Travelling within Sri Lankan borders is a fairly easy task, though commercial flights are limited to daily flights between Colombo and Jaffna. Buses and trains are therefore the most popular mode of transportation between cities, with pros and cons to each. There is one option that is often overlooked, but it’s the perfect way to enjoy seeing important sites and cities in Sri Lanka. Take a tour of the country via bike and you’ll be able to cycle around historic sites and make your own schedule. Use our sample itinerary to help you plan distances and places you’ll be able to see in just 9 days on the road.
To start this bicycle tour of Sri Lanka off, try starting from Colombo. As the capital of the country, you’ll be able to check into a hotel, get situated and acclimated to the new place. The city is about an hour long drive from Colombo International Airport. Once you are comfortable, you can head to a local outfitter to get fitted for your bike and to pick up any gear you need for the adventure that starts when you set out on the road tomorrow.
Wake up and enjoy a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast before taking to the road and beginning to cycle towards Induruwa, to the south. You’ll travel through small villages full of friendly and welcoming faces who are happy to share their villages with you. After the 33km ride to Induruwa, you can end the day with a cool drink while sitting on the beautiful beach.
Day three brings you to the National Cycling Trail that runs along the scenic southern coastal belt. Notice that the distance is over double what was completed the first cycling day, so take that into account for timing. As you peddle through the southern coast, take a water break by the 400-year-old Dutch Fortress in Galle, which is listed as a World Heritage Site. This is the last spot on the trip that runs along the coast, so enjoy your last night with a sea breeze sending you drifting off to sleep.
The route for day four takes us through a large variety of landscapes. There are muddy tracks, paved roads, dry zone jungles, tea plantations and paddy fields. You’re sure to be twisting your neck every which way as you go through this part of the course as there are endless things to see. Feel free to take breaks and really look at the scenery on display. Then, as you continue to roll on keep your eyes peeled for the Uda Walawe National Park. If you’re lucky you may even be able to spot peacocks and maybe even an elephant or two!
Day five is likely the hardest day for cyclists, so if you’re not confident in your strength or endurance, this would be a good day to drive through the area instead of cycling. There is a considerable amount of uphill peddling on this path, but once you reach your destination, you’ll be rewarded with lush green tea plantations and a significantly cooler climate.
The longest distance is the road that will take you to Kandy. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to visit tea factories and even to taste pure unblended Ceylon tea. Today is also the day when you’ll get to pass by the majestic Mt. Pidurutalagala, the highest mountain in Sri Lanka. Expect to reach Kandy in the afternoon and take a well-deserved break in the city. Try wandering the town and markets as you unwind from an active and draining couple of days cycling.
The best day for low-key cycling, day seven will take you around Sri Lanka’s hill capital and stronghold of the Sinhala Kings—Kandy. It is 488 metres above sea level and is Sri Lanka’s second most visited place. The focal point of the town is, without doubt, the golden-roofed Dalada Maligawa where the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha lives. Take your time exploring and try visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, Upper Lake Drive (for a great view of the city), the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, or their Gem Museum. There’s plenty of shopping in Kandy as well, so this is a prime spot to shop for trinkets and souvenirs for your friends and family back home.
Day eight brings you out of relaxed city life and directly back into nature. You’ll be biking towards Dambulla where there is a famous cave temple complex. There are more than 80 documented caves and the major attractions are spread through 5 caves that are filled with statues and paintings relating to Buddha. After exploring these impressive caves you will continue to Sigiriya. Sigiriya is the 5th Century Royal Citadel that is widely considered the 8th wonder of the modern world and UNESCO has designated Sigiriya as a World Heritage Site.
Your final day of cycling will take you towards Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka (11th century AD). You won’t be able to tear your eyes from the breathtaking scenery that takes you right beside the Sea of Parakrama, a vast manmade reservoir. Once you’re past Parakrama, you’ll arrive in Polonnaruwa. It is a city of perfectly-preserved parks, ancient dagobas and statues. Today’s ride is shorter to allow for time to enjoy the last city on the cycling tour of Sri Lanka. You’ll be able to return any equipment you’ve rented and then finish out your time in the city however you choose.
If you start your cycling early in the day, you’ll be able to beat the worst of the heat. Always be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen no matter what time of day you’re riding. In addition, if you can pack spare tyres and tubes, you should. A lot of roads in Sri Lanka are less than well-maintained and having replacement parts can get you back on the road quicker than trying to locate them wherever you get stuck. Regardless of how far (or short!) you travel through Sri Lanka, seeing the country by bike is one of the most enjoyable and flexible ways to do it. Protect your gear and your holiday plans with an international travel insurance policy from Cover-More so you can focus on the road and your surroundings instead of any potential problems.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jamie Hamilton