Cycle the Wild Northern Coast

10 Days, 9 Nights

Opening its doors after nearly three decades of civil war, northern Sri Lanka is thriving again. Discover its little-savoured sights, diverse culture, spicy cuisine and unexplored coastline on this 10-day cycling escapade. Peddle to Jaffna, take a dip with local worshipers in the sacred pool of Keerimalai, go snorkelling off Pigeon Island, but always be ready to em-brace the unexpected!

Trip Highlights

  • Cycle with unfettered views of white sand beaches and turquoise sea, past towering Hindu temples, women clad in vibrant saris, with the sound of Indian pop music wafting from the cafes
  • Walk back in time among the terraced gardens and 5th-century frescos of Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress
  • Go on safari among the willu and leopards of Wilpattu National Park
Price
$1890 USD per person
Trip Activities
Cycling
Trip Length
10 Days, 9 Nights
Physical Level
Enthusiast
Start/End
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Accommodation
Hotel (9 nights)
Age
Minimum 16 years of age
Meals not included
Lunch, Breakfast Day 1
Dinner Day 3
Lunch, Dinner Day 7
Lunch, Dinner Day 10
Flights Included
None

Day-by-day Itinerary

Expand All
Day 1
Arrive in Negombo
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 0.33
Description

Upon arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, we’ll pick you up and drive you just a few minutes to your hotel. Those arriving early are free to take the day to relax, maybe taking advantage of the hotel’s spa or lounging by the pool. Or, if you’re eager to start exploring, check out the old fish markets and golden beaches of Negombo, Sri Lanka’s fourth-largest city.

We’ll all meet for dinner and get to know each other over our first taste of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Meals
  • Dinner
Accommodation
Day 2
Cycle to Chilaw, Wilpattu and Mannar Island
Activities
  • Cycling: 80 km
Transfers
  • Van: 3
Description

Today after breakfast, we’ll saddle up for a 40-kilometer ride along the western coast to the city of Chilaw. But before we set off on the open road, we’ll warm up on a test ride through the streets of Negombo, riding from the hotel to the fish market. This will give us some nice insights into Negombo’s daily life, as well as the historic fishing industry here.

On our way to Chilaw we’ll ride on flat roads, passing the Dutch canal and numerous local industries, such as fishing villages, coconut plantations and tile factories. We might even stop to chat with toddy tappers along the way or watch salt workers at the vast salt fields of Puttalam.

From Chilaw, we’ll hop into a vehicle and rest our legs on the 1.5-hour drive to Eluwankulama. Once there, we’ll get back in the saddle and cycle another 40 kilometers towards Mannar Island. Our route over moderate roads and red dirt trails takes us through Wilpattu National Park—known for its resident leopard population—and several small villages, with opportunities to spot deer, monkeys and the Ceylon jungle fowl along the way.

After cycling 40 kilometers, we’ll meet our support vehicle, which will transfer us the rest of the way to Mannar Island, a coconut-tree-studded strip of sand just 30 kilometers from the shores of India. Long considered a hotbed of political activity in Sri Lanka’s recent civil war, Mannar has only begun to grow its tourism industry in recent years. You’re sure to feel the unhurried pace and encounter the wild donkeys that wander the streets.

We recommend sampling the Muslim influence on Sri Lankan food here with dishes like Biryani and Watalappam.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 3
Cycle to Jaffna
Activities
  • Cycling: 70 km
Transfers
  • Van: 1
Description

Today we ride to Jaffna, Sri Lanka’s hotbed of Hindu culture. Here, the food is spicier and the landscape is mostly flat and coastal. There are endless stretches of beach with no tourists, due in large part to the Sri Lankan Civil War. For decades, Jaffna was a stronghold of the Tamil Tigers and, together with much of the north, was closed off to international visitors. Now that the town has reopened, there’s a lot to explore. Of course, while we urge you to get to know this unexplored area, it’s important to stay sensitive to the region’s conflicted past.

After breakfast, we begin our 70-kilometer ride to Chunnavil, taking long, flat roads and enjoying the intermittent sea breeze. Palm trees and little villages dot the landscape. At Chunnavil, we’ll meet our support van and drive the rest of the way (1 hour) to Jaffna.

As we arrive in Sri Lanka’s 12th-largest city, the first thing that might strike you is its profoundly Indian influence, with towering Hindu temples, women clad in vibrant saris and Indian pop music wafting from shops and cafes.

After checking in to your hotel, the rest of the afternoon will be free to spend as you wish. For dinner, we recommend tasting traditional Tamil cuisine with a meal of dosa (a crispy rice pancake) and idli (a savoury steamed rice cake) served with curry and chutneys.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodation
Day 4
Jaffna
Activities
  • Cycling: 75 km
Transfers
  • Van: 1
Description

Today we journey by land and by sea to Nagadeepa, an island where Lord Buddha is said to have come to settle a dispute. Today, a 1,000-year old Buddhist temple on this remote island attests to the legend.

We’ll start our day with a 35-kilometer ride over flat but windy terrain to the jetty where we’ll catch our boat to Nagadeepa Island. A 20-minute boat ride across Palk Bay brings us to the sandbars of Nagadeepa. Visit Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya, an ancient temple that commemorates the visit of the Buddha, and take a leisurely stroll along the coast. Along the water, you’ll see a massive Bodhi tree—the species of tree that Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment.

We’ll return by boat and bike to Jaffna, riding roughly 40 kilometers past fishing villages, traditional houses and local travelers transporting their wares (think massive piles of coconuts teetering on a makeshift tractor). We’ll also see somber reminders of the conflict here as we pass buildings and signs battered by war.

In Jaffna, feel free to go off on your own explorations or join us for a walk through some of the most interesting sites in town. We’ll hit the main market, the library, and the moated fort built by the Portuguese in 1618. In the evening, we might drop in at Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, an ancient Hindu temple, to catch the evening poojah—a prayer ritual.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 5
Cycle to Point Pedro and Chundikulam
Activities
  • Cycling: 75 km
Transfers
  • Van: 0.66
Description

We’ll take it easy this morning and drive by private vehicle 40 minutes to Kankesanthurai, a harbor town on the northern Jaffna Peninsula. We’ll stop here to stretch our legs with a stroll along the unspoiled beaches at Thalsevana Hotel. The history of the hotel itself is also interesting: it was built during British colonial rule as a rest house for travelers. The Sri Lankan military took it over during the civil war, renovating it as a resort and opening it to the public after the war.

From here, we mount up and begin our coastal ride over sandy roads to Keerimalai hot springs, with ocean views along the way. When we arrive at the seaside Hindu temple of Nagulesawarm, you’ll find local pilgrims, worshippers, kids and vacationers taking a dip in the freshwater bathing pool of Keerimalai. Although this is a sacred spot, cannonballs, splashing and maximum enjoyment is encouraged. Don’t be shy, feel free to join in!

Next, we’ll continue to ride 65 kilometers to Chundikulam National Park. En route, we’ll stop at Point Pedro, the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. This old trading post is now a quiet agrarian town, with rocky beaches and nothing on the horizon but turquoise seas. You might find yourself imagining that you’re standing on the edge of the world.

Continue cycling the rest of the way to Chundikulam along desolate beaches, passing only the occasional fisherman, farmer or soldier. On this stretch of road, it’s just you, the beach and the coconut trees.

Upon arrival at Chundikulam National Park, we’ll check in to our hotel and take the rest of the evening to drink in the quiet of the surrounding wetlands.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Nature Park Holiday Chundikulam
Day 6
Cycle to Trincomalee via the Elephant Pass and Mullaitivu
Activities
  • Cycling: 80 km
Transfers
  • Van: 2.5
Description

After enjoying a breakfast surrounded by mangrove forests and wetlands, we’ll hop back in the saddle for our ride past the battlegrounds and former salt fields of Elephant Pass to the harbor town of Mullaitivu. After about 30 kilometers, we’ll connect to the A9 road and enjoy one of our journey’s most peaceful stretches.

At Mullaitivu, we’ll meet our support van and drive the rest of the way to Trincomalee (about 2.5 hours). Expect to see some spectacular ocean views, truly Sri Lankan farming villages and colorful scenes of fishing life

Although Trincomalee has a tragic past of war and conflict, this busy coastal town with deep Hindu roots is home to some near-perfect beaches, rock pigeon breeding grounds and, depending on the time of year, dolphin and whale watching. The local food is spicy, filling and plentiful. After checking in to your hotel, take the evening to explore some of the town’s sites or relax before dinner.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 7
Trincomalee
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van:
Description

Today is a free day for you to explore whatever you want in Trincomalee. See its teeming marine life on a snorkeling and boating trip, or discover its ancient spiritual practices on a tour of the town’s temples. It’s just a brief boat ride to Pigeon Island, where you can watch communities of rock pigeons do their thing, or you might opt to stay put on the mainland and see the Dutch fort or Thirokonesvaram Kovil, the oldest Hindu temple in Sri Lanka. Of course, there’s no shame in taking advantage of the white-sand beaches and spending a lazy day.

If you decide to rise early to see the sunrise on the beach, you might catch a firewalker deep in a trance or the rhythmic sounds of an early morning poojah. Who knows, anything seems possible in northern Sri Lanka.

Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
Day 8
Cycle to Sigiriya
Activities
  • Cycling: 65 km
Transfers
  • Van: 0.75
Description

This morning after breakfast we get back on our bicycles, leave the coast and begin our ride into Sri Lanka’s interior. Our route to Sigiriya will take us through dense forests, where you might see wild elephants, mongoose, peacocks and water monitor lizards.

After riding 65 kilometers, we’ll transfer the rest of the way to Sigiriya by van (roughly 45 minutes). After checking in to your hotel, join us for a walk back in time. We’ll head to the top of Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress—a massive, naturally occurring rock formation that served as a fortress in the 5th century. According to ancient Sri Lankan chronicles, King Kasyapa built his palace on top of the rock and erected a massive gateway in the shape of a lion. The fortified palace overlooked the capital that sprawled out below. Today at this UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll encounter the remains of an elaborate fortress complex decorated with terraced gardens and 5th-century frescos.

Tonight, you’re free to explore the town on your own, or you can join us on a street food crawl featuring some of Sri Lanka’s favorite “short eats.” Whether or not you come with us, we encourage you to go out and try a “hopper,” Sri Lanka’s delicious answer to the pancake.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 9
Cycle to Anuradhapura, Wilpattu Safari, Colombo
Activities
  • Cycling: 40 km
Transfers
  • Van: 7
Description

Today we take a walk on the wild side. We’ll start with a 40-kilometer ride over moderate roads—gravely in parts—through forests, small villages and rice paddies to Ritigala, our meet-up point for our support van. We’ll drive 1.5 hours to Anuradhapura where we’ll stop for a local lunch, then drive the rest of the way to Wilpattu National Park for a day out on safari.

You’ll remember Wilpattu from our ride on Day 2, but today we’ll take the time to explore this unique nature reserve where leopards, elephants, spotted deer, sloth bears and water buffalo roam.

In a Jeep, we’ll range over the park’s lowland terrain, which is famous for its many willu, or natural lakes that form purely from rainwater. Nearly 60 lakes are spread throughout the park’s 131,000 hectares; you’re sure to see the resident wildlife drinking from them.

After our safari, we’ll drive south to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka (about 4.5 hours). In this busy coastal capital, you’ll have the evening free to spend at your leisure.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 10
Departure
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

We’ll transfer you to the airport today and wish you a safe flight or onward journey.

Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
None

Trip Information

Expand All
Inclusions

One Guide through out the trip

An assistant guide for 11-15 cyclist, 2 assistant guides for 16+ cyclists

First aid supplies carried by each guide

A small set of bike tools carried by each guide

Air-conditioned support vehicle for transfer and to support rides

Main support vehicle will have spare parts

Bike, helmet, 1 biking water bottle per person

Plenty of water, snacks, and local fruits

Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

Entrance Fees

Accommodation as listed above

Exclusions

Visa arrangement

International and domestic flights

Meals other than mentioned above

Alcoholic drinks

Tips

Energy drinks or powders, performance bars, or performance gels (Gatoraid, Powerbars, Gue, Isostar, etc)

Personal Travel Insurance

Personal expenditure (Laundry, telephone)

Snorkeling Equipment rental