Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport you will be met and assisted by a Compass India representative. We will then accompany you through passport control, customs, baggage collection and money changers, all the way to the arrival lounge where we will meet you, address any last minute questions you have about the itinerary and introduce you to your guide or guide who will be your travel companion and explorer around Sri Lanka.
The drive to the Kotugoda on the outskirts of Colombo takes approximately half an hour. Check in, unpack and relax.
Overnight in hotel at Kotugoda.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for the Cultural Triangle – Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa. The journey begins with the exploration of some of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities and archaeological sites. The Cultural Triangle is home to 4 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in Sri Lanka
OPTION 1: TO THE CULTURAL TRIANGLE BY AIR
Travel by G8AIRVAN to the Cultural Triangle. The G8AIRVAN is a small 6-seater plane. The plane takes off from Colombo International Airport itself. You will wait at the airport VIP lounge and from here you will be driven to the local terminal entrance and escorted by a coordinator from the flight operator.
On route you fly over Sigiriya Rock Fortress – you will do 3 loops. Also known as Lion Rock, Sigiriya was built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. A palace? A rock fortress? The castle of King Kasyapa? A Buddhist monastery from the 14th century? Similar to the cosmic mountain of Meru? The eighth wonder of the world? No place in Sri Lanka has generated as many theories and legends as the 180m monolith, set amidst stunning scenery.
Lunch on route overlooking Kandalama Lake. Guided visit to the UNESCO Dambulla Cave Temples.
OPTION 2: TO THE CULTURAL TRIANGLE BY ROAD
The journey to the Cultural Triangle is approximately 3 hours. You will travel northeast on back roads through small towns and large coconut and pineapple plantations. If you wish, you can stop to enjoy a thambili (king coconut), which is popular roadside refreshment in Sri Lanka.
After lunch you will visit the Dambulla Cave Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991. This temple, dating back to the first century BC, when hermit monks established a monastery here, is one of the most impressive in Asia. It has five caves under a large overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interior dry. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with religious pictures and the colorful designs continue along the contours of the rock. There are images of Buddha, bodhisattvas, and various gods and goddesses
You will then proceed to your hotel near the town of Thirappane. You may like to have a swim or indulge in a spa treatment. Few properties also offer horse riding, archery and mountain bikes. The surrounding area has many trails ideal both for walking and biking.
Overnight in hotel at Dambulla /Anuradhapura
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sigiriya
The day starts early, but it’s worth it! Your guide will lead you through ancient pleasure gardens to visit the fortress of Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. If you are keen to see the rock at its best with panoramic views from the top, then the ideal time to visit is 7.30am.
Sigiriya is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha. According to the chronicles as Mahavamsa the entire complex was built by King Kashyapa (AD 477 – 495), and after the king's death, it was used as a Buddhist monastery until 14th century.
You will enjoy a light lunch at the Sigiriya Rest House overlooking the rock fortress. Some might like a swim in the pool to cool down before lunch after the morning climb.
Post lunch you will proceed for The UNESCO World Heritage Site Pollonaruwa. Polonnaruwa was the second capital and the seat of government from the eleventh to the thirteenth century. Constant invasions by southern Indian warrior tribes meant that the city was abandoned and Dambadeniya became the new capital. It was not until the nineteenth century that the citadel was rediscovered by English explorers.
In the afternoon, if time permits, you will visit Minneriya National Park, just half an hour from Polonnaruwa. The park covers 8,890 hectares and consists of a mixed forest of evergreen shrubs, a favourite habitat for animals, which include leopards, deer and wild elephants.
The park's main feature is the former reservoir or tank built by King Mahasen in the third century AD. During the dry season from June to September, this is a fantastic place to watch herds of elephants come to graze and bathe. It has recently 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.
Overnight in hotel at Dambulla /Anuradhapura
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura
This morning you will travel to Anuradhapura, the first royal capital of Sri Lanka, which flourished for 1300 years. This sacred city is thought to have been established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought here in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site spans over several miles with its palaces, monasteries and monuments.
You will enjoy lunch in the shade at the Tissewewa guesthouse, before heading out to explore more ruins in the afternoon with our expert guides.
Overnight in hotel at Dambulla /Anuradhapura
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed towards Kandy
En route we will visit a working spice garden where you will learn about the origins, production and health benefits of popular spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and pepper.
Hereafter you will stop for lunch at Ena de Silva’s private residence. In 1962, 40-year-old Ena de Silva moved into the unique courtyard house that architect Geoffrey Bawa had built for her in Colombo and started to experiment with batik making. Assisted by Laki Senanayake and her son Anil, she established Ena de Silva Fabrics and went on to produce such masterpieces as the ceiling of Bawa's Bentota Beach Hotel and the banners that hang in front of Sri Lanka's parliament. In 1982 she returned to her ancestral home in the hills above Matale and founded a women's cooperative to make batiks and needlework along with a brass foundry and wood-carving workshop. The cooperative has now existed for more than a quarter century and continues to make modern fabrics and carvings, which are inspired by traditional Sri Lankan designs. They are also artisans in the kitchen and will prepare one of the best meals you will have in Sri Lanka, an astonishing spread of 20 curries to die for!
You will arrive in Kandy in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. At 5.00 PM we will organize tuk tuks to take you a short distance away to have a sunrise or moonrise cup of tea at artist Rajhu’s house one of the few wonderful artists living in Kandy. We will organize a cup or herbal tea or juice. Here you will have the opportunity to paint alongside Rajhu and his daughter Rudrani. Rajhu’s studio is set on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the surrounding mountains.
Overnight in hotel at Kandy.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for Kandy sightseeing
Kandy was the capital of the venerated 16th century Kandyan Kings, who fiercely and successfully defended their kingdom against Portuguese and Dutch invaders for 300 years. It eventually fell to the British in 1815, but the salubrious hill station has maintained its position as an epicenter of Sinhalese culture and the site of an important spiritual pilgrimage for Buddhists. Many of the legends, traditions, and folklore are still lovingly kept alive by the region’s friendly people.
You will start the day in Kandy with a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens . The visit will take place with Mr. Palipana – a professor of Botany from Peradeniya University. First conceived as a Queen’s pleasure garden in the 14th century, and a Kandyan Prince’s residence in the 18th century the gardens were formally opened under their current guise in 1821. Walking around these tranquil, immaculately-designed lawns, borders, pavilions and plant houses, you could easily think you are in England but the heat and extraordinary diversity of the tropical plants give the game away. The Botanical Gardens are as popular with Sri Lankans and travellers alike, and they are large enough to guarantee that there is shady seating available for each visitor. Easy to visit by foot.
A light lunch is served at the Botanical Gardens.
Post lunch we would recommend a walk around Kandy’s central market. Stocking a range of foods, spices, herbal tonics, crafts, textiles and factory-reject designer-brand clothing, it caters mainly to the locals.
Following your visit to the Kandy market we recommend a visit the British Garrison Cemetery. Some might raise an eyebrow at the prospect of visiting a cemetery but this is no ordinary one, and well worth a visit. In the very heart of Kandy lies a ¾ acre plot of land wherein rest many men, women and children, mainly colonial British, cut off from life, many in the flower of their youth, others blossoming into manhood, and with only a bare handful reaching the proverbial three score years and ten. This is the British Garrison Cemetery, which was opened in 1822 and closed by Governor's Proclamation in the mid-1870s, except for those with a relation already buried therein. After recent restoration, anyone interested is now more than welcome to visit this slightly bizarre but incredibly insightful reminder of the past. Here you will connect with Kandy in the 19th Century - a good number of these have their own stories to tell.
The adjacent building is the Kandy National Museum. This building established during Sri Wickrama Rajasingha era was then known as “Palle Vahala” This was used as the palace where the Queens of the king lived. This building has been built according to the architectural features of Kandy period. This pallevahala building was used to deposit the various items of historical value made by Kandy Art Association established in 1832 and technicians of Matale district. This was opened for the public as a museum 1942. This museum has over 5000 museum objects which are depicting various aspects historical and cultural events of the Kandyan period. (17-19 century A.D.)
We take you for a cup of tea to the Queens Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Asia, and then we head into the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka’s most sacred site. Tradition relates that a sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in 4th Century A.D. and was enshrined within the DaladaMaligawa, or the Temple of the Tooth. This sacred relic has ever since been the symbol of sovereignty for the Sinhalese kings and always enshrined in great splendor. Kandy’s DaladaMaligawa is a magnificent shrine, with decorative walls, golden roof and fine woodwork. Religious services (pooja) are held daily at dawn, midday, and in the evening and can be viewed by visitors. The services are accompanied with traditional music and drumming.
Overnight in hotel at Kandy.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for the Tea Country
Your next stop is the hill country, also known as the tea country. The train leaves early in the morning, at around 10.30 AM but we will arrive a little earlier. Our guide will show you around the station and introduce you to the train engineers and the proud station manager.
The train ride from Kandy to the heart of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country is one of the most scenic train rides in Asia. As you meander out of Kandy, dense jungle opens into cloud forest, with undulating vistas of immaculate tea bush carpets in between. Startling orange minivetsbirds perch on outrageously vivid spathodia blossoms, hairpin bends cling onto hillsides somewhere between soaring peaks and dramatic ravines, thundering waterfalls tumble and glassy lakes reflect the astonishing scenery – just in case you missed it.
We stop in Hatton where your driver will await at the station to take you to Tientsin Bungalow. Tientsin is one of 4 classic colonial bungalows managed by Tea Trails. Tea planter’s bungalows were built for British tea estate managers in the days of the Raj. On arrival at Tea Trails you will be greeted by your butler who will attend to anything you need and discuss the dinner options. Enjoy the evening at Tea Trails. Watch the sun go down over the mountains and the lakes from the splendid verandah and gardens at Tea Trails.
Overnight in hotel at Tea Country.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed to visit a tea plantation with a resident planter
The eponymous English cuppa might have been somewhat stronger if not for the 1865 coffee blight. Old Ceylon’s up-country coffee plantations were devastated – but not the spirits of the pioneering planters. They threw in a crop of tea and never looked back. Sri Lanka is still the world’s largest exporter of tea and major industry has never looked so good!
A 'Tea Experience' is offered providing interesting insights into the growth and manufacture of tea - Sri Lanka's most famous crop.
Lunch is served on the verandah at Tea Trails.
Post lunch, If you like, you can visit some of the villages in the valley, their homes, schools and markets.
You can then head up to the ridge between both valleys to take in the spectacular views and for the first time see Adam’s Peak. It is variously known as Adam’s Peak (the place where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven), Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint, left by the Buddha as he headed towards paradise) or Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain, where butterflies go to die). Some believe the huge ‘footprint’ on the top of the 2243m peak to be that of St Thomas, the early apostle of India, or even of Lord Shiva. Whichever legend you care to believe, this place has been a pilgrimage centre for over 1000 years.
It’s not only the sacred footprint that pilgrims seek. As the first rays of dawn light up the holy mountain you’re treated to an extremely fine view – the Hill Country rises to the east, while to the west the land slopes away to the sea. Colombo, 65km away, is easily visible on a clear day. It’s little wonder that English author John Stills, in his book Jungle Tide, described the peak as ‘one of the vastest and most reverenced cathedrals of the human race’.
Overnight in hotel at Tea Country.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed towards Galle
This morning you will have to set off early, winding your way through the tea plantations which gradually give way to tropical jungle, and eventually to the sparkling palm-fringed coastline of the Indian Ocean. Enroute stop for tea or a bite at the location where the film Bridge Over The River Kwai was filmed, on the Kelani River – one of the more breathtakingly beautiful places in Sri Lanka.
By late afternoon you will arrive at Galle Fort. As you pass through the imposing fort gates, you are instantly transported to another era. Galle is the country's oldest living city and is sure to capture our interest, with its historic sites and its unique fusion of European and Arabic cultural and architectural influences. Galle rose to prominence as a port of call for Chinese, Persian, Arab and Indian traders, later followed by Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialists, all leaving their indelible mark on this enchanting seaside town.
You will spend the next two nights relaxing and soaking up the culture and history of the 17th century Dutch fort of Galle.
Overnight in hotel at Galle.
Breakfast at the hotel and then visit the Galle Fort.
You will take a guided tour around Galle Fort.The 16th century Galle Fort is a world heritage site. Spanning over 90 acres, it is Asia’s best preserved and largest surviving fort built by European occupiers. It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 and extended to its present glory by the Dutch in 1663. The best way to soak up the charm of the Old City and to get our bearings is by taking a stroll around the thick granite walls of the fort. This one hour circuit is most enjoyable at sunrise and sunset as the air is cool and the light is long and low. The real allure is found in simply wandering through its warren of narrow alleys and side streets, replete with colonial homes with original archways and verandas, 18th century churches, mosques, museums and impressive art galleries and clothing boutiques.
We recommend lunch on the beach at Why Beach or Wijaya Beach. Why and Wijaya are two small beach restaurants located on Thalpe Beach. The vehicle will be available to take you to the beach and bring you back after sunset. Some might prefer other optional activities such as a visit to local temples, a bit of shopping. One option for the actively minded is to take a bike ride around the paddy’s and village inland from Galle. The starting point can be Wijaya Beach itself and this can be easily organized on the spot.
Afternoon at leisure.
Here are some optional activities:
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed towards Lunuganga and Colombo
The trip takes approximately 3.5 hours. Enroute you will visit Lunuganga situated approximately 2.5 hours from Galle, in the area of Bentota.
Created over several decades by the ‘father of Asian architecture’, the late Geoffrey Bawa, this beautiful 15 acre estate of Lunuganga, a few kilometers inland from Bentota, was fashioned by Bawa into a place of extraordinary beauty as his tropical vision of an Italian Renaissance garden bordered on two sides by the Deduwa Lake. Featuring rolling lawns, terraces and pavilions set out like a series of spacious outdoor rooms, whose position has been carefully chosen to exploit the fabulous vistas over the lake, tropical jungle and paddy fields. Statues, pavilions, courtyards and lily ponds provide much interest as they flank secret pathways that link gardens characterized by majestic banyans, silvery rubber trees and ageing frangipani.
Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is often referred to as the capital of the country, since Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte is a satellite city of Colombo. Colombo is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins and a population of 647,100.
Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948.
For dinner we will take you to the Ministry of Crab. Dharshan Munidasa, in partnership with two of Sri Lanka’s best known faces - cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene - claims to be the best place in the world to sample the renowned Sri Lankan crab. Occupying prime space in the landmark Dutch Hospital complex, the restaurant specializes in serving enormous crustaceans that would otherwise be whisked away to Singapore and Malaysia.
Overnight in hotel at Colombo.
Breakfast at the hotel and then proceed for departure
At a pre-arranged time your chauffer guide will take you to the airport for your departure.