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Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays


Private tours of Sri Lanka with your own car and driver including a relaxing beach stay at the end

Tom Says:
Most tailor made holidays to Sri Lanka follow an itinerary similar to the one below. This is an example of a 12 night trip, a mixture of private touring and beach stay. You will have a car and driver who will take you to wherever you wish to visit, such as the elephant orphanage, Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya Rock, and much more. It is a very flexible way of sightseeing - you can plan in detail before you go, or decide on the day. And whether you are on honeymoon or just a holiday, there are some truly excellent luxury hotels at very affordable prices.

  The Ultimate Sri Lanka Tailor Made Tour

Here is our recommended itinerary for an 11 night (or more) tailor made holiday to Sri Lanka. As always, we get you in the right places for you to see the most, while keeping travelling times and hotel changes to a minimum. Using the hotels suggested, expect to pay somewhere between £1700 and £2500 per person. This tour is done on a private basis. It is also flexible - increase or decrease the number of nights in each location, or add on a couple of nights in Yala National Park.

  • 1 night in Negombo
  • 3 nights in Habarana
  • 2 nights in Kandy
  • 1 night at Nuwara Eliya
  • 4 nights or more on the beach OR an extension to the Maldives

Total: 11 nights

This tailor made tour is best done with a private car and driver. He will be at your disposal for the whole of the touring part of your holiday, while normal transfers are included to and from the airport.

At the end I give a few ways to extend your trip within Sri Lanka - for example the old town of Galle is delightful with its famous fort and lighthouse, and Yala is one if the best places in the world to see elephants and leopards.

The itinerary in more detail is shown below...


 



Negombo (1 night)

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.

Many tours use a hotel in Colombo such as Mount Lavinia, which is admittedly a great value 3.5* hotel, but it takes about 90 minutes to get there. Instead, 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.

Travelling Time: 20 minutes

Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast (can be upgraded)

What to do

  • Freshen up, and chill out for the afternoon then have a good meal in the evening!


Your transfer to Jetwing Sea is included - the next morning you will start your tour proper.


Where to Stay?

Jetwing Sea

Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays
Just 20 minutes from the airport is the wonderful little resort of Negombo with a good choice of restaurants and a sandy beach. The hotel I recommend is Jetwing Sea as one of the nicest hotels in the resort. It has just 83 rooms, and facilities include a rooftop spa, two infinity edged pools, two restaurants and three bars.
Hotel website


 

 

Habarana (3 nights)

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.

Travelling Time: 4 hours

Meal Plan: Half Board

What to do

  • Visit and/or climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress - it is a bit of a climb but the views from the top are amazing, and you will see the remains of the Royal Palace at the top. About half way up is a sheltered gallery containing a series of paintings. Back at the bottom are the landscaped Royal Gardens. The best times to visit are early morning and late afternoon when it is a bit cooler and the light is fantastic.
  • Dambulla Cave Temple - a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has 5 caves housing Buddhist statues and paintings, and dates to 100 years BC - this is a MUST SEE, and just 20 minutes from the hotel. In the largest cave is a gigantic 150 ft long reclining Buddha. There is a smell of incense in the air as people place offerings to the Buddhas.
  • Elephant safaris - these can be done around the hotel and by the lake
  • Minneriya National Park - enjoy a Jeep Safari and see a wide variety of wildlife especially elephants - it is also a fantastic location for bird watching. If you are travelling to Sri Lanka between June and September then we would definitely recommend you include a day at Minneriya National Park because during this time herds of up to 150 elephants are more easily spotted. The park is also home to sambar deer, macaques and leopards although to be honest these are hard to spot.
  • Kaudulla National Park - if you are travelling to Sri Lanka later in the year, especially around October, then there is a gathering of up to 250 elephants in the park as well as sambar deer, leopards (hard to spot), fishing cats and sloth bears.
  • Lake activities - include bird watching, elephant rides, horse rides, sunset boat rides (there is a 'Bird Island' in the centre of the lake where you can watch the birds settle down on tree tops for the night)
  • Jungle treks and Mountain bike hire - there is a 9 mile cycle route from the hotel, or a longer 18 mile route.
  • Puranagama Ancient Village - a rare opportunity to see traditional Sri Lankan village life, Puranagama is located at 25 minutesí walk from the hotel.
  • Visit the sacred city of Polonnaruwa with spectacular shrines, Buddhist statues, and the ruins of the Royal Palace. It is actually 1000 years old and probably better than Anuradhapura from a tourist point of view because the monuments are in an excellent state and it's easy to get around and see them. One way of doing so is by bicycle which are easy to rent.


A 3 night duration gives you two full days. I would spend one full day at both 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 such as the elephant rides.


Where to Stay?

Cinnamon Lodge

Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays
One of our 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).
Hotel website

 

 

Kandy (2 nights)

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

Meal Plan: Half Board

What to do

  • Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens which include a spice garden and hundreds of exotic tropical plants
  • See the Temple of the Tooth on Kandy Lake - this is one of the most sacred temples in Sri Lanka and all Buddhists in Sri Lanka aim to make a pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.
  • Enjoy an evening Cultural Show with food and dancing



Please note that we are no longer recommending a stop at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. There are a number of alternative places to see elephants in Sri Lanka which we think you will gain far more enjoyment from. Please feel free to call us.


Where to Stay?

The Earls Regency

Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays
The Earls Regency is one of the most comfortable hotels in Kandy and overlooks the Mahaweli River and mountains. There is a good choice of facilities such as outdoor swimming pool, health centre, sauna, as well as outdoor activities including hiking, trekking, and cycling.
Hotel website


 

 

Nuwara Eliya (1 night)

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

Meal Plan: Half Board

What to do

  • Watch the tea making process - you can do this at the hotel itself
  • Waterfalls - the best is St. Clair's
  • The Hakgala Botanical Gardens
  • Bike rides - hire mountain bikes from the hotel and ride on beautiful traffic free routes



Where to Stay?

The Tea Factory

Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays
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 the fine dining restaurant which is actually a restored train carriage, a spa specialising in tea treatments, and a miniature tea factory.
Hotel website


 

 

Sri Lanka Beach or Maldives
(4 nights or more)

Now time to relax - head to your coastal resort for the next part of your holiday. We have several excellent hotels and will be happy to recommend a suitable one for you.

There are some stunning hotels in Sri Lanka which provide a great value beach stay in luxury - one of our favourites is the Fortress Hotel, and for a cheaper alternative the Heritance Ahungalla.

For the ultimate in island escapism, why not extend your holiday with a week in the Maldives? There are several different islands to choose from, of different styles, sizes and character. Please call us for details and recommendations.

Travelling Time to a Sri Lanka beach: 4.5 - 6.5 hours (varies depending on which resort)

Meal Plan: Bed & Breakfast or Half Board if staying at the Fortress



Please note that it can take longer to get around in Sri Lanka than it looks on a map. When you leave Nuwara Eliya, it can be up to 6.5 hours to reach the coast. You will of course stop along the way, but please bear this in mind. Unfortunately there is no easy alternative other to enjoy the scenery which at times is break taking.


In addition, many beach are also quite a distance from the airport, and if you have an early onward flight then it is usually necessary to give you a hotel either at the airport or in nearby Negombo for the night before your flight.


Where to Stay?

The Fortress

Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays
The Fortress near Galle is our favourite beach hotel in Sri Lanka and has tremendous reviews and feedback from customers. It is a boutique style hotel with just 53 rooms, and a swimming pool, wine cellar, tea tasting bar, spa, gym, two wonderful restaurants and some shops.

As it is just 20 minutes by taxi from Galle, you can easily visit the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Dutch Fort and wander through the old streets of the city soaking up the atmosphere. Also nearby is Mirissa which is a top spot for whale and dolphin watching - blue whales and sperm whales especially - December to April are the best months.
Hotel website


 

 

  Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays - What Else?

Of course if you have a special interest, for example walking or wildlife then you might want to consider other parts of Sri Lanka, and we can tweak the itinerary accordingly.

  • The lighthouse at the Dutch Fort at Galle, Sri Lanka. It The Dutch Fort at Galle plus watching fishermen working on stilts at Koggala. If you would like to visit Galle, then this is usually best done either en-route to your beach hotel, or as a day trip from your beach hotel. One of the best ways to see Galle is to head to old Galle where the fort is located, and just wander around the old streets taking in the interesting architecture and the great views. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The national parks for a wildlife safari - Udawalawe and Yala. Please note that sometimes only one is open at a time. Yala has a slightly higher standard of accommodation but Udawalawe involves less travelling to get to. Yala is one of the best places in the world to see leopard but even so you are not guaranteed to see them. Wild elephants are abundant, and you will also hopefully see spotted deer, jackal, and sloth bears. The best times to see elephants and leopards is from February to July, while the best time to see birds, deer and crocodiles is between October and December. Please note that Yala especially can take several hours to reach from Nuwara Eliya, and you have just as much travelling the next day to get to the beach. Or if you are going all the way back to Colombo it can be as much as 9 hours. We would therefore suggest that you spend 2 nights in Yala - our customers give us excellent feedback about Yala, and so it is worth going to, but if you can spare the time, consider 2 nights rather than 1 just to make the travelling seem less of a pain.
  • Only a couple of hours from Nuwara Eliya is Horton Plains National Park, for spectacular walks and bird watching. The highlight is 'Worlds End' where the plateau drops over 2000 ft to the plain below.
  • Jetwing Vil Uyana - why not make your Sri Lanka tailor made holiday extra special by staying here If you want something truly special, then we can recommend a couple of outstanding hotels close to Sigiriya. There is the Elephant Corridor hotel (www.elephantcorridor.com) and Jetwing Vil Uyana (www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingviluyana). In Nuwara Eliya, Tea Trails is a unique and very personalised cluster of bungalows (www.teatrails.com). Please ask us if you would like us to substitute any of the hotels in the itinerary for these. All these are popular honeymoon hotels, but we also have many customers who enjoy a bit of extra luxury without paying the earth!
  • And of course you can choose to just have a couple of nights in one of these really special hotels - this makes for a unique tailor made Sri Lanka holiday whilst keeping the costs down!
  • Some escorted tours include a trip to the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura which has immense Buddhist shrines dating back to 400 years BC. However because it is quite a long journey from Habarana (almost 4 hours each way) and because less is preserved than at Polonnaruwa, I have omitted it from the itinerary.
  • The North East of Sri Lanka has now opened up to tourists, with hotels centred around the resort of Trincomalee. It is further from the airport than the resorts on the South West coast, being about 4.5 hours, but the main draw are the beaches and coral reefs. Quite simply, you get the white sandy beaches and good quality snorkeling and diving that you simply don't get on the South West coast. Having said that, there are very few hotels - the one we use is the Chaaya Blu (http://www.chaayahotels.com/ChaayaBlu.htm) where I would recommend upgrading to a beach chalet, from which you can walk straight onto the beach! Whale watching is also popular, as is a boat ride to Pigeon Island, the best place fro snorkeling in Sri Lanka.
  • The best place for whale and dolphin watching in Sri Lanka is from Mirissa on the South coast near Galle. It is possible to view them between December and April. If you would like to go whale or dolphin watching, then I would recommend staying near Galle, somewhere like the Fortress Hotel.
  • And further round the coast (eastwards) is Rekawa where hawksbill and leatherback turtles lay their eggs on the beach between April and September. You can go and watch, but again I would recommend staying near Galle, for example the Fortress Hotel.



  Why a tailor made holiday is best...

Do you prefer independent arrangements to a fully escorted group coach tour?

If so, then you do not have to be bound by the exact itinerary in the brochure. You do not have to stay in the same hotels. And you can stay longer in some places, while missing out bits that are not really that interesting to you.

  • Choose the hotels YOU want, rather than being put where the tour goes
  • Have your own car + driver for complete freedom - so the transport to sites is included, all you need to pay for is the entrance fees
  • Have more time in the best places (such as Habarana)
  • Avoid places you are not that interested in
  • Travel to Sri Lanka on any date, not be tied to set dates
  • Add on as long as you wish on a Sri Lankan beach, or with an extension to the Maldives
  • You can make your holiday unique without breaking the bank by spending just a couple of nights in a truly special hotel such as Elephant Corridor




  Sri Lanka Tailor Made Holidays - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is the holiday ATOL protected?

A. Yes. You are 100% financially protected, and will receive your ATOL receipt by 1st class post once the booking has been confirmed.

Q. What type of transport will it be?

A. The vast majority of tailor made holidays to Sri Lanka include a private car and driver, and the size of the vehicle used will be appropriate for the amount of people travelling plus all your luggage. 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.

Q. Are entrance fees included?

A. No - entrance fees to the sites are not included, although the transport to get there is.

Q. How long is the flight?

A. The direct Heathrow to Colombo service takes 10.5 hours. This is with Sri Lankan Airlines.

Q. What airports can I travel from in the UK?

A. The only direct flight is from Heathrow. But you can go from several regional airports with Emirates via Dubai?

Q. What countries can I combine it with?

A. The two options are either Maldives (1 hour flight away) or Dubai.

Q. When do I have to pay the balance?

A. 10 weeks before departure.

Q. Do you have a credit card surcharge?

A. Yes it is 2.5%. But we don't charge this if you are just paying a deposit.

Q. What is the currency used?

A. Sri Lankan Rupee. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially to pay any hotel extras.

Q. Do I need a visa to enter Sri Lanka?

A. You do now. It is US30 - you just enter your passport details in to www.eta.gov.lk

Q. Is alcohol freely available?

A. Yes except on one day every month called a Poya day. You can only get alcohol via room service or the mini bar.

Q. I am confused about travelling distances within 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.



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  What to do Next?

  1. Call us on 01462 677 111 with your initial ideas about your Sri Lanka tailor made holiday - we will ask a few questions such as when you want to go, any thoughts you already have and any budget you are trying to stick to.
  2. Please tell us if this is your honeymoon as some hotels will offer little extras such as room upgrades.
  3. Also please let us know if you would prefer the more luxury hotels, or if keeping costs as low as possible is more important. It is whatever suits you best.
  4. You will receive a full costed itinerary going to all the places in Sri Lanka you want to see, including any extra nights at one of the beach hotels at the end of your tour.
  5. Make as many changes as you need to your tailor made tour before booking.
  6. If you decide to book, pay a deposit and get your written itinerary, receipt and ATOL certificate sent by 1st class post.



 



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