The spiritual temples, astonishing forts, hidden beaches and unfailingly welcoming locals make Sri Lanka an idyll crammed full of highlights.
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Depart London on your overnight flight to Colombo.
You’ll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel in the nearby town of Negombo. Beautifully positioned between the Indian Ocean and Negombo Lagoon, it’s the perfect place to recover from the long flight before setting off to explore the island.
Stay: One night in a Bawa room at Jetwing Lagoon – bed & breakfast
This morning you’ll visit Negombo Fish Market before making the four-and-a-half-hour journey to Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. The following morning you’ll visit the 200-metre high rock fortress of Sigiriya, one of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You’ll climb to the flat summit to reach the ancient citadel of King Kashapa – an astounding 70-hectare fortified town complete with moat, rampart, gardens and frescoes.
The next day brings you to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the complex of ancient monuments, stupas, palaces and temples. You’ll visit no less than two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – one of them the oldest historically documented tree in the world, the 2,200-year-old sacred Bo Tree. Believed to be an offshoot of the tree beneath which Buddha attained enlightenment.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at Jetwing Lake – bed & breakfast
On day six you’ll be driven to Kandy, pausing along the way at the magnificent Dambulla cave temples with their intricate wall paintings and impressive Buddha statues – almost bursting out of their confined caverns. Upon arrival in Kandy you’ll be taken to your beautiful boutique hotel with its splendid city views.
The following day you’ll have time to walk around the city’s large, sacred lake and talk to the unfailingly charming locals. The culmination of your walk will be the mighty Temple of the Tooth. This gleaming white wedding cake of a building was created to house the Relic of the tooth of Buddha and is the scene of many colourful festivals throughout the year. Kandy also offers the beautiful Peradeniya Botanical Gardens – 147 acres of manicured lawns, exotic trees and flora, including fabulous orchids.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Theva Residency – bed & breakfast
From Kandy you’ll board a train to a working tea plantation on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya where you will be spending the next couple of days. You will have plenty of time to explore the estate and its surrounds at your leisure, with the opportunity to go mountain biking, enjoy nature walks and tour a nearby tea factory. Alternatively, you can relax with a cup of freshly brewed tea on the property’s manicured gardens – all the while soaking up the stunning scenery that this part of Sri Lanka is known for.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Stafford Bungalow – half board & afternoon tea
The next stop on your Sri Lankan adventure is Udawalawe National Park, home to wild elephants who gather in herds of up to 100. The park itself is enclosed by verdant hills and dominated by teak forests, scrub jungle, grassland and the Udawalawe reservoir. You’ll be staying just 9km from the park at Eliyanth Udawalawe, your base for an afternoon safari in search of elephants, sambar deer, wild boar, leopard, buffalo and various birds. You’ll also visit the Elephant Transit Home that works to rehabilitate orphaned elephant calves.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Centauria Wild, half board.
This morning you’ll have time for a final morning safari through Udawalawe before making your way towards Balapitiya. En route, your driver will take you to the historic fort town of Galle. The Dutch originally built the fort – much of it from huge blocks of coral – to protect one of their prime trading ports. Its history is tangible as you walk around the tiny streets radiating out from an iconic white lighthouse, and today it is reckoned to be the largest inhabited fort in the world. Certainly one of the most charming; with local ladies selling their hand-made lace, snake and monkey charmers, a grand mosque and original Dutch churches.
After lunch, transfer further north-west along the coast to Balapitiya and your luxurious hotel situated near the town on a secluded stretch of a wide sandy bay. Spend three nights in total tranquillity.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe room at Shinagawa Beach – bed & breakfast
You will be driven back to Colombo Airport for your flight home.