“Locally-based expert operator creating customised itineraries to suit your budget”
However, the prospect of getting around this fascinating island on your own can be daunting: roads are chaotic, journeys slow, road signs rare. So for those who of you who prefer to have everything arranged for you but don't want to feel part of a package tour, we've teamed up with Columbus Tours, a Colombo-based operator who have been operating bespoke tours in Sri Lanka for the past 23 years, and whom we have used for our own trips there. They are a niche market operator with excellent consultants and English-speaking staff.
Besides suggesting the best itineraries to cover the country's many highlights, and selecting the most charming and stylish accommodation (including those featured on i-escape), they can arrange private transfers and book specialist guided tours. These range from providing a glimpse into 2,000 year old Buddhist culture, to sampling a drink of broken orange pekkoe in a hilltop tea planter's bungalow, or viewing ruined ancient cities by hot air balloon at sunrise.
Why we chose this partner
- They are on-the-ground operators so can provide up-to-the-minute advice
- Breadth of local knowledge and honest, professional answers to all enquiries
- They work with Sri Lanka's best hotels and can offer a cool range of accommodation: designer boutique hotels, colonial mansions, beach properties and treehouses
- They can arrange unusual activities; including festivities of Kandy, swimming with dolphins and white-water rafting
- They've arranged trips for people in-house, and we've always been very pleased with them
- They can also book flights from Sri Lanka to the Maldives (just 1 hour away) and offer a choice of accommodation, from budget resorts up to once-in-a-lifetime indulgences. a few nights could be the perfect end to your trip, or treat yourself to a week there if you can afford it
Please be aware
- i-escape can only vouch for those properties which are featured and reviewed on our website. For other areas and accommodations, while we do trust our operator to provide the best options for your needs, you should make sure that you are happy with their suggestions before confirming
Best time to go
Our top tips
Sri Lankan accommodation is some of the loveliest we've seen - everything from chic city hotels to architect-designed villas to simple beach retreats. Decor is unfailingly gorgeous (teak-wood beds, billowing white curtains, jewel-bright cushions), staff are wonderfully kind and there's a serene peace to everywhere we've visited.
Read our detailed reviews of the best boutique hotels, B&Bs and rentals, and ask Columbus Travel to include any you love in your itinerary. Or ask for their recommendations to suit your budget and preferences (note, the images displayed in the slideshow here are all i-escape hotels).
We've also reviewed the food at each hotel and locally, and you're in for a treat: mellow but intense curries with notes of coconut, chilli, curry leaves, cinnamon and garlic. Seafood. Dhals. Street stalls peddling roti (a stir-fry wrap) and egg hoppers (pancakes). We ate like kings.
Things we loved...
- Cooking classes
- Historical sites
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Children are warmly welcomed at most hotels; Sri Lankans are incredibly kind, friendly people. Columbus Travel can help you devise an itinerary that will perfectly suit your family, whether you want adventure, culture or just relaxation.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms
Columbus Tours can arrange international flights, internal flights, private cars with drivers, train journeys... whatever you want. We'd recommend having a car with a driver for your entire trip; it is such a lovely, easy way to get about and they'll help you get under the skin of the country.
To fly to Sri Lanka, please see our detailed getting to Sri Lanka section shown in our full on-line destination guide for Sri Lanka.
The vast majority of visitors fly in to Colombo and head inland and south after a day or so exploring Colombo. The tour operator can meet you at any port of entry.
A driver from the tour operator will meet you at the place of your choosing, and take to your first hotel or on your first trip. He will be your main point of contact for the rest of your tour. You will also have direct access to the local tour operator office, which can deal with any further requirements you may have.
The company uses its own fleet of saloon cars and micro vans for transfers and tours, depending upon the terrain to be covered, with their own carefully selected skilled chauffeur guides. You could also take a seaplane between certain destinations - a lovely way to see the country. Prices on application. The drivers and pilots are fully trained and experienced in all possible terrains, with client safety their ultimate concern. The tour operator is very particular about its drivers and ensures that they are all calm and well-humoured with excellent manners. Drivers are responsible, friendly, helpful and most importantly, they all speak excellent English.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Sri Lanka and getting around