We went to Sri Lanka just after Xmas with our three adult children (25, 24 and 22 years old), only 12 days available and many things we wanted to do. Thanks to careful planning and a really fantastic driver/guide, we managed to see all the amazing cultural sites and natural parks we aimed to see and have 3 days on the beach to rest at the end. It was really a fantastic holiday. All the hotels were of the type we prefer, small and comfortable but unpretentious and we never had a bad meal in the whole time we were there. Our wonderful driver was full of suggestions of other things we might want to do, very helpful when I twisted my ankle and stopped every time he saw something we might be interested in, whether it be a monkey, a plant or a temple. He clearly loves his country and was very happy to share it with us. We definitely think that having a local agent was a plus and will use them again.
The driver/guide Nihal was probably the most useful of all. He was professional, drove well, super polite and with a ready smile and genuinely keen for us to see as much as possible and not have any problems. He was great.
As per above, the only real issue we had was the lack of rooms for the last night but this was resolved quite quickly and efficiently. The office should just be mindful when flights get changed that they work out if rooms need to be cancelled or booked for an extra night. Also, as well as the advise about sun protection it would be useful to be told about bringing proper rain gear as it does rain! Lastly, in Galle we stayed at the lovely KK hotel for the first 3 nights, then had to move and stayed at the Apa Villa for the last night, which is the most charming and beautiful traditional style place and a lot cheaper than KK. Much as the staff at KK were lovely, we would have probably preferred to stay at the Apa for the whole 4 nights. It is also owned by a local and we felt perhaps it would be better to give more support to local comapnies. Just a thought :-)
As per above, our driver/guide was fabulous!
I would recommend to take a driver especially if they don't have too much time as getting around can be quite slow otherwise. Also, ours was very knowledgeable about the country both in terms of culture and nature so that made every car journey, some of which were pretty long, very interesting and pleasant. Car journeys tend to be longer than planned as the roads are not always good, often with a lot of traffic and speed limits very low.
The view and the paintings in Sigiriya, suddenly spotting a young male elephant with a tusk in Minneriya Park, the painted cave temples in Dumballa, Gal Oya Lodge (despite the rain and the humidity!)