On this Highlights trip, you’ll travel through diverse scenery from the tea-capped mountains to the beaches. You’ll have opportunities to observe wildlife – especially elephants, leopards (if you’re lucky) and primates. Sri Lanka has an enthralling history dating back from the second century BC. You’ll meet locals from farmers to insightful Sri Lanka Guides who have a passion for showcasing their country. Each night you’ll rejuvenate in some truly unique and special accommodation on this tour.
This is a private trip which can be done with as few as two people. Therefore we can customize it to best meet your needs and interests. See something you want more of? Let us know and we’ll add it in. The same goes if you see something that doesn’t grab your interest.
IS THE WILDLIFE AND CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS OF SRI LANKA TOUR RIGHT FOR ME? YES IF YOU WANT TO…
Travel on a private tour that you customize to meet your needs.
Experience one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world.
Observe elephants in a way that helps them, not harms them.
Spot leopards in Yala National Park which has the highest density of leopards on the planet.
See primates in the wild such as Grey Langurs, Toque macaques and lorises.
Visit three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Ancient City of Sigiriya, Dambulla Rock Temple and the Old Town of Galle.
Experience a mix of wildlife and cultural activities.
Interact with locals in an authentic way.
Observe both the world’s largest land and ocean mammals (elephants and blue whales).
Hike and cycle in Sri Lanka’s beautiful landscapes.
Travel with a responsible tour operator who respects wildlife and doesn’t harass it as many other tour operators do.
We’ll pick you up directly at the airport and transfer to your accommodation. Relax by the pool or take a walk around a coconut estate. You could even try your hand at making a coconut sambol, a Sri Lankan speciality.
Check out after breakfast. En route, explore the Dambulla Rock Temple – one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s the largest cave temple complex in Sri Lanka and dates back to 1st century BC. It’s been home to monastic dwellings for 22 centuries continuously (including the time during Julius Ceaser’s Roman Empire). The Cave Temple Art are masterpieces of Buddhist Art. On this guided tour you’ll gain insights into its fascinating history. Entrance tickets cost Rs 1500 (~$10 USD per person) and aren’t included.
Then, you’ll check into your accommodation and relax before a two-hour sunset trek to the summit of the Pidurangala Rock where an amazing bird’s eye view of Sigiriya Rock and lush green surrounds awaits you. Note: this is an easy climb up roughly carved out steps. It only becomes moderate near the summit.
10 am – **Visit a local vegetable farmer and enjoy cooking like the locals. The farmer and his kids will walk you through their farm where you will get insights into their lives and rural livelihoods. You’ll end your visit by learning how to cook a local dish with the farmer’s wife. This is one of the best local interactions on the tour that you’ll remember for years to come.
2 pm – **A private guided safari drive inside Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya National Park. Minneriya is famous for the ‘Gathering’ that occurs in July/August where large herds of elephants gather naturally in their wild habitat. This includes an incredible safari and insights into the behaviour of wild elephant herds. Entrance tickets cost $12 – $14 USD + taxes per person and aren’t included.
Guests also have the option of including a visit to Polonnaruwa instead of one of the activities above. You’ll cycle around the ruins of Polonnaruwa, a part of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s second ancient royal capital. It was established between the 11th and 13th centuries and has well-preserved ruins of palaces, bath pools, sophisticated irrigation structures. You’ll be amazed by the architectural marvels from ancient civilizations and the four magnificent Buddha statues depicting the four significant poses of Lord Buddha.
The tour of the ruins will be followed by a short Monkey Trek around the Monkey Kingdom film location to observe the incredible behaviour of Grey Langurs and Toque Macaques.(Entrance tickets to the cultural site are $25 USD +taxes pp. The guided bike tour costs $12 USD pp. Neither are included in the tour price.
7.30 am – Take a private guided trek to the summit of the Lion Rock in Sigiriya. It’s one of Sri Lanka’s best-known sites and a World Heritage Site. King Kasyapa built a rock fortress here in the 5th century with an entrance through a giant Lions Paw. The gardens surrounding the rock are the oldest Chahar Bagh (Persian-style garden layout) preserved in the world. It’s best done in the early morning before the sun becomes too hot. Entrance tickets: $30 USD +taxes per person and aren’t included.
You’ll then make your way to Sri Lanka’s last Royal Kingdom – the historic city of Kandy.
At 4 pm, you’ll take a guided walk through the bustling local market. Here you’ll meet traders selling spices, clothes, fruits and dried fish. Then, you’ll make your way to the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic where you’ll gain insights into the traditions of poojah (worship). Entrance tickets $10 USD + taxes per person and aren’t included.
You have free time until 10:00 am. Then you’ll drive towards the hills of Hantana amid tea estates to visit the Tea Museum. Here you’ll gain wonderful insights into the process of how tea is made.
Following your visit, it’s time to meet more locals. You’ll spend the afternoon with a local dance teacher. His ancestors have been teaching traditional Kandyan dance and drumming for generations in Kandy and have been a part of the annual Kandy Perahera for 400 years! He’ll teach you the art of drumming and dancing for an hour. Lunch is provided by the family before the dancing and drumming sessions.
*The Annual Kandy Perahera – the world’s oldest procession takes place each year towards end July or in August. You’ll see hundreds of dancers, drummers, fire dancers and elephants parade through the streets paying homage to the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Tickets for priority seating need to be booked in advance and aren’t included.
You’ll drive to the central highlands of Nuwaraeliya. From here, you’ll take a scenic train ride on the train from Nanu Oya to reach the hill station of Ella. You’ll then drive another 40 minutes to Wellawaya to a beautiful hotel overlooking some of the most scenic landscapes in Sri Lanka.
This is a beautiful location to experience walking and cycling through paddy fields with your personal guide. You’ll visit the most scenic spots in Ella to explore Little Adams Peak, Ella Rock and Ravana Falls and spend your days admiring the stunning scenery. We’re happy to help you arrange excursions but they’re not included.
You’ll drive to Udawalawe (approx 1 1/2 hrs) in time to witness the lunchtime feeding at the Elephant Transit Home. This is one of the most ethically run homes for elephants. Injured elephants are treated and released into the wild, unlike in orphanages, where they remain for life. It’s a great insight into learning how to care for wild animals in an ethical way. Entrance tickets ~$3.50 USD per person and aren’t included.
After lunch in Udawalawe (not included), you’ll proceed to Yala National Park (approx 2 1/2 hr drive). Here you’ll enjoy the jungle surrounding your accommodation and get ready for an exciting all-day drive the next day in Yala.
You’ll take a private guided all day safari drive to view wildlife and hopefully spot a leopard. We’ll provide you with a picnic lunch which you’ll enjoy in the jungle. You’ll receive insights into animal behaviour and the ecology of the park. In addition to lunch, you’ll also stop for tea and snacks by a river or the beach. This all-day safari will take you on some remote roads into the extreme borders of Yala where few visitors go, increasing your chances for some fabulous wildlife sightings. Entrance tickets $15 USD + taxes pp and aren’t included.
Yala National Park has a diverse ecology and includes lakes, scrubland, and dense jungle. It’s considered the most wildlife-rich national park in Sri Lanka. The highlights of Yala are its elephants, sloth bear and of course, leopards. It’s home to the highest leopard density in the world. In addition, you’re also likely to spot a large variety of water birds, deer, toque macaque, mongoose, and crocodiles.
You have the option of an early birding trek through the wilderness trails around lakes. Cost $100 USD for two people and isn’t included). Alternatively, you can choose to relax before transferring to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle at midday. You’ll have the afternoon at leisure to explore the 17th century Dutch Galle Fort and its labyrinth of cobblestoned streets where you’ll find shops, boutique villas, cafes, antiques, jewellery and residential houses. We’ll provide you with a map of the key highlights of the Fort.
Depending on when you’re in Sri Lanka, you have three options:
Whale Watching. The best time to see Blue Whales (the largest mammal in the ocean!) is from December to April. Departure is at 5 am. Cost ~$27 – $45 USD pp and isn’t included.
Lagoon Canoeing: You’ll canoe in a 2or 3 person canoe tour through a mangrove where a guide will teach you about the flora and fauna of the lagoon. this is a gentle excursion with ~ 2 hours of paddling time. Cost $35 USD pp and isn’t included.
Village Cycle tour: Cost $18 USD pp USD 18 per person and isn’t included.
After the excursion of your choice, we’ll drop you off at the international airport for your night flight back home. Alternatively, you can choose to extend your stay in Galle or explore the southern beaches. No overnight accommodation is included in the tour for today.
You’ve now experienced the highlights of Sri Lanka and had a tour designed around your interests.
This trip is available year round. The best of time of year to observe elephants is from July to August when “The Gathering” occurs in Minneriya National Park. Check out the elephant photos that I got from my visit to Kaudulla in November.
Whale watching is available from December to April when you have the chance to spot a blue whale, the largest mammal in the ocean.
Booking in Advance
Book as soon as possible to ensure that accommodation is available as it fills up very quickly.
11 – day tour
$2499 (USD) per person for value accommodation and $3249 (USD) per person for luxury accommodation. Per person, based on double accommodation.A peak supplement of $109 per person if your tour takes place in December, January, July or August. You can shorten the tour to 8 days or add additional days which will affect the price. Pricing is in effect until April 30th, 2018.
Easy to challenging. You customize the tour and can choose how easy or difficult you want to make it.
You will travel in a private chauffeur driven vehicle. Each experience will be hosted for you by one of our local guides.
You’ll fly into Bandaranaike International Airport, north of Colombo where we’ll pick you up for your convenience. We’ll also drop you off here. See the map below for where you’ll visit in Sri Lanka.
What to Bring
While Sri Lanka is a tropical country be prepared for cooler mornings and evenings than you might expect. It’s also a good idea to bring a shawl or zip-up jacket. Wear long pants comfortable closed shoes/trainers when exploring the jungles and on walks/treks. In the monsoon period; May, October, November and some periods throughout December, a waterproof jacket is required on treks/walks. Please cover your arms and legs when visiting religious sites and temples and remove shoes when directed to do
It’s highly recommended that you have travel insurance that covers you for this tour and includes emergency evacuation and hospital care in the unlikely incident that you get injured. We recommend World Nomads insurance.
50% of payment is due at the time of booking. As soon as we receive your deposit, we’ll start making the arrangements for your accommodation. We recommend not making any travel arrangements until we can confirm your accommodations.
The remaining payment is due 60 days before. If you’re booking within 60 days, full payment is required.
Meals (Value Tour: 10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 4 dinners; Luxury Tour: 10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners) and 1-litre of water per day per person.
Community-based guides and resident naturalists.
Your own private guide and vehicle, including gas.
Cost of all activities not specified as ‘optional extras’ or ‘to book directly at the Lodge’
It’s your responsibility to check the official visa requirements for your nationality. Below is intended as a guide only.
Please obtain an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) prior to arrival in Sri Lanka. You can apply online on http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/ 90 days ahead of travel. Visa requirements for different nationalities/kids are specified online. It’s easy to apply, If you’re asked for an address in Sri Lanka you may include the address of your first hotel. Please keep a printed copy to show on arrival at the airport.
It’s also your responsibility to ensure that you hold a valid passport. Your passport should have at least one blank page and be valid for a minimum of six months upon your arrival in Sri Lanka.
Extras & Tipping Guide
All meals/drinks not specified in the detailed itinerary
Cost of entrance fees to wildlife parks, cultural sites as specified in the itinerary
All activities specified as ‘optional extras’ under the Itinerary
International flights to/from Sri Lanka and related airport taxes
Giving Gratuities and tips is an accepted practice in Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankans will make this holiday special for you. They may speak faulty English but if you think they have done their best for you, please be as generous as you wish at the end of the day.
General Tipping Guide: An average to a good range of tipping is between US$10 – 20 per day per person. However, for family tours or group tours of over 2 pax please use your discretion in arriving at a suitable tip per group or per family which can fall within or outside the above range in total.
Please consider to tip each person whose service you are happy with – your Chauffeur, safari Guides at National Parks, Naturalists at hotels, jeep drivers at National Parks, Jungle farmers you meet on tour, waiters & service staff at Hotels & Eco Lodges.
For Housekeeping an average of Rs. 100 per day and at Restaurants a 10% service fee is acceptable. Locals will gladly accept your generosity but tipping is entirely at your discretion.
Cancellation, baggage and medical/other insurance
Visa fees where relevant
Any new Government Taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases or surcharges which are beyond our control (will be added to costs of your tour).
Train Journeys/Local flights – these services are conducted by external service providers and cancellations may occur that are beyond the control of the Destination Management Company in Sri Lanka. Alternate transport will be by road. Kindly note the luggage restrictions on the domestic flights.
Rates are subject to change in the unlikely event that the government alters the VAT rate.
Arriving by Air
You’ll fly into Bandaranaike International Airport, the main airport serving Sri Lanka. The airport is located in Negombo, a suburb 35 km (22 miles) north of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. I find the best deals on Skyscanner and book most of my flights through them.
We’ll pick you up and drop you off at the airport for your convenience.
Transportation on the Tour
You’ll travel primarily in a private van with an English speaking driver. Local specialist guides who have the best knowledge in each area will join you for the guided excursions.
On one afternoon, you’ll take a spectacular train ride through the Central Highlands of Nuwaraeliya.
Sri Lanka is an all year destination. Mid-January to September is a great period to travel for lovely weather. You’re advised to book far in advance during peak tourist season; December, January, Easter break and in August. October and November are best avoided due to monsoonal rains.
What’s the weather like in Sri Lanka?
Expect daytime temperatures of 25 to 30°C and cooler nights. In the Central Highlands it’s a bit cooler; 9 to 15°C with cold nights.
I’m a solo traveller. Can I still do this trip?
Yes, but a single supplement applies. Rates start from $2799 (USD) for value accommodation and $3769 for luxury accommodation. A peak supplement of $109 may apply if your tour takes place in December, January, July or August. Rates are in effect until April 30th, 2018.
Will other people be on my tour?
No. This is a private tour. You will only be travelling with the people you book with.
Can I make this tour shorter or longer?
Yes. You can shorten this tour to 8 days or extend it as long as you would like. Just let us know.
What’s the difference between value and luxury accommodation?
If you choose a Value Tour, you’ll be staying in a mix of comfortable Bungalow type accommodation and Eco Lodges. Your accommodation on a Luxury Tour includes a mix of 4-5 star hotels, Eco Lodges and a Tented Campsite with ensuite luxurious tents.
What if I want to change something on this tour?
No problem. Just let us know what you’d like to change when you book and we’ll happily make the change for you. Note: changes can only be made at the time of booking only.
How long does it take for you to confirm all my accommodation so that I can book my flights?
It usually takes us ~5 days. We know you’re excited about the trip and will do it as fast as we can.
I really want to interact with an elephant. Will I be riding or feeding elephants on this trip?
No. Riding elephants is an inhumane practice. We want to you observe elephants in their natural habitat, in a way that’s good for both you and the elephant.
As an alternative that is good for both you and the elephants, you will visit one of the most ethically run homes for elephants where injured and orphaned elephants are treated and released into the wild, unlike in orphanages. You’ll get an insight into how to care for wild animals in an ethical way.
A guest favourite is watching the elephant calves feed.
The goal is to minimise the harmful impact of human intervention and to ensure the elephants are able to integrate back into the wild as fast as possible. Therefore, no feeding or riding is permitted.
What are my chances of spotting a leopard in Yala?
Yala National Park has one of the highest densities of Leopards in the world. On an all-day safari, chances are pretty high that you’ll spot at least one. Note: we can’t guarantee that you’ll spot a leopard.
Why aren’t all the activities and entrance fees included in the price?
These prices are set by government authorities and may change at their discretion. In addition, some guests may decide to not take these excursions. We prefer that you only pay the actual cost rather than paying for something that you won’t use and increases the price of your trip.
Based on the above itinerary, how much should I budget for activities and entrance fees that aren’t included?
Approximately $160 to $200 USD on the above itinerary but it will vary depending on which optional extras you choose.
How many meals will I be paying for and how much should I budget for them?
Your Value Tour includes 10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 4 dinners. You’ll need to buy 8 lunches and 6 dinners.
Your Luxury Tour includes 10 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners. You’ll need to buy 8 lunches and 8 dinners.
$5-10 USD per person for breakfasts/snacks and
$10-20 per person for lunches/dinners
What type of food will I eating and what if I have a food allergy or preference, i.e. vegetarian or vegan?
Sri Lankan food is delicious. You will be eating quite a bit of local cuisine such as rice, curry and so much more etc but all hotels offer some non-local dishes. We can accommodate the following dietary needs; vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, less spicy food but need to know at the time of booking.
Will I be able to get a guide in my own language?
All guiding is in English.
Is water provided on the tour?
1 litre of water per person per day will be provided for use during transfers between locations in the vehicle. Water for excursions and for use in the rooms must be purchased by guests.
Is this tour suitable for children?
Yes! This tour is suitable for children ages six and over. We are happy to adapt this tour to make it even more child-friendly for your family. Note: We don’t recommend it for children under the age of six due to the amount of travelling involved.
I started Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel started off as a travel blog in 2010. To my surprise, it has grown to become one of the top adventure travel blogs.
After receiving multiple requests from readers asking for help in planning their adventures, I started offering adventure tours in 2016 by becoming a tour operator. I put my 20+ years of travel experience and connections to use in helping you plan your active holidays.
In addition, by booking your tour with Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel, you’re helping to do your part. We work with local tour companies that make a positive impact on the communities that you’ll be visiting. My partner for Sri Lanka is a small local company that’s passionate about showing travellers the best the country has to offer. They respect wildlife keeping a safe distance, unlike other guides that I’ve travelled with in Sri Lanka. This is truly important to me. I want you to have incredible wildlife sightings in a way that doesn’t interfere with the animal’s daily activities.
We’ve also partnered up with One Tree Planted and plant one tree in a deforested area in Asia for every tour sold.
The best customer service I’ve ever received from booking a trip! – Jim
There can be a lot of anxiety when booking a trip to an unknown destination; Will anyone speak English? How do I figure out all the logistics? Where’s the best place to see an elephant? How can I increase my chances of spotting a leopard?
Our goal is to make your custom tour of Sri Lanka one of your most memorable vacations ever.
By booking with us you’ll get:
Unlimited email support. Ask all the questions you need to
A real insight into the people, culture and food of Sri Lanka
Best places to observe elephants in a humane way
Access to a naturalist who will “EDU-tain” you with stories of wildlife behaviour
Confidence that we put wildlife first, we don’t harass animals as many other tour operators do