Family Adventure By Rail, Road and Raft

10 Days, 9 Nights

In Sri Lanka, colourful fish markets clamour on the shore, temple ruins stand tall against the march of time and elephants roam freely in the jungles. On this family trip through this lesser-visited South Asian is-land, you’ll travel by raft, bicycle and train as you go on safari, trek to the top of the temple ruins of Sigiriya, and discover the legendary tea fields of former Ceylon alongside much, much more!

Trip Highlights

  • See wild elephants, buffalo, leopards and monkeys on safari in Uda Walawe National Park
  • Cycle through the ruins, temples and massive granite Buddha icons of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa
  • Master the white-water rapids of Kelani River in Kitulgala, where you’ll float past jungles and expansive tea plantation landscapes
Price
$1900 USD adult /
$1700 USD under 12
Trip Activities
Cycling, trekking, rafting
Trip Length
10 Days, 9 Nights
Physical Level
Enthusiast
Start/End
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Accommodation
Hotel (9 nights)
Age
Minimum 12 years of age
Meals not included
Lunch, Breakfast Day 1
Dinner Day 10
Flights Included
None

Day-by-day Itinerary

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

We’ll meet you and your family at Bandaranaike International Airport and bring you to your hotel. Your first day in Sri Lanka is free for you to relax or explore however you wish. Maybe you’ll want to lounge on golden beaches or take a walk through Sri Lanka’s fourth-largest city. Negombo has a network of little canals that you can stroll along for a peep at daily rural life. Boat rides are also a fun option—you can catch the sunset over Negombo Lagoon onboard a local boat.

Meals
  • Dinner
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Day 2
Negombo, Dambulla
Activities
  • Cycling: 10 km
Transfers
  • Van: 3.5
Description

Today we’ll rise early and hop on our bicycles for a ride to Negombo’s historical fish market. At the market, sift through sheets of drying fish and weave through vendors’ stalls piled high with fresh-caught squid, shark, barracuda and countless other types of sea creatures.

Back at the hotel, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and some time to relax. Then join us on the beach for a hands-on Sri Lankan cooking class. With a master chef instructing, your family will learn about the traditional spices and ingredients used in Sri Lankan cuisine as you follow along step-by-step to whip up your own Sri Lankan lunch.

Next, we’ll check out of the hotel and venture into Sri Lanka’s forested interior on a scenic, 3.5-hour drive to Dambulla, the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 3
Dambulla, Sigiriya, Minneriya, Dambulla
Activities
  • Trekking: 1.5 hours
Transfers
  • Van: 0.5
Description

Today you’ll want to put your walking shoes on because we’ll have a full day of exploring temples and rambling over ancient ruins. After breakfast, we head first to Sigiriya to climb to the top of the Lion Rock Fortress—a massive, naturally occurring rock formation that served as a fortress in the 5th century. We’ll use a series of steps and walkways that zigzag their way up the rock wall.

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. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll get to explore the remains of the elaborate fortress complex, strolling along its moat and water gardens, climbing its terraces and stopping to study the 5th-century frescos. After descending, try a thambili (king coconut) juice to rehydrate.

In the evening, we’ll see Sri Lanka’s wild side on a safari in Minneriya National Park. The expansive park is a feeding ground for the wild elephants that live in the surrounding forest. With the help of a park ranger, you’ll have lots of chances to spot and photograph these giant animals as they gather in the cool of the evening. The park is also an important habitat for many monkey species, as well as the sambar deer and large water birds, such as storks and pelicans. On safari, you’ll drive through the Habarana jungle, which is where Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom was filmed.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 4
Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Kandy
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 4.5
Description

After breakfast, we’ll drive one hour to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s medieval capital. Here we’ll explore the ruins of a city that saw its heyday in the 12th century. Hop on bicycles and ride on flat roads to ancient statues, stairways and columns. The main sites are the circular Vatadage reliquary (fun fact: it is believed to have held a tooth of the Buddha), the Lankathilaka Image House, the Thuparama Image House, the moss-covered edifice of the Royal Palace, the dome-like stupa of Rankoth Vihara and the four massive statues of Buddha cut directly into granite rock faces at the temple of Gal Vihara.

Afterwards, we’ll continue on to Kandy, a small lakeside town known as Sri Lanka’s “hill capital.” Kandy is considered one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful towns. (Another fun fact: it’s Sri Lanka’s most-visited town after Colombo). On our 3.5-hour drive to Kandy, we’ll stop at the Matale Spice Garden, where you can gain a little insight about Sri Lanka’s spices, which were coveted commodities during the Spice Trade. You’ll sniff cardamom, clove and cinnamon, and perhaps even get a taste of raw chocolate and vanilla.

Once we arrive in Kandy, we’ll check into the hotel and chill out after an active day.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 5
Kandy, Kitulgala, Kandy
Activities
  • Rafting: 1.5 hours
Transfers
  • Van: 4
Description

This morning, rise early and have breakfast at the hotel. We’ll get an early start for our white water rafting excursion in Kitulgala, one of the prettiest regions of Sri Lanka, as well as one of the wettest. The Kelani River, which winds through Kitulgala, combines calm sections with exciting runs strewn with boulders. After mastering the rapids, you’ll float through landscapes of jungle-covered mountains and coffee and tea plantations of the Kandyan highlands.

Afterwards, we’ll transfer back to Kandy to visit Sri Dalada Maligawa, the ‘Temple of the Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses a tooth of the Buddha himself. This is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the world for Buddhists.

Next, we’ll visit a batik manufacturer, where a skilled artisan will teach you how to make your very own batik design. And better still? You can take your hand-made batik home as a souvenir.

This evening if you’re up for it, take the opportunity to see a performance of traditional Sri Lankan dance and—prepare yourself—fire walking!

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 6
Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 4.5
Description

Today after breakfast we’ll head to the tea-producing hill country of Nuwara Eliya, where we’ll embark on a train journey through vast carpets of tea plantations covering the hilly slopes. On the way, we’ll visit a strawberry farm to taste the local fruit and stop at Ramboda Falls, a multi-tiered cascade that drops 109 meters down a jungle-covered cliff face.

Nuwara Eliya is where we’ll catch our train bound for to Bandarawela. You’ll journey through thick forests and lush tea estates, crossing gullies via railroad on one of the most scenic routes through Sri Lanka.

You’ll arrive in the town of Bandarawela, where many of the structures—such as the red telephone boxes, little country bungalows and the Bandareawela Hotel—still retain its colonial-era history. Life is simple here; many families tend their gardens, herd their cattle and find employment at the surrounding tea plantations that form the region’s main industry. If you wish, take a walk through town and enjoy its “lost in time” feel.

In the afternoon we’ll drive to the Dambatenne Tea Factory, where we’ll change vehicles and drive through lush tea plantations to the viewpoint called ‘Lipton’s Seat’. This is the lookout that the Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton often used to survey his flourishing tea empire below. The views are some of the best in the region, with rolling hills of plantations and montane forests making a verdant horizon. We’ll have a picnic lunch and hike back down to our vehicle (approximately a one-hour walk).

If you’d like, your chauffer can show you a spot to do some tea picking as well.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 7
Bandarawela
Activities
  • Trekking: 1.5 hours
Transfers
None
Description

Rise early this morning for a trek through the verdant tea plantations and learn about the process of tea cultivation from the crop to the cup. Along the way, take the chance to meet the local children and tea pickers.

After our trek, we’ll switch gears and learn about local village culture through an immersive cooking class. Assisted by local villagers dressed in traditional garb, you’ll hand-pick your own vegetables from the garden and learn how to cook traditional, regional dishes. Afterwards, sit down to lunch and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll want to make sure you get your fill so you’re properly fueled for this evening’s cricket match!

In the evening, we’ll visit the local cricket pitch, where Bandarawela’s children love to play. Feel free to join in on a game or play your own match. This is usually an unforgettable highlight of the trip for kids! When you’ve played all you can, spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 8
Bandarawela, Uda Walawe
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 2.5
Description

Today we ‘go wild’ again. In the morning, we’ll travel south to visit one of Sri Lanka’s tallest waterfalls, the Diyaluma, and then we’re off on safari at Uda Walawe National Park. Because this is Sri Lanka’s best place to see wild elephants, you’re sure to spot some pachyderm herds along with several species of deer, wild boar, wild buffalo and jackal. If you’re very lucky you may also catch glimpses of macaque, larger monkeys, crocodiles and the elusive leopard. This is nothing like a zoo or safari park; Uda Walawe has been a protected reserve since 1972 and wild animals thrive here in their natural habitat. Get ready for some squeals of excitement as your kids get their first sighting of a crocodile or wild boar!

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 9
Udawalawa, Galle, Mirissa
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 3.5
Description

This morning, we’ll get a closer look at baby elephants at the Elephant Transit Home, an initiative of the Born Free Foundation. The Transit Home cares for and rehabilitates young elephants that are injured or orphaned in the wild, ensuring a safe place in a natural setting for the elephants become strong again. Once the elephants are ready to survive on their own in the wild, they are radio collared and released into Uda Walawe in small groups.

We’ll visit the Elephant Transit Home at feeding time and watch the elephants from a viewing deck approximately 10 meters away. It’s a great chance to learn more about Sri Lanka’s national animal.

Once feeding is over, continue by vehicle to Bentota, a coastal town packed with ancient legend and colonial history. Along the way, we’ll check out the Old Dutch Fort, also known as Galle Fort, which is renowned as the best-preserved sea fort in South Asia. Overlooking the Bay of Galle, the stone walls of this fortified city were erected in 1588 by the Portuguese. Then, it changed hands to the Dutch, who renovated and improved it throughout the 17th century, initially beginning in 1649. Today, the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka does an incredible job keeping up this World Heritage Site and living piece of history. Sprawling over a 36-hectare peninsula, the fortress town is bound to surprise you with its unique shops, museums and colonial villas as you ramble through its atmospheric streets and over its seawalls.

Next we’ll switch gears and make a stop at the Galle International Cricket Stadium for a taste of the sporting life in Sri Lanka.

In the afternoon, arrive in Mirissa and check in to your hotel. Feel free to enjoy the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, learning to surf, or trying the other water sports.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 10
Mirissa
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 3
Description

The last day of your Sri Lanka exploration is free to do what you wish. Maybe you’d like to comb through the markets of this coastal fishing town on an epic family hunt for the best tuna and snapper. Or, if you’re ready for a little relaxation, feel free soak in the sun by the pool or on the beach. We will say, however, that Mirissa is a known destination for sighting blue whales and dolphins. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of these sea mammals, we’ll arrange snorkeling or whale watching excursions for you.

In the late afternoon, we’ll transfer you to Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo and wish you a safe return journey.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodation
None