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The group flight from London arrives at Bandaranayake International Airport around lunchtime and we transfer to Sigiriya, (4 hours) where we stay for the next 2 nights. Land only clients can either meet at the start hotel or at the airport in time for the transfer.
Ride to Dambulla cave temple; afternoon climb Sigiriya Rock.
After breakfast, we ride along gravel roads following an old irrigation canal to Dambulla, the 2nd century BC Buddhist cave temple. It is well worth the walk to view the five caves, which contain many ancient Buddha statues, some carved from the solid rock. Returning via the busy market town we take another quiet back road riding through chilli and rice fields, we end back at our hotel for lunch and a relaxing swim in the pool. In the late afternoon we climb the 5th century rock fortress of Sigiriya to see the beautiful frescoes painted onto the rock face (not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo). The ruins of the palace on the summit are surpassed only by the magnificent aerial view of the surrounding jungle. Stay as long as you like, as it's only 10 minutes walk back to our hotel. Ride approx. 52km.
Ride to Polunnaruwa; cycle tour of ruins.
A long morning ride along a quiet back road which is part of the Sigiriya nature reserve, before joining the highway travelling east towards Polonnaruwa, riding all the way to our lunch stop and overnight stay. For those who feel they need a swim, the hotel also has a swimming pool, a pleasant place to spend the hot early afternoon. Later we tour the old ruined city of Polonnaruwa, which dates from the 10-13th centuries. Ride approx. 73km.
Ride through foothills of spice growing region.
We follow the lake's man-made 6km dam and feeder canal to its source, the Amban Ganga River. The afternoon ride is flanked by the stunning Kalanduwa hills on one side and the borders of Wasgomuwa Wildlife Park on the other. As the jungle gives way to plantations, we enter the spice growing region of Sri Lanka. The night is spent in a family-run guest house with small cabanas dotted around the estate, it's basic but the home cooking in clay pots on wood fired stoves gives you the real flavour of Sri Lanka. If you would like to find out more about the spices used in the piquant Lankan currys, the owners can arrange a visit to one of the renowned spice gardens a short walk down the road. Ride approx. 80km.
Ride to Kandy.
Today is tougher as we head for the hills and Kandy, the spiritual and cultural capital of the hill country. Those who feel like an easy day can jump onto the bus for the 50km trip to Kandy, while the rest of us pedal away, riding through the Moorish town of Matale. Its inhabitants, descendants from Arab spice traders, still control most of the spice market, which is a good place to pick some freshly ground curry powder of your own. We may have to transfer the last few km to avoid traffic, as Kandy's roads are as old as the city. Surrounded by hills, the town is centreed around a small lake and the Temple of the Tooth. The afternoon is free to wander through the streets and markets. Ride approx. 53km
Free day in Kandy.
A free day in Kandy to explore the town. Kandy has many interesting attractions including the wonderful Botanical Gardens, the famous Temple of the Tooth, and streets lined with interesting curio shops, while the surrounding hills are dotted with wonderful temples.
Challenging ride through tea estates to Nuwara Eliya.
For anyone who doesn't do hills, we strongly recommend the train ride to Nuwara Eliya, the highest point on the island! For those who feel like a challenge, it's 82km, climbing up to 2000m above sea level to reach the highest and most favoured Hill Station. For the first part of the ride we take the old road, a far more pleasant route, and one of the few places where you see terraced paddy fields. Beyond the paddy fields is tea country and the area is reputed to produce the finest teas on the island. Ride approx. 82km.
Hill country ride to Ella.
In the morning we visit a tea factory on the edge of the town, and then cycle through hilly country towards Ella, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant and later tea in Bandarawella, a trading centre where exotic fruits from the east coast are traded for hill-country vegetables. Arriving in the late afternoon, we watch the sunset from the famous view point Ella Gap. On a clear day you can see the coast shimmering in the distance. Ride approx. 66km
Descent of 1000m, stopping at the impressive rock-cut Buddha statues at Buduruvagela; to Tissamaharama.
Descending 1000m we leave the breathtaking scenery of Uva Province for the gentle rolling hills of the dry zone, stopping at the impressive rock-cut Buddha Statues at Buduruvagala. The giant 15m rock carving of Buddha is flanked by small figures depicting his helpers and a very rare image of Maitreya, the future Buddha, which dates from the 10th Century. The tranquillity of the place is enhanced by the lotus-covered lake; on whose banks we can enjoy some fresh fruit before riding on to lunch. Here we can relax from the heat of the day, before the final 30km to Tissamaharama, the capital of the old Ruhuna Kingdom. Ride approx 102km.
Morning ride to Kataragama Temple; afternoon drive to Yala N.P. for safari.
In the morning we cycle to Kataragama temple, which lies 16km northeast of Tissa. People of all faiths come to seek favour with the god Skanda, who is reputed to restore people's health. The colourful and noisy pooja is always busy, with thousands of pilgrims during the festival season, July - August. Tissa is close to Yala National Park, the best park in Sri Lanka to see Leopard. After lunch we have a safari in the park, when we may see elephant, deer, wild boar, sloth bear, asian jackal, and lots of birdlife and if very lucky a leopard. We return to Tissa for the night. (Please note that the sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park) Ride approx. 32km
Ride through Bundala N.P. and the lagoon for spectacular birdlife; continue riding on coast to Hambantota; transfer to Ahangama.
Leaving early to avoid the heat of the dry zone, we ride along the boundary of Bundala Bird Sanctuary. During certain times of the year thousand of flamingoes can be seen wading in the brackish shallows, eyed up by crocodiles, basking in the early morning sun. After 25km we hit the main road for the final 30km to Hambantota, a series of sandy bays fanning out from this typical coastal town. Transfer from Hambantota to Ahangama by coach. For the next 2 nights we stay in Ahangama.
Free day on beach; optional ride to Koggala.
Relax at the hotel or join a late morning ride along rural roads to Wandurugama, a small rural village before returning via Koggala Lake and back to the hotel and the end of our riding. Afternoon is free to explore the beach area or swim and laze by the pool, late afternoon the stilt fishers climb their poles to catch a few bites for the supper, meanwhile we can enjoy some sun-downers followed by an evening seafood BBQ at the hotel. From November to April you can also go whale watching off Dondra head, near Mirissa, which is one of the best places in the world for seeing blue and sperm whales. Huge pods of dolphins are also often seen accompanying the boats.
Transfer to Colombo via Galle.
Leaving mid morning, we will stop to visit Galle. The Old Dutch fort was built in 1663 after the Dutch took the island from the Portuguese. The old ramparts and small back streets bring alive some of the history of the fight for colonial domination of this prized island. You're free to find your own lunch, meeting back at the bus at 2.30pm for the 2hr drive to Colombo, arriving late afternoon. The rest of the day is free to relax by the pool or shop along the main street. For the last evening meal we can choose from one of the many restaurants in Colombo.
If you are travelling on the group flight we will have a morning transfer to the airport for the daytime flight to London. The arrangements for those not flying with the group end after check out.