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Your overnight flight from London arrives in Colombo just after midday. You’ll be met by your driver 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 recharge after your flight or enjoy activities such as windsurfing, swimming or squash.
Stay: One night in a Bawa room at Jetwing Lagoon – bed & breakfast
After paying a visit to the Negombo Fish Market, you’ll begin your journey into the Cultural Triangle. Check into your boutique hotel inspired by the ancient water gardens that once surrounded the Sigiriya rock fortress.
The first stop on your sightseeing tour the following day will be at the World Heritage city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s first capital founded in the 4th century B.C. Ruled by over 100 Sinhalese kings over 1,000 years, this ancient civilisation left behind a fascinating collection of monuments, including two UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are also responsible for inventing one of the earliest irrigation systems in the world. Whilst here, you’ll visit the world’s largest stupa and the 2,200-year-old Sacred Bo-Tree, which is said to be a sapling from the same tree Buddha sat under when he achieved enlightenment.
On your last day in the Cultural Triangle, the morning will be spent visiting the royal citadel of Sigiriya. The showpiece here is the magnificent Sigiryia rock fortress, a site of unusual beauty rising some 200 metres from the thick jungle. Climb the lion’s staircase to the top to find ancient frescoes and the remnants of the palace.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe villa at the Water Garden – half board
Day six sees you journey into Sri Lanka’s picturesque tea country. Along the way, you’ll visit the protected cave complex of Dambulla which contains over 150 images of Buddha, including a figure spanning 14 metres.
From there you will be taken to a historic 98-acre tea estate in the Knuckles Mountain Range 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 swimming under waterfalls, enjoy mountain biking, nature walks and tours of the tea fields. All the while soaking up the stunning scenery that this part of Sri Lanka is known for.
On your final day, you’ll be driven to Kandy to visit the Temple of the Tooth which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. According to legend, the tooth was taken from the funeral pyre of the Buddha and smuggled into Sri Lanka in 313 AD. Later you’ll visit the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, originally built by a Sinhala king, where you’ll find 147 acres of vivid flowers, plants and trees. Before returning to your hotel there’s also time to attend a cultural show and explore the bustling Kandy market.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Ashburnham Estate – half board
Today a five-hour drive brings you to Sri Lanka’s forgotten National Park. Here you will be staying in an environmentally conscious lodge within 20 acres of private forest, constructed from natural and locally sourced materials that blend seamlessly with the surroundings.
Gal Oya has the country’s largest lake and invites you to take an unforgettable boat safari to see swimming elephants and all manner of birds and wildlife at the water’s edge. Crocodiles bask in the shallows and on the mud banks, watching as deer warily come down to drink.
On the following day, you’ll drive into the Nilgala section of the park to discover the traditional use of medicinal plants as well as ancient hunting grounds, cave dwellings and array of exotic birds. You’ll also explore this game-rich wilderness on foot, walking with an expert naturalist to get up-close wildlife encounters and discover hidden corners of the park.
Stay: Three nights in a double bungalow at Gal Oya Lodge – full board
After a feast of wildlife watching and historic sightseeing, the chance to stretch out on a spectacular east coast beach beside the welcoming Indian Ocean is irresistible. As well as fine white sand, blue waters and shady palm trees you can indulge in all the luxuries Karpaha Sands has to offer; infinity-edge pool, Ayurveda spa, sun terrace and delicious Sri Lankan delicacies.
Stay: Three nights in a Kolaya suite at Karpaha Sands – bed & breakfast
Transfer one hour to the airport. Depart Colombo and arrive in London on the same day.
First class in every respect- NH, Indochina