This is Sri Lanka, the land of Serendipity - of happy surprises.
No wonder Marco Polo declared the atoll “the finest island of its size in the world; `Taprobane’ to the ancient Romans, `Serendib’ to Arab traders, `Ceilao’ as christened by the Portuguese, `Ceylan’ by the Dutch followed by `Ceylon’ by the British and finally Sri Lanka to the Sinhalese.
The teardrop shaped southernmost point of mainland Asia became an indispensable port of call to the earliest travelers awaiting favourable trade winds for onward journeys. This Great Emporium became a principal centre of exchange and commerce between the Mediterranean trade of the Roman empire and the wealth of imperial China. The Portuguese came with sword and cross, the Dutch with ledger and law book and the British with roads and railways.
When Buddhism declined in the country of its birth, India, it took root in Ceylon; and here, so its adherents claim, it is still to be found in its purest form.
From Ceylon to Paradise, according to native tradition is forty miles; the sound of the fountains of Paradise is heard there, wrote the Papal Legate Marignolli five hundred years ago describing his visit to Sri Lanka on his way back to Rome from China. `When Adam was expelled, an angel took him by the arm and set him down here’, this tourist of five centuries ago confidently reported.
Ayubowan! (may you have long life). This is the greeting you will hear from our airport representative when exiting the aircraft. Here you will be presented with flower garland and sheaf and introduced to your guide. You will then drive a short distance to Negombo which is an ideal location to begin or end your journey in this beautiful island. Enjoy a much-deserved rest after your long flight.
Check-out this morning after breakfast and drive to the Sigiriya area. Arrive in Habarana and check-in to your hotel at lunch time.
At around 15:00 Hrs, you will proceed to visit arguably the 8th wonder of the world the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. A palace. A rock fortress. The hidden castle of King Kasyapa. A Buddhist monastery from the 14th century. Similar to the cosmic mountain of Meru? No place in Sri Lanka has generated as many theories and legends as the 180m monolith, set amidst stunning scenery. During the climb, you can talk to your guide about these many theories and decipher between myth and fact.
Today you will check out from your hotel and proceed to the city of Sigiriya, En route you will visit the ancient city of Ritigala
Once you are at Ritigala you will witness the ancient form of martial arts which is indigenous to Sri Lanka, “Angampora”. Visit an ancient rural village & meet with the “Master”. The Master professes an ancient form of martial arts known locally as "Angam" which was a dying form of arts & the master took the responsibility to keep the spirit alive by dedicating his life to protect & foster the " Angam Techniques " for future generations. After the martial arts demonstration, we will arrange another meeting with the Master, “He is not a Kung Fu or Karate master, but he is our own ‘gladiator’, who has revived the great indigenous martial art - Angam Harambe of Ritigala” Ritigala Angam is not only a martial art, but also a philosophy which produces a disciplined, healthy and self-confident man or woman.
Following this martial arts demonstration, you will make your way to a rural temple and take part in an almsgiving ceremony. You may walk around the monastery in silence taking in the peace and tranquility which surround s the monastery. You will then offer the daily mid-morning meal to the monks.
After the alms giving ceremony, return to your hotel for lunch. In the early afternoon, you have the option of joining the chef of your hotel for a short cooking class to learn to cook a popular traditional Sri Lankan dish.
This evening you will experience a local” Paduru Party”, where you will be able to experience an authentic Sri Lankan Night. From the food to the ambiance dive into the heart of Sri Lankan tradition and enjoy! Afterwards return to your hotel.
Post breakfast you will proceed to Polonnaruwa-a UNESCO World Heritage site(1.5 hour drive) that is the second great capital city of Sri Lanka, built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Here, one can still view the ruins of the Royal Palace, the Gal Viharaya, the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, King Parakramabahu's statue and the Parakrama Samudraya lake. There are also several sites devoted to worship including the Shiva Temple, Lankathilake, Watadage, Galpotha, and Kiri Vehera as well as the ruins of the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Bicycles are available should you wish to cycle through the archaeological sites.
After the visit, you will enjoy a traditional home cooked Sri Lankan meal at a rural café (10 minute away) by the rice fields, prepared using wood fire, clay pots. The owner Devapriya is always with a warm smile, simply clad in his bathik sarong and checked shirt will welcome you to his humble abode. The dining area is set with 180 degree views of the neighboring paddy fields and mountain range. Food is served in traditional clay pots and seating is in small village huts made out of clay and shaded by dried coconut leaves. Enjoy one of the best rice and curries that the area has to offer at a very laid back atmosphere. You may also see the family at work in the kitchen preparing these homecooked delicacies, and you could join them if you like to.
After a hearty lunch, you will visit the Minneriya National Park (45 minute drive) The park covers a large area of land, water bodies and consists of a mixed forest of evergreen shrubs, a favorite habitat for animals, which include, deer, crocodiles and wild elephants. During the dry season from June to September, this tank attracts herds of elephants to graze and bathe. In more recent times it been discovered that the park witnesses the largest elephant gathering in the world during these months. You can also see huge flocks of birds, including cormorants and painted storks that come to fish in the shallow waters
Post Breakfast check out from the hotel and proceed towards the city of Kandy. En route you will visit the Dambulla Cave Temples (30 minutes drive) which are Sri Lankas best preserved cave temples.
After you have visited the Cave Temples you will then visit a Private Spice Garden in Matale (45 Minutes) Sri Lanka is the capital of a rich variety of spices that determined its history, being the cause of many an invasion. Fragrant Clove, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Mace, Pepper, Cocoa and Vanilla amongst others account for a diversity of cooking styles and applications. We learn how different spices are grown during our visit to a private farm along with live cooking demonstrations during lunch.
Drive onto Kandy, the last bastion of Buddhist political power against colonial invasion. This hill station is remarkable for the natural beauty of its setting in a peaceful wooded valley overlooking a vast artificial lake. The palace, shrines and British period buildings give it a special character, while Buddha’s Tooth Relic lends a religious importance to the historic highland capital.
Once you have reached Kandy meet a friend, Mike Johnson. Mike is a resident of Kandy who will accompany you on a walking tour and giving his own perspective on the streets he grew up in. He will regale his story on growing up in the city, on love and life in Kandy.
We end the day with a visit the Temple of the Tooth, which holds the sacred tooth relic of Buddha, brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of king Meghavarna (301-328). The relic is encased in seven caskets, one kept inside the other, the outmost of which has a shape of a stupa, adorned with a large number of gold ornaments. We will provide you with white temple clothing, incense sticks and oil lamps. White clothing to wear for the temple visit will be provided to you as well
After you have visited the temple take a short drive and chek into your hotel and spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
This morning post breakfast drive to the out skirts of Kandy and visit Master Ruwan, who is a local Dancing Guru and practices the indigenous form of Kandyan Dancing. Traditional Kandyan dances include the cobra dance, mask dance and the Ginisila (showing power over fire). The entire frenetic and colorful spectacle climaxes with an amazing fire-walking act. The dancers wear elaborate costume including a headdress, their chests only covered by a decorative beaded net. The Kandyan Dance is traditionally performed to percussion only; the most common drums are the 'Geta Beraya' and 'Yak Beraya.' To assist the dancer to keep rhythm a small pair of cymbals is also used as well as conch shell to announce the arrival of the dancers and the climax of the dance. The drummers have lyrics that are sung in tune with the movements of the dancer. This experience is very engaging as our local dancing master will teach you the basics of dancing and drumming if you are interested. You can also suit-up in the traditional Kandyan Dancing attire, for the memories
You will then proceed to visit the Suriyakantha centre for Arts and Culture. The "Suriyakantha Centre for Arts & Culture" is established within the 18th century "Walawwa” or an ancient village chief's residence. The Walawwa, inspired by quintessential Dutch architecture houses an interesting panoply of ancient books, Buddhist manuscripts, photography, collection of ancient and traditional furniture and wall paintings.
We meet with The ‘Professor’, a French national who has been residing in Sri Lanka for over 30 years is a co-founder who, together with his local partner, interestingly combined their interests and passion for collecting ancient Sri Lankan books, furniture and monuments. The Professor personally welcomes you to this establishment where he proudly takes you through the different section of the house and help you discover a piece of Sri Lankan history.
After the lesson in history enjoy a traditional Sri Lankan meal with the professor and you may use this time to ask him any questions which you may have.
After visiting the professor, return to your hotel and spend the early afternoon and evening at leisure.
For Dinner tonight we go local, driving to a house outside Kandy (15 minutes drive) where we will meet with a family and learn about Sri Lankan cooking. Afterwards, we will sit with them for a home-cooked dinner.
This morning post breakfast, you have the option to visit the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens and be met by a local botanist. The Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens is one of the largest of the botanical gardens of Sri Lanka and the finest of its kind in Asia. In the Mediterranean climate of Kandy, the gateway to the central highlands, the Gardens lies at an elevation of 460 meters above sea-level, tightly bounded on three sides by the loop of the River Mahaweli (Great Sandy River), Sri Lanka’s largest river. Before it was decreed as a Botanical Gardens it used to be a pleasure gardens in the days of the kings od Kandy and during WWII the gardens were the headquarters of the allied command for the pacific.
After visiting the gardens, you will then catch the 11:20 Hrs train to Nuwara Eliya. This is one of the most scenic train routes in Asia, where you will be crossing the picturesque tea plantations and hill country with glances of the great valleys below it. Packed lunch will be served on the journey.
Once you have arrived in Nuwara Eliya, check into your hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure amongst the stunning views of the tea hills which surrounds it.
Retire for the night to your ‘withering loft’, high in the mountains of Nuwara Eliya; accommodation of the most unique kind is precisely what you find at Heritance Tea Factory. The expanse of the former withering loft - where fresh leaves were laid to dry, now serves as 54 cosy havens of rest for guests. Tall windows that once aided the drying process still maintain their role as providers of natural light - the views; breath-taking as ever, now have avid admirers to ponder them. The stately charms of yesteryear also linger in the dark wood and light linen décor - good nights, colonial style.
This morning, visit a working tea factory with one of the resident staff. Walk to visit a tea factory nearby and learn about how different types of teas are created. You will be taken through the entire process-from the drying of the green leaf to the process of dehumidifying and provoking the chemical reaction that turns green leaf into tea, to the segmenting of the different particles which result in the different grades, to finally the packing and distribution. Optionally you could choose to join in with tea pluckers and pluck tea the same way the locals do.
We depart by noon to the Nuwara Eliya town, 20 minutes away.
Nuwara Eliya is known as the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka, set against beautiful backdrop of mountains, valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations. It is supposed to be one of the coldest places on the island, but is really just like an English spring day, although the temperature does drop slightly towards evening. All around Nuwara Eliya, you will see evidence of the British colonial influence, including public buildings such as the post office, as well as many bungalows, cottages and hotels.
Upon arrival at the Nuwara Eliya town, have lunch at one of the best hotels in the area. After lunch, we explore the Nuwara Eliya town and markets, ending with a sumptuous traditional English ‘High Tea’ at the Hill Club, an exclusive club with colonial roots. Return to your hotel afterwards and spend the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.
This evening, enjoy a special Tea Infused Dinner at the hotel which is an authentic experience in itself.
The rest of the evening is at leisure.
This morning post breakfast you will check out from the hotel and proceed to the Historic city of Galle. Galle is famous for being a strategic trading post in the past. The Galle Fort is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
En-route, we will stop for lunch at Kitulgala, the film location for the award winning movie ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’, and now a popular place for Whitewater Rafting.
Once you have arrived in Galle check into your hotel and freshen up and head to the Galle Fort where you will go on an insightful walk inside the Galle Fort hosted by a 5th generation resident of this historic city. The Portuguese, Dutch, and British occupied the Galle Fort at various points during Sri Lanka’s colonial history, and they have each left a unique imprint on its fabric. As you navigate through the fort’s charming alleyways at a leisurely pace, a fascinating blend of local design traditions and European colonial influence become evident in the architectural style of its many interesting structures. The Galle Fort Walk is peppered with interesting facts, numbers, stories, and myths, all interwoven by the unique perspective and narrative of its host, who knows this terrain as well as the back of his hand.
This evening you will learn to prepare a delicious home cooked meal with a Galle based host whose expertise in cooking has brought her much fame in the area. Whether it’s a Biryani, a Seafood feast or hot hot hoppers with accompaniments, she will take you through an unforgettable culinary journey.
Within the cozy setting of her spacious kitchen and beautiful, open-styled home, Shahira introduces some of these flavours through a scrumptious full meal. The passing down of age old recipes is an intimate and emotional affair. Mindful of this notion, she imparts this culinary wisdom to those who partake in this unique, local experience in a loving manner, while also sharing numerous simple kitchen secrets that are essential in the authentic preparation of any Sri Lankan meal. She expertly guides you through the individual steps that go into preparing each course and ensures that the participants are actively involved throughout.
The biryani is much loved due to its decadent but versatile quality. The saffron-hued, fragrant rice and tender meat form the centerpiece of the meal; ably supported by a list of pickled items and condiments. The rice and meat burst with flavour due to the spices such as clove and cardamom that are used in their preparation. The biryani is a session many who partake in this experience opt for, due to the its still, mystical nature in world cuisine. Its local variant emerges from the Moor (Muslim) tradition of Sri Lanka and it is, now, widely enjoyed by the various Sri Lankan communities.
Early this morning(06:00am), those interested may visit the Local fish market to witness the hype around the auction of the fresh catch. Return to your hotel in time for breakfast.
At around 8.30am, you will drive 15 minutes to the meeting point where you will go on a typical southern village experience. The experience starts off with a lazy boat ride through a river, ending up at a coconut husk removing plant, where you will witness the process of processing the coconut husk to be used in various products. From here, you will get on to bicycles and take a leisurely cycle ride through the rural villages, ending up at a village hut where you will take part in a cooking demonstration for a southern Sri Lankan Rice & Curry feast.
Note: if you prefer not to ride bicycles, you could take a local 'tuk tuk' instead, which is an equally interesting experience.
Return to your resort by early noon.
The afternoon is at leisure or chooses to explore the following options: - Visit the Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Art Museum
- See the famous Fishermen on stilts
- Visit the Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Centre where private release of 3 days old Turtles is arranged exclusively for you (1.5 hours each way)
- Visit a Cinnamon Plantation in the area to learn the history and importance of Ceylon Cinnamon.
- Or return to explore the Galle fort township.
This morning post breakfast you will check out and proceed to the commercial capital of Sri Lanka “Colombo”.
Upon arrival in Colombo, we arrive at the Dutch Hospital complex which has a number of interesting cafés and Restaurants within walking distance. Here, your guide will take you on a Colombo café trail, where we will stop by 03 cafés and sample 02 each of their most interesting dishes. From here, it is a short walk to your hotel where you will check-in for a bit of downtime.
In the late afternoon, get ready for an adventurous Foodie-walk around the heart of Colombo, with a resident host.
The Foodie walk in Colombo takes hungry souls across the globe on a gastronomic delight of cross cultural influences from authentic Sri Lankan to a fusion of Indian- Malay, Dutch and Portuguese. During the walk you will experience different cultures that make up Sri Lanka and appropriate places to try out your taste buds which come alive with flavours and smells.
We meet your local host at the Dutch Hospital in Fort, where you will be given a brief history of Sri Lanka in terms of the food influences. Depending on your preferences, we can start with a refreshing ‘Thambili’ (King Coconut) from a street vendor or a shot of ‘Arrack' (a Local Sri Lankan spirit) from a 'dodgy bar' before proceeding on foot to taste the different influences.
Your host is a local resident with influences in journalism who of course is a food-holic at heart, so you can be sure to be introduced to the best of what Colombo has to offer your palate. Be sure to let your host know if you have any special dietary preferences and about your tolerance for spice, as some of the items are not for the faint of heart – or stomach!
Return to the hotel post dinner/drinks and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Following breakfast, drive around the capital and its impressive Parliament House, designed by renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Colombo is fascinating, with a cosy mixture of past and present and is the commercial centre of the country. The original trading settlers - the Portuguese, Dutch and British have all left in their wake churches and monuments, names and religions, costumes and food and smatterings of their languages, which have been absorbed into the speech of Sri Lankans.
10.00am: We stop by ‘Number 11’, the private home of Geoffrey Bawa. He is perhaps the most celebrated & influential Asian architect of the twentieth century whose prominent styles are made visible across the island. His most prolific designs have influenced many hotels and public buildings.
Our tour ends at local favorite Barefoot Café for lunch. (12.00pm)
After lunch, choose to return to the hotel for some downtime or explore the optional shopping…. There are some fine stores such are Barefoot, Paradise Road and Raux Brothers.
After you have explored Colombo return to the hotel and spend the afternoon at leisure.
This evening visit a rooftop bar at sunset with an 'Arrack' Cocktail course and tasting. Arrack, also spelt ‘arak', is a distilled alcoholic drink typically produced in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain or fruit, depending upon the country of origin. In Sri Lanka, it is produced using coconut, and is considered to be “Sri Lanka’s Whiskey”, and very popular among locals and tourists alike.
We arrive at a trendy and popular rooftop restaurant and bistro, where the head bartender will take you through the story of the 'Toddy Tapper'- Sri Lanka’s success story of Indika, a Sri Lankan who moved to Cologne, Germany and launched its' very first bar, primarily featuring Arrack. You will learn how to mix the famous 'Tamarind’, an Arrack-based cocktail created by the Toddy Tapper himself, and then have the opportunity to create your own Arrack Cocktail!
After the class, you are welcome to stay on at the restaurant, to enjoy the evening and the drinks that you have just made. A Recipe Card with the ingredients, method and a photo of the cocktail will be given as a takeaway item from your class.
Tonight we will be having our farewell dinner at one of the top restaurants in Colombo. (Ministry of Crab or The Gallery Café.)
This morning post breakfast spend the rest of the morning hours at leisure. In the afternoon you will check out from the hotel (Post lunch if you wish which will be at own expense).
This afternoon you will visit a local Gin/Arrack Distillery. When Sri Lanka-based Rockland Distillery released Colombo No.7 Gin in May 2015, it unleashed on the Gin world a most intriguing tale of war, resourcefulness and regulation. You see, Colombo No.7 Gin is based on a 70-year-old-recipe, one created when trade channels became blocked during the Second World War.
Founded in 1924, Rockland Distillery was the first commercial distillery to be established in Sri Lanka. The distillery was built to produce Arrack, but along with many others, a decade or two after it launched it was asked by the British Government to stop what it was doing and begin making spirits for the war effort. Rockland founder Carl de Silva Wijeyeratne not only obeyed, but quite accidentally made a spirit that he was sure would make a great base for a gin.
You will set off on a fun tour learning the story of Rockland Distilleries and about its flagship gin the Colombo No. 7. We learn about the process of how the gin is processed and flavored, finally being bottled to be shipped locally and globally. The tour concludes with a gin tasting session conducted by your host.
Your guide will then take you to the Airport in conjunction to your international departure flight.