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Sri Lanka

Cycling Ceylon

For those interested in visiting the Indian Subcontinent, laidback Sri Lanka with its relaxed culture, beautiful scenery, abundance of wildlife, friendly courteous inquisitive people, and magnificent lost in time colonial architecture could well be the ideal destination.

PaintedRoads bicycle adventure takes us 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 southern beaches and the wonderful town of Galle.

But for we cyclists, perhaps the greatest attraction is Sri Lanka's 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, and then there’s the food...

 

At a Glance


Total Days: 13

Cycling Days: 9

Difficulty: 6/10

Daily Average: 88km

Off-Road: 20%

Max. Alt.: 1900m


2020: 26 Jul - 07 Aug: $2500.00


Overview

Prologue 

As with any tour, for those with the time to spare, arriving a day or two early is a good idea. Not only does this allow time to overcome the ravages of jet lag, but on this tour, it also allows time to roam around the coastal town of Negombo. 

Predominantly Roman Catholic, Negombo is a convenient starting point for a tour of Sri Lanka. Wandering from the beachfront resort area towards the lagoon one passes characterful architecture, where lost in time streets lead past the offices of the legal profession to the fish market where one is free to roam and mingle with the local fisherfolk and traders.  Beyond here is the beach, where sailing boats with distinctive square sails bring the day’s catch to shore. 

Chapter I

Leaving Negombo behind we head north into the dry zone, a region of ancient archaeological sites where former kingdoms thrived, and left behind the wonders of Lions Rock at Sigiriya, and the Buddhist stupas of Anuradhapura to name but two. 

Chapter II

From Kandy, we head into the central hill country, where crops of tea dominate the scene as we climb to the hilltop town of Nuwara Eliya. Here, red letterboxes and colonial architecture earn the country's highest town the nickname Little England. We remain in the hills for a further day as we ride further through the tea plantations to Ella, with its gorgeous mountain views and olde worldly train station. 

Chapter III

Dropping dramatically from the hills we find ourselves in the arid plains of the south, where we can embark of a Jeep safari in Udawallawa National Part, where, amongst other beasts, elephants roam wild. 

Chapter IV

As the tour draws towards its conclusion we arrive at a luxury beachside resort just beyond the small town of Marisa. The following day, our journey reaches a wonderful crescendo as we arrive at the beautiful walled town of Galle Fort. Here, within the ramparts set on a small rocky peninsula, one can wander the tranquil streets set amongst beautiful Portuguese and Dutch colonial architecture. A fitting end to a splendid tour. 

Epilogue 

Sri Lanka has so much to offer that many people will choose to stay on post-tour. Some may wish to head to the west coast surfers haunt at Hikkaduwa beach. Others will prefer to visit more national parks or return to the hill country for walking or photography. Galle, where we spend our final night, is a very pleasant little town to spend some days, and one of Sri Lanka's premier beaches, Unawatuna, is just ten minutes away.

For this reason, we have decided to end the tour here and leave options open. For those heading home, on the final day we offer a group transfer to the airport, and on the Negombo beach where the tour began. We are happy to help with booking any extra nights in Negombo that may be required. 

Sri Lanka had it all – coastal riding through fishing villages, beautiful beaches, flat plains of lush jungle or drier savanna and scrub, challenging climbs (and fast descents) to the hilly tea plantations, not to mention the excitement of negotiating crowded townships, and for those wanting a bit of culture, visits to temples and forts, walks around old colonial towns, topped by optional train rides and elephant safaris (where we did see lots of elephants, and at close range). All was wonderful. I recommend this trip to all

Dianne White on Sri Lanka

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. Wonderfully lost in time colonial towns such as Ella and Nuwara Eliya. The fort district of Galle which is a splendidly preserved old coastal trading town. The warm, ever-friendly Sri Lankan people who are always ready with a smile and cheery greeting, are and keen for a natter and to pose for a photograph. And of course, 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.

Thank you for a great trip -  it more than exceeded my expectations by quite a long way and I really enjoyed Sri Lanka. I think in terms of a relaxing cycling holiday its by far the best trip I’ve done – I think the mix of some challenging cycling days with the luxury hotels was pitched just right. I really wouldn’t change too much the next time it runs. See you in a hotel bar somewhere soon!

Keith Evans on Sri Lanka

Joining instructions

You will be met on arrival at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (airport code CMB) 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 your 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 Anuradhapura.

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

Bicycle Advice

At PaintedRoads, we hold firmly to the opinion that using your own bike, the bike on which you feel at home and comfortable is the best 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, gravel, or cyclocross bikes are all fine. Road conditions vary from asphalt to gravel and some hard-packed dirt tracks. Tyres from 35mm in width will be fine, although we recommend 40mm.

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, but for those competent with tools bringing your own pump, puncture kit, and multi-tool is recommended as it would speed up repairs and minor adjustments. If bringing your own bike please bring along a couple of spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit, spare brake pads, and a few spare spokes that fit your wheels (please note that different wheels have different size spokes). 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

A driver will meet on arrival at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport Airport (Code: CMB) and transferred to our beachside hotel in nearby Negombo, where you will meet 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: Negombo to Yapahuwa

 We leave Negombo with a ride of 110kms ahead of us. Once away from the town, our ride is on quiet byways where we are introduced to a rural land of terracotta-roofed cottages amidst verdant rice fields and palm trees. During this first day on the bikes, we will quickly learn what friendly people Sri Lankan's are. 

Not long before reaching our poolside resort, we will have the opportunity to climb the 100-metre high granite rock, atop which sits the 750-year-old Yapahuwa Fortress, boasting stunning views across the plains below. 

NB: The first 15kms is busy traffic-wise, and although some will be more than happy to ride, there is the option to keep the kilometres down by riding in our support vehicle until the first break. 

Cycling: 110KMS or 95KMS

Meals: BLDS

 

Day 3: Yapahhuwa to Anuradhapura

A beautiful day's cycling awaits as we set out today. The route is an even mix of sealed byways and gravel lanes. 

Again the roads are flat as we ride through a scene of tropical vegetation and rice fields. Our journey passes numerous lakes, and we can expect to encounter wild peacocks, mongooses, monitor lizards, and even wild elephants. 

Our destination is one of Sri Lanka's ancient capitals, Anuradhapura, a UNESCO World Heritage site where ancient Buddhist architecture is abundant. For those wishing to explore a little of the surroundings, we can arrange a short tour with a local guide after settling into our resort. Those more interested in relaxing after a day on the bikes can enjoy a swim and a beer by the hotel's pool. 

Cycling: 80KMS

Meals: BLDS

 

Day 4. Anuradhapura to Sigiriya

Today's ride, 80% of which is on sealed roads leads us to Sigiriya rock, a jewel in the crown of Sri Lanka's undoubtedly impressive ancient heritage. Here, perched atop a 200-meter high rock looking out far across the island are the magnificent archaeological remains of an ancient city. 

Our ride to reach this site is once again rural, through a landscape varying in colours from vivid green rice fields to terracotta roofs to the dry beige of sun-dried savannah. Once we have settled into our hotel, we can drive to the rock and climb to the ancient city above.

Distance: 75KMS

Transfer: 0KMS

Meals: B.L.D

 

Day 5. Sigiriya to Kandy

Leaving Sigiriya, we ride on quiet rural byways through a lush landscape that includes the slightly surreal Kandamala Lake, from where long-dead trees reach skyward. Following lunch, the road toward's Sri Lanka's second city becomes busier, making this the ideal time to utilise our support vehicle and transfer to our town centre hotel. This afternoon, we can walk along the lakeside, wander around the old buildings and small streets, and, visit the Tooth Temple, before a drink on the town centre pub balcony overlooking the hectic street below. 

Distance: 50-60KMS 

Transfer: 60-90mins

Meals: B.L.D

 

DAY 6: 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 excellent winding climb on back roads that lead 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 Nuwara Eliya.

NB: For those less keen on cycling long climbs, we offer the alternative of a scenic mountain train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

Cycling: 95KMS or 0KMS

Meals: BLDS

 

DAY 7: Nuwara Eliya to Ella

Charming 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 downhill provides a beautiful ride as we sweep through endless curves losing 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 ascent to the lovely little town of Ella. 

Cycling: 60KMS

Meals: BLD

 

Day 8. Ella. Rest Day

Set in a beautiful mountain landscape amongst tea plantations, Ella is a lovely spot for a day off the bikes. Here we have options to wander through the tea plantations, trek to Little Adam's Peak, and visit a tea factory.

Alternatively, stay in town, visit the lost in time railway station, take a dip in resort's pool, and enjoy a relaxing lunch with friends in one of the town's restaurants or cafès.

Distance: 0KMS 

Transfer: 0KMS

Meals: B.L.D

 

Day 9: Ella to Udawalawe

Another dramatic 25 kilometre downhill starts our day as we descend from the cool of the high country to the hot, dry plains 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. 

At around the halfway point, our route becomes more rural as we turn west on smaller rural roads and tracks, and here the tour splits. Those wishing to cycle on can do so with the tour-leader, while those interested in a jeep safari can now use the support vehicle and transfer to our resort at Udawalawa National Park. This 30,000-hectare park is an important habitat for birds and elephants, as well as jackals, leopards, wild boar, and monkeys, to name but a few. 

The safari lasts around 3 hours and is an optional extra.

Cycling: 110KMS or 60KMS

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 sealed roads and gravel 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 gives us a deep insight into the rustic 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 Fort

Those interested and happy with an early start can today leave the hotel at 05:30 for an optional whale watching excursion

Back at the hotel and following breakfast, ahead lays a fitting finale to our exploration of Sri Lanka. From Mirrisa to Galle 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 most beautiful jewels, the wonderfully preserved ancient port town of Galle, the little streets of which are a delight to explore on foot.

Distance: 50KMS 

Transfer: 0KMS

Meals: B.L.D

 

Day 12: Transfer to Negombo

This morning we transfer by minibus back to our joining hotel in Negombo. The afternoon will be free to pack for your journey home, wander along the beach, or relax with your fellow cyclists and reminisce about a wonderful cycling adventure through a most exotic land.

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals: B

 

Day 13: Finish

The tour officially ends this morning. For those heading home, we provide transport to Colombo Airport.

Cycling: 0KMS.

Meals B

Key

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

    Check trip dates and availablility below. Click the Book This Date button to go ahead and make a booking, alternatively you can make a no-obligation request for us to keep you informed about the status of a trip or changes to a trip by clicking the Register Interest button against a date.

    £ Pound Sterling Payment Option

    Our prices are all in US dollars but we can offer you the option of paying in GBP (£) based on the exchange rate at the time of booking. You can choose on the booking form, adjusted prices will be shown there.

    Dates Price Availability

    2020: 26 Jul - 07 Aug
    Will run

    $2500.00
    *Single Suppl.: $450.00

    Full

    Bicycle Hire

    Hardtail Mountain Bikes are available to hire for this tour. Fee - US$250

    *Single Supplement.

    The prices quoted above are for a twin room share basis. If you are travelling alone you will be paired up with another lone traveler of the same gender to share with. Single room occupancy can be arranged, the single supplement rate shown is per person.

    Our Other Tours in Sri Lanka

    • Sri Lanka Bespoke. JJ21

      Private Tour

      Dates: February 2021

      Please be aware that this is a private tour open to invited guests only. For our regular Sri Lanka tour please click here.

      For those interested in visiting the Indian Subcontinent, laidback Sri Lanka with its relaxed culture, beautiful scenery, abundance of wildlife, friendly courteous inquisitive people, and magnificent lost in time colonial architecture could well be the ideal destination.

      PaintedRoads bicycle adventure takes us 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 southern beaches and the wonderful town of Galle.

      But for we cyclists, perhaps the greatest attraction is Sri Lanka's 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, and then there’s the food...

      Total Days: 13 | Cycling Days: 10 | Difficulty: 6/10 | Daily Average: 74km | See more information, dates & prices »