Self-guided cycle tour of Sri Lanka's ancient capitals
A 7-day bike adventure, starting and finishing in the cloud city of Kandy in the mountains of central Sri Lanka. Heading north to tour through the ancient wonders of the cultural triangle. An independent and compact option for those keen to explore central Sri Lanka by bike.
This bike tour runs from Kandy and returns.
Interested in how Grasshopper Self-guided bike tours work? See our introduction video below or read more about self-guided tours in detail.
Cycle tour the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka in the heart of the cultural triangle, made famous by the Hindu and Buddhist texts from antiquity.
Start by making your way out of the mountain, cycling the stunning "18-bends road". Making your way through National parks towards the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, the ancient 1000-year old former capital. Ride to the famous Lion's Rock in Sigiriya, the ruin of a palatial fort on the top of the 200m high rock outcrop. Then we head to the hill, cycling through the tea country on the way back to Kandy.
Like the itinerary but short on time? Contact our Travel Experience team directly for a bespoke itinerary that fits your needs.
7 days duration
367 km distance
Solo rider option: $1050
Trip Features & Tour Inclusions
What makes Grasshopper so special?
Find out how your next cycle tour goes the extra mile.
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Our dedicated Grasshopper Self-guided Adventures app combines navigating technology with visual and audio descriptions of points of interest along your routes, and can be hosted on all Android and iOS devices. The app contains your detailed tour route, podcasts with background information on the regions you will pass through, plus an audio commentary describing points of interest along the way. It also provides dining suggestions along your routes as well in destination locations, with translated menu recommendations. Furthermore, it will provide a and voiced glossaries of common phrases and words, which you can use to find rapport with locals.
On request we can provide iPads if you don’t wish to use your own mobile device.
Depending on availability, and for an additional fee, our Premium Self-guided offering in Sri Lanka includes TREK Conduit+ e-bikes. You still pedal, stop and start as you would on any normal bike, but the TREK e-bike gives you a bit of extra juice with three levels of pedal assist, allowing you to approach your riding day in a more leisurely fashion. All our e-bikes are of the highest quality, fitted with dependable all-weather hydraulic disc brakes and are as lovingly maintained as our regular bike fleet. Read more about our e-bikes.
Upgrade availability is limited, after making your online booking our support team will follow-up requesting your bicycle preference (TREK e-bike or regular).
We choose hotels not just based on star ratings, but for their character, comfort, charm and their ability to work with us to make your journey as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Self Guided gives us booking flexibility that we don’t usually have with large group tours, so this offer is expanded with some really unique venues. In prominent locations or cities, we generally use hotels in the 3-4 star range. In the minor towns we use the best available accommodation. At the bare minimum you can expect air conditioning, a private bathroom and a comfortable bed.
Exclusively to self-guided tours our bikes come fitted with top of the range GPS navigation units. These biking computers have remarkable customisation capabilities and can easily be ported with all major biking software, such as Strava, RidewithGPS or Kamoot, for all fans of cycling data. Never fear if you are not technically minded, as we've made them accessible to all riders. The device will be customised for you and we will upload the most accurate maps and routes. Furthermore, you will be well briefed on putting it to good use. You can download a free companion app and play around with its setup, download results of a day’s ride, or set yourself daily workout goals.
Before you ride out on your Self-guided adventure, you will be given a set of essential tools to handle all of possible minor repairs, or you can turn to local mechanics for help. However, in an unlikely event of a breakdown you just need to reach out to our representative who will either talk you through basic repairs or organize support in your location, or will help you handle transfer to your destination.
On request, and for additional fee, we provide a premium transfer service, to pick you up anywhere on the road, if you feel you can’t make it to your ride’s destination.
We provide the technology, travel planning and attention to detail so that you can just focus on enjoying the ride. You'll have your pick of great places to eat plus endless opportunities for local interaction as you cycle through regional communities. This is true independent touring without the hassle. It will take you to places you'd never reach any other way and allow you to explore new locations at your own pace.
We provide secure luggage transfers between each of your hotels. This way you can enjoy the ride knowing that when you arrive, your bags will already be waiting in your room. We will also call ahead to ensure that everything is ready for your arrival.
A beautiful souvenir Grasshopper cycling jersey is yours to wear and take home. We also provide a Grasshopper drink bottle as an extra memento.
for Kingdoms of Lanka
Arrival Day Kandy - Train & Bike Fitting
Whether you stayed the night in Colombo or Negombo (Negombo is closer to the airport) on arrival, you will need to make your way to Colombo Station (a taxi is recommended). Then you will take a morning train from the national capital Colombo to the central city of Kandy. After you check into your hotel you will be met by our representative who will help you get fitted up on your bikes. They will also take you through the other associated equipment and then provide a bit of a briefing on practicalities for Sri Lanka and your ride. You can then spend the remaining daylight hours exploring the area around the hotel by bike as a light warmup ride.
Mahiyanganaya - 18 Bends
You start out your tour in the central cloud city of Kandy. The proud capital of an ancient mountain kingdom, it was the last place to fall to the British during the colonial invasion. Kandy is a beautiful city with a temperate climate, littered with historical, colonial buildings that circle its stunning central lake. The city is most famous for being the location of the “Temple of the Tooth” a significant Buddhist relic. The day’s ride is a special one, as you cycle East out of the city on the infamous yet now newly renovated “18 bend road” towards the temple town of Mahiyanganaya.
Polonnaruwa - Ancient Ruins
Today you'll cycle the long corridor between 3 lush National Parks (Knuckles Reserve/ Maduru Oya/ Wasagamuwa) to reach the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. The immaculate ruins of Polonnaruwa, depict in detail the 1000-year-old ancient capital of Sri Lanka in all its glory.
Sigiriya - Lion's Rock
Moving from one wonder of the ancient world to another, today you'll cycle through back roads and trails of the wetlands and jungle to discover Lion Rock. Sigiriya Rock is an imposing sight standing at an impressive 200meters, with it’s summit home to the remains of a luxurious palace from over 1500 years ago. Your hotel sits in the shadow of this amazing rock, and there is a good chance of hearing the trumpets of wild elephants in the jungle this evening.
Rattota - Tea Plantations
Leaving Sigiriya, you'll cycle a trail through farmland. On the way, you will hopefully see plenty of local wildlife, with Peacocks, giant monitor lizards, and mongoose being a common sight. You may even meet an elephant or crocodile during this section.
After lunch, you continue through lush, green jungle and then begin your gentle climb into tea country.
Kandy - The Cloud City
A thrilling descent awaits this morning as you roll through tea hill plantations and small villages into the valley. A short ride on the flat and then it is into the climbing again, although a much gentler gradient than yesterday. After gaining some elevation again, it's time to ride some ups and downs along the side of the valley before eventually coming out just east of Kandy. The roads get slightly busier with motor rickshaws and the like before you cross the river and tackle one last hill to arrive at your hotel, set by the main lake in Kandy.
Kandy - Departure Day
This morning you will be met again by our representative to collect your bikes and equipment, before you check out of the hotel. We can assist you in arranging your onward travel, whether it be a further adventure into the tea country or the beaches in the south or returning to the airport.
What's the Riding Like?
5 days riding
The terrain is a mix of sealed and unsealed roads on secondary roads and quiet country lanes. There are a few sustained climbs (although not too steep) at times and some thrilling descents.
Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, with generally good weather. Two monsoons affect different parts of the country, so one region can be dry while another is experiencing tropical rain showers. The hill country is noticeably cooler than the northern plains and coast and can be downright chilly at night! March to mid-April is the driest time nationwide, with the first annual monsoon bringing rain to the southwest lowlands and central hills from late May to September, and a weaker second monsoon affecting the northeast of the island from November to February.
Solo Rider & Single Room Options...
When do these apply?
Solo rider? Self-guided bile tours cater perfectly to the solo cyclist who wants to explore at their own pace. If you wish to tour like this please include the Solo Rider Option when completing your booking.
Like a little privacy? If you like the privacy of your own room or are traveling as a group with an odd number of adults (prices are based on twin share rooms) please select the Single Room Option for each private room required.
Single room charges do not apply to those selecting the Solo Rider option.
Why the extra cost? Our carefully calculated pricing is based on twin share rooms and a minimum of two people. Fixed operating costs and hotel pricing require these surcharges.
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Exploring Sri Lanka by Bike
Learn a little more about this amazing little island. Recently, Grasshopper Adventures hosted a "webinar" sharing some of our knowledge about Sri Lanka.