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The group flight arrives at Colombo's Katunake Airport and we transfer to our hotel at Dambulla (160km, 4hrs drive). Those not flying with the group can meet us at the hotel or the airport in time for the transfer.
Visit Dambulla Caves, village walk towards Sigiriya; afternoon visit to Lion Rock Fortress.
After breakfast we visit the magnificent Cave Temple at Dambulla, one of the most impressive sights in Sri Lanka. There are colourful and very well preserved paintings and statues of Buddha inside the caves, which date back to the 1st century BC. We then have a short, gentle, warm up walk which takes us through villages and rice paddies and on towards Sigiriya, where we have lunch. In the afternoon we visit the imposing 5th century rock fortress, which rises 180m from the plains overlooking the surrounding countryside giving far-reaching views. Used as a safe haven from invaders, the route to the top is up a series of steep steps and gangways. From the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens, we ascend 200m and pass an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the walls. Crowning the flat-topped summit are extensive remains of the King's Summer Palace from where there are breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. The descent is much easier and we have a final 35 minute drive back to our hotel in Dambulla. Approximate walking distance 6km. Alt. gain 395m, Alt. loss 395m
Drive to Illukkumbura; walk the Manigala Trail in the Knuckles Range.
The next two days takes us across the famous Knuckles Mountain Range. We start early with a three hour drive to the start of our walk, from where we begin with an easy descent past rice paddies and through the villages of Pitawala Patana and Etanwala. Descending to the river we cross a small bridge and start to climb up through more farmland. Finally emerging at the top of an escarpment we are rewarded with great views of the surrounding countryside. An easy trail takes us along the top of the escarpment to Manigala Top at 1115m, the high point of today. Next we descend to the Mahalakotuwa village area which leads to the main road and then it’s a 20 minute walk to our campsite by the river where we can bathe in the cool, refreshing water. Today is the longest walk and is approx. 7 hours walking, 15KM, Alt gain 900m, alt loss 100mAlt. gain 240m, Alt. loss 450m (Please note – occasionally due to high water levels we use an alternative campsite. The alternative campsite is about 40 minutes’ drive from Illikumbura).
Walk through forests to Meemure, transfer to Orutota.
We begin with a short half hour drive to the Narangamuwa Temple at Ranamuregama. Passing rice paddies and coconut groves before entering a heavily forested area. The trail climbs gently for an hour and then levels out before undulating though this lush forest. The only sounds we can hear is the birdsong all around us. Emerging from the forest in the village of Meemure from here we look back and get a great view of the peaks of Lakegala. Passing farms growing pepper and other spices we come to a small tea shop where we have lunch. Approx. 5 hours walking, 14km, accent 240m, deccent 450m. After lunch we take a truck or rickshaws for a bumpy 90 minute ride to Corbetts Gap, a famous viewpoint. Our bus will meet us here for the 1.5hr drive to our hotel at Orutota overlooking the Victoria Reservoir.
To Kandy; visit the Temple of the Tooth.
A relaxing morning to enjoy the garden and pool at the hotel. Mid-morning we have a short 18km drive to Kandy and have the afternoon to explore. The town is located around a small lake and we can walk round to hopefully spot several varieties of water birds and large water monitors. Later we visit the Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic - The Tooth of Buddha, which was taken from the funeral pyre in India in 543 BC and only found its way to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. There are literally hundreds of worshippers who visit the temple each day and in July/August the most spectacular ceremony takes place.
Transfer to Dickoya; optional walk around the lake and tea plantations.
This morning we drive to Dickoya (3 hours), where we stay for two nights in simple colonial tea planters bungalows. Surrounded by tea plantations the bungalows have a wonderful view of the Castlereagh Reservoir and on a clear day we can see the outline of Adams Peak in the distance. In the pilgrim season (December-May) we have the day to relax or have a short walk around the lake (approx. 6km) and we leave around midnight for the walk up Adams Peak (approx. 14km). This will take around 4 hours and we should reach the top with the many pilgrims at sunrise. In the off season (May - November) we spend today at Dickoya and can walk around the lake, tomorrow we will climb Adams Peak during daylight hours.
Ascend Adams Peak (2243m).
See above, itinerary will depend on the season.
To Nuwariya Eliya; optional walk and time to explore the town.
This morning we have a wonderful drive through tea plantation districts to Nuwariya Eliya. This was the favourite hill station during the British era and situated in the cool highland air at 1890m has a very British feel to it. Known locally as 'Little England' it is dotted with British style houses, hotels and a racecourse. There will be an optional walk into the hills around the town and also time to explore the bazaar.
Early morning to Horton Plains; walk to World's End viewpoint; to Ella by train.
Today we drive to Horton Plains, a large plateau over 2,000m above sea level, overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and is best explored on foot. We trek through the rolling grasslands, seeing forest and unusual wildlife, such as the sambar deer and purple faced monkey, all the way to 'World's End', one of the most stunning sights in Sri Lanka. Here the ground drops 1050m to the plains below. We then catch the train from the highest railway station in the country; within two hours we’ve dropped from 1889m to 1097m. The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, the views are spectacular; we disembark at Ella.
Daywalk around Ella; visit the Ravana Waterfalls and Ella Gap.
We drive to Kithalaella and climb up to a rocky area to enjoy stunning views of the waterfalls. Continuing on to Ella Gap, we have dramatic views of the coastal plain nearly 1,000m below. Almost the whole of the southern part of the island is in view and on a particularly clear day the shimmering silver of the ocean is visible (approx. 12km walk). We return in the late afternoon to our hotel in Ella.
Drive to Yala National Park; afternoon game drive.
We now head south out of the hills to Tissamaharama down the plains stopping en route to visit the spectacular Ravana Waterfalls as well as the Kataragama Temple. This is a pilgrimage place for both Hindus and Buddhists, who come to worship here in the early mornings and evenings. Colourful and noisy, the temple is always busy. Tissamaharama will be our base for visiting Yala National Park. Its open undulating terrain made it famous for elephants for many years, but recently the park has become well known for leopard. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and fresh water lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard per square kilometre in the world. We will have a game drive in the afternoon. (Please note that the sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. In this instance we will go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park).
Visit Kataragama Temple and walk around Tissamaharama lake; transfer to the coast.
This morning we drive to Tissamaharama lake where we walk for approximately 3.5 hours (approx. 5km), this is an opportunity to see the day to day life of the local people as well as some good birdlife. In the late afternoon we drive to the coast.
Free day to relax on the beach or optional activities including whale watching (Nov to April).
Free day to relax on the beach or by the pool. There are also numerous optional activities including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon plantation, or from November to April you can go whale watching off Dondra Head. This is one of the best places in the world for seeing Blue and Sperm whales.
To Galle; transfer to Colombo.
We set off early today and drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle. Dating back to the 17th century, and now a UNESCO world heritage site, here we visit the Galle Fort and have some free time to enjoy this pretty town. We then follow the coast for the drive back to Colombo visiting a turtle hatchery on the way, reaching Colombo in the late afternoon.
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 ends after breakfast.