Our Sri Lankan adventure begins in Negombo. Find your feet in this diverse & laid-back town with coastal beaches, local fish markets and a working Dutch-style canal system. This evening you'll meet up with your Trip Manager and your team for a full brief of the travels about to unfold, before heading out for the first taste of some local delicacies.
This morning we 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 - we of course have a locally guided tour of the Temple of the Tooth (what else!) awaiting us. Tonight, you have the chance to watch history and mythology explode into colour & 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 we head further into the hill country on the train, passing lush green hills and waterfalls enroute to Nuwara Eliya. This small town with colonial-era buildings is found in the heart of Sri Lanka's famous Ceylon tea industry. We'll stop to visit a tea plantation to find out how different teas are grown, plucked and packaged before continuing on to our next destination of 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.
Our journey continues south, as we head down from the hill country into the southern plains where a rich abundance of wildlife awaits us.
Udawalawe National Park
Our 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, we'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 we're heading to our 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 we'll jump aboard our 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 we'll 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 our 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. We'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 we'll reach our final destination, the bustling capital city of Colombo. Enroute we'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 we hit Colombo, the best way to continue is with a sightseeing tour of this sprawling, richly multicultural city. Marvel at the atmospheric temples & showstopping 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.