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Sri Lanka

Cycling Ceylon

A wonderful bicycle journey from the tranquil fishing communities of Sri Lanka’s west coast, through the ancient architecture of the North Central region and onwards, via the stunningly beautiful central hill country to the beaches and the wonderful Galle Fort on the south coast. Join us to explore one of Asia's friendliest and most diverse cycling destinations with wonderful colonial architecture, delicious curries, bewilderingly beautiful hills, a myriad of fauna, and a seemingly endless stream of smiles.

At a Glance


Total Days: 12

Cycling Days: 9

Difficulty: 6/10

Daily Average: 85km

Off-Road: 20%

Max. Alt.: 1900m


Overview

For those interested in visiting the Indian Subcontinent but eager to avoid the teaming masses and hassles of India, Sri Lanka, with it’s relaxed culture and ever friendly people could be just the tour.

Beautiful scenery, an abundance of wildlife, friendly, courteous, inquisitive people, and magnificent lost in time colonial architecture. A bicycle journey from the tranquil fishing communities of Sri Lanka’s west coast, through the ancient architecture of the North Central region and onwards, via the stunningly beautiful central hill country to the beaches and the wonderful Galle Fort on the south coast.

But for we cyclists, perhaps above all, this is a land with an abundance of wonderful cycling roads, tracks and trails that make this a riding destination par excellence. Yes, Sri Lanka packs a huge amount into a compact island, oh, and then there’s the food……

Highlights

The ancient architecture of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. The hill country with its temperate climate and beautiful vistas of rolling hills and tea plantations. An abundance of wildlife - wild peacocks, monitor lizards, monkeys, and wild elephants to name just a few of the exotic fauna that we may wheel past whilst biking the byways. Wonderful lost in time colonial towns such as Ella and Nuwara Eliya. The fort district of Galle which is a splendidly preserved old costal trading town. The warm, ever friendly Sri Lankan people who are always ready with a smile, cheery greeting and keen for a natter and to pose for a photograph. And of course, above all else, cycling the winding back roads, rural lanes and canal side gravel tracks of this superb cycling destination.

Difficulty

This tour has a mixture of terrain, road conditions and climbs. There are days where we ride 100KMS and there are several climbs of up to ten kilometres in length. On day Day 8 the accumulated altitude gain is 2000 metres, but for those who would prefer to enjoy the scenery in a less energetic fashion we offer a scenic train ride as an alternative. In short it is a tour with a mixture of flat days, days of undulations and one big climbing day. For those who prefer to skip the climbs there is always a support vehicle at hand, be it a bus or a train.

Joining instructions

You will be meet on arrival at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and driven to our joining hotel on Negombo beach. The group will typically meet early evening for a pre-tour briefing. Full details will be sent with you final joining instructions.

Included in this tour

All accommodation, Western tour leader, local guide, support vehicles (1 or 2 depending on group size), meals on cycling days, snacks during cycling days, drinking water whilst cycling, entrance fee for Sigiriya and Anuradapura.

Not Included: International flights, visas, bicycle (rental bicycle available), optional national park excursions, Food and drinks on non-cycling days.

Bicycle Advice

At Painted Roads we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike on which you feel at home and comfortable is the finest way to enjoy a cycling adventure.

Most kinds of bicycle, except light-weight racing bikes are suitable for this tour: touring bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids or cyclocross bikes are all fine. Road conditions vary from asphalt to gravel and some hard packed dirt tracks. Tyres from 35mm in width upwards will be fine but we recommend 40mm on 700c and 2” on 26” wheels as a minimum.

South Asia is generally a warm place so the ability to carry one or two water bottles is essential (either on your bike or in a backpack). Our back-up vehicle carries water and tools although for those competent with tools bringing your own pump, puncture kit, and multi took is recommended as it would speed up repairs and minor adjustments. If bringing your own bike please bring along a few spare spokes that fit your wheels (please note that different wheels have different size spokes). If your bike has disk brakes or hub gears please bring any components that you feel may be necessary. We carry some spares for our hire bikes but we cannot guarantee that we will have any tubes other than 26” car type valves. Tyres and tubes other than 26” can be difficult to come by in many parts of the world so please make sure you have spares. If in doubt please ask at your local bike shop. A means of carrying your camera, sunblock etc is also useful – either an on-bike bag, handlebar or saddlebag for example, or a lightweight day-pack.

•Recommendation: Although our hire bikes come equipped with a saddle if you have a saddle you use and are happy with it is strongly recommended that you use it on tour. If you use SPD type shoes please bring your own matching pedals. We are happy to fit these for you. You may also like to bring bar ends if you use them at home.

Suitable Bicycle: MTB, Touring Bike, Cyclocross/Gravel Bike, Road Bike

ESSENTIAL! Please be sure that your bicycle is in perfect condition before you leave home. Again, if in doubt please consult your local bike shop.

Rental Bicycles

If you do wish to hire a bicycle we can arrange for the hire of good quality cycles from our in-country agent. Typically these bikes are mountain bikes, often Trek 3 series or similar.

Print Itinerary

Itinerary

(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner)

Day 1: Arrival - Negombo

You will be met on arrival at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and transferred to our beachside hotel in nearby Negombo where you will be met by your tour leader. Your day is free to relax and rest after a long flight. The group will meet early this evening for drinks, a briefing, and our first dinner together.

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals:   D

Day 2: Chilaw to Yapahuwa

With the distance being a tad too far to comfortably cycle on the first day of a tour we need to begin our first day with an hour or so in our minibus, but once on our bikes there will be no necessity to transfer again until the tour draws to a conclusion in Galle.

Hopping on the bikes we leave costal Sri Lanka behind us as we plot a course east and for the first time experience Sri Lanka’s country roads and agricultural life. This is lowland Sri Lanka with tropical flora, where we ride beneath palm trees and past rice fields with bananas growing at the side of the road. Come days end we have the chance to climb the 100metre high Granite rock close to the hotel and enjoy stunning views - or simply relax by the pool before dinner.

Cycling: 85KMS.

Meals:    BLDS

Day 3: Yapahhuwa to Anuradhapura

A wonderful day’s cycling awaits as we set out on a mixture of sealed and unsealed byways and lanes, past large lakes, through beautiful scenery and an eclectic mix of wildlife including peacocks, mongooses, giant lizards, monkeys and possibly wild elephants.

Our destination, Anuradhapura, is one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals and boasts a vast amount of ancient architecture. For those wishing to visit the sights we can arrange an optional tour with a local guide assuming we arrive in time. Alternatively spend your time before dinner relaxing by our hotel pool.

Cycling: 75KMS.

Meals:    BLDS

Day 4: Anuradhapura to Sigiriya

Small lanes winding past lakes and through gorgeous countryside offer a wonderful start to todays’s cycling adventure. Eventually these quiet country byways will lead us to a larger well surfaced road where an undulating ride takes us to lunch. The afternoon is an exploration of the byways and tracks of rural Sri Lanka where an abundance of wildlife waits to be spotted and ever friendly locals wandering the lanes and tending the fields great us with ready smiles as we wheel by. Our destination for today is Sigiriya, famed for its unique and rather magnificent 200 metre high rock, atop of which is the remains of an ancient city. For those interested in ancient ruins and fine views this afternoon offers the chance of an optional extra excursion to Sigiriya rock to explore the ruins and admire the rather splendid views.

Cycling: 75KMS.

Meals:     BLDS

Day 5: Sigiriya to Kandy

We leave Sigiriya on a mixture of sealed and unsealed rural roads before turning south onto a red gravel canal path. This deserted byway leads us through a delightful pastoral scene with a sound track of bird song and the cry of wild peacocks. An unavoidable section of busier main road leads us to an afternoon of undulating minor byways that take us into the cultural and vibrant city of Kandy.

Cycling: 100KMS.

Meals:    BLDS

DAY 6: Kandy: Rest Day

Kandy is an ideal rest-day venue. Whether you enjoy wandering the streets and local markets with your camera, visit sights such as the sacred Temple of the Tooth, enjoy some of the Western food you may by now be missing, or simply relax by the pool with a book and a beer there is something to keep everyone happy in Kandy

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals: B.

DAY 7: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

Tracing a route past the train station, botanical garden and university we are soon out of Kandy and on the open road. An undulating ride through small rural communities brings us to the real focal point of the day, an awesome winding climb on back roads that leads us up into the highlands of the tea country. Here friendly workers picking the tips from fragrant tea bushes wave at the rare sight of passing foreign cyclists as we ride through Tamil villages and past characterful colonial era tea factories. As challenging as it is beautiful this 2300 meter climb culminates in the temperate climate of the lost in time town of Nuwera Eliya, where depending on the weather we can either relax on our hotel’s well tended lawn or warm ourselves by the lounge bar’s fireplace. Whichever, it is a fine end to a very memorable day’s cycling.

NB: For those who prefer to admire beautiful scenery without the need for climbing more than 2000 metres on a bicycle, we offer the alternative of a classic train journey in the comfortable observation carriage.

Cycling: 95KMS.

Meals: BLDS

DAY 8: Nuwara Eliya to Ella

Charming little back lanes lead us around Nuwara Eliya and behind the boating lake to one of the great descents of the tour. Twenty two kilometres of smooth asphalt surfaced downhill provides a wonderful ride as we sweep through endless curves loosing a thousand vertical meters in altitude with a backdrop of stunning views.

The following twenty kilometres involve two eight kilometre climbs on gentle gradients before another eight kilometre descent and a final short climb to the lovely little town of Ella. With a fairly short day and plenty of downhill we should arrive with plenty of time to wander through the tea plantations, hike up to Little Adam’s Peak, explore the delightful little railway station, or relax with a beer overlooking the stunning view from Ella Gap.

Cycling: 65KMS

Meals: BLD

Day 9: Ella to Udawalawe

Another dramatic 25 kilometre downhill begins our day as we descent from the cool of the high country to the hot dry plains below on a well surfaced winding road. Upon reaching the low country a wider undulating road allows those keen to stretch their cycling legs to power on for a while before reaching the second half of today’s ride with a meander through the savannah of the low country. As we ride keep an eye open for wild elephants as we make our way to the tented safari camp that will be our home for the night.

NB: If we arrive in time, for those interested there is the option to take a three hour jeep safari in the national park.

Cycling: 110KMS

Meals:   BLD

DAY 10: Udawalawe to Mirrisa

The theme for our final full day on the bikes is rural and begins in fine style with an early start following rivers, canals, and lakes along quiet court and unsealed canal paths. Leaving these trails behind at the first small town we settle into a series of undulating rural byways laced together with some busier wider roads. Today really gives us a deep insight into the rural living of Southern Sri Lanka as we head through pastoral scenes towards our destination amongst the beachside hotspots of the south coast.

Cycling: 100KMS.

Meals:   BLD

DAY 11: Mirrisa to Galle

A fitting finale to our exploration of Sri Lanka is a lovely half day ride passing villages, paddy fields and lakes with the familiar and ever present smiles and greetings of the locals all around. Our destination is one of Sri Lanka's finest jewels, the wonderfully preserved ancient port town of Galle.

Cycling: 45KMS.

Meals:   BLD

Day 12: Finish

The tour official ends this morning. For those with time the beautiful walled town of Galle is well worth a few extra days with its quiet streets, colonial architecture and laid back cafés. For those wishing to spend some beach time post tour Sri Lanka’s south coast offers some fine resorts. The nearest is Unawatuna just 5 kilometres to the east. For those heading home we provide transport back to Colombo Airport or to our joining hotel at Negombo where we will happily book you any extra nights you may require.

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals B

Key

Markers below are clickable as are the markers on the map itself.

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