Colombo
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Colombo Culture & History

Sigiriya and Dambulla Day Trip from Colombo

1. Sigiriya and Dambulla Day Trip from Colombo

Depart Colombo and travel by a shared vehicle, in a small group, to the city of Sigiriya, and head directly to Sigiriya Rock on arrival. Gaze in awe at the massive column of rock that, according to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle The Culavamsa, was selected by King Kasyapa as the site of his new capital. Admire numerous paintings of historic queens, princesses, and maids inside the rock fortress before getting a break for lunch at your own expense. Then, explore some of the traditional crafts of the region, such as wood carving and batik textiles, with time to purchase souvenirs before departing. Start the journey back towards Colombo via Dambulla to explore the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Discover the magnificent Buddha images and rock paintings of vivid colors and different shapes, painted from around the 2nd century B.C. up to the 18th-century Kandyan era.

Sri Lanka: Five-day Multi-City Sightseeing Tour

2. Sri Lanka: Five-day Multi-City Sightseeing Tour

Explore the best of Sri Lanka with this tour to the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, rolling tea tea plantations in Ella, the chance to see wild elephants in the Udawalawe National park. Have your hotels, dinners, and breakfasts arranged for you in this fantastic tour package. Day 1Be welcomed by your guide at the Colombo International Airport where your guide will take you to your hotel in Negombo. Day 2Journey from Colombo to Sigiriya after getting your negative test results and eating a filling breakfast. Visit the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Relax before heading to the ancient rock fortress Sigiriya before having dinner and staying at a 4star hotel in Sigiriya. Day 3Travel to Kandy after a hearty breakfast to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which holds the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka. Take some time to unwind in your hotel before proceeding to see the amazing flora at the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens. Eat dinner and stay overnight at a four star hotel in Kandy. Day 4Next, have a full breakfast before heading to Ella to walk among the lush tea plantations. Learn more about the colonial history of Sri Lanka and take in the stunning landscape views. Return to your hotel in Ella for dinner and to rest. Day 5After breakfast, drive to Udawalawe National park where you can spot elephants in their natural habitat.

From Colombo: Full-Day Pinnawala and Kandy Tour

3. From Colombo: Full-Day Pinnawala and Kandy Tour

Start your journey at 0600 hrs from Colombo and proceed to Kandy, pausing at Pinnawala for a visit to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. This is the home for young elephants who have been displaced from their natural habitat at Pinnawala village in the Sabaragamuwa province of Sri Lanka. Now housing 70 elephants, Pinnawala is home to the largest group of captive elephants in the world. Next, visit Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya, renowned for its variety of ornamental, decorative & medicinal plants, more than 4000 species. This garden is best known for its collection of orchids, the largest in Asia. Thereafter, visit the Temple of the Tooth, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 16th century as the place of veneration and protection for Lord Buddha’s sacred tooth. Walk through the beautifully embellished passageways and elaborately painted halls. Lounge among delicately carved pillars and be amazed by the beautiful golden statues. Followed by a lunch break at a location of your choice. Cultural Dance Show - Be escorted to a performance of the traditional Kandyan dance, accompanied by tumultuous drumming. Dances include the cobra dance, mask dance, the Ginisisila, showing power over fire. This entire frenetic and colorful spectacle climaxes with the amazing fire-walking act. Finally, you will begin your journey back to your hotel in Colombo at approximately 1930 hrs. En-route, you will stop at Ambepussa (restaurant of your choice) and have dinner.

From Negombo: Full-Day UNESCO City of Anuradhapura Trip

4. From Negombo: Full-Day UNESCO City of Anuradhapura Trip

Declared by UNESCO as a world heritage city, Anuradhapura is regarded as Sri Lanka’s first known kingdom and the capital of the island for many centuries. Being well known for its cultural and religious value, the city attracts many local and foreign visitors who want to explore the ancient history of Sri Lanka.  See the remains of the Brazen Palace, which was once 9 stories high, and the Sri Maha Bodhi a Bo Tree, which is over 2000 years old and grew from the branch of the very tree beneath which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Visit the ruins of the Ruwanweliseya Dagaba and see the 2nd-century BC shrine, containing the Buddha’s collarbone relic. Explore the Abhayagiriya temple and the Jetawanaramaya dagobas.

Colombo: All-Inclusive Private City Tour

5. Colombo: All-Inclusive Private City Tour

Your 4-hour journey will begin as your chauffeur-guide collects you from your hotel in a private air-conditioned vehicle. From here you will start your tour with a visit to National Museum, the oldest and largest museum in the country, highly regarded for its antiques collection. Following the museum, you will visit the colorful and chaotic Petah Market, one of the largest in Colombo. Here you can find almost everything, from tropical fruit to freshly-caught seafood to jewelry. Following some shopping, you will explore the Gangarama Temple, positioned both on land and on a lake, including its small but impressive museum. You can then soak up the views of the Indian Ocean at the Galle Face Green, as well as the views of the abundance of beautiful parkland in this cosmopolitan city. Upon completion of your tour, you will be returned back to your hotel.

2-Day Whale Watching & Southern Sri Lanka Tour

6. 2-Day Whale Watching & Southern Sri Lanka Tour

The sea off Mirissa between Galle and Matara is one of the best places in the world to see endangered blue whales. This two-day tour also gives you the opportunity to see some of the important places in the southern coastal belt such as Galle fort, Unawatuna beach, sea turtle hatchery and more. On day one, meet your tour representative and proceed to your hotel in Mirissa, En-route enjoy a Bentota and Galle sightseeing tour. Bentota beach is the most popular beach holiday destination in the island. Galle is one of the ancient sea ports of Sri Lanka and was an anchor point in the Silk Route. It was later discovered by the Portuguese where they built a fortress and the Dutch that succeeded them fortified it further. This fortress is today a World Heritage Site. During the Galle city tour, visit Galle Fort, Bentota Beach, Galle coastal area, Galle lighthouse, Kande Vihara, Cinnamon Island, a handicraft center and mask carving center. Visit a sea turtle hatchery project, spice garden at Matale where spices and herbs used for Sri Lankan cuisine and medication are grown. Then take a Madu Ganga boat ride to discover this Ramsar Wetland. Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary is the place where you can have a glimpse of the fascinating underwater world and see the creatures that inhabit the unfathomable depths of the sea. The famed coral gardens are located here. Just get hold of a glass bottomed boat or goggles and flippers and plunge into the ocean. Overnight stay in Mirissa  Day two is filled with whale-watching experiences. Miriissa off the southern Sri Lanka coast is one of the best-known places for the greatest wildlife spectacle on the planet – lunge-feeding humpback whales and blue whales. Groups of whales construct enormous circular fishing nets with bubbles to catch vast shoals of herring and then launch themselves high into the air with their mouths wide open. This activity is most prevalent from November to April, but can be observed throughout year. 

From Colombo: Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle 2-Day Tour

7. From Colombo: Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle 2-Day Tour

Begin the tour by meeting your tour leader in Colombo and set off for the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. After exploring the history museum of Polonnaruwa, discover the ruins of the ancient city. Later, check in to a 3-star hotel in Sigiriya for your overnight stay.  The next morning, enjoy breakfast at the hotel. Set off for the Dambulla golden cave temple which was the site where a king of Anuradhapura took refuge from the South Induan invasion in the 1st-century BC. Learn about how when the king recaptured the region 13 years later, he converted the caves into a monastery and gifted it to the Buddhist monks. After this, head over to the ancient Sigiriya Rock, where a 5th-century prince who had committed patricide made it his hideout. Also make a stop at the Pidurangala ancient cave temple. At the end of the tour you will be returned to Colombo and dropped off at the start point.

From Negombo: Bentota Full-Day Tour

8. From Negombo: Bentota Full-Day Tour

Begin your day at 8:00 AM at Madu River in Balapitiya for a boat safari. For one-hour, journey through the primitive depths of the mangrove marshes. Traverse the dark and dangerous caverns, formed by the thick mangrove forests, interspersed with stretches of bright open water.  The next destination is the Kothduwa Temple. This Buddhist temple is located on the island and is known as the Kothduwa Raja Maha Viharaya. The island is within the Madu Ganga Estuary. Madu Ganga is an archipelago of fifteen different islands and a lagoon. It is believed that a Relic of Lord Buddha was once sheltered in the Kothduwa temple circa 340CE.  Enjoy lunch then visit the Lunuganga Garden. Geoffrey Bawa was one of Asia's finest architects. He passed away in 2003. Lunuganga was Bawa’s country home. It sits in an enchanting atmosphere with glorious views. It is now managed by the Lunuganga Trust. Admire the home’s features and blissfulness. It is now run as a country hotel and the proceeds go to Negombo.

From Colombo: Anuradhapura Day Tour

9. From Colombo: Anuradhapura Day Tour

Following hotel pick-up by your driver and guide at 06:00 in the morning from Colombo City area, you'll start for Anuradhapura. On arrival at Anuradhapura your first stop will be the Anuradhapura World Heritage Site and ruins. Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its well-preserved ruins depicting the illustrious ancient Lankan civilization. There are several interesting locations one can visit, namely, the majestic Ruwanweliseya Stupa, one of the largest structures of the ancient world, Brazen Palace with its 1,600 stone columns showing the remnants of a multi-storied residence for monks, Isurumuniya rock carving of ‘The Two Lovers’, the twin ponds used by Buddhist monks as a bathing pool and Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest Dagoba in the country believed to enshrine the collarbone of the Buddha himself and several other dagobas. Next you'll head to explore Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. The Sacred Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is reckoned as the oldest surviving historical tree in the world. It was brought to Sri Lanka by the Theri Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka and was planted in the Mahameghavana Park in Anuradhapura in 249 BC by King Devanampiyatissa. It is said to be the southern branch of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. Then start for Jethawanaramaya Stupa. The Jethawana stupa, the central ritual monument of the Jethawana monastery, had a diameter of 370 feet. Established in the 3rd century A.D., the monastery was the residence of 3,000 monks. Recent excavations confirm that the foundation of the stupa was 28 feet deep and rested on bedrock. This stupa, the tallest brick structure in the world, was built in keeping with engineering principles which are fol­lowed even today.  You'll explore Abhayagiri Dagoba. The Abhayagiri Dagoba is the second biggest brick structure in the world after the Jetavana Dagoba. It was built by King Gajabahu (114-136 AD) and reaches a height of 370 feet (115m). After lunch at local restaurant by your own cost proceed to Moonstone or Sandakada pahana. Sandakada pahana, also known as Moon-stone, is a unique feature of the Sri Lankan Buddhist architecture of ancient Sri Lanka.It is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances. First seen in the latter stage of the Anuradhapura period, the sandakada pahana evolved through the Polonnaruwa, Gampola and Kandy period. Later visit Mihintale. Mihintale hill is the spot where King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura met Mahinda, a Buddhist monk and son of the Indian Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka. Mahinda asked the king a riddle and when the king was able to solve it, Mahinda deemed him to be a worthy disciple and converted him to Buddhism. There are religious monuments all over the hill, and the ruins of a monastery and a hospital. At approximately 20:00, you'll arrive back at your hotel in Colombo where the tour will end.

Galle and Bentota Day-Tour From Colombo

10. Galle and Bentota Day-Tour From Colombo

After being picked up at your hotel, hop onboard your Madu Ganga Magrove boat safari and explore the Madu River. See the mangrove forests and marshlands that surround the river. Stop at a cinnamon garden, and try some of the area’s famous cinnamon. The Madu Ganga River region is home to some of the best quality cinnamon in the world as well as a flourishing cinnamon industry. Afterward, marvel at the fishermen who stoically sit atop large branches planted in the middle of the water waiting for their catch. Continue to a local Turtle Hatchery, where your guide will introduce you to the many local varieties of turtles. End your tour with a visit to the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fort illustrates the unique interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. After discovering the fort, you will be returned to your hotel in Colombo.

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What people are saying about Colombo

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 75 reviews

Really good experience! At one of the attractions we should have visited, there was a really long queue and too many people, so our guide was good at coming up with a lot of other options we could see if we wanted. All the experiences were quite exciting! Our guide also found some great eateries along the way with really nice views each time. He was good at assessing when he was needed as a guide and when it was better for us to be alone and she stayed close by (eg at the restaurants). On the slightly long drive, he was also good at explaining what we saw when we looked out the windows and in general what Sri Lanka was like.

I highly recommend using apple vacations agency when you visit Sri Lanka! They offer a wide range of tours and packages to fit a variety of budgets. Our guide Niraveen and driver were on time and accommodating. This full day tour was lovely and enjoyable! Loved visiting the turtle hatchery center, the boat ride through the mangrove, and the place they took us for lunch was superb! Really trustworthy company!

The guide showed up on time in the morning and he was very polite and informing. They took us to a very nice restaurant for lunch near the ocean and the food was delicious. Whole tour was satisfying with very nice views, herbal garden visit and boat tour on Madu River.

The driver (Kenneth) was very accommodative and managed our tight schedule very well. He even went the extra mile and helped us to see more than what we had initially agreed — with his help we were able to visit the Ranweli spice garden, which was the cherry on top.

I had a tour guide Muditha from Withlocals. A well educated and very nice young man with proper knowledge of English and international experience. Enjoyed talking to him and his company. From the downside - expected to see more for this money.