TRAVEL STYLE: IN-DEPTH EXPLORER
Visit: Negombo, Kandy, Ella, Udwalawe National Park Unawatuna and Colombo!
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Say Ayubowan (hello!) to Contiki’s newest hot spot, Sri Lanka. This 10-day adventure will take you all over, from national parks and beaches to the world-famous tea country. With all the highlights squeezed in, plus hand-picked inclusions and free time add-ons, this tour delivers the best that Sri Lanka has to offer.
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Your Sri Lankan adventure begins in Negombo. Find your feet in this diverse and laid-back town featuring beaches, local fish markets and a working Dutch-style canal system. Later, meet up with your Trip Manager and your fellow travellers for a full brief of the tour before heading out for your first taste of some local delicacies.
This morning you’ll head inland to what was once the last imperial city of Sri Lanka, Kandy. Home to the most important of Buddhist relics, the tooth of Lord Buddha, you’ll enjoy a locally guided tour of the Temple of the Tooth (what else!). Tonight, you have the chance to watch history and mythology explode into colour and rhythm with some traditional Kandyan Folk dance. Later, choose to tuck into some local street food. Try a ‘Hopper’ – we promise you’ve never eaten a curry like this before, and you haven’t really tried Sri Lankan street food until now.
Today you’ll head further inland on the train, passing lush green hills and waterfalls en route to Nuwara Eliya. This small town with its colonial-era buildings is found in the heart of Sri Lanka’s famous Ceylon tea industry. Stop to visit a tea plantation to find out how different teas are grown, plucked and packaged before continuing on to your next destination: Ella.
The day is yours to explore the beautiful countryside and laid-back backpacker hub of Ella, nestled among green cloud forests and tea plantations. In the early morning, feel free to head to Horton Plains National Park and walk to “World’s End”, one of the highlights here. Or spend the day in Ella doing the local walks that show off the incredibly insta-worthy views down through the Ella Gap, including the cascading waterfalls this small town is famous for. If you’re lucky, you might even get to meet one of the locals: the leaf-eating Langur monkey.
Your journey heads south from the hill country into the southern plains, where a rich abundance of wildlife awaits. Your first stop is at the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home, where orphaned baby elephants are cared for before being released back into the wild. In this unmissable experience that’s sure to pull a few heartstrings, you’ll get to watch the babies at feeding time, while you try to restrain yourself from adopting one then and there. But tear yourself away, because next, you’re heading to your Special Stay accommodation for the night: glamping alongside the Walawe riverbed in full Safari style, surrounded by the vibrant flora and fauna of the Sri Lankan jungle.
The Udawalawe National Park is one of the best places to get a glimpse of the Sri Lankan Elephants, so this morning you’ll jump aboard a Safari Jeep and explore the park, keeping an eye out for the abundance of wildlife. See if you can spot a water buffalo, and keep your camera handy to snap the brightly coloured native birds. Once you’re all safari’ed out, you’ll be free to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool or hiring a bike for your own cycle adventure.
Say goodbye to the wilderness, because today you’re heading along the coast to the beachside town of Unawatuna. The South West coast of Sri Lanka is famous for its beaches, mangrove forests and picturesque colonial port towns set up in turn first by the Portuguese, secondly by the Dutch and finally the English, and Unawatuna is no exception. This afternoon, take a trip to explore the UNESCO-listed historic fort city of Galle, a must-see for its distinctly unique mishmash of European and South Asian traditional architecture. Check out the Portuguese Franciscan chapel, Dutch coat of arms and British Queen Victoria Jubilee Tower. Later this evening, you can opt to learn the ways of Sri Lankan cooking with a cooking demonstration and dinner.
The southern tip of Sri Lanka is a favourite hangout spot for some of the most majestic creatures in the world: whales. You’re heading to Mirissa, considered to be the best place to get a glimpse of the Blue Whale, Sperm Whale and dolphins, and this morning is your chance to head out whale-watching for an unmissable up-close encounter. After the morning’s excitement, the afternoon is yours to unwind on the tropical palm-studded beach with clear turquoise waters or opt-in for a surf lesson at nearby Weligama Bay.
Today you’ll reach your final destination, the bustling capital city of Colombo. Enroute you’ll make a stop to learn about the traditional art of balsa-wood mask painting, followed by a visit to the Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Centre. Once you hit Colombo, the best way to continue is with a sightseeing tour of this sprawling, richly multicultural city. Marvel at the atmospheric temples and show-stopping mosques, check out the rose-tinted colonial buildings and, if you’re brave enough, pick up some hot cobra chillies or souvenirs from the truly authentic (and famously chaotic) Pettah Bazaar. Tonight you can put on your party pants because we’ve already sussed out the best rooftop bars and we’re going out in style – the perfect way to cap off the last incredible 9 days with your Sri Lanka crew.
Your Contiki trip finishes this morning in Colombo. Say goodbye to your new friends and plan a meet up somewhere in the world soon.