Day 1 – Arrive Colombo.
Welcome to Sri Lanka.
On arrival, you will be met and fast-tracked through immigration then escorted to the Silk Route 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. Once your luggage is delivered to the lounge, porters will accompany you through a special VIP track to your private vehicle. You will meet your National Guide – who will be with us throughout the journey. Transfer to Colombo (approx. 50 minutes away) and to our hotel.
Arrive in Colombo and check in at The Kingsbury (or similar) for the evening. Overnight Colombo.
Day 2 – To Kandy & Santani Wellness Resort & Spa
This morning we all meet at breakfast for an introduction and briefing about the tour. We will then board our private coach and take a scenic drive to the hill capital of the island, Kandy.
We will travel the A1 Highway, popularly known as Kandy Road, the first modern highway built on the island which stretches over 100kms. Starting at the city chaos of Colombo, the road winds through villages, ancient ruins, and stone carved tunnels before making the final ascent to Kandy. With a drastically changing environment in the course of the 4 odd hour drive, Kandy road is a beacon of Sri Lankan history, culture, and sheer scenic wonders.
Down the highway, we will keep an eye out for the vibrantly dressed women on the sides of the road selling cashews around the village of Kajugama. Kajugama, literally translating to ‘Cashew Town’, is a small village that earns its income solely through cultivating and selling cashews to tourists in the area; the women – Kadju girls as they are commonly called – have been selling cashews for generations. Since there are no detours needed and everybody loves a little snack, we will make a quick stop before driving down the road to Kandy.
We travel through the village of Wewaldeniya – recognized as the heart of the cane industry of Sri Lanka. In fact, ‘Wewal’ in Sinhala means cane. You will know when you have entered its territories as you will see a large number of small roadside shops brimming with cane products of various shapes and sizes.
Time permitting, we will make a stop at Mologoda – considered to be the oldest potter’s village in Sri Lanka. There are more than 50 families engaging in manual clay pottery; passed on down from generations. From pots of varying shapes and sizes to decorative vases, urns, bowls, stands, jugs and goblets, lampshades, birdbaths and even garden ornaments, the potters of Molagoda are proud of their trade.
The ascent to Kandy is simply quite extraordinary. The city is cupped with a ring of mountains surrounding it, acting as a natural fortress. The road ascends these mountains at Kadugannawa Pass and takes you through a series of hairpin bends, the last of which leads to a rock tunnel. Continue through the tunnel, over mountains and across the bridge that is built over River Mahaweli, the longest and largest in the country.
We then journey towards Santani Wellness Resort & Spa. This will be our incredible stay for the next three nights. Nestled in a lush valley between the Knuckles Mountain Range (a UNESCO Heritage site) and Campbell’s Lane Forest Reserve, Santani is set on a remote, 48-acre former tea plantation. Santani is Sanskrit for harmony, and this philosophy drives everything at the hotel. Everything at Santani is geared towards achieving harmony; like finding a balance between active yoga sessions and restorative Ayurvedic spa treatments, or a healthy fruit juice at breakfast and cleansing herbal tea after dinner. At one with nature, the hotel’s glass walls and indoor-outdoor lounging spaces mean you can wake, dine and fall asleep to breath-taking views of emerald-green paddy fields and thick forests; the hillside rooms are open to the elements, so you feel like you could step right out into the scenery.
We check in, settle into our ‘ambalama’ (room) and relax. ‘Ambalamas’ which translated means to have a ‘place of rest’. All rooms are centered around the philosophy of minimalistic luxury and are intentionally built to draw the eye to the nature outside. The rooms are equal parts basic and luxurious; that is to say everything that ought to be in a room is there and everything that ought not to be isn’t. Each room has an unobstructed jungle view – and that’s it. They’re designed so you can’t see anything else. In the morning, you’ll witness the mist rising from the river below, travelling up through the valley and revealing the glistening jungle below.
We meet this evening for a pre-dinner drink and dinner. We retire to our rooms for a fabulous nights sleep.
Overnight Santani Wellness Resort & Spa. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
Days 3 & 4 – Santani Wellness Resort
Ayurveda and spa treatments are the main focus at Santani, along with overall relaxation, rejuvenation and nourishing food. And over the next two days, you are at leisure to indulge in the various wellness and yoga programs the resort has to offer.
Ayurveda, a two-part Sanskrit word – ayur meaning ‘life’ and veda meaning ‘knowledge – dates back more than 5,000 years. A comprehensive, holistic approach to healthy living, Ayurveda remains extremely relevant within the context of modern wellness.
Santani takes a lifestyle approach to wellness with two essential components: they pamper your body in an environment designed at every level to revitalize you and they educate your mind so that you leave with healthy habits and practices which allow you to sustain greater mental, spiritual and physical well-being for years to come. Santani allows the healing to happen at your natural pace; wake up early and meditate, if misty mornings inspire you. Or perhaps you prefer to wind down the day on the yoga mat. Santani is all about offering you the space, freedom and support to find your way.
The tri-level spa is tucked into the hillside’s natural contours has been thoughtfully designed with holistic wellness in mind. You enter on the ground level to the reception and consultation rooms, then descend as if becoming one with the earth as you enter the hydrotherapy level. To warm up your body before treatments, this level houses a steam room, the cedar wood sauna with its a glass wall looking onto emerald paddy fields to the Knuckles mountain range, and the open-air thermal salt soak pool. Deeper into nature, the lowest level divides into four treatment rooms all of which are open onto the surrounding paddy fields. The expert therapists offer both western treatments, like detoxifying scrubs, cleansing wraps and hot-stone massages, and a range of Ayurvedic practices including Shirodhara and Takra Dhara therapies using vitamin-rich organic oils.
There are two pools at the hotel, including a thermal salt pool in the spa which, although covered, has one partial wall so you can gaze at the surroundings while you soak. Perched on the side of a hill, overlooking the forests below and mountains beyond, the main infinity pool has some of the best vistas in the hotel; wake early to watch the sunrise while leisurely swimming, and return for a dip at dusk as the setting sun transforms the surface of the pool, turning it shades of pink, purple and inky blue.
Meals are customised to balance out the six main tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent *spicy, bitter & astringent) and are designed to avoid food cravings. The food is exceptional and all locally sourced; try dishes like a traditional Sri Lankan curry with organic vegetables and chutney, or a crunchy banana-blossom salad with shredded coconut and tamarind dressing. The only thing rivalling the food in wow-factor is the view from the hotel restaurant: the four external walls are made of glass, and offer breath taking views of the valley and forest.
You will have access to the spa facilities such as: sauna, steam room and thermal salt water bath.
The resort has an incredible salt bath, heated to a perfect temperature to prepare your body for massage. There’s also a sauna with a glass window looking out to the jungle.
Daily morning and evening group yoga sessions & meditation classes.
A 60 minute Ayurvedic spa treatment.
A Wellness consultation with the resident Ayurveda Doctor.
Daily Guided group walk with a Naturist who will guide you to some breath taking viewpoints and tell you about the wildlife and edible herbs found along the way.
You can also book (pay on arrival) further Spa treatments on arrival ala: Shiro-dhara – Reflexology – Deep tissues massage – Detox facial – Swedish massages & wraps – Reiki
There are also activities outside the resort: walks to the river or to the Werapitiya Hanging Bridge, Bird-Watching, Bambaragala Cave Temple, Knuckles Hike, Golf & Mountain Biking for instance.
Or, you may just want to stay at this gorgeous resort and bliss out.
Overnight Santani Wellness Resort & Spa. (Full Board)
Days 5 & 6 – To Galle & Kaju Green Eco Lodge
We say farewell to our hosts at Santani and head south to the coastal town of Galle and towards our next stay, Kaju Green Eco Lodge, our blissful base for three nights. It is a bit of a drive, so we need to settle into our van, put our head-phones on and enjoy the ride..
Kaju Green is a unique Nature resort in the middle of the Eluwilla Bird Sanctuary, designed to rejuvenate mind & body. Secluded on an inland island, this modernist eco-hotel with sublime local food is an absolute gem of isolation, relaxation and yoga whilst still being within easy reach of the attractions of Galle, which is only 10 odd minutes away.
Kaju Green (Kaju is the Sinhalese name for the ancient cashew tree) is a small, low-impact eco-hotel camouflaged within a verdant palm grove. Buildings have an open concept and the high-ceilinged living/dining pavilion – a striking minimalist structure furnished with contemporary, custom-designed pieces – is completely open-sided to give the impression of being outdoors. Even the pathways are kept as simple tracks so that the garden feels rustic rather than manicured and allows native plants to grow.
The villas, which look out to the surrounding lake and private gardens, are open to the elements, with indoor/outdoor wooden walls which allow the sounds of nature to filter in. Here, waking up to birdsong (remember, just across the water is a bird sanctuary..) every morning, followed by an outdoor shower in a partly exposed bathroom, is just the way of life.
The food alone is worth staying for: rainbow breakfasts of tropical fruit, rice porridge, buffalo curd, pancakes topped with treacled coconut, and curry dishes to be mopped up with rice, string hoppers and roti. Mostly vegetarian and sourced from local farmers & villagers or their own gardens.
Breakfast and dinner.
You will have access to the resort facilities such as: the saltwater swimming pool located right in the middle of the garden if you just want to stay put.
Free Tuk-tuk shuttle to/from Dalawella beach (10 mins. away) available during the day
Kayaks, canoes & SUP’s available during the day for navigating the water sanctuary.
Bicycles available during the day for further exploring.
Access to the spacious yoga deck on the rooftop of the main pavilion (yoga mats provided) for morning yoga.
A 60 minute Signature Massage.
You can also book (pay on arrival) further Spa treatments and an Ayurvedic Consultation for a total well-being assessment.
There are also activities outside the resort which can be arranged for you if you wish: Whale & Dolphin Watching in Mirissa; bike rides through the rural villages outside Galle; visit a virgin tea plantation with a local host; learn stilt fishing from the famous local Stilt Fishermen; Fish market visit; Surf Lessons in Weligama, Midigama or Mirissa.
Or again, you may just want to stay at this gorgeous lodge and bliss out.
Overnights Kaju Green Eco Lodge. (Half Board – Breakfast & Dinner)
Day 7 – Galle – Weligama – Galle
Today we do a bit of exploring.
We begin the morning by heading east to Weligama and visit the Top House. Top House is a beautiful, working cinnamon estate of 25 acres, a mere 10 minute drive inland from Weligama. The resident owners, a British couple who fell in love with Sri Lanka on a visit and chose to move here permanently, have restored the plantation to its former glory and now produce true Ceylon cinnamon, which grows on the steep slopes of a high hill. The plantation house is perched on the hilltop with spectacular views over the jungle to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. The owners have also built an artisan distillery where they extract pure cinnamon leaf oil according to age-old techniques fine-tuned with modern technology.
We take a tour of the estate with the owner, which involves a brief journey by tractor/trailer and covers the nursery, the plantation, the peeling hut and the oil distillery. We will learn the history and health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon, and see the harvest, peeling and preparation of quills. There will also be a demonstration on cinnamon leaf bundling and the entire process of cinnamon oil extraction, as well as the surprising uses of this very special essential oil. You will see the eco-friendly and perfectly self-sustaining farming process, with every part of the plant used or recycled, and a completely natural and health-giving result.
We then continue towards Galle and settle down for lunch at the timeless Fort Printers or Galle Fort Hotel.
Following a delightful lunch, we discover the historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument that is the Galle Fort with a Researcher and Building Archaeologist. First built in 1589 by the Portuguese, and extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century, Galle Fort has a colourful history, and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site today. We begin on the Ramparts, starting from the Dutch period, winding its way through ancient quarry’s and old dungeons. We will also see a working lighthouse and learn about the Fort’s colourful history. The 150 years or rich history is apparent everywhere with streets of colonial villas protected by coral bastions and sounds of breaking waves just beyond.
The historic Fort area is full of boutique shops, cafes and hotels. Just wandering around the old walls and streets at random provides one architectural surprise after another as we explore the amazing collection of structures dating back through the centuries. The fort is one of Sri Lanka’s 8 Unesco World Heritage Sites and is a key part of the Fort’s allure, however, is that it isn’t just a pretty place, it also remains a working community.
We will linger a little longer before we head back to Kaju Green and relax by the pool amidst a lovely sunset.
Overnight Kaju Green Eco Lodge. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
Day 8 – To Colombo & Departure
Our last morning at the gorgeous Kaju Green. Perhaps you get up early for a last morning yoga or a swim in the pool as a way of farewell.
At 09.30 am, we check out and drive to Colombo, about a 2.5 hour drive.
Upon arrival in Colombo, we visit the 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 locally artists and craftsmen. There are no factories and no production lines.
After a wander through the gallery & shop, we sit down in their garden café for an alfresco lunch.
Following lunch, we return to The Kingsbury for some downtime.
Later this afternoon, at 04:00 PM, we meet with resident host Mark Forbes as he takes us 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 ends at the Old Dutch Hospital. Mark’s ancestors are of Dutch, German, and British descent, but today he classifies himself as a ‘Dutch-Burgher’. He is very much Sri Lankan and speaks the three languages of the island: English, Sinhalese and Tamil. His father’s fondness for road-trips left in Mark a love for out-door adventure, making friends, and sharing the stories of his adventures. Should Mark not be available due to unforeseen circumstances, the visit will take place with a one of Mark’s collaborators.
Following the walk, Mark will take you to one of Colombo’s hidden treasures for dinner and drinks – a proper send off to your memorable stay in the teardrop of the Indian Ocean.
After a sumptuous dinner, head back to The Kingsbury to freshen up (wash and change rooms will be arranged), and then depart to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for your departure!