Colours of Ceylon, cycling the Central Highlands
Arrival to Sri Lanka
On your arrival to Sri Lanka, our representative will meet you at the Colombo airport and transfer you to your hotel in Negombo, a short drive away on the West coast. There will be a briefing of the tour in the evening at the hotel followed by a welcome dinner.
Negombo to Dambulla
On the second day we will start riding directly from the hotel in the morning along the old coastal road, heading North, keeping sea to our left. We will pass the colourful sailboats pulled up along the beach or sailing close to the coast and traditional fish markets, which will present excellent opportunities for photography as you pass riding.
We will leave the coastal road after cycling for 30km and head inland on back roads that will give your first taste of rural Sri Lanka. We will ride through coconut plantations for 20km where we can experience the preparation of “coconut toddy”, a traditional alcoholic brew from coconuts. We will also visit a traditional factory which makes rope from coconut husks.
After lunch at Kurunegala Lake, we can either rack up the bikes and continue to our hotel in Sigiriya by vehicle or optionally continue cycling for another 30km.
Ride 50km to 80km / ascent 150m
On the third day we will ride through the countryside on a mix of tarmac and red dirt roads, passing rice fields, elephant grass and village irrigation canals. Riding along the shores of the Lake Kandalama, we will have excellent views of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress (Lion Rock), our destination.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, it was founded as the island capital in 5th century. The city contains high ramparts, deep moats, landscaped gardens, the famous fresco paintings and the famous lion entrance to the citadel. Represents the very best of ancient Sinhalese engineering, architecture, landscape gardening, hydrology, painting and sculpture. We will park the bikes and walk through the landscaped gardens before climbing 180m to the summit.
After our descent, we will head to a local restaurant to enjoy a country lunch. Our afternoon trail will follow an old irrigation canal as we cycle on dirt roads and we might be graced with the sight of villagers bathing in the canals as we head back to our hotel.
Ride 35km to 65km
Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa
On the fourth day, riding from the hotel, we will ascent over the Kaladuwa Hills by the side of the Wasgamuga National Park where we might spot wild elephants and crocodiles. We will ride on a tree-lined road until we reach Polonnaruwa Reservoir, an immense manmade lake and will have lunch at a local restaurant for an authentic gastronomic experience.
We then will ride through an ancient park to visit the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World heritage site. Polonnaruwa was the medieval capital of Sri Lanka during 10-12 centuries A.D. It is a treasure trove of palaces, stupas and image houses including some of the finest works of stone carving in the island.
After visiting the heritage sites, we will transfer to our hotel.
Ride 80km / Elevation +200m and -250m
Polonnaruwa to Lagalla Valley
On the fifth day, a short transfer will take us back to Polonnaruwa, where we will ride around the huge lake called Parakrama Samudraya, named after the great King who built it. Part of the ride is through Angammedilla National Park, built to protect the water source. This small forest reserve is an elephant corridor linking Minneriya and Wasgamuwa National Parks. Here we will retrace part of yesterday’s ride, following the Amban River.
We will finish the trail at Lagalla Valley (1400m), on the Eastern slope of the Knuckles Mountain range. The last 17km of the canopy covered trail will be through the Knuckles Conservation Forest, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage Natural List together with the Peak Wildness Protected Area and the Horton Plains National Park. It is home to an extraordinary variety of flora and fauna, including several endangered species and is considered a biodiversity hotspot.
Ride 35 km / Elevation +1300m
Night: Lagalla Valley
Lagalla Valley to Kandy
On the sixth day, starting from our rural hotel in Lagalla Valley, we will cycle downhill 14km to Panwila and then to Matale, situated in Sri Lanka’s spice-growing region where we can smell the pepper, cinnamon and cloves and follow gentle uphill to Kandy, the spiritual and cultural capital of the hill country and Sri Lanka’s second largest city.
Nestled among hills and centred around a lake, picturesque Kandy has long been an important religious centre and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We can explore the town centre and the colourful, bustling food market. We will have a guided visit to the famous Temple of the Sacred Relic – the most important Buddhist relic in the island.
Ride 50 km / Elevation -1000m / +100m
Kandy to Hatton
On the seventh day we will be ready to tackle the Highlands again. For those who enjoy riding but find hills a bit too challenging, there is the option of taking the train during the last stage.
A short 8km transfer will take us out of town to Peradeniya, famed for its Botanical Garden and university. Starting the ride from the campus, we will wind our way along river valley with some short climbs, with our first tea stop in Gampola 21 km away, from where the optional train journey will begin.
From Gampola, we will begin to see the tea carpeted slopes of the hill country. Riding at a gentle pace, we can stop to take photos of the brightly dressed tea pickers and colourful Hindu temples. We reground at the tea outlets brewing the best tea in the island, fresh from their respective plantations. Our hotel will be in Hatton (1100m). Those taking the train will be met at the station and will be shuttled to the hotel.
Ride 80 km / Elevation +600m
Hatton to Udawalawe
On the eighth day we will ride along tracks of the tea plantations, through the most important tea growing regions of the island. You’ll be greeted by the tea pickers at work and their community as we head towards the Peak Wilderness Area and Sri Pada sacred mountain. The long climb with an easy gradient up to Bogowantalawa gets tougher for the last 10km to a remote pass with dramatic views. The mountain pass is part of the Peak Forest Reserve, its distinctive stunted forest contains many rare, endemic plants as well as the shy, bear monkey more often heard than seen. The reward for the long climb is a stunning 30km, 1300m descent through small villages and tea communities, ending close to Banlangoda. This is one of the most scenic days of your expedition. After lunch at a local restaurant, we will pack our bikes and transfer to our hotel on the edge of Udawalawe National Park.
Ride 60km to 70km / Elevation +300m / -1300m
On the ninth day, riding from the hotel, we will cycle 21km through sugar cane and banana plantations passing the immense reservoir to Udawalawe National Park, where we will go on a jeep safari. It is centred around a reservoir and has approximately 40 elephants in small herds scattered around, and sometimes we can spot them by the water’s edge. We may also see wild buffaloes, crocodiles, deer and monkeys. There are lots of resident water fowls and hawk eagles to keep the photographers busy.
We will lunch in a nearby eco lodge and then will mount our bicycles to follow an irrigation canal back to the hotel.
Ride 40km to 60km
Udawalawa to Mirissa
On the tenth day riding from the hotel, we will use a network of back roads for some fantastic cross- country riding. Here you will get to experience Southern charm - laughing faces - and a slow pace of life. It’s quite a long, undulating ride, with lots of fruit stops to break up the ride. Be sure to try one of the many varieties of bananas to energise you. We will try to get to the popular Mirissa beach on the South by the afternoon so you can have free time to chill, swim or surf.
On our eleventh day we will cycle through rice fields, cinnamon plantations and by the Sinharaja Virgen rainforest to arrive at historic Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese on the site of an ancient Sinhalese port, Galle reached its splendour during the Dutch occupation in the 18th century. It is one of the finest examples of a fortified sea port built by Europeans in Asia, showing a mix of European and South Asian styles.
We will have a farewell dinner in the Galle Fort.
Galle to Colombo
There will be a 3-hour transport to the Colombo airport. Optionally, you can choose an extended beach holiday in Sri Lanka.