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"Our best selling private tour of Sri Lanka for many years has been a week touring plus a few days on the beach, so that's what we have described below. You can see dramatic scenery, amazing wildlife, enjoy local culture, and relax at the beach. The best way to do the tour is with your own car and driver as you are completely free to spend as long or as short in each place, and to tweak your day to day activities as you wish."
First, we see the classic tour, and afterwards how you can add to it depending on your interests.
Direct flights are out of Heathrow with Sri Lankan Airlines, but you can fly other airlines such as Emirates via Dubai if you prefer.
Quick Tip: - one of the best things you can do to make the airport experience less stressful is to get access to the fast track lane through security, saving all that queueing time. We can book this for you - at Heathrow it is £12.50 per person.
Most flights arrive in to Colombo early to mid afternoon, and so I always prefer to have a short transfer time to a nice hotel for the night - in fact because of the transfer times to other parts of Sri Lanka, often you have no choice.
Instead of staying in Colombo, I suggest the resort of Negombo, a fishing village only 20 minutes from the airport, with a golden beach and several restaurants within walking distance of the hotels.
Your transfer to Jetwing Beach is included - the next morning you will start your tour proper.
Travelling Time: 20 minutes
What to do?
Your Hotel Jetwing Beach
A perfect hotel for the first night - short transfer from the airport, very comfortable, and a lovely pool to freshen up in! In the evening there are 3 good restaurants in the hotel but you also have the choice of just walking out into Negombo where there is a much greater choice of dining.
Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast (can be upgraded)
Most tours include 1 or 2 nights here, but some of the very best parts of Sri Lanka are in this area that you really need more time. Not only are the 'iconic sights' of Sri Lanka such as Sigiriya Rock Fortress close by, but there are some fabulous things to do around the hotel.
A 3 night duration gives you two full days. I would spend one full day at Sigiriya and Dambulla, and the second full day either on a safari at Minneriya National park or in the old city of Polonnaruwa. You will also have the first afternoon (the day of arrival) and the last morning (the day of departure), when you could do some of the excursions around the hotel.
Travelling Time: 4 hours
What to do?
Your Hotel Cinnamon Lodge
One of my favourite hotels in the whole of Sri Lanka is the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana set in a lush forest in a stunning position by a lake. It is located very conveniently for trips to Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Dambulla Caves and the Minneriya National park, but there is also plenty to do around the hotel such as a swimming pool, a spa, jogging track, tennis and cycle trails. From the lodge you can go on elephant safaris, bird-watching, boating, and hot air ballooning (November to April).
Meal Plan: Half Board
Kandy is the cultural heart of Sri Lanka, and it is here that you can do one of the many cultural evenings. It is also a very pleasant town to have a wander around.
Travelling Time: 2.5 hours
What to do?
Your Hotel Cinnamon Citadel
This is a firm favourite because of the excellent location next to the Mahaweli River where you can dine al fresco on the restaurant's terrace with wonderful river views. There is a pool to come back to after a day of sightseeing and a lounge bar for wines and cocktails where you can relax listing to the piano music.
Meal Plan: Half Board
Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful hilltop town in Sri Lanka where you'll find the tea plantations. At 6,000 feet above sea level, it is cooler than other parts such as Kandy and the coast, but the scenery is spectacular. It is also home to a famous hotel called the Tea Factory which sits at the top of a hill with stunning views across eastern Sri Lanka.
There is a much more colonial atmosphere in Nuwara Eliya than in most other parts of Sri Lanka. English country clubs, rose gardens and even the place names will make you feel quite at home. But it is cooler here than the rest of Sri Lanka because of the elevation - at over 6,000 ft above sea level, you'll need warm clothes especially during the winter.
Travelling Time: 2 hours
What to do?
Your Hotel The Tea Factory
The famous Tea Factory is a unique hotel which has been restored from an old tea plantation factory with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Inside the lobby you'll see the original working machinery of the old Tea Factory. Special features include a spa specialising in tea treatments and a miniature tea factory. You can even have a go a plucking tea yourself dressed in a traditional costume.
Meal Plan: Half Board
There's a good choice of hotels for the relaxing part of your stay from standard 3* up to 5* deluxe, and I'd be happy to discuss alternatives in detail if this doesn't suit. However the one we feature here is the best of all worlds - quite luxurious, in a decent location close to shops and restaurants if you want them, and excellent value for money. And of course you can change the number of nights to as many or as few as you wish.
Your Hotel Taj Bentota
Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast (Half Board and All Inclusive also available at a supplement)
After your stay in Sri Lanka, it's just a short flight to the paradise islands of the Maldives. You will find tiny islands of pure white sandy beaches, amazing snorkelling and clear turquoise water.
You can visit local deserted islands, or just spend your days sunbathing - it is a constant 30C all year round. Most islands have a spa and diving school.
There is though a huge choice of islands, and it can be difficult to know where to start. I have featured the all inclusive Kuramathi island because it is my best selling island, but others I can recommend are Meeru (slightly cheaper but fewer dining options), Baros (small, luxurious and very peaceful), Athuruga (exceptional snorkelling), Bandos (very good for families), Biyadhoo (cheap and cheerful), and more. Please feel free to contact me about the different Maldives islands.
Travelling Time: 20 minutes sea plane or 90 minutes boat transfer (if staying at Kuramathi Island)
Your Hotel   Kuramathi Island, Maldives
My recommended island in the Maldives is Kuramathi due to the choice of accommodation, value for money and excellent facilities. On one side of the island is a long stretch of white sandy beach, while on the other is a series of little coves with excellent snorkelling off the beach. There are trips to a deserted island, as well as diving and snorkelling excursions.
In the evening there is a choice of bars; some are very quiet and chilled while others are livelier, and a choice of restaurants. The best meal plan is A-La-Carte All Inclusive - this allows you to dine in any restaurant on the island for both lunch and dinner, as well as including a fine selection of wines, a sunset cruise and a local island visit.
The choice of room types can be daunting, but I have found that by far the most popular are 1) Jacuzzi Water Villas (top price but amazing!), 2) Beach Villas (cheaper but still very nice villas by the beach), and 3) Deluxe Beach Villas (a bit more expensive but in a lovely quiet part of the island).
Meal Plan: All Inclusive or A-La-Carte All Inclusive if staying at Kuramathi Island
Most escorted Sri Lanka tours include a good mix of culture, scenery and wildlife, and follow a typical route of Colombo - Habarana - Kandy - Nuwara Eliya - Yala - Galle - Colombo, taking in most of the main sites along the way. There are some early starts (especially on safari) and a fair amount of walking involved, but you do get a great variety of experiences.
Typical is Riviera's 'Sri Lanka' tour which also includes a stop at the Elephant Transit Home at Udawalawe National Park, where you'll be able to watch young elephant orphans being given one of their daily feeds. Titan's 'The Best of Sri Lanka' also visits the Elephant Transit Home and include VIP home pickup. The lovely train journey between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya is featured in Newmarket's 'Sri Lanka' tour.
For a more adventure style trip, Explore have a small group tour (normally 12-18 people) 'Buddha's island' staying in 3 star hotels, while their 'Secrets of Sri Lanka' tour has slightly smaller groups (10-16 normally) but uses higher standard hotels and even premium camping at Mahoora Tented Camp for game drives in search of leopards. With all their Sri Lanka tours, you can add an unforgettable 7 night Maldives cruise on a traditional dhoni boat visiting uninhabited islands and pristine beaches so you can enjoy warm, clear water and spot manta rays, turtles and clown fish on spectacular reefs.
Please note that these should be seen as a guideline only - please call us for up to date availability and an exact costing. Prices are 'per person' based on 2 adults sharing one room.
Prices start from around £2500 per person in the low season of May and June, up to around £3500 in the high season of school holidays and the early part of the year (January to April).
The Maldives is a more expensive destination, so if you took this extension instead of the Sri Lanka beach extension, prices would vary somewhere between around £3500 and £4500 per person.
Please note that all these figures are very rough averages - please contact us and we'll work out an exact quotation for the time of year you'd like to travel.
To keep costs down to a minimum, May and June are a good time to go!
Q. Is the holiday ATOL protected?
A. Yes. You are 100% financially protected, and will receive your yellow ATOL certificate by email shortly after the booking has been confirmed.
Q. Am I buying a package?
A. Yes - this means that you have 100% financial protection.
Q. What type of transport will it be in Sri Lanka on a tailor made holiday?
A. For a couple or small family, you will travel around in a standard car. However if there are more of you, lets say 5, then a bigger vehicle is used. Cars are always big enough to accommodate all your luggage.
Q. Are entrance fees included on tailor made holidays in Sri Lanka?
A. No - entrance fees to the sites are not included, although the transport to get there is. This is because you may not decide where to go until the day itself.
Q. Are entrance fees included on escorted tours in Sri Lanka?
A. Yes - this is because escorted tours follow a fixed itinerary.
Q. How long is the flight?
A. The direct Heathrow to Colombo service takes 10.5 hours.
Q. What airports can I travel from in the UK?
A. Sri Lankan Airlines fly direct to Colombo from Heathrow, and Emirates fly from several UK airports via Dubai.
Q. What other countries can I combine it with?
A. The most popular is the Maldives extension, but if you travel with Emirates then you can also include a stop in Dubai to make a triple centre holiday - Dubai, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Q. When do I have to pay the balance?
A. 10 weeks before departure.
Q. What is the currency used?
A. In Sri Lanka it is the Sri Lankan Rupee. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially to pay any hotel extras.
Q. Do I need a visa for Sri lanka?
A. You do now for Sri Lanka. It is US30 - you just enter your passport details in to www.eta.gov.lk - however, this has been waived for people travelling before 31 January 2020.
Q. Is alcohol freely available?
A. Yes except on one day every month in Sri Lanka called a Poya day. You can only get alcohol on that day via room service or the mini bar.
Q. I am confused about travelling distances in Sri Lanka. Some websites say that it takes 4.5 hours to get back from the airport from Galle, while you say just over 2 hours.
A. It used to be 4.5 hours but a new road has now been opened (at last!) which means MUCH quicker journeys down to the beach resorts of the South West.
On Your Travels is an Accredited Body Member of The Global Travel Group Limited (ATOL 3973).
Some of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. This website will provide you with information on the protection that applies in the case of each holiday and travel service offered before you make your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.caa.co.uk