Classic Sri Lanka
Trip code: BV15CJSL
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With tea plantations, leopard safaris, a former British hill station and UNESCO World Heritage sites, this 15-day itinerary is an ideal introduction to Sri Lanka.
The pace is easy going, with mostly two night stays. This Classic Sri Lanka trip is unique to India Unbound. We have designed it to showcase the cultural highlights and diversity of the country, while allowing time for rest and relaxation along the way.
The trip includes several significant and renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites – from the Sigiriya Rock Fortress to the Buddhist `Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’ – plus the World Heritage city of Galle Fort where cafes, boutiques and artisan workshops line the cobbled streets.
Away from the archaeological wonders, see the picturesque landscape with a comfortable local train ride into the hills and visit tea plantations to learn (and taste!) more about Sri Lanka’s best known crop – after all Ceylon grows some of the world’s best tea!
Concluding in the capital Colombo, this trip also features jeep safaris in Yala National Park, a traditional dance performance and an optional bicycle tour, and is an ideal introduction to Sri Lanka.
Day 1 Colombo
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel near the airport for an overnight stay.
Day 2 Anuradhapura
Depart for Anuradhapura this morning. This was the first ancient capital of the ‘country of kings’ for approximately 1,400 years. At the pinnacle of its glory, the city extended over 52 square kilometres. Its magnificent monuments, refined sculpture and paintings are testimony to a veritable and original Sri Lankan culture.
Check in to your accommodation on arrival and afterwards take in the sights of the ancient city, with its rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders.
Day 3 Sigiriya
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before departing for the 2-hour drive to Sigiriya.
This afternoon visit one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Set in green scrub jungle, this massive rock was a retreat for Buddhist monks in ancient times. The well-planned monastic complex includes caved temples, frescoes, bathing pools, ponds and Asia’s oldest surviving landscaped gardens. Today Sigiriya is best known for its frescos painted in the pocket of the rock. Other highlights of the site include the ‘Lion Stairway’, the ‘Mirror Wall’ and the ‘Water Gardens’.
Day 4 Sigiriya
This morning visit Polonnaruwa (where you have the option to tour by bicycle). Once the medieval capital, this is one of the most beautiful centres in Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage. Explore the ancient ruins and the Gal Vihara complex, where three gigantic Buddha statues are carved out of a single rock.
This afternoon take a safari in to Minneriya National Park. Comprising 88.9 sq kms of scrub and light forest, it provides shelter for a number of animals, including toque macaques, sambar deer, leopards and elephants. The park is also of interest because of its ancient Minneriya Tank, which was built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century AD.
Day 5 Kandy
Depart for Kandy this morning, making stops en route to visit the Dambulla Rock Cave Temple and a spice garden at Matale.
Another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Dambulla Rock cave temple is thought to date back to the 1st century BC; this is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in the country.
Sri Lanka is famous for its spices. At Matale you will have an opportunity to explore the delightful green and fragrant Spice Garden. Trained staff will introduce you to different spices including nutmeg, pepper vines, cloves trees, curry, cinnamon, and the precious cardamom (which grows in the shade of high jungle trees and can only be harvested by hand). They will explain how some of these are grown and show you how they are processed. If you are interested, you can purchase spices, traditional remedies and cosmetics here. (A processing and training unit has been set up in the area and farmers are grouped in a cooperative to ensure fair prices).
Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was established in the 14th century and the Kingdom of Kandy became the country’s capital city in the 16th century. Under the patronage of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka indigenous culture flourished for more than 2,500 years until the occupation by the British in 1815. Steeped in political, cultural and religious history, Kandy also played a central role in the tea plantation industry once tea production began in Ceylon.
Day 6 Kandy
After breakfast drive to Pinnawela to visit the Elephant Orphanage, which was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants abandoned by their mothers and displaced from their natural environment due to development projects. Most orphans cannot be introduced back into the wild, as other elephant family groups will not accept them. They enjoy a good life with their human ‘parents’ and many find foster homes in zoos around the world. Arrive at the Orphanage early this morning in order to see the baby elephants being bottle-fed. Afterwards, the entire herd is taken to the river for a bath.
This afternoon, take a city tour. The charming, easy-going capital of the hill country, Kandy’s lovely centrepiece is Kandy Lake. An artificial lake 4 kilometres in circumference, it was created in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy. The island in the centre was used as his personal harem, to which he crossed on a barge. Later the British used it as an ammunition store and added the fortress style parapet around the perimeter. The town centre, close to the lake is a delightful jumble of old shops, antique and gemstones specialists, a bustling market and a good selection of restaurants.
You may also like to visit the Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya. Established in 1821, the garden is well known for its spectacular ornamental plants, large variety of tropical trees and creepers, including a nutmeg grove and its orchid house, which contains more than three hundred orchids.
Later this afternoon visit the Dalada Maligawa – the Buddhist ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage site partly due to this temple. Here you can witness the puja ceremony, a daily religious observation that has been followed for generations.
This evening, enjoy a Kandyan Dance performance; this traditional Sri Lankan dance flourished in the hill country during ancient times. The dancers, who are attired in frilled costumes with glistening head-dresses and breastplates, skip and whirl to the beat of drums executing astonishing acrobatics in mid-air; the highlight is the fire walking at the end of the performance.
Day 7 Nuwara Eliya
Transfer to the railway station this morning to board a train to Nuwara Eliya. Set in a picturesque landscape, it is located at an altitude of 1884 metres; it is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka.
The town was founded in about 1825 as a retreat for British civil servants and planters seeking to escape from the heat of the plains. A ‘hill station’, where they could indulge in pastimes such as fox hunting, polo, golf and cricket, it was known as “Little England” due to its picturesque landscape and cool climate and the many buildings that retain features from the colonial period.
Day 8 Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. This morning visit a tea plantation. The tour includes observing the day-to-day operations of an estate – and also enables you to participate in some activities such as tea picking, etc (and tea tasting, of course!).
Return to your hotel and the remainder of the day is at leisure. You may like to take a stroll around the town; many of the buildings here, such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club and Town Post Office retain features from the colonial period; many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens.
Day 9 Yala
Depart Nuwara Eliya this morning for Yala and your accommodation here, close to Yala National Park, Sri Lanka’s most visited wildlife reserve.
Check in to your accommodation on arrival and afterwards take an afternoon jeep safari in to the park accompanied by a tracker. The park is home to herds of elephants, wild boar, wild buffalo, crocodiles, sloth bears, monkeys and other animals. Its most famous residents, however, are its elusive leopards. There are also about 130 species of resident and migrant birds in the park including fantailed peacocks, painted storks, jackals, serpent eagles, sea eagles and pelicans.
Day 10 Yala
Enjoy an early morning jeep safari in to Yala National Park (breakfast packets will be provided).
Return to your accommodation and the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 11 Galle
Depart for Galle this morning. One of the best-preserved colonial-era cities in Southeast Asia, Galle has been declared a UNESCO `World Heritage City’.
Galle was a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country as Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese were doing business through Galle port. The ‘modern’ history of the city began with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1502. In 1640, the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company and Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period.
Day 12 Galle
Full day at leisure. Galle Fort is a delightful place to explore with its narrow, cobbled streets, laid back cafes, boutique hotels, and artisan workshops. Outside the fort’s walls are long stretches of beach backed by coconut palms and lush hillsides.
Day 13 Colombo
After breakfast depart for Colombo. The largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo stretches for 14 kilometres along the western shore of the country. Due to its large harbour and strategic position along the East West sea-trade routes, it was well known to ancient traders as long as 2,000 years ago. Today it is a metropolis of over two million people where different ethnic groups, religions and cultures mingle. The contrast between high-rise hotels and colonial mansions, supermarkets and street bazaars, dazzling cars and motor-rickshaws, is found everywhere.
Day 14 Colombo
Spend today sightseeing with a local guide, including visits to many of the city’s famous landmarks such as Galle Face Green, Viharamahadevi Park, the National Museum, the Old Parliament, Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Independence Square, the Town Hall and Buddhist and Hindu Temples.
Day 15 Colombo
Transfer to the airport to board your departure flight.
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