Sri Lanka itinerary help needed

Old Jun 14th, 2013, 09:03 AM
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Sri Lanka itinerary help needed

Hi al,
I'm thinking of travelling to southern India and Sri Lanka in Jan. The southern India trip will be about 14 days on the ground. and will begin in Chenna and end in Bangalorei. Before starting this part of the trip, I thought i would add some time in Sri Lanka.

We would fly BOS to Chennai on one ticket and fly, within a few hours of arriving,, Chennai to Columbo on a second ticket. . I am mainly interested in architecture and culture. I'm not interested in beach time or shopping. I thought of spending 3 nights in Habanara or Dambulla, 2 nights in Kandy and 2 nights in Ella. My question is whether to add 2 nights in Yala and 2 nights in Unawatuna which would double the cost of this add on and double the time involved. Any comments that might help me decide whether to add the extra days would be appreciated as I don't want to exhaust us before beginning our southern India 2 week itinerary.
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 09:39 AM
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If you are mostly interested in architecture and culture, the cultural triangle is the main place you want to visit. I'd opt for four nights in the cultural triangle, one in Kandy, then two in Ella.

I wouldn't add in Yala and Unwatuna as they aren't really the focus of your trip, so I'm not sure they are worth the extra cost.
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 10:35 AM
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Hi Kathie-Thanks for your prompt reply. I always value your input.

1-Do you know if there is a way to incorporate a train ride in the tea country into our itinerary?

2- How long should it take to get from Ella to the airport? Do we need to overnight at the airport, or can we book an evening flight to Chennai, if available.

I only thought about adding Yala and Unawatuna (Galle Fort) as I did not know if these were on a 'must see' list of sites in Sri Lanka. I know that we will not be returning to SR, so if we don't see it on this trip, we won't be seeing it.

Any other comments would be appreciated.
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 11:01 AM
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If you're not into beaches I would definitely skip Unawatuna. I stayed there and visited Galle, and wasn't impressed. I skipped Yala because I had left it too late to get a reservation anywhere I was willing to stay, but it doesn't sound like it is a high priority for you.

The roads are generally not conducive to fast travel. I haven't done the Ella to airport leg, but it took a long time to do Ella to Unawatuna (even longer since we started from further north). For train info see: http://www.seat61.com/SriLanka.htm
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 11:13 AM
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If you are interested in Galle, it makes sense to visit Galle and stay inside the old town, but I wouldn't go for Galle and stay at the beach.

As far as Yala is concerned, the park has gotten increasingly crowded with vehicles, enough so that I wouldn't want to go. If you want to see wild elephants you can do so while you are staying in the cultural triangle at one of the small parks there.

Are you using an agency to book hotels and a car and driver? If so, they will be able to give you accurate drive time estimates.
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 11:41 AM
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I can't believe this!!!! you already have SR up and going and its 4 months before you even step foot into japan...

good for you
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 12:56 PM
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Kathie-We'll be using Boutique Sri Lanka for car, driver and hotel bookings. We've decided to skip Galle and Yala.

Bob-We get back from Japan the end of Nov and this trip would begin early/mid Jan. I think the 2 trips might be too close to each other, but Jim feels we should do this trip while we still can walk, lol, (and who knows how long that will last).
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 01:06 PM
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shellyk - looks like a good plan. if you can manage 4 nights [therefore 3 days] in Dambulla, then you will have ample time to see the cultural sights, plus relax a little, see a few elephants, etc.

if you can stretch Kandy to 2 nights, you should leave time to spend 1/2 a day at the botanical gardens which are really worth seeing.

finally 3 nights in the hill country will give you time to take a walk or two, visit a tea plantation, and take a train trip.

if you aren't particularly interested in Yala or Galle, IMO there''s really no point in enduring the very long journeys that are needed to get there.
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Old Jun 14th, 2013, 07:23 PM
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jim is always right.... you can always do Miami beach when you get old..
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 04:00 AM
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I've received the following itinerary suggestion from BSL.



01st day Airport/Habarana

02nd day Visit Anuradhapura (approx. 1.5hrs drive one way)

03rd day Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress and ancienct city of Polonnarwa

04th day Visit Dambulla cave temple and proceed to Kandy, on the way visit a spice Garden

Visit Temple of the Tooth and the Cultural show

05th day Visit Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela and the botanical garden in Peradeniya

06th day Transfer to Ella (by train or by vehicle)

07th day Visit a tea plantation/tea factory , and proceed to Colombo/Negombo(we would suggest staying the last night closer to the Airport due to the long driving time)

08th day Transfer to the Airport

We are not interested in seeing the elephant orphanage. Instead, I would like to do:

On Day 5 I am thinking of seeing the botanical gardens and continuing on to Ella.

On Day 6 we would have a day in Ella for tea factory tour and a walk..

On Day 7 we would drive back to and overnight at the airport.

BSL said we could take the train from Kandy to Ella, but it is a 6 hour train ride as opposed to 3-3.5 hours by car. Any suggestions on how to take a shorter train ride in tea country.

Any suggestions on how to improve this itinerary would be appreciated.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 04:30 AM
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Tha botanical garden took me a good half day, you may want to ask how long the drive to Ella will take.

If you do the spice garden thing, make sure you will get to see the actual trees, otherwise it's just a shopping op.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 05:25 AM
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What time does your flight arrive in Colombo? What time does your flight leave?

Do you want to see a herd of wild elephants while in the cultural triangle? If so, you could probably squeeze it into your time there, or you might want to add another day to the cultural triangle.

Yes, skip the spice garden, and I agree about skipping the elephants orphanage.

I think I'd add a day to tea country, then get up early and drive to the airport (if you have an evening or night departure).

Overall, it looks good. I think you will really like Sri Lanka.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 06:58 AM
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hi ShellyK,

that seems to me to be a very full itinerary! I'd reckon on its taking at least 90 mins each way to Anuradhapura from Habarana, which after your 4 hour trip from the airport the day before is not going to be terribly welcome.

Frankly, unless you are an expert on ancient Sri lankan sights. I would forget about Anuradhapura, and concentrate on Sigiriya and Polonnarwa, which you can combine with Minneriya to see the elephants. This would free you up a day later on to spend in the Hill Country which i think you are short-changing a little.

you could do this:

01st day Airport/Habarana

02nd day Visit Polonnarwa and Minneriya for the elephants

03rd day Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Caves

04th day, Drive to Kandy, see botanical garden in Peradeniya

Visit Temple of the Tooth and the Cultural show

05th day Transfer to Ella (by train or by vehicle)

06th day Visit a tea plantation/tea factory , go for a walk

07th day Proceed to Colombo, tour. [depending on your departure time, and how long it'll take from the hill Country to Colombo

08th day. Transfer to airport.

i think that Dambulla would be a better base for this trip than Habarana.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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Thanks so much for your replies. Giving you a little: more information:

We haven't booked plane tickets as yet as I wanted to figure out how many days I needed in India and Sri Lanka before booking the flights. Sri Lanka will be our first stop after flying from BOS-Chennai-Columbo with 2 or 3 plane changes. I'm sure we will be exhausted, so I plan to spend one night in either Chennai or Columbo before beginning our touring. I don't know whether it would be easier to spend that night in Columbo because of the Indian restriction on how many times you can enter India within a 2 month period. Frankly, I'd rather spend it in Chennai.

I don't think I want to see the elephants in the cultural triangle. I've been to Africa and saw hundreds of elephants there, so I've had that experience, which I enjoyed, but don't feel the need to repeat on this trip.

I would like to concentrate on the temples and ruins, without getting temple overload. I know we will be seeing many more temples in India.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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I would be inclined to go on to Colombo. I don't see any point in leaving Chennai airport and then going back again. The city is huge and you'd probably want an airport hotel anyway. If you go on to Colombo you can stay in Negombo, which will be a LOT more peaceful. I don't know whether you have been to India before, but if not it is best approached well rested.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 09:38 AM
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Shelly, I agree with Thursdays. Go on to Colombo and stay a night in Negombo, then drive to Dambulla the following day.

We didn't get to Anuradhapura, but will do so next time we go to Sri Lanka.

If you can add a couple of days, it will make it a more leisurely trip - you will be doing a lot of sightseeing in the cultural triangle. And it would be nice to have another day in the cool of tea country.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 02:41 PM
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shelly - if you can add an extra day or two, then definitely do so.

whether you should spend a night on the coast before driving up to the cultural triangle is very much down to what time you arrive at the airport and how tired you think you'll feel.

i can only say that having arrived off an 11 hour flight from the UK at just after midday, we felt that the 4 hour+ road trip up to Dambulla was a very good use of time when we really weren't up to doing much more than looking out of the car window as out driver miraculously negotiated the Sri Lankan roads and traffic.

We were able to arrive at Dambulla [just about] in daylight which made a difference - if that isn't the case with you, then I would agree about staying on the coast for your first night, then driving into the centre. What you do not want to do, IMO, is to follow a day which involves a lot of driving [which getting to the cultural triangle inevitably does] with another heavy day of driving eg to Anuradhapura. Polunnawara, though not easy, would make an easier first day, with or without elephants.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 03:02 PM
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We are coming from Boston. The flights from Bos to Chennai are 20-24 hours. Then we'll have a 3.5 hour layover in Chennai before a 1;20 minute flight to Columbo. So for us, it is about 30 hours in airports, not including 5 additional hours we'll need to get to the Boston airport from our house, before the flight ever takes off. So I am sure we will need that first day in Negombo before beginning our tour. I suppose we could be picked up immediately after our flight lands and sleep in the car on the way to our first stop, but I'd still need an extra day there before beginning the actual tour.
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Old Jun 17th, 2013, 04:23 PM
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I agree it makes sense to spend the night in Negombo. And plan to take it easy your first day in the cultural triangle. Plan to visit the Dambulla cave temples that first late afternoon, which involves little driving if you are staying in Dambulla.
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Old Jun 18th, 2013, 04:52 AM
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I was going to stay in Habanara because a hotel there looks very interesting to me. BSL said there is not much difference in travel times between Habanara and Dambulla, and the sites in the cultural triangle. Is this true?

Would anyone suggest switching the order of the trip to make the first few days easier. It doesn't matter to me what order we do the trip. Kandy or tea country first or leave the order as is?
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