Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer


Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Itinerary

Day 1 – Negombo

On arrival transfer to your hotel on the coast at Negombo just north of Colombo and closely situated to the airport. Overnight Hotel Paradise Beach Hotel or similar.  

Day 2 – Negombo – Wilpattu National Park – Driving time approximately 2.5 hours

For those who like to rise early it is possible to visit the busy fish market which is central to local life in Negombo. Enjoy a morning boat trip on the Negombo lagoon where we can observe many coastal birds and enjoy the vibrant colours of the Negombo fishing fleet. We depart Negombo late morning and journey north to Wilpattu National Park. Compared to parks in the south of the country, Wilpattu receives relatively few visitors which ensures a more enjoyable and less hectic safari experience. After lunch on the outskirts of the park we take an afternoon safari in this wilderness area where if we are lucky we may be able to spot Leopard, Elephant, Sloth Bear and many other species as well as many different bird species. Overnight Big Game Park Wilpattu (non-air-conditioned tent) or similar (BLD) 

Day 3 – Wilpattu National Park

Enjoy a morning safari at Wilpattu National Park. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight Big Game Park Wilpattu (non-air-conditioned tent) or similar (BLD)

Day 4 – Wilpattu – Anuradhapura – Mannar – Driving time today approximately 5 hours

Today we take the short journey to explore some of the main sites of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. We visit the sacred Bo Tree, which is the world's oldest tree on record, and has been guarded by monks for over 2000 years. We stop for a late picnic lunch in a beautiful setting where you will enjoy local food served on lotus leaves cooked by a local family. Later we travel back to the West coast and the isolated Mannar Island. On arrival in the town of Mannar we will explore the town and the ruined fort and its ramparts which afford good views of the town and the causeway that connects Mannar Island to the mainland. Overnight Palmyrah House or similar (BLD) 

Day 5 – Mannar Island – Jaffna – Driving time today approximately 4 hours

Early this morning we journey to the end of Mannar Island and the small village of Talaimannar. Ferries once departed to India from here but now the village has a slightly eerie feel to it and it is a base for the Sri Lankan Navy. From the railway station you can walk the recently restored railway line right to the sea where the lighthouse marks the end of Mannar Island. After exploring Mannar Island we continue north to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna or similar (BLD) 

Day 6 – Island exploring

Off limits for years due to the civil war the islands off the Jaffna peninsula are rewarding places to cruise to and visit. Today we will visit the island of Delft where wild ponies roam the landscape and the coastline is blessed with beautiful waters and white sand beaches. Our tour of the island will also take us to an abandoned Dutch fort and a 1000 year old temple. Although around 6000 people live on Delft Island this windswept island feels largely deserted. Enjoy lunch today with a local family where you can learn how to cook traditional Sri Lankan food.   We visit Nagadipa Island where we visit the Hindu and Buddhist temples. Later we return to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna or similar (BLD) 

Day 7 – Jaffna and the peninsular

We spend the day exploring Jaffna and the peninsular. Visits include the Public Library which holds deep symbolism to local Tamil people, Jaffna Fort, Point Pedro which was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami, the Kantarodai ruins and finishing with sunset at the fabulous Fort Hammenheil where we have to take a short 5 minute boat ride to the fort itself and where after taking a look at the cells and history of the place we will enjoy sunset drinks in a spectacular location on top of the fort before returning to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna Hotel or similar (BLD)

Please note that the visit to Fort Hammenheil is subject to Sri Lankan Navy approval and cannot be guaranteed in advance. Our local team will do their best to secure a visit.

Day 8 – Jaffna

Today is at leisure to explore Jaffa town and observe Tamil culture. You may wish to take a morning stroll in Jaffna market which is situated close to the hotel. There are other excursions which can also be booked locally at the hotel if you wish to keep busy. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 9 – Jaffna - Trincomalee via Mullataivu – Journey time approximately 4 hours

Today we leave Jaffna and head south on the A9 via the Elephant Pass where we will stop to view the war memorial. We continue south through Killinochi the former administrative centre of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) where we see another remnant of the war, this time the destroyed water tank lying on the side of the A9. We then take a road to the east coast to the town of Mullataivu, significant as the place where the devastating civil war came to a bloody conclusion and the LTTE were defeated. We visit the harrowing war museum and then continue down the east coast to Trincomalee. Overnight Pigeon Island Resort or similar (BLD) 

Day 10 – Trincomalee

This morning we explore Trincomalee including the market, Koneswaram Temple which is also the site of the famous lovers leap and receive the blessings of a Hindu priest, the ‘Kanniya’ hot water springs and the Commonwealth war cemetery. We head back to the hotel around lunchtime and this afternoon you can choose between a snorkelling trip to nearby Pigeon Island (pay locally at the hotel) in the clear turquoise waters or a whale and dolphin watching trip off the coast (April – August). Or alternatively take some time to relax at the hotel or on the beach. The Blue Whale, the largest species on the planet can sometimes be seen off this coastline. Overnight Pigeon Island Resort or similar (BLD)

Day 11 – Trincomalee - Polonnaruwa – Sigiriya – Driving time today approximately 4 hours

This morning we explore the former medieval capital or Sri Lanka at Polonnaruwa with its well preserved sites of religious and archaeological importance before transferring to Sigiriya. Overnight Kassapa Lion Rock or similar (BLD) 

Day 12 - Sigiriya Rock UNESCO and Minneriya National Park – Driving time today approximately 2 hours

This morning we arrive at Sigiriya Rock (UNESCO) early, in the still relative cool of the day. We explore some of the interesting features in the lower sections of the site such as the Royal Gardens and the water gardens. We then visit the remarkably preserved frescoes situated about half way up the rock before the final staircase climb to the top of the rock where the reward is breathtaking views for miles in every direction. Once we have descended we visit a local village and take part in cooking some traditional Sri Lankan dishes before eating the fruits of your labour! Later this afternoon we take a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park where sightings of dozens of elephants are common. Overnight Kassapa Lion Rock or similar (BLD)

Please note that the ascent of Sigiriya and visiting the frescoes should not be undertaken by people with joint problems, breathing difficulties, heart problems or vertigo. The top of the rock is exposed so wearing a hat is advisable. The lower sections of the site still hold a great deal of interest from a historical perspective and the museum is excellent.  

Day 13 – Colombo - Driving time today approximately 4 hours

After some leisure time this morning we shall take the journey back to Colombo (approx 4 hours). On arrival in Colombo we check in to the hotel. Overnight at Galle Face Hotel or similar. (B) 

Day 14 – Colombo

This morning is the chance for some leisure time before taking a city tour of Colombo. The largest city and former administrative capital of Sri Lanka, it is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and remnants of a bygone colonial era. We will visit some of the historical, religious and commercial sites of Colombo including the bustling Fort and Pettah market for a real authentic flavour of Sri Lanka, the Galle face Green and a church where Dutch tombstones constitute the floor panels. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner at an excellent local restaurant. Overnight Galle Face Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 15 – Depart Colombo

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)