of coastline offers the highest concentration of blue whales in the world and is also a great place to see sperm whales. Alternatively, you could visit a nearby turtle hatchery to participate in their baby turtle release programme, enjoy an excursion to a nearby cinnamon plantation or participate in a cooking demonstration at our hotel.

Day 13 - Free time in Beruwala

Enjoy another free day to relax ahead of our journey homewards. Our 5-Star hotel is right next to the beach and offers the best of luxury and comfort. You could spend the day swimming in the warm Indian ocean or reading in the shade of a palm tree on the golden sands or make an appointment at the wellness centre, which offers a fantastic choice of treatments amid the tranquil surrounds of the Balinese-inspired spa.

Day 14 – Negombo

We transfer to Negombo for the night, a city on the west coast of Sri Lanka idyllically located between Negombo Lagoon and the Indian Ocean.

Day 15 - London

We return to Colombo for our flight back to London Heathrow, travelling via Doha.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Cinnamon Bey Hotel, Beruwala

Cinnamon Bey Hotel, Beruwala

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Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel, Colombo

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Habarana Village by Cinnamon

Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana

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Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy

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Jetwing Lagoon Hotel, Negombo

Jetwing Lagoon Hotel, Negombo

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The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

The Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

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Chaarya Hotel

Chaarya Hotel, Tissamaharama

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4.8 stars4.8 / 5 · 5 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

Peter Grieve

5 stars

Submitted 28 Feb 2022

Absolutely fantastic holiday. Martyn the tour manager and Ravi the local guide were brilliant. Such an interesting and varied tour - Sri Lanka is a beautiful island. Would highly recommend.

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Dr A Hill

5 stars

Submitted 22 Dec 2017

No problems, Good hotels Good itinery

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mr R Beavan

5 stars

Submitted 06 Dec 2017

Above expectations, had a brilliant guide, Shelia was just wonderful sorted out any issues and prempted any potential problems. Great group of travellers, a real cross section, but all bonded helping each other when necessary. I have worked in SriLanka and had the flexibility to meet many friends. Hotels could not have been better and the food can't beat three curries a day. Even those who were adverse to curry tried the wonderful egg hoppers we were served. Any changes to the trip? Probably Yalla game reserve , too much cover Udawalla a better reserve in all probability is better, more open so viewing wildlife might be better. Will use Great Rail again, not touching our suitcases from putting on the coach at airport on arrival until leaving at airport was brilliant. The key to the trip was without doubt our tour guide we would go anywhere with her again, a real gem

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mrs J Moore

5 stars

Submitted 08 Nov 2017

As always GRJ came up trumps. We had a lovely friendly just right Alex Green to accompany us from London and the marvellous local guide Sithara Hettiarahichi who went the extra mile in arranging local lunches and dinners and 'extra' stops at places of interest breaking up the coach travel brilliantly. The train journeys were just AMAZING and the hotels, including both the changed ones to the Cinammon chain, were lovely. What a wonderful trip to beautiful Sri Lanka it will live long in the memory.

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Mr M Wyatt

4 stars

Submitted 08 Nov 2017

All went well and hotels good standard

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

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