PMGY volunteer in Sri Lanka participants are based in Ambalangoda, which is a traditionally a fishing community situated on the South West Coast. Our Volunteer House is located just outside of the town centre but still in close proximity to shops and the local beach.
Ambalangoda is famous for being the major production centre for demonic wooden masks. The traditional masks were originally designed to be worn by performers in kolam and other southern Sri Lankan dances, but are now mainly used as souvenirs. Many families hang a mask on their front door to ward off evil spirits.
Participants generally volunteer on a Monday-Friday basis and the weekends are free to relax or travel further afield. As our volunteers will testify, the wider travel opportunities are extremely important to the whole experience and it is something we certainly recommend. Our local team are able to arrange activities, transport and accommodation but please note this is usually an independent experience outside of the core program.
Hikkaduwa has long been among the most popular of Sri Lanka’s beach spots. It has a lively and fun vibe, a real backpacker town. It is also your best bet for evening drinks and meals out during your time with us. The surfing in the Hikkaduwa region is quite well known and gets the best surf during dry season, November to March. Hikkaduwa was affected substantially by the 2004 tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake. Many of the families who had lost everything were given sewing machines as part of the relief operations.
Bentota is a good option for those looking for a relaxing weekend by the beach. The town’s name is derived from a mythical story which claims a demon named ‘Bem’ ruled the tota or river bank. It’s one of the more established beach resorts on the west coast of Sri Lanka with a number of activities available. You can go on a river cruise, visit a turtle hatchery, check out Sri Lanka’s tallest Buddha statue or try out some water sports. There are plenty of affordable guesthouses as well as beachside bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.
Galle is always a favourite of ours. The UNESCO World Heritage protected Galle Fort is an 18th-century Dutch walled town with chic shops, grand colonial houses and beautiful beaches. Unawatuna beach is the place to be for a lazy weekend by the sea. There are plenty of places to stay, of differing price and quality. Unawatuna has a good nightlife and a number of activities you can get up to – jet skiing, scuba diving, glass boat cruises and even surfing (although you may need to head a little further up the coast to Habaraduwa or Ahangama).
Located in the centre of the island, surrounded by green hills, Kandy is the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. The city hosts the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site. The picturesque central lake on the other side of town offers a more relaxed feel than the busy town centre. Kandy has quite a lot to do. The cultural dance shows are worth seeing, particularly combined with an evening view of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. There is also a huge botanic garden just 15 minutes out of town by bus.
YALA NATIONAL PARK
If you’re looking to witness some wildlife during your time in Sri Lanka then we recommend heading over to Yala National Park, on the southeast coast. It is home to the world’s highest density of leopards, as well as a wealth of other species – from elephants to birds. There are numerous hotels and guesthouses you can stay at if you wish to do a longer 6 hour safari as opposed to the 3-4 hour safari. We recommend you catch the sunrise safari in order to have the best chance of seeing all the animals!
Sri Lanka’s highest mountain is deeply ingrained in Sri Lankan folklore, known as Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint) because of an indentation at the summit. Adam’s Peak is a sacred spot for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The 4,800 steps to the top are trodden by people of all ages. It’s best to trek Adam’s Peak by night as its much cooler and allows you to witness the awesome sunrise. The ascent takes around 2-3 hours. Make sure you bring comfortable shoes, clothing to cover up at the summit (as it’s a religious site) and a torch!
Lovely Arugam Bay, a moon-shaped curl of soft sand, is home to a famed point break that makes this the best place for surf enthusiasts. Travellers head to this spot on the south east coast specifically for the surf and to hang out in the laid-back atmosphere. Surfboards can be rented from surf schools and guesthouses on the beach. It’s a tiny place, with a population of a few hundred. Everything is dotted along a single road parallel to the coast. It’s the epitome of the laid-back beach scene that first drew surfers and sun-seekers to Sri Lanka.
THE CULTURAL TRIANGLE
If you are keen to learn more about Sri Lankan history and have some free time to explore Sri Lanka, then it is well worth heading north. The famous cultural triangle stretches from Kandy to the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura to the north and Polonnaruwa to the east. These ancient ruined cities contain some fantastic monuments from the golden age of Sinhalese civilization. Furthermore, the extraordinary cave temples of Dambulla, the hilltop shrine of Mihintale, and the rock citadel of Sigiriya, make the long journey worthwhile.
PMGY ORGANISED WEEKEND TRIPS
PMGY operate a number of amazing weekend trips in Sri Lanka. Everything is planned for you and the group is accompanied by a PMGY member of staff who knows the country inside and out, which is the ideal way to travel. As with everything in life though it pays to be organised, so if you have your heart set on any of the trips below and would like to be guaranteed a place please book well in advance of travel.
If you’ve already signed up to one of our programs and would like to book, click the book button below. If you haven’t signed up already, you can add the weekend tour onto your trip during the online application form.
Please note places on weekend tours are non-refundable and non-transferable. If you are in-doubt about joining one of these trips then you always have the option to sign up once you have arrived in Sri Lanka. Spots are subject to availability but in the vast majority of cases there are still spots available once you are on the program and it gives you more flexibility with your travel plans.
ADVENTURE, HILL COUNTRY & SAFARI WEEKEND TRIP – 270 USD pp.
INCLUDES - PRIVATE TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, ALL MEALS & ENTRANCE FEES
The Hill Country of Sri Lanka offers you a scenic experience that can only be summed up in one word – magic. Home to striking colourful scenery, cascading waterfalls, rolling hills, breathtaking mountains, tea plantations and so much more – the Hill Country is a world away from the hot and humid coastal lowlands.
As a group, we’ll explore this incredible region, trekking up to some amazing views and witnessing some mesmerising waterfalls.
You’ll also have the chance to visit one of Sri Lanka’s top wildlife attractions – Yala National Park. Famously known for the highest concentration of Leopards in the world, Yala National Park boasts an array of fantastic wildlife such as Elephants and Sloth Bears.
DAY ONE - GALLE FORT, MIRISSA & THISSA
We’ll be up early on the Friday morning as we make way to Thissa (the gateway to Yala National Park). On the way, we’ll be stopping off at Galle Fort. A Unesco World Heritage Site, this historic city is a delight to explore on foot, an endlessly exotic old trading port blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, grand mansions and museums.
After Galle, it’s onto Mirissa. Situated on the south coast, Mirissa is a beautiful little fishing village with a picture-postcard beach setting. We’ll stop here for lunch and take in the views after a long morning of driving. In the afternoon we will make the journey to Thissa and head out to visit a local Hindu temple in the village.
DAY TWO - YALA NATIONAL PARK & ELLA
Today is an early start as we head into Yala National Park for a 5am sunrise safari. Famous for having the highest concentration of leopards in the world, Yala National Park is definitely one of the highlights of your time in Sri Lanka. After a full mornings safari we’ll head to Ella after lunch, a beautiful small backpacker-hub on the southern edge of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. We’ll take a trip Little Adam’s Peak which is located just outside of Ella Town. Its a relatively pleasant and not so strenuous 45 minute hike up to the summit of Little Adam’s Peak and the stunning views are well worth it.
DAY THREE - ELLA ROCK & NINE ARCH BRIDGE
We will be up nice and early as we embark on a sunrise hike to Ella Rock. Be prepared for breathtaking view all around you as you make your way to the famous cliff located high above Ella town. Our final port of call in Ella is the famous Nine Arch Bridge. Based on the Demodara loop, it is a spectacular feat of engineering and construction spanning 91 metres. After having lunch, we will make our way to Ravana Falls. This is you chance to witness more of Sri Lanka’s awe inspiring scenery.
CULTURAL TRIANGLE & ELEPHANTS WEEKEND TRIP – 270 USD pp.
INCLUDES - PRIVATE TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, ALL MEALS & ENTRANCE FEES
Located around the central region of Sri Lanka, The Cultural Triangle is the focal point for any visit to Sri Lanka. Although we won’t be visiting Anuradhapura and Polonnarawa due to time constraints, you will still experience 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites whilst having a chance to get up close and personal with the most gentle and enchanting of all creatures, the elephant.
DAY ONE - ELEPHANT SAFARI
We’ll be up early on the Friday morning as we make the long drive to Dambulla. Here you will have lunch before setting off on a Jeep safari in the National Park. This will be either in Minneriya National Park or Kaudulla National Park, depending on the time of year as to where the Elephants are migrating.
The National Parks gives you an incredible opportunity to spot enchanting elephants in their natural habitats. It is home to 200+ Elephants, monkeys, crocodiles and even a handful of leopards.
After your adventurous afternoon, we will then make the short journey to Sigiriya where our evening meal will be served and you will settle into your accommodation ready for your jam-packed day tomorrow.
DAY TWO - LIONS ROCK, DAMBULLA TEMPLE & SPICES
On Saturday morning, you’ll get to climb the towering rock in Sigiriya, known as Lion’s rock, and explore the wonders of this former cultural capital complete with ancient graffiti and elaborate water gardens.
After lunch, you will head over to the Golden Temple of Dambulla, where stands the huge Golden Buddha statue sat in the ‘Dhamma Chakka’ posture. It is the largest golden Buddha in the world in this position.
We will then make our way to Kandy. On-route, we will stop at Matale to learn more about Sri Lankan spice plantations and herbal massages. We will get to our accommodation in Kandy that evening.
DAY THREE - KANDY, TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH & SHOPPING
Today is an action-packed day where you will see some of Sri Lanka’s most culturally important sites. We’ll start the day by visiting the Temple of the Tooth. It was built in the 17th century and is proudly home of Buddha’s tooth. The tooth is kept in a two-story inner shrine fronted by two large elephant tusks.
The relic rests on a solid gold lotus flower, encased in jewelled caskets that sit on a throne. The temple is a beautiful sight and a highly significant place of worship for all Sri Lankans. After having lunch in Kandy we will spend the afternoon visiting the various shops in the town centre before making the drive back to Ambalangoda where we will arrive in time for dinner.
MALDIVES CHILLOUT WEEKEND TRIP (INDEPENDENT) – 750 USD pp.
INCLUDES - AIRPORT TRANSFERS, ACCOMMODATION, BREAKFAST & RETURN FLIGHTS
We can’t imagine anywhere more spectacular to chill out for a few days than the gorgeous Maldives. The 1,192 islands conjure up images of pristine beaches, azure seas and tropical reefs. Words like heaven, bliss and paradise have all been used to try and sum up what these 26 coral atolls have to offer. You will be based on the island of Maafushi for 4 days and 3 nights where you can swing on a hammock and take in the rays. For those with slightly more energy there is snorkelling, scuba diving, spas and even a spot of fishing if it took your fancy.
DAY ONE - ARRIVAL INTO MAAFUSHI
Once you arrive into Male, a team member from our hotel partner team in Maafushi will be waiting for you in the arrivals section. It will then be a 30 minute speedboat ride to Maafushi where your Maldives experience will really begin! The island itself is pretty small and you will find yourself able to walk around in about 30 minutes to get from one side to the other. Outside of the touristy beaches and the resorts, you will find the island quite traditional and conservative just like most of the other islands in the Maldives. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, cafes and even watersport options to keep you busy on Maafushi!
DAY TWO - RESORT DAY
There are many accessible island resorts a short speed boat ride away from Maafushi. So you will have plenty of options and usually, the more glamorous and inclusive the resort package is, then the more expensive it tends to be. Many of these resorts will offer all-inclusive packages covering food, drinks and logistics to and from the island. There will typically be activity options on the resort such as volleyball, and snorkelling. Alternatively, soak up the sun and enjoy pristine beaches and clear ocean views for miles.
DAY THREE - REEF HOPPING SNORKELLING TOUR
You will usually get to explore a range of beautiful and enchanting reefs during this excursion. Examples will include turtle reef, palm reef and Nemo point before finishing on the giant sandbank where you will usually convene for lunch. After the sandbank, we will head back to Maafushi where you will have the rest of your afternoon and evening at your leisure. Be sure to head to a good viewpoint to take in a true Maldives sunset! The package will usually include your snorkelling equipment, a guide, lunch, water and speedboat travel across various checkpoints and last around 5 hours.
DAY FOUR - FAREWELL MALDIVES & BACK TO SRI LANKA
Depending on your flight scheduled back to Sri Lanka, you may have some extended time across the morning and into afternoon to soak up the sun one last time in Maafushi! Regardless of your flight time, we wiill ensure you can have one final breakfast at your hotel accommodation. The team at the hotel will then ensure they arrange your speedboat back to Male in good time of your return flight back to Sri Lanka.