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Sri Lanka - North to South

Itinerary


Day 1: Arrive Colombo

redspokes North to South Sri Lanka tour begins in Colombo. You will be met on arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport and transferred to your hotel. There will be a group meeting this evening.

Accommodation: Hotel (D)


Day 2: Colombo - Jaffna

We take an early morning train heading north to Jaffna in Sri Lanka’s Tamil heartland. The railway line to Jaffna was reopened in 2014. Rolling stock ranges from brightly coloured colonial style carriages with air conditioning, to more basic trains and the recently introduced higher grade Chinese built locomotives with first class accommodation. As the journey begins, we enjoy beautiful sea views as far as Colombo Fort, taking us through Kurunegala, Anuuradhapura and Vavuniya set in a verdant inland landscape.  

Approaching the Jaffna Penninsula we traverse the Elephant Pass, a narrow strip of land where the animals were once driven across from the Indian mainland to the Tamil area. Most significantly in recent history, the pass was the location of two major battles during the civil war in 1991 and 2000. We continue through a patchwork of green fields and small holdings to reach Jaffna.

Once we have checked into our hotel there is time to explore the town. This afternoon we will cycle out to one of the beaches on the Jaffna peninsula.

Cycling Distance: 28km (17 miles)
Total Climb: 22m (72ft)
Total Descent: 22m (72ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,D) 


Day 3: Jaffna Peninsula Circular Route

Today we begin by cycling out past Jaffna Port to Kayts (Velani), the bottom half of a crescent of islands. A narrow strip of road takes us across the causeway onto the island. We cycle a flat open route dotted with derelict buildings, fishing villages and Hindu temples. We take the ferry across to Karainagar (Karaitivu). Cars, cyclists and pedestrians all use this crossing to hop between the south and the north island. Located on the northern tip of Karainagar is the remote, tree-lined Casuarina beach. White sands and shallow swimming waters make this a picturesque stopping point. From here you can see Fort Hammenhiel, a 17th C Portuguese Fort built from coral stone on its own sand bank in the sea, just a boat ride away from the island. This is the only Sri Lankan fort built off shore. Back on the bikes we cycle back to Jaffna along a 4km causeway with lagoon on one side and ocean on the other. We will see wading fisherman at work close by. The Jaffna Peninsula has large areas of lagoon and salinized ponds. From March to September, migrant birds in their thousands flock to these brackish waters. Greater flamingos and many varieties of wader numbering in their thousands are a sight to behold. Jaffna is a popular destination for nature lovers, especially birders.

Cycling Distance: 50.2km (31 miles)
Total Climb: 53m (173ft)
Total Descent: 53m (173ft)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,D)


Day 4: Jaffna - Kilinochchi

We head back southward today, cycling a waterside route for much of the ride.  Leaving Jaffna we cyle across the Karativu Jetty to Punarine, riding quiet B roads to reach Kilinochchi. Formerly the Tamil Tigers ‘capital’ and now re-emerging from the devastation of war, Kilinochchi is in development and our accommodation this evening will be simple. Nonetheless you will receive a friendly welcome.

Cycling Distance: 61km (38 miles)
Total Climb: 142m (465ft)
Total Descent: 133m (436ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 5: Kilinochchi - Mulliyawalai

We cycle today toward the east coast of Sri Lanka to the town of Mulliyawalai.  The town is rebuilding in the wake of nearly three decades of civil war. As the area is gradually resettled, tourism offers opportunities for local communities. Where the west coast of the island has experienced a boom in tourism, the eastern shores have an unpolished natural hue. The Nanthi Kadal lagoon was the last point of conflict in the war where the army defeated and killed large numbers, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the LTTE. Today there are few traces of this troubled past. Herons inhabit the tidal flats and marshy grasslands. Palmyra palm trees grow along the shore. There are some areas barred by yellow tape and skull-and-crossbones signs and the warning, “Mines” in English, Sinhalese and Tamil. 

Cycling Distance: 58km (36 miles)
Total Climb: 128m (419ft)
Total Descent: 142m (465ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 


Day 6: Mulliyawalai - Nilaveli

Today we continue along the East Sri Lankan coastline with a short ferry crossing. The area is outstandingly beautiful.  Nilaveli stretches for around 4km along golden sands. 1 km off shore is Pigeon Island (in fact 2 small islands). As far back as 1963 Pigeon Island was designated as a bird sanctuary. In 2003 it achieved national park status. (permit required). The island takes its name from the colonies of rock pigeon that reside here. The national park contains some of the best remaining coral reef off Sri Lanka. The reef is shallow, so easily visible to snorkelers as well as divers. There are many types of coral, fish and turtles.

Cycling Distance: 102km (63 miles)
Total Climb: 280m (918ft)
Total Descent: 278m (912ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)


Day 7: Nilaveli - Habarana

We head inland today on our Sri Lanka North to East cycling tour, heading to the island Cultural Triangle. Departing Nilaveli we ride for 9km along a quiet main road before turning towards Kanniya Hot Springs. We cycle to China Bay, Trincoamlee, along quiet back roads avoiding the city. We follow another stretch of quiet main road crossing Kinniya Bridge before riding through Kaudulla National Park. The park was established to create a migratory corridor for elephants connecting with Minneriya and Wasgomuwa national parks to the south and Somawathiya National Park to the north and east. At the centre of the park is the Kaudulla Tank, an ancient watering hole where elephants gather. It remains replenished when other pools and lakes in the park have gone during the dry season. Other wildlife in the park include sambar deer, monkeys and sloth bears, leopards and a wide variety of birds.

Cycling Distance: 97km (60 miles)
Total Climb: 293m (961ft)
Total Descent: 113m (370ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)


Day 8: Habarana Rest Day

Habarana is at the centre of Sri Lanka’s cultural heartland. A short 14 km journey away is Sigiriya’s Lion Rock.  This ‘eighth wonder of the world’ dates back to the 5th century B.C. There are landscaped gardens, ponds, moats and ramparts.Twisting steps and stairways lead up to the ruins of the King’s palace high on top of the rock.

Habarana Lake is encircled by a small footpath. You can walk for 2.5km around the lake at which point there is a dam and beyond is an area of protected jungle. You will see fishermen constantly out in the middle of this 25 acre expanse or water. 138 different species of birds have been spotted here. Some of these are protected and native to Habarana and 2 are endangered species.

Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 9:  Habarana - Polonnaruwa

Our cycling today leaves us time to explore Polonnaruwa; a cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. This medieval capital (11th - 12th Century AD) remains a well-preserved city of stupas, moonstones, beautiful parks, towering buildings and imposing statues from antiquity. Ancient treasures include some fine examples of art and architecture from the period, such as the giant Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara.

The ruins of the city are spread out over an extensive area of woodland and a bicycle is the ideal way to explore the sprawling temple complex. To visit all major sites you’ll cover around 15 km.

Cycling Distance: 77.2km (48 miles)
Total Climb: 325m (1,066ft)
Total Descent: 407m (1,335ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 


Day 10:  Polonnaruwa - Mahiyanganaya

We depart Polonnaruwa, cycling southwards through paddy fields to Mahiyanganaya. We follow a scenic route with Wasgomuwa National Park to the east and Mauduru Oya to the west. Mahiyanganaya is a small town on the plains at the foot of the Knuckles Mountain Range. We will have great views of the range during the day. Around Mahiyanganaya there are national parks, bird watching stations and wildlife sanctuaries. Mahiyangana Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple.  The elegant white building is believed to be the site of Buddha's first visit to the country and is one of the Solosmasthana: the 16 sacred religious locations in Sri Lanka.

Nearby is Dambana Vedda village, home to the last inland remaining indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Originally hunter-gatherers, they used bows and arrows to hunt game, and also gathered wild plants and honey. Many Veddas also farm, and East Coast Veddas are fisherman. Veddas are famously known for their rich meat diet.

Cycling Distance: 103km (64 miles)
Total Climb: 404m (1,325ft)
Total Descent: 356m (1,167ft)

Accommodation: Hotel(B,L,D)


Day 11: Mahiyanganaya - Ella

We cycle 77km further south today to Ella with more uphill riding and just a few downhill stretches for respite. In an idyllic setting surrounded by hillsides blanketed in tea plants, Ella has a temperate climate. This isolated town has undergone development in recent times, but it remains a beautiful location. You are free this afternoon to visit the local attractions such as Nine Arch Bridge, Mini Adams Peak, Rawana Waterfall and Ella Gap. 

Cycling Distance: 80.2km (50 miles)
Total Climb: 1,360m (4,461ft)
Total Descent: 475m (1,558ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)


Day 12:  Ella - Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya was built by the British and remains quintessentially colonial, complete with post box, golf course and vegetables you may recognize from home. A cool mountain retreat, there are many guest houses here catering to the tourist trade. Other popular landmarks dating back to British colonial times are Victoria Park and Gregory Lake, where you can take a boat ride. An easy way to get around is to take a trishaw.

Cycling Distance: 60.3km (37 miles)
Total Climb: 1,445m (4,740ft)
Total Descent: 610m (2,001ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)  


Day 13: Nuwara Eliya - Kandy

Our journey takes us north east today to Kandy. We stop at the small village of Hanguranketa to visit an ancient temple with murals dating from the 18th C, when the Kingdom of Kandy was an independent monarchy. The Hanguranketa Valley is reputed to produce the finest teas on the island. Cycling onwards we reach Kandy, our final destination on the tour.

The hill station town is regarded as Sri Lanka’s second city and is home to the Temple of the Tooth an important religious shrine.  A sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha has been enshrined here since 4th Century. The temple has decorative walls, a golden roof and fine woodwork. Religious services (pooja) with traditional music and drumming are held daily at dawn, mid-day and in the evening where guests can participate. The town is a mix of traditional and colonial architecture, at the town’s centre is a small lake. Kandy was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese, when the island had been invaded by Portuguese Dutch and English.  Its customs and culture have endured in the city’s unique music, dance and architecture. The Udawattekelle forest reserve is right at the heart of the city. In minutes you can leave the bustling city centre for tranquil jungle surroundings.

This evening we celebrate the end of our tour with a farewell meal.

Cycling Distance: 98.4km (46 miles)
Total Climb: 1,095m (3,592ft)
Total Descent: 2,369m (7,772ft)

Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D) 


Day 14: Departure Day

We can help you arrange a transfer today back to the airport at extra cost. 

Meals included: B

14 days from
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