$10,865 per person
15 Days
More than 1

Sri Lanka by Private Train

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Step aboard the famous Viceroy Special for a unique rail adventure through the mountains, coasts, and Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. On this unique tour exploring the history, art and culture of this stunning country, you’ll have the option to ride the extraordinary Sri Lankan rail network in grand style, explore the wonders of the island up close and personal.

Some Details

Tour Leader(s)
Robert Kingsford-Smith
Price: $10865 Single Supplement: $1985
Price includes
  • 14 nights’ accommodation in centrally located 4-5 star hotels with daily breakfast
  • All meals (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • Comfortable air-conditioned coaches for road travel
  • Comprehensive sightseeing as shown on the itinerary, including local guides and entrance fees
  • Exclusive train travel throughout, aboard the beautifully appointed Viceroy Special
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and train staff
  • Porterage at hotels and railway stations, and separate luggage handling
  • Special welcome and farewell dinners with drinks
  • Transfers on arrival and departure if travelling on the suggested group flights
Price does not include
  • Excursions mentioned as optional in the itinerary
  • Items of a personal nature (eg. telephone, laundry, mini-bar)
  • Transfers on arrival and departure if not travelling on group flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Tour Plan
Tour Plan

Day 1 • Friday:

Departures from Australia

For those travelling from Australia on our suggested flights, morning departures from Australia on Singapore Airlines via Singapore will see you arriving in Colombo at midnight. You will be met at the airport and driven to your hotel, located in the heart of the vibrant city of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s biggest city.

Day 2 • Saturday:


Breakfast is at leisure and later in the morning, join your tour leader and your fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and lunch at the hotel. This is followed by an afternoon city tour of Colombo, visiting its commercial and cultural centres and main seaport. The city boasts many fine colonial-era buildings, reminding us of its rich colonial past. Bustling bazaars, Buddhist and Hindu temples, and Muslim mosques are in dramatic contrast to modern Colombo with its high-rise buildings, smart modern shopping malls, and international hotels. Highlights of the tour include the old parliament houses, Buddhist temples, the Town Hall, and the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. We also visit Sri Lanka’s National Museum, which houses a valuable collection of art and sculpture from the many great eras in the nation’s history, an inspiration for the journey ahead.

Back at the hotel you have some leisure time and later gather to travel the short distance to the historic Galle Face Hotel for a lavish buffet welcome dinner.

Overnight: Mövenpick Hotel, Colombo (B, L, D)

Day 3 • Sunday:


After breakfast we board our private train, the splendid Viceroy Special, for our first great train journey. The route takes us via two main junctions into the heart of the Cultural Triangle, and on to the east coast. While enjoying morning tea in the restaurant car, watch the bustle of rural life passing by the windows, and notice how the landscape changes as we progress into the dry climate of the region. We stop at Avukana to see the magnificent 12m Buddha, believed to have been carved in the 5th century AD, and the adjacent Kala Wewa tank built in 400 AD. Lunch is served onboard. In the early evening the train pulls into the historic port city of Trincomalee. Here we transfer to the hotel to settle in and enjoy dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

Overnight: Trinco Blu by Cinnamon, Trincomalee (B, L, D)

Day 4 • Monday:


After a leisurely breakfast we embark on a city tour of Trincomalee, visiting the old Fort Fredrick and stopping at Swami Rock – also known as Lover’s Leap – and said to be one of the best vantage points for blue whale spotting. The Maritime and Naval History Museum and the ancient Hindu temple, Koneswaram, are on our agenda, before a break for lunch at one of the city’s popular venues.

Travelling down the coast by coach we arrive at Pasikuda, a resort town near the city of Batticaloa, the bustling coastal resort, fishing and commercial centre a bit further down the highway. We check into our hotel and relax with a sumptuous dinner provided in the hotel’s signature tropical restaurant. Rail fans have the option to take the train down the line on the Batticaloa branch line. This group will be transferred to the hotel on arrival at the nearest station.

Overnight: Uga Bay Hotel, Pasikuda (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Tuesday:


This morning we enjoy a tour of the city of Batticaloa, visiting historical sites such as the old Dutch fort and the impressive Hindu and Buddhist temples. We also make time for a spot of shopping and visit a traditional market. The afternoon will be free for you to hit the beach, take a spa or enjoy the many other facilities of our charming seafront hotel.

Overnight: Uga Bay Hotel, Pasikuda (B, L, D)

Day 6 • Wednesday:


Today we re-board the Viceroy Special for a journey on the unique Batticaloa branch line, heading northwest into the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. Here we visit several outstanding World Heritage sites.

The first site we visit is Polonnaruwa, located in the North Central province. Formerly the capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th centuries, it was the favourite country retreat of royalty and a key settlement due to its strategic location near the crossing of the Mahaweli River. This ancient city marks one corner of the Cultural Triangle and contains a wealth of remarkable sites and monuments. UNESCO inscribed the site in 1982 and described it as a ‘fabulous garden-city.’ After exploring the remains of a royal palace, the Buddhist Quadrangle, the Bodhi Tree shrine and massive dagobah (stupa) we relax for lunch at a restaurant in Polonnaruwa.  Further down the line is Dambulla. Here we check into our hotel, a wonderful structure designed by Geoffrey Bawa, set amongst dense jungle on the edge of Kandalama Lake.

Overnight: Heritance Kandalama, Dambulla (B, L, D)

Day 7 • Thursday:


This morning we visit the legendary Sigiriya (Lion Rock), a massive stone monolith rising 183m (600 feet) from the surrounding jungle. We explore the remains of a vast fortress and royal palace complex that was built on top of the rock by an obsessed monarch 1,500 years ago – an extraordinary feat of engineering and construction. Remnants of moats, ramparts and water gardens spread out on two sides of the rock, with the remains of a pair of giant stone lion’s paws still guarding the staircase that leads to the summit once occupied by the royal palace. At the height of its brief glory of only 18 years in the late 5th century, Sigiriya was described as one of the loveliest royal cities that ever graced the earth.

We return to our hotel for lunch. After a brief rest, we visit Dambulla cave temple, another fascinating World Heritage site. Dambulla is a main centre for Buddhist pilgrimage, as well as one of the largest cave temple complexes in south Asia. The caves are adorned with numerous ancient and dazzling rock and wall paintings of Lord Buddha that showcase the exquisite colour and technique employed by the artisans of the ancient kingdom. The monastery was built in the 1st century AD, and of numerous chambers found in the shelter only five are in use today.  The best known is the Maharaja Vihara. Dinner and the evening are at leisure for you to enjoy the facilities of the resort.

Overnight: Heritance Kandalama, Dambulla (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Friday:


We travel south this morning by coach to the busy town of Matale, to re-board the Viceroy Special waiting at the old 1880 vintage terminus station. Lunch is served on board, as we make our way along a branch line to the junction of the main line near Kandy. From here the train begins its ascent to the famous hill country. Running along the escarpment with views across Adam’s Peak, the coastal plain and tea plantation-clad hills, this is one of the most spectacular sections of our entire journey. We arrive in the late afternoon at Nanu Oya, the garden station for nearby Nuwara Eliya. We then travel the short distance to our hotel in the heart of this old British Hill Station, where we’ll be based for the next three nights. Dinner is at the hotel.

Overnight: Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya (B, L, D)

Day 9 • Saturday:


Nuwara Eliya is a cool green mountain valley in the heart of Sri Lankan hill country and was a favourite retreat for colonial Europeans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The rolling hills are laced with tea plantations and interspersed with gushing streams and tumbling waterfalls. The spectacular railways we’ll be riding have been serving the community since 1885.

After breakfast we transfer by coach to the railway station for a one-day excursion on the Viceroy Special along the highland’s railway to the mountain terminus station of Badulla. On this scenic journey, we descend from the heights of Nuwara Eliya at nearly 2,000m to Badulla at 680m on the banks of the Badulu Oya (river). The railway features numerous spirals, loops, spectacular viaducts, waterfalls and quaint colonial stations. Badulla marks the southeast extremity of the hill country and is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest towns. The Portuguese briefly occupied it, and then in the dying days of the British Empire the railway from Nuwara Eliya was constructed at great expense in 1924. Lunch is hosted on board after which we take a short tour of Badulla town and later return by your choice of either train or private coach.

Overnight: Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya (B, L, D)

Day 10 • Sunday:


A morning departure from the hotel takes us on a tour of the district. First stop is Victoria Park and Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Established in 1861 for the purpose of experimentation and promotion of the medicinal Cinchona tree, it now houses over 10,000 species of plants. After lunch at a local restaurant we tour through one of the famous tea factories that dot the district around Nuwara Eliya, and watch how freshly-picked tea leaves are processed in these cavernous facilities. Tea is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest exports and it’s fascinating to see how the leaves from this humble Camellia plant are treated and blended to obtain the teas for which the country is renowned. Sampling the product is encouraged, of course. Dinner this evening is hosted by the historic Hill Club. Founded in 1876 by a British coffee planter as a home away from home, today it’s a privately-operated club and hotel.

Overnight: Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya (B, L, D)

Day 11 • Monday:


Today the Viceroy Special descends from the high country to our next World Heritage site – the city of Kandy. This journey is our second opportunity to enjoy the spectacular views across the deep valleys to the sacred conical summit of Adam’s Peak. The spectacular engineering of the line and the beauty of the numerous colonial-era stations we’ll pass through en route, only enhance the view.

Lunch is served on board prior to our early afternoon arrival in Kandy. A city tour introduces us to many historic sites as we make our way to the hotel, including the lake, the Temple of the Tooth and the Kandy Town bazaar. After dinner the evening is yours to relax at the hotel, or to take a stroll around the vibrant heart of the old town centre.

Overnight: The Grand Kandyan Hotel, Kandy (B, L, D)

Day 12 • Tuesday:


After a leisurely breakfast we travel by coach to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, and nearby temples. The gardens, 6km out of Kandy, were the pleasure gardens of the Sinhala king well before British colonisation. The 60ha of gardens contain a staggering array of plants, including many ancient figs, teaks and even some massive Queensland and New Zealand kauri pines. After lunch at the Botanic Gardens, the afternoon is at leisure. In the evening we enjoy the rich culture of Kandy brought alive at a colourful cultural show.

The heart of Kandy offers a great venue to capture the vast complex that was the old royal palace and the sacred Temple of the Tooth. The human element adds another dimension to this setting, with pilgrims coming from everywhere, praying and reflecting amongst the myriad of smaller temples and shrines around this vast area.

Overnight: The Grand Kandyan Hotel, Kandy (B, L, D)

Day 13 • Wednesday:


The Viceroy Special departs in the morning, descending through plantations, jungle, villages and towns on its way to Colombo. En route the train stops at Kadugannawa station as the national railway museum is here and we spend some time exploring the collection. Following this we continue to Rambukkana for an excursion to the world-renowned Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Here elephants of all ages are looked after with loving care until such time as they are ready to be released back into the wild. We aim to view the elephants at bathing time in the wide river beside the town. Back on board the Viceroy Special, lunch is served as our journey continues through rich agricultural plains and into the metropolis of Colombo, arriving mid-afternoon. We are then taken to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure to enjoy the facilities of our centrally located hotel. Enjoy a gourmet dinner in the hotel in the evening.

Overnight: Mövenpick Hotel, Colombo (B, L, D)

Day 14 • Thursday:


Today we embark on the last leg of our journey aboard the Viceroy Special, this time hauled by one of Sri Lanka’s two remaining steam locomotives – the vintage 4-6-0 BIA Class, built by Beyer Peacock in 1928. The train departs from Colombo’s main station at Fort in a flurry of activity, and steams south through the outer suburbs and along the coast. The line frequently runs parallel to the beach allowing great views out to sea. Opportunities for photo stops are provided and lunch is served on board before we arrive in Galle in the early afternoon. After disembarking we enjoy a tour of Galle, finishing at the World Heritage-listed old fort complex known as the ‘Ramparts of Galle.’ Annexed by the Portuguese in the 16th century and extensively fortified by subsequent Dutch and British custodians, the fort has a remarkable old-world atmosphere after 500 years of occupation. The minimalist, stately, and elegant Lighthouse Hotel is another Sri Lankan gem designed by the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.

The farewell dinner tonight is at the hotel overlooking the bay and the Indian Ocean with drinks included.

Overnight: Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel, Galle (B, L, D)

Day 15 • Friday:

GALLE – COLOMBO – Departure

Today you are offered a late check-out and a day at leisure. Feel free to enjoy the beautiful coastal location of the hotel and its many facilities, including a famous spa. Tours of the region around Galle or to the many museums can be arranged. Lunch and dinner is offered at the hotel, and in the early evening, for those who are heading home, we depart together by coach for Colombo airport for the return flights home. Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to be lingering in this wonderful country and have other plans to extend your adventure on the magical island of Sri Lanka. (B, L, D)

Step aboard the famous Viceroy Special for a unique rail adventure through the mountains, coasts, and Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. On this unique tour exploring the history, art and culture of this stunning country, you’ll have the option to ride the extraordinary Sri Lankan rail network in grand style, explore the wonders of the island up close and personal.

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    Sri Lanka by Private Train

    $10,865 per person
    15 Days
    More than 1

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