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Sri Lanka

Backroads and Beaches

Guided Cycling Holiday

Grade

1
2
3
4
5

Duration

15 days

Prices from

£2,345 P.P.
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Situated off the coast of India, Sri Lanka is an often overlooked gem in the Indian Ocean. An island of beautiful tropical beaches, spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife. Ancient Buddhist temples rub shoulders with landscaped tea plantations and lush tropical forests entice you to explore them.
Our cycling holiday in Sri Lanka starts on the coast at Chillaw. From here we head inland, taking in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. From Habarana we start our ride to the higher reaches, as we head into the lush green central hills and the mountains of the Knuckles to reach Kandy. Here we’ll visit one of the most sacred places of Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Tooth.
Next is the hill station and colonial splendour of Nuwara Eliya and its world famous tea plantations, before we head downhill through teak and rhododendron forest to Horton Plains. The downward emphasis continues from here on in as we speed to the plains at Katharagama. Riding on the flat is then the order of the day from here on in as we head through the forest to Udawalawe. The National Park here is famous for its wildlife, especially elephants and with this in mind, we spend the next day on a jeep safari.
Our final day of this Sri Lanka cycling holiday ends at one of the best stretches of beach, Mirissa and is the perfect place to end our cycling journey. Next day we head to Colombo via the lovely colonial city of Galle, before our flight connections the next day.
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Holiday Highlights

  • Eying up the elephants at Udawalawe
  • Stunning Sigirya and the Lion Rock
  • Colonial cool in Nuwara Eliya
  • Coastal cycling and beautiful beaches
  • Honing in on Horton Plains after a day in the hills
  • The Knuckles and Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth

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Itinerary

Day 1
Departure for Sri Lanka

We leave for Sri Lanka from our chosen departure airport arriving into Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) the next day.

Day 2
Arrival in Colombo
  • Meals: Dinner

Following arrival we head north to Chillaw (on Sri Lanka’s west coast). It’s around 50kms away and is a great place to rest-up after a long flight. With most flights arriving by early afternoon we’ll meet-up as a group for bike sizing and dinner early evening.

Day 3
Chillaw to Anuradhapura
53 Miles / 84 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat

After breakfast we take an initial transfer (2 hours / 70kms) northwards to Nawagattegama a small town situated in the North Western province. From here we set our sights on Anuradhapura, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization it is one of the ancient capitals and dates back to the 5th century BC. The scenery for the day is one of constantly changing vistas – forests, paddy fields and lakes. Terrain wise we are still pretty much on the flat, with just one very slight climb to test the legs a little. Late afternoon we’ll check out the ruins of Anuradhapura one of Sri Lanka’s most evocative sights and containing a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders. This includes the oldest living human-planted tree in the world (249BC), the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi which is said to be part of Sri Maha Bodhi under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.

NB – Depending on the progress of the group we will either transfer (after lunch) the final 21kms to Anuradhapura or continue all the way to the hotel by bike.

Day 4
Anuradhapura to Habarana
45 Miles / 73 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat

An early start ensures we get a shaded start to the day and are well placed to appreciate the bird-life of this lovely area. Our cycling today takes place pre-dominantly on quiet rural roads dotted with small villages, lakes and paddy fields skirting the Ritigala Nature Park. Situated a short distance from Habarana our accommodation tonight is one nature lovers will simply adore. It’s also in the perfect place to base ourselves for tomorrow’s visit to Sigiriya. Should we arrive in good time there is the option to take a late afternoon jeep safari and admire the elephants of Minneriya for those interested.

Day 5
Habarana - Sigiriya - Nalanda
28 Miles / 46 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat

Our day starts with an early morning visit to the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site of Sigiriya (Lion Rock). An ancient rock fortress that is dominated by a massive 200 metre high column of terracotta and grey rock. Built in the 5th century, the complex is an astonishing feat of engineering and construction and is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning. It’s a great place to wander around and if you choose, you can walk up the narrow walkway that clings to the side of the rock and scale its lofty heights. From here you will be rewarded with superb views of the surrounding area.

Once safely back at ground-level, we commence our cycling. As with yesterday we are very much on the flat for the day with our ride taking in some lovely peaceful sections close to Kandalama Lake and alongside the irrigation channels which dissect the rice paddies. We end the ride just outside the bustling town of Nalanda where we take a late lunch. Scheduled for the afternoon is a short spice walk and cooking class prior to taking another delicious Sri Lankan meal here in the evening.

Day 6
Nalanda to Kandy
36 Miles / 58 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Hilly

A challenging day in the saddle, but as with all days, there will be plenty of space on our support vehicle(s) for those looking to take things a little easier.

Our initial riding sees us enjoying a lovely undulating route (15kms) along the quiet narrow backroads that weave their way around the base of the Knuckles mountain range. From here it’s time to start heading up towards the hills and so expect a few ‘cheeky climbs’ along the way. We’ll be snaking our way up the Knuckles and during today’s ride will gain around 150 metres. The highest point is at 650 metres and occurs at the mid-point of our ride.

We’ll now be surrounded by tropical rainforest which contrast dramatically with the previous forest scenery we’ve encountered and the ride ends at the town of Wattegama following a superb winding descent.

So as to avoid a busy road section we’ll transfer from here to Kandy (10kms) and our centrally placed hotel. It’s a quick turn-around once there in order to make the most of the city. Our first place of interest is the Kandyan Cultural Centre where we enjoy a display of traditional Sri Lankan dance, drumming and fire walking. This is followed by a visit to one of the most sacred places of Buddhist worship – The Temple of the Tooth, which like Anuradhapura and Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our evening meal is taken at the hotel and for those with still a little energy to spare Kandy is an interesting place to explore.

Day 7
Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
31-37 Miles / 50-60 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Hilly

Today we’ll be heading to the Hill Station of Nuwara Eliya on a ride which is without doubt the most challenging of the trip. During the course of the 50kms we’ll be ascending nearly 1500 metres. Whilst some will want to tick off each and every km, our support vehicle is always close at hand if you fancy hopping aboard for any of the steeper sections.

Avoiding once again the busy traffic of Kandy we have a short transfer (30 minutes) to Haradama where our cycling commences. An initial downhill will warm up the legs then its onwards and upwards to lunch. Today’s scenery includes plantations of tapioca, banana, guava and mango, as we cycle up the winding roads with their beautiful views of the area’s famous tea plantations.

On the ride up we’ll stop at bustling small towns including Padayapelella where we’ll take a snack-stop and enjoy a wander through its ramshackle streets.

Lunch is taken at the 50km mark and for many this will mark the end of the day’s cycling. For those with the legs there is an optional 10km section that will see them edging further up the mountain range.

Once we’ve loaded up the bikes we round off our day’s activities with a visit to the Pedro Tea Plantation for a guided tour of their facilities and a post-tour cuppa. Boasting strong ethical credentials, it’s the perfect place to buy your supplies of their Lovers Leap blend.

Nuwara Eliya with its colonial buildings and bustling market makes for a pleasant place for a wander pre-dinner which is usually taken at the accommodation.

Day 8
Nuwara Eliya to Bandarawela
31 Miles / 50 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Mostly Downhill

Our cycling today takes us from the Hakgala Forest past Kande Ella (the highest lake in Sri Lanka) and is one of changing vistas throughout the day.

We soon leave the tea estates behind replacing them with lush hillsides filled with vegetables. Our next section takes us through Ambewela (also referred to as Little New Zealand) a place famed for its dairy farming and milk production. After 20Kms we leave these lush rolling meadows and climb steeply for 4kms, through teak and rhododendron forest to reach Horton Plains National Park. Situated at an altitude of just over 2,000 metres these atmospheric grasslands are amazing to cycle through and totally different to anything you’ll have encountered so far. It’s a lovely rolling route through the park and which then descends through winding pine forests to Ohiya.

Ohiya is small outpost with little more here than a train station, with its tea shop making for a great place to take a break. We might even be lucky enough to catch a steam train making its journey to Ella. Our ride ends in the town of Borlanda after a great downhill section through the Ohiya eucalyptus forest. From here we load-up the bikes for the final 15kms to Bandarawela, situated at 1245m, some 700 metres lower than this morning. Our accommodation here is a beautiful colonial hotel which makes for the perfect place to unwind after what will have been a memorable day’s cycling.

Day 9
Bandarawela to Katharagama
43-60 Miles / 70-97 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Mostly Downhill

70kms to 97kms (depending on elephants – see below) – Mainly downhill

Leaving bustling Bandarawela we’ve a gradual climb though the tea plantations for a few kms. From here on in the emphasis become a very much downhill affair as we descend for around 20kms to end close to Ella. We then continue our journey downwards to the Southern Plains passing numerous teak, eucalyptus and rubber plantations. The highlights keep on coming and after around 50kms our ride meanders through an area of sugar cane production, with lunch taken at a local house. The area is rich in birdlife so keep your eyes peeled for Hornbills and Peacocks as you cycle along.

Our cycling ends close to the pilgrimage town of Katharagama and once again our hotel is superb, boasting great rooms, lovely grounds and a swimming pool. Early evening we transfer the short distance to main pilgrimage sight Kataragama and which is a holy place for Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and the Veddah people. It’s a great place to visit at sunset. With Puja taking place around this time it’s always a colourful and interesting spectacle.

NB. With elephants free to roam in the area close to Katharagama, the riding distance today may be reduced due to them being on the road. Should we be informed of this the final kms will be made in our support vehicle.

Day 10
Katharagama to Udawalawe
44 Miles / 71 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat

Back on the bikes and riding on the flat is very much the order of the day. The vegetation on today’s ride is completely different from our previous days as we explore forests interspersed with sections beside huge lakes, paddy and grasslands.

This is an area famed for its curd (yoghurt) and honey production and with this in mind it would be rude not to stop off at one of the roadside vendors to enjoy a few mouthfuls during our day on the bike.

Our final pedal strokes take us on a spectacular stretch alongside the Udawalawe Reservoir to our wildlife destination of Udawalawe. The National Park here was created to provide sanctuary for those wild animals that were displaced following the construction of the reservoir. Our accommodation tonight is situated just a few minutes away from the National Park and is the perfect place to base ourselves for tomorrow’s Jeep Safari. For those interested we’ve an optional visit to the nearby The Elephant Transit Home, which has helped care for dozens of injured, sick or orphaned baby elephants. Here we’ll be able observe them being fed by the park wardens, which is always an entertaining affair.

Day 11
Udawalawe - Jeep Safari
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

With no major schedule until early afternoon you’re free to take a lazy breakfast, chill-out by the pool and take a wander. Udawalawe is famous for its wild elephants (around 400) that live here and during a visit it is not unusual to see a parade of adults and youngsters feeding, bathing and playing in the water. The park is also home to crocodiles, water buffalo, sambar deer and monkeys. It’s also a location that boasts numerous species of birds including the impressive crested-hawks.

Late afternoon we’ll set-off by 4WD jeep for our open-top safari. With experienced and knowledgeable nature guides with us, you’ll be in expert hands throughout making this an unforgettable experience. We return at sunset, with our evening meal taken at the accommodation a time to discuss who saw what and compare photos.

Day 12
Udawalwe to Tangalle
42 Miles / 68 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat

Our ride today starts with a beautiful section as we head towards the coastal area. Small towns and villages mark our progress, with the final stretch taking in some very scenic roads that are dotted with small ponds bustling with birds. Quiet village backroads then lead us to the Rekawa Lagoon and finally to small coastal town of Tangalle from where it’s a short distance to our beachside accommodation. Surely there’s no better way to celebrate our ride today than with a chilled Lion Beer as the sun sets over the horizon!

Day 13
Tangalle to Mirissa
43 Miles / 70 Kms Approx.
  • Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Ascent: Flat / Rolling

Riding from the hotel we avoid the busy main beach road and use the network of quieter side roads that will allow you to really experience southern Sri Lankan charm. There’s lots to see along the way as we wind our way through the small villages and towns of the area and edge towards Mirissa.

Although a reasonably long ride it is a rolling route and we’ll be stopping regularly to replenish ourselves with fresh fruit, snacks and water.

We plan to end the day’s cycling early afternoon so as to enjoy fully our luxurious hotel. Beautifully positioned by a gorgeous stretch of beach it is a fitting place to end your cycling journey through Sri Lanka. The time has come to kick of your cycling shoes and relax and reflect by the pool or on the beach.

Day 14
Mirissa to Colombo via Galle
Non Riding Day
  • Meals: Breakfast

A relaxing start to the day and after a lazy breakfast we head-off mid-morning towards Colombo. En-route we stop-off at Galle. It’s wonderful Dutch-colonial buildings (within its historic fort area) are crammed full of small boutiques, shops, art galleries and cafes making it a great place to wander around. We’ll take lunch here before continuing our journey to Colombo, which is around a 2-3hour drive.

Our accommodation is situation close to the Old Dutch Hospital a building that was originally a hospital during the Dutch occupation of Sri Lanka, and which is considered to be the oldest building in the historic Colombo Fort area.

Tastefully converted in 2011 there are some superb restaurants here and is where we’ll take our evening meal to celebrate our amazing cycling journey through Sri Lanka.

Day 15
Departure
  • Meals: Breakfast

Departure in the morning for Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) for onward connections. For those staying on in Sri Lanka the train station is close-by and reached easily from the hotel.

 

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The Cycling

Terrain

Our cycling will be done mainly on well surfaced roads, although there will undoubtedly be sections that are unsurfaced and potholed in places. We also do our best to avoid sections of involving heavier traffic.

The first few days of your cycling journey will take place mainly on the plains until we start to climb to up to the Hill Country and notably to Kandy and then Nuwara Eliya. From here we will descend (on an undulating terrain) all the way to the coast, where the cycling will be pre-dominantly flat.

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Cycling Adventures Grade

1
2
3
4
5
Grade 3 : Moderate

Distances generally between 20-45 miles / 32-72 kms per day

For the leisure cyclist with a good level of physical fitness

May include some steeper, cheeky climbs

Possibly sections of varying terrain (eg. forest tracks, gravel paths etc)

Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!

For more information about our grading system click here.

Is this suitable for you?

Although you may not cycle everyday, you do keep yourself relatively fit and maybe enjoy an afternoon out on your bike at the weekend. Your preference is perhaps for flatter terrain but you don’t mind tackling some hills, and the occasional steep climb if you can take it at your own pace. For those happy to tackle some ups and downs, and possibly some sections of varying terrain (eg. forest tracks, gravel paths etc) we’d recommend our grade 3 trips. We’d generally expect those on a Grade 3 holiday to have a decent level of physical fitness and be comfortable with some longer days in the saddle.

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Dates & Prices

Private Departures

Private Departures

Are you keen to only travel with your family or friends? Struggling to find the right date? Well, we can organise a private departure for this tour and tailor aspects to suit your group's specific needs. Contact our friendly team and we'll help you turn your dream into reality.

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Price p.p.
Start Date
24/07/2021
Return Date
07/08/2021
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00
Start Date
13/11/2021
Return Date
27/11/2021
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00
Start Date
15/01/2022
Return Date
29/01/2022
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00
Start Date
19/02/2022
Return Date
05/03/2022
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00
Start Date
23/07/2022
Return Date
06/08/2022
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00
Start Date
12/11/2022
Return Date
26/11/2022
Duration
15 days
Price
£2,345.00

Whats Included Tick

A) Hotel accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)

B) Meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

C) Full tour service, including Skedaddle guides

D) Unless stated, at least one leader qualified in first aid

E) Support vehicle(s) and luggage transfers

F) Entrance to Kandy Cultural Show – Day 6

G) Entrance fees to all sites / temples as per the itinerary

H) Udawalawe Jeep Safari (Day 11)

What's not Included Cross

A) Bike hire (available if required)

B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike

C) Travel insurance

D) Meals not stated in the itinerary

E) Tips for guides, drivers, support staff

F) Entrance fees to sites not listed in the itinerary

G) Optional Jeep Safari – Day 4 – £20 approx.

H) Elephant Transit Centre – Day 10 – £3.00

I) Sri Lankan visa – U$20 to U$35 depending on Nationality

J) Medical check-up and inoculations

K) Airport transfers on non-scheduled arrival/departure days

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The Essentials

Travel Options

For this tour in particular, we ask that you fly into and back from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB).

Airport transfers are included in the holiday cost and both the arrival and return transfers will be co-ordinated with the group flight schedule. Please note – If you make alternative travel arrangements, which fall outside of the group schedule, there may be an additional charge for individual transfers.

The most common route from the UK is directly from London Heathrow with Sri Lankan Airlines or via the Middle East with Emirates, Gulf Air and Etihad all good options to consider.

Please check with us before booking your flights.

Accommodation

The accommodation on this trip, is of a high standard and in a variety of different styles. These include beachfront hotels, converted colonial buildings and friendly family run small hotels.

Contact us for the accommodation details that are specific to your trip date.

Bike Hire

If you don’t own a suitable bike or would prefer to avoid bringing your own we have bikes available to hire.

These bikes are typically Cannondale Trails, a mountain bike featuring front suspension, disc brakes and good quality components (or equivalent).

If you do decide to hire we can include a helmet and all necessary spares for the trip. Please request helmets at the time of booking.

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