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Cultural Triangle itinerary

Bratislava, Slovakia
Level Contributor
13 posts
10 reviews
Cultural Triangle itinerary

Dear all,

I need your help and advice.

I was planning to come to Sri Lanka in November and do an island´s tour with my travel agency. But the agency now started to "play" with me, so I am thinking about organising the island´s tour on my own.

I am particularly interested in the Cultural Triangle (starting the tour in Negombo and finishing in Kandy) - how many days should I allocate to this area?? I am quite a keen history fan... Also, which are the top sites I shouln´t miss? I was quite overwhelmed by the number of possible sites to visit and am unable to decide which are worth a visit and which are not... I am thinking about hiring a driver and having the tour organised through Red Dots or a similar company - any ideas or recommendations? Any idea how much that could cost? I think I will finish in Kandy and then do Kandy and the Hills Country by myself.

Any ideas and recommendations are much appreciated.

Thank you very much in advance.

Mahu

St Austell
Level Contributor
3,592 posts
36 reviews
1. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hello Mahu

It sounds a brilliant idea to me. And I second your idea to have a driver for the Cultural Triangle part of your holiday and then go it alone from Kandy.

I don't know how long you have to spare, but if you have a particular interest in the historical sites of the area, 3 nights would be a comfortable time to stay there. You could have longer, but within that time, you could cover the main attractions and a few of the smaller ones too.

As a starting point, here are the must-sees:

Sigiriya Rock - allow a morning for this.

Ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Most people only see one or the other, but you might like to cover both. If you buy a Cultural Triangle ticket, you will not pay any more to see both cities and also Sigiriya. The ticket costs a hefty $50, but individual entry to any of the big 3 will cost you $25 each, so the ticket is well worth having. It also gives you entry to a few smaller sites, such as Ritigala, Nalanda Gedige, etc. Polonnaruwa's sites are better preserved than those at Anuradhapura and the area is more compact, but Anuradhapura has more of a "living" feel with much active pilgrimage still taking place. I preferred it to Polonnaruwa.

Mihintale - hill top temple site where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. I love this place too. It is very close to Anuradhapura and can be combined in a full day visit.

Those are the main places to cover. Ritigala, with its forest covered ruined monastery is another one to consider, as much of interest to nature lovers as for history buffs. If wildlife interests you, have a late afternoon safari to one of the area's national parks. Minneriya is the best known and is a good place to see large herds of wild elephants. The Aukana Buddha statue is another possible, particularly lovely when viewed at sunrise.

I would say that November isn't the best time of year to visit the Cultural Triangle, as although this area is one of the driest in Sri Lanka, it can have some very heavy rains from November until around Christmas time.

If you want any driver recommendations, please contact any of the DE's by PM and they can give you details of good ones, or check the forum for details of drivers or companies that have lots of good feedback. You can then contact them by e-mail and compare quotes and itineraries and see which driver sounds best for you.

From Kandy, it is easy to travel independently and if you need any help to plan this part of the tour, we can give you all the information you need.

Hope this helps to get you started.

All the best

Sue

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
64,895 posts
231 reviews
2. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi Mahu,

Do note that for a driver to charge a roundtrip fee you need to pay the full round; so e.g. starting at airport and ending in Kandy you need to pay the empty ride back to airport too. The going rate is based on around Rs 35-40/km; depending on how much shuttling you'd do to the sites your tour might be around 500 km, that's Rs 20,000 overall.

P'ruwa, A'pura, Mihintale, Sigiriya fortress and Dambulla cave temple are the no.1 spots - though there is already SOME overlap between the kinds of sights in A'Pura and P'ruwa. And indeed there are quite a few no. 2 spots also, like Aukana and Ritigala. I'd say 2-3 full days for all no. 1 spots together, and at least 1-2 days for a few of the no. 2 spots if you like...

Red Dot, Jetwing, Walkers, Diethelm are all reputable tour operators that can organise this including all hotels. For CT one central hotel, e.g. Sigiriya or Giritale, would do.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Bratislava, Slovakia
Level Contributor
13 posts
10 reviews
3. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Sue and Erik,

Thank you so much for your valuable advice. I really appreciate it!

After reading my Lonely Planet, I came up with this itinerary:

Day 1 - Airport to A'pura, stopping at Yapahuwa and Padeniya

Overnight at Palm Garden Village Hotel

Day 2 - A'pura and Mihintale

Overnight at Palm Garden Hotel

Day 3 - Ritigala + Aukana + Minneriya National Park

Overnight at Grand Tourist Hotel Resort

Day 4 - Sigiriya + Polonnaruwa

Overnight at Grand Tourist Hotel Resort

Day 5 - Dambulla Caves + Matale + Pinawella

Overnight in Kandy

What do you think about this? Is it feasible or is it too much hassle around?

As for my Kandy + Hill Country itinerary, I am thinking about staying three nights (two full days) in Kandy staying somewhere more budget, e.g. Expeditor Inn, then going to Kandy SamadhiCentre for two nights, and then going to the Hill Country for two or three nights. What do you think? Does it make sense or should I change my plans?

From the Hill Country I would need to get to Hikkaduwa/Galle - will it be possible to find a reliable driver there? Is there any public transport I can use to get to the south??

Thank you very much again for your help. I am a bit concerned about this trip because I am a solo female traveller travelling on my own for the first time, so any advice is much appreciated.

Mahu

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
64,895 posts
231 reviews
4. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi Mahu,

Part upto Kandy seems to work. I'd drop Matale from day 5 as there is not much to see there except spice garden tourist traps, the best route from Dambulla to Pinawela does not really touch Matale town.

In Kandy, two different accos don't make really much sense to me unless it's for cost reasons.

Hill country to Hikkaduwa is JUST feasible in one day by car (about 8 hours from Eliya, 7 from Ella) and by bus is probably 10+ hours. So in case of public transport, better have a stopover in the middle. Cars are okay but quite expensive as for one-way rides they need to charge a lot more than for the roundtrips like in Triangle; count for Rs 65+/km.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

St Austell
Level Contributor
3,592 posts
36 reviews
5. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi again Mahu

It looks an ideal and workable itinerary although as Erik says, there's no real reason to stop at Matale, although you will enjoy the journey between Dambulla and Kandy as it is a particularly beautiful area.

I would also suggest a stopover between the hillcountry and Hikkaduwa. Looking at your choice of hotels (and in particular the SamadhiCentre with its gorgeous jungle setting) you might like this one, situated near Belihul Oya, and on a bus route between the usual high hill country places like Nuwara Eliya or, (recommended) Ella/Haputale. It's still "hill country" but at a much lower level and very lovely indeed.

flickr.com/photos/…

…blogspot.com/2008/12/best-hotel-of-2008-lan…

When we stayed there, we loved every minute. We then caught a bus to Matara. From here you could easily continue to Galle or Hikkaduwa. Bear in mind that many guesthouses offer a taxi service, and at the very least, can arrange a taxi for you if you decide not to take the bus for any part of your trip.

All the best

Sue

UK
Level Contributor
2,319 posts
6. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi,

I agree with Sue and Erik that , if you are using public transport, it's probably not worth stopping at Matale but if you have a car and driver for this section of your trip I do think that the Aluvihara rock temple is worth seeing.

It's located just outside Matale to the north and in the car you'd be passing it.

I particularly enjoyed browsing around the work shop where there's an old monk who will show you how the early scriptures of Sri Lanka were written on palm leaves.

He'll show you the type of palm, how it's treated and engraved before having the ink applied. He'll probably cut a section and write , something, such as ""welcome to Sri Lanka Mahu"". In Sinhalese script on your own piece of palm.

Do be careful though as he's not averse to asking for a big contribution. A tip of about 100 rupees is adequate.

I also agree with Sue about making a stop over somewhere in the hill country, the most beautiful part of Sri Lanka.

Rod.

St Austell
Level Contributor
3,592 posts
36 reviews
7. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi again

In addition to Aluvihara, you could also stop at Nalanda Gedige which is on the same Dambulla to Kandy road. This cultural site is included in the Cultural Triangle ticket, so it won't cost you anything to pop in and have a look if you've already bought the ticket to cover entry to Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Anuradhapura and Ritigala. The site itself won't take long to look round, but it is in another glorious location and doesn't involve a diversion from your route either.

Sue

Bratislava, Slovakia
Level Contributor
13 posts
10 reviews
8. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Sue, Rod, Erik,

Thank you so much again for your recommendations and advice.

It seems that I will have to do much more guidebook reading before I should decide on the Hill Country itenerary - can I get back to you once I have a better idea about that region?

As for your recommendations to visit Nalanda and Aluvihara (and Dambulla caves) on my Day 5, will I still have time to visit Pinawella on the same day??

Plus, Erik wrote that two accos in Kandy don´t make sense to him - is it really not worth staying at Samadhi Cente? I was to spend some quiet time there, perhaps to do yoga and some meditation after the hectic 7-day sightseeing.

I wrote to Red Dot tours for a price quote for my Cultural Triangle tour, but they don´t seem to have the Grand Regent Tourist Holiday Resort on offer. Can you recommend a different hotel/guesthouse in that area, just in case they say that I have to choose a different accomondation?

Thank you very very very much! :-)

Mahu

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
Level Contributor
64,895 posts
231 reviews
9. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Okay, THAT could be a valid reason for 2 accos in Kandy - 2 totally different types of holiday time spending.

Alternatives, affordable, in Cultural Triangle could be Gimanhala transit hotel in Dambulla and the decent 2-star hotel Royal Lotus in Giritale.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

St Austell
Level Contributor
3,592 posts
36 reviews
10. Re: Cultural Triangle itinerary

Hi Mahu

No problem visiting Aluvihara, Nalanda and Pinnawela on the same day if you want to, although make sure you time your arrival at Pinnawela for one of the times that the elephants are in the river, or for bottle feeding, if that appeals to you. Aluvihara is right on the road between Dambulla and Kandy so involves no diversion at all. Nalanda is only just off the road, so again, no time is wasted by popping in to see this one.

I'm not sure what route your driver would take if you wanted to do all three before arriving in Kandy. I am assuming you'd do Nalanda, then Aluvihara and then go back a little way up that road before cutting across towards the Kurunegala road to approach Pinnawela that way, rather than continue to Matale and on to Kandy as you'd do without the elephant orphanage visit. Maybe others know more about that possible route than I do.

The alternative is to do the elephant orphanage separately as part of a day trip from Kandy, as you have plenty of time in that area to fit it in.

You say that Red Dot does not have the Grand Tourist Holiday Resort at Sigiriya on its list of properties. If you particularly fancied this one, there's no reason why you shouldn't book it separately for that part of your stay of course, but you might find you like something they suggest just as much. We've used Red Dot Tours ourselves in the past, both for a complete tour .. flights, the lot, but also for just the odd hotel booking or transfer. They have always been very flexible, so the choice is yours on the accommodation.

Sue