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3 week itinerary for Sri Lanka. We'd love your help refining it, please.

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Hello everyone,

This is my first post here, and before I begin I want to say thank you to the many friends I haven't yet met. It wouldn't have been possible to plan this itinerary without the advice found on these pages, nor would I be nearly as excited to be boarding the plane to Colombo. My wife and I will be heading to Sri Lanka for 3 weeks in February and we'd love to hear your thoughts on our below itinerary. We've put some specific questions at the end, but to be honest any help at all would be really appreciated!

Huge thanks in advance and safe travels,

Ben

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Wed 30th Jan – flying
Depart Amsterdam at 14:40
Connection in Dubai
Night: flying

Thu 31st Jan – Negombo / Anuradhapura
Arrive Colombo Airport at 08:30
Drive from Negombo to Anuradhapura
Night: Anuradhapura

Fri 1st Feb - Anuradhapura
City tour / ruins / Bo Tree
Night: Anuradhapura

Sat 2nd Feb – Anuradhapura / Trincomalee
Drive to Trincomalee
Explore Trincomalee
Night: Trincomalee

Sun 3rd Feb - Trincomalee
Day on beach
Snorkelling (Pigeon island / Nilaveli / Uppuveli beaches?)
Night: Trincomalee

Mon 4th Feb – Trincomalee / Ancient Cities
Drive to Polonnaruwa
Explore Polonnaruwa
Minneriya-Giritale Sanctuary
Night: Ancient cities (e.g. Ulagalla Resort, Sigiriya, Habarana)

Tue 5th Feb – Ancient Cities
Sigiriya fortress
Ritigala reserve
Night: Ancient cities (e.g. Ulagalla Resort, Sigiriya, Habarana)

Wed 6th – Ancient Cities
Dambulla cave temple
Relax at hotel / other site / other nature reserve
Night: Ancient cities (e.g. Ulagalla Resort, Sigiriya, Habarana)

Thu 7th Feb – Ancient Cities / Kandy
Drive or train to Kandy
Spice Garden en route
Temple of the tooth relic
Night: Kandy (e.g. Kandy House)

Fri 8th Feb – Kandy
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
Relax at hotel / in Kandy / other nature reserve
Night: Kandy (e.g. Kandy House)
N.B. if we wanted to save a day here, we could drive on to Nuwara Eliya in the afternoon rather than spend another night in Kandy

Sat 9th Feb – Kandy / Nuwara Eliya
Drive to Nuwara Eliya.
Night: Nuwara Eliya

Sun 10th Feb – Nuwara Eliya
Tea Estates
Optional: add in trip to Kitulgala to go white water rafting
Optional: trip to Horton Plains national park
Night: Nuwara Eliya

Mon 11th Nuwara Eliya / Ella
Scenic train to Ella or Badulla
Hill Country walk. Ella rock.
Night: Ella
N.B: if we wanted a single base in the Hill Country, we could choose one hotel in either Nuwara Eliya or Ella.

Tue 12th Feb – Ella / Yala
Drive to Yala National Park
Afternoon safari
Night: Yala (e.g. Mahoora Safari Camp)

Wed 13th Feb – Yala / Tangalla (or Mirissa)
Early morning safari
Drive from Yala to Tangalla (or Mirissa)
Night: Tangalla

Thu 14th Feb – Tangalla (or Mirissa)
Day on beach
Night: Tangalla

Fri 15th Tangalla / Galle / Hikkaduwa
Drive or bus to Galle for lunch
Then drive on to Hikkaduwa
Night: Hikkaduwa
Optional: could add a night in Kahanda Kandy en route to Hikkaduwa
Beautiful hotel, but out of the way / another stop to pack/unpack

Sat 16th Feb
Beach / snorkeling
Start 4 day PADI open water course
Night: Hikkaduwa

Sun 17th Feb
Beach / snorkeling
PADI open water course
Night: Hikkaduwa

Mon 18th Feb
Beach / snorkeling
PADI open water course
Night: Hikkaduwa

Tue 19th Feb
Beach / snorkeling
PADI open water course
Night: Hikkaduwa

Wed 20th Feb
Morning on beach
Drive to Colombo airport/Negombo in evening
…Or Drive to Colombo in morning,
Lunch/afternoon tea at Galle Face
Then drive to airport after dinner

Depart Colombo at 02:55
Connect in Dubai and flight on to Amsterdam
Arrive Amsterdam 12:40

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Some questions we've been wondering about:

- Given we have three weeks, would you recommend adding any other destinations along our route?

- Do any parts of the itinerary feel rushed?

- With Trincomalee, Tangalla and Hikkaduwa do you think we've picked the best beaches? Or are there others that shouldn’t be missed / would be nicer?

- How many days would you recommend for Kandy and how many days for the Hill Country towns?

- After moving around so much, we’d like to end our holiday relaxing in one place, (e.g. staying in one nice hotel for 5 nights or so). It’d be great if this were an indulgent and refined highlight of the trip. Is Hikkaduwa a good choice for this?

- Would you recommend building in a day in Colombo at the start or end of the trip? As a general rule, we prefer beautiful countryside to big urban cities but don’t want to miss it if it’s culturally essential or genuinely interesting.

- Would you recommend using/hiring a driver all the way up to Hikkaduwa or just up to Nuwara Eliya and then taking train / bus / taxis / tuk tuks from there?

- Based on reports here, we've approached Ramuni, Namuni and BSL for quotes. In case we don't hear back or they're already booked, are there any other drivers that people have would recommend, please?

- We’ve tried to avoid any journeys that will be too long in a single day – are there any at the moment that could take a long time? We know that roads can be slow going.

- We're thinking of taking a PADI diving course in Hikkaduwa - if anyone's been diving over there, is Hikkaduwa a good shout and do you know which of the operators is best (Barracuda Diving Centre, Blue Deep Dive Centre, International Diving School), please?

Thank you so much!

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    Hi, I have just got back from 3 weeks in Sri Lanka and am just posting my trip report. Although we did quite a different trip some parts coincide.
    In Tangalla I would reccommend a place we visited called Mangrove Chalets - it is not as chic/trendy as Buckingham Place where we stayed (also very good) but the beach is marvellous and good for swimming. It depends if you like your beaches isolated or crowded though! Also depends on your budget.
    Other beaches like Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are not so special. I don't think the diving is as good as in other parts of the world and the beaches are quite full of hotels and bars. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka it seems the most beautiful beaches are not good for swimming - which is why they are unspoilt! Trinco may be an exception to this as it has been cut off from tourism for so long and is supposed to be very beautiful.
    In Yala we were told that the tented camps including Mahoori have been dismantled and are not running any more.I would really recommend staying at Chaaya Wild. It is really, really nice and you see more undisturbed wildlife than inside the park.
    We found the Hill Country to be pretty boring. We really liked trekking in Horton Plains but there is nothing in Nuwara Eliya or Ella except for a cold climate and some beautiful views. The tea estates and scenery are nice but in my opinion 3 nights up there is too long.
    Kandy for 2 nights is good. We enjoyed staying at Queen's Hotel because it is so central and you can walk everywhere. It is right in front of the tooth temple and you can hear the monks chanting from your room!
    We didn't like the idea of having a driver for our whole trip because it gives you less freedom. The best way of travelling short distances is by tuk tuk. Also you will easily find drivers to take you anywhere once you are there. Perhaps just hire a driver for parts of your trip and then arrange some transport when you are there. The important thing is to know how much everything should cost before you start bargaining! A good estimate is 40 rupees per km.
    Negombo and Colombo are both worth spending a day. Colombo has some lovely museums.
    Anyway if you want more info and name of a local contact you can e mail me at info@carromitaly.com

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    They told us there had been issues over sewage/waste disposal and permits. Initially I had tried to book a tented camp which is why I specifically asked where they were inside the Park and this is what I was told. It may all change again at short notice especially with Christmas bookings coming up.

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    Thanks, Carom. Really appreciate your advice. And well done for flying your flag in the carom championships! I used to play it sometimes as a kid so will have to see if I can get my fingers in again when I'm over there.

    I'm looking into alternatives to Mahoora now - including Chaaya and a couple of cheaper options. Out of interest, when you stayed at Chaaya, how did you arrange your game drives? Through the hotel or directly with a safari operator?

    We're also going to ditch our third night in the hill country, as you suggest - now spending two nights in or near Kandy (weighing up staying downtown or 70-90 minutes north near the Knuckles Mountain Range) and then two nights near either Haputale or Bandarawela (waiting to hear back from hotels). The Queen's Hotel looks nice. From your time there, would you say staying in the town itself is better than staying in the surrounding hills, or would both work?

    Finally, in case anyone comes to use this itinerary in the future: another change we're making is to ditch Trinco at the start - whilst Nilaveli is probably the beach I'm most keen to visit, the weather (and road) in early February just seems too much of a gamble. Instead, we're thinking of spending some time in Ulagalla before our days exploring the Ancient Cities - or alternatively adding a couple of days in Mirissa at the end. Both good dilemmas to be weighing up =)

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    Hi again, I would avoid arranging through Chaaya, I heard of horrific prices. The correct price for a standard jeep for 2 people half a day is 4,000 rupees. I had been given a quote before I left from Sugathadasa Safari services so with that piece of paper in hand I was actually able to negotiate a cheaper price once there. February like November should be a less busy month so you shouldn't have any problems.
    Chaaya is expensive but it is really worth staying there compared to other places we saw as it's so close to the park you almost don't need to take the safari.
    As for Kandy we much preferred staying in town rather than in the hills. It starts getting dark around 5pm and driving at night is not a great experience. Kandy is a great little town to walk around in unlike all the others apart from Galle. By the way are you skipping Galle? It might be an idea to spend a couple of nights there towards the end too. We loved it!

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    hi Ben,

    looks like you've got the making of a great trip. We spent just 2 weeks in Sri Lanka at the end of September/beginning of October, and wished we'd been there longer. one place we missed out on and would really like to visit is Trinco - apart from all the good things we read about it, our driver said that it was one of his favourite places to take his clients. so I would leave it in if I were you.

    I can't help with the Anuradhapura section as we never got there, but you ought to know that it will probably take quite a lot longer to drive there from the airport than you are expecting - it took us about 4 hours to get to our first hotel in Dambulla which was about twice as long as we'd reckoned on. The roads can be very tortuous and those in the north are some of the worst.

    i can help with a suggestion of your base in the Sirigiyra area, which is the Heritage Kandalla, at Dambulla, though if you were gonig to stay there, I would suggest visiing Polunnawura en route as it's a long drive from Dambulla.

    we stayed at the Theva Residence in Kandy, which we liked a lot [the food was terrific - some of the best we had] but it's a bit of a way out of town, and the Queens looked pretty good to us, though we didn't see the rooms. We also liked Chaaya Wild [though not the food so much] and did a safari through our driver, which was less expensive than the ones offered by the hotel, but cheaper than the one carom talks about. BTW on top of the fee to the driver for the jeep, [which may be 4000 Rs or more] you have to pay the park entry fee, which is usually given in U$. It's now U$20 pp - which is about 8000 Rs. so a half day safari is going to be at least 12,000 Rs plus another 1000 Rs for the official park guide.

    Galle was perhaps our favourite place of all - do try to grab a couple of days there if you can. we stayed at the Fort Printer which was vey nice, and got tuk tuks to get around. We had a driver throughout, [it was only U$800 for the entire trip] but didn't hesitate to tell him if we'd rather take a tuk tuk or even train. but we used our driver for things like picking us up from Kandy to take us back to our hotel after we'd been to the Temple of the Tooth in the evening so we weren't worried about night driving as we weren't doing it.

    DH is a keen diver but the time we were there [determined by the cricket T20 world cup] wasn't suitable. if you have a look at the Boutique Sri lanka website [we booked our trip through them and can strongly recommend them] they have a lot of information about diving and I recall reading other websites about it too.

    have a great trip!

  • Report Abuse

    Annhig, wow - thanks for such a great note. You've given me lots to think about.
    Sounds like you had an amazing trip, by the way. Makes me all the more excited about going.

    The Fort Printers looks beautiful! Good choice. I'd been planning on simply stopping for an afternoon in Galle Fort on the way up to Hikka, but you've got me tempted. Will look into it properly tomorrow. Out of interest, what made it your favourite spot?

    Trinco's a tough one - I've now had several people warn me off it in February, so, with a heavy heart, I think we'll have to leave it for next time. I've got no doubts about the destination itself and don't mind more driving but it really does sound like the weather's shaky then, and with so much to do it's a question of juggling stuff.

    It's funny you should suggest the Heritage; after more reading this evening, we've decided that Dambulla would make the best base for the Ancient Cities due to the wealth of good hotels there. I'll take a proper look at the Heritage in the morning - thank you for the tip.

    Thanks also for the cost advice on the safari. It's helpful to know up front to budget and negotiate accordingly.

    And, Carom, thank you for turning us on to Chaaya WIld in the first place. We're definitely going to stay there and will arrange our drives independently.

    Finally, we've also been looking into downtown Kandy hotels - although the Queens had bucketloads of character, we were put off by the noise (on top of the need for a refit) and instead are leaning towards the simple Kapindra Residence, not least due to its location and reviews. Annhig, Theva looks fantastic - but it feels like Kandy is a chance to save so we can splurge elsewhere ;)

    Thank you both again for your help and sleep well.

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    We stayed at the Kandalama and I was very impressed with it. I've recommended it to others, all of whom have reported back how much they enjoyed it. We found it a great base for the ancient cities area.

    To be honest with you, I'd skip Colombo all together.

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    The Fort Printers looks beautiful! Good choice. I'd been planning on simply stopping for an afternoon in Galle Fort on the way up to Hikka, but you've got me tempted. Will look into it properly tomorrow. Out of interest, what made it your favourite spot? >>

    we were worried about noise at the Fort Printers as our room overlooked the back of the local mosque, but either the call to prayer was very quiet or we were too tired to notice it! we came across it by accident as due to having spent too long in what felt like remote locations, we decided that instead of staying outside Galle on the beach, we wanted to be in town, and it was the first place we came to that we liked. [it turned out later that it gets very good reviews in the lonely Planet guide, which we actually had with us but for some unaccountable reason we failed to consult when looking for a hotel!]

    what we liked about Galle is that it felt like a real place with its own character, but it was tourist friendly as well. much of the character is old colonial [as a lawyer I loved the bit round the court buildings; though DH wasn't that keen, he's used to my finding courts in unusual places] which may have added to the homely feel. we enjoyed the Fort area where we stayed but also the wonderful market, the fish displays, and the nearby beaches - it was 600 Rs in a tuk tuk to the Fort Printer's sister hotel "the Retreat" where there was a lovely beachside pool and terrific food. loads of restaurants in every price range, and very safe.

    if you decide to stay in the centre of Kandy, do consider having a meal at the Theva - we thought that the food was really excellent. you could easily get a tuk tuk up there, swim in the pool and then eat lunch enjoying the superb view. and don't miss the botanical gardens in Kandy - definitely worth the trip.

    I meant to say that I agree with others about NE - probably 2 nights are enough, but I would definitely think about spending 2 nights at Ella to do some of the walking there, which seemed to be more extensive than the walking at NE. again we managed to hit on a terrific hotel [more like a victorian house in this case] called Warwick Gardens. it's an absolute b..ger to get there, but wonderful when you arrive.

    finally a thank you to Kathie - we followed her advice to stay at the Kandalama and it was probably the best start to a holiday in Sri Lanka that we could have had.

    [PS - if you click on my screen name, you will find my as yet uncompleted trip report; better still click on Kathie's screen name and read her TR which is excellent].

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    Good evening, all,

    And thank you for the detail about Galle, Annhig. That swung it for us.

    In case anyone should find this helpful in the future - or if any of you have any comments on the changes, here's our refined itinerary. Thanks to several pieces of sound advice, we've ditched Trinco due to the weather and added in Adam's Peak and Galle. We've also swapped in Mirissa for Tangalla; the peace and isolation of Tangalla really appealed, but the chance to see whales and snorkel (in Mirissa's more secluded bays) edged it in the end. This is still WIP but hopefully getting pretty close now. I guess we've only got two remaining questions now:

    - does swapping Tangalla for Mirissa make sense or have we inadvertently traded down?
    - based on our route, how many days would you suggest spending in Galle? one or two?

    Thanks so much,

    Ben

    REVISED ITINERARY:

    Wed 30th Jan – flying
    Depart Amsterdam at 14:40 (flight EK0148)
    Connection in Dubai
    Night: flying

    Thu 31st Jan – Negombo / Anuradhapura
    Arrive Colombo Airport at 08:30
    Drive from Negombo to Anuradhapura
    Stopping somewhere scenic en route for lunch
    Night: Anuradhapura

    Fri 1st Feb - Anuradhapura
    City tour / ruins / Bo Tree
    Night: Anuradhapura

    Sat 2nd Feb – Anuradhapura / Ritigala / Dambulla
    Ritigala Natural Reserve
    Dambulla cave temple
    Night: Dambulla

    Sun 3rd Feb – Sigirya / Minnerriya-Giritale
    Sigiriya fortress
    Minneriya-Giritale Sanctuary
    Night: Dambulla

    Mon 4th Feb – Polonnaruwa
    Drive to Polonnaruwa
    Explore Polonnaruwa
    Night: Dambulla

    Tue 5th Feb – Kandy
    Drive to Kandy
    Spice Garden en route
    Walk around town
    Night: downtown Kandy

    Wed 6th – Kandy
    Temple of the Tooth
    Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
    Night: downtown Kandy

    Thu 7th Feb – Adam’s Peak
    (Spend morning relaxing in hotel)
    Drive to Dalhousie (nr Hatton)
    Leave bags in Slightly Chilled Hotel
    Sleep for a few hours and get ready to climb…
    Night: Dalhousie

    Fri 8th Feb – Adam’s Peak
    Begin climb up Adam’s Peak around 2:45am
    Reach peak around 5:45am for sunrise around 6:30am
    Spend an hour at summit (sacred footprint, cloud shadow)
    Descend, arriving back in Dalhousie around 10:30am
    From here, drive to Haputale
    Or catch train from Hatton to Haputale if we coincide with timetable
    (11:05-14:09 / 12:55-15:34 TBC)
    Relax in hotel.
    Night: Haputale

    Sat 9th Feb – Haputale / Ella
    Gentle walk near hotel to stretch legs
    Scenic train journey to Ella (1hr) or Badulla (2hr)
    Tea Estate tour
    Catch train back in afternoon
    Night: Haputale

    Sun 10th Feb – Yala
    Drive to Chaaya Wild
    Evening safari in Yala National Park
    Night: near park

    Mon 11th – Yala / Mirissa
    Early morning safari
    Drive from Yala to Mirissa beach
    Stopping on the way for lunch/rest on Tangalla beach
    Afternoon snorkel in Mirissa, time permitting
    Night: Mirissa

    Tue 12th Feb – Mirissa
    Morning whale watching trip (leaves harbour around 7am, returns around 12pm)
    Afternoon snorkel
    Night: Mirissa

    Wed 13th Feb – Galle
    Drive to Galle
    Explore town / walk around Fort
    Night: Galle

    Thu 14th Feb – Galle / Hikkaduwa
    Hang out in Galle
    Night: call
    Q:Does Galle warrant two days?
    If it's better suited to one day, we would spend the extra day on either Mirissa or Hikkaduwa beach.

    Fri 15th Hikkaduwa
    Early drive to Hikka
    Erica starts PADI Open Water course
    Night: Hikka

    Sat 16th Feb
    Beach / snorkeling / diving
    Erica and Ben PADI Open Water course
    Night: Hikka

    Sun 17th Feb
    Beach / snorkeling / diving
    Ben and Erica PADI Open Water course
    Night: Hikka

    Mon 18th Feb
    Beach / snorkeling / diving
    Ben and Erica PADI Open Water course
    Night: Hikka

    Tue 19th Feb
    Spend day on beach;
    Or breakfast on beach
    Then drive to Lunuganga House in Bentota for lunch
    And on to the Galle Face in Colombo or Negombo for dinner
    Then leave for the airport in Negombo around 10/11pm
    Check-in around midnight

    Wed 20th Feb
    Depart Colombo at 02:55
    Connect in Dubai and flight on to Amsterdam
    Arrive Amsterdam 12:40

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    A couple of general comments. It always takes longer to get from place to place than you think it will, Roads are narrow and have a lot of non-car traffic which slows things down. You have a lot of long driving days which are exhausting. As you look at your itinerary, are there any one night stays somewhere you could cut? That will make the whole trip more enjoyable,

    One thing on your itinerary I'd cut is the spice garden. Not that interesting, and mostly a hard-sell for various ointments.

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    I agree with Kathie that you should avoid one night stands, and definitely give yourselves at least a full day in Galle.


    as for Yala, i see that you are planning to arrive there, do and "evening safari" and then leave the next day. this of course depends on your arriving early enough on the day from Haputale to do the safari - before committing yourselves to this, you need to know how long the journey is, and what time sunset is, as generally the park gates close then and all the people in "evening safaris" have to leave. it is possible to do a night safari i think but you have to arrange this specially. evening safaris tend to start at about 3pm at the latest.

    if you could manage another night at Yala, that would be a good idea, and I would definitely stay at Chaaya unless you've got a very good reason not to.

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    Remember that it takes two nights somewhere to be one full day, three nights to be two full days. I had missed that you ar eplanning one night at Yala. Given that, I'd cut it. The likelihood that you will have no experience of it is high, IMO.

    Indeed, you idea of how much you can do in a day may be unrealistic. On Feb 2, you plan to drive from Anuradhapura to Dambulla, visit the cave temples and the Ritigala Natural Reserve. I don't think that will work. You want to be at any of the parks/reserves for a late afternoon or an early moning game drive. And you would want to visit the Dambulla cave temples in the late afternoon. It's a long drive - 2.5 hours or more.

    As much as I hate to suggest cutting ruins, I'd suggest you cut Anuradhapura and add one night at Dambulla. I think you are just trying to do to much.

    When we went to Sri Lanka, I laid out what I wanted to do and cut half of the destinations. We ended up with an itinerary that was just right for us.

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    I have been to most of the places on your itinerarywith the exception of Yala ( couldn't find anywhere to stay!) . Highlights for me were Adams Peak but do be prepared! Take some warm clothes as it does get bitterly cold there and there is usually a lot of waiting around for the dawn. Slightly Chilled is a great choice. Not the height of luxury but the staff are really helpful and the food is great - particularly the breakfast on the return from the climb!

    I would avoid Hikkaduwa if I were you, it really is not that great . Mirrisa is much better. Better still is Goyambokka, but is is very small with not a great deal going on, but a wonderfull beach with lots of seafood shacks and not a lot else.

    Annadapura did not impress but where were there at the height of the floods in 2011 and our guide washopeless, so perhaps we did not see it at its best! It is also a long way from anywhere else. Pollonurawa was a LOT more impressive

    Galle is great and worth a few days. There are some great restaurants there and the town itself has some great architecture. The Printers at the fort has a terrific restaurant.

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    Kathie, Annhig,

    Hear you loud and clear! And thank you again for your replies - you don't have to be here commenting on other people's holidays, yet the help you provide makes a real difference. I've revisited our plan again, removing Adam's Peak (whilst an appealing adventure, it comes at too great a cost). This slows things down quite a bit. Does this feel better now?

    Two related questions along the way:

    - does Anuradhapura warrant driving the extra distance north? Or should I ditch it and head straight to Dambulla. If you're still nervous we're moving around too much, that would buy us two more nights to slow things down further

    - in Kandy, Theva looks like a more relaxing place to stay but I'm conscious it's a bit out of the way in the hills. Would you generally recommend staying in the countryside or downtown?

    Thanks and I hope you're having a good evening,

    Ben


    ITINERARY v3:

    Wed 30th Jan – flying
    Depart Amsterdam at 14:40 (flight EK0148)
    Connection in Dubai
    Night: flying

    Thu 31st Jan – Negombo / Anuradhapura
    Arrive Colombo Airport at 08:30
    Drive from Negombo to Anuradhapura
    Stopping somewhere scenic en route for lunch
    Hotel Alakamanda
    Or *maybe* Ulagalla if I can face the cost :)

    Fri 1st Feb - Anuradhapura
    City tour / ruins / Bo Tree
    Hotel Alakamanda

    Sat 2nd Feb – Anuradhapura / Ritigala / Dambulla
    Ritigala Natural Reserve
    Dambulla cave temple
    Kandalama

    Sun 3rd Feb – Sigirya / Minnerriya-Giritale
    Sigiriya fortress
    Minneriya-Giritale Sanctuary
    Kandalama

    Mon 4th Feb – Polonnaruwa
    Drive to Polonnaruwa
    Explore Polonnaruwa
    Kandalama

    Tue 5th Feb – Dambulla / Kandy
    Drive to Kandy
    Walk around town
    Kapindra Residence (downtown)
    Or Theva (hills)

    Wed 6th – Kandy
    Temple of the Tooth
    Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
    Kapindra Residence

    Thu 7th Feb – Kandy / Nuwara Eliya / Train to Haputale
    Drive to Nuwara Eliya
    Then catch scenic train to Haputale via Diyaluma Falls
    (Depending on time of day, could continue on to Ella and drive back)
    Koslanda

    Fri 8th Feb – Haputale
    Nature walks / tea estate
    Optional: go hiking in Horton’s Plain
    Optional: catch train to Ella or Badulla
    Koslanda.com

    Sat 9th Feb – Haputale / Yala
    Drive to Chaaya Wild
    Optional: time / energy permitting, afternoon safari
    Chaaya Wild

    Sun 10th Feb – Yala
    Morning safari and afternoon safari
    Chaaya Wild

    Mon 11th – Yala / Mirissa
    Drive to Mirissa beach
    Stopping on the way for lunch / rest on Tangalla beach
    Number One Mirissa
    Or Tangalla alternative: Coco Tangalla

    Tue 12th Feb – Mirissa
    Morning whale watching trip (7am-12pm)
    Afternoon snorkel
    Number One Mirissa

    Wed 13th Feb – Galle
    Drive to Galle
    Explore town / walk around Fort
    The Fort Printers

    Thu 14th Feb – Hikkaduwa
    Drive to Hikkaduwa
    Beach / snorkelling
    Roman Beach Hotel

    Fri 15th Hikkaduwa
    Beach / snorkelling / diving
    Day 1 PADI Open Water course
    Roman Beach Hotel

    Sat 16th Feb
    Beach / snorkelling / diving
    Day 2 PADI Open Water course – confined dives
    Roman Beach Hotel

    Sun 17th Feb
    Beach / snorkelling / diving
    Day 3 PADI Open Water course – 2OW dives
    Roman Beach Hotel

    Mon 18th Feb
    Beach / snorkeling / diving
    Day 4 PADI Open Water course – 2 OW dives
    Roman Beach Hotel

    Tue 19th Feb
    Breakfast on beach
    Then drive to Lunuganga House in Bentota for lunch
    And on to the Galle Face in Colombo or Negombo for dinner
    Then leave for the airport in Negombo around 10/11pm
    Check-in around midnight

    Wed 20th Feb
    Depart Colombo at 02:55
    Connect in Dubai and flight on to Amsterdam
    Arrive Amsterdam 12:40

  • Report Abuse

    Kathie, Crellston, just saw you've posted again while I was updating that. Thank you.

    From the sound of it, I'm wondering about ditching Anuradhapura on top of the changes above. Maybe add in another night in two of: Dambulla, Haputale, Mirissa or Galle.

    Crellston, how bad is Hikka? I've seen it gets mixed reviews but we were heading there so we can take a PADI course (it's rare we have enough time off to take the Open Water course, so figured we'd take the chance). That said, it's not essential and it'd suck to hate the last 5 days of a holiday. In opting for Roman Beach, we'd be going for a hotel that seems to get extremely good reviews, so I was hoping it might be on an okay stretch of Narigama beach or at least an oasis of luxury. Or am I just kidding myself?

    And speaking of beaches, how does Tangalla compare with Mirissa and Goyambokka?

    Thank you again for keeping us on the right track,

    B

  • Report Abuse

    hi Ben,


    first of all I can't help with whether Anuradhapura is worth the effort - we never got there. Polunnawura was not our favourite place but i think that if you are interested in Temples, it;s a must, but it's a long drive from Drambulla, hence my suggestion that you see it on your way between Anuradhapura. Siguriyia however is IMO an absolute must - you need to see it as early as posible to avoid the heat and the crowds. then you could go back to the hotel, laze around and have lunch, and see the Drambulla caves in the late afternoon.

    secondly, i would definitely take a day from your beach stay and add it to Galle, where you seem to have only one night - not enough time to see it all, IMO.

    thirdly - I would NOT stay at the Galle Face in any circumstances. they had a fire, albeit a small one when we were there and their security and safety measures left a lot to be desires. OTOH the nearby Cinnamon Grand [we had a terrific meal there] was terrific and I'd happily stay there, or somewhere near the Dutch fort area.

    otherwise I quite like your itinerary and just wish that we'd had 3 weeks to spend in Sri Lanka.

    <<Hear you loud and clear! And thank you again for your replies - you don't have to be here commenting on other people's holidays, yet the help you provide makes a real difference.>>

    Ben - I've had so much help and inspiration from people here, it's nice to be able to give some of it back. at least, that's the intention!

  • Report Abuse

    Glad to be of assistance to you. Sri Lanka is one of those places I plan to return to.

    I think I would cut Anuradhapura. I'd add one night to Dambulla and one to Galle. With just one night in Galle, you won't see any of it. I'd say to spend two nights in Galle ot cut it.

    We very much enjoyed staying in the hills around Kandy. I have to admit that the city itself was a disappointment to me. I had expected to love it.

    Keep at it - in my expereince, it is this fine tuning that will make all the difference.

    (Sorry, I can't help with the beach questions)

  • Report Abuse

    Kathie - i agree with you about Kandy but i do just wonder if by staying outside Kandy we actually missed out on the best bit of staying there. people who stayed at the Queen's seem to have enjoyed the city more than those of us who stayed outside.

    but I certainly felt that we made up for that in Galle, and was really glad that we opted to stay in the town rather than in the beach resort that we were booked into, though our driver clearly thought that we were bats!

  • Report Abuse

    So, here goes. Simpler still.

    Essentially, it's now:

    4 nights in Dambulla (added more time as you suggested)

    2 in Kandy (in the nearby hills)

    2 in Haputale (with this stripped back route, does Koslanda in Haputale make sense as our Hill Country stop?)

    3 nights in Tangalla (never mind whales or 6am alarms, peace and isolation will be more relaxing)

    2 nights in Galle (have added more time as you suggested)

    4 nights in Hikkaduwa (lost a day here in favour of spending it in or near Tangalla as that seemed to float Crellston's boat more)

    Here's the latest full plan - it's been through more tweaking tonight than a teenager getting to second base...


    Wed 30th Jan – flying
    Depart Amsterdam at 14:40
    Connection in Dubai

    Thu 31st Jan – Negombo to Dambulla
    Arrive Colombo Airport at 08:30
    Drive from Negombo to Dambulla
    www.heritancehotels.com/kandalama/

    Fri 1st Feb - Dambulla
    Dambulla cave temple

    Sat 2nd Feb – Sigirya and Minnerriya-Giritale
    Sigiriya fortress
    Minneriya-Giritale Sanctuary

    Sun 3rd Feb – Polonnaruwa
    Drive to Polonnaruwa
    Explore Polonnaruwa

    Mon 4th Feb – Dambulla to Kandy
    Drive to Kandy
    Botanical gardens
    http://theva.lk/theva.html

    Tue 5th Feb – Kandy
    Temple of the Tooth
    Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

    Wed 6th – Kandy to Haputale
    Drive to Nuwara Eliya
    Then catch scenic train to Haputale via Diyaluma Falls
    www.koslanda.com

    Thu 7th Feb – Haputale
    Tea Estates
    Nature walks
    Optional: go hiking in Horton’s Plain
    Optional: catch train to Ella or Badulla

    Fri 8th Feb – Haputale to Yala
    Drive to Chaaya Wild
    Optional: time/energy permitting, do afternoon safari (3pm)
    www.chaayawildresort.com/index.html

    Sat 9th Feb – Yala
    Morning and afternoon safari

    Sun 10th Feb – Yala to Tangalla (or nearby coast)
    Drive to Tangalla
    Relax on the beach
    http://www.cocotangalla.com/

    Mon 11th – Tangalla
    Relax on the beach

    Tue 12th Feb – Tangalla
    Relax on the beach

    Wed 13th Feb – Tangalla to Galle
    Drive to Galle,
    (Optional: stop at Frangipani Tree or Mirissa for lunch)
    Dinner and cocktails in Galle fort!
    http://www.thefortprinters.com/

    Thu 14th Feb – Galle
    Explore Galle Fort

    Fri 15th – Galle to Hikkaduwa
    Drive to Hikkaduwa
    Start PADI Open Water course
    http://romanholidays.lk/index.html

    Sat 16th Feb – Hikkaduwa
    Beach / snorkelling / diving
    Day 2 PADI Open Water course – confined dives
    http://romanholidays.lk/index.html

    Sun 17th Feb – Hikkaduwa
    Beach / snorkelling / diving
    Day 3 PADI Open Water course – 2OW dives
    http://romanholidays.lk/index.html

    Mon 18th Feb – Hikkaduwa
    Beach / snorkeling / diving
    Day 4 PADI Open Water course – 2 OW dives
    http://romanholidays.lk/index.html

    Tue 19th Feb – Hikkaduwa to Bentota to Colombo
    Breakfast on beach
    Then drive to Lunuganga House in Bentota for lunch
    And on to the Galle Face in Colombo or Negombo for dinner
    Leave for the airport in Negombo around 10/11pm
    Check-in around midnight

    Wed 20th Feb – flying
    Depart Colombo at 02:55
    Connect in Dubai and flight on to Amsterdam
    Arrive Amsterdam 12:40


    Thanks again,
    Ben

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    i agree - much more manageable.

    one small potential flaw- you probably won't want to do two afternoon safaris at Yala - you might like to look at the nearby Bundalla national park as well where the main attraction is birds for a bit of variety. alternatively we did an early morning walk which we found very enjoyable, then had a late breakfast and lounged around by and in the pool until the afternoon safari.

    that was fun too. [good cocktails at Chaaya Wild, BTW!]

  • Report Abuse

    Ben re Annurahadpura. It is a long way, although, we were travelling through some pretty horrendous floods for most of the time. It took us the whole day to get there from Columbo. How much quicker it would have been in good weather I am not sure, maybe a couple of hours.. Personally, I didn't think it was worth it and much preferred Polonuurawa and the other places in the CT. I agree with Kathie ( as I so often do!) add the days to Dambulla or Galle, which we loved.

    Hikkaduwa was recommended to us by someone we met on our travels. We are both keen divers and were hoping to get in a few dives there. The beaches looked good but it was just too built up and commercialised for our tastes so we moved on. Having dived all over the world, it would not be high on my list to take my PADI OW, partly because I believe most of the diving is done quite a way offshore from boats, rather than close to the beach.Not sure about the quality of the dive schools there but when learning it is essential to get a good instructor so do check out their experience, credentials and, if possible speak to them before leaving to gain a personal impression. Just because they are PADI doesn't make them good!

    Tangalla and Goyambokka are close together. Both are nice beaches and there are several other in the close vicinity. Goyambokka is very small and quite quiet with just a few local fish restarants and bars. I used to take a walk at dawn each day and only had the cows for company! We moved on from there to Weligama which is a more traditioan SL town. We enjoyed our time there although a downside was that the towns sewer emptied directly on to the beach - clearly no swimming there! We used to walk the few miles to Mirrisa which has a real picture postcard beach and would have stayed there if we could have got a room.

    Here is link to my TR with more detail
    http://www.fodors.com/community/asia/sri-lanka-tea-floods-cricket-and-curry.cfm

    Shame you chopped Adams Peak as this was a reall highlight for us but SL does take a lot of planning to get everything in as there is so much to see. Do try and fit in a train ride if you can. You won't regret it!

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