ARRIVE COLOMBO, SRI LANKA
Land in Colombo, enjoying fast-track on-arrival, and transfer to your hotel. Spend the rest of your day at leisure.
This morning, meet with your Resident Tour Director and fellow travellers for a tour briefing before exploring the island’s capital in the quintessential way — by tuk-tuk. Weave your way through the city’s bustling bazaars and markets, past landmark monuments and newly restored buildings to Galle Face Green for breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Take a breather back at the hotel before meeting Colombo locals — along with passionate photographer Mark Forbes, your escort — on a captivating walk through the old town, who brings the city’s multifaceted history to life. See the 17th-century Dutch Hospital, Colombo Fort and charming colonial mansions, and wind up at a speakeasy for arrack-themed cocktails. Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner at Culinary Ceylon, where a culinary curator introduces you to Sri Lankan home cooking through a series of tasting plates.
Before leaving the city, make a short stop at No. 11 Bawa Residence, designed and built by the great Geoffrey Bawa — a Sri Lankan architect — during the 1960s. An essay in architectural bricolage, the house was built from four smaller bungalows that Bawa bought and combined over a period of years. Continue on to the Cultural Triangle, located in the center of the country. Settle into your resort before enjoying dinner at the restaurant with special guest Dr. Shanti Jayewardene, Oxford-educated Sri Lankan architect and historian. She will provide an incredible insight into Sri Lanka’s anthropology, aesthetics, architecture, history and politics in an accessible and insightful way.
A healthy start to the day as you visit the organic garden to pick fresh produce for use in a cooking demonstration at the resort’s traditional hearth kitchen. Watch as your fresh herbs and vegetables are transformed into lip-smacking Sri Lankan delicacies, which you’ll savor over lunch. This afternoon, enjoy one of these Design Your Day® activities.
Travel like a local on a village tuk-tuk experience.
Take to the waters of the Wannemaduwa Tank in a kayak.
Learn how to craft and fly a classic Sri Lankan kite.
Discover a world of ancient ruins today in the Cultural Triangle. Start at one of Southeast Asia’s most impressive sites, Anuradhapura, the country’s first ancient capital that dates from the fifth century BC. Marvel at giant stupas (dome-shaped structures erected as shrines); a colossal statue of Buddha; and receive a blessing near the sacred Bodhi tree, the oldest recorded, planted in 236 BC. This afternoon, climb to the spot where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka — at the summit of Mihintale — and admire the religious monuments and views.
Delve further into the Cultural Triangle at UNESCO-listed Polonnaruwa, an interesting blend of Buddhist and Hindu archaeological monuments. Don’t miss the famous rock temple of Gal Vihara, which comprises four colossal statues of Buddha cut into the stone. If you’re feeling energetic, the best way to see the ruins is by bike. This afternoon, visit Minneriya National Park for a chance to see elephants and, if you’re lucky, the purple-faced langur and toque macaque, which are endemic to Sri Lanka.
Rise early for an exhilarating hot air balloon ride over the surrounding landscape, glimpsing Sigiriya from above (additional cost, paid locally). Then, challenge yourself with a steep climb 656 feet up through the Lion Gate to the top of the imposing fifth-century rock fortress, admiring the water gardens, moats and ancient frescos on the way. Soak up the unparalleled 360-degree views of the surrounding jungle and hills before returning to the hotel. Afterward, meet a farmer and his family for a home-cooked curry lunch.
Get an early start to visit the extraordinary Buddhist cave temples at Dambulla, with statues and murals dating back to the third century BC representing Sinhalese Buddhist art at its best. Continue south to Kandy, the country’s cultural capital, with sundowners and a traditional Kandyan cultural performance this evening.
Join a professor at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya for a guided walk through the extraordinary botanical collection, comprising over 4,000 plant species, including a priceless collection of 300 varieties of orchids. Relax for the remainder of the day before a pooja ceremony this evening at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, the city’s most famous landmark, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Amid scents of lotus and jasmine, join monks and pilgrims who gather to make offerings to the Buddha. Enjoy VIP entry to the inner Shrine Room where the sacred tooth relic of Buddha is kept.
Travel through the misty highlands into hill country, past lush green tea estates and scenic waterfalls. Lunch in Nuwara Eliya before an afternoon tea experience. Visit tea plantations and a factory to learn from an expert about the journey from planting and plucking to manufacturing, grading and processing, the auction system, and finally, a tasting. Afterward, savor a tea-themed dinner in your converted tea factory hotel.
Part hotel, part museum, Heritance Tea Factory is where you’ll unwind today. Select one of these Design Your Day® activities.
Spot sambar deer and endemic monkeys, and take in the view from World’s End on a trek in Horton Plains National Park.
Take the scenic train ride through the heart of tea country to Ella.
Ramble through the tea fields on a plantation tour.
Journey south to the colonial seaside city of Galle, arriving in time for sunset at the ramparts of the fort. Dine in a local home for an evening of Sri Lankan family cuisine and warm hospitality.
Join a local archaeologist and heritage expert on an absorbing walking tour of Galle Fort. Built by the Dutch in 1663, the fort is the largest remaining European fortress in Asia. Walk clockwise from the Old Dutch Church to the Old Gate, bearing the British coat of arms: the Zwart Bastion and lighthouse. Refuel on tea and refreshments at an old Dutch house, and meet the family who has lived there for generations. Seek out local arts and crafts, textiles, jewelry, homewares and Sri Lankan delicacies as you wander the cobbled streets. In the afternoon, meet traditional mask makers and admire the skill of their carving before trying your hand at this age-old craft. This evening, join your fellow guests at your hotel and savor a Sri Lankan fusion-style farewell dinner.
Transfer to Colombo Airport for your departure flight.