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 the Silk Route Lounge. You will be greeted with a cup of tea and be assisted with changing money at this time if you wish. Once your luggage is delivered to the lounge, porters will accompany you through a special VIP track to your private vehicle. Proceed to Colombo (50 minutes away) and to our hotel. Head to your room for a good night’s sleep, ready for the first day of exploration.
If you would like to have some local currency with you during your stay in Sri Lanka, the airport would be the ideal opportunity to do so, as there are a number of currency exchange counters with competitive rates, as well as ATMs which accept VISA & MasterCard. Along with a member of the airport staff, make your way over to the general arrivals hall where you can take advantage of this facility.
Once your luggage has been cleared through customs and brought to the lounge, depart the airport through a special exit, board your coach and depart on a short drive to Colombo.
Arrive in Colombo and check in at The Kingsbury for the evening.
Overnight Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.
Day 2 – Colombo
Colombo is a bustling metropolis that once functioned the main port for the Portuguese, Dutch and British. It has colourful tapestry of various cultures; from ancient Buddhist temples and stunning colonial architecture to the modern shops and art galleries.
This morning we will all meet at breakfast for a an introduction and briefing about the tour.
AM: After breakfast, we join our local host on a ‘tuk tuk’ tour of Colombo’s culture. Start from the Seema Malakaya, a floating temple located just outside the heart of Colombo where you will learn much about the Buddhist philosophy which plays an intrinsic part in the daily life of most Sri Lankans. From there head to one of the most iconic kovils in the city, built purely out of granite as a tribute to God Shiva, and then to Kochchikade church, a place where devotees of all religions gather in search of solace. Wind our way through the bustling streets of Pettah, where everything and anything you can possibly imagine can be found in any of the hundred shops you will encounter. Stop and enjoy a cup of masala chai as our guide explains the history behind the area.
Lunch at the Gallery Café . (Paradise Road) The Gallery Café is housed in the former offices of world-renowned Sri Lankan architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa.
After lunch, for those that wish, we will visit Barefoot Gallery. Barefoot products are designed in Sri Lanka and every item is designed and made either by workers at home or 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 return to the hotel for evening cocktails and canapes. After this, you can dine at the hotel if you wish (to own account), wander over to The Ministry of Crab (a Sri Lankan institution) or retire after a fabulous – but busy – day.
Overnight Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. (B / L / Cocktails & Canapes)
Day 3 – Anuradhapura
This morning after breakfast we travel to Anuradhapura.
En-route we visit the Selyn Fairtrade Handloom Factory in Kurunegala for a guided experience including visits to its dying plant and handloom village. 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 at Saruketha.
Continue on for a visit to UNESCO Dambulla Golden Temple & Cave complex. 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 surrounding area. Five of the caves contain ancient statues and paintings related to and depicting Lord Buddha and his life. The climb from the base is not strenuous – and can be done at a leisurely pace. It takes approximately 30 minutes – there are approximately 200 steps. You will need to cover your knees and shoulders – and access the inner chambers barefoot or with socks.
We then arrive at our gorgeous accommodation – Ulagalla Resort. We dine in the hotel restaurant this evening.
Overnight Ulagalla Resort. (B / D)
Day 4 – Anuradhapura
Dating back to the fourth century BC, Anuradhapura was the first civilization to be built in Sri Lanka and remained the spiritual and secular capital of the island for well over a millennium. Anuradhapura contains some of the island’s most sacred Buddhist shrines and was established around a cutting said to be from the fig tree under which the Buddha sat and gained enlightenment. This cutting – the Sri Maha Bodhi – is Anuradhapura’s spiritual heart and is thought to be one of the world’s oldest trees. The extensive ancient ruins of Anuradhapura cover 40sqkm: you will find three colossal tanks, enormous, towering dagobas, the remains of a palace, Isurumuniya Vihara rock temple and Royal Pleasure Gardens. At its height, the city was dotted with monasteries and home to over 10,000 monks.
This morning we will tuk-tuk through the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura; alongside scenic paddy fields, hidden villages and cleverly thought-out irrigation systems. Pedal around some of the most architecturally stunning structures including Abayagiri Dagoba, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. You will also visit the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, a branch of the historical Sri Maha Bodhi in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment.
We return to the hotel for an afternoon of leisure. Swim, relax, read, spa…..
Overnight Ulagalla Resort. (B / D)
**There will be an option to climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Sigiriya, known as Lion Rock, was built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. A palace; a rock fortress; the hidden castle of King Kasyapa; a Buddhist monastery from the 14th century. Sigiriya consists of 1200 steps. The first part is a leisurely walk through the pleasure gardens. Then you start to climb. The entire duration of the experience takes approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the speed at which you want to climb. Cost will be dependent on the number of people wishing to join.
Day 5 – Kandy
After breakfast we leave for Kandy.
En-route, we visit a Sri Lankan garden for a hosted walking tour followed by a delicious home-cooked meal. The Sri Lankan garden is a working spice and fruit farm, nestled in a rural village in Matale. Set on the upper half of a mountain on fifteen and a half acres, the garden is filled with Pepper, Nutmeg, Cocoa, Coffee, Papaya, Jackfruit, Passion fruit, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Banana, Coconut, Rubber, Teak and Mahogany. We will be greeted by the planter with fresh juice sourced from the farm, then go on an easy walk with the planter to learn about the crops and trees. Then we enjoy a delicious, traditional home cooked rice and curry lunch, prepared with fresh herbs and vegetables sourced mainly from the plantation. The planter will join us for lunch and share his knowledge on the exotic vegetables and herbs.
We continue onto Kandy, and check into our boutique lodgings for the night – The Radh Hotel.
After a rest and refresh, we will whip out and visit the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic and the local markets. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple located in the royal palace complex which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple & rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings.
We will have a walk around the Central Markets – where we will predominantly find consumable goods like fruits, spices, and local delights.
Overnight The Radh Boutique Hotel (B / L)
Day 6 – Tea Country
After a leisurely breakfast we transfer to the Railway Station to catch the train (departing at 11.10am) to Nuwara Eliya’s Nanu Oya Station (arriving approx. 12.45pm). Our van will pick us up at the Nanu Oya Station and transfer us to Heritance Tea Factory (approx. 01 hour away).
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. *Please note: the Railways Authority only release tickets 2 weeks prior, so if tickets are unavailable we will travel by road.
Overnight Heritance Tea Factory. (B / Boxed Lunch / Dinner)
Day 7 – Tea Country
This morning after breakfast, don a saree, be provided with a basket and collect your own leaves. We will be taken out to the organic tea fields and shown which leaves to pluck. You’ll find that it takes a bit of practice to make sure the leaves end up in your basket rather than on the floor! Professional tea pluckers will accompany you – you’ll be amazed at how efficiently and quickly they manage to fill their baskets by comparison. 15kg a day that is their target. Return to the Heritance Mini Tea Factory, where the chief tea taster will inspect our efforts and reject any leaves that are unsuitable. We will be taken on a tour of the Mini Tea Factory and learn about the whole process; from the initial drying of the leaves, through rolling, fermenting and sifting, to produce the different types of tea.
Tea tasting is the process in which a trained taster determines the quality of a particular tea. Due to climatic conditions, topography, manufacturing process, and different clones of the Camellia sinensis plant (tea), the final product may have vastly differing flavours’ and appearance. These differences can be tasted by a trained taster in order to ascertain the quality prior to sale. A tea taster uses a large spoon and noisily slurps the liquid into his/her mouth – this ensures that both the tea and plenty of oxygen is passed over all the taste receptors on the tongue to give an even taste profile of the tea. The liquid is then usually spat back out into a spittoon before moving onto the next sample to taste. The flavour characteristics and indeed leaf colour, size and shape are graded using a specific language created by the tea industry to explain the overall quality.
Our afternoon is free to relax in these gorgeous surroundings. Heritance is high in the mountains of Nuwara Eliya. The expanse of the former withering loft – where fresh leaves were laid to dry, now serves as 54 cosy havens of rest for guests. Tall windows that once aided the drying process still maintain their role as providers of natural light – the views; breath-taking as ever, now have avid admirers to ponder them. The stately charms of yesteryear also linger in the dark wood and light linen décor – good nights, colonial style. So take time out to rest, read or visit the spa for a massage or Sri Lankan style Therapy.
Overnight Heritance Tea Factory. (B / Lunch / Dinner)
Day 8 – Yala
Today is a relatively big travel day, so after breakfast, we will transfer at leisure to Yala.
We will stop en-route at Jetwing Kaduruketha for a light snack (03 ½ hours away – to own account)
Continue to Jetwing Yala (about 2.5 hours away).
Check-in to Jetwing Yala, and our afternoon is free. Jetwing Yala is on the southern coastline and comes with the benefit of direct beach access. There is also a lovely and large swimming pool. There is also Step the blissful sanctuary of the spa, where you can enjoy luxurious treatments designed to relax, refresh and revitalise you by the seas of Sri Lanka.
Overnight Jetwing Yala (B)
Day 9 – Yala NP
This morning we enjoy a private wildlife safari from 0600am to 0900am at the Yala National Park (about 15 minutes away). You can either take with a package breakfast with you, or return after the safari and enjoy breakfast at the hotel.
Yala National Park is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka, covering 979 square kilometres. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka.
At the meeting point ie the entrance gates of Yala National Park, we will meet our tracker and driver who will take us on a 2.5 to 3 hour game drive into the National Park. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The experience is designed to make you experience the spirit of Yala, with knowledgeable trekkers and disciplined drivers. The park is teeming with elephants, leopards, wild boar, spotted deer, crocodiles and jackals.
This afternoon, we can enjoy another private wildlife safari from 1500pm to 1800pm in the National Park.
Overnight Jetwing Yala (B / D)
Day 10 – Galle
After breakfast, we proceed to Galle.
En-route, we visit a Cinnamon Plantation (03 ½ hours away) for an exclusive hosted experience to learn the ‘story of Cinnamon’ followed by lunch. The gentle coastal hills of southern Sri Lanka are especially suited to the growth of cinnamon and remains a major export of Sri Lanka. Eulogized in poetry from the Song of Solomon to Michael Ondaatje, more than any spice it has become subject of romance. A local cinnamon planter will greet us with a cinnamon infused juice before we make the climb to the estate. We encounter local peelers from the estate and nearby small-holdings gathered at a shed to process and extract cinnamon oil. There are many women peelers at work and at times the entire family gets involved. Observe the peelers at work, hear about the uses and healing properties of cinnamon and it’s grading.
Continue to Galle, and check into the Le Grand Galle, our lovely accommodation for the next 2 nights. Our afternoon and evening is at leisure. For those that wish, we can wander down to the Old Fort and have afternoon drinks at the Galle Fort Hotel. (own account). And we can then enjoy dinner at Fortaleza. (own account).
Overnight Le Grand Galle (B / L)
Day 11 – Galle
This morning, meet our local host and enjoy a walking tour of UNESCO Galle Dutch Fort.
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 start our walk from the new entrance of the Galle Fort and wander along three of the 14 bastions, all with mount canons to protect it from outside invasions. Each bastion has its unique set of characteristics – the moon bastion showcases 19 canons, the largest number in the fort and the Black Fort which was believed to have housed firearms and gun powder. We will stroll through cobblestoned pathways and navigate the cafes, hotels and charming old houses owned by generations of Galle families to get an insight in to their lives, culture and history.
We then have a private lunch at the home of renowned gem expert, gem merchant and 04th generation resident of the Dutch Fort, Ifthikar Mahuroof. Spend a few hours in conversation with one of the most remarkable authorities on coloured stones and mining of our times, in a warm and cozy residence just minutes from the Galle Fort. A philosopher and a philanthropist, Ifthikar has travelled to all corners of the world, his family having ties with the international community since the 17th century through the world of diplomacy and trade. Ifthikar’s own journey as ‘Sri Lanka’s Gem King’ and the world’s greatest traveller, has been remarkable. His wife, Shahira cooks up a storm of the most fresh and delicate seafood in a wonderful home cooked spread.
Return to our hotel for an afternoon / evening of leisure.
Overnight Le Grand Galle (B / L)
Day 12 – Kosgoda
After a leisurely breakfast, free time and a return to the old Fort if you wish, we continue to Koggala (approx. 01.5 hours away) mid afternoon.
We check-in to our lovely accommodation, The Habitat, and our afternoon is free. The Habitat is situated on a sparkling stretch of sandy beach, giving you the most contemporary of comforts, all with a touch of magic. Spend your afternoon whiling away the hours in the gorgeous pool, with poolside dining, tropical concoctions and the Indian Ocean just steps away. Or indulge in the Ayu Spa. Ayu offers ancient healing, soothing rituals, calming aromatherapy and much more.
Overnight The Habitat (B)
Day 13 – Kosgoda
Today is a full day of pure leisure, rest and relaxation. Spend the day around the pool, walking along the beach, or in the Spa.
You can also have an optional visit to the Turtle Conservation Hatchery. The Turtle Care Centre at Kosgoda beach is one of 18 turtle hatcheries along the southern coast and was established in 1981. It is also very popular as all five species of turtles that visit Sri Lanka nest in Kosgoda. This is not so with many of the other hatcheries around the island whose beaches host only some of the species. The centre functions mainly as a hatchery and makes huge efforts to increase the rate of hatching, and survival of baby turtles in their very initial stages. However, the Care centre also works on sick or injured adults; treating them and releasing them back into the ocean. They also run volunteer programs and awareness programs for local and international visitors.
This evening we will meet for a cocktail in Moonu, and enjoy our farwell dinner in Salt.
Overnight The Habitat (B / D)
Day 14 – Departure
This morning after breakfast, we depart to the Colombo Airport (approx 02.5 hours away).
Thank you for sharing this extraordinary journey with us.