“A two week, small group tour of the Golden Triangle to the glistening wildlife, staying at comfortable hotels and travelling by public and private transport. And bikes. ”
Dambulla | Sigiriya | Giritale Tank | Birdwatching | Polonnaruwa | Kandy | Kitulgala rainforest | Nuwara Eliya | Option to climb Adam’s Peak | Horton Plains | World’s End viewpoint | Bandarawela | Ella Gap | Game drive Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park depending on season | Ahangama | Galle | Option for whale watching
Description of Small group holiday to Sri Lanka
This may be a small group holiday to Sri Lanka but its carefully crafted itinerary thinks big, with an eclectic mix of both cultural and natural highlights as well as some wonderful adventure activities packed into these two weeks.
From the first day you are immersed in ancient heritage, the first stop on our figure of eight tour of the island being Dambulla ancient cave complex with no less than eighty caves packed into one giant rock. These are no ordinary caves either, five of them being packed with valuable religious icons. This is when you realise that Sri Lanka is no ordinary country either.
More cultural wonders located in spectacular places await, including the giant and beautifully imposing fortress at Sigiriya, and one of the country’s finest ancient kingdoms and indeed UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Polonnaruwa.
From ancient sites to fine wildlife sights, we spend time out in the magnificent Yala National Park, where we take a game drive to glimpse some of its treasures, including elephants, sloth bear, wild buffalo and leopard, with the highest, concentrated leopard population in the world. Although that is still only 35, so sightings are rare. Birdlife isn’t rare, however, with over two hundred species flying around the park’s forests and wetlands. There is much more birdlife to be seen on our day at Giritale Tank, ancient reservoirs that are now beacons for birdlife with everything from kingfishers to kites swooping in at some stage.
Urban visits on this holiday include a few days in and around Kandy, in the heart of the country, a city that is famous for having been ruled by the Kings of Kandy since the 15th century. It then became part of the British colonial set, meaning that it has a wonderful combination of post colonial architecture here and in the surrounding hill country plantations, but also sacred sites such as the Temple of the Tooth which contains a sacred tooth belonging to the Buddha. Another important urban stop is Galle, on the south coast, where life revolves around the old fort founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese and now a maze of places to shop, eat, stay and enjoy the coastal ambience.
Getting out onto the hills and wilder areas of Sri Lanka is also an option on this holiday with trekking opportunities through the rainforest region of Kitulgala, and an option to go white water rafting here too when the waters are high enough. The Adam’s Peak trek here is certainly high and tough enough for those willing and able to take on this four hour ascent of this 2,243 m sacred summit through the night in order to be there for sunrise. Another more accessible trek is at Horton Plains, a 2000m high plateau where we go trekking through misty forest where sambar and purple faced monkeys roam. Leading, finally to World’s End one of the country’s most stunning viewpoints.
Another added bonus for travellers on this holiday is the chance to go whale watching on their free day, if they are lucky enough to be visiting between November and April. This is peak season to see the high numbers of blue whales and other cetaceans that visit the waters off Dondra Head on the island’s southern tip. Often called the teardrop island, this experience leaves many a traveller somewhat dewy eyed.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Small group holiday to Sri Lanka
Activity: We are very conscious of the environment and try to limit our impact on our surroundings as much as possible. All of our vehicles used on this tour are subject to annual eco testing and we monitor this closely in order to reduce our carbon footprint. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and use markets to purchase traditional crafts. We also leave a positive impression by visiting important National Parks, ruins and museums- our entrance fees to which contribute to their upkeep. For example, our game drives in Yala N.P. promote animal welfare and financially contribute to conservation projects in the area.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: All of the hotels we stay in are dedicated to hiring local staff and using freshly sourced produce wherever possible. This helps to benefit the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities and income alternatives where they may be otherwise hard to come by. We also try to select accommodation which has strong environmental policies. Where meals are not provided, we suggest that clients spread their commerce to small local businesses and try some authentic food. The local cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, with lots of rice. You can enjoy everything from traditional spicy curries to stalls selling tasty sweets and deserts. We stop for local delicacies whilst cycling, visit a farm house for lunch and eat at the home of a Tsunami victim in Tangalle.
Charity: We have financially co-sponsored a local Tsunami relief project, which has enabled 25 families to be rehoused and for two schools to be equipped with toilets, running water and outdoor swings. In collaboration with a German operator and the village temple, we have helped towards 10 large water tanks and an eye clinic in a remote village with a donation of 200 pairs of glasses. We also assisted a principal agent of Unicef in development of day care and education of school children of the estate sector labourers in the hill country. Whilst visiting the Back to Life project we stay at a hotel re-built by our local operator after the original building was demolished by the Tsunami.
Local Craft and Culture: There are plenty of opportunities to engage with local culture on the several visits to towns, villages and historically important sites and events. During the summer months our visit to the Temple of the Tooth may coincide with the Buddhist Kandy festival, which is a long honoured celebration of a relic thought to be found on the island. We may be able to see a performance of traditional Kandian dancing and fire walking here. There are many places to buy handcrafted souvenirs along the way (e.g. Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya) but one of the best places might be the Gem Museum at Kandy. Here clients can learn about the traditional methods of gem extraction.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
Reviews of Small group holiday to Sri Lanka
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 09 Oct 2012 by Dianne Williams
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The variety of the trip, the day at yala national park, the elephant orphanage, and the tooth temple.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Take a good camera, you will want to photograph almost every thing you see, the island is fantastic!
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes the trips to the small village homes and farmers plantations were not only interesting but benefited the people.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Excellent variety, well run and an excellent guide.