Sri Lankan Cycle Trail

11 Nights 12 Days | Private Guided Tour | 1 – 10 Persons

A trip around Sri Lanka by Cycle. While fully backed by vehicles, this is the perfect trip to explore the off-the-beaten path Sri Lanka through the rustic roads of north, the north east and finally descending to the well known cities all the way to the south coast.

What to Expect

Pearl of the Orient, Sri Lanka is definitely a tropical paradise with vibrant and colourful travel destinations where you can experience a different kind of cycling tour around the country. This tour crosses the island from end to end, north to south and will take you through their rich culture, beautiful flora and fauna and the though their golden sandy beaches which makes Sri Lanka an outstanding tourist destination.

We start the tour from Jaffna, to explore the northernmost point of Sri Lanka which has a mixture of colonial and vivacious Tamil culture. Ride a loop around Jaffna Peninsula and surrounding islands and across the northern plains to visit Mannar island. Pass the surfeit of temples, monasteries and other prestigious cultural sites such as Sigiriya, Temple of Tooth Relic and ride towards the hill country to witness the most beautiful scenic sites in Sri Lanka. Visit the tea plantations and treat your taste buds with world’s finest tea while climbing on curving roads through the central highlands. Explore the southern coast and the winding roads through the central highlands and dip your tires in the Indian Ocean. Riding in astonishingly good roads while enjoying the delicious local cuisine is undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience this little island.

Highlights

Itinerary

Day 01 - Airport - Negombo

As you land, you will arrive in Negombo 30 mins away from the International Airport and check in to the hotel. Feel free to take an evening stroll through town or get your first taste of Sri Lankan food. But we do recommend getting a full night’s sleep, because the next few days will be quite active.

Hotel: Jetwing Beach • Meals: Dinner

Day 02 - Negombo - Maho - Jaffna

Today, we head north to the tip of the island, starting out with a great introductory ride. After breakfast at the hotel and final adjustments to ours bikes, we cycle directly from our hotel, heading inland on minor roads at a relaxed pace, as we shake the travel out of our legs and fine tune the fit of the hire bikes (for those who have chosen this option). This part of the island is known as ‘Little Rome’ thanks to the large number of Catholic churches that we will see. Soon, we find ourselves cycling via paddy fields and coconut plantations and we stop regularly (sometimes at tea shops and sometimes at a suitable pull-in for the support vehicle) to regroup, snack and top up our water. The level, winding village roads are a joy to cycle on and give us a great insight into rural Sri Lanka that most tourist seldom see. The simplicity of everyday life and the friendly smiles of the local people are highlights of this ride. The last 20 kilometre stretch to our lunch stop at a small restaurant is along a straight road and here we have the chance to give our legs a bit of a workout. After lunch in the vicinity of the small town of Maho, we rack up the bikes and transfer for 5 hours to Jaffna stopping to stretch our legs at Killinochi, the former headquarters of the Tamil Tigers. Jaffna is Sri Lanka’s 12th largest city and sits on the south side of the Jaffna Peninsula.

Hotel: Jetwing Jaffna • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 03 - Jaffna

Today you will learn about Kandy. Kandy is one of the most architecturally unique cities in Sri Lanka. Maintaining its British heritage, colonial pathways and buildings. During your time in Kandy this morning, you will visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic aWe ride through Jaffna town with its lively markets, and small fishing port, passing the old Star Fort built by the Portuguese in 1618 to defend the Peninsula. Crossing the causeway to Kyats Island we head north along a straight road, ride as fast or as slow as you like! There are plenty of colourful water birds to see or even photograph, such as painted storks and red-wattled lapwings. Regrouping at the ferry, we cross to Karaingar Island and continue northwards to Casuarina Beach at the tip of the island. Here, we stop for a picnic lunch and a swim in the warm waters of the Palk Strait which separates Sri Lanka from India. We can also take the opportunity to dip our rear tyres in the sea, as a symbolic start to our journey to the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. We then ride back to our hotel in Jaffna on a mix of good and bad roads. In the evening we walk to a local restaurant for a tasty Masala Dosai, a crispy rice flour pancake with a spicy filling. Other authentic Tamil dishes are available as well.

Hotel: Jetwing Jaffna • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 04 - Jaffna - Mannar

Cycling directly from the hotel, we head south to Pooneryn, crossing a causeway over the Jaffna lagoon. The road sees little or no traffic now, but there were some major battles here during the conflict era and the jungle encroaching on the road in places hides the scars of war, while this area is gradually being resettled. We stop for lunch at Iluppaikkadavai, where the road first returns to the coast. The coastal waters around here are inhabited by rare sea mammals called gugongs (sea cows). Once thought to be mermaids they can sometimes be seen in the shallow waters around the bay. We continue our ride, again crossing a body of water, this time on the 2 kilometre-long bridge to Mannar Island. We end our ride at the 700 year-old Baobab tree, brought here by Arabian traders. The massive trunk is almost 20 metres in circumference and its thick grey bark gives it the nickname elephant tree. There’s not much else to see on the island except for lots of white sand and palm trees, gulls and terns, wild donkeys, little lanes and fishing boats. At the tip of the island is Adams Bridge, a series of reefs, sandbanks and islets that nearly link Sri Lanka to India. On a clear day you can see the Rameshwaram Tower in India, 26 kilometres away.

Hotel: Palmyrah House • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 05 - Mannar - Anuradhapura

After an early breakfast at our resort-style hotel, we cycle back across the causeway and then head inland through an area known as the Giant’s Tank Sanctuary, which surrounds a large freshwater lake built by King Dhatusena (459-477) and now part of a wetland habitat reserve. The lake’s water irrigates the surrounding rice fields which are tended by the traditional farming communities, some still using water buffalo to plough the fields. We have some distance to cover today, but very modest amounts of ascent, and we will aim to reach our hotel in time for a late lunch. This will give us a couple of hours to rest, before heading out for an early evening exploration of the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Dating from the 4th century BC, Anuradhapura was the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom until the beginning of the 11th century AD and has some of the oldest and largest Buddhist monuments in Asia. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centres of political power and urban life in Asia. We will visit the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree reputed to be 2000 years old. Just after sunset, when pilgrims light ‘pahannas,’ little clay lamps and incense sticks, this religious shrine has a heady atmosphere. For dinner we will visit the ‘Bus Stand’ area to sample some street food. Try the ‘kottu rottie’ served with spicy gravy.

Hotel: Palm Garden Village • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 06 - Anuradhapura - Habarana

A shorter cycling day today and still without a lot of climbing. We start with a relaxed ride through the ancient city region on the ‘Old Kings Route’ which is dotted with temples and stupas. Then, leaving the city outskirts, we cycle on a busier road , before turning off towards the Ritigala Strict Natural Reserve. The centre of this reserve is a rocky massif rising to 766 metres, the high point of Sri Lanka’s north-central plains. Legend has it that this massif is a part of the Himalaya’s dropped here by the monkey god Hanuman. The ride takes us through a mix of forest and farmed land where we can see the Sri Lankan people and their buffalo working in the fields. We end the morning ride at the hotel in Habarana where we’ll have lunch. In the late afternoon we’ll climb up Sigiriya Rock, a 5th Century Citadel built by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD). The rock fortress is approached through the royal gardens, and then a natural boulder entrance before ascending 220 metres to the Lions Paws entrance. The ruins of the palace on the summit are only surpassed by the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. We return to our hotel for dinner.

Hotel: Cinnamon Lodge • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 07 - Habarana - Melsiripura - Kandy

We cycle on quiet country roads directly from the hotel past Kandalama Lake to the world-famous cave temple at Dambulla. Dating from the 2nd century BC, this is the largest cave temple complex in Sri Lanka and is adorned with thousands of frescos depicting the life of Lord Buddha. We will have time for a quick visit to this important site, as our local team rack-up the bikes onto the support vehicle. From here, we will make a 1-hour transfer to avoid a particularly busy and bumpy stretch of road. Then, at Melsiripura, it’s back on the bikes to ride on quiet back roads through one of Sri Lanka’s most important spice growing regions, surrounded by plantations of nutmeg, cloves and pepper. We’ll take the opportunity to stop at one of the spice gardens, to take a short tour and to see the various plants and learn about their medicinal uses. We then cycle through Matale (very busy) and start climbing up the Wattegama Valley amongst terraced paddy fields and jungle-covered hills. We will start to see the first tea plantations in this area, too. Now that we are back on minor roads, we can really enjoy the first significant ascent of the holiday so far. We’ll take a break at Madawela Bakery, a typical village eatery where we can get an energy top-up in the form of ‘wadas’, little cakes dipped in coconut and mango chutney. They are delicious!

Hotel: Amaya Hills • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 08 - Kandy

Encircled by hills, with a tranquil lake at its centre, Kandy is a bustling town known as Sri Lanka’s ‘Hill Capital’. It was an important religious centre of the Sinhalese and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. We spend a rest day here and have the chance to explore the town old shops, antique and gem specialists and colourful market streets. An absolute must-see is the ‘Temple of the Tooth’ an UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Buddha’s tooth, known simply as ‘the relic’ is kept. Today we can make our own decisions about where to take lunch and dinner and pay for these meals directly.

Hotel: Amaya Hills • Meals: Breakfast

Day 09 - Kandy - Hatton

We are now cycling into the rather hillier southern part of Sri Lanka. This part of the country is characterised by emerald-green tea plantations and steep-sided peaks cloaked in montane forest. For the first part of today’s ride, we weave our way amongst the plantations, with photographic opportunities at almost every bend in the road. We then follow the Mahaweli River and after 30 kilometres, begin a 2-stage ascent up to Hatton (1271m) where some of the earliest tea plantations in the country were set up. We stay overnight at an old colonial residence that was home to planters in the days of British rule. Here the staff can tell us about the origins of tea and possibly take us to visit a nearby tea factory. In the afternoon there’s time to take it easy or to go out to meet the people of Hatton, either cycling or on foot.

Hotel: Mandira Bungalows • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 10 - Hatton - Udawalawe

Setting off from Hatton in the morning, the first 10 kilometres trends gently downhill and we can look across to the striking, conical Adam’s Peak (2243m) Sri Lanka’s holy mountain. A pilgrimage route leads to the top of this peak where there is a rock formation regarded by Buddhists to be Buddha’s footprint. The road then climbs steadily, with a few rough sections of tarmac, up through the tea estates and on to a remote pass within a wilderness forest reserve which is home to the shy purple-faced langur. We are more likely to hear this monkey than see it. This pass at 1403 metres is the high point of our journey across the island. We then begin our long descent, stopping at a lookout point with fine views across the southern part of the island. If it is clear, we may even get a glimpse of the sea. Continuing on back roads we reach our lunch stop overlooking a small stream which you are welcome to jump in for a cool off. The last 20 kilometres of the day’s ride is on a good straight flat road and ends at our safari resort accommodation on the edge of the Udawalawe National Park.

Hotel: Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 11 - Udawalawe - Mirissa

The Udawalawe National Park is well-known for its herds of elephants, crocodiles and many species of exotic birds. There is the option for early risers to take a safari drive into the park with a naturalist guide – this is optional and not included in the holiday price. If you want to do this, it will have to be reserved and paid for the evening before. The tour guide will help to arrange this. Those not involved in the game drive can have a leisurely breakfast and a couple of hours free time. Then, in the late morning we set off to complete our journey along good roads, cycling amongst vast expanses of green paddy fields. The simplicity of rural life is showcased as we cycle towards Dondra Lighthouse the most southerly point of the island. Here, with a ceremonial dip of our front tyres in the India Ocean, we have conclude our road ride from north to south. We then transfer just 20 kilometres along the busy coastal road to our finishing point and resort-style hotel near Weligama, where we have a celebratory dinner.

Hotel: W15 Weligama • Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 12 - Mirissa - Airport

Today, depending on your departure flight time, you can either relax or check out of the hotel. Don’t forget to recollect the memories of your trip with your chauffer and write your feedback.

Meals: Breakfast

Best time to Travel

This is an all-year-round trip.

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