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12 Days Guided Spice Trails Cycling Holiday from Negombo to Colombo in Sri Lanka

Goldi Sands, Negombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Cycling Holiday

Sporting the name Ceylon in its days within the British Empire, Sri Lanka, the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” has known many identities on its journey to modernity. Famous for its peaceful Buddhist ruins, including the beautiful palace and frescoes of the 5th-century fortress Sigiriya, Sri Lanka enjoys year-round sunshine and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean from every shore.

Key Information

  • Trip type: Self-guided
  • Lodging: Point to Point
  • Terrain: Most days the rides are on reasonably good quality asphalt roads but there are enough sections on very badly broken or dirt tracks that you will need a mountain bike, preferably one with front shocks.
  • Starts in: Negombo
  • Ends in: Colombo
  • Difficulty level: Moderate (Cyclist needs to have a good level of fitness, the terrain is mostly hilly or unpaved but they will ride on flat terrain sometimes, 31-45 miles per day)
  • Total Distance: 357 Miles / 575 Kilometers
  • Type of bike: Mountain bike
  • E-bike: Available to rent / 440 USD for the whole tour
  • Minimum of 2 participants

Highlights

  • 9 days of cycling
  • Services of English-speaking guide/s
  • Receive a SpiceRoads jersey and a water bottle
  • Most meals, snacks, and drinks are included
  • A support vehicle is available
  • 11 nights accommodation

Skill level

  • Intermediate

Styles


9 days with instruction
The maximum participants in the group is 16
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Accommodation

The hotels listed in the itinerary are SpiceRoads' first choice and where they hope you will stay, however, during festivals or other major events there is a chance that the hotels will have to be substituted to another.

SpiceRoads does not require you to pay a surcharge for traveling alone, they will arrange for you to share accommodation with another traveler of the same gender and if they cannot match you up, they will provide a single room at no extra charge. If you prefer not to share, a single supplement is payable to guarantee your own room.

Program

Follow the coastal roads, pausing to breathe deep at the fish markets (or not) and capture the colorful sails of the local Karavas fishing boats on camera. Catch the whiff of cinnamon being cooked as you cycle and tackle the hill country outside of Kandy to reach one of the island's highlights, the tea estates. Sri Lanka’s landscape combines a great mix of challenging terrain and beautiful scenery, perfect for this tour.

Cycle red dirt tracks which wind through the countryside, flanked by elephant grass, and maybe wild elephants too. Drink in the water gardens at Sigiriya, before climbing Lion Rock to awe at the views overlooking the ruins. A wildlife enthusiast? Sri Lanka offers the chance to spot a wide range of birds and animals in their natural habitat. From small creatures like mongoose and over 400 species of birds to the world’s largest animals, the elephant, and blue whale, Sri Lanka is a nature lover’s dream.

Trip profile

This bicycle journey will be on quiet back roads, estate tracks, and gravel paths. You will be covering 575 kilometers in nine cycling days and much, if not most, of the terrain, is undulating and there are three days with more than 70 kilometers of riding. When you combine the great variety of cycling with the cultural and natural attractions, there is plenty to delve into and enjoy.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Sri Lanka

Arrive in Sri Lanka and meet at Goldi Sands Hotel in Negombo for a trip briefing and welcome dinner.

  • Accommodation: Goldi Sands
  • Meals: Dinner

Day 2: Negombo - Dambulla

After breakfast, start riding directly from the hotel along the old coast road. Keeping the sea on your left, you will pass the distinct 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. Leave the coast road after cycling for 30 kilometers and head inland on quiet back roads that give you a flavor of Sri Lanka.

After 50 kilometers, rack up the bikes and transfer for three hours to Dambulla, breaking for lunch at Kununegala Lake. Dambulla, the 2nd century Buddhist cave temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country and contains more than 150 Buddha statues. Once you have taken in the views from the caves, have a short transfer or ride to your peaceful hotel, situated amongst mango trees and paddy fields.

  • Accommodation: Thilanka Spa and Resort
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 54 kilometers
  • +402 meters / -364 meters

Day 3: Dambulla Loop

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, you'll have excellent views of the ancient 5th-century rock fortress, Sigiriya (Lion Rock), your destination. Park the bikes and walk through the old water gardens before climbing 300 meters to view the ruins of King Kasyapa’s summer palace on the summit.

To distract you from the walk up, you will pass the impressive frescos that depict more than 500 ladies. After your descent, head to a local restaurant for lunch. The afternoon ride follows an old irrigation canal and you will cycle on red dirt roads, framed by long green grass, and see lots of people bathing as you head back to the hotel in Dambulla.

  • Accommodation: Thilanka Spa and Resort
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 60 kilometers
  • Elevation: +555 meters / -578 meters

Day 4: Dambulla - Polonnaruwa

Riding from the hotel, you will have a bit of an ascend 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. Ride on a tree-lined road that is part of a forest reserve until you reach Polonnaruwa Tank, a very large manmade lake, and have lunch at a local hotel.

You will 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 and the chiseled stone monuments show the glory of the ancient Rajarata Kingdom. After seeing the main sites, have a 20-minute transfer to your hotel on the banks of the reservoir.

  • Accommodation: Deer Park
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 78 kilometers
  • Elevation: +538 meters / -655 meters

Day 5: Polonnaruwa - Kandy

A short transfer takes you back to Polonnaruwa, where you will ride around the huge lake known as the Sea of Parakrama, 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 Wasgomuwa National Parks.

Here, you will retrace a part of yesterday’s ride, following the Ambon Ganga (river) back towards its start point in the foothills around Naula, said to be the center of the island. End the ride here to avoid busy roads and transfer to have lunch in Matale, situated in Sri Lanka’s spice-growing region, and on to Kandy, the spiritual and cultural capital of the hill country and Sri Lanka’s second largest city.

  • Accommodation: Thilanka Hotel Kandy
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 75 kilometers
  • Elevation: +620 meters / -381 meters

Day 6: Kandy Rest Day

Nestled among hills and centered around a lake, picturesque Kandy has long been an important religious center of the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Today, you can explore the town center’s old shops, antique, and gem specialists or the bustling market. A must see is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic, a tooth of the Buddha.

  • Accommodation: Thilanka Hotel Kandy
  • Meals: Breakfast

Day 7: Kandy - Hatton

After a day of rest, you are ready to tackle hill country. For those who enjoy riding but find hills a bit too challenging, there is the option of taking the train for the final part into Hatton. A short eight-kilometer transfer takes you out of town to Peradeniya, famed for its Botanical Garden and university.

Starting the ride from the campus, wind your way along a river valley with some short climbs opening out to the surrounding vistas with your first tea stop in Gampola, 21 kilometers away; the optional train journey begins here.

From Gampola, you will start to see the tea carpeted slopes of the hill country. Riding at a gentle pace, you can stop to take photos of brightly dressed tea pickers and colorful Hindu temples. You will regroup at the tea outlets brewing the best tea on the island, fresh from their respective estates. Reaching Hatton, you will descend to one of the old colonial tea planter bungalows set in lovely gardens. Those taking the train will be met at the station and shuttled to the bungalow.

  • Accommodation: Upper Glencairn Bungalow
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 78 kilometers
  • Elevation: +1530 meters / -891 meters

Day 8: Hatton - Udawalawa

Today’s ride will be along 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 you head towards the Peak Wilderness and the distinctive triangle-shaped mountain, known as Adam’s Peak. The long climb with an easy gradient up to Bogowantalawa gets tougher for the last 10 kilometers 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 30-kilometer (1000 meters) descent through small villages and tea communities, ending close to Banlangoda. After lunch at a local restaurant, pack your bikes and transfer to the hotel on the edge of Udawalawe National Park, set on the banks of a lake.

  • Accommodation: Elephant Trails
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 58 kilometers
  • Elevation: +1040 meters / -1675 meters

Day 9: Udawalawe Loop

Riding from the hotel, cycle 21 kilometers to Udawalawe National Park, one of the best parks to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka. The park, centered around a reservoir, has approximately 400 elephants in small herds scattered around the park and mid-morning is a good time to see them close to the water’s edge.

You may also see wild buffaloes, crocodiles, sambur deer, and monkeys. There are lots of resident waterfowl and hawk eagles to keep the photographers happy. Have lunch in a nearby eco-lodge and then mount the bicycles to follow an irrigation canal back towards the hotel.

  • Accommodation: Elephant Trails
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 52 kilometers
  • Elevation: +415 meters / -414 meters

Day 10: Udawalawa - Mirissa

Riding from the hotel, you will use a network of back roads for some fantastic cross-country riding. Here, you will get to experience southern Sri Lankan charm, lots of smiling faces and a slow pace of life. It’s quite a long, undulating ride with lots of fruit stops to break up the day. Be sure to try one of the 14 varieties of bananas in Sri Lanka, each with its own taste and medicinal qualities, to give you energy.

Try to get to the beach by the early afternoon, leaving you free time to enjoy the beach or a nearby surf camp. Dine at one of the many nearby restaurants in the evening.

  • Accommodation: Mandara Mirissa
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 81 kilometers
  • Elevation: +844 meters / -932 meters

Day 11: Galle Loop

Cycling through open paddy fields and cinnamon estates, arrive in Galle around mid-morning, giving you plenty of time to explore this historic masterpiece. The Dutch expanded the original fort to its present size and later, the British added the court complex and several other outstanding buildings. The different architectural and cultural influences meld to create a magnificent sight. You are free to choose your own lunch and meet up with the group again for a farewell dinner.

  • Accommodation: Mandara Mirissa
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Ride: 39 kilometers
  • Elevation: +237 meters / -233 meters

Day 12: Mirissa - Colombo

Transfer for three hours to Colombo where you will be dropped of you at the airport or to a hotel if you are extending your stay in Sri Lanka.

  • Meals: Breakfast

Bikes

Because some people can't imagine going on a trip without their own beloved bicycle, SpiceRoads does not provide them as part of this tour. However, you can hire bikes locally for 220 USD. The bikes are specialized Hard Rock mountain bikes with lightweight alloy frames, 24 to 27-speed gearing, v-brakes, and front suspension. If you bring your own bike, please make sure it is a mountain bike, preferably with front suspension, in good mechanical order.

SpiceRoads also has E-Bikes available for hire. They are of SCOTT brand and come in two models with alloy frames, 9-11 speed, Shimano disc brakes, and components.

Bike Repairs

Basic spares and tools are carried by the guide and on the support vehicle, though SpiceRoads cannot guarantee to have spares for every conceivable problem. Carrying a basic tool kit, a spare tube, and a pump while riding is recommended.

Safety

Wearing a helmet is required on all of SpiceRoads' biking adventures and is non-negotiable. If you do not wear a helmet you will not be allowed to cycle. Your tour leader is trained in first aid and emergency rescue but to a large degree, you must be responsible for your own safety while riding. It is therefore compulsory that you take out travel insurance that will cover you for a mountain biking tour.

Guides

You will be led by a local English-speaking guide and if the group is made up of nine people or more, SpiceRoads will add another guide to the tour. All guides are well informed in the history, culture, and religions of the area where you are biking and are skilled at passing that knowledge on to you. Your guide is also medically trained and an experienced cyclist, able to handle most minor repairs en route.

Support vehicle

The road surfaces are mixed, however, there is nothing technical involved on this tour, and anyone, assuming they have a reasonable level of fitness, will be able to join. A support truck is always available to help.

Skill level

This ride is for those who have some biking experience, as well as experts. The beginning of this ride is relatively flat but there will be hills as you head inland and there are some long distances to cover. Never underestimate the heat and humidity of tropical Sri Lanka, as it will likely ensure things to feel hot. This is a true journey through the finest terrain and scenery of Sri Lanka, with the best culture, nature, and wildlife along the way, ensuring you get the very best of everything from your cycling efforts.

Intermediate:

  • can cycle for 3-4 hours
  • average riding experience
  • little assistance required
  • comfortable with extreme curves and leans
  • average experience with unsurfaced roads
  • steep ascents and descents

Location

Food

Food

Meals are included as per the itinerary; most meals are local and feature rice and curries. Sri Lankan curries come in many varieties of colors and flavors and can be meat or fish-based dishes, but there are also vegetable and even fruit curries. Many of the spices used have ayurvedic value when used in curries.

Meals are a mixture of local and western cuisines, with the local key ingredients being rice, coconut, and especially spices, reflecting the island's history as a spice producer and trading center for hundreds of years. Any special dietary requirements can also be catered for as well.

Drink

Keeping you completely hydrated is a job SpiceRoads takes very seriously. Cold water, some energy-restoring local fruit, and soft drinks are included in the tour price while riding. Soft drinks and other beverages during meals are not included. Beer is readily available everywhere but is not included in the price.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Snacks
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Water

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
  • Other dietary requirements on request
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 9-day cycling program
  • Services of guide/s
  • 11 breakfasts, 9 lunches, and 10 dinners
  • 11 nights accommodation
  • Snacks and drinks
  • A SpiceRoads jersey
  • Water bottle
  • Support vehicle

What's not included

  • International flights
  • Domestic flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Other meals
  • Visa fees
  • Alcohol
  • Tips

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please arrange your flights to arrive and depart at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). No transfers from this airport are included.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 30% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 45 days before arrival.
12 days / 11 nights
from --
Special discount

For those who have been on several long tours with SpiceRoads, you are offered a special discount off the tour price (excludes single supplement and bike rental). If this is your fourth scheduled tour or more you will receive a 5% discount. If this is your eighth scheduled tour or more, you will receive a 10% discount. For more information, please send SpiceRoads an inquiry.

Tour information

Please note that the following dates have higher per person (2590 USD) and single supplement (675 USD) rates:

  • December 15, 2019
  • January 5, 2020
  • December 13, 2020

Only solo travelers are allowed to join the December 8, 2019 tour.

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