This is an example of a 10 days trip
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Negombo is a modest beach town located just 10km from Bandaranaike International Airport.
Negombo was one of the most important sources of cinnamon during the Dutch era, and there are still reminders of the European days.
Close to the seafront near the lagoon mouth are the ruins of the old Dutch fort, which has a fine gateway inscribed with the date 1678.
Each day, fishers take their oruvas (outrigger canoes) and go out in search of the fish for which Negombo is famous.
This small town isn’t a destination in itself, but it serves as a good base for Sigiriya and safaris to Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks.
Minneriya National Park
This national park is one of the best places in the country to see wild elephants, which are often present in huge numbers. Dominated by the ancient Minneriya Wewa, the park has plenty of scrub, forest and wetlands in its 88.9 sq km to also provide shelter for toque macaques, sambar deer, buffalo, crocodiles and leopards (the latter are very rarely seen, however).
Rising dramatically from the central plains, the enigmatic rocky outcrop of Sigiriya is perhaps Sri Lanka’s single most dramatic sight. Sigiriya refuses to reveal its secrets easily, and you’ll have to climb a series of vertiginous staircases attached to sheer walls to reach the top. On the way you’ll pass a series of quite remarkable frescoes and a pair of colossal lion’s paws carved into the bedrock. The surrounding landscape – lily-pad-covered moats, water gardens and cave shrines – only add to Sigiriya’s rock-star appeal.
You’ll find the archaeological park a delight to explore, with hundreds of ancient structures – tombs and temples, statues and stupas – in a compact core. The Quadrangle alone is worth the trip.
The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka’s most important and evocative religious art. From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant.
Matala’s Spice Garden
Dambulla is famous for its spice gardens, with over 30 dotted along the road. All offer free tours of their gardens with an English-speaking guide who can explain the merits and health properties of herbs, spices and plants including cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, coffee, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, aloe vera, iriweriya (tulsi) and the henna plant
Kandy hills surrounding the city’s beautiful centrepiece lake. Here’s a city that looks good even when it’s raining. And when the drizzle subsides, cobalt-blue skies reveal a city of imposing colonial-era and Kandyan architecture, none more impressive than the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of Buddhism’s most sacred shrines.
Kandyan Dancers & Drummers
With elaborate costumes, gyrating dance moves and show-stopping, fire-breathing stunts, a Kandyan dance performance is one of the defining experiences of a stay in Kandy.
Perendeniya Botanical Gardens
These stunning gardens were once reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty. Today, even commoners are allowed in to enjoy the most impressive and largest (60 hectares) botanic gardens in Sri Lanka.
Embrace the beauty of Sri Lanka’s main hills of Nuwara Eliya, which is the heart of the world famous Ceylon tea industry. Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by endless acres of verdant tea estates in the nearby hills. Nuwara Eliya often referred to as ‘Little England’, this genteel highland community does have a rose-tinted, vaguely British-country-village feel to it, with its colonial-era bungalows, Tudor-style hotels, well-tended hedgerows and pretty gardens.
Horton Plains is a beautiful, stark world with excellent hikes in the shadows of Sri Lanka’s second and third highest mountains, Kirigalpotta (2395m) and Totapola (2357m). The ‘plains’ form an undulating plateau over 2000m high, covered by wild grasslands and interspersed with patches of thick forest, rocky outcrops, filigree waterfalls and misty lakes. The surprising diversity of the landscape is matched by the wide variety of wildlife, although many of the larger animals are very elusive.
Yala is Sri Lanka’s most famous national park. Forming a total area of 1268 sq km of scrub, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons, it’s very rich in wildlife and you’re virtually certain to encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and monkeys. Plan your trip carefully, however such is Yala’s appeal that the main tracks and viewing spots can be crowded.
Kirinda centres on this imposing hilltop Buddhist shrine, which includes a stupa and huge standing Buddha. It’s dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi, who lived in the 2nd century BC and is at the heart of a local legend: when raging waters threatened Ceylon, King Kelanitissa ordered his youngest daughter, then a princess, into a boat as a sacrifice. The waters were calmed and the princess miraculously survived. Some 2000 years later, the temple was a place of refuge during the 2004 tsunami.
In Tissamaharama (usually shortened to Tissa), eyes are automatically drawn upwards and outwards. Upwards to the tip of its huge, snowy-white dagoba and outwards, beyond the town’s confines, to nearby wildlife reserves crawling with creatures large and small. With its pretty lakeside location, Tissa is an ideal mellow base for the nearby Yala and Bundala National Parks.
From here we going back to the airport.