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Your overnight flight from London arrives in Colombo just after midday. You’ll be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel, a sanctuary of serenity built in the traditional “Dutch warehouse” colonial style.
Stay: One night in a Wallawwa bedroom at The Wallawwa – bed & breakfast
This morning you’ll explore the Negombo fish market alongside a retired, characterful fisherman before making the four-and-a-half-hour journey into the Cultural Triangle. Here you’ll be staying in a boutique hotel that pays tribute to the ancient water gardens that once surrounded the Sigiriya rock fortress.
The following day sees you climbing to the top of this astonishing royal citadel. Sigiriya is a rock fortress of unusual beauty, rising 200 metres above the jungle on the monumental Lion Rock. On the way up you’ll pass the frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’, and at the top you’ll find the remains of the palace as well as sensational panoramic views. You’ll then have the afternoon at your leisure to either relax or explore your surroundings further.
The following morning you’ll visit Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka’s ancient capital first founded in the 4th century BC. Over 1,000 years the Sinhalese royal family built a fantastic array of temples, stupas, palaces, ponds and gardens – two of which are now UNESCO World Heritage sites – as well as one of the earliest and most advanced irrigation systems in the world. You’ll be able to visit the Sacred Bo-Tree; a sapling from the tree under which Buddha reputedly gained enlightenment and, at over 2,200 years old, one of the oldest documented trees in the world.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at the Water Garden – half board
On day six you’ll visit what is the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples at Dambulla – a designated World Heritage Site. Expect five caves containing over 2,000 square metres of painted walls and more than 150 images of Buddha – the largest being a colossal, rock-carved statue spanning 14 metres.
You’ll then continue your drive to Kandy to visit the Temple of the Tooth which houses the Relic of the tooth of Buddha. According to legend, the tooth was taken from the funeral pyre of Buddha and smuggled into Sri Lanka in 313 AD. Later you’ll visit the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, originally built by a Sinhala king, where you’ll find 147 acres of vivid flowers, plants and trees. Before returning to your hotel there’s also time to attend a cultural show and explore the bustling Kandy market.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Kandy House – bed & breakfast
From Kandy you’ll board a train to a working tea plantation on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya where you will be spending the next couple of days. You will have plenty of time to explore the estate and its surrounds at your leisure, with the opportunity to go mountain biking, enjoy nature walks and tour a nearby tea factory. Alternatively, you can relax with a cup of freshly brewed tea on the property’s manicured gardens – all the while soaking up the stunning scenery that this part of Sri Lanka is known for.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Stafford Bungalow – half board & afternoon tea
After the cool of the uplands, and the quiet gentility of the tea plantations, it’s time for something completely different. Your driver will take you on a six-hour journey to Yala National Park. This is the natural habitat of one of the world’s largest populations of wild leopards – so you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing these magnificent cats in their proper environment. Upon arrival, you’ll head out on an afternoon safari which will take you into the heart of Yala on the track of leopards and a whole selection of indigenous wildlife.
Stay: One night in a jungle chalet at Cinnamon Wild – half board
This morning, before sunrise, you’ll enjoy a final game drive in Yala National Park. The animals are more active in the cool of the early morning, so it’s your best chance of taking some classic wildlife photos.
You’ll then make the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Balapitiya. After a feast of wildlife watching and historic sightseeing, the chance to stretch out on a spectacular beach beside the welcoming Indian Ocean is irresistible. As well as fine white sand, blue waters and shady palm trees you can indulge in all the luxuries Kumu Beach has to offer; infinity edge pool, ocean view rooms and open-air dining.
Stay: Three nights in a sea view bedroom at Kumu Beach – bed & breakfast
Today you’ll be driven to the airport for your return flight home, arriving in the evening.
Of your various competitors, Ayesha stood out a mile ahead with her advice, decisiveness and willingness to help- RW, India