From glistening coastlines to lush tea plantations. From heart stopping wildlife encounters to time frozen village rendezvous, our small group tour of Sri Lanka certainly covers the green and blue hues the country has to offer.
Try your hand at local farm life and cooking your own local delicacies. Safari in search of Sri Lanka’s incredible wildlife and step back in time as you mingle with Sri Lanka’s true indigenous people.
Absorb the must see sights of Anuradhapura and Sigirya before soaking up the panoramic views from Litpon’s Seat deep in the tea country. Explore the mysteries of Galle Fort and take in the colourful history of Negombo.
Welcome to Sri Lanka! Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Makandura. The Notary’s House is your home for the next two nights set amidst a coconut plantation on the banks of the Makandura Lake. this stunning property, was once home to a prominent family in the village, which has been lovingly restored, maintaining its heritage while introducing modern comforts. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure.
2 nights at The Notary’s House or similar
Distance and Journey Time: (30km) approx. 1hr
This morning, set off for a guided tour of Dambadeniya, one of Sri Lanka’s lesser known ancient kingdoms. Here you have the opportunity to climb up the rock fortress where you can visit Vijayasundaramaya which is very rarely visited by tourists and is well off the beaten track.
Early in the evening, set off on foot to explore the nearby village on the other side of the lake. Walk through the quiet village and visit the local temple where you have the opportunity to meet the local Buddhist priest for a blessing. Spend time talking with the locals and learning about their simple yet peaceful life before returning to hotel. (B)
Walking Distance: In Dambadeniya 1-2kms
Walking Time: In Dambadeniya 1.5-2hours
Difficulty: Relatively easy with a few unorganised steps
Distance and Journey Time: (30kms) Approx. 1hr
This morning you will transfer to your hotel not far from Anuradhapura. After checking in, this afternoon, you will have the opportunity to visit two of Sri Lanka’s most significant sites. Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sinhalese culture for over 1500 years, was built during a golden period of architectural and artistic development. This stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site is home of ancient Sri Lankan culture.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, is the sacred Bo Tree which is said to have generated from one of the branches of the historical Sri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India – this is the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. You will have the rare opportunity to offer flowers, light incense and light up oil lamps as offerings to the Bo tree as you participate in an evening pooja.
Return to your hotel for an incredible dining experience. Tonight, dinner will be served in the middle of a rice paddy. Surrounded by candle light and lanterns, this magical setting is enhanced by your meal being lovingly prepared in a traditional mud hut with the chorus of frogs, crickets and birds. (B,D)
Overnight Ulagalla or similar
Overnight Ulagalla or similar
Walking Distance: In Anuradhapura1-2kms
Walking Time: In Anuradhapura 1.5-2hours
Difficulty: Easy walking in unshaded areas and walkways
Distance and Journey Time: (200kms) Approx. 3-4hrs
Setting off this morning, your day will start with a traditional farmers village experience. Learn about local life in Sri Lanka’s rural villages both in the fields and at home. Why not try your hand at some of the agricultural techniques the locals still use today? Explore the village by tuk tuk, tractor and on foot, as you completely immerse yourselves into farm life. For lunch today, enjoy a home-cooked meal with all produce (apart from the papadams) coming straight from the paddock.
After lunch, continue to Sigiriya Rock Fortress which you have the opportunity to climb.
The fortress is set amid dry zone scrub jungle and is home to a great variety of Sri Lanka’s fauna. Sigiriya, a mighty 180 metre high rock-fortress of a 5th century King, is famous for its entrancingly beautiful frescoes which are found in a sheltered pocket of the rock. You cannot fail to marvel at the masterful execution of the sinuous forms of these women (originally 500, of which only 19 remain today). The old stairway to the top led through the mouth of a huge crouching lion, carved from the rock. Today, only the paws remain. Remains of the impressive royal citadel are on the summit.
The most impressive facets of the unique complex are the Water Gardens, the frescoes of beautiful maidens, the Mirror Wall with ancient graffiti, the lion platform and the summit of 1.6 hectares, which was completely covered by buildings during the period of Sigiriya’s glory. (B,L,D)
2 nights Water Garden or similar
Walking Distance: In Sigiriya Rock fortress 1200 Steps
Walking Time: In Sigiriya Rock fortress 3.5hours
Difficulty: Uneven steps with steep spiral staircase to see the frescoes. Strenuous but not very difficult with some steep areas. Not recommended for people with mobility and health issues.
Distance and Journey Time: (70kms) Approx. 1.5-2hrs
The first kingdom of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura, after a reign of over 1500 year, crumbled under the attacks of the Cholas. The new kingdom was established in Polonnaruwa and flourished for over 150 years. The golden period of the kingdom was under the rule of King Parakramabhahu I and during his period, irrigation and agriculture thrived. Many Kings and Queens added to the array of site you will be exploring today, which include Buddhist and Hindu temples, houses, palaces, audience halls, bathing ponds and tanks that span over 5000 acres.
For lunch today, enjoy an authentic and delicious Sri Lankan rice and curry served at a local home with a cookery demonstration for you to participate in before setting off on safari.
Spend your afternoon in Minneriya National Park. This National Park, which is 8889 hectares in extent, is famous for it large population of elephants in herds of 100 to 150, roaming through the jungle and often seen in the catchment areas of the lake. Wild buffaloes, wild boar, spotted deer, sloth bear, Sambhur, leopards, crocodiles, jackals, 9 kinds of amphibians, 25 kinds of reptiles, 160 species of birds, 26 varieties of fishes, 78 varieties of butterflies are all found in the Minneriya National Park. (B,L,D)
Today enroute to Gal Oya, you will visit Dambulla Cave Temple. The temple is a vast isolated rock mass, 500 feet high and a mile around the base. Tthe famous Rock Temple dates back to the 1st B.C. The caves of Dambulla sheltered King Walagamba during his 14 years of exile from Anuradhapura. When he regained the throne he built the most magnificent of Rock Temples found on the island.
In the first cave, there is a recumbent image of Buddha 47ft long cut out of the rock. There are images of deities associated with Buddhism all around.
Continue to Gal Oya Lodge, a beautifully designed eco-lodge, providing stylish and comfortable accommodation in a remote and undiscovered setting. After settling in, set off for a discovery walk with the Chief of the Veddha community.
Gal Oya Lodge neighbours one of the last remaining communities of the Veddha – the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka. The Veddha’s are the true indigenous people of Sri Lanka and have been found to be linked to Australia’s aborigines and also the San Bushmen. The Veddha culture is diminishing fast with their language almost completely lost. These indigenous peoples, have adapted from cave living to forest dwelling to now living in basic huts and regular houses. From leaf clothing, to loin clothes to sarongs, the Veddha’s have now cross bred with the Sinhalese and Tamil people changing the shape of their almost neanderthal physiques and characteristics. The Veddah’s still hunt for bee honey in the forests found inside hollowed tree trunks which is sold to locals and they practice only bush medicine rituals concoctions to heal ailments and illness.
Enjoy an exclusive walk with the village Chief as you venture through the jungles of his ancestors. Discover and learn about life amongst nature as he brings the forest alive, explaining his tribe’s use of medicinal plants, ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings. It’s a fascinating insight into how the hunter-gatherers lived in the jungles of Gal Oya. (B,L,D)
2 nights Gal Oya Lodge or similar
Walking Distance: In Dambulla approx. 365 Steps
Walking Time: In Dambulla 1hr
Difficulty: Fairly Easy Climb
Distance and Journey Time: (170kms) Approx. 4-4.5hrs
This is the only place in Sri Lanka where you can experience a water based safari – and magical it certainly is! Immerse yourself amongst the wildlife here and with a little luck, you may spot elephants swimming between islands or bathing on the lake’s edge. A 2-3 hour safari by boat, and a scenic 40 minute drive
from the lodge to the lake is perfect to explore the national park and surrounding villages. Witness the local fisherman pulling in their nets and cruise slowly through the tree cemetery in Gal Oya Dam. Home to many comorants and their chicks, the landscape is incredibly diverse and simply breathtaking.
Gal Oya National Park really is one of Sri Lanka’s undiscovered natural treasures. This afternoon, you will set off on a jeep ride into the forgotten Nilgala section of the park, once the protectorate of ancient royalty for the abundant medicinal plants and endemic birdlife unique to this ecosystem. Although shy and sometimes hard to spot, the park hosts most of the animals found on the island, some of the more likely species to look out for include herds of elephants, four species of deer as well as many bird species. Our more intrepid guests may also opt for the hike to the Makara river mouth with one of our expert naturalists, to further experience the jungle and for the chance of seeing wildlife on foot. (B,L,D)
Distance and Journey Time: Boat Safari 3-3.5hrs, Jeep Safari 2.5hr
This morning following breakfast, it is time to farewell your incredible naturalist team at Gal Oya and continue on to Ella in the high country. Visit the Nine Arch Bridge known as the ‘Bridge in the Sky’, which is one of the best examples of colonial–era railway construction in Sri Lanka.
Continuing on, you will reach your hidden resort, Living Heritage Koslanda.
The villas are simple yet luxurious and the pool is wonderful. Truly a hidden gem! Take a guided tour through the jungle to a spectacular waterfall. There are squirrels, and chattering monkeys, as well as the jackfruit trees that give Koslanda its name. Diverse native plants and an abundance of exotic birds that are beautiful to watch, fill the air with a chorus of their songs. By the waterfall you’ll find a Forest Ambalamba, a perfect spot for relaxing after a swim in the natural plunge pool and watching the water cascade into the pool below. (B)
2 nights at Living Heritage Koslanda or similar
Distance and Journey Time: (165kms) Approx. 4.5hrs
This morning, set off on a short trek to Lipton’s Seat and visit to Dambethenna Tea Factory. The Dambetanna Tea Estate was founded by Sir Thomas Lipton, who is probably one of the most famous figures connected to the country’s long history of tea production. From the vantage point of ‘Lipton’s Seat,’ Sir Thomas would survey his domain, enjoying some truly spectacular views out across his estate and the landscapes of southern Sri Lanka. Situated over 1900 metres above sea level, the views from the top are considered to rival those from World’s End on the Horton Plains and, on a good day, you can see the southern coastline and the national parks at Yala and Udawalawe. Visit Dambethenna tea factory to see the procedure of how tea is made.
Take a walk through the Sherwood tea estate to the home of an estate worker. Amidst vegetable gardens and a scattering of brightly coloured houses, you will be introduced to a different side of Sri Lankan cuisine. The Tamil community in the hills came to Sri Lanka from Southern India during the Colonial period and brought with them the culinary traditions of ‘dosas’ and ‘vadeis’. You can see the preparation of some of these classic dishes and enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch. (B,L)
Distance and Journey Time: (60kms) Approx. 3-4hrs
Today you will transfer to Galle (approx 5hrs). On arrival, check into your hotel. Your hotel is an 18th century mansion which has been restored into an elegant small private hotel, which is a wonderful addition to the 16th century Galle Fort. This evening is free to explore the city and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle Fort. (B)
2 nights at Fort Printers Hotel or similar
Distance and Journey Time: (190kms) Approx. 3.5hrs
Today is yours at leisure to explore Galle. (B)
Today you will transfer from Galle to Colombo. Your hotel is centrally located and in close proximity to restaurants and attractions. (B)
Overnight Residence by Uga Escape or similar
Distance and Journey Time: (130kms) Approx. 2.5hrs
This morning you will depart Colombo and head to historic Negombo for a walking tour which really brings the old city to life. Negombo was used by the Portuguese, Dutch and British as the main export harbor for cinnamon and there are still many historical buildings remaining today. Explore markets and churches, visit the city’s bustling fishing harbour and enjoy the beautiful setting of the Negombo Lagoon. The birdlife here is abundant. Watch traditional outrigger canoes fishing the waters for shrimp and lobster as they have for generations. From here, continue to the airport for your onward flight this evening. (B)
Distance and Journey Time: (55kms) Approx. 1.5-2hrs
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.