AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators
Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer

Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer

Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer Overview

Experience a different side to this wonderful island. This small group tour heads off the beaten track to the north and the Jaffna peninsular, an area left battle-scarred by a fierce civil war. We explore the sun-baked and windswept isolated islands of Mannar and Delft where wild ponies roam the landscape.

Day 1 – Negombo
On arrival transfer to your hotel on the coast at Negombo just north of Colombo and closely situated to the airport. Overnight Hotel Paradise Beach Hotel or similar.
Day 2 – Negombo – Anamaduwa
For early risers we will take an early morning visit to Negombo fish market which is called the ‘Lellama’ in Sinhalese and experience the hustle and bustle of the second largest fish market in the country. After breakfast back at the hotel we explore the area around Negombo with its colourful fishing fleet and plentiful canals. We will take a boat trip in the wetland area of Muthurajawelaa marsh sanctuary for numerous bird species including Cormorants, Storks, Bee eaters, Kingfishers, Grey Herons, Purple Coots, Little Green Herons, Yellow Bitterns, Black Bitterns, Moorhens and White breasted Waterhen. After lunch we continue up the coast and then inland to a little visited area close to Anamaduwa where we will stay for the next 2 nights. Overnight at the Mudhouse, an amazing and unique property. (BLD)
Please note that in most cases it will not be possible to provide single occupancy accommodation at the Mudhouse due to its unique design. However if the hotel has a low occupancy at the time of our stay then single occupancy accommodation may be possible but cannot be guaranteed.
Day 3 – Anamaduwa
Spend the day enjoying the surroundings of the Mudhouse and if you wish, take part in some of the various activities on offer. Overnight at the Mudhouse (BLD)
Day 4 – Wilpattu National Park
We depart the Mudhouse mid-morning and take the short journey to Wilpattu National Park. Compared to parks in the south of the country Wilpattu receives relatively few visitors. After lunch on the outskirts of the park we take an afternoon safari in this wilderness area where if we are lucky we may be able to spot Leopard, Elephant, Sloth Bear and many other species as well as many different bird species. Overnight Big Game Park Wilpattu (non air conditioned tent) or similar (BLD)
Day 5 – Wilpattu – Anuradhapura – Mannar
For those that wish an early morning safari will be possible. Later we take the short journey to explore some of the main sites of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. We visit the sacred Bo Tree, which is the world's oldest tree on record, and has been guarded by monks for over 2000 years. We stop for a late picnic lunch in a beautiful setting where you will enjoy local food served on lotus leaves cooked by a local family. Later we travel back to the West coast and the isolated Mannar Island. On arrival in the town of Mannar we will explore the town and the ruined fort and its ramparts which afford good views of the town and the causeway that connects Mannar Island to the mainland. Overnight Ahash Hotel or similar (BLD)
Day 6 – Mannar Island – Jaffna
Early this morning we journey to the end of Mannar Island and the small village of Talaimannar. Ferries once departed to India from here but now the village has a slightly eerie feel to it and it is a base for the Sri Lankan Navy. From the railway station you can walk the recently restored railway line right to the sea where the lighthouse marks the end of Mannar Island. After exploring Mannar Island we continue north to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna or similar (BLD)
Day 7 – Island exploring
Off limits for years due to the civil war the islands off the Jaffna peninsula are rewarding places to cruise to and visit. Today we will visit the island of Delft where wild ponies roam the landscape and the coastline is blessed with beautiful waters and white sand beaches. Our tour of the island will also take us to an abandoned Dutch fort and a 1000 year old temple. Although around 6000 people live on Delft Island this windswept island feels largely deserted. Enjoy lunch today with a local family where you can learn how to cook traditional Sri Lankan food. We visit Nagadipa Island where we visit the Hindu and Buddhist temples. Later we return to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna or similar (BLD)
Day 8 – Jaffna and the peninsular
We spend the day exploring Jaffna and the peninsular. Visits include the Public Library which holds deep symbolism to local Tamil people, Jaffna Fort, Point Pedro which was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami, the Kantarodai ruins and finishing with sunset at the fabulous Fort Hammenheil where we have to take a short 5 minute boat ride to the fort itself and where after taking a look at the cells and history of the place we will enjoy sunset drinks in a spectacular location on top of the fort before returning to Jaffna. Overnight Jetwing Jaffna Hotel or similar (BLD)
Please note that the visit to Fort Hammenheil is subject to Sri Lankan Navy approval
Day 9 – Jaffna - Trincomalee via Mullataivu
Today we leave Jaffna and head south on the A9 via the Elephant Pass where we will stop to view the war memorial. We continue south through Killinochi the former administrative centre of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) where we see another remnant of the war, this time the destroyed water tank lying on the side of the A9. We then take a road to the east coast to the town of Mullataivu, significant as the place where the devastating civil war came to a bloody conclusion and the LTTE were defeated. We visit the harrowing war museum and then continue down the east coast to Trincomalee. Overnight Nilaveli Beach Hotel or similar (BLD)
Day 10 – Trincomalee
This morning we explore Trincomalee including the market, Koneswaram Temple which is also the site of the famous lovers leap and receive the blessings of a Hindu priest, the ‘Kanniya’ hot water springs and the Commonwealth war cemetery. We head back to the hotel around lunchtime and this afternoon you can choose between a snorkelling trip to nearby Pigeon Island in the clear turquoise waters or a whale and dolphin watching trip off the coast. Or alternatively take some time to relax at the hotel or on the beach. The Blue Whale, the largest species on the planet can sometimes be seen off this coastline. Overnight Nilaveli Beach Hotel (BLD)
Day 11 – Trincomalee - Polonnaruwa – Sigiriya
This morning we explore the former medieval capital or Sri Lanka at Polonnaruwa with its well preserved sites of religious and archaeological importance before transferring to Sigiriya. Overnight Kassapa Lion Rock or similar (BLD)
Day 12 - Sigiriya Rock and Minneriya National Park
This morning we arrive at Sigiriya Rock early, in the still relative cool of the day. We explore some of the interesting features in the lower sections of the site such as the Royal Gardens and the water gardens. We then visit the remarkably preserved frescoes situated about half way up the rock before the final staircase climb to the top of the rock where the reward is breathtaking views for miles in every direction. Once we have descended we visit a local village and take part in cooking some traditional Sri Lankan dishes before eating the fruits of your labour! Later this afternoon we take a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park where sightings of dozens of elephants are common. Overnight Kassapa Lion Rock or similar (BLD)
Please note that the ascent of Sigiriya and visiting the frescoes should not be undertaken by people with joint problems, breathing difficulties, heart problems or vertigo. The top of the rock is exposed so wearing a hat is advisable. The lower sections of the site still hold a great deal of interest from a historical perspective and the museum is excellent.
Day 13 – Colombo
After some leisure time this morning we shall take the journey back to Colombo (approx 4 hours). On arrival in Colombo we check in to the hotel. Overnight at Galle Face Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 14 – Colombo
This morning is the chance for some leisure time before taking a city tour of Colombo. The largest city and former administrative capital of Sri Lanka, it is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and remnants of a bygone colonial era. We will visit some of the historical, religious and commercial sites of Colombo including the bustling Fort and Pettah market for a real authentic flavour of Sri Lanka, the Galle face Green and a church where Dutch tombstones constitute the floor panels. This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner at an excellent local restaurant. Overnight Galle Face Hotel or similar (BD)
Day 15 – Depart Colombo
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)
Find out more about the Sri Lanka - Northern Explorer Holiday