Day 1 - Arrival in Sri Lanka (D)
Arrive in Sri Lanka and we meet at the Goldi Sands in Negombo for a trip briefing and welcome dinner. Overnight at the Goldi Sands Hotel.
Day 2 - Negombo – Dambulla (BLD) 54kms
After breakfast we start riding directly from the hotel along the old coast road. Keeping the sea on our left we pass the distinctive patchwork sails of the Karavas fishing community. Their boats pulled up along the beach or sailing just off the coast make for excellent photos as does the many fish markets you’ll cycle past. We leave the coast road after cycling for 30 km and head inland on quiet back roads that give you a flavour of Sri Lanka as does our picnic lunch stop under coconut trees with tasty curry and fresh fruit from the local plantations. After lunch we’ll transfer 3 hours to avoid the heat of the day as we head to Dambulla to visit a 2nd century Buddhist cave temple. Also known as the Golden Temple, it is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country and contains more than 150 Buddha statues. Once we have taken in the views from the caves we’ll have a short transfer to our peaceful hotel situated amongst mango trees and paddy fields. Overnight at the Thilanka Spa and Resort.
Day 3 – Dambulla Loop (BL) 61kms
We’ll ride through the countryside on a mix of tarmac and red dirt roads passing orchards, paddy fields and elephant grass. Riding along the shores of Kandalama Lake we’ll have excellent views of the ancient 5th century rock fortress Sigiriya (Lion Rock), our destination. We’ll park the bikes and walk through the old water gardens before climbing 300m to the view the ruins of King Kasyapa’s summer palace on the summit. To distract us from the walk up we’ll pass the impressive frescos that depict more than 500 ladies. After our descent we’ll head to a local restaurant for lunch. Our afternoon ride follows an old irrigation canal and we cycle on red dirt roads, framed by long green grass and seeing lots of people bathing as we head back to our hotel in Dambulla. Overnight at the Thilanka Spa and Resort.
Day 4 – Dambulla - Polonnaruwa (BLD) 78kms
Riding from the hotel we have a bit of an ascent over the Kaladuwa Hills. The riding is on a good road surface, but wild elephants have been known to cross the road on the descent, so please beware. We’ll be riding on a tree-lined road in part of a forest reserve until we reach Polonnaruwa tank, a very large manmade lake, and lunch at a local hotel. We then ride through the historic park of Polonnaruwa, the 10th Century capital and best preserved of the ancient cities. Abandoned in the 13th Century, it was rediscovered in the 18th Century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the chiseled stone monuments show us the glory of the ancient Rajarata Kingdom. After seeing the main sites we’ll have a 20 minute transfer to our hotel on the banks of the reservoir. Overnight at the Deer Park.
Day 5 - Polonnaruwa - Wasgomuwa (BLD) 75kms
After a filling breakfast we’ll cycle out of Polonnaruwa and ride along the eastern fringes of Wasgomuwa National Park, home to a large population of Sri Lankan elephants and many other mammals -- including sloth bears, leopards, deer, wild buffalo -- and more than 100 bird species. There’s a chance the ride can be shortened by 25 km if the water is too high to cross at the bridge as a transfer will be necessary. In the afternoon we swap our two wheels for the four wheels of jeeps and take a 3-hour safari inside the park. Overnight at Willy’s Safari Hotel.
Day 6 – Wasgomuwa – Kandy (BLD) 70kms
Today we climb up to the Laggala pass at 1000 m and what is often described as the most stunning road in Sri Lanka. Our undulating ride takes us through the Knuckles wilderness before descending 1000 m over 27 km on the so-called spice road to Matale, the spice centre of Sri Lanka. Though in the tropics, it can be cool and misty at altitude, so a waterproof jacket is recommended. We transfer the last part into Kandy, Sri Lanka’s second largest city, to avoid busy roads. Overnight at the Thilanka Hotel Kandy.
Day 7 – Kandy (B)
Nestled among hills and centreed around a lake, picturesque Kandy has long been an important religious center of the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. As as rest day, today you can explore the town center’s old shops, antique and gem specialists or the bustling market. A must do is to see the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacred Kandy which houses the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic - Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha. Overnight at the Thilanka Hotel Kandy.
Day 8 – Kandy – Kotagala (BLD) 78kms
After a day of rest your legs will be ready for today’s tough and long day of long climbs. We transfer the first 10 km and then ride on minor estate roads through undulating countryside, passing by small Tamil communities, colourful Hindu temples, scared tree shrines and lots of tea plantations. We refuel with a tea break before starting the 420 m climb up, but at 15 km long it’s an easy gradient. Then it’s all downhill to the town of Nawalpitiya before we head up again to tea plantations and have a stop to have a cup of the finest local tea. We’ll reach a highpoint of 1386m, but if the hills are too much there’s always the support vehicle to hop into if you tire. We overnight at an old colonial bungalow set in lovely gardens to enjoy the view from. Overnight at the Rosita Bungalow.
Day 9 - Kotagala - Bogowantalawa (BLD) 42kms
Today’s ride will be along gravel roads and tea estate tracks, through the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea growing region. You’ll be greeted by the pickers at work and their children as we head towards a tea planters retreat. After a downhill start we have a few rolling hills before we descend almost 10 km to Norwood Bazaar. It’s a gentle climb back up again as we head to Bogowantalawa town where we’ll hit the market to buy our food for our evening meal at the rustic North Cove Bungalows. The road gets a bit rougher now, which makes the climbing harder. We’ll take a break at the Lionorn tea factory and take a tour if there’s time. It’s a steep climb for 4 km to our remote and cozy log cabins in the heart of the Peak wilderness. Though basic, our accommodation does have the benefit of offering a waterfall and rock swimming pools to relax in after a great days ride. Overnight at the North Cove Log Cabins.
Day 10 - Bogowantalawa – Udawalawa (BLD) 97kms
We descend 1700 m out of tea country today, down a paved switchback road to the rolling hills of Balangoda and the jungle covered slopes of the Sinharaja rainforest. The morning ride will be primarily downhill with one 4 km climb to a nice break at a lookout point. The landscape changes from tea to fruit and vegetable plantations. We’ll have a picnic lunch at a monastery before our afternoon ride, which begins hilly, but ends flat and easy on the edge of a reservoir. Overnight at the Kalous Hideaway.
Day 11 - Tangalle (B)
Day free to relax, enjoy the beach or visit the turtel sancturary at Rekkawa about 20kms away
Day 12 – Galle (B)
Take break from the bike today and wander through the fortified old city of Galle on your own. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle offers a unique blend of European architectural styles and south Asian traditions. Stroll on the walls of the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers, and enjoy the ocean views. Stay on in Galle or transfer by car back to Colombo airport.