Treasure Island:

Ancient Temples & Wildlife Encounters in Sri Lanka


From Sigiriya’s ancient fortress to white-water river rafting, here’s where to go in Sri Lanka

A vast array of authentic experiences are included within this 12-day trip in Sri Lanka. Elephant and leopard spotting in Minneriya and Yala National Parks plus whale-watching from Kosgoda are superb tour highlights for wildlife lovers and avid photographers alike. You’ll also ascend the ancient fortress in Sigiriya, join a Sri Lankan cooking class, ride white-water rapids on a river rafting excursion and take a scenic train journey to Haputale – plus so much more! Now do you feel inspired?

Why you’ll love this trip

  • Discover past and present Colombo with a guided tour
  • Visit a rural village school to learn about Sri Lankan education
  • Climb the 1,144ft (349m) ancient fortress at Sigiriya
  • Tuck into lunch overlooking paddy fields and a private spice garden
  • Whip up a feast at a hands-on Sri Lankan cooking class
  • Plunge down white-water rapids on a river rafting trip
  • Experience the beautiful train journey from Nanuoya to Haputale
  • Explore two national parks, home to wild elephants and leopards
  • Maximum group size of 14
  • Ultimate Covid Booking Guarantee 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo for a cocktail & guided walk

After dropping your bag at your hotel, head to the rooftop where you’ll be served a passion-fruit arrack cocktail. You’ll meet your fellow at 5:30 here and be greeted by the tours ‘Local Insider’ who will be with you throughout your trip.

Afterwards the group will head out on a stroll through the capital followed by a drink in one or several of Colombo’s dodgy bars – these no-frills joints area Colombo institution and full of local charm.

A traditional Sri Lankan dinner will follow at a local restaurant with the group.

Accommodation: Jetwing Colombo Seven

Activities Included: Colombo City Tour, Dodgy bar experience & Welcome Dinner

Day 2: Unwind with a swim in Dambulla

Today you’ll travel to Dambulla – one of the vertices of the Cultural Triangle and home to the best-preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka, built more than 2,000 years ago.  Here, you’ll check into a secluded boutique villa surrounded by tropical gardens. Take a dip in the pool or opt for a wild swim in the river.

Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure before a jam-packed day of temple visiting tomorrow.

Accommodation: Arika Villa

Day 3: Cycle around Polonnaruwa and spot elephants in Minneriya National Park

After breakfast you’ll head to a local village school to see first-hand how children learn in Sri Lanka. Next, you’ll be whisked off to the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa. Cycle or drive to see the incredible carved temples and Buddhas. It’s the perfect way to work up an appetite for a farmer’s lunch of rice and curry overlooking paddy fields. After lunch it’s time to head out on a 4×4 game drive in Minneriya National Park. This unspoilt wilderness offers one of the best chances in the world to see herds of wild elephants.

Accommodation: Arika Villa

Activities Included: Rural school visit, cycling tour of Polonnaruwa Archaeological Site & game drive at Minneriya National Park

Day4: Climb Sigiriya rock fortress & tour a private spice garden

Few attractions earn the title “wondrous” quite like Sigiriya, so you’ll need to start early to beat the crowds.

Climb the winding steps up the 349m rock face to reach the fifth-century fortress; there will be refreshing cold towels and fruit for you after your exertions.

Next, to the cultural capital of Kandy, stopping off for a private spice plantation tour and lunch. Once in the city, you’ll check into an upscale Kandy hotel surrounded by the Hanthana mountain range.

Accommodation: Fox Kandy

Activities included: Sigiriya Fortress entry & private spice garden visit

Day 5: Whip up a feast in Kandy

Following a hearty breakfast, you’ll meet a local host. Hop in a tuk-tuk to the village market, where the host will talk you through the local produce, before heading into the kitchen for a hands-on Sri Lankan cooking lesson – pay attention as you get to tuck into your creation for lunch.

In the afternoon, unwind back at the resort, or join an optional visit to a dancing school in Lankathilake. This evening is free for you to grab your own dinner from the hotel or in Kandy itself.

Accommodation: Fox Kandy

Activities included: private cooking lesson & private dance lesson

Day 6: Paddle down white-water rapids in Kitulgala

You’ll be checking out after breakfast, before a scenic drive through forest-clad hills to Kitulgala. Enjoy lunch in this rural setting; you’ll then embark on a white-water rafting adventure along the Kelani River. You’ll be led through seven high-quality class II and III rapids. Exhilarating descents are punctuated by calm stretches of water, perfect for soaking in the tropical surroundings. Dry off back at the hotel.

Accommodation: Borderlands Eco Lodge

Acitvities included: White-water rafting

Day 7: Abseiling in Sandun Ella and scenic train journey to Haputale

The adventure continues today as you grab a packed breakfast and hit the trail early in your hiking boots. You’ll arrive at the Sandun Ella waterfall where you’ll don safety gear and abseil down the 300ft (91m) drop. The afternoon is more serene: you’ll board a train at Nanuoya railway station and settle into the slow, undulating rhythm through the hill-country tea plantations to Haputale. It’s guaranteed to be a memorable journey. Check into the hotel for a relaxing dinner and an early night.

Accommodation: Melheim Resort and Spa

Activities included: Abseiling at Sandun Ella & scenic train journey

Day 8: Tour a tea estate and hike around Ella

Start your day with a visit to the Uva Halpewatte tea factory, where you’ll learn all about Ceylon tea while touring a nearby estate. Then it’s onwards to charming Ella. As an optional activity, you can head to a local restaurant where you’ll learn how to prepare koththu for lunch – a local dish of shredded flatbread mixed with meat, vegetables and egg. There will be free time to explore Ella itself before you take in the sights of Little Adam’s Peak and the Nine Arch Bridge on a guided hike. Dinner will be served back at the hotel.

Accommodation: Melheim Resort and Spa

Activities included: Tea factory visit with tasting & guided hike around Ella

Optional activities: Koththu cooking experience and lunch

Day 9: Explore Tissa and admire rock Buddhas at Buduruwagala

After breakfast in the evergreen hills, you’ll travel south to the lakeside town of Tissa, on the edge of Yala National Park. On the way, you’ll stop at two towering waterfalls – a perfect photo opportunity. Beyond them, you can marvel at the 1,000-year-old, rock-carved Buddhas at Buduruwagala – the tallest Buddhas on the island are here. Spend the remainder of the day by the hotel pool – and make sure you get an early night.

Accommodation: Chaarya Resort and Spa

Activities included: Buduruwagala Temple visit

Day 10: Spot wildlife in Yala National Park

You’ll depart the hotel at 5am sharp to arrive at the Yala National Park gates as they open. With one of the highest densities of leopards in the world – and plenty of elephants, monkeys and crocodiles – Yala will make for lasting memories. To reduce the impact on the wildlife and the environment, you’ll visit a less touristy part of the park for a game drive. Next up: the historic city of Galle. Wander the alleyways, brimming with colonial mansions, temples, restaurants and boutiques, and visit Galle Fort, built in the 1600s by the Dutch, before travelling up the coast to Kosgoda.

Accommodation: The Habitat

Included activities: Game drive at Yala National Park & Galle Fort visit

Day 11: Optional whale-watching tour from Kosgoda, plus farewell beach feast

Take advantage of a lie-in this morning. We can help you book a whale-watching tour, although a day spent between the pool and the peaceful, palm-fringed beach will also make an excellent finale to your trip. There’s also an on-site spa if you fancy one last indulgence. Come nightfall, it’s time for a celebratory farewell dinner on the beach, followed by a DJ set – get ready to dance till dawn.

Accommodation: The Habitat

Activities included: Farewell dinner

Optional Activities: whale-watching tour in Mirissa

Day 12: Depart from Kosgoda

After breakfast, it’s time to pack your bags and say goodbye to your fellow travellers. Checkout is by 12pm. You can either extend your stay on the beach in Kosgoda or return to Colombo (transfers can be booked separately) to catch your flight home.


  • 11 nights twin-share accommodation
  • Private and local transport
  • 11 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 10 dinners
  • Local Insider
  • Colombo city tour
  • Dodgy bar experience
  • Rural school visit
  • Cycling tour of Polonnaruwa Archaeological Site
  • Game drive at Minneriya National Park and Yala National Park
  • Galle Fort and Sigiriya Fortress entry
  • Private spice garden visit
  • Private cooking lesson
  • White-water rafting
  • Abseiling at Sandun Ella
  • Scenic train journey
  • Tea factory visit and tasting
  • Guided hike around Ella
  • Buduruwagala Temple visit


Further info

This incredible 12 day tour departs on the 9th May 2022, prices start at £1,489 per person and is curated, and operated by one of our specialist travel partners Culture Trip.

To be contacted by one of TRIPS by Culture Trip’s destination experts about this tour and similar ones they have carefully curated, please enquire below.

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