Tailor-Made Holiday

Sri Lanka - Wilderness and Beaches

Wilpattu, Cultural Triangle, Passekudah

16 days

from £4,995pp (excluding flights)

Spotting leopard in lush jungles, discovering hidden temples a la Indiana Jones and whale watching off long stretches of white sand – north east Sri Lanka is a perfect destination for a family summer holiday. Safari tents, rural forest dwellings and private cabanas overlooking the Indian Ocean are a few of the handpicked, family friendly hotels highlighted in this itinerary. Dust of the binoculars and flip-flops for an engaging, sun drenched family holiday.

  • Track leopards from the comfort of a private vehicle through the lush landscape of Wilpattu
  • Stargaze from around the fire, regaling stories of the days safari
  • Explore the statues of Polonnaruwa by bikes  
  • Have a game of cricket on the beach at Passekudah
  • Search for whales of the coast of Trincomalee and snorkel of the back of the boat
  • Explore the winding streets of Colombo with dinner at the Ministry of Crab - a fun spot for local seafood

Indiana Jones in training

After a restful night on arrival at the Wallawwa, a true Steppes Travel favourite, travel to the peaceful Wilpattu National Park, home to Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safari. Here a family tent and al fresco lunch will be set up and waiting. Venture of into this verdant jungle, home to sloth bear, colourful birds and the elusive leopard. Sightings are less frequent than Yala but as the least visited park in the country, Wilpattu offers birdsong and calling monkeys for company, rather than vehicles and tourists. The exploration continues with the cultural heart of Sri Lanka, cycling round Polonnaruwa, climbing to the top of Sigiriya for view to the Indian Ocean and a home cooked lunch at a local village.

Shimmering seas

A complete change of landscape is discovered as the journey moves northeast towards Passekudah and the Uga Bay overlooking the Indian Ocean. Time to swim, snorkel and spot whales from the harbour off nearby Trincomalee. Travel by seaplane to Colombo, a treat in itself and stay two nights at Maniumpathy, a charming boutique property, perfectly located for Colombo’s highlights.

How can we make your holiday even more special

  • Travel further south to Galle and rent a private, fully staffed beach villa  
  • Discover the secret of tea at Ceylon Tea Trails in the heart of the tea country
  • Stay at the stylish, newly opened Chena Huts in Yala National Park
  • Travel by charming yet clattering train from Kandy to Hatton in the hill country

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Price Excluding Flights £Flight cost from 
£ 4995 £ 550

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Colombo

Sri Lanka's sprawling capital buzzes with an effervescence and ebullience not seen anywhere else in the country. Drawing on its colonial past, it displays a dash of Western influence alongside a blend of cultures, colours and aromas particular to Sri Lanka, to create a cosmopolitan melting pot of diversity.

Day 2

Travel from Colombo airport to Kotugoda

A journey of approximately 30 minutes.

Kotugoda is a small town a stones throw from the airport and home to one of our favourite hotels, the Wallawwa. While often used at the start or end of a trip, it is a relaxing spot and with new roads, makes visiting Colombo easy.

You will be staying at The Wallawwa, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Travel From Kotugoda to Wilpathu National Park

This morning journey to Wilpattu National Park, a distance of around 170 kilometre which should take approximately three and a half hours.

Wilpattu is the largest national park in Sri Lanka, and is fairly unknown still to tourists due to being off limits during the civil war. It has the largest sloth bear population in the country, and leopard sightings are possible, although the exact numbers are unknown. Wilpattu means 'Land of Lakes' and is named due to the large number (nearly sixty) of natural lakes spread across the national park.

Afternoon Safari in Wilpattu
Afternoon game drive in Wilpattu National Park with your private naturalist-guide.

You will be staying at Leopard Trails Camp, full board

Day 4

Morning and afternoon jeep safaris
Enjoy morning and afternoon Jeep safaris inside the park. Please note that the morning game drives begin early, before sunrise. You will return to the lodge for breakfast, lunch and a rest in the afternoon before heading out again for the late game drive. Other activities are available and game drives, although included in the cost of your stay, are not compulsory.

You will be staying at Leopard Trails Camp, full board

Day 5

Drive to Sigiriya

On the way to Sigiriya you may like to stop to explore Anuradhapura and Mihintale. Driving time approximately 3 hours.

Sigiriya is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha. According to the chronicles as Mahavamsa the entire complex was built by King Kashyapa (AD 477 - 495), and after the king's death, it was used as a Buddhist monastery until 14th century

You will be staying at Vil Uyana, half board

Day 6

Full Day Tour of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka, after Anuradhapura and is home to one of the countires most important cultural sites.

Further afield within Polonnaruwa many other interesting sites can be found.

You will be staying at Vil Uyana, half board

Day 7

Visit to Sigiriya Rock
Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Sigiriya, dominated by a towering escarpment that erupts from the flat landscape. Climb up this rock column, which is surrounded by verdant royal gardens.

Designated a World Heritage Site, the smooth summit was once home to King Kasyapa's fifth-century palace. Colourful frescoes decorate the cliffs below and a set of enormous lion's paws remain as a reminder of the vast stone lion that once guarded the entrance to the palace. Later, a Buddhist monastery was built here and flat meditation stones can still be seen.

Sigiriya consists of 1,200 steps. The first part of the visit is a leisurely walk through the pleasure gardens, before the climb up the rock. The tour takes approximately two and a half hours.

You will be staying at Vil Uyana, half board

Day 8

Travel from Sigiriya to Passekudah

The journey will take approximately four hours.

The North East Coast covers Trincomalee and Pasekudah in Batticaloa. This region has a long season that extends from March to October when the seas are at their best. Bask in the sun on the secluded beaches of Trincomalee and Pasekudah Bay, go snorkelling and discover the magnificent marine life around the coral reefs, or take a whale-watching expedition. It is not all about the sun and surf on the North East Coast. Explore ancient Hindu temples dating back centuries, and the breathtaking views of the Trincomalee harbour - the world’s deepest and largest natural harbour.

You will be staying at Uga Bay, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Free to relax at Uga Bay

You will be staying at Uga Bay, bed and breakfast

Day 10

Whale Watching at Trinco
Explore the waters off Trincomalee, home to a historical harbour and where dolphin and whale watching trips can be organised.

You will be staying at Uga Bay, bed and breakfast

Day 11

Free to relax at Uga Bay

You will be staying at Uga Bay, bed and breakfast

Day 12

Free to relax at Uga Bay

You will be staying at Uga Bay, bed and breakfast

Day 13

Travel from Passekudah to Colombo (Air Transfer Journey)

You will be staying at Maniumpathy, bed and breakfast

Day 14

Walking Tour with Mark Forbes
Today meet with resident photographer, Mark Forbes (or a member of his excellent team). Mark's ancestors are of Dutch, German, and British descent, but today he classifies himself as a 'Dutch-Burgher'. He is very much Sri Lankan and speaks the three languages of the island: English, Sinhalese and Tamil. His father's fondness for road-trips left in Mark a love for out-door adventure, making friends, and sharing the stories of his adventures.
Visit the birthplace of what is modern day Colombo for an insightful look at how tea traded through this city in ancient times. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948. The largest city of Sri Lanka, Colombo is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins and a population of 647,100.

Dinner at the Ministry of Crab
Enjoy dinner at the Ministry of Crab (payable locally).

You will be staying at Maniumpathy, bed and breakfast

Day 16

Fly Colombo to London


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

The Wallawwa

The Wallawwa

The Wallawwa is a small hotel 30 minutes from Bandaranaike International Airport....

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Uga Bay

Uga Bay

Uga Bay is a luxurious hotel with beautiful views of the unspoiled beaches....

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Vil Uyana

Vil Uyana

Surrounded by paddy fields and forest, Vil Uyana has 25 individual villas on stilts....

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Located on the cusp of Colombo's most affluent neighbourhood, this elegantly upgraded heritage home dates back to 1906, and was built by a doctor from Jaffna....

View Accommodation

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Destination Experts

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Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

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Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

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