Single supplement $492.00
Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a natural paradise with a landscape of verdant mountains, rainforests, paddy fields, tumbling waterfalls and sweeping gorges.
Hidden amongst this are the ancient Buddhist city of Polonnaruwa and the impressive 'Lion's Rock' fortress at Sigiriya, testaments to the country's rich history. In contrast there's the religious centre of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in the Central Highlands, as well as the chance to climb Adam's Peak for sunrise during pilgrimage season.
On this tour we descend from the highest point in the railway track in Sri Lanka to Bandarwela. From here we travel to the south east to the island's most exciting Yala National park, where we take a game drive to witnessthe one of the highest concentrations of leopards in the world, before spending our last few days relaxing on tropical palm-fringed beaches and visiting the old Dutch city of Galle.
Our tour begins this afternoon in the small coastal town of Negombo. Our hotel is on the beach allowing us to watch the fishing boats bring in the day's catch and the sun setting over the ocean.
Overnight stay in Negombo.
We drive inland to Anuradhapura. On the way we will visit a nearby fishing village. The catch here is made in traditional style large outrigger canoes, known locally as ‘Oruvas’. We will also stop at a tile
factory to discover the intricacies of tile making. Later we watch the toddy tappers climbing tall coconut trees and collecting sap from the flowers to make Arrack, a local spirit type. We then drive on via Puttalam to Anuradhapura.
Overnight stay in Anuradhapura.
This morning we explore some of the major places of interest in the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
Founded around 500 BC, it became important with the conversion of the Ruler and his people to
Buddhism some time later in 260210 BC. The site was vast and the city spread over many miles.
There were hospitals for the sick, hostels for travelers, and artificial reservoirs ensured a good
irrigation system. Of great interest is the Sacred BoTree more than 2,200 years old, the Brazen
Palace once a nine floor residence for monks, the Ruvanvalisaya Dagoba a massive domeshaped
shrine 90m high, which towers over the surrounding country side, and the Smadhi Buddha a 4th
century AD masterpiece.
In the afternoon we visit Mihintale, situated 8 miles away and the veritable cradle of Buddhism. The young monk Arahath stayed in these mountain caves and converted the local people to Buddhism. Exploring Mihintale involves climbing a flight of 1,840 shallow stone steps leading to the summit of the Missaka Mountain. There are excellent views from the top looking back to Anuradhapura.
Overnight stay in Anuradhapura.
Travelling towards Giritale, we pause to see the magnificent Standing Buddha of Aukana (12m high). Sculptured in the 5th century AD by a master craftsman, it is still relatively isolated in its jungle setting.
Leaving Aukana we drive to Dambulla, where a great series of caves have been turned into temples (dating from the 1st century BC). We will visit five separate caves, which contain a large number of Buddha images and a few sculptures of Hindu Gods. T his World Heritage Site is visited by crowds of worshippers.
After a lunch stop, there is an option to do a 1 hour elephant back safari in Habarana which will cost you an additional USD 20, or you may choose to do a nature walk or simply relax in the shade with a book by the lake. Afterwards, we finally reach the small town of Giritale.
Overnight stay in Giritale Hotel.
This morning we explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which reached its height of glory in the 12th century. The city has many interesting and spectacular buildings and monuments. There is the Royal Palace Group with its Audience Hall, Bathing
Pool and Quadrangle – a very compact collection of ruins. Close by is the Circular Relic House, a curious round structure with a beautifully preserved ‘moonstone’ carved at the foot of a flight of steps. Another famous feature of the deserted city is the
group of carved images of the Buddha known as Galvihara. Here there are four colossal figures, all of which are carved out of solid granite. The Reclining Buddha is no less than 14m long! In the early afternoon we drive to our hotel in Sigiriya. You ma y choose to take an optional jeep safari in Minneriya National Park, Eco Park or Kaudulla National Park on the way (park varies depending on the season).
Overnight stay in Dambulla
A morning climb brings us up to the redoubtable Sky
Fortress. The ruins of this 5th century fortress
are one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions, a stupend
ous sight to behold and a feat of consummate
engineering skill. A switchback series of steps and
steel stairways (sometimes steep and challenging)
ascend to the top. Halfway up, tucked beneath a she
ltering overhang of rock, are the famous
frescoes paintings – the Sigiriya Damsels, their co
lors still glowing. Magnificent views can be enjoye
d from the summit of the rock palace 200m high.
We then drive to Kandy. On the way we stop to visit the woodcarving center at Naula and a Spice Garden. Finally we reach Kandy where our hotel is s ituated a short walk from the heart of this lovely mountain town.
Overnight stay in Kandy.
Lying in the mountains 120km northeast of Colombo, Kandy; in climatic terms, a world apart due to its altitude of 500m above sea level. The town was captured by the British as late as 1815, and is known more for its cultural and spiritual importance rather than its history. Buddhists from all over the world come to this delightful old highland town, specifically to visit the Temple of the Tooth, the Dalada Maligawa. The costly jewelled shrine of the Holy Tooth is kept in the upper floor of the
original building. This relic was brought from India 1,700 years ago and every year, at the time of the August full moon, it is paraded round the town with the Easala Perahara. During this tennight festival of Perahera, the Tooth is borne along on a
richly attired elephant, surrounded by saffron robed monks and Kandyan dancers. Kandyan dancers can also be seen performing every night at a few locations around town.
This morning’s sightseeing includes attending the Temple of the Tooth Ceremony and a visit to the Peradeniya Botanical garden. Your afternoon will be free to continue your exploration of this charming mountain town.
Overnight stay in Kandy.
Heading out of Kandy, we travel through tea plantations to Kitulgala in time for lunch; on the way we visit a tea factory where we see how a cup of tea is produced. Our hotel is beautifully located on the bank of a large river and surrounded by thick jungle; this is a great place to relax after the previous days sightseeing. You can swim in the river, relax
in the garden or take part in a number of activities such as jungle walks or white water rafting. The rafting is optional and costs an extra USD 30 and there is a choice of gentle or wild water (grade 3 rapids) depending on your preferences.
Optional: During full moon day of December to the full moon day of May it is possible to climb Adams Peak. This would be an optional extra and you need to be very fit to attempt this. You would leave Kitulgala at midnight and drive to the base of the peak. From here it is a strenuous maximum 4hour climb to the top, in time for sunrise. We then return to Kitulagala to joining the group at lunch on day.
Overnight stay in Kitulgala
We have a jungle walk this morning in Kitulgala. After lunch we make the spectacular drive through
tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya. This was the favorite hill station during the British era and is
situated in the cool highland air at 1890m has a very British feel to it. Known locally as 'Little
England' it is dotted with British style houses, hotels and a racecourse. There will be time to look
around the town in the afternoon.
Overnight stay in Nuwara Eliya.
We have an early start this morning and take a 36km drive south to Horton Plains, a large plateau over 2,000m high,
overlooked by the second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka. The scenery is beautiful and the best way to explore is on foot.
We take a guided walk through the rolling grasslands; seeing forest, wildlife, such as the sambur and purple faced monkey and visit 'World's End',
one of the most stunning sights in Sri Lanka where a 1050m high cliff drops, overlooking the Uva Province. We then catch the train from the highest
railway station in the country; within an hour and a half we drop from 1941m to 1255m.
The train travels through the cloud forest into the tea plantations, the views are breathtaking. We get off at Ella railway station.
Overnight stay in Ella.
Today we do a short hike to Little Adam's peak to have spectacular views of the coastal plain nearly 1,000m below.
Almost the whole of the southern part of the island is in view and on a clear day the shimmering silver of the ocean is visible.
The weather is normally clear in the mornings, however, as in any mountainous area,
bad weather does sometimes occur which will obviously limit the view. We will also vist the famous Nine Arches Bridge.
We then head south out of the hills to Tissamaharama down on the plains; this is our base for visiting Yala National Park. Yala is Sri Lanka's best known National Park and is popular for elephant, leopard, bear, crocodile, wild buffaloes and wild boar. More than three times larger than Udawalawe at 97,800 hectares, this is the second largest of Sri Lanka's national parks. Its open undulating terrain made it famous for elephants for many years, but recently the park has become well known for leopard. The park, which is primarily shrub jungle with several salt and fresh water lagoons, has one of the highest concentrations of leopard per square kilometer in the world. (The sanctuary may be closed for 46 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park.)
Overnight stay in Tissamaharama.
We leave for the beautiful Palm fringed coast. On the way we stop at the elephant transit home to
see how the orphan baby elephants are fed milk. This transit home is a Eco friendly project from
where the baby elephants are released back to the wild when they reach 3 1⁄2 years old.
In the afternoon we arrive at our beach resort where we relax for the rest of the day.
Overnight stay in Mirissa / Unawatuna.
Free day to relax on the beach or by the pool. There are also numerous optional activities that you
can take part in during the day including a boat ride through mangrove swamps to a cinnamon
plantation or from November to April you can go whale watching off Dondra head, near Mirrissa,
which is one of the best places in the world for seeing Blue and Sperm whales. Huge pods of
dolphins are also often seen playing alongside the boats.
Overnight stay in Mirissa / Unawatuna.
We set off today and drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle, on the way we visit a
turtle hatchery. Galle dates back to the 17th century, and now a UNESCO world heritage site, we
visit the Galle Fort. We take the express way to Colombo reaching our hotel in the late afternoon.
Overnight stay in Colombo.
If you are travelling on the group flight we will have a morning transfer to the airport for the daytime flight. The arrangements for those not flying with the group ends after check out.