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Planning for Sri Lanka: Bye-bye mountains, hello heat stroke

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Well, as some of you know, we *had* been planning a trip to Bhutan (in Dec. 2016) for about 2 months now. When we finally got some final numbers around our trip from 3 different operators, the overall cost ended up being probably more than an African safari. I think we grossly underestimated how expensive Bhutan would be in "off season" and our eyeballs nearly fell out of our head when we saw the totals we were looking at. Yes, we could've probably have done a more basic version of Bhutan but, more and more as of late, we prefer to stay in nice places, so, in the interest of saving that money for an actual safari sometime in the next decade, we're passing on Bhutan this year and moving our feelers to warmer and more affordable climates. ;)

After much map-searching and list-culling, we've decided on Sri Lanka. Some of you also may remember we were originally planning a Sri Lankan trip 2 years ago, but ultimately decided to forge directly into India instead (as opposed to "India Light"). Since I haven't been able to drop the nagging bug that's been wanting to go there -- and because Smeagol is such an amazing travel agent and a hell of a salesperson for the Sri Lanka Tourism Board -- it was a no-brainer to choose this as our next destination. ;)

Been reading through a ton of trip reports on Fodors for the past 2 weeks and have already been working with Boutique Sri Lanka (whom we were going to use 2 years ago) on a new itinerary. I think we're pretty much settled on the overall itinerary, but wanted to get everyone's thoughts before we finalize everything.

In specific, we've just decided to add an extra 2 days to the trip (these were originally going to be spent in Thailand instead) and use those to safari/explore Wilpattu via Ulagalla. I know December isn't the most ideal for spotting leopards, but it seems worth a shot. At the very least, we'll see other interesting wildlife. Decided to forgo Yala, as, from what I've read here and elsewhere, it's a total and utter zoo in December with lines of jeeps and hordes of tourists. Definitely not the way we want to have that kind of experience. Not sure who here has had first-hand experience at Wilpattu, but looking for advice if you have had any.

I also know that Colombo is the object of much debate and scorn here on the forums. We surely could stay somewhere else (like Wallawwa again) but decided that it's more interesting to have a change of scenery and see what the "big city" is like in Sri Lanka rather than something rural again. I'm fully aware that Colombo might not be the most interesting place, but it's one night and it's really just a way to get closer to the airport.

So, without further ado, here's the proposed plan

DAY 1 Arrive Colombo (early AM)/transfer to Negombo (stay at Wallawwa)
DAY 2 Dambulla (stay at Heritance Kandalama)
DAY 3 Dambulla
DAY 4 Dambulla
DAY 5 Wilpattu Nat’l Park (stay at Ulagalla)
DAY 6 Wilpattu Nat'l Park
DAY 7 Kandy (stay at Kandy House or Elephant Stables)
DAY 8 Kandy
DAY 9 Tea Trails (stay at Castlereigh Bungalow)
DAY 10 Tea Trails
DAY 11 Tea Trails
DAY 12 Weligama (stay at Cape Weligama)
DAY 13 Weligama
DAY 15 Weligama
DAY 16 Weligama
DAY 17 Colombo
DAY 18 Departure for BKK (early AM)

Anxious to get some Fodorite input!

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