Tale of a Tear Shaped Island

In-depth Tour to Sri Lanka

Explore the ancient cities of Anurdhapura and Polonnaruwa and survey vast jungles from the top of the Sigiriya rock fortress on this quest to the far reaches of mythical Shangri-La in Sri Lanka. Journey to the far north of the island to Jaffna to witness the sinking church and in the evening join the locals for a traditional ‘Pooja’ ceremony. Meet a local Sri Lankan martial arts master, taste Sri Lankan cuisine in a private spice garden and catch the train from Kandy to Ella, a track which is truly a marvel of engineering.

Stay in traditionally-inspired and heritage-listed hotels, join a local village family for dinner and try seafood on the beach. Get to know the people of this wonderful country by learning the ancient art of Stilt fishing from the local fisherman, trekking through the tea estates of Ella and engaging in a game of cricket with the local kids.


  • Seek out the ancient cities of Anurdhapura and Polonnaruwa and make the ascent to the top of the Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Meet a master of Sri Lankan martial arts, learn the art of stilt fishing, participate in the ancient tradition of giving alms to local monks and have a few laughs with a game of cricket with the local villagers
  • Watch the auction hype at the fish markets in Jaffna, trek through the tea estates of Ella and learn to cook traditional Sri Lankan cuisine at a private spice garden
  • Catch the scenic (and now famous) train from bustling Kandy to the laid-back town of Ella, marvelling at the construction of the line and bridges the train passes over
  • Stay in traditionally-inspired hotels and eat local cuisine across a varied selection that incorporates some of Sri Lanka’s best restaurants to the home of a villager

The Basics

Start: Colombo

Finish: Colombo

Trip style: Unique

Max group size: 15

17 Days


$7559 AUD*

Departure date: 22 February 2024

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: TICC*from


Arrive in Colombo and make your own way to the trip hotel to begin your in-depth tour of Sri Lanka. Meet your trip leader and traveling companions for a welcome meeting at 17.00. After the meeting, head to the coast for a dinner of traditional seafood in a shack on the beach.

We leave Colombo this morning and head to the ancient city of Anuradhapura which is now a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.

The ancient capital of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura, is famous for its ruins from the ancient Sinhala civilization. Set on the banks of the Malvathu River, it is one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in the world.

Check in to the hotel on arrival and spend the remainder of the day at leisure.

This morning we will head out to explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura. We will visit the Brazen Palace with its 1600 intact stone columns, the bubble shaped Ruwanweliseya dagoba, the Samadhi Buddha which depicts Buddha in a state of deep meditation and the Isurumuniya Rock Temple known for its rock carving ‘the lovers’, as well as Kuttan Pokuna – an ancient bath used by the city’s Buddhist monks.

After our morning of exploring, we will return to the hotel. The afternoon is yours to wander this ancient city on your own.

Optional experience: Mihintale Mountain Climb and Meditation with a Buddhist Monk

This morning after breakfast we will transfer to Jaffna. Jaffna has deep roots in the Tamil culture and on arrival we will meet our host who is a local of the area. We will start exploring Jaffna by journeying to Point Pedro, the northernmost point of the island of Sri Lanka.

Later we will visit the Villipuram Temple, one of the oldest temples in Jaffna, followed by a visit to the fishing village of Manalkadu. The fishermen will show us how they untangle the fish from their nets and also the process by which they make dried fish. Our final stop before lunch will be St. Anthony’s church, or as it more widely known ‘the sinking church’. Built by the Dutch in the 17th century, the building is slowly being reclaimed by the Earth and is sinking into the sand dunes.

Following this visit, we continue on to the fishing village of Manalkadu.

Here we will see several small huts by the beach and many busy fishermen. You will be shown how, once the fish is caught, it is brought back to the shore and untangled from the fishing nets. We will also be able to see smaller fish being laid out in the sun to dry to make dried fish, a very popular way of preserving fish and used by most locals as a condiment or as an ingredient in curries.

After the fishing village we will visit the haunting site that is St Anthony’s church, which appears to be sinking and is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Lunch today is in a traditional bungalow owned by a local family and in the afternoon we will visit Jaffna fort before checking in to our hotel.

We have an early (optional) start this morning as we head to the Jaffna fish markets to watch the hype and the auction of the day’s catch before returning to the hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast we will make a visit to the North Ceylon Women’s Sarvodayam, a charity caring for orphans and widows affected by Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war – which was especially terrible in the north of the country. We will take a tour of the premises and learn about the important work being done to assist women with their livelihoods. During our visit your trip leader will make a donation on your behalf to assist the Sarvodayam. The donation is included in the trip price.

Lunch today will be a simple vegetarian meal served at the Sarvodayam.

After our lunch we continue to a local community project set up for eleven families affected by the civil war. The foundation is a vocational training centre set up to help the children with their future careers and provide support to assist them to integrate into society. During our visit we will be able to meet some of the children, teach them a bit of our own languages (and maybe learn some of the local language ourselves) and engage in a fun game of cricket – the traditional Sri Lankan pastime. While we are at the foundation your trip leader will make a donation which is again included in the trip price.

In the late afternoon we will join the local people for a ‘Pooja Ceremony’.

After an early breakfast we will depart Jaffna and head towards Ritigala. Here we will be invited to a remote village to meet a master of the Sri Lanakan martial art, Angampora. The master is renowned for his healing skills and predicting the future and counts the president of Sri Lanka among his followers.

When we have learned all we can from the master, we will visit the monastery of Ritigala. The ruins of this monastery date to the 1st century BCE and we will have the privilege of walking around the monastery in silence before participating in the tradition of almsgiving for the resident monks and to receive a blessing for a happy life.

We will arrive in Sigiriya in the early afternoon and check in to the hotel.

Later on, we will have the opportunity to engage in a fun game of cricket with the local villagers in the area.

The rest of the afternoon is free for you to do your own thing.

Featured Optional Experience – Responsible Elephant Encounter

Visit a stunning lake in the local area for an exclusive visit with a Sri Lankan Elephant. Get to know these gentle giants with an opportunity to bathe, feed and pamper them. The elephants at this sanctuary have been rescued from hard labour environments and are living out the remainder of their lives in the lap of luxury being waited on by humans. There is no elephant riding at the sanctuary. The visit will begin with a boat ride across the beautiful lake and you will be transported back to the hotel on the tractor of a local villager. To assist with the rescue of elephants from cruel situations, Inverted Atlas will make a donation to an elephant conservation project which is included in the price of the activity.*

* Note the Responsible Elephant Encounter is NOT included in the trip price and must be booked and paid for prior to departure.

This morning after an early breakfast and before it gets too hot, we will proceed to arguably the 8th wonder of the world, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Also known as ‘Lion Rock’, the fortress was built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. During the climb you can see ancient booby traps and frescoes and talk to your guide about deciphering myth from fact. Once you reach the summit, stand between the paws of the great lion and enjoy the Shangri-la – esq views of the surrounding jungle.

After we have descended from the rock fortress, we will head to the city of Polonnaruwa to savour a home cooked lunch in a rural café set by the rice paddies. The owner Devapriya always greets people with a warm smile, simply clad in his bathik sarong and checked shirt, and will welcome you to his humble abode.

Then we will explore the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa, another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites. We will wander through the many ancient buildings, and bicycles are available for hire should you wish to do your sightseeing on two wheels.

Return to the hotel and then this evening attend a local ‘Peduru’ party arranged especially for us. A ‘Peduru’ party consists of feasting on Sri Lankan cuisine while sitting on straw mats, we will also have the opportunity to taste Arak, the local spirit, sometimes referred to as ‘Sri Lankan whiskey’.

In the morning we will check out and travel to the city of Kandy. Along the way we will visit a private spice garden to learn about the locally grown spices of Sri Lanka and their places in Sri Lanka’s colourful trade history.

The visit will conclude with a live cooking demonstration using the spices from the garden, followed by lunch.

We will then continue onto the city of Kandy, a spectacular city located on a hill overlooking a beautiful artificial lake. On arrival we will meet our local host who will give us a short tour of Kandy and provide his unique perspective on the streets he grew up in.

This morning after breakfast, we drive to the outskirts of Kandy where we will visit the Gadaladeniya Temple. Afterwards, we will make visits to local craftsman to watch them work making traditional brassware.

For lunch today we will visit the Centre for Arts and Culture which is established in the 18th century ‘Walawwa’ – an ancient chiefs’ residence. Housed within are a panoply of books, manuscripts, photography, traditional furniture and wall paintings.

After lunch we will visit a guru, a master of the local art of Kandyan dance and drumming. The traditional dance of Kandy includes masks and the Ginisila (showing power over fire). A very hands-on lesson, the master will teach you the basics of dance and drumming should you wish to learn.

Today is free for you to explore the city of Kandy on your own. You may wish to pay a visit to the sacred temple of the tooth relic, visit Kandy’s colourful marketplace, take a stroll by the lake or even just have a rest and hang out at the hotel. The choice is yours.

Early this morning we will transfer to Kandy train station to board the train to Ella. An engineering marvel now made famous by Instagram influencers; this trip has been heralded as the most picturesque of all rail journeys. Our train ascends along winding tracks, into the home of the famed Ceylon Tea, with rolling hills turning into a carpet of velvety green plantations interspersed with gushing streams and tumbling waterfalls.

Arrive in the rural hippy heaven of Ella and transfer to the hotel. The remainder of the day is yours to explore and maybe grab dinner in one of the town’s trendy cafes.

This morning, carrying a packed breakfast, we will take the short climb to Bambaragala Pathana, a plateau with a panoramic view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Here we will enjoy our breakfast while taking in stunning views of the surrounding area.

After breakfast we will journey to the ancient village of Bubulegama, home to the tea estate workers of the area. From here we will begin an easy 1- 1.5-hour trek through the surrounding tea estates and rice paddy fields. Upon completion of the trek, we will be welcomed into the home of a villager where we will enjoy a home cooked lunch.

In the afternoon we will visit the famous Nine-arch bridge, an incredible historical viaduct built of stone, bricks and cement created in the British era of Sri Lanka. We will be able to walk along the railroad which passes over the bridge and admire this amazing feat of engineering.

Today is free for you to chill out in Ella. If chilling out isn’t really your thing you may wish to participate in one of the many optional activities on offer today.

Optional activities include visiting Ravana Ella Waterfall, climbing Ella Rock, climbing to Little Adams peak, hiking or trekking around Ella and ziplining.

After breakfast this morning we will check out of the hotel and visit a local tea factory, to learn about the origin and process of production of Ceylon Tea, one of the finest teas in the world.

We will the proceed on to the historic walled city of Galle. Galle is another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites and was a strategic trading post in the past.

On arrival we will check into our heritage hotel located within the walls of Galle fort.

After some time to freshen up, we will take a walk around Galle fort hosted by a 5th generation resident. The Portuguese, Dutch and British have all occupied Galle at some stage and have each left a unique imprint on its fabric. Navigate the Galle Fort Walk, which is peppered with interesting facts, numbers, stories and myths all interwoven by the narrative of your host.

Early this morning you may like to join your host for an exciting trip to the local fish market to watch the auction of the fresh catch before returning to the hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast we will visit a cinnamon estate to learn about the history and health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon. As one of the first traded spices in the world, cinnamon holds a strong position in the culinary world.

Next, we will visit a traditional lacemaking household in the area. ‘Beeralu’, or lacemaking, is considered an important aspect of Sri Lanka’s heritage. Sadly, with the introduction of technology and machinery, lace making is somewhat of a dying art. Today, you will visit a village household and interact with some of the villagers who are keeping this industry alive.

Lunch today will be in a local beach restaurant and afterwards we will meet some local stilt fisherman who will attempt to teach us this unique method of fishing. If you’re lucky and your catch is good, there is a good chance one of the smiling fishermen will bargain for the fish you caught.

This morning is free for you to explore Galle and its fort on your own.

Optional experience: Whale Watching

In the early afternoon transfer back to Colombo and check in to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is yours to rest or to explore Colombo on your own.

This evening join your trip leader and travel companions for a farewell dinner at one of Colombo’s most unique restaurants.

Your adventure in Sri Lanka comes to an end this morning after breakfast.

If you wish to spend more time in India, why not book one of our Bolt-on experiences for Colombo?

Trip Map
Tale of a Tear Shaped Isle


Duration: 17 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: TICC

Cost: $7559.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $1556.00 AUD


  • 16-nights accommodation in heritage and traditionally inspired hotels
  • Tickets for the train Kandy to Ella
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Optional experiences (not included):

  • Anuradhapura: Mihintale Mountain Climb with Meditation with Buddhist Monk
  • Sigiriya: Responsible Elephant Encounter
  • Galle: Whale Watching

* Please note some optional experiences must be booked prior to travel.

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Visa for Sri Lanka
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Journey

This trip travels throughout Sri Lanka, a country that is accustomed to tourists and travellers. We will still be off the beaten path at times, however for most of the trip we shouldn’t be out of our comfort zone too much. This trip does involve a lot of walking during the sightseeing and has some light trekking included. To get the most out of this trip you should be able to walk confidently across uneven surfaces and climb stairs. At times women may be required to wear a floor-length skirt to enter temples and places of worship and you may encounter the odd squat toilet during unscheduled roadside toilet breaks.

Good quality hospitals, pharmacies and other public amenities will be limited to big cities but should never be too far away.

A note about fitness

This trip requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 4km over at times, uneven surfaces during sightseeing, which will sometimes be at an incline. In addition, you should be able to climb up to 200 stairs unassisted and use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues).

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach and on and off the train. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip often travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Trip leader description

Accompanying you along your journey will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 16 years

There is no shared accommodation on this trip, and we will be traveling through a relatively well-travelled part of the world, in this instance we would welcome everyone above the age of 16 years. Should you wish to bring younger children, please give us a call.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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