Sri Lanka Wildlife & Beaches Suggested Itinerary 

Wild wonders and golden sands

Focus your time exploring Sri Lanka’s best beaches and wildlife spots.

This trip follows a route that checks off a handful of incredible locations, has the ideal blend of Sri Lanka’s cultural highlights, opportunities to head out on wildlife-seeking safaris and time on powder sands.

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Anuradhapura, Wilpattu National Park, Kandalama, Nuwara Eliya, Yala National Park, Koggala
Wildlife, Culture, Safari

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Sri Lanka Wildlife & Beaches

From £3,225 per person

  • tick12 nights
  • tickFly with Sri Lankan Airlines from London Heathrow
  • tick2 nights Ulagalla Resort - Anuradhapura
  • tick2 nights Heritance Kandalama
  • tick2 nights The Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya
  • tick2 nights Jetwing Safari Camp - Yala
  • tick4 nights The Fortress - Galle
  • tick7 days personal chauffeur
  • tickBased on selected September 2024 departures

Recommended itinerary

Anuradhapura

Ancient capital & Wilpattu

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura (that lies to the northeast of the modern town of the same name) was a once-powerful Sinhalese city where rulers presided over the country from for almost 1300 years.

What to do in Anuradhapura

Ruins and wildlife

The ruins at Anuradhapura are incredibly well preserved, considering some of the structures are over 2500 years old and are best explored with a guide thanks to their extensive nature; an absolute must-see (and can hardly miss) is the stupa known as Ruwanwelisaya Maha Seya, one of the tallest ancient monuments in the world. To embrace the wildlife theme of the trip, head to Wilpattu National Park where sloth bears roam and elephants wander sedately. You’ll see an abundance of wildlife and if you’re very lucky, a leopard lurking in the undergrowth.

Anuradhapura

Serpent snake, Wilpattu National Park

Where to stay in Anuradhapura

Pool villa hideaway

Our featured hotel close to Anuradhapura, Uga Ulagalla, is housed in a character-packed mansion that’s been beautifully restored. Around the grounds of the hotel are just 25 villas – each with their own pool – and a couple of restaurants, one that’s surrounded by working rice paddies. If you can factor in some down time, a couple of hours in the tucked-away spa is a couple of hours well spent.

Uga Ulagalla

Uga Ulagalla

Kandalama

Sri Lanka’s cultural heart

Anuradhapura marks the northern tip of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, and next you will head further into this tri-sided territory that’s jam-packed with heritage sights. Your base will be Kandalama, a small waterside village that’s situated between two UNESCO-listed gems: Sigiriya and Dambulla.

Kandalama

What to do in Kandalama

Teardrop Island icons

Your days here can be filled with out-and-back adventures to Sigiriya, Dambulla Cave Temples and Minneriya National Park. The former two sights are worth dedicating at least half a day to; we recommend visiting (and for those with a head for heights, definitely climbing to the top of) the iconic Sigiriya Rock in the morning when the day is at its coolest. In magnificent Minneriya, head out on safari to spot elephants crossing the scrub and wetland or convalescing in huge herds on the lakeside.

Sigiriya

Dambulla Rock Cave

Where to stay in Kandalama

An architectural cliffside masterpiece

Heritance Kandalama has one of those take-your-breath-away settings: it been built with its back to a towering rock face and has seemingly been reclaimed by nature. There’s a spectacular outlook from almost every spot – of the lake and, the surrounding hills., and in the distance, Sigiriya Rock. There are a couple of restaurants, two bars and a café but the stand-out dining options are the exclusive experiences that include picnics in paddy fields, candle-lit dinners in a cave and high tea packed with scones, sandwiches and sweet treats.

Heritance Kandalama

Heritance Kandalama

Nuwara Eliya

Up in the hills

Mist-shrouded hills where tea leaves grow, a cool climate that may make you think more of home than the tropics and plentiful shades of green that change as the light changes: the hill country’s Nurwara Eliya is a feast for the senses.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya

What to do in Nuwara Eliya

Tea and trails

A trip to Sri Lanka’s Hill Country isn’t complete without both a tour of an estate to see how tea is processed from plant to cup, or a high tea on the lawn of a historic house or hotel. And it’s not just tea that is grown in this lofty region: there are farms that grow strawberries, potatoes, leeks and carrots too. To burn off those sweet afternoon tea treats, hikers can hit the network of trails that cross Horton Plains and lead you to World’s End – a viewpoint that includes some of the country’s highest peaks.

Horton Plains

Nuwara Eliya

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

Heritage-rich retreats

Our trio of Nuwara Eliya options include Grand Hotel which is grand by both name and nature and the spiritual home of high tea in town, and the former mansion house of Jetwing St Andrew’s which is similarly distinguished. As the name would suggest, plants were once processed at the Heritance Tea Factory; today, it’s a sensitively restored hotel that embraces elements of its former life and a must-stay spot for history buffs and tea lovers.

Jetwing St Andrew's

Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

Yala

Wildlife wonderland

Ever-popular Yala is the star of the show when it comes to Sri Lanka’s wildlife parks. Down in the island’s south-east corner, the national park is renowned as the home of the highest population density of leopards of any park in the country. If your luck’s going to be in for a spotting, it’s likely to be here. Alongside these majestic cats, there are elephants, sloth bears, crocodiles and sambar deer as well as a wide variety of bird species.

What to do in Yala

National park safaris

Your days in Yala will be focused on any safaris that you’ve booked (or may even be included depending on where you’re staying). These usually start at 6am or 3pm and you’ll have a couple of hours in the park to seek out the wild inhabitants before returning to your resort. For a change of scene, there’s Udawalawe National Park, which is a short distance away and another popular spot to get your wildlife-seeking fix.

Udawalawe

Where to stay in Yala

Huts, beachfront retreats and glamping

Unique, oceanfront and tucked away are just a few ways to describe our cluster of Yala hotel options. Treat yourself to one of Cinnamon’s rustic jungle chalets, where you’ll fall asleep to the sound of distant ocean waves. Jetwing have both a traditional hotel (a stone's throw from the ocean) and a safari camp with simple yet comfortable thatched-roofed cabins. Then there’s Uga Chena Huts, a one-of-a-kind retreat set between a lagoon and beach that has just 18 luxe pool cabins; a daily game drive in the company of an expert guide is included each day of your stay here.

Jetwing Safari Camp

Uga Chena Huts

Kogalla

To the beach

Your next stop is all about beach vibes, crashing waves and some kicking-back-and-relaxing following your island travels. Kogalla is a small town that’s set between the eastern end of a beautiful gold-sand beach backed by a handful of hotels, and a mangrove-edged lake.

What to do in Koggala

Walled cities and surfing scenes

There’s very little stopping you from doing nothing more than taking a few beach strolls, watching the surfers or chilling by the pool. However, we highly recommend spending a day in nearby Galle, a city in a fort that’s full of historic Dutch and Portuguese charm where you can wander the narrow, car-free lanes, dip into boutiques and stop in at a café for a coffee and pastry.

Galle

Kogalla

Where to stay in Koggala

Fort-inspired and ocean side

Our featured hotel in this coastal town is The Fortress Resort & Spa, an oceanfront retreat with oodles of character. It’s set in a low-rise building, which has a design influenced by Galle Fort, and features an infinity pool that seems to fade into the waves of the Indian Ocean beyond. An ayurvedic therapy at the spa is the perfect treat to bring your time in Sri Lanka to a close.

The Fortress Resort & Spa

The Fortress Resort & Spa