Land of Serendipity
Welcome to Colombo! After a pleasant and relaxing flight, you will touch down in Sri Lanka’s capital city, defined by its mixed architecture reflecting the Portuguese, Dutch and British influences of its colonial past. Settle into the new culture, pace and way of life, then relax and refresh after your flight as you prepare yourself for an exciting 8 days.
Tonight you'll stay at the Galle Face Hotel, an iconic, colonial-style property right next to Colombo's rocky coastline. The expansive swimming pool and fresh sea breeze are perfect to help you recover from your flight and slip into Sri Lankan life.
Minneriya National Park
On day 2 you’re off to Habarana to discover the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, a fortress constructed by King Kashyapa perched atop the rocky remains of a magma tower from a now-extinct volcano. This unusual rock rises dramatically 200 meters from the dense jungle and is encircled by a moat, rampart, and beautiful water gardens displaying the frescoes of the heavenly maidens of Sigiriya, approached by a spiral stairway.
The cultural adventure continues on day 3 when you'll pay a morning visit to the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa. Here you can explore the ruins of the Royal Palace and discover the Gal Viharaya; a trio of splendid Buddha statues carved out of the rock. There’s also a dramatic audience hall, a lotus bath, the 12th century Polonnaruwa statue and the Parakrama Samudra tank; a lake built by King Parakramabahu the Great. That’s not all! Keep your cameras out as you continue to explore the Shiva temple, the Lankatileka, the Watadage, the Galpotha, the Kiri Vihare Dagoba and the remains of a former Temple of the Tooth.
In the afternoon you are off on a safari to the 6,656-hectare park of Minneriya; an elephant corridor where you can get within close range of elephants, leopards, sambar deer and more. If you visit between August and September, you may choose to rent a catamaran and sail on the lake - here is the best place to spot fishing cats and the endangered rusty spotted cat.
For the next two nights, you'll call Cinnamon Lodge your home. Nestled amongst the lush forests of Habarana, the lodge boasts an expansive outdoor pool, butler service, private balconies, a spa, a tennis court, and even a butterfly garden!
You are heading to Kandy, the ‘city of hills’, with a stop at the Dambulla cave temples on the way. Dating back to the 1st century BC, this complex of 5 caves is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was used as a refuge by an ancient king who commissioned magnificent carved images within the living rock.
In the afternoon you will enjoy a cultural show featuring traditional dances and acts unique to the central region, before heading to the Temple of the Tooth in the evening; the most sacred temple in the whole of Sri Lanka, where the tooth relic of Buddha is held. The striking, white and red temple houses intricate carvings and a holy shrine which is said to contain one of Buddha's teeth, taken from his funeral pyre. A walk through the temple to see the Tooth will give you a unique insight into Sri Lankan Buddhism practice.
Tonight you'll stay at the Golden Crown in Kandy. This colonial-style property overlooks Kandy's hilly countryside, and there's a fab infinity pool where you can unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.
The Sri Lankan countryside is absolutely spectacular and today you will get an extra special view of it during a train ride to Hatton. Following an early breakfast, you will board the rickety train to Badulla. The train will wind through rolling plains of tea, bridges and beautiful panoramic views that are well-worthy of a photograph.
Spend the evening enjoying the picturesque scenery from the Ferncliff Bungalow. This unique heritage hotel was built in the 1800s, and you can enjoy home-cooked Sri Lankan food while looking out over manicured lawns and the rolling hills of Nuwara Eliya.
Today you'll transfer to Galle. On the way, visit the Carolina Tea Factory; nestled between the perfectly manicured, tea-covered Hatton hills. Watch the intricate tea-making process and the meticulous steps needed to turn fresh green leaves into fine Ceylon black tea – naturally, you will get to sample it.
On day 7, learn more about the culinary specialties of Sri Lanka during a morning cooking lesson with cheerful and locally renowned chef, Karuna at her healthy-eating restaurant. You’ll be involved in every step of the process, beginning with a visit to the local market to gather the day's freshest produce and catch, continuing with the preparation of a few authentic Sri Lankan dishes and culminating with a delicious meal that you make with your host.
Your final evening will be marked with a visit to the spectacular Galle Fort where the Portuguese first landed in Sri Lanka and which was fortified by the Dutch during the 17th and 18th centuries. Their influence is still very evident, with old Dutch Churches and monuments, an imposing crested and monogrammed gateway, many well-preserved old Dutch houses and narrow alleys still bearing Dutch names.
You'll stay two nights at the Amari Galle, in a beautiful room overlooking the ocean. Not only does this hotel boast a beachfront location, but it is also a short drive from the Dutch Fort.