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Sri Lanka safari with visits to ancient cities, the beautiful hill country and Yala

15 days from £3090*

Sri Lanka safari Yala national park leopard walking in the open

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​Sri Lanka safari with a relaxed and detailed tour of the famous cultural triangle; starting with a visit to the ancient citadel of Anuradhapura (a World Heritage Site), then onto the Buddhist relics at nearby Mihintale and Buddha sculpture at Aukana. You will then visit Polonnaruwa and Dambulla, before moving onto many peoples favourite ancient site in Sri Lanka; the magnificent rock fortress of Sigiriya, 200m above the beautiful surrounding jungle. There is plenty of time remaining in this trip to fully explore the citadel of Kandy and the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, before photographing Leopards in Yala National Park. You end your stay in a boutique hotel at the ancient port of Galle, with a chance to enjoy some sea breezes before the final leg to Colombo and the end of your bespoke Sri Lanka wildlife holiday.

Depending on the timing of your arriving flight it is possible to get straight on the road on Day 1, stopping as you wish on the way.  The first itinerary begins with Anuradhapura and the first few  journeys are on pretty good roads passing by paddy fields and some smaller reservoirs good for rest-stop birding.  Anuradhapura was the first Sinhalese capital and numerous ancient sacred sites remain both here and at nearby Mihintale, but you will find far fewer international visitors than at Sigiriya and Kandy for example. There are not huge distances between the various historic citadels, so I have picked what I consider to be good hotels to use as a base during each stay.  The visits to Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Minneriya/ Kaudulla could in fact all be done from Dambulla area. Polonnaruwa was the medieval capital of Sri Lanka and Minneriya National Park lies close by.  The park is noted for its massed elephant herds and a diversity of bird, reptile and butterfly species, including several endemics, the peak for the largest elephant herds is between June and September when water courses become dry and the matriarchal herds gather alongside the otherwise solitary males (the ‘gathering’).  From the Dambulla area, aside from the cave temples and a climb up Sigiriya rock, you are well placed for a visit to the nearby Dambulla Arboretum (also referred to as Popham’s Arboretum). 

After visiting the historic cities, you then head toward the hill country, with a stay in Kandy en route.  Alternatively you could base yourselves a little beyond the citadel at a smaller property on the edge of the Knuckles Range of mountains (as in the second itinerary – another UNESCO site).  It is a question of weighing up if the option to further explore Kandy under your own steam is more of a bonus than some soft trekking and birding in the hills. From Nuwara Eliya District I have included a day inside Horton Plains National Park, one of only a few parks where you are able to trek inside.  Apart from a variety of wildlife (including deer, monkeys, and endemic birds) a trip to ‘Worlds End’ and Bakers Falls are a must for many visitors to Sri Lanka.    It is worth also taking some time to walk amongst the tea plantations close by, and the views on the approach to Horton Plains are stunningly beautiful too.  Your suggested base is a well-priced property in a market garden area, but there are more luxurious options closer to the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary (Sri Adam’s Peak) – however this would mean a considerably longer drive to Horton Plains, as well as onward to Yala.  December to April are the drier months in the central hills, but there is always the risk of a shower. We have consierable expertise in designing Sri Lanka safaris to avoid the busiest periods for national parks such as Yala and Wilpattu and that will be part of the discussion when choosing the dates for your tour.


This is a Private Tour

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    Your Sri Lanka safari starts with a pick up at Colombo international airport and private transfer to ‘Palm Garden Village’ at Anuradhapura.  Afternoon guided tour of the Palaces, Dagobas, Nuwara Wewa ‘tank’ and the Sacred Bodhi Tree

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    Morning visit to the Buddhist relics at nearby Mihintale. Afternoon private jeep safari at Minneriya. Overnight at ‘Deer Park’.

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    Full day tour of the ancient city Polonnaruwa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

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    Leisurely transfer to the ‘Amaya Lake’ at Dambulla, and afternoon visit to the Buddhist cave temples

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    Early start to climb to the Sigiriya rock fortress. Afternoon free for your own activities with private car and driver

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    Journey onward to ‘Kandy House’, exploring the citadel including the lakeshore and the temple of the tooth relic

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    Visit the 147 acre Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, with a huge variety of plants and impressive mature trees attracting some interesting bird life.

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    Travel onward via the hill resort of Nuwara Eliya, to Haputale– consider a visit to Hakgala Botanical Gardens en route. Overnight stay at ‘Melheim Resort’

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    Visit to Horton Plains National Park for endemic birds, stunning views and alarm calls of Sambar due to Leopard

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    Possible visit to the Tangamalai bird sanctuary on the way to Yala. Afternoon private jeep safari in Yala. Overnight at ‘Jetwing Yala’.

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    Three days of morning and afternoon private jeep safaris inside Yala.

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    Morning safari inside Bundala National Park en route to the ‘Ladyhill’ at Galle, overlooking the historic Dutch harbour and fort

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    When appropriate transfer to Colombo to connect with your flight home


Accommodation: a private tour throughout, tried and tested hotels and lodges, with upgrade options on request. Breakfast only at Deer Park, and Kandy House, half-board everywhere else.

AC car and driver for round trip transfers.  Private standard safari jeep with local park guide.  It is possible to upgrade to a deluxe jeep at Yala, and/ or to be accompanied throughout by a specialist naturalist.

Cost: from £3090 per person based on two sharing or from £2670 per person based on four travelling, (excludes international flights)

For a full tour description email Wildlife Trails and include the trip title, or for a different combination we are happy to help design your ideal tour.

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* Based on 2 persons and not including flights

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