Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

 Day 01: Upon touchdown at Colombo’s Bandaranaike Airport, our group will swiftly transfer to a hotel just half an hour away. If you’re not on the group flight, kindly share your flight information two weeks ahead for your airport transfer arrangement. Later in the evening, our Leader will hold a welcome briefing—details on time and venue to follow.

 Day 02: After breakfast, we set off on a scenic drive through Kurunegala to Dambulla, passing coconut palms, paddy fields, and banana plantations. Our first stop is the awe-inspiring Cave Temple, boasting vibrant paintings and ancient Buddha statues dating back to the first century BCE. Following lunch, we proceed to Sigiriya, where the majestic Lion Rock fortress dominates the landscape. Depending on hotel availability, we may stay closer to Dambulla for the night.

 Day 03: Sigiriya stands out as a must-see in Sri Lanka, boasting the remains of a palace dating back to the fifth century atop Lion Rock. Today, our journey begins at the base, surrounded by impressive water gardens. We ascend 655ft (200m) via steep steps and gangways, passing ancient portraits of maidens and temple offerings. At the summit, the King’s Summer Palace awaits exploration. In the afternoon, you have the option of a game drive in one of three national parks to witness elephants in their natural habitat. Alternatively, unwind by the hotel pool if wildlife isn’t your preference.

Day 04: This morning, our journey takes us to Girithale, where our hotel offers breathtaking views of the scenic Girithale Tank. Centuries ago, locals ingeniously tackled the challenges of heat and water scarcity by constructing vast tanks, serving as both reservoirs and natural coolers. These reservoirs now serve as vital habitats for diverse bird species, especially between August and April. Today, we opt for a delightful bike ride through quaint villages and picturesque lakes. Alternatively, you can hire a tuk-tuk locally for around 4,000 rupees and join the group. En route, expect to spot a variety of birdlife, including Egrets, Brahmany kites, Kingfishers, and Bulbuls. We pause for a traditional village lunch, adding charm to our journey before returning to our hotel in Giritale by late afternoon.

Day 05: Following breakfast, we embark on a brief journey to Polonnaruwa, the 10th-century capital of Sri Lanka and a significant hub of Sinhalese heritage. Here, amidst Buddhist remnants dating back a millennium, we witness the pinnacle of Sinhalese civilization. Established as the capital in the 12th century, Polonnaruwa’s strategic relocation from Anuradhapura ensured its protection from southern Indian invasions, resulting in better-preserved ruins. Our exploration encompasses temples, palaces, grand dagobas, and exquisite Buddhist sculptures. Post-lunch, we venture into the scenic hills towards Kandy, with a stop at a spice garden near Matale. Amidst lush flora, we delve into the world of spices, herbs, and Ayurvedic remedies, offering a chance to procure fresh delights. Though a lengthy excursion, the day promises fascination, culminating in our arrival at Kandy by early evening.

Day 06 – 07: Nestled beside a serene lake, Kandy charms us with two eventful days. Day one begins with a visit to the revered Temple of the Tooth, safeguarding Buddha’s sacred relic since ancient times. August unveils the grand Kandy festival, its dates a mystery until five months prior. Post-temple, we admire Kandy from a lofty viewpoint graced by a colossal Buddha and explore a gem museum showcasing traditional extraction methods. The botanical wonders of Peradeniya Garden captivate us with endemic orchid species. Day two offers leisure to wander Kandy’s enchanting streets or unwind by the hotel pool. The surrounding hills offer panoramic vistas, while handicraft stores and antique shops invite exploration. Evenings present the option of immersing in traditional performances of dance and fire-eating.

Day 08: Embarking from Kandy early, we embark on a breathtaking journey through the countryside en route to Kitulgala. Here, we can explore the jungle or local villages on foot, followed by an optional white-water rafting adventure. Rafting incurs an additional cost and requires a minimum of four participants (refer to the Optional Excursions section of the trip notes). The activity lasts up to 1.5 hours, with a choice between gentle or wild waters (grade III rapids) based on preference. If rafting isn’t your thing, relax by the water until lunchtime. Later, we head to our hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Note: From December’s full moon to May’s, you can opt to ascend Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada). This requires confidence in your fitness level as you’d depart Nuwara Eliya around midnight on Day 8, driving for about two hours to the peak’s base. The strenuous four-hour climb rewards you with a sunrise view from the top, after which we return for lunch with the group on Day 9.

Day 09: Today, we’re afforded leisure to wander through Nuwara Eliya, a charming hill town steeped in British colonial history. Dubbed “Little England,” it boasts quaint British architecture, lush parks, and leisure facilities like a golf club and racecourse. After a delightful lunch, we’ll venture to a nearby tea estate and factory to gain insights into the art of tea-making.

Day 10: We kick off our day bright and early with a 19-mile (30km) drive south to Horton Plains, a vast plateau soaring over 6,560ft (2,000m) high, flanked by Sri Lanka’s second and third tallest peaks. The landscape is stunning, and we opt to explore it on foot. Guided by a local, we wander through the undulating grasslands, keeping our eyes peeled for glimpses of playful monkeys. Our journey includes a stop at World’s End, where the earth plunges dramatically 3,445ft (1,050m) below the plains. Next, we hop on a train from the highest railway station in the nation, descending from 6,198ft (1,889m) to 3,599ft (1,097m) in just 90 minutes. Passing through cloud forests and tea plantations, we’re treated to awe-inspiring vistas of the verdant valley below. Disembarking at Ella railway station, we continue our adventure by road to Ella Gap, offering breathtaking panoramas of the coastal plain nearly 3,280ft (1,000m) beneath us. The expansive southern expanse of the island unfurls before our eyes, with the possibility, on exceptionally clear days, of spotting the shimmering waters of the Indian Ocean. Our journey then takes us to Kataragama on the plains, serving as our home base for exploring Yala, Sri Lanka’s most renowned national park.

Day 11: Today’s adventure takes us to Tissamaharama, where we’ll venture to a local farmhouse for a unique experience. Sip tea served in coconut shells and savor local snacks as we immerse ourselves in authentic Sri Lankan culture. Engage in traditional games and hitch a ride back to our bus on farmer’s tractors. Later, we’ll embark on an exhilarating game drive in Yala National Park, renowned for its diverse wildlife including elephants, leopards, bears, crocodiles, and wild boars. Note that the park may temporarily close from September to October for animal welfare checks, but fear not, we have an alternative plan to explore Udawalawe National Park nearby.

Day 12: Today, our journey begins towards the captivating coastline adorned with picturesque palm-fringed bays. En route, an enriching visit awaits you at the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe, a testament to Sri Lanka’s conservation endeavors for its wild elephant population. Situated at the periphery of Udawalawe National Park, this sanctuary serves as a rehabilitation haven for orphaned and ailing elephants, providing them with nourishment and care until they regain independence and vitality for their eventual return to the wilderness. Following this insightful experience, we proceed to Ahangama, where our coastal retreat awaits. Upon arrival at our hotel in the afternoon, take the opportunity to unwind by the poolside or indulge in the serenity of the beach for the remainder of the day.

Day 13: Enjoy a leisurely day at your disposal, whether it’s lounging on the sandy shores or by the poolside. Alternatively, you can opt for some exciting adventures like exploring mangrove swamps on a boat to discover a cinnamon plantation. If you’re here between November and April, don’t miss the opportunity for whale watching off Dondra Head, renowned globally for spotting blue and sperm whales. Keep an eye out for lively dolphin pods that frequently accompany the boats.

Day 14: We embark on a scenic journey along the coastline towards Galle, a charming port city steeped in 17th-century history and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. En route, we pause at a quaint folk museum honoring the renowned local author Martin Wickramasinghe. Nestled amidst lush gardens, the museum resides in a traditional Koggala-style dwelling. Afterward, our travels lead us along the expressway to Colombo, where we arrive at our hotel in the twilight hours.

Day 15: Today marks the conclusion of our adventure, signaling the start of our journey back home. For those on group flights, a transfer to the airport awaits this morning. If you’re not part of the group flight, kindly share your flight details two weeks in advance for your return airport transfer arrangement. As we wrap up this culturally rich journey, consider indulging in some rest by inquiring with your sales representative about our post-trip retreat in the Maldives. Alternatively, if you wish to delve deeper into Sri Lanka, extend your hotel stay for further exploration.

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