Please see Holiday Information Sheet for this holidays individual departures itinerary (located under View Departures & Book tab)
We depart the UK for our overnight flight to Sri Lanka.
We arrive early afternoon into Bandaranaike International Airport and transfer to our hotel in Colombo. After some time to unpack our late afternoon city tour begins with a short transfer by coach to start a comfortable two hour walk through parks and tree shaded streets. We will pass the colonial Town Hall, Independence Square and the beautifully restored Arcade Building. We also stop at the Gymkhana Club (Colombo Cricket and Rugby Club) for an evening cup of tea. After this we drive from the Club to “Pettah”, which is the noisy, busy bazaar for a short 30 minute walk passing the colourful “Red” mosque and watch street vendors bargaining with customers. Finally, we return to our hotel for dinner and well-earned rest.
After breakfast we leave Colombo for Kithulgala, film location of David Lean’s World War II masterpiece ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’. Here we have an hour's walk through rubber plantations and end at the Rest House used by the cast and crew whilst filming the movie. Black and white photographs of the shoot with Sir Alec Guinness, William Holden and Jack Hawkins adorn the walls of the dining area where the group will have lunch overlooking the river. After lunch we proceed to Ratnapura which is the traditional centre of Sri Lankan Gem mining. We visit a gem mine prior to check in at our hotel. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After an early breakfast, we drive to the Sinharaja Rain Forest, the last remaining virgin rainforest in Sri Lanka. The primeval Sinharaja covers 8900 hectares of breathtakingly beautiful, continuous forest. Beautiful streams, rare valuable trees, shrubs and medicinal herbs, more than 30 species of endemic birds, several mammal species, dragon flies, butterflies and moths are all found within its green canopy. A walk along the forest trails will provide nature enthusiasts a never to be forgotten experience of sights and sounds. Due to its high bio-diversity and ecological importance, it has been declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After our visit here we return to our hotel early afternoon for some free time. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
We leave Ratnapura to drive to Bandarawela, the journey takes about 3 hrs with stops. In the early afternoon, we drive to Haputale to walk to Lipton's Seat
from where Sir Thomas Lipton would gaze over vistas of Ceylon tea plantations. This is a lovely walk across undulating agricultural land to
Lipton’s Seat at 1950m and then a longer descent back to meet our coach. Distance 5km, 150m ascent/400m descent. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight. If weather allows we hope to enjoy a barbecue on the hotel roof.
After breakfast at the hotel we drive to Ella for the lovely walk to little Adams Peak. The climb is 300m up the peak and offers panoramic views across the countryside. We retrace our steps to return. The whole walk takes about 2hrs but there are options for those who prefer something slightly longer. Thereafter we visit a great example of Colonial era architecture, the brick built 'Nine Arches Bridge’. This takes the local railway over a gorge. We can also have a look at the local station which could easily be taken directly from 1930’s Britain. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
We start early with a short journey to Ohiya by local train. However please note Sri Lankan trains can suffer reliability issues (like British ones) so we cannot guarantee anything. We continue for a half-day walking excursion out to Horton Plains to explore the grasslands and forests leading to the escarpments and spectacular views. The views are often best enjoyed in the morning as clouds can come in in the afternoon. The walk is a
3hr circuit, we will climb about 200m and cover 10km over the ground. It can be hot and humid and the paths slippery so our pace will be steady. We will be rewarded by the view of the spectacular 'World's End', a 1000m cliff face and Bakers Falls, a local waterfall. after the walk. Later in the day we will hopefully take another ride on a Sri Lankan train. Built by the British in the 1930's the trains retain a certain charm.
After breakfast we head north to Kandy, en route taking in the picturesque tea plantations and lush greenery of Sri Lanka's Hill Country. You will visit a tea plantation and factory, where the best tea in the world is produced and watch the process of manufacturing from drying, cutting and rolling to fermenting and sifting. Learn how tea is graded and taste a cup of factory brew. Here, you will also enjoy a walk around the tea plantations. Arriving in Kandy we can check in and unpack before a late afternoon visit to the Temple of the Tooth, which reputedly has one of the Buddha's teeth. We will also enjoy a cultural show featuring traditional Sri Lankan dancing from different regions of the country. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After breakfast we proceed to Peradeniya Botanical Gardens for a 2-3 hour walk through the manicured paths of the 147 acre garden with its amazing variety of flora. After enjoying the gardens we will take a city tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kandy, the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. The name Kandy conjures visions of splendour and magnificence and here to this day many of the legends, traditions and folklore are still lovingly kept alive. We will visit the Bazaar and enjoy the hustle and bustle of walking through this colourful and noisy area. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After Breakfast we proceed to the Matale area for a walk around a Spice Garden to see cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and many others growing in their natural habitat. We have the chance to learn about some well-known and other rare spices in Sri Lankan cuisine and enjoy a cookery demonstration to see their use. Continuing to Habarana, we visit the Cave Temples at Dambulla en route. The Temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprises a series of five caves with over 2000 sq. metres of natural pigment painted walls and ceilings and over 150 statues. The largest is a sleeping figure of the Lord Buddha carved out of rock. Later we continue to Habarana and our hotel. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
Our day starts with a sightseeing tour of Polonnaruwa. This medieval city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rose to fame as the capital (10th - 12th century AD) after the decline of Anuradhapura. The entire landscape of the region is punctuated by huge man-made reservoirs. The most famous of these is the Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama, larger in size than Colombo harbour. The monuments are relatively well preserved and give clear evidence of the glory of Sri Lanka's past. Highlights are the Royal Palace complex including the Kings Palace and Audience Hall, the Quadrangle with its concentration of ancient heritage and the spectacular Gal Vihare complex of four massive images of the Buddha, cut from a single slab of granite: a highlight of ancient Sri Lankan rock carving. Some of the best examples of Hindu influence are the Temples of Shiva and intricate statues of Hindu Gods. Fascinating Buddhist temples, the Lankathilake and Watadage, the Galpotha, the Lotus bath, the Kiri Vihare Dagoba and the remains of a former Temple of the Tooth are other impressive sights. We return to our hotel for some free time. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After an early breakfast proceed to Hiriwaduna for a 2-3 hour walk through this archetypal Sri Lankan village. The walk begins along a bund of a Wewa or man-made reservoir passing through the surrounding scrub jungle, marshland and village which are a hive of early morning activity. The amazing birdlife, butterflies and possible sightings of crocodile only add to the charm of seeing the villagers as they go about their early morning tasks of fishing or washing clothes at the periphery of the lake. The sense of adventure heightens when you need to reach a Chena Cultivation (jungle plot) on an obliging farmer’s Oruwa (a traditional catamaran). On reaching the cultivation in the shade of a tree top watch hut of mud and thatched palm leaves we stop for a cup of aromatic Ginger Tea and Jaggery. Lunch is with a local village family who prepare a vegetarian meal for their guests. The journey of discovery continues through dense shrub forests, home to many forest birds and other wildlife including monkeys, bear, python and even elephant. Later we return to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight. if the weather allows we will eat by the pool.
The highlight today and perhaps the entire holiday is Sigiriya Rock. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, a spectacular Rock Fortress, is one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions. The most impressive facets of the unique complex are the Water Gardens, the Frescoes of beautiful maidens, the Mirror Wall with ancient graffiti, the Lion platform and the Summit of 1.6 hectares, which was completely covered by buildings during the period of Sigiriya glory. Built by King Kashyapa (477-495 A.D), the “Lion Rock” is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200m from the scrub jungle. The rock was the innermost stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town and the base is ringed by a moat, rampart, and extensive gardens. The world-renowned frescoes (originally 500, of which only 19 remain today) which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway are painted in earth pigments on plaster. The old stairway to the top led through the mouth of a crouching lion but today only the huge paws remain giving an indication of the massive proportions of the head. Remains of the handsome royal citadel are on the summit and several caves for meditation, audience platforms and baths complete the unique site. After the visit we continue to Anuradhapura. We should arrive in time for an evening walk around the area. The ancient city of Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka and undoubtedly its grandest ancient city. Many places of historical and archaeological interest will be visited, including the famous Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo-Tree) which was thought to have grown from a cutting of the tree under which Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. It is over 2,200 years old making this the oldest historically documented tree in the world. This is a busy day with a lot to see. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After breakfast proceed to visit the Wilpattu National Park for a game drive. Far less well known and visited than the more famous and touristy national parks in the south of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu offers a far more peaceful experience. The unique feature of this park is the existence of "Willus" natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. The park is 131,693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Nearly sixty lakes and tanks are found spread throughout the park. It is the largest and oldest National Park in Sri Lanka and is world renowned for its leopard population. In addition, look out for elephant, spotted deer, sloth bear, wild boar, crocodile and more. Good quality binoculars are invaluable here. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
We have an easy day today. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel we set out for the 3 ½ hrs drive to Negombo on the west coast of Sri Lanka just north of Colombo. This is probably the longest drive we have on the holiday. We will stop en route. In Negombo we can take a quick look at the Dutch, British colonial town or relax on the beach as preferred. Dinner will be in the hotel tonight.
After breakfast we check out and take the 30min drive to the airport to catch our day flight back to the Uk.