Discover the north on this secluded Sri Lanka itinerary. Start in Colombo, where you’ll taste spicy curries before heading to Wilpattu National Park to look for sloth bears and leopards. Glimpse the famous islands of Adams Bridge, connecting Sri Lanka to India and reach the tip of the country in Jaffna. Explore the history of this area including Delft Island, where wild ponies roam and hop on the train down to Anuradhapura. Marvel at the tall stupas before heading to the coast, where blue whales swim in the clear waters off Trincomalee. Finish your trip in the cultural heart of Sigirya, where you can climb Lion’s Rock for spectacular views over the countryside. The perfect holiday to explore Sri Lanka’s beautiful north.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival in Sri Lanka, you will be met at the airport and taken into the city of Colombo. Settle into your hotel and have a short rest, before heading out on a city tour of Colombo. Explore the vibrant markets and bazaars of Pettah and see antiques and traditional art in the National Museum.
After breakfast, you’ll be driven north to Wilpattu, a national park on the north-west coast of the island. Wilpattu reopened after the civil war and offers an incredible wildlife experience for nature lovers. Check into your lodge for two nights and head out on a jeep safari in the late afternoon.
Today, you’ll enjoy both a morning and afternoon jeep safari in Wilpattu National Park. Keep your eyes peeled for elephants, wild boar, buffaloes and leopards, as well as colourful bee-eaters flitting through the air. If you visit in May or June, you may also see sloth bears munching fruit off the top branches of the giant Palu Trees scattered throughout the park.
Spend the rest of your day at leisure in the camp, relaxing and learning about the history of Wilpattu.
After a final safari in the national park, you’ll head for Mannar Island, which is famous for its birdlife. On the way, you’ll stop in to visit the ruins of the Doric House, a century-old crumbling building that was once the bungalow of the Governor of Ceylon. Mannar Island is just off the coast of Sri Lanka but connected by a bridge. Here you’ll visit the Mannar Fort, built by the Portuguese but occupied by the Dutch and then the British. In the afternoon, you’ll check into your hotel for two nights.
This morning you’ll be taken on a bird watching tour of the island, one of the best spots in Sri Lanka for spotting migratory birds, as well as other animals. There are also thousands of flamingos in the ocean as well as waders between November and April.
In the early evening you’ll leave for Thalaimannar – visit the historic pier and the tall lighthouse, as well as a spotting a glimpse of Adam’s Bridge, a chain of 16 sandbanks connecting Sri Lanka to India.
After breakfast, you’ll head north to Jaffna. Jaffna identifies more closely with Southern India than Colombo, which has resulted in a wonderful mix of Sri Lankan Buddhist and Indian Hindu influences and architecture. With a population of over 88,000 people, it’s very different to the rest of Sri Lanka.
Take a short city tour, starting with a visit to Jaffna Library, a white colonial building in the heart of the city. Explore the Dutch Fort and the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, one of the most important Hindu temples in Sri Lanka. Next, you’ll discover the Nilavarai Bottomless well – Hindus believe this well to be the handiwork of Lord Rama, who, wanting to quench his thirst, took the form of an arrow and hit the ground creating this bottomless well. You’ll also have the chance to visit Point Pedro, the northernmost point of Sri Lanka.
Don’t miss out on visiting the colourful food markets in Jaffna. At sunset, make your way to the Fort which is built entirely of coral and overlooks the entire city. Try the speciality dosas or paneer tikka masala – you won’t regret it!
Rising early, you’ll take a packed breakfast and catch the ferry to Delft Island. Local transport will take you on an excursion around the island – you’ll see the Dutch influence that remains here with scattered ruins of a fort and a courthouse. You can also climb right inside a mighty baobab tree, hollowed out and large enough for five people to fit. Delft is home to wild ponies that roam free on the island, left behind by the Portuguese. Look out for these as you make your way around the island. Head back to Jaffna in the early evening.
This morning you will be taken to the Jaffna train station, to board your train to Anuradhapura. This ancient city was founded in the 4th Century and is a sacred site of the Sinhala civilisation that flourished here. You’ll see some of the tallest stupas in the country, as well as the ruins of beautiful royal palaces. You can also see the Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred tree grown from a branch of the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Check into your hotel for one night and spend the night in Anuradhapura.
After breakfast, you’ll leave for Mihintale. Visit the ancient ruins – these are regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The rock is dotted with shrines and rock dwellings – a grand stairway of granite slabs leads to the summit with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
In the afternoon, you’ll arrive at Trincomalee and check into your hotel for two nights. Here you’ll find inviting turquoise waters, white sand beaches and a wealth of activities to get stuck into, including fishing, scuba diving and whale watching.
Today is yours to relax on the beaches of Trincomalee. We’d recommend you take a whale watching tour – the waters off the coast of Sri Lanka are full of blue whales. You’ll head out early and look for these mighty creatures, as well as leaping dolphins. You can also enjoy some local snorkelling spots – look for blacktip reef sharks, green turtles and napoleon wrasse. If you want to add a whale watching tour, just ask!
Head south this morning towards Minneriya National Park. In the afternoon you’ll take a jeep safari. Minneriya is home to many animals including deer, sambar, leopards and sloth bear. This area is especially famous for its herds of elephants. After your safari you will be driven to Sigiriya, where you’ll check into your hotel for one night.
This morning, you’ll travel to the rock fortress of Sigiriya, a 5th Century “Fortress in the Sky”. The ‘Lion rock’ of Sigirya is a citadel of immense beauty rising out of the jungle. At the base of the rock you’ll find a moat and extensive water gardens before climbing the steep stairs to the top, for unparalleled views over the surrounding forests. The majestic lion’s paw guards the stairway to the palace on the summit next to the frescoes of maidens that have survived in a sheltered area of the rock.
After lunch, you’ll leave for Negombo, once a trading port for the British which is now a bustling and modern town. Right next to the international airport, it’s a convenient place to spend your final night – relaxing on the golden beaches and reminiscing over your trip through beautiful Sri Lanka.
After breakfast, you’ll head back to the airport for your flight home.
The south-west beaches of Sri Lanka are sunny and warm between December and April, while the summer months are a little wetter as the monsoon kicks in. In contrast, the north-east beaches are dry at the opposite time of year, so there are always beautiful sunny beaches to be found in Sri Lanka. The higher tea fields of Ella can get cold at any time, but in general, the climate is humid and tropical.
If you'd like to get a feel for this trip, read our blog post Elephants, blue whales and sloth bears: the best places to visit in North Sri Lanka - written by one of our consultants who has been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.