The insider guide to Sri Lanka

The insider guide to Sri Lanka

A luxury trip with local guides

We’ve used the insider knowledge of our on-island contacts to curate this unique trip through Sri Lanka. From the bustling city of Colombo to the ancient treasures of the Cultural triangle, the hilltops of Kandy and the sunny shores of Tangalle in the south, see Sri Lanka with those who know it best.
 

Anything mentioned in this itinerary can be tweaked to fit the unique Sri Lankan experience you’re looking for. An extra night here, a tea-tasting there, flights to and from Colombo: our Smith24 team have the local know-how to make anything happen…
 

This 12-night trip is £2,229 (approximately US$2,850) a person. 
 

Contact the Smith24 team around the clock on +44 (0)330 100 3180 from the UK and
+1 800 464 2040 from the US.

 

Submit an enquiry

Highlights

Highlights

  • Stay in luxury and boutique Mr & Mrs Smith hotels throughout your trip
  • An insider’s guide to Colombo on a tuk-tuk tour
  • Alfresco afternoon tea with a view
  • Lunch with a local family in Kandy
  • A private tour of Unesco site, Galle Fort with a well-informed resident
Need to know

Need to know

When to go
Unless you like getting caught in the (heavy) rain, visit between December and March to avoid the monsoon season on the west coast; April and May are quieter but you may experience a storm or two. Close to the equator, temperatures remain pretty constant throughout the year, at around 26–30 degrees on the coast and around 20 degrees inland near Kandy. 

Getting there
Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport is the start and ending point of your Sri Lankan sojourn. Our Smith24 team are on hand to find you flights to Colombo and onto your next destination, if needed. All inland travel is included: a private driver will pick you up and drop you off at the airport, and chauffeur you between each hotel in a comfortable air-conditioned sedan. When travelling from Kandy to Tangalle, you’ll board a seaplane. 

Packing tips

  • A local phrasebook to get to know your local guides better
  • Binoculars to spy local wildlife with
  • Sturdy shoes for guided city tours and exploring the local wildlife 
The insider guide to Sri Lanka

Day 1–3: Colombo

Touch down at the airport and be whisked off in a private car through the streets of Colombo to Paradise Road Tintagel hotel. Colombo is where cultures from all over the world meet; here, take in temples, meander in museums, dine on local fare and – to really get a feel for the city and it’s people – explore a local market for the myriad smells, sights and sounds of Sri Lanka’s capital.  

Your hotel…

Your hotel…

Start your Sri Lankan tour in style with two nights at Paradise Road Tintagel in Colombo. Decorated by designer Shanth Fernando, the hotel exudes sophistication throughout; from its 10 individually-designed suites, to the sultry bar and courtyard pool. This centrally-located hotspot is a short stroll from the Independence Square, our favourite local restaurants and the city’s bustling markets. 

Smith Extra A beach bag and a scented candle from Paradise Road

Day 1 Settle into your suite, then explore the hotel’s steam room and courtyard pool and sample a cocktail or two in the Red Bar. Dine at one of the hotel’s two restaurants (we’ll book you the best table) or our team of travel experts will curate some local recommendations for you. 

Day 2 After a leisurely morning, at 4pm a local guide will arrive in a tuk tuk to take you on a private tour of Colombo. You’ll stop at sacred sites like Captain's Garden and Gangaramaya temples. Whizz through Independence Square, barter your way through flea markets in Pettah and then head to Marine Drive for tea tasting.

Day 3 Pick up a few books in the library or make time for a early-morning massage (Smith24 can book treatments in advance) before your private chauffeur arrives to take you through the mountains to the Cultural Triangle. 

The insider guide to Sri Lanka

Day 3–6: the Cultural Triangle

It’s a long way to your next Sri Lankan stay, Ulagalla Resort, but the long four-and-a-half hour drive to the Cultural Triangle passes by dramatic mountain views, wild jungles and lagoons; and you might spot the odd monkey or wild elephant.

Your hotel…

Your hotel…

Set within 58 acres of green fields, rice paddies and patches of wild forest, Ulagalla Resort is a natural beauty and your new home for three nights. 

Smith Extra A free activity for two (archery, kayaking or a nature walk)

Day 3 After such a long car journey, stretch your legs with a stroll around the exotic grounds or a quick dip in your private pool. Once you’ve settled into your villa, head to the open-air Liya Wela restaurant for classic Sri Lankan fare and the chef’s signature Wallawa chicken curry, served with spicy sauce and home-grown vegetables (our helpful Smith24 team can make a reservation for you).  

Day 4 Spend this free day exploring the Cultural Triangle on foot, by bike or on one of the hotel’s two horses. Don your hiking boots for a guided nature walk along two nearby reservoirs – keep your ears and eyes open for elephants – kayak on one of the nearby lakes, or learn to make curry like a local in a cookery class with the hotel’s chef (US$40 an adult).

Day 5 Enjoy breakfast in the courtyard, then spend your morning keeping cool in the outdoor pool. Take afternoon tea alfresco at the Boulder Garden (part of the ancient Sigiriya fortress) close by. Your local guide will take you to a secret spot for the best views of the Cultural Triangle. Take a seat (boulder) around a stone table and enjoy traditional sweet treats and panoramic views of Kandalama Lake, ancient rock fortresses and a glorious sunset. 

Day 6 Fill up on a Continental or hot Sri Lankan breakfast before hopping back into your chauffeured car and heading south towards the culture-crammed city of Kandy and on to Taylors Hill hotel. 

The insider guide to Sri Lanka

Day 6–8: Kandy

From Ulagalla, it’s a four-hour drive to colonial country house and boutique hotel Taylors Hill, perched high in the Kandy mountains (about an hour’s drive south from the city). To break up the journey, stop at Dambulla Cave Temple, the ancient Nalanda Gedige and Aluvihara Rock Temple. 

Your hotel…

Your hotel…

For the next three days you’ll stay in cosy, five-bedroom boutique hotel Taylors Hill. From the outside, it looks like it belongs in rural England, but its interiors are filled with colourful furnishings and whimsical knick-knacks imbued with island charm. Built more than 100 years ago as a tea planter’s home, the hotel is set within three acres of lush green gardens, with a pool, croquet lawn and tennis court.

Smith Extra A signature spa product made with Sri Lankan cinnamon or a selection of local teas from the neighbouring plantation

Day 6 Make yourself at home. Take afternoon tea on the outdoor terrace and gaze over Sri Lanka’s first cultivated plantation while sipping a cup of its finest – ask our Smith24 Team to book ahead so it’s ready when you arrive. 

Day 7 Get a glimpse of local life at a plantation in Galagedara. Your host will show you around his family’s estate and regale you with stories of his ancestors, who settled on the island more than 150 years ago. See cinnamon plots, vanilla and pepper vines, fruit and spice trees, and the odd wild boar or macaque monkey. The tour ends with a typical planter’s lunch prepared in traditional style: on an open (wood-fired) hearth.

Day 8 After a full-English breakfast at the hotel, it’s back on the road again, this time for a fleet 90-minute drive to Polgolla Reservoir Airport where you’ll board a seaplane to Dickwella lagoon, just a 15-minute drive from beachside boutique stay The Last House. 

The insider guide to Sri Lanka

Day 8–13: Tangalle

Once you touch down in Dickwella, it’s a swift 15-minute drive to the sunny shores of Tangalle and your next luxury lodgings at homey, elegant residence Kahanda Kanda. This area is full of natural wonders with many wildlife reserves, coral-clad coves and turtle-lined beaches. 

Your hotel…

Your hotel…

A veiled four-poster in each of its eight suites, antique teak furnishings and pin-drop quiet gardens leading to a hillside tea estate: Kahanda Kanda epitomises Sri Lankan poise. This tranquil residence is a five-hour drive from Taylors Hill (ask the Smith24 team to secure a seaplane transfer if you'd like a swifter ride), but once you've been welcomed in by owner George, this Galle stay will put you at ease.  

Smith Extra A cooking class and deep-tissue spa treatment

Day 8 Suites named Tamarind and Mango hint at the restaurant's flavourful fare; we recommend making dinner plans well before you arrive at your new digs, because the curries created from garden-plucked produce are extremely moreish. 
 
Day 9 Take it easy lounging on the beach at Weligama (a 30-minute drive away) and soaking up the sun around the hotel’s pool. 

Day 10 Guided by a local resident, discover the history and secrets of the Unesco World Heritage Site, Dutch-colonial Galle Fort (a 30-minute chauffeured drive away). The 17th-century stronghold was once a trading outpost for gems, spices and teas; the actual spoils may be long gone, but there’s still many a valuable treasure to be found on the cobblestoned streets. 

Day 11 Get to know the local wildlife at a nearby nature reserve. Watch elephants laze in lagoons at Udawalawe National Park and spot leopards at Yala National Park; alternatively, take a half-day trip to Rekawa Beach to watch marine turtles seasonally lay and hatch eggs. Whatever you decide, a private driver and guide can be arranged.

Day 12 For one last burst of local culture, visit the rock-hewn religious site of Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara temple in the north, or test your haggling skills at Tangalle market and pick up some last-minute souvenirs. 

Day 13 After a last night at the hotel, you’ll be driven back to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (two-and-a-half hours away) to catch your flight home.

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Further adventures in Sri Lanka

Want to see more of this explorer-bewitching, naturally beautiful isle? Take a peek at our other luxury trips in Sri Lanka.

Terms and conditions

*The package includes all Smith boutique hotels and local transportation with your own driver; entry fees; local guides; and all applicable taxes.

 

  • International flights, visa fees, airport taxes or insurance.
  • Any items which are not mentioned as ‘included’ in the itinerary.
  • Any increase in government taxes.

General conditions

  • All prices are in GBP and are subject to change, depending on what time of the year you travel.
  • All prices are subject to any revisions to taxes or tariffs.
  • Best-price guarantee

    Found your stay cheaper elsewhere? We’ll match the price and give you a $75 voucher.

  • Smith Extra on arrival

    Enjoy extras such as a picnic lunch, champagne or spa treatments, on the house