Authentic Sri Lanka
10 Nights / 11 Days
10 Nights / 11 Days
Your holiday begins as soon as you land at the Colombo International Airport! It is modern but friendly, and the airport officials here are warm and helpful. After the airport formalities are complete, our designated chauffeur will greet you with a trademark Sri Lankan smile and guide you to an air-conditioned vehicle for your passage to Colombo. The ride usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
You’ll have plenty of time to relax once you check in to your hotel. Put your feet up for a bit, after the long plane ride here. As late afternoon draws close, prepare for an energy-packed Tuk Tuk Safari across this vibrant South Asian city.
The old and the new sit side-by-side in Colombo. It makes for an unreal experience, only possible in these parts. And to top it off, you’ll be seated in a tuk tuk through it all? Ah, there’s no better way to take in the frenzy of activity that is Colombo. It is warm here but a steady draft passes in and out of the trishaw, making the ride pleasant. The Tuk Tuk Safari can take up to 4 hours, and it packs in a good mix of the capital’s sites of religious, cultural and historical importance, with some of its best-known eateries. The island’s capital can be absorbed fully only by tasting the food of its people. This one-of-a-kind safari covers large parts of old Colombo. As your tuk tuk makes its way through Independence Memorial Hall, the bustling streets of Pettah and its main market, the Dutch Hospital Precinct, and the elevated Sambodhi Chaithya (Temple), you’ll see the richness of experience Colombo affords, first hand.
Make your way back to the hotel and engage in a bit of rest and relaxation before you retire for the night. Tuk tuk rides are fun but they can be a bit taxing!
Breakfast is a must! Choose between local and continental options. After a spot of relaxation, you’ll be comfortably driven to Dambulla. This normally takes around 3½ to 4 hours.
Once at the hotel, you’ll have plenty of time to rest a bit before you head to the Dambulla Cave Temple towards late afternoon.
The Dambulla Cave Temple reserves huge historic and religious appeal islandwide. The network here comprises 5 caves and a total of 157 statues of the Lord Buddha. Paintings adorn the space overhead and the cave’s walls as well. A rich artistic tradition is seen, going back several millennia. The rock, its caves, and the temple are dated to the 1st century BC. The indigenous traditional paints used add intrigue to this, already, fascinating experience. The cave complex received official recognition in 1991, when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spiritual enlightenment and the flowering of Buddhist scriptures took place here. The calm and peace are still felt here, 22 centuries after it was first used.
Put your feet up a little after getting back to the hotel. The significance of the day’s experience will settle in slowly.
A quick breakfast at the hotel in Dambulla and you’ll set off to Sigiriya Rock Fortress; a ride of about 30-45 minutes.
Perhaps the most visible of this island’s countless historic sites, there are little-known sides to Sigiriya as well. This ancient rock fortress is also called ‘The Lion Rock’, inspired by its original name of ‘Sinhagiri’. On first sight itself, from the base, you’ll see why this ancient rock edifice draws so much attention. This almost 200m rock, its cave complex, and the palace at its summit, served as the royal palace and hideaway of King Kasyapa between the years AD 477-495. Your guide will narrate to you the royal controversy that was set here. The architectural features visible throughout and the irrigation techniques used to keep the moat at the rock’s base and the pools uptop full, draw the curiosity of engineers even today. How did they do it? Some of these questions your guide will provide answers for. Others remain mysteries. The steep staircase that winds up to the palace’s top, allows you to peer into the rock’s cave-like recesses. These walls are adorned with, still visible, frescoes of bare-breasted damsels. The rock’s summit is covered in natural water pools. This setting is surreal and the view afforded is incomparable.
From here, you’ll head to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. The drive will take roughly around 1 to 1½ hours and you’re set to get there by 1400 hours.
You’re here to meet a special bunch. They’re of the primate variety. You’ll see them up close in Polonnaruwa, and you’ll also get to meet a committed team of researchers. Their life-long study of these fascinating primates allows them to carefully guide us.
Polonnaruwa is the seat from which the island’s second oldest Kingdom developed. It is old; a thousand years old. Today it supports large populations of torque macaques, grey langurs and even purple-faced leaf eaters. You’ll see the latter if you look skywards. They weren’t as lucky, always. With the reduction in habitat over the years, primate numbers suffered greatly. The Smithsonian Research Center identified the grave threat this posed to their survival. They came in swiftly and numbers were on the rise, once more, just a few years later. The team’s field researchers will be yours hosts for this experience. They’ll take you around the jungles and ruins of Polonnaruwa, where Disneynature’s ‘Monkey Kingdom’ was shot. The behaviour of these primates and their interactions with each other can be observed intimately. Only a few places on Earth will allow a close-up experience like this. The hosts speak of the numerous challenges posed to their conservation. You’ll continue to make your way through the ruins of Polonnaruwa, and you start to picture what it would have been like a thousand years ago.
You’ll get back to the hotel and have plenty of time to rest. The sweltering heat in this region can take its toll! You’ve got a full evening to relax and lounge.
Breakfast will set the tone for the rest of the day. So make sure you’ve had enough! Check out and begin your journey to the hill capital, Kandy. The drive there will also feature a visit to Matale’s famed Spice Gardens, en-route.
The island’s herbs and spices have received the world’s praise since time immemorial. This experience allows you to see, close up, why this is so. The island is abundant. Perhaps it is because of the favourable climatic conditions and soil here. Or maybe it is something more mystical. Regardless, the local cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, peppercorn, and the other gems lending flavour to cuisines worldwide, are top notch. You’ll see, first hand, the eco-friendly processes used to cultivate them. The experience finishes at a souvenir shop, housed within the garden itself. The spices and herbs available here are numerous. Take a few with you and add them to your cooking to experience food anew. The colonial legacy of the island is best understood through its herbs and spices.
*Transport is provided free of charge between the city and the garden, as part of this experience.
*The cinnamon tree is delicate, and they are protected by law to ensure they aren’t harmed.
A highlight of this experience is the Cooking Class conducted at the Spice Gardens. Here, you’ll be shown the ropes in preparing the island’s stape of rice and curry. It is rich, nutritious and healthy due to the variety of vegetables, spices and herbs it includes. The exact recipes differ from region to region, and even home to home. It is a traditional meal best savoured when prepared at home. A veteran cook at the Spice Gardens, specializing in local fare, will guide you closely and help you prepare a home-cooked Sri Lankan meal.
Next, you’ll head toward the rolling hills and mountain ranges of Kandy.
Kandy is a fast-growing city with a regal past. Check into the hotel and unwind a little, before you set off on an activity-filled late afternoon.
Dive deep into a guided walk that takes you through several highlights of the island’s hill capital.
This is central Sri Lanka. The hills converge to some of the highest peaks on the island, in this region. The landscape is so formed. Kandy, or Maha Nuwara (Great City) is at its center. This city is best explored on foot, with everything within touching distance. The Kandy Lake sits still, with the sun reflecting off its shimmery surface. You’ll catch a glimpse of The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic as you walk towards the British Garrison Cemetery. Here, your host will bring up intriguing account of the colonial residents that have been laid to rest here. The religious diversity experienced in this city is a thing of beauty. Churches, Mosques, Kovils and Temples separated by mere meters. You’ll make a pit-stop at the Empire Café for a few refreshments. Something exciting is in store next. Dive into the city’s busiest streets, packed street-side vendors and historical monuments alike. This experience winds down at Kandy’s main market, where you’ll feel the activities have just begun! Baskets full of local fruits and vegetables and the noise of haggling ringing out in the air, you’ll know you are in some place special.
Once you head back to your hotel, you’ll get a chance to put your feet up for the evening. The day’s rich experiences will provide much to talk and think about.
A hearty breakfast will keep you going through the day! You’ll head to The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic before you leave the hill capital.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is closely connected to the island and Kandy’s historic, cultural and religious legacy. It was originally built by the Kandyan Kings in the late 16th Century, to house and honour the Buddha’s tooth relic. You can’t help but be overwhelmed as your guide recounts the spiritual influence the Buddha wields here, and how the sacred tooth relic made its way to the island. Thousands of pilgrims visit the temple on a daily basis. The wearing of white-coloured, loose-fitting clothing is advised here. The purple and blue-tinged lotus flowers most of them carry in their hands as simple offerings, against the backdrop of white, is soothing to the eye. The complex displays a series of intricate features combining the unique architectural heritage of Kandy and the island as a whole. The whole city is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a declaration influenced in part by the presence of The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic here.
After this unique spiritual experience, we’ll head back to the hotel and check out of the hotel. Next, we’ll travel to Nuwara Eliya. It is a bit of a long drive, around 2½ to 3 hours in total, but the route is scenic and you won’t feel the time pass.
Mountain peaks and lush, green plantations in every direction, you’ve now reached Nuwara Eliya! Here, you’ll get a chance to relax a little once you check in to your hotel. Later on in the day, you’ll head out for a tour of this quaint, British-inspired town.
Nuwara Eliya’s cooler climate brings visitors from within the island and afar, all year round. You’ll see fresh vegetables and fruits, some only grown in these climes, sold at roadside stands that dot the roads. As you walk through Nuwara Eliya, Gregory’s Lake, the cottages surrounding it, villas and mansions in the distance, all come into view gradually. No wonder this place is called ‘Little England’ by many! We’re in the Central Highlands. The British used this area as a holiday retreat during the warmer months along the coast, from the 19th century to the early 20th century. This town is unlike any place else in Sri Lanka. There’s a red-bricked post office, still in operation, in Nuwara Eliya. Here, you’ll be able to purchase a picture postcard to send to your friends. You’ll get a chance to sit for a while, and enjoy the cooler weather, at Victoria Park or by the waters of Gregory’s Lake. There are restaurants specializing in all kinds of cuisine here. You can choose between European and local fare for your dinner. Even the food tastes better here somehow!
Get back to your hotel after taking in Nuwara Eliya and relax well into the evening! The walk here is pleasant since the climate is a lot cooler in these parks.
You’ve got a full day ahead so make sure you have a good breakfast! We’ll check out of the hotel, thereafter, and make our way to Nanu Oya Railway station. What lies ahead is a relatively short train journey. But it is one not to be missed when in Sri Lanka.
The train ride to Ella is famous. It is on a relatively less-busy route that locals take. The trip is pleasant as the cool air moves in and out of the train compartments. This train ride offers some of the best views the island offers. There is greenery in every direction. Thoughts flood in, thick and fast. How is this possible in a tropical island? We snake our way high into the mountains, passing dense forest vegetation and tea plantations, over picture-perfect bridges, inside tunnels, and literally through local villages. One thing’s a constant; the warm smiles of the people you see. It is hard work plucking tea leaves for several hours. You’ll see these colourfully-clothed ladies momentarily look up, from the tea fields as they go about their work. There are many stations you pass on your way to Ella. They are old! And so are the trains. The train ride is made that much richer because of this. It is from another time, altogether.
Once you reach the train station in Ella, your friendly chauffeur guide will meet you there. He’ll take you on the next leg of your journey, to Yala. This one’s pretty special, you’ll see. The drive there will take between 3½ to 4 hours.
There’s a contrast in landscape here. It is green but drier and warmer in these parts. You’ll check in to your hotel and have the entire evening. Get some shut-eye, as you’ve got an action-packed day tomorrow!
You’ve got a high-energy island safari experience today!
The Yala National Park is one of the island’s most famous wildlife reserves. The unique safari experience here is highly valued by both locals and guests of the country. (Full day Experience)
Yala is vast. A total of 1268 sq. km to be exact. The terrain here is mostly scrub, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons. The variety of wildlife seen here is something else. You’ll get to see elephants, crocodiles, aquatic birds, snakes, buffaloes and monkeys, up close, as your 4WD vehicle makes its way through the park. Yala is also well-known for its population of Sri Lankan Leopards. They’re not easy to spot, however. The highlight of any Yala safari experience is spotting one of them! The safari experience is rich, regardless. You’ll have a better chance of catching a glimpse of one in the morning. This is when the leopards come out in search of water and prey. Don’t worry, you’ll be back after lunch. There’s a good chance you’ll catch one then!
*Safaris present a unique experience. They’re a load of fun! But make sure you stay safe by following the guidelines we provided before you set off.
You’ll get to the hotel in time for breakfast. Relax, lounge and you’ll have plenty of time to talk about what you saw. We’ll head back to the National Park towards afternoon.
The second leg of the safari experience is just as exciting! The variety of creatures you’ll spot can be different during the daytime. It is hotter now.
You’ll return to your hotel before sundown. You’ve got the entire evening to do as you please, after the thrilling safari expedition you’ve taken in today.
Breakfast is important this morning, as you’ve got a long drive ahead! We’ll make our way to the coastal city of Galle, after checking out of the hotel. It will take us around 4½ to 5 hours to get there.
We follow the coastline closely on our way to Galle. Sleepy seaside villages dot the entire coast. You’ll pass through the bustling city of Galle and see the Galle Fort from afar, as we head to the hotel. After we check in, you’ve got the entire day to yourself!
The local breakfast spread is delectable, or you can choose the continental breakfast option as well. Thereafter, we’ll slowly make our way at around 1000 hours for the Cinnamon Trails experience. Nothing like this, anywhere else on Earth!
The Southern Province came to be known as the producer of the world’s best cinnamon with a good reason. We’ll learn why this is so. Plus, you’ll get an understanding of the local techniques used, as your host takes you through this hillside cinnamon plantation.
Cinnamon infused juice? It is quite uncommon, we agree. But it is super refreshing! You’ll get to drink a glass of it before we make our way through the plantation. If you prefer, we can arrange a tuk tuk to take you. Just let us know slightly in advance. A brisk stroll takes us to higher ground, where the peeling and oil extraction work takes place. Local peelers come to this shed, bringing the cinnamon harvest of this estate and of small-holdings closeby. The job is primarily carried out by womenfolk, and they often get the entire family involved. The local cinnamon trade and the island’s colonial history are intertwined. You’ll hear the intricate details on this from your host. He’ll also narrate to you the wide uses and benefits of cinnamon, how it is graded, and the community focus at this estate. At the summit, the view is out of this world. Here, you’ll get to leisurely sip a cup of tea and also have the chance to handle some of the tools used in cinnamon peeling and extraction. We can also arrange a 20-minute tea tasting, if your curiosity is piqued.
Once you get back to your hotel, you’ve got plenty of time to put your feet up. Later that day, at around 1600 hrs, you’ll head to the Galle Fort with your host. You’ll get to experience its magic, first hand!
Your host knows the Fort intimately. Walk through its closely-built alleyways and streets while taking in its colonial structures including its bastions, ramparts, and its many buildings.
The experience begins close to the main entrance to the Galle Fort, which was built more recently. The host expertly navigates you through the significance of each structure within this fortification. The Indian Ocean on one side, and Galle’s international cricket ground on the other, you begin to see there are but a few places on Earth as scenic as this. The host is well-versed in the island’s history, the Fort’s role in the colonial context, how it was built, and how it had to be defended at various points. He’ll take you through the Fort’s must-see sites as well as some of its more hidden ones. The extent here is 150 acres in total, and this experience neatly packs in a narrative of the Fort including religion, history, architecture and daily life. The host recalls personal accounts of the devastation wreaked by the Tsunami in 2004. It hasn’t always been easy, but the Fort is thriving once again.
You’ll have ample time to relax in the evening, once you get back to your hotel. This activity-packed day will ring fresh in your memory!
Have a good breakfast this morning! We’re going to take in a unique experience involving local masks, at around 0900 hrs.
The setting for this one is an arts and crafts boutique hidden within the Galle Fort. Here, you’ll learn the history of mask making in Sri Lanka and the Southern region. Thereafter, your host will show you the ropes as you create your own mask!
Today, the use of masks in Sri Lanka is restricted to performances and symbolic rituals. In the past, however, they served an active role in local spirituality and shamanism. They were used in ancient rituals to heal and gain protective powers. Just the thought of this is overwhelming. The host will carefully guide you through the age-old technique of crafting masks in the ‘Kolam’ tradition, where they are usually carved using a light wood called Kaduru. Your host’s fingers are nimble. His work is effortless. He imparts his experience in closely showing you the technique of crafting a local mask, using sustainable materials like recycled paper, kithul (treacle), kurundu (cinnamon), clay, broken tiles, beeswax and even cow dung. Experiences like this one are rarely found elsewhere.
We’ll get back to the hotel, thereafter. You’ve got adequate time to unwind before you head back to the Galle Fort at around 1600 hrs. And this time, it’s for the Battles & Bastions experience.
The Galle Fort stands tall. It is visible from almost everywhere in Galle. Inside its walls, the sights and sounds are captivating. Your host knows this place inside out. He’ll take you through its network of streets, unhurriedly.
How was this coastal city named? What are the changes the Fort underwent as it, and the island itself, changed hands from the Portuguese, the Dutch, and lastly, to the British? The host will narrate with ease, the answers to these questions and why this place reserves a special place in history. The streets, bylanes, and alleyways here are pure magic. The names of some of them reflect specific incidents and people from its colonial past. Structures, old and new, sit side-by-side. We’ll hear about how some of the structures within the Fort have evolved gradually with the passage of time, after numerous battles. This was once a critical port for trader from across the ocean. You begin to picture what they were like, how they were dressed...You’ll climb the bastions with your host and get a chance to take in the panoramic view of this unique coastal city. He’ll touch on the myths as well as the recorded history of Galle Fort, and personal accounts of the destruction left behind by the Tsunami in 2004. We make our way towards the iconic Galle Lighthouse as the sun sets slowly in the distance. There truly is no place like this, anywhere else.
We head back to the hotel, thereafter. The rest of the evening is yours to do as you please. The one-of-a-kind Galle Fort experience will leave you smiling gently as you retire for the night.
It is your last day on the island. You can choose whether to engage in a bit of rest and relaxation at the hotel or to check out of the hotel soon after breakfast, depending on your flight’s departure time. It takes around 2 to 2½ hours to get to the airport from here.
Your island holiday is drawing to a close but the memories from over a week’s worth of experiences will last a lifetime. Recollect them with your chauffeur as you drive to the airport and maybe write and let us know how you felt throughout.
We’ll miss showing you around our island but we really hope you come back soon. There’s plenty more to see within our shores!
Knowledge and expertise can make your holiday more canker free and fun filled.