Day 1 – Arrive Colombo.
Welcome to Sri Lanka.
On arrival, our Representative will meet you and you will be fast-track all the way through immigration and escorted to a reserved Lounge. Refreshments will be provided at the lounge while your luggage is collected from the belt and taken through customs on your behalf by the staff at the airport. Proceed to Colombo (40 odd minutes away) and to our hotel. Head to your room for a good night’s sleep, ready for the first day of exploration.
Overnight Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.
Day 2 – Colombo
This morning we will all meet for breakfast for and have a quick briefing about the tour.
After breakfast, we join our local host and drive to Number 11, the private home of Geoffrey Bawa. He is perhaps the most celebrated & influential Asian architect of the twentieth century whose prominent styles are made visible across the island. His most prolific designs have influenced many hotels and public buildings. We arrive at the house for a guided tour of the house with a member of the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, who will take us through the history and background of the building and Geoffrey Bawa.
We will visit Barefoot Gallery, an iconic brand in the Sri Lankan textile industry started by Barbara Sansoni over 50 years ago. Working almost exclusively with women in small workshops throughout Sri Lanka, Barefoot products are all made and designed in Sri Lanka by local artists and craftsmen. There are no factories and no production lines; each worker is responsible for the quality of his or her final product. We will stay at their garden cafe for an alfresco lunch.
Around 04:00 PM you will meet with resident host Mark Forbes as he takes you through the glory days of the Colombo Fort, on a journey back in time where we learn about the days of colonization of Ceylon and the spice route trade network. The walk places focus on photography, architecture and history in two stages; stage one covers the Fort while stage two covers the Pettah markets. The walk includes a break for tea and stops along the way to sample street food. Water will be provided if required along the way. The walk ends at the Old Dutch Hospital.
We return to the hotel for the evening and for dinner.
We can meet earlier in The Travellers Bar for pre-dinner cocktails
Overnight Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. (B / L / D)
Day 3 – Anuradhapura
This morning after breakfast we travel to the North Central province of Sri Lanka, a drive of around 5 hours (with comfort stops along the way)
En-route we visit the Selyn Fairtrade Handloom Factory in Kurunegala. Founded in 1991, Selyn started its work with 15 women and now has nearly 1000 members within its organisation. It is a social business based on the principles of Fairtrade in order to uplift the living standards of rural women (and men), by providing them with sustainable employment while keeping alive the local tradition of the handloom.
We stop for a bit to eat (own account) at a local restaurant.
We continue to our gorgeous accommodation – Uga Ulagalla Resort. Ulugalla offers a unique luxury experience amidst a natural, remote, uninhabited environment. The exquisite resort is a vast ancestral estate of Anuradhapura nobility, which has a 150-year-old mansion as its center with just 25 privately ecologically built chalets across 58 acres of lakes, farm and grassland, boasting a Leeds Green Certificate and Solar Farm.
After check in, we have the afternoon to lap up our stunning surroundings. There’s an onsite archery range (staff will lend you all the kit) in the gardens; set off on a nature walk along the two reservoirs adjoining the resort (keep your ears and eyes peeled for elephants); take your bikes and cycle to the local village; or borrow kayaks and take to the water.
We dine together in The Liyawela Restaurant together this evening.
Overnight Ulagalla. (B / D)
Day 4 – Anuradhapura
This morning after breakfast we drive (approx) 40 minutes’ drive to Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and undoubtedly the grandest city of the ancient Ceylon. It is also the home of two World Heritage sites. Explore the Brazen Palace (2nd century BC) with its 1,600 intact stone columns (all that is left of a magnificent multi-storied residence for monks). Ruwanweliseya, also dating from the 2nd century BC is the most famous of all the dagobas. It originally depicted the perfect “bubble shape” that modern restoration has not been able to accurately reproduce. We view the Samadhi Buddha statue (4th century), which is one of the most famous statues, depicting the Buddha in a state of Samadhi or deep meditation. Then to the Isurumuniya Rock Temple (3rd century BC), which is well known for its rock carvings of “The Lovers” and Kuttam Pokuna—an ancient bath used by the capital’s Buddhist monks.
We visit the Ruwanweliseya Stupa & Sri Maha Bodhiya (sacred tree) to mingle with devotees and catch the evening ceremonies & rituals. The temple is built around the oldest documented tree dating over 2000 years, significant and revered as the sacred Bodhi Tree or Sri Maha Bodhi under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Abandoned after an invasion in 993 AD, this major pilgrimage place has some of the tallest dagobas, and remains of palaces, monasteries and temples.
We will have a light lunch en-route back to the hotel where you have an afternoon of leisure.
Swim, relax, read, spa….. The resort is yours to enjoy.
This evening, we enjoy a ‘kamatha‘ dining experience.
Overnight Uga Ulugalla. (B / D)
Day 5 – Sigiriya
After breakfast we check out of our resort and drive towards Sigiriya, approximately 1.5 hour’s drive away. About 50 minutes into the drive stop by the rural village of Patikara Maduwa, where we meet a guru in the ancient indigenous martial arts system known as Angampora (Vishuddhi). This technique was used to protect Buddhism and the ancient kingdoms from foreign invasions. We witness a high-flying exhibition of martial arts by his students.
Then to our resort; we check in at the mesmerizing Water Garden. Water Garden is a lovely watery wonderland that puts the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya centre stage. Landscaped grounds with a multitude of ponds and streams take inspiration from Sigiriya’s 2,000-year-old water gardens; you can eye up the famous fortress as you explore them. A tranquil spa, relaxed restaurant and two-floor bar are also highlights.
Have the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
We can meet at the Twin Level Bar fore a pre-dinner cocktail (*own account) before we dine together at The Main Restaurant.
Overnight Water Garden Sigiriya. (B / D)
Day 6 – Sigiriya – Minneriya
This morning we attempt(!) to conquer the magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Sigiriya Rock Fortress, also known as ‘Lion Rock’, was constructed on top of a boulder in the 5th Century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. King Kasyapa built this amazing hidden rock palace with its protective garrisons, a crocodile-filled moat and a complex with beautifully landscaped pleasure gardens. During the climb, you will get the chance to learn about the many different theories around the magnificent palace. The climb consists of approximately 1200 steps. The first part of the visit is a leisurely walk through the pleasure gardens. When we start to climb, there are two areas where we can take a break on the way up and enjoy the stunning views.
Along the way, there are several highlights which you will encounter, including the cave shelters, the mirror wall, the fresco cave and the royal palace ruin at the summit of the rock. The duration of the visit will take approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the speed at which you prefer to climb. When you are back at the base of Sigiriya you will be served with fresh fruits, water and wet/dry towels to refresh yourself after the climb. The site can also be enjoyed from ground level that is well laid out with nice gardens and a Museum containing a video representation of the entire site. You will be treated with freshly cut fruits and wet towels as you descend the rock.
Following our morning’s sightseeing, we enjoy a traditional home-cooked Sri Lankan meal at a rural café, prepared using a wood fire, and clay pots.
After lunch we drive to the Minneriya National Park for the afternoon jeep safari, 45min away from Polonnaruwa. This National Park is famous for large wild herds of elephants that congregate on the edge of rivers and reservoirs to bathe and socialize, these are the best parks in Sri Lanka to see wild elephants. Minneriya covers 8,890 hectares and consists of a mixed forest of evergreen shrubs. Keep an eye out for deer and monkeys as well, including the purple-faced langur and macaques. Depending on the movement of the herds our guide will decide if we visit the Minneriya/ Kaudulla or Eco Parks this afternoon.
Return to the hotel as dusk falls and enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Overnight Water Garden Sigiriya. (B / L / D)
Day 7 – Habarana – Dambulla – Matale – Kandy
This morning after breakfast we leave for Kandy.
En route you would visit the Dambulla Caves and Spice Gardens in Matale.
The Dambulla Cave Temples are the largest and best-preserved rock cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, towering 160 m over the surrounding plains with more than 80 documented caves in the complex. The site is of particular interest to anyone interested in historic art, as five of the caves contain ancient statues and paintings related to, and depicting Lord Buddha and his life. Legend has it that the sacred water pot inside the temple never runs dry nor overflows even though it is consistently refilled by a small natural spring on the rock itself. The climb from the base is not strenuous – and can be done at a leisurely pace. It takes approximately 30 minutes.
We continue our journey towards Matale and visit a Spice Garden. Sri Lanka is the capital of a rich variety of spices that determined its history, being the cause of many invasions. Fragrant clove, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, pepper, cocoa and vanilla amongst others account for a diversity of cooking styles and applications. Learn how different spices are grown and grasp the opportunity of experiencing a hands-on cooking class before we sit down for an authentic Sri Lankan lunch, cooked using the same herbs and spices grown in the garden.
We continue to Kandy.
As we arrive in Kandy, we visit a local artist in her home which is accessed by walking through a working Tea Plantation. She is a mother and she now supports her family with her creative gift of artistry. She is involved in painting on fabrics, Batik art and creating a range of uncommon but innovative handicrafts, using natural resources and day-to-day waste to ensure environmentally friendly products. Here, we can learn about the handicraft and batik trades in Sri Lanka, and how the olden methods of artistry are threatened due to urbanization, free market movements and lifestyles, and what some of them are doing to keep the trade alive, and to carry the traditions forward.
Tonight we can meet in the restaurant for a glass of wine and a meal if you wish (to own account), or get an early night.
Overnight Jetwing Kandy Gallery (B / L / D)
Day 8 – Kandy
Today, we explore Kandy.
To begin, we visit the Suriyakantha Centre for Arts and Culture for lunch. The “Suriyakantha Centre for Arts & Culture” is established within the 18th century “Walawwa” or an ancient village chief’s residence. The Walawwa, inspired by quintessential Dutch architecture houses an interesting panoply of ancient books, Buddhist manuscripts, photography, collection of ancient and traditional furniture and wall paintings. We meet with Professor Jacques Soulie, a French national who has been residing in Sri Lanka for over 40 years is a co-founder. The Professor personally welcomes us to this establishment where he proudly takes us through the different sections of the house and helps us discover a piece of Sri Lankan history. Together with the Professor, we enjoy a delicious Sri Lankan rice & curry lunch.
After lunch, we visit the Temple of the Tooth which is the most sacred temple of the local Buddhists. It is also known as the ‘Dalada Maligawa’ in Kandy and is one of the most venerated places of worship for Buddhists. Built-in the 16th century, this temple houses the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Meghavarna (301-328). The relic is encased in seven caskets, one kept inside the other, the utmost of which has a shape of a stupa, adorned with a large number of gold ornaments. Several buildings have been added to the temple complex by successive rulers, the latest being the Golden Canopy over the inner shrine where the Tooth Relic is placed. Originally the Temple was within the King’s palace complex as it was the symbol of Royal Authority.
Overnight Jetwing Kandy Gallery (B / L / D)
Day 9 – Tea Country
After a leisurely breakfast we transfer to the Railway Station to catch the train to Hatton Train Station. (Our van will transfer our luggage and pick us up at the Station before transferring us to our exquisite lodgings. From Hatton Station, it is an approximate hour’s drive to our accommodation)
This is one of the most scenic train rides in Asia. The dramatic landscape of the highlands alight as we wind past lush tea plantations, majestic peaks and rushing waterfalls. Do not expect white gloves and silver service though! That said, the train ride is fabulous in that it is an everyday experience for Sri Lankans of all walks of life.
Our incredible accommodation for the next two nights is Ceylon Tea Trails. Tea Trails is a sprawling tea estate in Hill Country dotted with luxurious tea-planter bungalows. It is perched at an altitude of 4,000 feet, bordering the World Heritage Central Highlands. This is the ideal setting to unwind, and observe life on a working tea estate against the breathtaking backdrop of mountains, lakes, winding roads and waterfalls. The bungalows that now comprise this exclusive resort were some of the first constructed in Ceylon’s tea country and named after the Chinese village from which the area’s first tea seedlings originated. They were originally built for the British tea estate managers and their families in the days of the Raj.
The idea is to disconnect and lose yourself in time while enjoying the pristine scenery. The bungalows date back as far as 1888 and are individually designed to suit their heritage. Think beautiful gardens, lawn croquet and wrap-around terraces where you can easily while away hours enjoying the views from your traditional cane chair. Each bungalow has a butler and executive chef who will take care of your every need, discussing the day´s menu and activities available over breakfast.
This is the ideal setting for trekking and biking against the breathtaking backdrop of mountains, lakes, winding roads and waterfalls. If you prefer to unwind, observe life on a working tea estate while being pampered by your butler, enjoy a spa treatment, croquet on the lawn or sunbathe alongside the pool. Or explore the lush tea fields & visit a century old factory for a gentle education in the art of Ceylon Tea.
Overnight Ceylon Tea Trails (B / Lunch / Afternoon Tea / Dinner / Drinks)
Day 10 – Tea Country
This morning we can visit a working tea factory with one of Tea Trails resident planters. The resident Tea Planter passionately delves into all aspects of tea in just the right amount of detail – from a look back to the early days of “planting” and the lifestyles of the early colonial settlers, to the manufacturing process, to how flavours are created to suit various palates.
You will learn about how different types of teas are created. You will be taken through the entire process – from the drying of the green leaf to the process of dehumidifying and provoking the chemical reaction that turns green leaf into tea, to the segmenting of the different particles which result in the different grades, to finally the packing and distribution.
Your afternoon is free to relax in the gorgeous surroundings of Tea Trails.
Alternatively, you can organise any of the following activities:
– Kayaking on Castlereagh lake: enjoy magnificent views of tea-carpeted mountains as you paddle along the Castlereagh lake in hi-spec kayaks. *Kayaking is done in the company of a resident trail guide.
– Take a scenic walk: the five bungalows features walking trails between them, many of which present stunning views. The trails snake through beautifully manicured tea gardens, tranquil patches of forest and jungle, and pass streams and mini waterfalls. Walking is a delightful way of experiencing our stunning landscapes, lush and exotic flora, abundant birdlife and the sweet rhythm of life in a tea garden. A guest favourite is to walk the trails from one bungalow to another for lunch or tea. *Transport back to your bungalow can be arranged with prior notice.
– Mountain Biking: the unspoiled beauty of the surrounding valleys and hills are a great biking experience. For adrenaline seekers of different levels of ability, there are mountain bikes in the bungalows for your use. For short distance rides you can go on your own but for longer rides, it is recommended you take one of the guides along. *Transport back to your bungalow from other bungalows can be arranged with prior notice. You can also arrange to have lunch or high tea in another bungalow.
– Spa Treatments: enjoy a special aromatic bath to begin or complete your day…or just as an indulgence whenever you so please. Choose from Cinnamon Spice, Green Tea, Black Pepper & Orange, Jasmine or a Bergamot & Geranium Bath. Or luxuriate in a spa treatment in the privacy and the comfort of your room after a hike or bike ride and soothe any aches and pains away. Treatments include the Tea Trails Signature Massage, Deep Tissue Massage & Reflex Zone Therapy.
Overnight Ceylon Tea Trails. (B / Lunch / Afternoon Tea / Dinner)
Day 11 – To Galle
Today is a big travel day, so after breakfast, we will begin our transfer to Galle.
Today’s drive will be approx 5 hours – but we will stop en-route for bathroom breaks and light snacks.
(Alternatively, you have the option of boarding the Cinnamon Air flight from Castlereagh to Koggala – flight duration 30 min. This is an additional cost. Details offered at booking.)
Continue to Le Grand Galle, and after check in, your evening is free. Le Grand Galle is located about a 10-minute walk from Galle Fort and Galle Light house. Nestled on a majestic cliff edge, the hotel has spectacular views of the ocean and the iconic UNESCO Heritage site, Galle Fort.
As today is a huge day, we have left the evening free for you to retire to your rooms with room service if you wish.
Overnight Le Grand Galle (B)
Day 12 – Galle
This morning, meet our local host and enjoy a walking tour of UNESCO Galle Dutch Fort. The walk focuses on the host’s experience of growing up in the Fort and presenting it not as a tourist attraction, but an extension of his “home” – a home filled with history, heritage, cultural integration and soul. Through his eyes and narrative, explore the layers of the social fabric of a multi-ethnic melting pot of why Galle Fort is significant to world heritage.
Recognized as one of the few remaining living forts in the world, the 17th century fort in Galle covers nearly 150 acres of land and houses over 400 buildings. Initially built by the Portuguese, the fort was later fortified by the Dutch and then taken over by the British in the 1800s. The entrance of the fort still has the coat of arms of the Dutch owned VOC and the British insignia. We visit historic points of interests, like ancient churches, mosques and museums, walk the Fort’s ramparts at sunset, and explore the cobble-stone streets. Walk the nooks and crannies off the commercial tourist routes and soak up the vibe of one of the most unique places in the world. Our Host is a direct descendant of one of the first gem merchants of the Fort – Sri Lankan gems were a key draw, along with spices, for merchants and tourists during the Fort’s glory days.
We will have lunch within the old Fort surrounds, and then your afternoon is free to wander, shop, and discover more; or head back to the hotel for a swim and spa.
This evening we will wander down to the Old Fort and have pre-dinner drinks at the Galle Fort Hotel where we will reminisce about our amazing journey through the Tear Drop Island.(own account). Then we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at the likes of Fortaleza.
Overnight Le Grand Galle (B / L / D)
Day 13 – Departure
After a leisurely breakfast, check out and drive to Negombo (2.5 hours).
En-route we will stop by the Lunuganga Estate which is a masterpiece of Sri Lankan architecture. The Estate was once the country residence of the world-renowned Sri Lankan architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa. The garden was once a 25-acre rubber estate and was bought by Bawa in 1948, which he converted into a garden paradise after decades of careful, exquisite and creative thought and design. Lunuganga reflects Bawa’s legacy through his dedication to architecture and also reflects his life’s work. The Estate is an inspiring place to visit and savor, with astonishing views and beautiful interiors, with many original Bawa artworks and blueprints on the walls. This visit is a rare opportunity to step inside the private life of one of the world’s most celebrated architects – a man dubbed as “the father of Asian architecture”. You will sit for a flavorful Sri Lankan meal in the gardens at the end of the garden tour.
After lunch we proceed to The Wallawwa and check in for some downtime an refreshing before our International flights.
Freshen up before our VIP Departure Service to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in time for your international flight home.
*Rooms have been booked at The Wallawwa, located about 15 minutes from the International Airport. Set in 200-year-old tropical gardens, it is an 18-bedroom manor house hotel with gourmet food, jungle pool and heavenly spa. It is the perfect place to rest up, eat well and enjoy the spa facilities before your over-night departure.
Day Rooms: The Wallawwa (B)