Your overnight flight from London arrives in Colombo just after midday. You’ll be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel on a sandy beach in the nearby town of Negombo. Here you can take the time to recharge after your flight or enjoy activities such as windsurfing, swimming or squash.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Jetwing Wing – bed & breakfast
This morning you’ll explore the Negombo fish market alongside a retired, characterful fisherman before making the four-hour journey into the Cultural Triangle. Here you’ll be staying in a boutique hotel that pays tribute to the ancient water gardens that once surrounded the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
The following morning you’ll visit Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka’s first capital first founded in the 4th century BC. Over 1,000 years the Sinhalese royal family built a fantastic array of temples, stupas, palaces, ponds and gardens – two of which are now UNESCO World Heritage sites – as well as one of the earliest and most advanced irrigation systems in the world. You’ll be able to visit the Sacred Bo-Tree; a sapling from the tree under which Buddha reputedly gained enlightenment and, at over 2,200 years old, one of the oldest documented trees in the world.
Day five sees you climbing one of the most astonishing royal citadels on the entire island. Sigiriya is a rock fortress of unusual beauty, rising 200 metres above the jungle on the monumental Lion Rock. On the way up you’ll pass the frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’, and at the top you’ll find the remains of the palace as well as sensational panoramic views. In the afternoon you’ll have the opportunity to go on a safari in Minneriya National Park (or an alternative if the water levels are high) which is famed for its large herds of wild elephant.
Stay: Three nights in a deluxe villa at Water Garden – half board
On day six you will visit what is the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples at Dambulla – a designated World Heritage site. Expect five caves containing over 2,000 square metres of painted walls and more than 150 images of Buddha – the largest being a colossal, rock-carved statue spanning 14 metres.
From there you will be taken to a historic 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, try mountain biking, enjoy nature walks and tour the tea fields alongside the estate manager. All the while soaking up the stunning scenery that this part of Sri Lanka is known for.
On the 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 – bed & breakfast
Today a four-hour drive brings you to Sri Lanka’s forgotten National Park. 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 or on the mud banks, watching as deer warily come down to drink.
On your final day in Gal Oya you will 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 an 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 bungalow Gal Oya Lodge – full board
And relax. After a feast of wildlife watching and historic sightseeing the chance to stretch out on a spectacular 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 the Uga Bay Resort has to offer; infinity edge pool, ocean view rooms, charming service and totally delicious food.
Stay: Three nights in an ocean studio at Uga Bay – bed & breakfast
From Passikudah you’ll be driven to Batticaloa to meet your flight to Colombo. You’ll be met at the airport and taken to your hotel, a sanctuary of serenity built in the traditional “Dutch warehouse” colonial style.
Stay: One night in a garden suite at The Wallawwa – bed & breakfast
Today you’ll be driven to the airport for your return flight home, arriving in the evening.
Once again, Neil did a fantastic job with our itinerary! He is so informative and efficient. Nothing seems too much trouble for him!- UP, Cambodia, 2014