Classic tour of Sri Lanka
Classic Tour of Sri Lanka
Serendipity & Tea

Many years ago, the island Sri Lanka was called Serendip, the origin of the word serendipity. We feel the influence of 'always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of' is a good description of a Tell Tale trip, but perhaps particularly so in Sri Lanka.

‘Serendipity & Tea’ is a classic tour around Sri Lanka, with a Tell Tale twist. Your journey will take in the ancient capital city of Kandy, the splendours of Sigiriya, the luscious greenery of hill country, nature and wildlife, and finally the south west coast with its stunning backdrop of clear blue sea and fishermen perched on sticks.

Whilst you will discover and experience the country Tell Tale style and meet local people whom you will consider your friends when you leave, we have taken great care in balancing the itinerary in terms of early starts, time at leisure etc. So you will truly get a holiday as well as a journey of discovery. And there is little risk of being 'templed out' as we think there is on many (non Tell Tale) itineraries.

This trip is a private tour and can be customised.

Day 1 meal/s on plane
Fly from the UK to Colombo with a choice of airports including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. We are also able to arrange flights from other countries e.g. from the US with Emirates from Dallas.

Day 2 meal/s on plane
You'll be met at Colombo airport, just look out for a sign with our 'pink peacock' logo and a friendly face! Settle in the back of your air-conditioned car or minivan and you will be driven north east near the fortress of Sigiriya, to a small hotel where you will have the rest of day at leisure. Have a dip in the pool, set in lush tropical gardens. Evening at leisure, you can have dinner at the hotel, or our driver will be happy to take you to nearby Dambulla for dinner.

Day 3 breakfast
Today, you will explore Sigiriya with our local guide. This is an ancient rock fortress, dating to 477 AD, a UNESCO heritage site. We recommend an early start if possible! (It is best to visit whilst it is coolest). It is possible to 'climb' to the top (using steps on the outside rather than the tunnels inside which would have been used in ancient times) to the site of the original palace and gardens, bathing pools and reservoirs. The most famous part is the Lion Gate and the frescoes. Climbing to the top is quite a journey but well worth it, achievable if you're generally in good health. If you don't feel up to it, it's fun climbing some of the way and/or explore at ground level. The gardens of Sigiriya are fascinating in the way that they were laid out so many years ago. On a horticultural theme, later in the day you'll visit an arboretum, which most visitors to the island miss out on. Whilst set up by an Englishman and the influences are clear, the orchard areas have tropical fruit instead of apples or cherries, and along with the tropical hardwood trees like teak, this centre showcases reforestation.

Tell Tale Tip If you are feeling more active, instead of resting in the middle of the day, you could visit Dambulla Caves, home to beautiful Buddhas and paintings.

"Many thanks for an ADVENTURE...Any possible anxiety had been removed because of your planning and the local contacts throughout the trip...we would happily recommend Tell Tale Travel."
– Tony & Jody de La Motte Hurst
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If you would prefer a more sedate start to your journey around Sri Lanka, you can spend Days 2 and 3 in Kegalle (east of the airport, towards Kandy) on a tea estate at Rosyth Estate House a colonial-era boutique hotel. You'll spend Day 3 relaxing by the pool and being taken for a walk around the tea and rubber estate. (See options/supplements section at the end of this itinerary).

Day 4 breakfast, dinner
Spend the morning relaxing or packing at leisure. Then it's time to head off, we recommend stopping at a local restaurant for lunch on the way to Kandy, the last capital of ancient Sri Lanka. You'll arrive at a private home and meet your hosts who will help you make the most of your stay in Kandy. Settle into your private bedroom (with private bathroom) and depending on timings, your host will take you for a walk around the local area. You also have the option of staying in a hotel in Kandy (from no extra cost) however, dinners on Days 4 and 5 and the informal cooking lesson will be excluded.

Day 5 breakfast, dinner
Day sightseeing in Kandy with our local guide. Your day will include a visit to Kandy Lake and the Dalida Maligawa known as 'Temple of the Tooth', as it is home to one of the few relics from the Buddha. It's not just a temple, you'll see a site dating back to Kandy's capital days and the (stuffed) remains of Raja, the most famous tusker elephant to have the privilege of carrying the casket containing the tooth. Back 'home' and relax before an informal cooking lesson and dinner.

Day 6 breakfast
Day out with our guide to Peradeniya, close to Kandy and home to Sri Lanka's famous botanical gardens, with its palm trees (including the rare coco de mer from the Seychelles), native and imported plants and our favourite, the fruit bats hanging in the trees. Other points of interest in this area are the Second World War graves and an antiquities shop. If you do want to go shopping, check the tips in your Tell Tale pack. And if you're a nature lover, head back to Kandy to visit the 'Forbidden Forest'. This evening, we recommend dining in one of Kandy's restaurants.

Day 7 breakfast
Time to move on. A scenic train ride into the interior hill country with spectacular views as well as an insight into local life, you will marvel at how the line was built in such terrain. Our driver will take your bags on and pick you up at the other end in Haputale and take you to a colonial-era bungalow on a tea estate. Settle in and enjoy a cup of tea on the verandah but make sure to put a cardigan on, temperatures drop at night in hill country. Viharagala and Kelburne have staff who will shop and cook for you, although we also recommend visiting local cafes and restaurants to support the local economy.

Day 8 breakfast
Today our guide will take you to a tea estate, not only will you get insight into what happens from leaf to your pot back at home, you'll see how the workers live and meet the young children at the nursery (depending on whether their mothers are working). Then head back to explore the environs of Haputale. Drive around for spectacular views or usually open at weekends is Adisham Bungalow, a Benedictine monastery. The design of the house, built in 1931 was based on Leeds Castle in Kent, you can see a few parts and visit the quirky museum and can buy jams made from the fruits of the gardens, such as wild guava.

Day 9 breakfast
Today you'll be taken to visit some of the amazing waterfalls, as well as the oldest surviving wooden bridge in the world. If you are feeling more active, our guide will take you for a walk up Little Adam's Peak (not arduous unlike its much-bigger near namesake!) in Ella or to explore the historic town of Bandarawela with its pretty pink post office and the railway station which was the original terminus for the historic hill country line.

Day 10 breakfast
Pack up. You'll be driven to Yala National Park and time to settle in at our small hotel and have a swim. Later, you have the option of dining in, or our driver can take you to nearby Tissamaharama to visit one of Tell Tale's recommended rustic local restaurants.

Day 11 breakfast, lunch
Early morning rise and full day private jeep safari in Yala National Park for a chance to spot leopards in the wild as well as herds of elephants, deer, peacocks, crocodiles and more. We know the leopard hiding spots! You'll have a break for a delicious picnic lunch at the beach or by a stream.

Day 12 breakfast, dinner
Pack up and move on, you'll be driven around the bottom of the island to Galle on the west coast. This is a scenic route and we recommend stopping at a small inn we know well for lunch. Right on the sea, you have an opportunity to see the iconic famous stilt fishermen (more likely to be genuine in this spot of ours). Then head onto Galle and you'll be taken to a lovely residential area and meet your hosts, retired bank managers, who will help you make the most of your stay. Settle in and have a delicious home-cooked dinner.

Day 13 breakfast
This morning, you'll explore Galle Fort with our local guide, a historic place dating to the time of Portuguese occupation, and further developed during Dutch and British times. Walk around the ramparts, get a glimpse of modern-day hearings in the old court house set under towering trees, and visit the maritime museum. You can also see the famous cricket stadium from the ramparts and the lighthouse. Many of the fort residents are descendants of Arab traders (and Galle is famous for gem trading) and there is a large Islamic mosque, as well as Dutch and Anglican churches. You can then explore Galle Fort at your leisure and head back to your accommodation whenever you wish. After many years of restoration and changes in recent years, it is now quite a lively place with restaurants and shops, just check your Tell Tale pack for our top tips.
Your accommodation is a short tuk tuk ride or 15-20 minute walk away from the fort and 5-10 minutes walk from the modern town.

Day 14 breakfast
Transfer to Bentota. Relax at the boutique resort of Club Villa a fantastic place to unwind from your travels. The large garden is beautiful and the pool glorious. The restaurant serves delicious meals in a tranquil setting, and nearby Bentota beach has a lively restaurant scene for tourists (quite a contrast to your trip to date!) so you can choose to suit you.

Day 15 breakfast
Day at leisure at Club Villa.

Day 16 meals on plane
Morning transfer to the airport and fly back to the UK, arriving back same day. Timings may vary depending on flights. If you started your trip with a flight from the UK on a Saturday, Day 16 would fall on a Sunday.

This 16–day Tell Tale private tour for two people costs from £2,175 per person (or 15 days from £2,075 per person, see last line of Options/Supplements section below). Prices include flights from the UK to Colombo, accommodation, activities/excursions, meals where specified and dedicated chauffeur-driven vehicle Days 2 to 12 inclusive and private transfers from Galle to Club Villa Bentota and Club Villa Bentota to Colombo airport.

*We are usually able to apply the 'from' price in most cases, but we do recommend booking as early as you can. Travelling at certain times, particularly Christmas, January and school holidays may involve extra costs. Please allow approximately £50-80pp for government entrance fees (payable at the office on the days). All other costs for activities, guides, jeep etc are included.

– Staying at Rosyth Estate House in Kegalle for Days 2 and 3 (instead of small mid-range hotel near Sigiriya), breakfasts and dinners, estate walk and tea factory visit included, from £145pp
– Staying in a hotel in Kandy instead of private home for Days 4, 5 and 6, breakfasts included (dinners excluded), ask us to check availability for your dates.
– Omit Day 8 OR Day 9 (bringing forward the rest of the itinerary by 1 day) and adding a day of leisure at the end at Club Villa (dedicated daily vehicle services ends on day of drop off in Galle), no extra cost
– Omit Day 8 OR Day 9, with the rest of the itinerary as it is, making a 15–day trip, subtract £100pp

To book this holiday or to ask any questions, just phone us! (numbers below the map)

  Tell Tale Travel
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sigiriya gail kirkham
elephants in sri lanka
orchid Sri Lanka
bats in Sri Lanka
tea estate tea pickers in Sri Lanka
leopard in Sri Lanka
beach in Sri Lanka
stilt fishermen beach

Photos by Tell Tale Travellers:
Peacock, tea estate workers and fishermen by Gail Kirkham
Orchids and Leopard by Fred Barrington
Bats by Jill Forbes
Elephants in Yala National Park by Marjorie Socha