Sri Lanka holiday, island explorer

“Small group 2 week tour of the classic sites, but staying in off the beaten track accommodation, such as tree houses or jungle lodges. Transport by bus, boat and rail.”


Dambulla Caves | Polonnaruwa | Rock fortress at Sigiriya | Ritagala ruined monastery and caves | Peradeniya Botanic Gardens | Train journey into Hill Country | Nuwara Eliya | Horton Plains National Park | Yala West National Park | Tangalle | Whale watching (optional) | Udawallawe National Park and Elephant Transit Home | Galle

Description of Sri Lanka holiday, island explorer

This two week Sri Lanka holiday let’s you experience a culturally rich circuit of the country and its myriad wildlife. From coast to Central Plains and around the Cultural Triangle, we start in the Capital, Colombo, where part of your introduction to this exciting country is on a night street food tour, and then head to the first of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we take in on this Sri Lanka tour. This first one is the ancient cave complex at Dambulla, where eighty caves are carved into the rock overlooking the town. With icons of Buddha, kings and Hindu gods packed into the main ones, this is a fine starter on your journey around the spiritual and ancient heritage that this ‘Island of Serendipity’ is celebrated for.

Other UNESCO Sites on this classic circuit include the rock fortress of Sigiriya which we will climb at dawn, the 10th century temple and palace ruins at Polonnaruwa, and the ancient, coastal city of Galle, where we tour the Dutch fort, the Arab Quarter and stay in a colonial villa. Or the sacred city of Kandy which was ruled by the Kings of Kandy since 15th Century. Many travel here on a religious pilgrimage to visit the Temple of the Tooth, a sacred tooth belonging to the Buddha.

Sri Lanka is also brimming with natural heritage wonders, many of which are protected by national park status. Yala National Park is one of the greats, where we take a safari in search of its resident leopards, elephants, sloth bears, monkey and many more. Horton Plains National Park is another natural nirvana where we get a chance to hike through its misty forests to the magnificent Baker Falls.

On this trip you will also have an added option to go whale watching off the coast at Mirissa, which visit the south coast between November and mid April. With the mighty blue whale making an appearance from December –January and until mid-April if you are lucky. We only offer this trip during the months of November to April anyway, and during the monsoon season we offer an alternative itinerary visiting the sheltered northeast coast at Nilaveli.

Sri Lanka is also well known for its extensive railway network, and we will enjoy this traditional way of travelling up into the Hill Country, with its colonial history and tea plantations such as at Nuwara Eliya, where we stay in a former governor’s residence. Travelling in a group size of 4-12 people, we stay in an eclectic range of places on this holiday, colonial residences, a jungle lodge and a beach chalet. A visit to Sri Lanka would not be complete without some time at the beach and we include a night in a coconut grove next to a pristine bay at the resort of Tangalle towards the end of this fortnight that goes all too quickly.

Beach lovers note that some of our guests add a few days onto this itinerary to spend a few days on the nearby Maldives Islands. Ask the tour operator for more details.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700


Check dates, prices & availability

08 Nov 2017
£ 2190
including UK flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 08 Nov 2017 departure
24 Dec 2017
£ 2390
including UK flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 24 Dec 2017 departure
13 Jan 2018
£ 2190
including UK flights
Departure Guaranteed
Click here to enquire about or book the 13 Jan 2018 departure
10 Feb 2018
£ 2190
including UK flights
Click here to enquire about or book the 10 Feb 2018 departure
Our top tip:
Bring lots of small coins for tipping. It
Trip type:
Small group holiday, max. 12 people.
Flights, accommodation, all breakfasts, some meals, guide, activities, all transport.
Eclectic bed hopping, with tree houses, safari camps, jungle lodges and beach chalets.
Solo travellers welcome. £275 supplement for own room.
Holiday type

Small group holiday

This is a 'small group adventure' - you will be sharing your experiences with like minded people. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 11 persons, a genuinely small group. Experience has taught us that smaller groups are less intrusive to local cultures and environments whilst allowing more interaction with local people. Furthermore it means greater flexibility on a day to day basis and on a social level it proves to be fun. Whether you are travelling alone or with friends/family its good value, and a great way to meet new people! The intention is to travel as a group of friends rather than a typical tour group, so don't expect stick-on name badges or any following the umbrella.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Sri Lanka holiday, island explorer


The Sri Lanka Island Explorer tour introduces travellers to the culturally rich and environmentally diverse island state of Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on contributing to the local economy and community projects while respecting local traditions and the natural environment. Sri Lankan guides are at the heart of the tour, whether driving visitors around the island, taking treks at Horton Plains or leading safaris in Yala West National Park. Some of the guides come from community-led projects such as the Woodlands Network, which helps local people gain access to education and employment.

Information: Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them to gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travellers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices

Group sizes: By limiting groups to small sizes we aim to reduce the impact on both local communities and the environment whilst allowing for greater genuine interaction with said communities. It also results in a higher guide/customer ratio thus greater facility for supervision and individual assistance and allows us to use smaller hotels and restaurants and employ the services of more genuinely ‘local’ operators perhaps not otherwise well equipped for larger groups.

Destinations: We combine the well known tourist sites with many off-the-beaten-track, rarely visited destinations thus diverting tourist revenue and contact with responsible tourism into areas not usually benefiting as well as providing a more authentic view of the region visited.

This tour supports various environmental initiatives including bird watching in Kalametiya Sanctuary, the Yala West and Horton Plains National Parks and 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Entrance fees to the National Parks contribute to conservation projects throughout all national parks.

Accommodation used on the tours employs local people and the majority are locally owned. The accommodation used in the Cultural Triangle has been built and refurbished using reclaimed materials from decommissioned tea factories and the site was left undisturbed with no trees cut down or lakes drained. All vegetarian food is grown in its local gardens. The tree houses are built from local materials and any building in this area is compelled to contribute to the agriculture of the area. The owner grows fruit and vegetables for our clients and also enables local people to cultivate their own plot on his rented land. The Palm Paradise Cabanas at Tangalle, although situated in a palm grove were constructed without any palms being cut down and cabanas and villas are again built from local material. They are very active in water and power conservation and educating their clients to take conservation seriously and responsibly.


Local products: As much as possible we aim to employ local personnel, (guides, drivers, agents etc), use local restaurants and smaller privately owned accommodation. Customers are also encouraged to buy and use local products and services as much as possible in order to support and stimulate the local economy.

Instruction: By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves and guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect.

Sri Lanka community-led projects: The Asian Tsunami highlighted the plight of coastal communities in Sri Lanka and our initial projects were targeted at Sri Lankan individuals and communities devastated by the tsunami (please ask us for details). However, many other communities away from the coast also lack essential materials and services and our objective is to offer long-term support to such Sri Lankan individuals and communities. By channeling all donations received by Forgotten Village Sri Lanka (a charitable organisation currently applying for charitable status with the Charity Commission) into community-based projects on the island, we hope to provide sustained assistance to these communities in their endeavour to improve their lives. We make a contribution to Forgotten Village Sri Lanka for every holiday booked.

6 Reviews of Sri Lanka holiday, island explorer

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 02 Mar 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Getting up early to climb Sigiriya and the visits to the national parks.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Some longish days in the minibus but worth it to see a variety of places, experiences and give a good introduction to the Southern part of the country

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes generally, although that wasn't the main purpose of the trip.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very good, itinerary was varied and interesting with a few early mornings to make the most of some of the places visited and avoiding worst of the crowds and the heat of the day. Guide was excellent, very good at sorting things out (including retrieving lost/left items) and willing to change itinerary where it made sense as well as being fairly open about the history of the country and the issues is currently faces.

Reviewed on 23 Feb 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Too many to mention. Apart from all the amazing places we visited, we had some very interesting evening discussions with our tour leader which further enhanced our understanding of Sri Lanka and its people

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Go for it; there is something for everyone on this trip - Culture, beautiful natural features; a great variety of wildlife and of course excellent food.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Our leader fully endorsed the idea of responsible travel; avoiding several tourist hotspots and occasionally taking us to eat at "ethnic" restaurants off the beaten track. However, the jeep tour in Yala Nat Park whilst in general well handled, produced almighty traffic jams when animals such as leopards were sighted. Not sure how that could be managed differently, but eco-tourism went out of the window in the 4WD scrum !!

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent. Very varied and well organised with a charismatic and informative tour leader

Reviewed on 19 Feb 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The people :-) Especially our fantastic tour guide Indika who went beyond the call of duty and made Sri Lanka come alive.

Our driver Anil and helper Hermanda were also extremely conscientious in keeping us safe and happy. Too many highlights to mention!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take some good binoculars to magnify the stunning scenery, animals and birds.
Don't miss the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy but try to avoid a Poya (Moon day) if you don't like crowds.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Definitely. The elephant transit home at Uda Walawe is well worth a visit and deserves donations above and beyond the small entrance fee.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Apart from one hotel that fell below par all our accommodation and food was excellent.

The best run tour we have ever been on.

Reviewed on 03 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Sri Lanka had everything we love in a holiday, Culture, Wildlife, lush contryside and beautiful beaches. The forest lodge in Habarana was excellent off the beaten track with wonderful hosts. Seeing the baby turtles hatching at Rekawa and the leopard at Yala was also an exciting experience.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Some of the details regarding the accomodation differed from what was written on the itinerary and although we dont have any issues with the places we stayed we thought it would be better to leave the details off the itinerary rather than get peoples expectations up. For example the Hotel on kandy was not set in a quiet and secluded location and the guest house in Nuwara Eliya, was not mock Tudor-style and didnt have a bar with snooker table (it didnt have any alcohol).

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Most of the places we stayed were run by locals. The tracking down of the leopard and the turtles did feel a bit stressful for us so I am not sure how this would effect the animals. Lots of people crowded round for photos.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The trip was excellent I would recommend it to anyone.

Read the operator's response here:

We are so please Amanda enjoyed Sri Lanka and her experience of travelling with us. We
wholly agree with her comments concerning the details of certain hotels and we will be
amending the itineraries within the next couple of days to avoid disappointment.

Reviewed on 18 Mar 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The variety of landscape in Sri Lanka, the cave temple at Damballa, the train journey from Kandy, the views from Ella, the night stay in the tree house camp in Yala national park and seeing leopards, elephants and beautiful birds on safari in the park.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Make sure they check the details of the itinerary with the guide and check the accommodation is correct with the company before the tour starts. Make suggestions for extra visits/changes to the itinerary if they have a particular interest as the guide may not be forthcoming with ideas.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Not particularly. Local guides were not used; the tour guide covered all site visits. Apart from the use of a safari camp in the national park, which was also supporting tree planting, there were no off the beaten track visits to local projects etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Very enjoyable and Sri Lanka is a beautiful, friendly and fascinating country, but the tour guide needed more training in leading a small group and some improvements are needed to the itinerary and choice of certain accommodation/resorts.

Read the operator's response here:

We thank Barbara for her comments on the tour and are so pleased she enjoyed the variety that the itinerary offers. It was good to know that the tree houses which was an alternative to the camping on the itinerary proved to be a high point (literally).

We are sorry however that Barbara felt that the guiding fell below our high standards. The tour was escorted throughout by a Sri Lankan national who is, of course, a local guide and use National Park guides whenever we are visiting the National Parks. We have a number of Sri Lankan guides working for us and this guide has proved popular on previous tours, we are looking into why he was not at his best on this occasion.

As part of our Company's commitment to responsible tourism, we keep small groups (max 12 and on this occasion 5) which enable us to eat in local restaurants, stay in locally run hotels and reduce environmental impact on places we visit.

We will be using Barbara's comments as part of a review of the tour and also looking at accommodation used to keep the itinerary exciting and fresh. We will be happy to highlight any changes made with anyone wishing to join one of these tours.

Reviewed on 18 Nov 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Sri Lanka and the tour aspect was well organised. We particularly enjoyed the variety of activities and accommodation. Best bits were the trip to the rock fortress and Yala where we saw leopards and a big black bear which apparently was very rare. The train journey was iconic and breath taking.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be prepared for the cultural diversity with this country and keep humour and kindness when dealing with local demands. Accept that the people are by nature friendly and are not always trying to fiddle you. However be aware that some of the locals are strapped economically and are trying their best for themselves and their families.
Be prepared for sometimes not getting straight answers to political questions you may ask, there is some anxiety and fear experienced by people who are undergoing transitions in political management.
Be prepared for the heat and how it tires you out, watch the bottom of your feet they get burnt if you are a temple seeker, take an old pair of socks .

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, although at times I felt I didn't get the tips right, either too much or too little. The issues regarding tourist build up and the effects on local population was a concern at times. I felt the country needed to tidy up a bit with rubbish on streets and awareness of litter, this was particular noticeable in the built up areas. I don't want to sound a prig but honestly some of this was not nice.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent fantastic guide [Oscar] who we really liked and respected, very erudite and balanced, he felt like a member of the family when we finished our tour. We were only 3 people on our tour and some people may be disappointed with this if they joined a trip to make mates and the social aspect. We got on very well and it was not a problem, however it could have been if the dynamics were different.

Popular similar holidays

Family holiday to Sri Lanka

Family holiday to Sri Lanka

Explore Sri Lanka with the family

From £2049 - £2379 14 days including UK flights

Sri Lanka adventure holiday

Sri Lanka adventure holiday

Now is the time to discover this magical land

From £1380 - £1720 15 days excluding flights

Small group holiday to Sri Lanka

Small group holiday to Sri Lanka

Explore Sri Lanka's natural paradise

From £1999 - £3299 16 days including UK flights

Sri Lanka wildlife and whales tour

Sri Lanka wildlife and whales tour

Whales and the wildlife of Yala National Park

From £2179 - £2429 11 days including UK flights

Convert currencies