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The Jewels of Sri Lanka

The Jewels of Sri Lanka The Jewels of Sri Lanka
£ 4245

The beautiful island of Sri Lanka, with its ancient past, colonial tradition, spectacular scenery and lush tropical jungle, will enchant everybody, and this tour is a fascinating introduction to this very special country.

It encompasses impressive rock-hewn fortresses, magnificent second and third century BC temples – many UNESCO World Heritage Sites – ethereal religious sites and ruined cities, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries, tea plantations and an unspoiled Victorian hill station.

Our journey begins in the capital city of Colombo, from which we head inland to Habarana to explore the cultural triangle. We see Sigiriya, an impressive rock-hewn fortress, and the beautifully preserved remains of the 11th century capital, Polonnaruwa. We then travel south to Kandy, last capital of the Sri Lankan Kings where we explore the city with its important Buddhist Temple of the Tooth, vestiges of colonial rule and Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. We continue to Nuwara Eliya, the famous hill station set in the heart of ‘tea country’, before ending our tour with a stay in Galle on the south-west coast of this magical island. A relaxing end to a memorable journey.

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14 days from
per person
Single Supplement:
Tour Date:
29th January 2022 -
11th February 2022

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    Detailed Itinerary
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    Day 1-3 London / Colombo
    London / Colombo

    Day 1:

    Suggested flights (not included in the cost of the tour) Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL504 departing London Heathrow at 20.40 hrs.

    Day 2: 

    Arrive Colombo at 12.40 hrs. Transfer to the charming Galle Face Hotel, a 5-star colonial hotel located in the heart of Colombo overlooking the Indian Ocean, where two nights are spent. Reputedly the oldest hotel in Sri Lanka, the hotel has sweeping views over a kilometre stretch of lawn and the charming Galle Face Promenade dating from 1864 from which the hotel takes its name.

    Late lunch at the hotel followed by the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Early evening drinks at the hotel bar followed by dinner at a local restaurant in the Old Dutch Hospital.

    Day 3: 

    Morning city tour of the old town with resident host, Mark Forbes and his wife Ruwi, including a visit to the famous Pettah open air bazaar and market. Continue to the National Museum, founded by Sir William Henry Gregory, the British Governor of Ceylon, in 1877, which exhibits a plethora of artefacts representing Sri Lanka’s rich history and ancient heritage.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Rest of the afternoon at leisure or optional afternoon visit to the late Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa’s home followed by a visit to Gangaramaya, one of the oldest and most famous Buddhist temples in Colombo, with a stop at the Paradise Road shop. This evening transfer to the famous Paradise Road for dinner at the Gallery Café, which used to be Geoffrey Bawa’s office.

    Day 4 Colombo / Habarana & Sigiriya
    Colombo / Habarana & Sigiriya

    Drive (with luggage) to Habarana (approx. 4 hours driving time) located at the heart of Sri Lanka’s world-famous Cultural Triangle of Kandy-Anuradhapura-Polonnaruwa, stopping for refreshments along the way, and check into The Cinnamon Lodge for a three-night stay. This charming hotel is surrounded by 27 acres of lush forested land, offering beautiful gardens including a butterfly garden, a swimming pool, tennis and badminton court and a spa.

    Lunch at the hotel. Early afternoon at leisure. Late afternoon transfer to visit to the 5th century World Heritage Site of Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Visit the frescoes of the Heavenly Maidens of Sigiriya which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock. (Please note that the climb to the top of ‘Lion Rock’ can take up to 90 minutes. Certain parts of the walk are quite steep and should not be attempted by anyone with mobility issues, a heart condition, or breathing difficulties. You may wish to walk part of the way or tuk tuks will also be provided to take you around the base of the fortress). Enjoy sundowners with Sigiriya as your backdrop before returning to the hotel for dinner.

    Day 5 Habarana & Polonnaruwa

    This morning, visit the beautifully preserved medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates from the 11th century AD. Visit the ruins of the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, the statue of King Parakramabahu and the Parakrama Saumdraya. Also visit the Shiva Temple, the Lankathilare, the Watadage, the Galpotha, the Kiri Vehera and the remains of the former Temple of the Tooth Relic. Finally visit the ruins of the Royal Palace and the Gal Vihara which has four statues of Buddha carved out of rock. Continue to the Lake House, formerly the Old Polonnaruwa Rest House, which was built in 1870 as a circuit bungalow for British government guests. It was visited by the Queen in the 1950s and it has now been restored as a hotel.

    Lunch at the Lake House overlooking the lake. Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Special BBQ dinner by the lake at the hotel.

    Day 6 Habarana & Dambulla
    Habarana & Dambulla

    Early this morning, there will be a unique opportunity to enjoy magnificent views of Sigiriya rock from a hot air balloon (weather permitting and at a supplementary cost). Visit to Dambulla rock temple. Dambulla was built by King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC and is a World Heritage Site. It contains over 150 images of Buddha.

    Private lunch at Kandalama Hotel in the ‘Caves’. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 7 Habarana / Kandy

    This morning, leave Habarana (with luggage) for Kandy. On route stop at a privately owned spice garden for a walk through the Estate with the Estate Manager followed by a cooking demonstration.

    Lunch at the spice garden. Continue driving to Kandy and check into the Jetwing Kandy Gallery Hotel which overlooks the Mahaweli Ganga River and where two nights are spent. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 8 Kandy

    This morning, explore Kandy with a local resident including Kandy Lake, Kandy town bazaar and the arts centre. Visit the beautifully restored Garrison Cemetery housing the gravestones of many British nationals who played a key role in the development of Sri Lanka in the 19th century.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most famous Buddhist Temples. Return to the hotel. Dinner at Kandy House.

    Day 9 Kandy / Nuwara Eliya
    Kandy / Nuwara Eliya

    Following breakfast, leave for the Royal Peradeniya Botanical gardens, first built as a pleasure garden by a Sinhala King and then expanded by the British. From Peradeniya Railway Station take a train to Nanu Oya (subject to confirmation) enjoying the spectacular scenery of tea plantations and thick jungle along the way.

    Packed lunch on board the train. On arrival in Nanu Oya transfer and check into the Heritance Tea Factory Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, where two nights are spent. Built in the days of the British Raj, the hotel has preserved much of its original style. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure followed by dinner at the hotel.

    Day 10 Nuwara Eliya
    Nuwara Eliya

    This morning, stroll through the tea plantations and visit a tea factory to see how the tea is plucked and converted into tea. Enjoy a tea tasting.

    Lunch at the hotel. This afternoon visit the Hakgala Gardens which started life in 1860 as an experimental plantation of cinchona trees, from which the anti-malarial drug quinine is derived, but they are now best known for their roses, ferns and orchid house – and for their beautiful views. The gardens are also home to some interesting wildlife, including bear monkeys and sambur, as well as an outstanding array of montane birdlife. Enjoy high tea at the infamous Hill Club. The founding members of the Hill Club, which is now a hotel, were mainly English and Scots planters of coffee, cinchona, and tea. The original building, which served as a club house, was centred around the current billiard room. Its colonial atmosphere has been faithfully preserved. Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 11 Nuwara Eliya / Kitugala / Galle
    Nuwara Eliya / Kitugala / Galle

    Today, leave Nuwara Eliya and drive south to Galle. 

    Stop for lunch at a local restaurant en route. Continue to Galle and check into the Fort Bazaar Hotel where three nights are spent. Set amidst the ageing coral walls of Galle Fort, the hotel is fresh and contemporary, and its chic, understated interiors feel distinctly Moroccan, as does its fabulous cuisine, both of which richly reflect the fort’s Moorish history. Afternoon Galle Fort walk with the manager of Galle Heritage Fund. The fort covers some 90 acres and was originally built by the Portuguese, though later extended by the Dutch in 1663. Dinner at the Fort Printers restaurant.

    Day 12-13 Galle

    Day 12:

    Transfer to Kahanda Kanda, surrounded by tea plantations and offering spectacular views. Enjoy a short tour of the spices and tea plantation followed by a cookery demonstration using local ingredients.

    Lunch at Kahanda Kanda. Remainder of the afternoon at leisure to explore Galle’s timeless streets with jewellery shops spilling with gems, ancient ramparts for sunset walks and dusty antique shops. Dinner at a local restaurant. 

    Day 13:

    Day at leisure with lunch under own arrangements.

    Or an optional excursion (at a supplementary cost) to ‘Brief Garden’, the house of Geoffrey Bawa’s brother, Bevis Bawa. Bevis spent 40 years growing and shaping ‘Brief’. He cleared the surrounding rubber plantation and went on to create a verdant romantic folly of inviting alcoves, nooks, and bowers. The house is even more appealing, a beautiful colonial villa stuffed full of miscellaneous artworks.

    Lunch at Brief Garden. Afternoon visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s country house in Lunuganga. The house and gardens at Lunuganga, were lovingly created over several decades and show Bawa’s vision of a tropical garden idyll. The Italian inspired garden with spectacular views over lakes and tropical jungle together with a simply designed plantation house are one of the lasting legacies of Asia’s most famous architect. Also visit the designer and great friend of Bawa’s, Ena de Silva’s, house which was originally constructed by Geoffrey Bawa. The house, originally located in Colombo, was relocated to plot of land next door to Lunuganga. Please note that the journey time is approximately 1.5 hours’ drive there and a 1.5 hours’ drive back.

    Farewell dinner at Amangalla restaurant.

    Day 14 Galle / Colombo / London

    Morning transfer to Colombo International Airport. Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL503 departing Colombo at 12.50 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 19.10 hrs.

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    • Absolutely outstanding. This was the best holiday we have ever had.

      SF, Mexico