The beautiful island of Sri Lanka, with its ancient past, colonial tradition, spectacular scenery and lush tropical jungle, will enchant everybody, and this tour is a fascinating introduction to this very special country. It encompasses impressive rock-hewn fortresses, magnificent second and third century BC temples - many UNESCO World Heritage Sites - ethereal religious sites and ruined cities, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, tea plantations and an unspoiled Victorian hill station.
Our journey begins in the capital city of Colombo, from which we head inland to Habarana to explore the cultural triangle. We see Sigiriya, an impressive rock-hewn fortress, and the beautifully preserved remains of the 11th century capital, Polonnaruwa. We then travel south to Kandy, last capital of the Sri Lankan Kings where we explore the city with its important Buddhist Temple of the Tooth, vestiges of colonial rule and Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. We continue to Nuwara Eliya, the famous hill station set in the heart of ‘tea country’, before ending our tour with a stay in Galle on the south-west coast of this magical island. A relaxing end to a memorable journey.
Arrive after midday and transfer to the charming Galle Face Hotel, a 5-star colonial hotel located in the heart of Colombo overlooking the Indian Ocean, where two nights are spent. Reputedly the oldest hotel in Sri Lanka, the hotel has sweeping views over a kilometre stretch of lawn and the charming Galle Face Promenade dating from 1864 from which the hotel takes its name.
Late lunch at the hotel followed by the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Early evening drinks at the hotel bar followed by dinner at the restaurant.
Morning city tour of the old town with resident host, Mark Forbes and his wife Ruwi, including a visit to the famous Pettah open air bazaar and market, the National Museum and the Sapumal Foundation, which was once the home of Sri Lankan artist Harry Pieris.
Lunch at the Ministry of Crab. In the afternoon enjoy an introduction to the creations of the late Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa’s including his house and also the Buddhist temple of Seema Malaka.
Visit the textile shop, ‘Barefoot’ which was started by the artist, writer and designer Barbara Sansoni 40 years ago. Return to the hotel late afternoon for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.
This evening transfer to the famous Paradise Road for dinner at the Gallery Café, which used to be Geoffrey Bawa’s office. Return to the hotel.
Colombo / Habarana
Drive (with luggage) to Habarana stopping for lunch near to the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala. Originally the Elephant Orphanage was founded to provide protection and care to orphaned and unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and around the forests of Sri Lanka. Today it is not only an orphanage but also a nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants.
Lunch at Pinnalanda Restaurant, which overlooks where the elephants bathe. Continue to Habarana, located at the heart of Sri Lanka’s world famous cultural triangle of Kandy-Anuradhapura-Polonnaruwa.
Check into The Cinnamon Lodge for a three nights stay. This charming hotel is surrounded by 27 acres of lush forested land, offering beautiful gardens including a butterfly garden, a swimming pool, tennis and badminton court and a spa. Dinner at the hotel.
Sigiriya & Habarana
Early morning visit to the 5th century World Heritage Site of Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Visit the frescoes of the Heavenly Maidens of Sigiriya which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock. (Please note that the climb to the top of ‘Lion Rock’ can take up to 90 minutes. Certain parts of the walk are quite steep and should not be attempted by anyone with mobility issues, a heart condition, or breathing difficulties.
You may wish to walk part of the way or tuk tuks will also be provided to take you around the base of the fortress). Continue to Dambulla rock temple which was built by King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC and is a World Heritage Site. It contains over 150 images of Buddha. Continue to Kandalama for lunch.
Lunch at the Kandalama Hotel. Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. This evening there will be the opportunity to take an evening elephant ride (at a supplementary cost). Dinner at the hotel.
Habarana & Polonnaruwa
Early this morning, there will be a unique opportunity to enjoy magnificent views of Sigirya rock from a hot air balloon followed by a champagne breakfast (weather permitting and at a supplementary cost).
This morning visit the beautifully preserved medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates from 11th century AD. Visit the ruins of the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, the statue of King Parakramabahu and the Parakrama Saumdraya. Also visit the Shiva Temple, the Lankathilare, the Watadage, the Galpotha, the Kiri Vehera and the remains of the former Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Finally visit the ruins of the Royal Palace and the Gal Vihara which has four statues of Buddha carved out of rock. Continue to a batik and wood carving factory. Continue to the Lake House, formerly the Old Polonnaruwa Rest House, which was built in 1870 as a circuit bungalow for British government guests. It was visited by the Queen in the 1950s and it has now been restored as a hotel.
Lunch at the Lake House overlooking the lake. Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Special BBQ dinner by the lake at the hotel.
Habarana / Ashburnham / Kandy
This morning leave Habarana for Kandy. On route stop at Ashburnham Tea Estate, and take a walk through the Estate with the Estate Manager to see the local ladies picking tea.
Buffet lunch on the terrace with the owners of Ashburnham Tea Estate. The 1930s Principal Planter’s Bungalow, now converted into a small hotel, is set in 98 acres of tea estate, offering fabulous views over the Knuckles Mountain Range.
Continue driving to Kandy and check into the Mahaweli Reach Hotel which overlooks the Mahaweli Ganga River, and where two nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.
This morning explore Kandy including Kandy Lake, Kandy town bazaar, the arts centre, the gem museum and lapidary. Continue to the Orange Field Tea Factory, known for the manufacturing of black tea.
Lunch at Ellerton Tea Estate house. Afternoon visit to the beautifully restored Garrison Cemetery housing the gravestones of many British nationals who played a key role in the development of Sri Lanka in the 19th century.
Visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most famous Buddhist Temples. Return to the hotel. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Kandy / Nuwara Eliya
Following breakfast leave for the Royal Peradeniya Botanical gardens, first built as a pleasure garden by a Sinhala King and then expanded by the British. From Peradeniya Railway Station take a train to Nanu Oya (subject to confirmation) enjoying the spectacular scenery of tea plantations and thick jungle along the way.
Packed lunch on board the train. On arrival in Nanu Oya transfer and check into the Heritance Tea Factory Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, where two nights are spent. Built in the days of the British Raj, the hotel has preserved much of its original style. The remainder of the afternoon at leisure followed by dinner at the hotel.
This morning visit the Hakgala Gardens, the gardens started life in 1860 as an experimental plantation of cinchona trees, from which the anti-malarial drug quinine is derived, but they are now best known for their roses, ferns and orchid house – and for their beautiful views. The gardens are also home to some interesting wildlife, including bear monkeys and sambur, as well as an outstanding array of montane birdlife.
Lunch at the Hill Club. The founding members of the Hill Club, which is now a hotel, were mainly English and Scots coffee, cinchona, or tea planters. The original building, which served as a club house, was centered around the current billiard room. Its colonial atmosphere has been faithfully preserved. Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.
Nuwara Eliya / Kitugala / Galle
Today leave Nuwara Eliya and drive south to Galle.
Stop for lunch at Kitugala at the Plantation Hotel restaurant on the banks of the Kelani River. Continue to Galle and check into the exclusive Jetwing Lighthouse Club Hotel where three nights are spent. This luxury hotel overlooking the sea includes manicured gardens, swimming pool and spa. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning city tour to see the port area and visit the Galle Fort, which covers some 90 acres and was originally built by the Portuguese, though later extended by the Dutch in 1663. There is also a very interesting Dutch Museum.
Lunch under own arrangements. The remainder of the afternoon at leisure to explore Galle’s timeless streets with jewellery shops spilling with gems, ancient ramparts for sunset walks and dusty antique shops. This evening dine privately at The Dutch House by special arrangement (to be confirmed). This wonderful old house has been beautifully converted into a small hotel keeping its feel of an 18th century colonial house.
There is an optional afternoon excursion (at a supplementary cost) to Bentota to visit Geoffrey Bawa’s country house in Lunuganga including lunch. The house and gardens at Lunuganga, were lovingly created over several decades and show Bawa’s vision of a tropical garden idyll. The Italian inspired garden with spectacular views over lakes and tropical jungle together with a simply designed plantation house are one of the lasting legacies of Asia’s most famous architect.
Morning at leisure. Late morning transfer to Kahanda Kanda, surrounded by tea plantations and offering spectacular views. Enjoy a short tour of the spices and tea plantation followed by a cookery demonstration using local ingredients.
Lunch at Kahanda Kanda. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Galle / Colombo / London
Morning transfer to Colombo International Airport for an early afternoon flight to London Heathrow, arriving in the evening.