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Sri Lanka: a land like no other

join us for a cup of tea! - Trip for singles

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GROUP SIZE: 4-24 | 20 DAYS

Sri Lanka: a land like no other

Here you can find the day-to-day description for Sri Lanka: a land like no other


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

Udawalawe Nationaal Park

Udawalawe Nationaal Park

Make a jeep safari through the Udawalawe National park and be amazed by the many different animals and landscapes you will see! |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



See the Dutch influence in the Dutch fort and take a boat tour through the "Dutch Canals".



Jaffna is situated close to the beautiful Jaffna Laguna with fantastic scenery and unique colonial buildings. The Nallur Kandaswamy- temple is one of the most important Hindu temples of Sri Lanka. Enjoy the beach of Casuarine Beach, on the peninsula Karaitivu or visit the old Portuguese fort Jaffna.

Day to Day description

Transport Route Overnight stay
1 Chilaw Chilaw
2 Bus Chilaw – Puttalam/Wilpattu (optional) – Anuradhapura Anuradhapura
3 Bus Anuradhapura - Kilinochchi - Jaffna Jaffna
4 Jaffna Jaffna
5 Bus Jaffna - Anuradhapura Anuradhapura
6 Bus Anuradhapura - Mihinatale - Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa
7 Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa
8 Bus Polonnaruwa - Sigiriya - Dambulla - Spice Garden - Alu Vihare - Kandy Kandy
9 Kandy Kandy
10 Bus Kandy – Nuwara Eliya via Tea Factory Nuwara Eliya
11 Bus, Train Nuwara Eliya - Bandarawela Bandarawela
12 Bandarawela Bandarawela
13 Bus Bandarawela - Udawalawe Reserve Udawalawe Reserve
14 Bus Udawalawe Camp - Tissamaharama Tissamaharama
15 Tissamaharama Tissamaharama
16 Bus Tissamaharama - Hikkaduwa Hikkaduwa
17 Hikkaduwa Hikkaduwa
18 Bus Hikkaduwa - Negombo Negombo
19 Negombo Negombo
20 Negombo End of tour


Day 1: Chilaw

Welcome to Sri Lanka!

Your tour starts in Chilaw, where you can use your hotel room from check in time (12.00 hrs at noon) on day 1. Chilaw is a drive of about 1 hour and 15 mins from the airport of Colombo. Your travel companions will also arrive this first day so you will meet them and your tour leader.

Free day. Relax at the beach or hotel pool or explore the town of Chilaw. The center is 5 kms away and is easily reached by taxi or public transportation.

Day 2: Chilaw – Puttalam/Wilpattu (optional) – 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. The park is also 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.

Day 3: Anuradhapura - Kilinochchi - Jaffna

Today's journey will take about 4.5 hours as we leave Anuradhapura and make our way to Jaffna.
We can make an optional stop on the way to have a look at the town of Kilinochchi before reaching our destination.

Jaffna is the capital city of the Northern Province. After a war-torn past, Jaffna is now opening up to foreign travellers. Jaffna offers an insight into the Tamil culture as well as reminders of its colonial past.

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Day 4: Jaffna

Free day in Jaffna. We suggest to take the city tour (entrance fees excluded) this morning, a good way to acquaint yourself with some of the principle attractions.

You will see the Hindu temples of Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil, the Jaffna Library and Jaffna Fort, the only large military fort of its kind in Sri Lanka.

After these visits you can take a swim at Casuarina Beach in Karainagar, reputedly the best beach on the Jaffna peninsula where the shallowness of the beach and lack of waves make the water ideal to bathe in. We then make the short 20 km trip back to our hotel in Jaffna.

Day 5: Jaffna - Anuradhapura

Today we have an optional trip to Anuradhapura (entrance fees excluded). Two thousand years ago, Anuradhapura may well have been the most beautiful city in Asia. It is home to the only live shoot of the tree under which the Buddha was enlightened in 544 BC. This has made the tree one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world. Apart from the bodhi tree there are immense stupas and remains of palaces that are also well worth visiting.

After our excursion we overnight at a hotel in Anuradhapura.

Day 6: Anuradhapura - Mihinatale - Polonnaruwa

After breakfast we can make an optional excursion (entrance fees excluded) to Mihintale, a place of great importance for Sri Lankan Buddhists. Mihintale is sited on and around granite hills in a very lush green setting that has been protected by law for over a thousand years. To see all there is to see requires a climb of 1840 steps to an enormous white Buddha that overlooks the broad landscape.

We then continue on to Polonnaruwa. After checking in to our hotel you can choose to visit either the Minneriya/Kaudalla National Park for an (optional) 4x4 jeep excursion.

The protected Minneriya NP is home to a number of elephants as well as being an important area for Bird life.
In the Kaudalla NP you can also find a selection of mammals including deer, the Sri Lankan leopard and the sloth bear. Your tour leader will advise which park offers the best opportunities at this time.

Day 7: Polonnaruwa

Choose to join an optional excursion to the ruins of Polonnaruwa. The attractions of this medieval royal city are spread over a wide area, but the main sights are fairly close together on a piece of land little more than one square kilometer. The largest dagoba of the city is 55 m high and the most beautiful masterpiece is the group of four sublime Buddhas, Gal Vihare, carved out of a piece of granite. The reclining Buddha is 15 meters in length and is the largest of the lot. It is also possible to rent a bike near Polonnaruwa and explore yourself.

How green can you go? TIP

Later in the day, it is pleasant to take a boat ride with local fisherman on the Parakrama Samudra lake (optional excursion). This is a lovely relaxing trip where you can enjoy the birds, the sunset and if you're lucky, the elephants that come to the water to take a drink. (This excursion depends upon water levels).

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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: Polonnaruwa - Sigiriya - Dambulla - Spice Garden - Alu Vihare - Kandy

Free day. Today you can join the early optional visit to the spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya, or the "Lion Rock". This excursion is highly recommended. At the foot of the fort two giant lion claws guard the entrance. Once inside there is a long climb up the spiral staircase, past many fascinating frescos commissioned by King Kasyapa, to the top where you can marvel at the magnificent views.

We then continue through the central mountain region to Dambulla, the home of the wonderful ancient cave temples. Later we stop at one of the many spice plantations growing pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cacao and ginger and have a short explanation about the processes. If time allows we can make a last stop at Matale, famous for the nearby monastery of Aluvihare. Please note that entrance fees for the above optional excursions are not included and should be paid locally. We overnight in Kandy.

Day 9: Kandy

We now have a free day to explore the city of Kandy and its surroundings. 

This morning we suggest a visit to the ancient gardens of Peradeniya, among the finest botanical gardens in the world. They are located 6 km southwest of Kandy on the way to Colombo. The area of sixty acres around the Mahaweli River is home to a huge collection of trees, tropical creepers, bamboos, palm species, orchids, herbs and other plants. Together they achieve a total of more than 4000 species.

Set in lush tropical hills, this afternoon you can visit ‘The Temple of the Tooth’. The temple houses Buddha’s tooth - the central focus of Singhalese religious life for over two thousand years. Marvel at the displays of ancient royal regalia, jewellery and historic drawings at Kandys museum and watch a performance by the famous Kandy dancers. The dancers are the best on the island and perform a devil dance culminating in a fire dance upon hot coals!

Day 10: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya via Tea Factory

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 11: Nuwara Eliya - Bandarawela

We are free this morning to explore the surrounds. You can take a brisk walk to the Pidurutalagala mountain (2524 m). Its a relatively easy walk taking around two hours. You will have to start early though, as Nuwara Eliya is notorious for its fog, which seldom clears before 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Optionally you can take an early visit to the Horton Plains nature reserve.

This afternoon 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 12: 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, or you can walk to the Dowa cave temple which has a 4m standing Buddha hewn from the rock.

How green can you go? TIP

Alternatively take a beautiful walk ("Village Trek") with a local guide through the tea plantations and rice fields. Stop to eat 'rice and curry' in a typical village. Opportunities abound here in Bandarawela!

Sustainable travel

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Day 13: Bandarawela - Udawalawe Reserve

Our journey continues by bus with a descent of over one thousand metres, to the camp, near the Udawalawe Reserve, where we will spend the night in a tent. On the way you'll 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 to Udawalawe we stop to visit the (Elephant) Transit Home where entrance fees are included. This centre is run largely on the support of the government and a number of conservation organizations. 

Afterwards and if you still wish for more wildlife, you can take an optional safari trip in a 4x4 Jeep to the Udawalawe Reserve, renowned for its large herds of elephants and many bird species. In the camp, dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 14: Udawalawe Camp - Tissamaharama

Today we travel on to the busy town of Tissamaharama, set among rice fields dotted with small temples. This evening we will visit nearby Kataragama which sits at the foot of the mountains and is one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka. It attracts Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim pilgrims who all worship the god Skanda.

The journey time today excluding any stoppage time is approx. 2 hours (80 kms).

Day 15: Tissamaharama

Today you can take an optional safari to Yala N.P. Sri Lanka’s main nature reserve is dotted with woods and lakes and is home to some amazing wildlife including panthers, bears, wild buffaloes and crocodiles. You could instead take a jeep ride across Bundala nature reserve, with its savannahs, lakes, beach and an incredible array of birdlife and wildlife. There is also the option to visit Wirawila Lake, an unspoilt reserve filled with water birds, spangled leaf monkeys, crocodiles and elephants. Your guide will run through the different possibilities with you.

(Please note: Yala is usually closed between 1st September and mid-October. If this is the case, this excursion is possible in Udawalawe/Bundala).

Day 16: Tissamaharama - Hikkaduwa

Enjoy your stay on the beach at Hikkaduwa and from November to May make the most of the diving and snorkelling or take a glass bottomed boat trip to see the reef. You can also take a trip through the green lagoons behind the coast or marvel at the giant monitor lizards.

Day 17: Hikkaduwa

It is highly recommended to visit the formerly Dutch town of Galle, the Matara temples or take a river cruise. You could visit the ‘blowhole’ near Kudawella and the beaches near Unawatuna and Tangalle and relax with gorgeous sunsets and a warm sea breeze.

Day 18: Hikkaduwa - Negombo

Today you make the 4 hour hop to Negombo. Along the way you make a short sightseeing stop in Colombo, visiting the old neighbourhoods of the Fort and the Pettah, the Town Hall and Independence Square, a Buddhist and a Hindu temple, and the Wolvendaal church (the only church in the colonial period built in Colombo by the Dutch). Any entrance fees are not included.

Day 19: Negombo

A free day in Negombo and a great chance to join a fun excursion. You can visit the Dutch Channels in a small boat. It is an area rich with bird-life as well as original Dutch churches and villages. Watch the toddytappers walking a tightrope stretched between the palms. They drain the juice from the flowers of the palm and use it to make the strong local drink 'arrack'.

You can also take a trip to Negombo where there are still several houses dating from the Dutch period. The baroque churches of the Karava fishermen living in Negombo are of note. Every morning the fishermen head out to sea in their hundreds, later to return with fresh fish for the fish market. Everything is available, from shellfish and brightly coloured coral fish to swordfish and sharks! You can also rent a bike and follow the canal path.

Day 20: Negombo

The last day of your tour. You can use your hotel room in Negombo until check out time (most times at 12.00 hrs noon). Negombo is situated only 15 km (less than ½ hour drive) from the international airport. 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 20) is not included.

On the trips departing 24th July 2017 and 13th August 2018 you can visit the Kandy Esala Festival in Kandy. (Exact details subject to change).
The itineraries may be modified during our festival tours. For more information about the various festivals please look under the heading 'More Info' and then 'Festivals'.
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