Sri Lanka Tour
Beyond the Tourist Trail

Sri Lanka Tour – Beyond the Tourist Trail – a 16 day Small Group Tour.

Sri Lanka’s landscape is awash with fabulous archaeological and natural wonders so that, whilst we do not entirely shun the iconic sites that so many enjoy here, we have sought out little-visited and fascinating corners of the island to offer you a unique combination of experiences and memories to cherish and regale.

On this Sri lanka tour you will travel through the central and southern regions of the country exploring areas that are not on the well-trodden tourist path, such as Ritigala archaeological complex engulfed by the jungle in scenes akin to the set of an India Jones adventure, and the fascinating rural villages around Dunagaha, introducing much-needed funds into local economies. Along the way, enjoy the stories and experiences of local characters from former tea planters to a snake naturalist!

For the wildlife elements, you will stay clear of the jeep-packed thoroughfares of Yala National Park and take peaceful alternatives away from the crowds.  This tour of Sri Lanka doesn’t insulate travellers in an all-inclusive international cocoon.

The island’s sometimes difficult past validates its reality. In fact, it is a key factor in the reasons for visiting now in a land where you may be assured of a warm welcome from the locals.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


(Driving time is approximately 40 minutes)

On arrival, meet our local team and transfer to a working coconut estate called Kotaliyadde Estate. Ambarella Lodge provides an ideal introduction into the Sri Lankan culture, spirited away from the main tourist hubbub of the coast. The rest of the day will be at your leisure where you can stroll in the lush gardens and explore the myriad types of spices around the estate. One of your hosts will happily join you to explain about the different varieties. Alternatively you can simply relax by the pool and unwind after your journey. Overnight Ambarella Lodge (D)

After breakfast you explore the local village with one of the community. You will also visit other villages in the area, travelling by Tuk-tuk with a local guide. On a stop at a pineapple farm, you will see a family making wonderful textiles using wooden looms and also a small brick factory. Enjoy the ride as a fascinating assortment of sights and sensations at awaits every turn along the rural back roads in this area, lending an authentic feel to local life.  Enjoy a simple but delectable lunch at a local house, before having some time at leisure in the afternoon to relax or further explore the estate. Overnight Ambarella Lodge (BLD)

Please Note – We are using genuine locals to experience the villages in this rural area ensuring a vital source of income to local people. We ask you to be patient as English proficiency is not always to a high level, but your tour guide will help with translation and understanding.   

(Driving time – approx. 4.5 hours)  

After breakfast, you will drive towards Habarana located at the heart of Sri Lanka’s celebrated cultural triangle. This afternoon you visit the off-the-beaten-track gem of Ritigala Archaeological Monastery; an extraordinary complex sequestered in the jungle and often over-looked by the regular tourist. After the visit, you return to Habarana for the overnight stay. Overnight The Other Corner or similar (BD)

(Driving time – 1 ½ hours)

This morning you arrive at Sigiriya Rock Fortress (UNESCO) early at around 7am, in the still relative cool of the day and in the soft light and this also beats the main throng of tourist crowds. Referred to by Sri Lankans as the 8th wonder of the world, this breathtakingly beautiful and dramatic site is a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. You will explore some of the interesting features in the lower sections of the site such as the Royal Gardens and the water gardens, set amidst a stunning wooded wilderness. On your ascent of the rock fortress, take time to linger at the wonderfully preserved frescoes, depicting buxom, wasp-waisted maidens bearing flowers. Enjoy the amazing 360 degree views from the top of Sigiriya. Time slips rapidly away in this incredible place and all too soon it will be time to descend. You take a well-earned rest at a close-by local restaurant in leafy Habarana to enjoy yet another delicious lunch that captures the very essence of village cuisine. Lakmal, proprietor of the establishment, takes particular pride in pleasing guests with his coconut sambol, best enjoyed with rice and bread. After lunch you press on to Hurulu and set out on a jeep safari aiming to see wild elephants in their natural habitat. After the safari, head back to the hotel. Overnight The Other Corner, or similar (BD).

Please notethe Lion Rock (Sigiriya) ascent takes approximately 1½ to 3 hours, depending on your preferred pace. There is no rock climbing involved, only stairs, but 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.

(Driving time – approx. 3 hours)

Today you proceed to Kandy, the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings, a pleasant city surrounded by lush green countryside. Upon arrival, you will take some time to wander around the idyllic lake and stroll its maze of copious old shops, bustling markets and great restaurants. Perhaps watch the colourful processions that make their noisy way down to the fascinating Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth (a UNESCO world heritage site), so called because it contains a sacred tooth belonging to Lord Buddha. Contrast the holy hush of the temple with the booming, energetic drums that accompany the elaborately costumed performers of a Kandyan dance show. Overnight Hotel Suisse, or similar (B)

This morning you will take a short drive from the centre of Kandy to a village where you embark on a walk connecting the fabled twin temples of Galdaladeniya and Lankathilake, gracefully hidden away amidst the hills of Kandy.  Stroll in amongst rice fields bordering small villages and enjoy the verdant countryside all he while observing locals tending to their gardens and rice fields. Periodically stopping along the way, discover an array of resplendent fruits, vegetables and spices that thrive in the climate.  The locals are extremely hospitable and will appreciate a wave and a smile as you pass. Towards the end of the walk, you will visit the house of C.G. Gunasoma, an 8th generation (and probably the last) descendant of a long line of professional optometrists who were bound to the service of the kings as far back as the 14th century. Gunasoma will demonstrate how quartz is made into a lens, raising the profile of and helping to secure a future for a little known but invaluable part of Sri Lankan Heritage that our local team are fighting to preserve.  Overnight Hotel Suisse, or similar (BL)

Please Note: For this walk, ensure you take plenty of water, sunhat and sunscreens as well as insect repellent. Please also take a take a Sarong or a shawl to cover yourself when you visit the temples.

(Driving time approx. 3 hours and Approx. 3 hour local train journey)

After an early breakfast, snake into the lush hills of the tea country towards the often mist-shrouded hill station of Nuwara Eliya. Take a short walk around the town in the cooler air at 1868m above sea level. Next, continue to nearby Nanu Oya and experience a magical train journey through Sri Lanka’s luxuriant hills. Sit back and relax, enjoying splendid views of tea plantations in the foreground and emerald mountains beyond. The journey leads you through a multitude of tunnels and across dramatic bridges, punctuated by stops at small village halts where one can gain an insight into the hustle and bustle of local life.  At Haputale Railway Station, disembark and transfer to the overnight accommodation. Overnight at Melheim Resort, Haputale – No Air Conditioning (BD).

Please Note: Seats on the train can be confirmed only 21 days prior to the date of travel. Seats from any particular class compartment cannot be guaranteed and will be subject to availability. We reserve the right to change the route of the train journey based on availability.

(Driving time – 1 hour)

Today is devoted to the Sri Lankan religion that is tea! You will meet Salinda Madugalle, a retired and passionate Tea Planter who will be sharing his intriguing stories about the time-honoured tale of tea. Salinda began his planter’s career as long ago as in 1977, carrying with him a huge amount of experience in the tea fields as a planter for over 30 years and also developing experience as a consultant at sundry tea estates in the hill country. Now retired, yet with the desire for keeping his planting memories alive, Salinda will take you on a delightful trip down his own memory lane offering an insight into his life as a tea planter, regaling you with compelling details as to how tea estates have slowly evolved. With Salinda, stroll the serpentine trails amongst the bountiful tea bushes and perhaps meet some of the groups of local Tamil women plucking tea-leaves. As you will learn, conditions have improved considerably for workers since the brutality of 19th century labour experiences, but it is still amply evident that this is a particularly tough job. Salinda’s Tamil is very fluent, following his extensive experience amongst the estate workers, so you may be able to strike up engaging conversations with the locals about their occupations and the tea itself. Later, enjoy an absorbing tea tasting experience, examining the characteristics, idiosyncrasies and qualities of different tea varieties which will far surpass anything you have hitherto enjoyed at home.  Overnight at Melheim Resort, Haputale, or similar. No air conditioning. (BD)

(Driving time – approx. 3 hours)

After a relaxed breakfast, you will depart the hill country and begin your descent towards Udawalawe, the territorial heartland of wild elephants. En route, you visit the secluded archaeological site of Buduruwagala (literally ‘the rock with the Buddha statues’), definitely not on the standard tourist itinerary. It is a very quiet site and a perfect place to stretch the legs amongst a wonderful fusion of history and nature. On arrival at Udawalawe the rest of the day is at leisure to relax by the pool. Overnight Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort or similar (BD)

This morning, there is an optional visit of the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home which is another interesting project tending to injured/orphaned Elephant calves to don the skills to survive in the wild.  Although the visitors are not permitted to be up-close and personal with the elephants, the feeding times of baby elephants scheduled four times daily (9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm and 6 pm) provide wonderful opportunities to observe them and can be a very pleasurable experience. The Transit Home tends to attract a heavy footfall of tourists, so you may prefer to spend your morning at leisure.  Later, under soft afternoon light, embark on a wonderful safari at Udawalawe National Park where you should hope to enjoy some excellent elephant sightings. Overnight Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort, or similar (BD)

(Driving time – approx. 3 hours)

This morning you travel to Yala National Park, internationally acclaimed as the jewel in Sri Lanka’s wildlife viewing crown. After checking in at the hotel, embark on a mesmerising afternoon safari in the little visited Block 5 (subject to local permission). The more popular areas of Yala National Park are generally packed full of vehicles, so instead you will delve deeper into the park to Block 5 which is rarely frequented by tourist jeeps. It has a slightly lower density of leopards than the more popular areas of the park (though the designer of this tour did however spot one!), but the scenery is alluring and the anticipation of what, amongst a myriad of possibilities, may be around the corner is nothing short of thrilling.  Overnight Big Game Camp or similar – Not air conditioned (BD)


(Driving time – approx. 4 hours)

Starting early, you follow the palm-lined roads of the tropical south coast.  After checking in to your hotel in Ahangama, you will spend the afternoon exploring nearby historic Galle, wandering the back streets and the crumbling ramparts of the Old Dutch fort.  You can even enjoy some thambili from a local vendor or savour some crispy vaddais. After the visit of Galle Fort you return to the hotel. Overnight Garton’s Cape, or similar (BD)

The morning opens by enjoying a unique visit to a snake expert’s house, set close-by the entrance to Kanneliya Forest. Vishan is a knowledgeable naturalist who has made a career of collecting reptiles from the residences and gardens of locals, checking on their welfare and then releasing them back into their natural rainforest habitat. His experiences and wealth of expertise make for fascinating conversations which will educate you on these beautiful and inscrutable creatures. Once you have shared your traditional cup of local tea, you will be escorted into the heart of the incredible rainforest by Upal, a local guide and tracker, who knows the area intimately. Amazingly, this is one of conservation’s true triumphs, being reclaimed in the 1970s from logging and severe habitat loss. Keep your eyes peeled for spotting many of the exquisite endemic birds, snakes and lizards as you make your way along its dappled forest paths, whilst Upal instructs you on the amazing diversity of flora and fauna that makes calls this home. After you have visited a small cave where a huge colony of innumerable bats roost, relax by an idyllic waterfall where a clearing comes alive with a kaleidoscope of colourful dragonflies and butterflies. The excursion culminates in a delicious rice and curry spread, prepared by Upul’s wife, served on the banks of the nearby Nannikitha River, a lovely spot for an optional swim. Later, return to the hotel at Ahangama. Overnight at Garton’s Cape or similar (BLD)

Today is spent at leisure for you to independently enjoy the languidly beautiful tropical south coast: you might explore the local small town by tuk-tuk, head out to view nearby Koggala Lagoon’s islets and bountiful birdlife, see the turtle conservation work being accomplished there, or simply enjoy its low-key white beaches and surfing opportunities. Overnight at Garton’s Cape, or similar (B)

(Driving time – approx. 3 hours)

This morning you drive to Colombo. After checking in at the hotel and having some time to relax, in the afternoon you will meet a local guide who will help you explore behind the scenes of Colombo. Travelling in Tuk-tuks you first visit a street food joint at the Galle Face Green and enjoy the taste of Kottu Rotti, an everyday Sri Lankan meal not to be missed and always best enjoyed on the street. Then it’s time to experience the evening market at Pettah, observing the local vendors who throng to its buzzing hub from sundry corners of Sri Lanka to sell their vast array of goods. Perhaps sample some of the seasonal fruits on offer. You will also tread the bustling back-streets of Slave Island, again immersing yourself amongst the locals going about their daily rituals. Overnight at Lake Lodge, or similar (BD)

(Driving time – approx. 1 hour) 

Transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your onward flight (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 2 travellers.

Single Supplement from £775.

Return flights from London to Colombo start from around £450 but there are many seasonal variations. Please contact us for a quotation.

Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.

Please contact us for additional extensions anywhere in Sri Lanka or a private/tailormade tour in Sri Lanka.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All accommodation
  • Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Tips (Discretionary)

We enjoyed this trip with wonderful wildlife experiences in a number of wildlife parks, island life in the Jaffna area, whale watching, the beaches of the East coast, and the contrast of the North of Sri Lanka. The hotels are varied and each offer something different Cocktails on the roof overlooking Jaffna City followed by crab curry anyone?


Yvonne Lockett, UK