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Cycle the Backroads of Sri Lanka

Explore rich Sri Lankan history and culture by bike



At a glance

* 10 days cycling (including 1 optional ride) with full vehicle support
* 95% tarmac, 5% unsurfaced road
* Routes mostly follow quiet backroads, with frequent climbs
* Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader and driver. Min age 16 years
* 11 nights hotels, 2 nights guesthouses, all en suite

Explore rich Sri Lankan history and culture by bike

Although a compact island, Sri Lanka is incredibly diverse. Exploring on two
wheels is the best way to see this rural country and to experience the way of
life of its friendly people. We travel from ancient cities and the fortress
at Sigiriya to the hill country towns of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, where the
cooler temperatures and lush scenery make for a relaxing ride. In the south
we visit Yala National Park, where we go in search of leopard, before ending
the trip on the beaches of the beautiful south coast. Most of the route is a
continuous ride, and transfers are kept to a minimum.

In many regions of Sri Lanka the bicycle is the most common form of
transport, so travelling by bike yourself is a great way to mix with the
people and to gain access to their world. This trip covers a substantial part
of the island, taking in as much as possible of the scenic and cultural
variety that Sri Lanka has to offer. The combination of visits to the ancient
cities, great rides through the beautiful hill country, the varied wildlife,
and a chance to relax on one of the many wonderful beaches, will certainly
give you a taste for serendipity.

https://www.exodus.co.uk/sites/exod/files/node/itinerary/images/mir.jpg?t=1DmXkO

Type: Land Only

Flight prices available from NeenanCycling. Contact us for details

What’s included

*  All breakfasts and 10 lunches
* All accommodation (see below)
* All transport and listed activities
* Tour leader throughout
* Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
* Airport transfers (for group flights only)
* Local bike hire

Food:
All breakfasts and 10 lunches included.

Sri Lankan cuisine is a fascinating reflection of the island’s heritage;
there is a unique fusion of fresh local produce with spices brought to the
island over the centuries by Malays, Arabs, Indians as well as the Dutch,
Portuguese and English. Despite, or perhaps because of, these influences Sri
Lankan cuisine is often referred to simply as ‘Rice and Curry’; this is
the staple dish in most restaurants and is usually a serving of rice
accompanied by assorted meat and vegetable curries as well as various pickles
‘sambols’ and a handful of tiny poppadum’s – all using the
contrasting flavours of coconut, chilli, curry leaves, cinnamon and garlic.
The variety is constant and this along with the abundance of fresh seafood
and fish ensures the cuisine is a constant highlight of the trip. Vegetarians
are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special
dietary requests. Please note that in Sri Lanka the availability of certain
products is minimal or non-existent (for example, wheat or dairy-free) so
please be prepared for this as you may need to bring these from home. Spicier
food can be avoided easily and lots of the hotels with serve Western options
alongside traditional food. All lunch and tea stops are subject to change
dependent on the cycling speed of the group as well as the weather
conditions.

Start destination: Sigiriya

End destination: Colombo

Cycling profile

Day 1

The group flight from London typically arrives at Bandaranayake International
Airport around lunchtime and we transfer to Sigiriya (approximately 4 hours)
where we stay for the next 2 nights.
*Hotel Sigiriya or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 2

After breakfast we ride along gravel roads following an old irrigation canal
to Dambulla, the 2nd Century BC Buddhist cave temple. It is well worth the
walk to view the five caves, which contain many ancient Buddha statues, some
carved from the solid rock. Returning via the busy market town we take
another quiet back road riding through chilli and rice fields before cycling
back at our hotel for lunch and a relaxing swim in the pool. In the late
afternoon we climb the 5th Century rock fortress of Sigiriya to see the
beautiful frescoes painted onto the rock face (not recommended for those who
suffer from vertigo). The ruins of the palace on the summit are surpassed
only by the magnificent aerial view of the surrounding jungle. Stay as long
as you like, as it’s only 10 minutes walk back to our hotel.
*Hotel Sigiriya or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 3

A long morning ride along a quiet back road which is part of the Sigiriya
nature reserve, before joining the highway travelling east towards
Polonnaruwa, riding all the way to our lunch stop and overnight stay. For
those who fancy a swim, the hotel also has a swimming pool, a pleasant place
to spend the hot early afternoon. Later we tour the old ruined city of
Polonnaruwa, which dates from the 10-13th centuries.
*The Village Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 4

We follow the local lake’s man-made 6km dam and feeder canal to its source,
the Amban Ganga River. The afternoon ride is flanked by the stunning
Kalanduwa hills on one side and the borders of Wasgomuwa Wildlife Park on the
other. As the jungle gives way to plantations, we enter the spice growing
region of Sri Lanka. The night is spent in a family-run guest house with
small cabanas dotted around the estate. It’s basic but the home cooking in
clay pots on wood fired stoves gives you the real flavour of Sri Lanka. If
you would like to find out more about the spices used in the piquant Lankan
curries, the owners can arrange a visit to one of the renowned spice gardens
a short walk down the road.
*Countryside Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 5

Today is tougher as we head for the hills and Kandy, the spiritual and
cultural capital of the hill country. Those who feel like an easy day can
jump onto the bus for the 50km trip to Kandy, while the rest of us pedal
away, riding through the Moorish town of Matale. Its inhabitants, descendants
from Arab spice traders, still control most of the spice market, which is a
good place to pick up some freshly ground curry powder. As Kandy’s roads are
as old as the city itself, we may have to drive the last few kilometres to
avoid the traffic. Surrounded by hills, the town is centred around a small
lake and the Temple of the Tooth. The afternoon is free to wander through the
streets and markets.
*Hotel Thilanka or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 6

A free day to explore the town. Kandy has many interesting attractions
including the wonderful Botanical Gardens, the famous Temple of the Tooth,
and streets lined with interesting curio shops. The surrounding hills are
dotted with wonderful temples.
*Hotel Thilanka or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 7

For anyone who doesn’t do hills, we strongly recommend the train ride to
Nuwara Eliya. For those who feel like a challenge, it’s 84km, climbing up
to 2000m above sea level to reach this most favoured hill station. For the
first part of the ride we take the old road, a far more pleasant route, and
one of the few places where you see terraced paddy fields. Beyond the paddy
fields is tea country and the area is reputed to produce the finest teas on
the island. Tickets for the train journey are dependent on availabilty on the
day (although usually available, there may be the chance that the bus will
need to be used instead for those who don’t fancy the hill).
*Hill Club Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 8

In the morning we visit a tea factory on the edge of the town, and then cycle
through hilly country towards Ella, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant
and later tea in Bandarawela, a trading centre where exotic fruits from the
east coast are traded for hill-country vegetables. Arriving in the late
afternoon, we watch the sunset from the famous view point, Ella Gap. On a
clear day you can see the coast shimmering in the distance.
*Hotel Country Comfort or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 9

Descending 1000m we leave the breathtaking scenery of Uva Province for the
gentle rolling hills of the dry zone, stopping at the impressive rock-cut
Buddha Statues at Buduruvagala. The giant 15m rock carving of Buddha is
flanked by small figures depicting his helpers and a very rare image of
Maitreya, the future Buddha, which dates from the 10th Century. The
tranquillity of the place is enhanced by the lotus-covered lake where we will
relax on the banks and enjoy some fresh fruit before riding on to lunch. Here
we can retreat from the heat of the day, before the final 30km to
Tissamaharama, the capital of the old Ruhuna Kingdom.
*Chandrika Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 10

In the morning we cycle to Kataragama temple, which lies 16km northeast of
Tissa. People of all faiths come to seek favour with the god Skanda, who is
reputed to restore people’s health. The colourful and noisy pooja is always
busy, with thousands of pilgrims during the festival season from July –
August. Tissa is close to Yala National Park, the best park in Sri Lanka to
see leopard. After lunch we have a safari in the park, when we may see
elephant, deer, wild boar, sloth bear, asian jackal, lots of birdlife and if
very lucky a leopard. We return to Tissa for the night (please note that the
sanctuary may be closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the
park authorities to check the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area
close by, usually Lunugamvehera or Udawalawe National Park).
*Chandrika Hotel or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 11

Leaving early to avoid the heat of the dry zone, we ride along the boundary
of Bundala Bird Sanctuary. During certain times of the year thousands of
flamingos can be seen wading in the brackish shallows, eyed up by crocodiles,
basking in the early morning sun. We hit the main road for the final 30km to
Hambantota, a series of sandy bays fanning out from this typical coastal
town. Transfer from Hambantota to Ahangama by coach. For the next 2 nights we
stay in Ahangama.
*Insight Resort or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 12

Relax at the hotel or join a late morning ride along rural roads to the
village of Wandurugama before returning via Koggala Lake and back to the
hotel to end our riding. This afternoon is free to explore the beach area or
swim and laze by the pool. In the late afternoon we can view the stilt
fishermen climb their poles to catch a few bites for supper. From November to
April we can also go whale watching off Dondra head, near Mirissa, which is
one of the best places in the world for seeing Blue and Sperm whales. Huge
pods of dolphins are also often seen accompanying the boats.
*Insight Resort or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 13

Leaving mid morning, we will stop to visit Galle. The Old Dutch fort was
built in 1663 after the Dutch took the island from the Portuguese. The old
ramparts and small back streets bring alive some of the history of the fight
for colonial domination of this prized island. You’re free to find your own
lunch, meeting back at the bus at around 2.30pm for the 2 hour drive to
Colombo. The rest of the day is free to relax by the pool or shop along the
main street. For the last evening meal we can choose from one of the many
restaurants in Colombo.
*Hotel Mirage or alternative accommodation in the area*

Day 14

If you are travelling on the group flight we will have a morning transfer to
the airport for the daytime flight to London. The arrangements for those not
flying with the group end after check out.
**

Prices & Dates

Date: 2018-11-252018-12-08

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Customer Feedback

Excellent trip!

Summary:
Great cycling, fab food, wonderful people, stunning scenery! Oh and the best
guide ever! Guaranteed!!

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
I suppose like everyone completing the cycle to Newara Eliya! Epic cycle made
even more challenging with the torrential rain!!

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
I have done about 10 Exodus cycling trips and I have to say that Suresh has
been the best! His organization skills, attention to detail and great sense
of humour meant that we felt totally spoiled and supported on this trip!
I certainly would not have completed the climb to Nuwara Eliya without him as
he stayed with myself and another person for the last 10 K or so. I had total
faith in him to get us there safely!
He helped everyone at the end of the trip and I was glad to stay at the hotel
in Colombo longer as opposed to spending a whole day at the airport. Thanks
for helping me with that Suresh!
I must also mention Saranga, Anitha and Upali.
I probably saw more of Saranga and he was the back cyclist and I spent a lot
of time at the back!
His quiet presence was reassuring and he took the bike off me and parked it
regularly when I got off.
When you saw Upali directing u to the left or right it usually meant that the
cycling was finished!! Whew!
Anitha was a gentle giant who always filled our water bottles before we even
asked!
He was so lovely and kind!!

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Where to start? Eh don’t expect to lose weight! The food was fab! We seemed
to be always eating! Train for distance and hills for this trip. I had done
some training but could done more.
Bring less clothes as you have an opportunity to have washing done.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Just do it!

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Fabulous Sri Lanka!

Summary:
Wonderful journey through the varied landscape of this friendly country-
through paddy fields and tea plantations, taking in historic temples and
monuments, and pausing at local cafes for delicious local fare. Some epic
climbs and descents, on excellent and well maintained bikes, with a fantastic
support team and superb tour guide (Suresh).
We felt that the trip gave us a good insight into the
culture/scenery/history/flora/fauna of Sri Lanka, the accommodation was
generally excellent, and where more basic it was characterful and adequate.
Overall, this trip was an epic, and highly recommend it!

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
The grinding climb up to Nuwara Eliya through a torrential downpour and
thunderstorm, with night falling before we reached the summit, then the hair
raising descent in the dark, and arriving at the warm haven of the Hill Club.
Unforgettable and possibly outrageous, but none of us would have stopped and
taken the bus!

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Suresh is simply the best tour guide I have ever encountered, period.
Commanding yet courteous, informative and inspirational, ensuring that we
were all looked after and assisting the group bonding.
After the end of the tour, he even helped out one of the group make her boat
transfer to the Maldives after an oversight by the agents neglecting to
ensure that her ticket had been validated by the resort- above and beyond
expectation….

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Do ensure good sun protection. Electrolyte tablets for rehydration. We didn’t
take the usual lycra padded shorts, but used MTB short equivalents with sheep
skin saddle savers, and had less problems with butt soreness than most in the
group. Make sure that you are hill climbing fit- we had 4 full days of fairly
strenuous cycling back to back.
Consider taking bike lights- would have been grateful for my “twinklies” on
the final ride in the dark to Nuwara Eliya.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Great trip- would thoroughly recommend.

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A totally amazing trip!

Summary:
This was my first cycling tour with Exodus and it was absolutely excellent.
Sri Lanka is a fascinating country with lots to see. The cycling was great –
some of it was pretty tough – especially the day to Nuwara Eliya but doable
for anyone with a good level of fitness. The scenery across the country was
beautiful and the food was fabulous.
The accommodation was generally of a very high standard. Two places were
fairly basic but we only stayed in them for 1 night each so it was fine.
This is a great trip and if you’re considering booking it you should – you
won’t regret it!

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Probably as for most other people completing the days cycle to Nuwara Eliya
felt a great achievement.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Suresh was a fantastic trip leader, well organised, patient, funny and always
willing to go the extra mile for people. The rest of the team working with
him also deserve a mention – they were always professional, hard working and
happy to help with anything. I was really impressed with them all.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
It is with making the effort to get fit for this trip. I did spinning
classes 3 or 4 times a week for 6 or 7 weeks before I went and that made a
huge difference to my overall enjoyment of the trip as I was able to keep up
with ththe cycling.
And don’t think you will lose weight on this trip. Despite the cycling the
food is fabulous and never ending…

Read full review

Review

Summary:
Best Exodus tour yet

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Personalized attention from Exodus staff

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Best yet

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Don’t consider travelling with Exodus if it cancels Cuba tours for political
reasons – as is rumoured

Read full review

Review

Summary:
Best Exodus tour yet

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Personalized attention from Exodus staff

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Best yet

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Don’t consider travelling with Exodus if it cancels Cuba tours for political
reasons – as is rumoured

Read full review

Sri Lanka a must

Summary:
Exodus lived up to expectations .Using local guides ,making sure our money
went into local community,giving us an individual holiday.
The guide was on duty 24hours a day and had great local knowledge so we got
to know about the country.
We visited local families and site of interest while having a good days
cycling with little bus transport unless required by someone.
It was a good balance of seeing and experiencing Sri Lanka while cycling.The
up grade of hotels made this a true holiday rather than an adventure holiday.
Best trip yet and hard to know what to book next !!

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Seeing how hard local families worked and how welcoming they were of us
.Children ran out to greet us and were keen to interact with us.
We did not feel we were intruding as they seemed keen for us to have a
positive experience of their country.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Amazing, can not praise him enough.
So organised,fun and went out of his way to make the trip work for everyone
in the group.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Be sure you are okay on rough sandy back roads and sweating!!

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Loved this trip and did not want it to end.
Very good for non meat and fish eaters.

Read full review

Fantastic – thoroughly recommended!

Summary:
Really interesting trip. It has a great balance with plenty of cycling but
still having time to explore our destinations and some time to relax too.
It’s a beautiful country with friendly local people.
The hotels were generally of a good standard and although 2 were not great,
they certainly weren’t awful. I appreciated that sometimes in getting from A
to B you have to go through less developed areas.
I enjoyed the food immensely, especially when we went to smaller restaurants
away from the hotels.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
The local children running out to shout hello as we cycled past. Seeing
elephants in the wild was pretty magical too.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
It was no surprise to find out that Suresh is one of Exodus’s top cycle
leaders. Nothing was too much trouble for Suresh including tracking down
clothes that people had left at hotels or cafes along the way! He was funny,
sociable, totally in control of all aspects of the trip and I felt safe in
his care. I should add that the whole team were great and always had a smile
of their faces whilst looking after us.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
You can’t underestimate how tough the heat can be. Get as fit as you can
before coming on this holiday and you will get more out of it.
The tuk tuks and local buses are bonkers and you need eyes in the back of
your head sometimes!
Cycling through busy towns was only a very small part of the cycling but I
would recommend that you feel confident cycling in heavy traffic.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
It’s a wonderful trip. Best so far… guaranteed. Just book it!

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Excellent

Summary:
Challenging cycling, interesting and varied, excellent guide

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Achieving the climb to the Hill station

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Excellent
Well organised
Always professional and extremely helpful
Funny
Charismatic
Inspirational
Great integrity
Thoughtful and kind

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Excellent

Summary:
Challenging cycling, interesting and varied, excellent guide

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Achieving the climb to the Hill station

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Excellent
Well organised
Always professional and extremely helpful
Funny
Charismatic
Inspirational
Great integrity
Thoughtful and kind

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Amazing – highly recommend!

Summary:
I would highly recommend this tour of Sri Lanka. It was a fantastic way to
see the real Sri Lanka and get to meet the local people and see how they live
their lives.

We NEVER went hungry! Excellent quality of food – at the hotel/lunch spots
and at each tea stop. I will really miss those lemon puff biscuits 🙂

There was a good level of diversity in the type of cycling we did. A good mix
of flat roads (on main roads and dirt roads), plenty of hills (undulating and
longer uphill climbs) and a couple of great long downhills back down the side
of the mountain.

I was not a distance cyclist before I went on this trip. I had a good base
fitness (running/gym) and did about a months worth of training on a mountain
bike before I went and I was able for it.

A fantastic tour – do it!

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
It feels fantastic to complete ‘The 2000m Climb’ – it really is life saving
cake!

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
The guide (suresh) was excellent. There was nothing he wouldn’t/couldn’t do.
His attention to detail was fantastic. He watched everything, so much so that
he was sorting issues before we even knew they were issues. He was always
around when you needed him and regularly checked in with everyone on the tour
to make sure we were OK and having a good time.

I also must comment on the support team. Upali (bus driver), Suranga (second
guide cycling) and Amitah (van driver) were always ready for us when we got
to the bikes each morning. They were always smiling and even filled our water
bottles! Nothing was too much trouble for them and, together with Suresh,
they made an excellent team.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Probably no harm to take a travel sickness tablet before you set out on the
safari in Yala. It was a bumpy ride (which added to the experience). Also for
women, I recommend wearing a sports bra – again, it was a bumpy ride! 🙂

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Activity Levels


Activity Levels range from Leisurely to Tough, the grading takes into account the daily cycling distances and terrain, as well as any technical riding skill required. We also consider the number of cycling days as there can be a cumulative affect from tiredness on a longer trip and the type of accommodation used, as this can also influence your day to day recovery.

If you are in any doubt, please give us a call on +353-1-607 9900 or email us.


Activity level 1 - Leisurely Activity level 1: Leisurely

If you can ride a bike and enjoy gentle exercise, these are an ideal introduction to a cycling holiday. No routes are entirely flat, so expect some short climbs and descents. Maximum daily height gain is approximately 250 metres and daily distances rarely exceed 50kms (32 miles), any longer days are often optional.


Activity level 3 - Moderate Activity level 3: Moderate

Most people who enjoy a weekend riding at home will enjoy a Moderate trip. You need to be in good health and reasonably fit. Ideal for occasional cyclists, or as a more relaxed trip for fitter riders. Moderate off-road trips require no previous experience. Distances rarely exceed 70kms (43 miles) per day.


Activity level 5 - Challenging Activity level 5: Challenging

For any ride at this level, fitness is important. Challenging trips require confidence in your ability and physical condition. They are equivalent to an extended period of cycling at home. Previous mountain biking experience is essential for Challenging off road trips as they will involve some technical riding.


Activity level 7 - Tough Activity level 7: Tough

Previous experience of the cycling style or surface is a must as these routes have long cycling days and tougher terrain on both road and off road trips. You need complete confidence in your fitness and technical ability to cope with difficult or steep terrain, rough surfaces and longer distances. Ideal for those seeking a challenge!


Split grades

In order to provide more accuracy, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or ‘split’ grade, for example 2: Leisurely/Moderate.


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