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Sri Lanka's Leopards and Temples

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202420252026
15 days From £2,995 per person
4.9 stars(11 reviews)
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Discover the heritage of Sri Lanka and meet one of its most elusive residents, the leopard.

Mobility Rating 2

2024 Tour code: SLG24

About the tour

Explore Sri Lanka, a land of endless beaches, peaceful lagoons, and tiered tea plantations. As part of a small group, we uncover its glorious attractions, from golden coastal cities and elusive leopards to ancient sites and Buddhist monuments.

Unforgettable experiences

Temple of the Tooth
Temple of the Tooth
Explore Kandy on a guided tour, including the Temple of the Tooth Relic, believed to house one of Buddha’s actual teeth.
Lions Rock Fortress
Lions Rock Fortress
Visit the famous Lion Rock Fortress, a site of historical archaeological significance.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park
Enjoy a safari in Yala National Park where we hope to see leopards and other wildlife.
Nine Arches Bridge
Nine Arches Bridge
Journey the scenic rail route from Nanu Oya to Demodara, crossing the incredible Nine Arches Bridge.
Tea picking
Tea picking
Experience traditional tea-picking followed by a delicious tasting at a working tea plantation.
Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya
Discover Nuwara Eliya, the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka, named due to its temperate climate.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London and Sri Lanka

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

Day 2 - Colombo

Arriving in the Sri Lankan capital, we transfer to our hotel for the night. The rest of your day is free to relax and settle in before a delicious traditional Sri Lankan evening dinner at the hotel - the perfect way to kick off your adventure.

Day 3 – Sightseeing in Colombo

We enjoy 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 to the Portuguese, Dutch and British occupations. We also immerse in the lively atmosphere of Colombo, passing 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. On a steep climb to the top we pass well-preserved frescoes before discovering stunning views of the ancient 'mirror walls', polished thoroughly enough for former kings to see their reflection. If you prefer, you can stay at the lower levels to explore the ruins of the royal palace and elegant gardens.

Next, we visit Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage site 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. During our time here, we explore the incredible rock shrines, mighty monuments and vast, dome-shaped stupas that line the once-vibrant 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. Alongside more than 150 different statues of the Buddha and murals depicting the various stages of his life, we admire the statues of different Hindu deities, including Vishnu and Ganesha.

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 with over 4,000 types of flora, including a famous collection of orchids and an avenue of towering palms.

After lunch, we enjoy a guided city tour which includes the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Said to hold one of Buddha's actual teeth, this golden-roofed temple sits in a complex with a series of smaller temples, shrines, and museums. We continue to the city's market square where local vendors sell an enticing range of tropical fruits, spices, and authentic crafts.

Day 7 - Nanu Oya

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. We learn about the different types of black tea produced here before the chance of a hands-on experience plucking the tea leaves straight from the plant. After, 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 - Demodara and Tissamaharama

Today we travel by rail to Demodara where you can marvel at the views of paddy fields lined with palm trees before climbing into the mountains where we navigate a series of mountainous slopes. Then, we continue our journey to Tissamaharama where 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, the white bubble-dome stands out against the surrounding green 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, the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka to spot wildlife. It's made up of a diverse landscape filled with 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 at the seaside city of Galle for a guided walking tour. With a natural harbour, a labyrinth of quaint narrow streets, and a delightfully preserved UNESCO-protected fortress, Galle is fascinating to explore. We admire the white-washed houses and grand religious buildings 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

Today is a free day to start unwinding. You could join an optional whale-watching trip from Mirissa Harbour, a stretch of coastline with the highest concentration of blue whales in the world and 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 homeward. 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, 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 surroundings 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.

Hotels

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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Arie Lagoon, Negombo

Arie Lagoon, Negombo

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The Golden Ridge Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

The Golden Ridge Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

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Chaarya Hotel

Chaarya Hotel, Tissamaharama

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Reviews

4.9 stars4.9 / 5 · 11 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (10)
  2. 4 stars
    (1)
  3. 3 stars
    (0)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

C Woods

5 stars

Submitted 3/Apr

This is a lovely tour, busy, but a great experience. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and you get to see a lot of sights. The hotels are great with gorgeous swimming pools. The food was good and all buffets so you get to choose what you want. This tour was really good value as well.

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Cp

5 stars

Submitted 27/Mar

An amazing holiday well organised with Harry our Sri Lanka guide whose knowledge enhanced the whole trip.A very good tour leader in Sheila. Lovely hotels and food, great scenery and the tea picking was great fun. Highly recommended Great Rail Journeys.

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Cp, Thank you for your glowing review. That is wonderful to hear! I will make sure to pass your lovely feedback over to our teams directly. Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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John M

5 stars

Submitted 26/Mar

An intensive but nevertheless most enjoyable holiday encompassing the history and culture of Sri Lanka. Highlights being releasing 4 day old turtles into the sea, seeing wildlife close up. Each day brought something new as we visited old and modern. The countryside was spectacular, the people were friendly and helpful. The professionalism, knowledge and helpfulness of the GRJ tour manager and the local guide would be difficult to surpass.

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear John, Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. That sounds like an absolutely wonderful time! We really do appreciate your kind comments and I will make sure to pass your praise across to our team. Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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Robert Carter

5 stars

Submitted 21 Dec 2023

Wonderful country. Tour explores many different aspects in a pacy experience. Recommended.

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Mr Carter, Thank you for your review and those wonderful photos! That is brilliant to hear! Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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Liz

5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

Fabulous holiday to a beautiful country. The food is fantastic! Such a shame that people still aren't visiting Sri Lanka - the people were so welcoming.

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Sarah

5 stars

Submitted 23 Oct 2023

Fab holiday perfect pace of excursions and free time Our 5th Great rail trip and I think the best so far Our TM Georgina was brilliant ! Have to say Sri Lanka felt safe friendly and interesting Shame that the tourists haven’t flicked back yet but a bonus for us ! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend

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