Small group holiday to Sri Lanka

“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. ”

Highlights

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.

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Responsible tourism

Small group holiday to Sri Lanka

Carbon reduction

Your holiday will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this holiday and how to reduce them.

Environment

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.

Community

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.

7 Reviews of Small group holiday to Sri Lanka

4 out of 5 stars
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3
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1
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Reviewed on 25 Jan 2019 by

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


Adam's peak, white water rafting, the "incidental"/smaller activities such as the visit to the coconut house.

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


The hill country can be chilly so take something warm for the short time you will be there.

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


Yes.

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


Good.

Reviewed on 23 Feb 2019 by

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




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




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


Definitely not. The diesel fumes in the parks are unbearable, the disturbing of whales by the boats really appalling. We did have lunch with a local farmer which was delightful, and I hope it helped them.

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


A bad country for the environment. The people displaced from the tsunami have no land to grow veg, and are not allowed to rebuild along the coast, and yet the multinationals are building high rise by the sea. I thought that was government greed and morally wrong. Boats circling round and round th whales, distressing them and I am sure disorientating them. This is one of the worst countries I have visited for the environment and lack of care of the local animals, and local country people.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to thank Tessa for her feedback regarding her recent holiday in Sri Lanka. We are very sorry, however, that she did not enjoy her time in Sri Lanka and found the local attitudes towards animals, environment and welfare to be so concerning. We appreciate the time taken to share these observations with us as we are starting to look into the issues raised with our local partners in Sri Lanka in the hope that they can be improved.

Reviewed on 25 Mar 2018 by

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


Kaudulla National Park - saw about 150 elephants

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


Book your airline seats early, in advance of on-line check-in

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


Yes, very much so.

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



Reviewed on 14 Oct 2018 by

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


The trip to the cave temples at Dambulla, climbing Lion Rock early morning, and the two safaris at Sigiriya and Yala.

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


Ensure you read the trip notes thoroughly before booking - it might be a bit arduous for some people. There's quite a lot of travelling and some early starts.

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


We avoided animal exploitation and learned a lot about Sri Lankan society. We had a few lunches with local people, including Tsunami victims. It was sometimes difficult to eat out as the hotels weren't always near local restaurants.

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


Very interesting and satisfying.

Reviewed on 13 Aug 2017 by

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


The breadth of activities from walking through wilderness to cultural visits and swimming in the Indian ocean

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


Don't worry if you are travelling on your own you will really feel like you are part of the group and meet some great people

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


Supported conservation by using certain tours etc , also lots of interesting facts about the environment from our guide who gave us a lot of information throughout the tour

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


Amazing

Reviewed on 02 Mar 2017 by

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


For me it was really the whole thing, as seeing the country where my mother and aunts were born and grew up was very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the puja at the Temple of the Tooth as our tour leader managed to get us to the front and we were also able to see the Tooth reliquary and another shrine not normally open.

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


Be prepared for the incredible humidity around Colombo and the south coast. If you are a history buff like me then you can arrange a car and driver for the day through Hotel Sigiriya and spend time at Anuradhapura and Mihintale instead of doing the cycle ride at Giritale. Please note that they are now going straight from Kandy (500m) to Nuwara Eliya (nearly 2000m) and this can be a problem for those susceptible to altitude sickness like me - I was fine again as soon as I got down to Bandarawela. Don't rely on it being dry in the dry season - come equipped for anything!

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


The holiday did benefit local people (partly through the tipping!), particularly the tsunami victim lunch, but I felt the visit to a farm didn't really add anything to the holiday. Conservation was supported by going on the elephant safari and the safari in Yala but the number of jeeps for the former was ridiculous (about 40 elephants and the same number of jeeps).

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


Good holiday to give you a flavour of Sri Lanka and have a little contact with the locals.

Reviewed on 09 Oct 2012 by

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.

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