At SevenTravel, we’re always championing the road less travelled and this nineteen-day Sri Lanka trip is the perfect embodiment of this. Pack in authentic experiences, undiscovered corners and unforgettable wildlife encounters without ever losing sight of Sri Lanka in its truest form.

You’ll gently ease into your tailor-made holiday in Sri Lanka with a night at the tranquil tropical gem The Wallawwa on the edge of Colombo, perfect prep for the watery wilderness of Wilpattu National Park. Meaning ‘natural lakes’ in Sinhala and ‘ten lakes’ in Tamil, your tented camp is ideal for daily safaris spotting Asian elephants, leopards and sloth bears among the park’s many pools. Unique experiences in Sri Lanka are aplenty, so you’ll swap wildlife for world-class heritage with a guided cycling tour around Anuradhapura’s crumbling remains, before visiting a pair of the Cultural Triangle’s lesser-known sights. First climb the ruin-scattered rock of Mihintale, thought to be where Buddhism was first introduced to the country, and then scratch your head in disbelief at the colossal granite-carved Aukana Buddha statue.

More of Sri Lanka’s history awaits in the cultural heartland of Kandy but before you get there, you’ll pause en route at the Cave Temples of Dambulla and their evocative paintings and Buddha statues. Once in Kandy you’ll take a tuk-tuk tour through its fusion of colonial and Kandyan architecture (the best way to see the city) and absorb the holy reverence that enshrouds Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist site, the Temple of the Tooth.

You’ve explored on two wheels and by tuk-tuk, now’s the time to take the train from Peradeniya to Haputale. This isn’t any old train ride, however, as this stretch forms part of the line that is regularly touted as one of the finest rail journeys in the world, winding slowly through the heart of Sri Lanka’s emerald-wrapped Tea Country. After arriving in Haputale, you’ll have the chance to stop for a moment on your unique holiday in Sri Lanka amid this green-tinged ambience at a forest retreat. You can make these two days as relaxed or as energetic as you like, from treks to neighbouring villages and waterfalls, tea factory tours or just chilling in the Instagram-worthy swimming pool overlooking paddy fields. This is bespoke travel in Sri Lanka at its best.

Your deep dive into rural Sri Lanka continues in Gal Oya National Park, a wilderness that barely flickers on the tourist radar thanks to the better-known Yala National Park lying to the south. Their loss is your gain, as you enjoy its time-frozen villages, tree-covered peaks and ancient woodland all to yourself. Guides will be on hand to help you spot kingfishers, eagles and kites on a birdwatching walk and peel back the oft-forgotten northern swathe of Nilgala in search of sambar deer, water buffalos and endemic toque macaques. You’ll even get the chance to meet indigenous Vedda locals (and a village chief, no less) but the highlight of your time in the park will undoubtedly be a boat safari on the Senanayake Samudraya (Sri Lanka’s largest lake) to see swimming elephants. Phew – after all that exploring you’ll need time to stop and reflect, so your final few days will be spent on the isolated beaches of Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast – nowhere beats it for exotic seclusion.


Experience highlights

  • Enjoy several private game drives with your own dedicated ranger in Wilpattu National Park, whose expert eye will help you spot leopards, sloth bears, elephants, mugger crocodiles and plenty of birdlife in Sri Lanka’s biggest wilderness.
  • Pedal through the ancient kingdom of UNESCO-listed Anuradhapura and marvel at the treasure trove of crumbling temples, dagobas and monasteries that were once part of this great city which ruled over Sri Lanka for around a thousand years.
  • Visit the sacred mountain of Mihintale, where it all began for Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Climb past ancient shrines and monasteries before soaking up the panoramic views from top of the rock.
  • Pore over the intricate paintings and multitude of rock-hewn Buddha statues hidden within the Cave Temples of Dambulla, built by King Walagambahu over two thousand years ago.
  • See Kandy the best way possible: the three wheels of a tuk-tuk. Careen past its mix of traditional Kandyan architecture and elegant colonial buildings, while also zipping past Kandy lake and putting on the brakes for a guided visit of the city’s bazaar and a traditional gem lapidary.
  • Spend time at the golden-roofed Temple of the Tooth, quite possibly the country’s most enigmatic site and home to its most important Buddhist relic, a tooth belonging to the Buddha. You’ll witness pilgrims making offerings, with religious devotion thickly permeating the entire complex.
  • Take a seat on your train ride from Peradeniya to Haputale, one of the finest rail journeys on the planet. Chug past pristine Tea Country, the lime-green Central Highlands and village-studded mountains. We won’t spoil the magic too much but trust us, you’ll have your nose glued to the window the whole way.
  • Go on a guided birdwatching walk in Gal Oya National Park, where you can spot endemic species like the spot-billed pelican and red-faced malkoha.
  • Head out on a safari drive to the Nilgala region, one of Gal Oya National Park’s least-treaded parts and once revered by royalty for its wealth of medicinal plants. These days, you’ll be keeping your eyes peeled for axis deer, sloth bears and endemic toque macaques.
  • Meet a village chief from a neighbouring Vedda community and take a walk through the forest together, where he’ll bring the jungle alive with ancestral tales, sharing the medicinal use of plants and telling you more about their ancient hunting grounds.
  • Embark on a boat safari along Senanayake Samudraya reservoir, Sri Lanka’s largest lake, for an unforgettable opportunity to spy elephants swimming or bathing close to its banks, as well as water birds like the Indian cormorant and oriental darter.
Plan your trip to Sri Lanka

Experience highlights

Relax among the bird-rich gardens and tranquil aura of The Wallawwa after your flight
Wilpattu National Park is a seldom-visited wilderness home to over one hundred lakes
In Wilpattu, you'll stay at Leopard Trails, which combines old-world safari romance with five-star wildlife experiences
Go on several days during your stay in Wilpattu, keeping your eyes peeled for sloth bears, leopards, Asian elephants and more
Absorb the surrounding rainforest and rice paddies from your private plunge pool at Ulagalla
A guided cycling tour of Anuradhapura's ruins will illuminate of storied past of what was once Sri Lanka's most important city
Soak up the epic views from atop the sacred rock of Mihintale, where Buddhism is thought to have originated in Sri Lanka
At nearly twelve metres tall, the granite-hewn Aukana Buddha statue is the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka
Gasp at the intricate skills used to fashion the paintings and Buddha statues hidden within the Cave Temples of Dambulla
Whizz around the city of Kandy on a guided tuk-tuk tour
Hop off your tuk-tuk to wander the colourful stalls of Kandy bazaar
Pay a visit to the Temple of the Tooth, home to a tooth belonging to the Buddha
Bed down in the luxury colonial walls of Kandy House, a hotel that was once a mansion for the last chief minister of the Kandyan kingdom
Roll through the parakeet-coloured countours of Tea Country on one of the world's greatest rail journeys
Look out over rice paddies tumbling down valley slopes from the postcard-perfect infinity pool at Living Heritage Koslanda
During your time at Living Heritage Koslanda, you could spend the afternoon picnicking beside a jungle-fringed waterfall
A visit to a neighbouring tea factory like Dambatenne is also highly recommended
Its design in keeping with neighbouring indigenous villages, Gal Oya Lodge is right on the fringes of unspoiled Gal Oya National Park
Go on expert-led birdwatching tour, keeping an eagle eye out for kites, pelicans and kingfishers
Spy toque macaques, native to Sri Lanka, and other wildlife on a safari drive in the lesser-visited Nilgala area of the park
Walk through the rainforest with a Vedda village chief
Spot swimming elephants on a boat safari in Gal Oya National Park
Relax among the Robinson Crusoe vibes of Uga Jungle Beach
Fly back to Colombo for a night in the walled oasis of Maniumpathy

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    Where you’ll stay

    Sri Lanka

    The Wallawwa, Negombo

    A restored two-hundred-year-old manor house resting in sprawling bird-rich gardens, The Wallawwa manages to deliver unbridled tranquillity despite being only a fifteen-minute hop from the international airport. It’s a convenient stop at both the top and tail of any Sri Lankan adventure but it also rewards those who choose to linger longer with its traditional Sri Lankan cooking, day trips to nearby Colombo or simply slowing your pulse by slinking into its jungle-fringed pool.

    Sri Lanka

    Leopard Safaris Wilpattu, Wilpattu National Park

    Curled up in a wild corner of Wilpattu National Park, Leopard Trails combines colonial comfort with the old-world romance of safari adventures. It may offer all the luxury trimmings with its deluxe tents and open-air fine-dining but it also recognises the true five-star appeal is the great outdoors. Twice-daily game drives with expert guides will mean encounters with the likes of muntjac deer, sloth bears and, of course, leopards. With a capacity of just fifteen people, intimate experiences are guaranteed in one of Sri Lanka’s under-the-radar wonders.

    Sri Lanka

    Ulagalla, Anuradhapura

    Within easy reach of the Cultural Triangle’s ancient treasures, Ulagalla is a grand manor house that once belonged to esteemed Anuradhapura nobility. It’s set in fifty eight acres of grassy grounds alive with grey langur monkeys, peacocks and over one hundred species of birds, a landscape Ulagalla is fully in tune with. Each chalet is made with local materials and nearly all have plunge pools, perfect spots to absorb the surrounding rainforest, rice paddies and woodland after a busy day exploring the Cultural Triangle.

    Sri Lanka

    Kandy House, Kandy

    Colonial luxury living at its peak, Kandy House is a boutique hotel situated within a former nineteenth-century mansion built by the last chief minister of the Kandyan kingdom. The palatial features of his former villa have been retained and its rooms boast vivid fabrics, black woods and whitewashed walls. Dinner is a personalised affair with tailored chef recommendations, while the twice-weekly ten-course curry feasts are taste sensation.

    Sri Lanka

    Living Heritage Koslanda, Koslanda

    Gaze out from Living Heritage Koslanda’s hill-perched infinity pool over the paddy fields and forest tumbling down a gently sloping valley, you’ll probably think this scenery could only be fashioned by divine hands. No wonder it’s called God’s Forest, then, and Living Heritage Koslanda has the finest view of it all – Sri Lanka’s hill country has never looked good. The resort’s name also nods to the traditional architecture used throughout, from the Kandyan-style roofs to the colonnaded courtyards. A piece of heaven? Absolutely.

    Sri Lanka

    Gal Oya Lodge, Gal Oya National Park

    In twenty acres of private woodland on the edge of Gal Oya National Park, Gal Oya Lodge sits in a patch of Sri Lanka many miss. That’s clearly a plus and the lodge faithfully blends in with its neighbouring Vedda villages, thanks to its use of locally sourced teak, granite and illuk grass. This closeness to the indigenous people also means you can expect unparalleled experiences like ranger-led drives where you’ll often feel like the only ones there.

    Sri Lanka

    Uga Jungle Beach, Trincomalee

    With Jungle Beach the clue really is in the name, with the resort sat within a heavenly mix of lush rainforest and sugar-soft sands on Sri Lanka’s secluded east coast. This is where Robinson Crusoe would stay if he were ever to find himself on the Teardrop Isle: think waking up in rustic jungle-enveloped cabins, walking out onto an almost-deserted beach, toes-in-the-sand apéritifs and siestas under a shaded parasol. Even the restaurant is like a treehouse – Mr Crusoe would certainly approve.

    Sri Lanka

    Maniumpathy, Colombo

    Passed down over five generations of the same family, Maniumpathy feels like a home from home. Now a boutique hotel with just eight charming colonially dressed rooms (each one is named after a woman from a different generation), it’s as if you’ve been transported back to relive the experiences of residents in years gone past. Found in the leafy Cinnamon Gardens district of Colombo, the hotel feels like a secret you’d want to keep to yourself as you step out of the busy street and into this peaceful walled retreat.

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