Sri Lanka has great natural beauty with beautiful manmade creations. Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka’s relatively small size belies an enormous variety of landscape–from dense jungles, home to wild elephants, to empty golden beaches–from monasteries and temples peopled by saffron-clad monks to cool, misty mountains contoured with tea and dotted with the bright saris of pickers.
The Cultural Triangle comprises a succession of ancient capitals and Buddhist sites where intricate carvings and towering stone monuments are scattered throughout the forests. Huge man-made lakes have kept the area irrigated for millennia and continue to provide water for both the paddy fields and thirsty wild elephants that regularly leave the shelter of the jungle to drink. The busy lakeside city of Kandy attracts thousands of devotees to the Temple of the Tooth.
Day 1: (Mar 3)
You will be met upon arrival and transferred to our hotel in Colombo, which is approx. 45 minutes drive away from the airport. On arrival, check-in at the hotel. Evening tour orientation meeting at 6:30 pm at the hotel. Overnight in Colombo.
Day 2: (Mar 4)
After breakfast, we will visit Pettah wholesale Market. Then we’ll take a city tour of Colombo, driving through the commercial area of the “Fort” – so named because both the Portuguese and Dutch had a Fort at this point. Later we walk around the Pettah historical area, a noisy Oriental bazaar with a hotchpotch of humanity, ancient vehicles, bargains, mosques & temples. We will also get a chance to see, from the outside, some of the buildings designed by Jeffery Bawa. We’ll also visit Gangarama temple. Overnight in Colombo.
Day 3: (Mar 5)
After breakfast, we’ll drive to Habarna. Arrival and check-in at the hotel. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Minneria Wildlife Park to look for elephants and other animals. This national park is one of the best places in the country to see wild elephants – which are often present in huge numbers – along with wading birds. Dominated by the ancient Minneriya Tank, the park has plenty of scrub, forest, and wetlands in its 88.9 sq km to also provide shelter for toque macaques, sambar deer, buffalo, crocodiles and leopard. Overnight in Habarna.
Day 4: (Mar 6)
There are few more impressive sights in the world than the 370-meter-high rock citadel of Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage. Known as the “Lion Rock”, it crouches in red splendor, enveloped by the dense jungle, dominating the surrounding plains. Built by King Kasyapa in the 5th century it took seven years to build and was abandoned after ten years of occupation when the King, defeated by his brother committed suicide. However, in this short time, beautiful frescoes were painted – the perfect time to see them is in low light, in the morning or late afternoon – most notably the ‘celestial maidens’ in a cave halfway up, with their expressive faces and exquisite headdresses. Look out for the Mirror Wall, polished to reflective brilliance, and the remains of gardens on the summit. Arthur C Clarke who lived in Sri Lank since 1950 named Sigiriya his 8th Wonder of the World. In the afternoon, we’ll take a walk in the village areas of Habarna and see the local village life. Overnight in Habarna.
Day 5: (Mar 7)
In the morning we’ll drive to Kandy en-route visiting Dambulla caves. This is Sri Lanka’s greatest Cave Temple complex; the walls are alive with frescoes of religious and secular scenes and beautiful geometric designs in warm oranges and golds. People have sheltered under the overhang of the smooth, water-marked granite outcrop at Dambulla, in the centre of the island, for millennia. In this intimate setting sit hundreds of statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas, many carved directly from the cave rock, the largest of which is a 15-metre carving of Buddha recumbent. Hindu kings and deities are also represented. Cave Two has around 1,500 images of Buddha on its walls, some showing him struggling with temptations, demons or cobras. Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kandy was the last royal capital and it is a charming town beside a lake. Surrounded by hills, it houses the gold-roofed Temple of the Tooth, with its guardian elephants. Overnight in Kandy.
Day 6: (Mar 8)
In the early morning, we’ll visit the vegetable market. After breakfast, we’ll proceed to sightseeing of Kandy. The sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
We’ll visit the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya. Many people consider it to be one of the best gardens in Asia if not in the world. We’ll make our way to Udawattakele in the late afternoon, and enjoy an evening walk in the bazaars of Kandy. Overnight in Kandy.
Day 7: (Mar 9)
Full day to photograph the Tea Plantations around Kandy. Overnight in Kandy.
Day 8: (Mar 10)
We’ll have morning leisure time until a private transfer to the train station for a scenic train ride from Kandy to the hill station of Nuwara Eliya. On arrival in Nuwara Eliya, we’ll meet our driver/guide and be transferred to our hotel.
The cool, misty hill station of Nuwara Eliya (pronounced Noor elia) was first established as a summer retreat by the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Edward Barnes, in 1828. Twenty years later it was developed into a resort by Samuel Baker to provide 19th-century colonials with respite from the lowland heat. Even today it has an air of wistful, suburban nostalgia, with mock-Tudor houses set in carefully-tended gardens, a red English post box and pink-painted post office, winding roads, trout streams, a golf course, race-course and botanical gardens. The clubs and hotels – social centres of the colony – remain, complete with visitors’ and game books, Inglenook fireplaces, billiard tables and authentically colonial menus. In the late afternoon, we’ll enjoy a sightseeing tour of Nuwara Eliya including a visit to a vegetable garden. Overnight in Nuwara Eliya.
Day 9: (Mar 11)
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll proceed to Udalwalwe and visit Elephant transit home via Ravana ella water falls &Wellawaya. We’ll have an en-route lunch at a local restaurant and proceed to Kataragama. Kataragama is a religious site for Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. Several pilgrims visit this sacred site daily. What fascinates at Kataragama is not so much the architecture as the rhythm of pilgrim life, and the colorful, elaborate religious ceremonies and rituals taking place.
In the afternoon we’ll visit Kataragama Devalaya, for the evening ceremony as well as the other shrines. Late evening we’ll continue our drive to Yala and check-in to the hotel. Overnight in Yala.
Day 10: (Mar 12)
Today we’ll experience the morning game drive in the Yala National Park. Yala national park is Sri Lanka’s oldest and most famous of the wildlife park. Famous for its leopards, it also has a healthy population of wild elephants, spotted deer, Sambhar, sloth bear, wild water buffalo etc. There are over 120 species of birds in the park.
After, we’ll proceed to visit the Kirinda – Kirinda is a small but beautiful village on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, 10 km south of Tissa & close to Kataragama. It has a beautiful beach and a Buddhist shrine built on a huge round rock. Then we’ll move along to Werahera. Lunch en-route at a local restaurant. Overnight in Weligama.
Day 11: (Mar 13)
We’ll rise early this morning and photograph the stilted fishermen. For generations, villagers have perched on handmade structures of wood and twine to catch fish to feed their families. Later in the day we’ll visit and photograph the fishing villages. Overnight in Weligama.
Day 12: (Mar 14)
We’ll photograph the stilted fishermen again this morning. After breakfast, we’ll proceed to Galle. We’ll visit Galle Fort, built in the 1500s by the Portuguese and extensively restored after the 2004 tsunami.
In the afternoon, we’ll drive out to visit the Tsunami Museum and Galle market. Overnight in Galle.
Day 13: (Mar 15)
Like Colombo, Galle was a thriving port long before colonial times; on the southwest of the country, it attracted Arabs, Persians, Romans, and Greeks on their way across the Indian Ocean. In 1505 the Portuguese attacked and settled the town, 135 years later conceding it to the Dutch, who built the famous fort. In 1796 the British took over and used the fort as their headquarters. Today, Galle Fort is the old part of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best preserved colonial sea fortress in Asia. It is a cozy little town in its own right with narrow streets, churches, cloistered courtyards and shuttered mansions standing testament to its colonial past. Antique shops have sprung up in these cozy alleys and it is a delight to walk here. Overnight in Galle.
Day 14: (Mar 16)
After breakfast, transfer to the Colombo international airport to board the flight for back home.