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Sri Lanka 'on a Shoestring'

absorb both Hindu and Buddhist cultures on the Emerald isle! - Trip for singles

Book From   € 799,-
GROUP SIZE: 4-24 | 14 DAYS

Sri Lanka 'on a Shoestring'

Here you can find the day-to-day description for Sri Lanka 'on a Shoestring'


There's plenty to do in this beautiful region. Select below or on the map opposite, the highlight you want to read more information about. Read through carefully and then go directly to the tour description.
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Anuradhapura, a holy Buddhist city, is worth a visit. |Sri Lanka



Visit the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Admire the Temple of the Tooth together with the pilgrims. |Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

Imagine yourself in old England. Visit the tea plantations. |Sri Lanka



Take the slow train through the tea plantations. |Sri Lanka



Tissamaharama lays close to the Yala NP and Kataragama, an important place of pilgrimage for Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists. |Sri Lanka



The coastal region around Hikkaduwa is known for its coral reef. Between November and May you can go diving and snorkelling. |Sri Lanka

Day to Day description

Transport Route Overnight stay
1 Marawila Marawila
2 Marawila Marawila
3 Bus Marawila - Puttalam/optional safari Wilpattu - Anuradhapura Anuradhapura
4 Bus Anuradhapura - Mihintale - Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa
5 Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa
6 Bus Polonnaruwa - Sigiriya - Dambulla - Wood carving - Spice Garden - Kandy Kandy
7 Kandy Kandy
8 Bus Kandy - Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya
9 Bus, Train Nuwara Eliya - Bandarawela Bandarawela
10 Bandarawela Bandarawela
11 Bus Bandarawela - Kataragama - Tissamaharama Tissamaharama
12 Bus Tissamaharama – Hikkaduwa Hikkaduwa
13 Hikkaduwa Hikkaduwa
14 Hikkaduwa End of tour


Day 1: Marawila

Welcome to Sri Lanka!

Your tour starts in Marawila, where you can use your hotel room from check in time (12.00 hrs at noon) on day 1. Marawila is situated only 40 km (1 hour drive) from the international airport of Colombo. Your travel companions will also arrive this first day, the exact time will be depending on their flight schedule. You can meet the rest of the group and your tour leader today.

Our first two nights will be spent in Marawila, a wonderful laid-back spot with a long and quiet beach.

Day 2: Marawila

Free day. During the day we suggest you visit nearby Negombo, with its old Dutch fort gate, churches and fishing villages set at the mouth of the lagoon originally used for shipping cinnamon to the coast. You can hire a bikeand follow the canal or, take an excursion into the “Dutch Channels” on a small motorboat. The Karava fishermen take out their square-sailed catamarans and go fishing for days at a time.

Day 3: Marawila - Puttalam/optional safari Wilpattu - Anuradhapura

How green can you go? TIP

This morning we leave to Anuradhapura via Puttalam with an optional jeep safari to Wilpattu National Park en-route.

Wilpattu is the largest national park in Sri Lanka and was traditionally Sri Lanka's top location for watching leopard, along with Yala in the South. Today, this top cat still roams in the Wilpattu forests but is much more elusive than in Yala. It is also possible to catch a sighting of the mysterious sloth bear. The park is also home to elephants, jackals, deer and other mammals and is a bird watcher’s dream, with over two hundred species of birds to see and identify.

After discovering Wilpattu we continue on, to our accommodation in Anuradhapura.

Our Projects

In collaboration with our local agents, Shoestring supports a number of projects with a financial contribution. Since our suppliers play a major role in maintaining and supporting these projects, we know that these contributions are allocated effectively.
Read More

Day 4: Anuradhapura - Mihintale - Polonnaruwa

Today we have an optional trip to Anuradhapura and Mihintale. Two thousand years ago, Anuradhapura was perhaps the most beautiful city in Asia. The bodhi tree found here is said to be the place of enlightenment of Buddha and is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists everywhere. There are immense stupas and remains of palaces worth seeing too.

At Mihintale, another significant place of pilgrimage, climb the 1840 steps up to an enormous white Buddha that overlooks the lush green landscape before proceeding to our hotel in Polonnaruwa.

Day 5: Polonnaruwa

Today you can take an optional excursion by bicycle to the ruins of this thousand-year old former capital of Sri Lanka where you will see some Hindu temples, preserved from the 10/11th centuries.

The monarchs extended Polonnaruwa with palaces and luxurious estates over a considerable area where remnants include marketplaces, workshops, stables, roads and garrison buildings.

The biggest dagoba in the city is 55m high but the most beautiful masterpiece is Gal Vihare, a group of four splendid Buddha statues, hewn from one giant piece of granite. The recumbent 15 m. Buddha is the largest of the group.

How green can you go? TIP

Depending on the water levels, it may also be possible to take an optional boat ride on the beautiful Parakrama Samudra reservoir on a local fishing boat.

Day 6: Polonnaruwa - Sigiriya - Dambulla - Wood carving - Spice Garden - Kandy

We leave this morning to the spectacular rock fort of Sigiriya, or ‘Lion’s Rock’ (entrance fee not included). This stunning 5th century fort has some beautiful painted frescoes.

After your sightseeing in Sigiriya you continue to the ancient cave temples of Dambulla (entrance fee not included). The cave temples are among the most beautiful Buddhist monuments in the world, hewn from a large rock that protrudes from the green plain. The fourth cave is said to be the most beautiful where you will find there are many sitting, standing and recumbent Buddha figures and bodhisattvas.

Continuing along this scenic route, we can also stop at a woodcarving workshop, where statues and dance masks are produced. Next we will visit a spice garden, where cinnamon, cloves, cocoa and ginger are grown and where a worker will provide an explanation. We finish in Kandy.

Day 7: Kandy

Today you are free to explore the city of Kandy and its lush tropical surroundings. Visit ‘The Temple of the Tooth’ which houses Buddha’s tooth, the central focus of Singhalese religious life for over two thousand years and marvel at the displays of ancient royal regalia, jewellery and historic drawings at Kandys museum. Stroll round the centuries-old garden of Peradeniya or watch a performance by the famous Kandy dancers. Your travel guide will have full details of all that is available on arrival.

What can I do?

Sustainable travel means taking into account the people, nature and culture so that travel remains possible in the future. The negative effects of tourism are increasingly palpable. 'So what can I do?', you may ask. Shoestring gives you 10 tips. Read More

Day 8: Kandy - Nuwara Eliya

Our route through the mountains to the next destination is breathtakingly beautiful. Passing waterfalls, tea plantations and visiting a tea-processing site en-route. In the afternoon, we arrive in Nuwara Eliya, the England of the tropics. Victorian cottages that could be in Devonshire, a golf course, gardens full of roses, a lake with rowing boats, mown lawns and cool temperatures.

Day 9: Nuwara Eliya - Bandarawela

After a morning free to explore Nuwara Eliya, we board the train from Nanu Oya and cross the mountains. On this three-hour journey we travel through spectacular mountainous landscapes, interspersed with tea and jungle plantations, through tunnels and along abysses. At the end of the afternoon we reach Bandarawela on the east side of the island.

Day 10: Bandarawela

Enjoy a day at your leisure in the stunning alpine setting of Bandarawela. It is an area rich in fabulous views, mountain tracks along steep abysses, waterfalls and streams rushing down from the central mountain range. You can travel by bus to Badulla and walk to one of the highest waterfalls on the island, the Dunhinda Falls.

How green can you go? TIP

We also recommend to join a beautiful village trek to include a typical rice and curry meal in a local village house.

Day 11: Bandarawela - Kataragama - Tissamaharama

Today the bus will take you to Tissamaharama, where we spend the night. You can stop en route for an optional visit to the Dowa Temple where you can see an 8 meter high statue of Buddha and some colourful frescoes. Along the way you'll also see the famous Ella Gap (Gap of Ella), where you have a short stop to enjoy the view. You'll also stop at the waterfalls of Ravana Ella.

How green can you go? TIP

Next you will visit the Udawalawe Transit Home (including entrance fee) where you can see wild elephants in a stunning setting and at certain times, the feeding of the orphans.

As we reach Kataragama, we have time to explore this holy place. Buy some lotus flowers or fruit for an offering in this temple or visit Ganesh, the elephant god of Hinduism who is also well loved by Buddhists. After Kataragama you will drive to your hotel in Tissamaharama.

Day 12: Tissamaharama – Hikkaduwa

Tissamaharama is close by the Yala National Park, on the southeast coast of the island where your travel guide will be able to help you with all the possible activities and help organise a safari. Yala, the main nature reserve of Sri Lanka, is dotted with woods, lakes and immense granite rocks, where the shy panthers and bears of Yala live. Wild buffaloes, deer and particularly large herds of elephant can be seen from the jeeps that cross the park. In the ponds, crocodiles lie in wait for prey and there are numerous species of birds such as storks, marabou, spoonbills, peacocks, pelicans, herons, ibises, flamingos and bee-eaters who nest by the lakes and beach. Wirawila Lake is the most unspoilt reserve and offers many species of water bird, spangled leaf monkeys, crocodiles and elephants. We then drive via Hambantota and Weligama to Hikkaduwa.

Please note: As Yala is usually closed from 1st September until mid-October, you can instead make an optional safari in Udawalawe reserve.

Sustainable travel

As a responsible company our mission is to increase and improve sustainability in our business. Find out more about the measures that we currently take as well as our further plans to ensure we achieve our green ambitions. Read More

Day 13: Hikkaduwa

This coastal strip is famous for its coral reef and from November to April, you can go diving and snorkelling or if you’d rather stay out of the water just look at the reef from a glass bottomed boat. A trip through the green lagoons behind the coast is also highly recommended and particularly special are the giant monitor lizards of over 2m long that walk and swim in that area.
Another must see is the former Dutch fortified town of Galle where you can stand overlooking the beautiful, palm-lined bay, and imagine yourself back in the old colonial days. You can also visit the Matara temples, explore by bike, and visit to a snake or turtle farm or explore the river on a cruise. There is also the ‘blowhole’ near Kudawella and the beaches near Unawatuna and Tangalle.

Day 14: Hikkaduwa

The last day of your tour. You have late check out from your hotel room in Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa is about 4 hours from the international airport (Colombo). The possibility of joining the group transfer to the airport will depend upon your return flight time - please check with us first. We wish you a comfortable journey home and are sure you will take with you some wonderful memories of Sri Lanka.

Your personal ‘my.shoestring’ page on our website is the perfect way to make contact with other travellers before and after your trip. You can read and create journals from trips and upload your photos onto the photo gallery. Visit my shoestring today.

When booking your tour, please check to see whether you need any post-tour nights, bearing in mind that accommodation for the night of the final day of the tour (day 14) is not included.

On the trips departing 23 and 30 July 2017 visit the Kandy Esala Festival in Kandy. (Exact details subject to change).
On the trips departing 12 and 19 August 2018 visit the Kandy Esala Festival in Kandy. (Exact details subject to change).

The itineraries can be modified during the festival tours. For more information about the various festivals you can look under the heading 'More Info' and then 'Festivals'.
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