Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

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As soon as you arrive, your senses are overwhelmed by Sri Lanka! The warm tropical air, the colourful wild flowers and the jungle, the striking colours of the saris adorning every woman, the variety of exotic fruits and spices, the beauty of the countryside, the mystique of countless temples and orange-clad Buddhist monks and wild elephants – this is a varied place indeed! Our tour takes you to all the major sites of historical and cultural interest, visiting two outstanding UNESCO World Heritage sites and finishing with two days’ relaxation in one of the country’s finest beach resorts. Two nights are spent in Sri Lanka’s fascinating ‘Cultural Triangle’, where we visit one of the best-preserved ancient sites on the Indian subcontinent. Sigiriya Rock, an impregnable 5th century palace and fortress clinging to the top of an immense granite monolith soaring up 600 feet is Sri Lanka’s most remarkable sight, with amazing views of the jungle-covered plain below. The cave temples of Dambulla, another World Heritage site, highlight Sri Lanka’s extraordinary artistic heritage. Their entire walls and ceilings are completely covered by sumptuously painted, perfectly preserved frescoes and shrines, whilst hundreds of gold-coloured statues of all shapes and sizes positively glow in the darkness - truly amazing! Kandy, formerly isolated by dense jungle, was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is today custodian of Sinhalese culture. Here we visit the Royal Botanical Gardens which also contain, in a typical colonial house, the wartime HQ of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Far Eastern Command, as well as one of Buddhism’s holiest shrines, the Temple of the Tooth. Sri Lanka’s hill-country is remarkably beautiful. The dense jungle of the lowlands gives way to more open countryside, with charming small villages, extensive lakes and pine-covered hillsides, with a slightly cooler and less humid climate. It was here during the 19th century that the vast tea estates were created by the British. We visit one of the finest such establishments before staying in the hill-station of Nuwara Eliya, with its colonial-era racecourse, bowling green, half-timbered houses and churches. We continue with a safari in Yala, the country's best National Park, known for its herds of wild Asian elephants and leopards. We end our tour of this remarkable country with three nights' relaxation on one of the best beaches on the west coast before cathing our direct flight back to the UK.

Highlights

  • A thirteen day tour taking you deep into the past to find old Ceylon, with its sacred caves, ancient temples and lost cities
  • Return direct scheduled flights from London Heathrow
  • Stay in charming handpicked three-star hotels.
  • Spend three nights relaxing on one of Sri Lanka’s idyllic tropical beaches
  • Experience superb scenery, paddy fields, rubber and spice plantations, tea estates, endless coconut groves and exotic wildlife
  • Visit Kandy, Sri Lanka’s pre-colonial capital and see the Temple of the Tooth – one of Buddhism’s holiest shrines
  • See the stunning Royal Botanical Gardens, created over 150 years ago
  • Guided tour of the 5th century Royal Palace and Citadel at Sigiriya Rock
  • Visit to the Buddhist Monastery of Dambulla and its incredible Cave Temples
  • Stay in the colonial hill-station of Nuwara Eliya
  • Visit the Elephant Transit Home, where elephant orphans are looked after, before being re-introduced to the wild
  • Take a safari in Yala National Park, famed for its leopards and elephant herds
  • Visit to a working tea Estate
  • Daily breakfast and all dinners included
  • Escorted by our experienced tour manager

Inclusions

  • Scheduled flights to Colombo • Eleven nights’ half-board basis at three and four-star hotels • All transfers • Guided visits to Pinnawela elephant orphanage, Sigiriya Rock, Dambulla cave temples • Kandy city tour and Botanical Gardens • Kandyan dancing • Visit to a tea estate and spice garden • Jeep safari in Yala National Park • Galle city tour • Porterage of one item of luggage per person • Services of a Riviera Tour Manager
  • Health Matters
  • Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate innoculations required for Sri Lanka at least a month before departure.
  • Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that we enjoy several walking tours around a number of historical sites where paths are uneven and uphill. Therefore this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility.

Itinerary

Day 1

You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight direct flight to Colombo.

Day 2

After your lunchtime arrival we stay for one night at the nearby four-star Taj Gateway Hotel with dinner.

Day 3

Today the adventure begins and the sights and the sounds of Sri Lanka gradually unfold. The countryside is stunning – scenic paddy fields studded by water buffalos accompanied by wiry, loin-clothed farmers, extensive coconut groves, pineapple fields, working elephants with attentive mahouts astride their necks and everywhere the dense jungle interspersed by huge lakes. We visit the amazing, 1st century cave temples of Dambulla, a UN World Heritage site and a wonderful introduction to the Buddhist religion. Located within an immense granite outcrop, this series of five caves are richly adorned with remarkably preserved frescoes and over 150 Buddhist statues. In the caves’ semi-darkness, surrounded by the serene faces of dozens of beautifully painted statues, it’s not difficult to imagine the incredible sense of awe this sacred site held for generations of worshippers. We stay two nights in Harbarana, at the three-star superior Habarana Village Hotel, with dinner. This charming hotel features spacious one-storey chalets spread amongst beautifully lush landscaped gardens as well as an open-air restaurant, bar, Ayurvedic spa and large pool with wonderful views (2017 stays will be at the three-star superior Sigiriya Village Hotel). The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka gradually unfold. The countryside is stunning – scenic paddy fields studded by water buffalos accompanied by wiry, loin-clothed farmers, extensive coconut groves, pineapple fields, working elephants with attentive mahouts astride their necks and everywhere the dense jungle interspersed by huge lakes. We stay two nights in Sigiriya, at the three-star superior Sigiriya Village Hotel with dinner. This charming hotel features spacious one-storey chalets spread amongst beautifully lush landscaped gardens as well as an open-air restaurant, bar, Ayurvedic spa and large pool with wonderful views towards Sigiriya Rock .

Day 4

This morning you visit what for many will surely be the most memorable and fascinating monument in Sri Lanka: Sigiriya, or the ‘Lion Rock’, is a massive 600ft granite tower with sheer cliffs on all sides crowned by the remains of a 1,500 year old royal palace. The entire site is encircled by a moat and ramparts enclosing a variety of water gardens, the remains of numerous buildings and caves. As you approach Sigiriya rock, you see some of the finest ancient murals in the country – the ‘cloud maidens’ are found under a fold of rock and show in exquisite detail a procession of jewelled, beautifully dressed women bearing offerings of lilies and lotus flowers. Facing us is the imposing final entrance to the palace above: in ancient times the colossal head of a lion (hence ‘Lion Rock’) was built in brick and plaster, visitors entering through its mouth. Today, just the two front paws remain, their claws menacingly extended, still guarding the palace. It should be noted that there are numerous steps to the top of Sigiriya rock, but should pose no problem for those with normal mobility. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy our hotel’s pool and facilities.

Day 5

This morning we leave Sigiriya for Kandy. Sri Lanka is noted for its magnificent spices so en route we visit a fascinating garden where we see many indigenous plants such as pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon before arriving at Kandy, the country’s royal capital. You stay two nights with dinner at the four-star Cinnamon Citadel Hotel, beautifully located overlooking the scenic Mahaweli River and surrounded by peaceful forested hillsides. The hotel as a pool overlooking the river, with a colonnaded lobby, a charming bar and restaurant.

Day 6

Kandy’s crowded and bustling streets teem with daily comings and goings: the many white-uniformed children returning from school and the myriad of shops. The centre is dominated by a beautiful lake and the fascinating Temple of the Tooth, said to hold Buddha’s tooth. This is Buddhism’s most sacred shrine on the island and during our visit, you may be lucky enough to witness one of the many ceremonies. You also visit the stunning Royal Botanical Gardens. Planted over 150 years and covering a huge 150 acres, the gardens hold thousands of plant species and some superb examples of mature tropical trees. Strolling through lawns, shady avenues and immaculately kept flower beds, we see exotic birds and the commemorative trees planted by Edward VII, George VI, Princess Anne and the Queen. Other highlights are the Avenue of Royal Palms and ‘Bat’ Drive where you can spot the large fruit-eating ‘Flying Foxes’ hanging upside down! The gardens also house Lord Mountbatten’s imposing HQ from World War II. Kandy is famous for its traditional dancing and so this evening we experience a colourful and hugely skilful display of this ancient art.

Day 7

After a leisurely breakfast you leave Kandy, driving through increasingly mountainous scenery to Sri Lanka’s premier tea-growing areas. Winding ever upwards, the lush tropical jungle gives way to tall pine forests and then box-like tea bushes begin – few at first and then seemingly covering every fold of the landscape like a huge green carpet. You visit one of the best-known tea estates to see how our favourite drink is rolled, dried and graded, followed by a refreshing cup of Ceylon’s finest. Nuwara Eliya, the main hill station, is nearly 7,000 feet above sea level and called ‘Little England’ due to its spring-like climate, parks and golf course. You stay at the four- star Grand Hotel, similar to an English manor house, originally the summer home of Sir Edward Barnes, a Governor of Ceylon. It is famed for its classic 19th century public rooms and lovely, English inspired flower beds and lawns. Even High Tea is served.

Day 8

You say goodbye to Sri Lanka’s hill country this morning on your way to Yala National Park in the south of Sri Lanka.  At around midday we arrive at the Elephant Transit Home, supported by the UK’s Born Free Foundation, at Udawalawe National Park, where you’ll be able to watch young elephant orphans being given one of their daily feeds. You stay two nights at the excellent four-star Jetwing Yala Hotel with dinner. The hotel is located just 4 kilometres outside the national park and features a pool, bar and restaurant, set in a stunning beach location.

Day 9

An early start this morning, accompanied by the unique sound of a tropical ‘dawn chorus’. As the morning mist disappears with the rising sun you explore the jungle and its incredible range of wildlife in 4x4 vehicles. The normally elusive leopard offers the Park’s most exciting game viewing and Yala has a high concentration of these big cats. They are the island’s top predator so are far less shy than elsewhere in the world. Yala is also known for its elephants, saltwater crocodiles, wild boar, sloth bears, monitor lizards and a huge variety of birdlife. After a late breakfast you can relax by the hotel’s pool before having the option to go on a second, early evening safari.

Day 10

After breakfast you return to the west coast, via guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle, with its imposing 16th century Dutch fort. You soon arrive at the excellent three-star superior Palms Hotel in the beach resort of Beruwela for a three night stay with dinner. This charming hotel boasts a main restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, an open-air coffee-shop and a speciality fish restaurant. The spacious grounds are beautifully looked-after and feature a large pool and plenty of quiet sunbathing spots. All 100 rooms are air-conditioned, with private balcony or terrace, shower/wc, safe, minibar, hairdryer, tea/coffee-making facilities and cable TV.

Accommodation

Gateway Hotel

Colombo airport – the four-star Gateway Hotel (www.thegatewayhotels.com/airportgardencolombo/overview.aspx) is managed by Taj Hotels and is located just 5 minutes from the airport, ideal to...

Sigiriya Village Hotel

Sigiriya – the three-star Sigiriya Village Hotel (www.forthotels.lk/sigiriyavillage/home.htm) is set within very spacious and peaceful grounds with views of the famous Sigiriya Rock from the...

Hotel Suisse

Kandy – the Hotel Suisse (www.hotelsuisse.lk) is located in a commanding position right in the centre of Kandy, overlooking the lake. There’s a buffet restaurant serving international and...

Grand Hotel

Nuwara Eliya – the four-star Grand Hotel (www.tangerinehotels.com) is located in large and beautifully-tended gardens just outside Nuwara Eliya. With its English-style half-timbered look,...

Safari Hotel

Yala – the new three-star superior Safari Hotel (www.ceylonhotels.lk) is located overlooking Tissa Lake. The 53 rooms have an en-suite bathroom, hairdryer, TV and balcony with garden, pool or...

The Palms Resort

Beruwela – the three-star superior The Palms Resort (www.forthotels.lk/palms/home.htm) is beautifully located along Beruwela beach on Sri Lanka’s west coast – the perfect place to...

Chaaya Citadel Hotel

Kandy - the recently-renovated four-star Chaaya Citadel Hotel (www.chaayahotels.com/ChaayaCitadel.htm) is located in a quiet position on a bend of the Mahaweli River, with magnificent views over...
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  Call:  01 905 6300