Explore Sri Lanka's central highlands, dotted with tea plantations and pretty hill stations,offering a lush, cool retreat from the tropical plains below. The coastline boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, lapped by warm blue waters and fringed by palm trees and the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are home to a huge variety of bird life and animals including elephant and leopard. Those interested in culture will marvel at the island's abundant ruins, temples and ancient cities, not least being Polonnaruwa, which has some of the most interesting, extensive and best-preserved Buddhist remains in Asia.

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Why We Love It

Ride along tranquil backroads

Cycle through tea estates to Nuwara Eliya

Search for leopard in Yala National Park

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Day by day Itinerary

Cycle the Backroads of Sri Lanka

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Day 1

Sigiriya

Arrive in Sigiriya.

Day 2

Sigiriya

After breakfast, ride along gravel roads following an old irrigation canal to Dambulla, the 2nd Century BC Buddhist cave temple. It is well worth the walk to view the five caves, which contain many ancient Buddha statues, some carved from the solid rock. Returning via the busy market town we take another quiet back road riding through chilli and rice fields before cycling back to the hotel for lunch and a relaxing swim in the pool. In the late afternoon, climb the 5th Century rock fortress of Sigiriya to see the beautiful frescoes painted onto the rock face (not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo). The ruins of the palace on the summit are surpassed only by the magnificent aerial view of the surrounding jungle. Cycle approx. 52km

Day 3

Polonnaruwa

A long morning ride along a quiet back road which is part of the Sigiriya nature reserve, before joining the highway travelling east towards Polonnaruwa, riding all the way to our lunch stop and overnight stay. For those who fancy a swim, the hotel also has a swimming pool, a pleasant place to spend the hot early afternoon. Later we tour the old ruined city of Polonnaruwa, which dates from the 10-13th Centuries. Cycle approx. 73km.

Day 4

Wasgamuwa National Park Area

We follow the local lake's man-made 6km dam and feeder canal to its source, the Amban Ganga River. The afternoon ride is flanked by the stunning Kalanduwa hills on one side and the borders of Wasgomuwa Wildlife Park on the other. As the jungle gives way to plantations, we enter the spice growing region of Sri Lanka. The night is spent in a family-run guest house with small cabanas dotted around the estate, it’s basic but the home cooking in clay pots on wood fired stoves gives you the real flavour of Sri Lanka. If you would like to find out more about the spices used in the piquant Lankan curries, the owners can arrange a visit to one of the renowned spice gardens a short walk down the road. Cycle approx. 80km.

Day 5

Kandy

Today is tougher as we head for the hills and Kandy, the spiritual and cultural capital of the hill country. Those who feel like an easy day can jump onto the bus for the 50km trip to Kandy, while the rest of us pedal away, riding through the Moorish town of Matale. Its inhabitants, descendants from Arab spice traders, still control most of the spice market, which is a good place to pick up some freshly ground curry powder. As Kandy's roads are as old as the city itself, we may have to drive the last few kilometres to avoid the traffic. Surrounded by hills, the town is centred around a small lake and the Temple of the Tooth. The afternoon is free to wander through the streets and markets. Cycle approx. 53km

Day 6

Kandy

A free day in Kandy to explore the town. Kandy has many interesting attractions including the wonderful Botanical Gardens, the famous Temple of the Tooth, and streets lined with interesting curio shops, while the surrounding hills are dotted with wonderful temples.

Day 7

Nuwara Eliya

For anyone who doesn't do hills, we strongly recommend the train ride to Nuwara Eliya, the highest point on the island! For those who feel like a challenge, it’s 84km, climbing up to 2000m above sea level to reach the highest and most favoured hill station. For the first part of the ride we take the old road, a far more pleasant route, and one of the few places where you see terraced paddy fields. Beyond the paddy fields is tea country and the area is reputed to produce the finest teas on the island. Tickets for the train journey are dependent on availabilty on the day, although usually available there may be the chance that the bus will need to be used instead for those who don't fancy the hill. Cycle approx. 84km.

Day 8

Nuwara Eliya - Ella

In the morning we visit a tea factory on the edge of the town, and then cycle through hilly country towards Ella, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant and later tea in Bandarawella, a trading centre where exotic fruits from the east coast are traded for hill-country vegetables. Arriving in the late afternoon, we watch the sunset from the famous view point Ella Gap. On a clear day you can see the coast shimmering in the distance. Cycle approx. 66km

Day 9

Ella - Tissamaharama

Descending 1000m we leave the breathtaking scenery of Uva Province for the gentle rolling hills of the dry zone, stopping at the impressive rock-cut Buddha Statues at Buduruvagala. The giant 15m rock carving of Buddha is flanked by small figures depicting his helpers and a very rare image of Maitreya, the future Buddha, which dates from the 10th Century. The tranquillity of the place is enhanced by the lotus-covered lake; we will relax on the lakeside banks and enjoy some fresh fruit before riding on to lunch. Here we can retreat from the heat of the day, before the final 30km to Tissamaharama, the capital of the old Ruhuna Kingdom. Cycle approx 102km.

Day 10

Yala National Park

In the morning we cycle to Kataragama temple, which lies 16km northeast of Tissa. People of all faiths come to seek favour with the god Skanda, who is reputed to restore people's health. The colourful and noisy pooja is always busy, with thousands of pilgrims during the festival season from July - August. Tissa is close to Yala National Park, the best park in Sri Lanka to see leopard. After lunch we have a safari in the park, when we may see elephant, deer, wild boar, sloth bear, asian jackal, lots of birdlife and if very lucky a leopard. We return to Tissa for the night (please note that the sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park). Cycle approx. 32km

Day 11

Ahanagama

Leaving early to avoid the heat of the dry zone, we ride along the boundary of Bundala Bird Sanctuary. During certain times of the year thousands of flamingos can be seen wading in the brackish shallows, eyed up by crocodiles, basking in the early morning sun. We hit the main road for the final 30km to Hambantota, a series of sandy bays fanning out from this typical coastal town. Transfer from Hambantota to Ahangama by coach. For the next 2 nights we stay in Ahangama. Cycle approx. 37km.

Day 12

Ahanagama - Koggala

Relax at the hotel or join a late morning ride along rural roads to the village of Wandurugama before returning via Koggala Lake and back to the hotel to end our riding. This afternoon is free to explore the beach area or swim and laze by the pool, late afternoon the stilt fishermen climb their poles to catch a few bites for supper which is worth a watch. Late afternoon we can enjoy some sun-downers followed by an evening seafood BBQ at the hotel. From November to April you can also go whale watching off Dondra head, near Mirissa, which is one of the best places in the world for seeing blue and sperm whales. Huge pods of dolphins are also often seen accompanying the boats.

Day 13

Galle - Colombo

Leaving mid morning, we will stop to visit Galle. The Old Dutch fort was built in 1663 after the Dutch took the island from the Portuguese. The old ramparts and small back streets bring alive some of the history of the fight for colonial domination of this prized island. You're free to find your own lunch, meeting back at the bus at 2.30pm for the 2hr drive to Colombo, arriving late afternoon. The rest of the day is free to relax by the pool or shop along the main street. For the last evening meal we can choose from one of the many restaurants in Colombo.

Day 14

Colombo

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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