Tour Companies specializing in Sri Lanka

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<p>We will be starting a cruise in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Nov 3 and we plan on arriving earlier in order to see some of Sri Lanka. Does anyone have suggestions for Tour Companies that work in the area. I have talked with Third Eye Travel and I can see from a recent posting that those that used their service were very pleased. I have also talked with Exotic Journeys and Goway Travel. Anyone with experiences with these companies or others?I would love to hear from you.<br /> Our cruise is on The Spirit of Adventure 300 people capacity. It is with Saga Cruises. This is our first experience with them. Have any of you gone on any cruises with them? </p>

Another company you might contact is Ceylon Express International at www.ceylonexpress.com. I haven't used them--I traveled to Sri Lanka with Adventures Abroad--but I've heard good things about them, and I believe they specialize in Sri Lanka, as their name suggests. It would be even better if you could get the names of the local operators that these companies use, so you could contact them directly and probably save quite a bit.
According to some data I've seen, November is one of the rainiest months there, so bear that in mind.

Its been about 6 years since I've been to Sri Lanka, but I hope this information will be of help. I kept notes on the trip as it was such a good experience!
I traveled with a British tour company on a two-week trip and this is the local company they used:
Ncar Travels and Tours Ltd.
www.ncartravelhouse.com
Most of our hotels were good to excellent, and I’ve listed some of the better ones.
Nuwara Eliya:
This is a Hill Station with a British Theme -- it is like being in the English countryside. Look for an alley off one of the main streets with about 20 stalls selling (very inexpensive) Colombia Sportswear, which is made in Sri Lanka.
We stayed at:
Galway Forest Lodge
www.galway.lk
But you might want to request a stay at the Grand Hotel
www.tangerinehotels.com/Grand_Hotel_Nuwara_Eliya/index.htm
It is a 100 year old heritage property and the former residence of the British Governor of Sri Lanka. They have a dinner buffet which is supposed to be wonderful.
Kataragama (for Yala National Park):
Mandara Rosen Renaissance Hotel
www.rosenhotelsrilanka.com
This was a complete surprise. It is a smallish, quiet town, near Yala National Park which is known for leopards and a famous shrine dedicated to Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Hence, it attracts businessmen to the area. Rates on the weekend are higher as that is when the businessmen come to worship. Rates during the week are more moderate. Their swimming pool has underwater music! It was one of the nicest place we stayed in Sri Lanka and a good stop. All the rooms had balconies or patios.
Colombo:
Galle Face Hotel
2 Galle Road
tel/fax: 047-223-6030-3
www.gallefacehotel.com
We didn’t stay here, but I stopped in for lunch. It is a wonderful 140 year old Colonial style hotel and THE place for weddings, so chances are very good you will see one. It sits at one end of a wide beach and boardwalk style area.
Sigiriya:
Hotel Sigiriya
www.serendibleisure.com
From the restaurant and the pool, you can see Sigiriya Rock. Everyone can make it half way up to see the frescoes, but many go to the very top to see the Royal Palace archaeological site and the views. It is easier if it is not too hot a day.
Kandy:
We stayed at the Hotel Thilanka, which is well located, but past its prime. I am sure there are more updated places to stay.
www.thilankahotel.com
There is a Traditional Dance Show in Kandy just about every night.
Pinnewela and The Elephant Orphanage:
This is a must. The orphanage is located at Pinnewela, about an hour from Kandy. They have elephants of all ages, many of them rescued from the logging industry, They post the schedule for the hand-feeding of baby elephants, which occurs several times a day.
Our guide arranged for lunch on the terrace at the Pinnalanda Restaurant. At about 1:00, they bring about 100+ elephants for a bath in the river and you can watch them as you have lunch.
Food
Service in Sri Lanka is slow. So almost all restaurants have B, L and Dinner buffets. If you order off the menu, it takes about 45 minutes. We always ate from the buffets, which were good. Food is not expensive in Sri Lanka and it is less spicy that that of South India. I ate the salads with no problem, which was nice.
Shopping
Sri Lanka has wonderful gemstones, especially sapphires (blue, pink and yellow), rubies and star sapphires and aquamarine. They also mine a very rare stone called Alexandrite - which runs from $600 to $2000 a carat! If you buy gems, request a customs certificate which certifies the dealer has paid the tax, otherwise you might be taxed on your way out. Our guide told us to request three receipts: a receipt for the amount paid, a certificate of authenticity and the customs (tax) receipt.
Though you won't be in the industrial areas of the island, just be aware of the factories and the labels you might see in the markets:
http://srilanka-apparel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=60
Items might be seconds, so look everything over carefully.
I hope this helps in your Sri Lanka planning -- it is a wonderful destination, with kind, friendly people and an interesting culture to explore.