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Sri Lanka Tip to Tip by Road Bike
Instead of settling for your average holiday, why not grab your bike and experience the adventure of a lifetime by cycling the length of Sri Lanka? India’s neighbour is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but this country is teeming with history, beautiful beaches and a wide array of stunning wildlife. Every day of this epic journey brings with it a new experience, so what are you waiting for?
- CategoryRoad Cycling
- TypeFully Guided
- Duration12 days
- Culture LevelAdventurous
- Skill Level3 - Intermediate
- Activity Level3 - Active
- Elevation3 - Intermediate
- Distance523.2 miles
- Avg. Daily Distance58.4 miles
- Day 1Feel the excitement building as you meet and greet in Negombo
It is arrival day and at this stage you will feel the excitement building as you meet your fellow tour participants and guides for this two-week adventure through the land of Sri Lanka.
Meeting in Negombo at your first hotel of the tour, the whole team will enjoy a welcoming dinner and run through a briefing of what lies ahead. With so much to look forward to, you will be forgiven for finding it hard to nod off on your first night.
- Goldi Sands
- Day 2Locals’ smiles and gorgeous scenery light up your way
Sri Lanka’s vast array of gorgeous beaches, ancient relics and delightful natural sights will have your blood and adrenaline pumping as the team prepares to pedal out. After a few checks you can finally click through the gears and ride off at a relaxed pace through the north of Sri Lanka.
The first notable sights include a mix of Catholic churches which have led this area to be known as Little Rome. The ever-present paddy fields and coconut plantations will always be sure to catch your eye. Throughout the trip it’s important you stay hydrated, so little breaks at tea shops will crop up from time to time.
With the break done, it’s back to the bikes so you can experience your first Sri Lankan village and the winding roads that accompany it. They make for wonderful riding and the chance to pedal into these lesser seen communities is a real highlight. The locals here are kind and eager to know what you are up to. Their smiles will really light up your day.
After numerous waves and greetings you will glide out of the villages and onto flat straight road that allows you to build up some pace before lunch and finishing up for the day. It’s your first meal on the road and a chance to enjoy some of the local spice that Sri Lankan food is known for.
With the riding over it’s time to pack up the bikes and transfer five hours by vehicle to Jaffna. En route the team will stop to stretch their legs and explore the former headquarters of the Tamil Tigers at Killinochi.
- 46 miles
- 360.9 ft
- Northgate by Jetwing
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
- Day 3Hitting the northernmost point for a ceremonial dip
Jaffna is an exciting little town and is the perfect spot to launch your second day of riding. Passing through, you will observe its bustling markets, busy fishing port and the impressive Star Fort that the Portuguese built to defend the Peninsula in 1618.
Leaving behind the town, the group will take the causeway to Kyats Island and there you can really make those wheels whirl if you’re up to it. If you’re a speed merchant feel free, but be prepared to stop too as the impressive variety of water birds such as red-wattled lapwings and painted storks will demand your attention.
Everyone will regroup at the ferry. From there it’s time to cross to Karaingar Island and head further north for Casuarina Beach. This is the northernmost tip of the island and to mark the occasion you can dip both your rear tires and yourself in the Indian Ocean. This will signify the beginning of your trip down to the south.
After a lovely picnic lunch on the beach it’s time to head south; you will circle back to the mainland before stopping again in Jaffna for the night.
Your day isn’t quite over; there's time for a tasty dinner packed full of Tamil cuisine at a local restaurant. There are a number of exquisite dishes on offer including Masala Dosai, a tasty rice flour pancake with spicy filling.
- 44.1 miles
- Northgate by Jetwing
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
- Day 4Soaking up the sun, sea and sand
Sri Lanka has yet to feel a huge tourist boom and so cycling here can make you feel like you’re the only people in the world. It makes the whole experience serene and idyllic as the group heads south to Ponneryn and across the Jaffna Lagoon.
With barely any traffic it will be hard to imagine that this land was once the scene of some major battles during the era of conflict in the country. The thick mass of jungle hides the evidence of this time with the area now being slowly resettled.
Today’s cycling is all about sticking close to the edge of calming waters; you will first reach them when you stop for lunch at Iluppaikkadavai, where the road and ocean finally meet. The waters around here are occupied by Dugongs, rare sea mammals that were once thought to be mermaids. They can be spotted, if you’re lucky, in the shallow water of the bay.
Following lunch you will cross a 2km-long (1.2mi-long) bridge that is perfect for riding into Mannar Island. The pedaling concludes at a glorious, venerable 700-year old Baobab tree brought over by Arabian traders. With an enormous 19.5m (64ft) circumference trunk and with thick grey bark, it’s understandable why it earned the nickname ‘Elephant Tree’.
You can enjoy the rest of the day on the island marvelling at the natural sights that this place holds. The white sand and palm trees are perfect for photos to make your friends jealous, while there are also wild donkeys, little village lanes and fishing boats for the keen photographer in you. A little further, at the tip of Mannar spit, is Adams Bridge – a mixture of islets, reefs and sandbanks that almost link Sri Lanka with India. This is a good spot to enjoy a post-ride beer, go for a swim and see if you can spot the Rameshwaram Tower in India that is almost 26km (16mi) away.
- 62.1 - 75.2 miles
- -9.8 ft
- The Palmyrah House
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
- Day 5Transported back in time to the ancient city of Anuradhapura
After bumming around on the beach yesterday, it’s time to get those legs pumping again as you hop back to the bike. A quick transfer will lead you back to your bike and it’s off to re-crossing the causeway back to the mainland.
Pointing your wheels inland, you will ride through an impressive wetland habitat reserve and alongside a large inland lake, known as the Giants Tank, which was built by King Dhatusena (459 – 477). Cycling here allows you to observe how communities harness the land to positive effect with many traditional farming villages thriving. Watching the water buffalo plough the rice fields will once again have you reaching for your camera.
Today’s aim is to make it to the hotel by lunch, so that the team can explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the former capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom is full of the oldest and largest Buddhist monuments in South Asia. The city carries a deeply spiritual aura and this is further enhanced when you visit the sacred Bodhi tree after sunset to observe the pilgrims lighting ‘pahannas’, little clay lamps and incense sticks. This is a truly authentic Sri Lankan experience and this enlightening day is topped off with some excellent street food for dinner.
- 73.9 miles
- 305.1 ft
- Day 6Start with a relaxing ride before climbing the immense Sigiriya Rock fortress
After exploring Anuradhapura on two legs, now it’s time to do so on two wheels. The whole region is packed with ancient temples and stupas, particularly along the Old Kings Route.
Eventually, you will leave behind the main road and turn off towards the nature reserve of Ritigala. Sri Lanka is full of fascinating legends and here is no different; the story is that this rocky area was originally meant as part of the Himalayas but was dropped by the monkey god Hunman. When it was requested he bring a magic herb to heal his master, the god forgot the name and brought instead the whole mountain.
The day’s riding finishes early at the hotel where the team can have lunch, but don’t think your exercise is over just yet. In the afternoon you will climb up the immense Sigiriya Rock, built by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD) in the 5th Century. This impressive rock fortress will leave you in awe as you pass through royal gardens and a natural boulder entrance before ascending the final 220m (720ft) to the Lions Paws entrance. The palace ruins on the summit combined with the views of the surrounding countryside make this a magnificent spot to reflect on what has already been an epic journey.
- 48.5 miles
- 324.8 ft
- Day 7Greeted by thousands of Buddha statues and the distinctive smells of spices
A lot of planning goes into this route as is evident on this morning when you glide down quiet country roads from the hotel past Kandalama Lake to Dambulla cave temple. This is the largest cave complex in the country and dates back to the 2nd century BC. Wandering round the caves will leave you enraptured with thousands of depictions of Buddha greeting your every step.
Following this, you will pack the bikes up to transfer an hour to Melsiripura and in doing so avoid a particularly bumpy and busy stretch of road. Back on the bikes it’s time for a new assault on the senses as you pedal through the spice growing region of Sri Lanka. The fragrant wafts of nutmeg, clove and pepper plantations make a grand companion before you stop off at a spice garden to learn more about the various plants and their medicinal uses.
Next up you will pass through the hustle and bustle of Matale before popping out the other side for a daunting but achievable climb up the Wattegama valley. The region’s cascading paddy fields and jungle covered hills will be enough to ensure you maintain your motivation, while the looming possibility of food will also help.
The stop off comes at Madawela Bakery where you can enjoy some local delights such as ‘wadas’, little cakes dipped in coconut and mango chutney. A delicious treat such as this will inspire you for the final part of the riding to the hotel in Kandy.
- 53.4 miles
- 1,145 ft
- Day 8Kick back and relax in Kandy for the day
Even serious cyclists require a break and when you have the opportunity to soak up some time in the wonderful city of Kandy, you should take it. Today is that day as you are granted some downtime in this fascinating and spiritual location.
Renowned as a religious center for the Sinhalese and a pilgrimage place for Buddhists, Kandy also has an array of wonderful old shops, antique and gem specialists plus a chaotic but exciting market. Add into this the splendid UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Temple of the Tooth and you have an intoxicating combination for explorers.
Kandy is also home to an exciting mix of restaurants and cuisines, so lunch and dinner are both on your own today. But fear not if you’re unsure where to venture as your guides will be happy to offer recommendations.
- Day 9Enjoy a nice ‘cuppa’ after some grueling ascents
It would be easy to look at the lower distances on your last few days and expect an easier ride, but it’s at this stage where you enter the hillier regions of Sri Lanka.
Your legs can expect to burn as you climb up into the spellbinding heart of the tea growing plantations. Every turn and new hill brings with it a satisfying selection of photographic opportunities, but the best is yet to come.
Hatton is renowned as one of Sri Lanka’s oldest tea plantation districts. Your ride here following the Mahaweli River, including the final grueling ascent, makes the captivating smells and sights worth every bead of sweat.
You will spend the night at an old colonial residence in Hatton that was once home to planters in the British colonial era. The staff can illuminate you with details on the origins of tea and take you to a tea factory. Any aficionados on the tour will surely be delighted.
After a battling ride uphill, the afternoon is free to take it easy with some riding around the plantation and getting to know the locals.
- 51.6 miles
- 2,322.8 ft
- Day 10Clambering those final ascents before descending to Udawalawe National Park.
You may wake up this morning feeling some tightness in your legs, but trust that more climbing will bring with it even greater rewards.
So after a hearty breakfast and getting psyched up, it is back on the bikes to tackle an ascent through more magical tea estates. There’s an additional treat as you get to ride around Sri Lanka’s holy mountain, Adam’s Peak, to a remote pass that is part of a wilderness forest reserve. These are the kind of sights and experiences few tourists will ever get to enjoy in Sri Lanka.
This gorgeous area is known for being the home of the purple-faced langur; however, these intriguing monkeys are quite shy. It is far more common to hear their calls than see them. Still, keep your eyes peeled.
You’ll be relieved to hear that your uphill battles are over; now begins a much needed and wonderful long descent. It leads to a magnificent lookout point where you can hop off your bike and revel in views across the southern part of the island. If you’re lucky you may even be able to spot the sea.
Continuing onwards you will pedal along back roads to today’s lunch stop off. As is customary, it’s in a beautiful place situated next to a pretty and inviting stream that you are welcome to take a dip and cool off in.
The final stretch of today’s riding is along smooth roads that lead close to Udawalawe National Park.
- 65.9 miles
- -3,671.3 ft
- Day 11Be wowed by the wildlife as you take one final ride and dip in the ocean
That time has come. It’s your final day of putting those feet to the pedals and feeling the glorious adrenaline rush of riding in an unknown and fascinating country.
For those of you who really want to make the most of it you can opt to wake up early and take a morning safari in Udawalawe Park. Renowned for its herds of elephants, crocodiles, and vast array of birds, it’s a real must for nature lovers.
In the late morning the whole tour group will ride out to complete the final stretch of this superb journey through Sri Lanka. Cycling on excellent roads while surrounded by verdant and luscious green paddy fields, it will soothe your soul and offer a poignant reminder of the simplicity of rural life in this country.
You are heading towards Dondra Lighthouse, which is the most southerly point of the island. With every rotation of the wheels, you will feel it getting closer as you reflect on this incredible journey. Once there, it’s time for another ceremonial dip in the Indian Ocean, but this time with our front tires, to celebrate reaching the other end of the island. Of course, you can feel free to go for a swim too and revel in the occasion. It’s been an incredible adventure and battle but you’ve done it!
From the lighthouse you and the rest of the team will transfer along the coast to the finishing point near Galle where everyone can enjoy a celebratory dinner.
- 49.7 miles
- -183.7 ft
- Day 12Time to say your goodbyes to an epic journey
You still have time for one final morning to enjoy a breakfast with your comrades and look back on an astonishing adventure and your favourite moments. Once you’ve said your goodbyes, the tour guides can arrange for you to be dropped off at a Colombo hotel or extend your stay in Sri Lanka.