9 Nights / 10 Days
9 Nights / 10 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 the hill capital of the island, Kandy. The ride usually takes between 3 to 3½ hours.
You’ve endured a drive of many miles today. Check into the hotel and unwind as the evening progresses. You’ve got an activity-packed day tomorrow!
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, before you set off on a walk through Kandy with your host. A few highlights of this experience include the Royal Palace Complex and the Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic), which sit side-by-side. This speaks of the close association between religion and royalty in ancient times.
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.
You are headed to The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic next.
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.
Make your way back to the hotel and indulge in a bit of relaxation, before you step out once more in the evening to see the Royal Botanical Gardens.
The garden is an ecosystem in itself. It is vast and provides sanctuary to in excess of 4000 species of plants. These include varieties of colourful orchids, medicinal plants, spices, palm trees, among a host of other plant life. It is easy to see why it attracts close to 2 million visitors each year. There is strong support for areas such as floriculture, butterfly and birdlife conservation, from the Royal Botanical Gardens. Islandwide sustainability and biodiversity efforts are often initiated here. You can get lost wandering in these gardens, amid its plentiful bamboos, lianas and high-reaching trees. It is hard, at times, to believe that the coastline is only a hundred kilometers away from here. The contrast in landscape across every part of this island is stunning.
Head back to the hotel and spend your evening unhurriedly. You’ve experienced Central Sri Lanka at its finest!
Indulge in a local or continental breakfast this morning. Once you check out of the hotel, we’ll make our way to Gal Oya located in the southeast part of the island. It will take us about 3½ to 4 hours to get there.
Once we check into the hotel, you can put your feet up a little and recover from the long drive. Later on in the afternoon, we’ll tread a forest path for an encounter with the Aboriginal folk of Sri Lanka.
Your hotel sits in close proximity to an extremely important and special community of local people. This is home to the Veddha – the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka. This settlement represents one of the only surviving Veddha communities. The Village Chief will take you through the jungles where his ancestors lived for centuries. His narrative brings the forest alive. He carefully explains how his tribe uses medicinal plants and lives amid this thick vegetation. He points to their ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings. To see, close up, how these hunter-gatherers once lived in the jungles of Gal Oya is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Return to your lodge and spend time, unrushed, well into the evening. Only in Sri Lanka can you experience living so close to its native folk.
You’ve got plenty of time to sleep in and have breakfast slowly. Towards noon, we’ll make our way to Gal Oya National Park for a unique safari experience.
* A 12:30pm start is ideal as it lets you enjoy a late picnic lunch beside the Gal Oya River, next to a waterfall, or facing the park’s abundant scenery. And you’ll get to swim in the river before continuing with the jeep or walking safari, if you start early.
Gal Oya National Park is not one of the island’s best known national parks. It remains undiscovered for the most part. The jeep ride into the forgotten Nilgala section of the park is straight out of a movie. The host narrates how this area was once protected by ancient rulers for its plentiful medicinal plants and birdlife. The creatures here are relatively shy and sometimes hard to spot; however, the park is home to almost every creature found elsewhere on the island.
And you’ll almost always spot herds of elephants, four distinct species of deer, and a number of bird species as well. This safari is quite different to what you’ll find in the African continent or elsewhere on this island. Depending on your appetite for adventure, you can choose to hike to the Makara river mouth. You’ll be accompanied by one of our expert naturalists and the hike will allow you to take in the jungle, on foot, with the chance to experience wildlife close up.
Head back to the lodge and rest your weary feet all evening, after the adventure-filled day you’ve just had!
You’ve got a long drive ahead so make sure you have a hearty breakfast! Check out of the hotel and make your way to Koslanda. The drive is around 3½ to 4 hours long. You’ll also visit the Buduruwagala Raja Maha Viharaya, en-route to Koslanda.
The rock-cut Buddha figures of Buduruwagala have stood here for over a 1000 years. They have a unique sense of visual appeal due to the Mahayana Buddhist influence, which is not common in Sri Lanka. The largest of the standing Buddha statues here, 16m in total, is said to be the largest found anywhere on the island as well. As you stand before it, it is hard not to be overawed. The spiritual weight of this place is immense. You can feel it. There are three smaller figures carved to its right; the one in the center is said to be the Mahayana Buddhist figure Avalokiteśvara. Even among the island’s countless Buddhist temples, monuments and ruins, this one reserves a special place in its history.
You’ll check into your hotel in Koslanda, thereafter. Spend the evening as you please. The statues of Buduruwagala will be the topic of conversation well into the night.
Your morning spent in unrushed fashion, we’ll secure your passage to Lipton’s Seat to take in the stunning vistas it offers. The car ride there will take between 1 to 1½ hours.
Lipton’s Seat is found atop Poonagala Hills. This mountain range sits close to the Dambatenne Tea Factory. It is said to be the point from which the Scottish tea baron of world repute, Sir Thomas Lipton, overlooked his tea plantations. The history of this area and the Central Highlands are closely linked to the island’s colonial history. The host takes us through the role the tea crop played in shaping the island’s past. Clear skies allow for an unobstructed view of the island’s Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Eastern Provinces including their many lakes and mountain ranges. You can see all the way to the Hambantota Harbour along the Southern Cost, if you’re lucky. You can get to Lipton’s Seat either by hiking through the lush, green tea plantations leading to the top, or you can choose to be comfortably transported there more comfortably. Regardless, this experience is a must, as it lets you absorb the variety in landscape the island is renowned for.
You’ll have ample time to rest once you get back to the hotel. Perhaps you’ll spend your evening leisurely reading a bit on the history of local tea.
Indulge in a local or continental breakfast before you check out of your hotel. The descent towards the southern coast of Sri Lanka is slow! The drive to Galle will take around 4½ to 5 hours.
You’ve reached the sunny coastal city of Galle. Check in to your hotel and put your feet up for a while. You’ve got quite the experience in the evening.
North West of Galle, there sits a traditional lamp-lit mud hut. Here, you’ll be treated to a one-of-a-kind Roti Dinner.
It is humid and so the cold towel that greets you is perfect. Begin this experience by sipping on a chilled drink. The host has set up a colourful collection of ingredients inside to prepare the traditional feast he’s got planned. The simple roti, an unleavened flatbread, is widely eaten by most of the island’s ethnic communities. There is harmony where local fare is concerned. You are free to ask as many questions as you like about the spread that is slowly being prepared. Oh, and you can contribute to the effort by trying your hand at another local favourite — hoppers. A bowl-shaped pancake, it is made using a mix of fermented rice flour and freshly extracted coconut milk. The setting for this meal is surreal. The soft, relaxing sound of crickets chirping is heard. Use your fingers to scoop up a selection of flavourful curries including prawn, pork and cuttlefish, with torn off pieces of hot roti and hoppers. Eating with your hands is easy with delectable local fare like this.
Make your way back to the hotel and retire for the night. The intense flavours from this traditional dining experience will be remembered for years to come.
After a spot of breakfast at your hotel, you’ll get to relax for a while before heading to the coastal town of Hikkaduwa. You'll take the backroads there to get to the next leg of your holiday, a Cinnamon Trail. The drive is about 45 minutes to an hour long.
Acres and acres of cinnamon trees in every direction. That’s what you’ll see at the start of this experience. A 65-year-old bungalow sits at its center and this is where you’ll start the trail. You’ll get to walk through an active cinnamon plantation. The fragrance that fills the air is heady. Watch, as a cinnamon tree is harvested right before you. It’s scent is powerful. You realise why the colonial powers wanted control over the island’s natural cinnamon plantations. Place the harvested tree on your shoulder and walk to the workshop, where you’ll receive a hands-on lesson on how cinnamon is peeled, extracted, curled and finished. You’ll get to craft a fresh cinnamon quill all by yourself. And what’s more, you can taste real Ceylon Cinnamon in its many stages before it is fully dried; from the wet bark shavings that impart an earthier tone to the semi-dried ones that are much sweeter. You step into the 1800s as you enter a cinnamon museum within the premises of this vast plantation. Centuries-old photographs and ancient tools used to harvest cinnamon bring the history of this crop to life. End the cinnamon trail on a relaxing note with a few refreshments, while you take in the sight of peacocks, deer and hare retreating into this massive plantation as the sun recedes in the distance.
You’ll have enough time to put your feet up after heading back to the hotel. Unwind and head to the Galle Fort towards evening, to explore its magic with a local.
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!
Enjoy breakfast unhurriedly, check out of the hotel and head towards the coastal town of Negombo along the island’s western part. The drive there will take between 2½ to 3 hours.
You’ve got almost an entire day to yourself to do as you please! Perhaps relax all-day long or immerse yourself in some of the exciting activities organized by your hotel.
* Optional – If it is too soon for you to leave, you can extend your stay for up to 3 to 6 days and head to a set of resorts along the island’s southern coast: Bentota, Balapitiya & Ahungalla.
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. Either way, it only takes around 20 minutes to get to the airport from Negombo.
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.