A Trek with Nature
Your holiday begins as soon as you land at the Colombo International Airport! It is modern but friendly, and the airport officials here are warm and helpful. After the airport formalities are complete, our designated chauffeur will greet you with a trademark Sri Lankan smile and guide you to an air-conditioned vehicle for your passage to Negombo. The ride usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Upon checking in at your hotel, you’ll have the rest of the evening to unwind and put your feet up a little after the long flight to the island. You’ve got an adventure-packed day tomorrow! So it is important to get a good night’s rest.
It’s your first full day in Sri Lanka! Savour a delectable local breakfast or opt for the continental breakfast option if you’re in the mood for it. We’ll check out thereafter and start the journey to the Millennium Elephant Foundation in Kegalle. It will take us between 2½ to 3 hours to get there.
The Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a one-of-a-kind place. It is a family-operated NGO that is dedicated to protecting and tending to the welfare of elephants across the island. Here, you’ll get a chance to see these majestic creatures up-close in a fully natural setting! You’ll get to see them play about in the water and even get up close and pet them while the mahout stands beside you.
MEF is responsible for providing care, medical treatment, food, and the salaries of the mahouts as well, all while managing the operating costs of the charity-based foundation. Additional services MEF provides include an on-call Mobile Veterinary Unit that is engaged in treating sick elephants across the length and breadth of the island. The important work that MEF does in taking care of these gentle giants is sustained by the invaluable donations made by volunteers and tourists from around the globe. The first-hand experience of elephants in this natural environment will surely leave a lasting impression on you.
Thereafter, we’ll head to your hotel in Kegalle. Once checked-in, you can rest for a while and recuperate after the early morning drive and the exciting day you’ve had so far. Towards late afternoon, we’ll set off on a relatively short yet historic trek amidst the ancient site of Beligala.
Of immense historical importance, Beligala was one home to a regal structure that housed the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha in the 13th century. In ruin now, nothing of the original building stands here today. The ancient temple still stands and is frequently visited by both locals and tourists alike. The trek through Beligala runs past an idyllic village, where you can closely observe people engaged in daily life displaying warm smiles as you tread along the natural footpaths. Life here is simple, untouched almost. Lush green paddy fields, rivers and mountains are abundant during the Beligala Trek.
Once you reach the Beligala site, you’ll begin to wonder just how much this island has to offer within such a small area. Beligala is ancient! The temple here is said to have received one of the 32 saplings from the Sri Maha Bodhi at Bodh Gaya in India over two thousand years ago.
The granite steps, balustrades and moonstones are reflective of art and architecture from different periods of Sri Lanka’s Kingdoms, and they take you firmly back in time as you walk amidst them.
On completion of the trek, combining village life and ancient Sri Lankan history, you’ll head back to the hotel as the sun sets gradually in the distance. The evening is yours to do as you please! You can indulge in a bit of rest and relaxation, after the long yet interesting day you’ve had taking in some of the island’s magical experiences.
Breakfast is even more important than usual today! You’re about to embark on the ‘Saradiyel Trek’, and so an adventure-filled morning awaits. Make sure you eat well as a long but interesting day is ahead of you.
The Saradiyel Trek is unlike any other you’ve experienced before. The trek winds through a number of places with historic significance, all the while ensuring breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Famously referred to as the ‘Robin Hood of Sri Lanka’, Saradiyel was an infamous individual from these parts who tended to the welfare of the poor and downtrodden upon robbing the rich. The Saradiyel Trek runs through Saradiyel Rock, Saradiyel Cave, a Saradiyel-themed park, and Bo Ella (waterfall).
Born in 1832, during the period of British Colonial rule, Saradiyel along with his gang of robbers had expertly utilized the natural cave to hide stolen treasure and to transport it to other areas. He often remained perched atop Saradiyel Rock to observe the coming and going of individuals along the Kandy-Colombo road today.
A definitive sense of the character and his interesting ways can be gathered during the course of this trek. You’ll head straight to Dambulla, thereafter, and the journey will take between 2½ - 3 hours.
Dambulla is a historic city in every sense of the word, and it is palpable as you approach it. Once you get to the hotel and check in, you’ll have plenty of time to rest a bit before you head to the Dambulla Cave Temple towards late afternoon/evening.
The Dambulla Cave Temple demands immense historic and religious appeal right across the island. The network here consists of 5 caves and a total of 157 statues of the Lord Buddha. Paintings adorn the space overhead and the cave’s walls as well. A rich artistic tradition is seen, going back several millennia. The rock, its caves, and the temple are dated to the 1st century BC. The indigenous traditional paints used add intrigue to this, already, fascinating experience. The cave complex received official recognition in 1991, when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spiritual enlightenment and the flowering of Buddhist scriptures took place here. The calm and peace are still felt here, 22 centuries after it was first used.
As evening approaches, you’ll head back to the hotel and have a chance to put your feet up a little. The significance of the day’s experience will settle in slowly.
You’ll arise this morning with a spring in your step, for you are set to discover the island at its pristine best today! Tuck into a hearty breakfast in the morning as you’ll be walking around quite a bit today. At around 1000 hours, you’ll get to experience life in a rural village at the base of the historic Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
You’ll start the Sigiriya Village Tour right outside the Sigiriya Rock entrance, and thereafter you’ll walk beside the canals that criss-cross the nine lakes that surround the rock fortress. You are taken back in time almost immediately! An oxen cart ride is up next, to offer you a view of village life from the eyes of a village farmer and of transportation from a bygone era. As people go about their daily lives along the banks, you’ll get to take in a relaxing catamaran safari along a serene lake. The sight of golden coloured fields ripe with paddy is found in every direction you look.
Thereafter, absorb the nuances of local fare with a traditional cooking demonstration by the village folk. Indulge in a one-of-a-kind village meal by the Pahalagama Lake, prepared over a traditional wood-fire and served on lotus leaves. The memories from this experience will linger with you long after.
As the sun reduces in intensity, at around 1600 hours, we’ll begin the next part of our adventure. We’ll start our ascent to Pidurangala Rock, undoubtedly the best point to take in the splendour of Sigiriya Rock and that wilderness that extends for miles upon miles.
An enormous rock found a few kilometers north of Sigiriya, Pidurangala is gaining in popularity due to the breathtaking views it affords at sunrise. At the base of Pidurangala is an ancient temple, which is home to artifacts from across the years. The stupa that stands to the left of the temple’s entrance is said to mark the exact spot where the legendary King Kasyapa was cremated.
The climb to the top of Pidurangala is more demanding than the one required to ascend Sigiriya. A clear delineated path to the stop doesn’t exist here. Steep, uneven steps lead the way to the top, with boulders and crevices strewn across the path which climbers must navigate in reaching the summit. The view and the experience is definitely worth it! For, once you are at the top, you’ll get to take in Sigiriya Rock in all its glory and have an unobstructed view of the valleys that stretch beyond.
After the climb down Pidurangala, you’ll make your way to the hotel. You’ve had a long day with lots of adventure, so you deserve the evening to yourself to put your feet up and rest!
After a spot of breakfast in the morning, with a selection of either a local or a continental spread, we’ll check out of the hotel and head towards the cooler climes of Matale. Of great historic significance, the region is also home to some of the island’s best-known peaks.
The journey to Riverston is scenic and offers unparalleled views of the mountain giants and greenery in every direction. The Knuckles Mountain Range runs alongside and is a sight to behold.
The Riverston Peak is situated about 30km from Matale town center, along the Matale – Girandurukotte Road. The road runs parallel to some of the most stunning views the island has to offer. They are windy and include several sharp hairpin bends. While extremely popular among the locals here, the area still remains relatively unknown to many of the island’s guests. Nature is pristine in these parts, the surroundings are unpolluted, and lush green vegetation is at every corner. The trek runs along and through terraced paddy fields and the Central Highlands, and it will leave you spell-bound.
You’ll head to your bungalow towards noon and check in. It is in close proximity to the Knuckles Mountain Range and offers spectacular views of the entire region. An opportunity for a bit of rest awaits, as you’re set to head off once again towards late afternoon to explore a nearby village and take in the simplicity of life there and the warmth of its people.
Tales abound about the folk of this village. Some say that they are descendants who were banished from the ancient Kingdom of Kandy. Regardless, the villagers are interesting and friendly. It is said that, traditionally, they relied on the shadow of the elephant-shaped rock close by, to accurately read what time of day it was. The rock is named ‘Manigala’ and it came about through the combination of the words for time and rock in the local language: ‘mani’ and ‘gala’ respectively. The village trek takes you through the daily footpaths of Rathkinda and Etanwala villages. Here, you’ll get to absorb the simple way of life of the villagers while experiencing them go about their daily activities such as farming and traditional cooking.
The trek is lengthy and it stretches across a few challenging trails as well as shallow streams that have to be forded. We often stop for a relaxing dip in a stream that flows through the village, with cool water from a nearby mountain. This trek experience is unique, even among the island’s many fantastic trekking opportunities, and it affords a view of the western face of Manigala rock as well as the surrounding paddy fields and other crops.
Head back to the bungalow, thereafter. You’ve got the entire evening to yourself to do as you please. Perhaps you’ll need to rest your feet a little after the long and adventurous day you have had! Have a hearty meal for dinner and get a good night’s rest in preparation for tomorrow.
Breakfast is important today, perhaps even more than on other days! A long day of trekking and adventure awaits. You’ll set off thereafter on the Manigala Trek and get to explore the wonders of the Knuckles range as you tread along a forest.
Upon commencing the trek from the village of Rathkinda, at the base of Manigala Rock, you’ll make your way down the famed Knuckles Valley. As you leave the village and walk past terraced paddy fields, you’ll gradually enter the forest canopy of the valley. Here, you’ll sight an unimaginable richness of vegetation and an abundance of birds and butterflies. Its stunning landscapes aside, the flora and fauna endemic to this range render it a subject of much scientific intrigue. Gradually the forests open out onto the thick foliage of the Knuckles Range, offering a series of breathtaking views of the valley below.
As you ascend, you’ll find pockets of isolated forest, home to a variety of flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. The Knuckles Range comprises a significantly high proportion of the island’s biodiversity when considering its area. We will provide refreshments during the course of the trek. As far as sights go, a panoramic, unobstructed view of the Knuckles Mountain Range is the highlight of this trek!
After the lengthy trek, you’ll head back to the bungalow to rest and recuperate from your adventure today. Indulge in a bit of luxury as you take in the many comforts that the bungalow provides.
We’ve got an early start this morning. Tuck into a hearty breakfast of your choice, before we check out and proceed to Madulkelle. A serene experience awaits us there. A journey of approximately 1½ - 2 hours, the vistas en route are breathtaking!
Upon arriving in Madulkelle, you’ll check in at the lodge and have ample time to relax and take in the surroundings a little. Towards afternoon, we’ll head off to explore the many waterfalls around Madulkelle.
Hulu Ganga Waterfall
Originating from the Knuckles Mountain Range, the famed Hulu Ganga Falls is approximately 75 meters high. The water that cascades from its top sprays the local villages of Elliyadda and Aratthana, before making its way to the Victoria Reservoir. Rocks are strewn across the length of the river, ensuring that even on rainy days, the water is clear and not muddy due to their abundance along with grass and other plants. The diversity of experience this island offers comes to mind here.
Emerging from the Deniyaya Gongala Mountain Range, the Hathmale Ella falls develops into a stream which then flows into the Ginganga River in the town of Pallegama. It is majestic to say the least. 45m high and 10m wide, Hathmale is the tallest falls emptying into the Ginganga River. It is split into seven distinct segments, hence the local name ‘Hathmale’. This is due to the Sinhala word ‘hath’ denoting the number seven. The fall is extremely popular among locals and guests to the country alike.
Saree Ella, a few minutes from Bambarella town, is one of the preferred access points to the Knuckles Mountain Range for many. The area is popular for the large number of waterfalls surrounding Hulu Ganga (Hulu River). As Saree Ella cascades down, the falling water assumes the shape and form of the fall of a lady’s saree — a women’s garment popular in Sri Lanka and across the subcontinent. The fall comprises several cascades which can be reached by most vehicles. Saree Ella combines breathtaking views and adventure with equal ease.
The twin falls together known as Jodu Ella, also referred to as ‘Bambarella Knuckles Falls’, are famed for displaying identical lengths as they drop. 45m to be precise, they cascade simultaneously from either side of the mountain from which they emerge. Their fall meets the Hulu Ganga River which then gently meets the Mahaweli River. It is a sight to behold, and you’ll feel great tranquility here in the midst of nature’s most pristine offerings.
After a long day taking in the natural phenomena in and around Madulkelle, we’ll head back to the lodge. Unwind and do with the evening as you please! Enjoy a hearty dinner perhaps and get a good night’s rest.
Arise and treat yourself to breakfast in the morning. You can select from a local spread or opt for continental fare, depending on what you’re in the mood for. We’ll check out of the hotel, thereafter, and visit a tea factory in Madulkelle en route to Kandy.
A 23-acre plantation straddling the Western slope of the Knuckles Mountain Range, the factory here produces Ceylon Tea of an impeccable standard. The smell and aroma of drying tea is invigorating, especially in the morning hours. The production of tea involves several meticulous steps including plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing and drying. The last of these is a process that requires a fair amount of heavy machinery and manpower. At the factory, towards the end of your visit, you’ll get a chance to taste different grades and varieties of Black tea. This is a one-of-a-kind experience, which amply displays the island’s colonial heritage and tea legacy.
We’ll leave Madulkelle, thereafter, and make our way to the historic kingdom of Kandy. The trip to Kandy will take us approximately 1 - 1½ hours. A bustling city now, it is home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is closely connected to the island and Kandy’s historic, cultural and religious legacy. It was originally built by the Kandyan Kings in the late 16th Century, to house and honour the Buddha’s tooth relic. You can’t help but be overwhelmed as your guide recounts the spiritual influence the Buddha wields here, and how the sacred tooth relic made its way here. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple on a daily basis. The wearing of white-coloured, loose-fitting clothing is advised here. The purple and blue-tinged lotus flowers most of them carry in their hands as simple offerings, against the backdrop of white, is soothing to the eye. The complex displays a series of intricate features combining the unique architectural heritage of Kandy and the island as a whole. The whole city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a declaration influenced in part by the presence of The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic here.
Thereafter, we’ll leave Kandy and head to the capital of Colombo, a ride that will take us between 3½ - 4 hours. We’ll check into the hotel upon reaching Colombo, and you’ll have the entire night to rest and recuperate from the long and interesting day you’ve experienced. Get a good night’s rest after a spot of dinner!
It is your last day on the island. After a hearty breakfast from a choice of either local favourites or continental fare, you’ll set off on a tour of Colombo. The capital of this island paradise has much to offer, and we’re set to take it all in unhurriedly.
Colombo is increasingly gaining popularity as a commercial hub that seamlessly combines contemporary amenities with colonial charm and sites of historic significance right in the heart of the city. The city tour will ensure you experience, close up, the sights, sounds and smells of this distinct city. As you make your way through the different parts of Colombo, you’ll experience such highlights as the Gangarama Seema Malakaya Temple, the National Museum, the Old Parliament Building, Independence Memorial Arcade & Independence Square, Beira Lake, Odel’s flagship shopping store, Cinnamon Gardens, Laksala (a state-owned handicrafts emporium), the Lighthouse, Clock Tower & Colombo Harbour. Colombo is refreshingly different to its South Asian counterparts, and you’ll witness this first-hand on this city tour.
We’ll head back to the hotel, thereafter. You can choose whether to engage in a bit of rest and relaxation at the hotel or to check out, depending on when your flight departs. It takes around 1 to 1½ hours to get to the airport from here.
As your island holiday draws to a close, the memories from over a week’s worth of experiences will surely be recollected. Recall them fondly with your chauffeur as you drive to the airport and maybe write and let us know how you felt throughout.
We’ll certainly miss having you in Sri Lanka but we do hope that you come back soon. There’s plenty more to see and do within our shores!
Knowledge and expertise can make your holiday more canker free and fun filled.