Day 01 Arrival Colombo
Ayubowan and welcome to Sri Lanka! After completing immigration and custom formalities we drive through the city of Colombo en-route to our hotel.
Day 02 Colombo
Welcome to Colombo! A busy, colourful and vibrant city, Colombo is an urban metropolitan, surrounded by historic colonial buildings and ancient ruins. Starring out of our window, we begin our day with a drive through the Colombo’s commercial centre, passing the local as they make their way to work Our tour of the city takes us to the ancient grounds of Colombo’s first colonial fort. Today, our feet walk the grounds that saw construction, reconstruction and destruction of this colonial fort. Having lived through Sri Lanka’s multiple imperial settlement, fort lived its last days during the British rule, where it was laid to rest to allow for the expansion of the city. We continue our tour of Colombo with a walk down Sea Street, the Goldsmith’s quarter in Pettah, the bazaar area, a Hindu Temple, the historical Davatagaha Mosque, the Buddhist Temple – Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara which is believed to be the site visited by Lord Buddha 2500 years ago and the Colombo National Museum. We also visit the beautiful Wolvendaal Church. Built in the 18th C in the shape of a Greek Cross, this Dutch Church shows evidence of some of the finest workmanship, with its elegantly carved ebony chairs and stone floors that include elaborate tombstones.
Day 03 Colombo / Sigiriya
From the coast of Colombo, we travel inland and make our way to the Cultural Triangle, home to many of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Situated in the centre of the Island, the Cultural Triangle covers an area that includes the heritage sites of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, the Ancient City of Sigiriya, the Ancient City of Dambulla and the Sacred City of Kandy. As the suns sets, we climb some 200 metres and arrive at Sri Lanka’s most important archeological legacies, Sigiriya. This ancient rock formation became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Historical records date Sigiriya back to the 5th C BC, where it served as a Buddhist monastery. Other legends connect it the 5th C AD where it served as a rock fortress and palace where King Kassapa hosted several royal and military functions. The ruins of the ancient castles are attractions that bring many pilgrims and tourist to this historical site. At the mid level terrace we see our reflection in the mirror wall, which protects a series of exquisite frescoes of celestial maidens using natural pigments.
Day 04 Anuradhapura & Aukana
After breakfast, we leave for Anuradhapura, the 3rd C BC ancient capital of Sri Lanka. Known for its well preserved ancient ruins of civilizations past, Anuradhapura is a city of stupas and monasteries, steeped in antiquity. Like places in Sri Lanka, the Sacred City of Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1982). Today, we visit the oldest living tree in the world. In fact, it is the branch of this tree that belonged to the original Bodhi fig tree where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Just a short distance away, stands the Brazen Palace. Once an imposing structure, with a bronze roof, today we see the remains of this 1600 column palace. In Anuradhapura we also visit the twin ponds and the Queens’ Bath. Next, we drive some 50 km west to Aukana. Home to the magnificent 39 foot rock-cut statue of Lord Buddha, this 5th C AD monument, carved out of solid granite, is considered to be one of the finest ancient stone sculptures in Asia
Day 05 Polonnaruwa & Habarana
We begin our day and drive north-east to Sri Lanka’s second most ancient city, Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1982). With roots that date back more than 3000 years, the ancient city is known to be one of the best planned archeological sites in the country. Facing a cliff face of granite, we find ourselves at the noted Gal Vihare, a historic wonder and depiction of the country’s great craftsmanship. The Gal Vihare is an ancient rock temple that is famously known for its colossal statues of the Lord Buddha. We find ourselves blown away with the monumental structures, one of which is standing on a carving of a lotus in the blessing posture. We continue our site seeing and visit the Tivanka Pilimage, an ancient building with evidence of the era’s finest architecture, housing historical murals in their original form. Polonnaruwa is also home to a man made water body, Parakrama Samudra or Sea of Parakrama. The reservoir, expanded by the King Parakrama in 12th C, is an amalgamation of three individual reservoirs that have today resulted in prosperous irrigation and increased settlement. In the afternoon, we enjoy an elephant back safari in the Habarana jungles.
Day 06 Dambulla / Matale / Kandy
We begin our day with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site (1991) cave temples of Dambulla. We stare straight into the sky, as we stand at the base of this 150 metre high rock that consists of a series of 5 caves covered with intricate paintings. Dating back to 1st BC, the natural folds of the rock have been skillfully designed, giving the illusion of a cloth like texture. The cave temples of Dambulla, now transformed into shrines, house several carefully carved out statues of Buddha. We wave goodbye to Dambulla through the windows of our vehicle, we make our way to the historical and Sacred City of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1988). En-route, we stop at Matale and visit the Spice Gardens on our way to Kandy. Arriving into Kandy in the early afternoon, we maximize the rest of the day and begin a city tour. We drive around the beautiful lake, visit the Arts and Crafts Centre, where we can buy Kandyan silver and brass ware, metal work, lacquer work, wood and bone carvings, pottery and hand woven fabrics.
Day 07 Kandy
From ancient ruins to animals of the wild, our next stop in our Sri Lankan tour is at the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela. In fear of extinction two decades after the British Raj, the Sri Lankan government found an orphanage for elephants, making it the largest heard of captive elephants in the world. Today, the number has slowly risen to 3000, some 27000 less in the early 1800s. Evening we visit the Lankatilaka Temple. Often described as one of the most remarkable temples in all of the island, Lankatilaka brings together Hindu and Buddhist traditions, depicted in carvings of the structure. Its brick walls with two polygonal piers that flank the entrance, give it a majestic ambience. We continue to the 14th C Embekke Temples, with its carved wooden pillars and intricate designs and the Gadaladeniya temple with its South Asian flavour. Our tour of Kandy would not be complete without a visit to the Temple of Tooth, which houses the upper canine tooth of the Lord Buddha. Evening, we sit back and enjoy a beautiful dance performance amazing fire eating and walking rituals and applaud local talent.
Day 08 Kandy / Nuwara Eliya
Traveling back to the 18th C, we begin our day and explore the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, just as the Sinhala Queens enjoyed 200 years ago. Conceived originally in the 14th C, the gardens served as a warm and beautiful atmosphere to entertain the royal visitors. Today, the Royal Botanical Gardens contains over 4000 species of plants spread over 150 acres of green space. We wave goodbye to Kandy and make our way to Nuwara Eliya. Founded in the 19th C, the town is a replica of a little English village reminiscent of the Lake District. Tour this unusual city and en-route visit a tea factory where we see the intricacies that go into the manufacture the world’s best loved brew.
Day 09: Nuwara Eliya / Galle
Today, we make our way to the shores of Galle, on the coast line of the blue Indian Ocean. Prior to the western rule, Galle served as a prominent sea port and saw Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians, tradesman, merchants and travelers. Its colonial history and influence from its prominent neighbour, have given this strong fortified city a unique blend of European and South Asian architecture. Galle received the status of a UNESCO World Heritage city in 1988 for its old town and many forts.
As the sun makes its way to the centre of the sky, we begin our day with a visit to Galle’s natural harbour and historic Dutch Fortress a UNESCO World Heritage site (1988). Still as polished and new, the fortress holds more than 400 years of history housing a museum, towering light house and imposing ramparts. The real charm of Old Galle lies in the quiet back streets and alleyways of the historic fort, which have changed little–if at all — since colonial times. We make our way to Weligama, where we walk through a small and peaceful park to a 3 metre rock structure, carefully carved out of the hillside. Legend has it that the structure is of 8th or 9th C Leper King. Other tales tell that the carving is of the Lord Buddha in a pose of meditation.Our next stop takes us to the Purvarama Image House. Walking under the coat of arm of Queen Victoria, we step into this 13th C monastery with painted sculptures and murals. Interspersed with ../images of the Lord Buddha, the monastery has many paintings of Queen Victoria. Tonight, enjoy a quiet evening at the hotel or dare and explore the seaside city of Galle
Day 11: Galle / Negombo
Making our way back to the capital city, we stop at a Mask Carving Centre at Ambalangoda and the turtle hatcheries (optional) at Balapitiya. Arriving into Colombo, we have the afternoon to shop for Sri Lankan treasures at the local handicrafts centre. (Optional) In the evening, we arrive into a nearby fishing village, Negombo. (Fishing Village near the airport).
Day 12: Negombo / Departure
We bid farewell and say ayubowan gehilla ennam (goodbye) to Sri Lanka’s warm hospitality and for sharing her wonderful heritage in our journey through time. We are transferred to the airport for our flight home or to our next excursion.