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12 days of fascinating history and vibrant culture, from Colombo to the hills of the Tea Country

Personalised journeys from start to finish

Save an acre of rainforest each time you travel

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What's Included

  • Privately guided tours with local experts
  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Private transfers
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

Uncover Sri Lanka’s rich tapestry of history and diverse culture on this luxury twelve-day tour of the island.

Start in Colombo, its sprawling capital, where you’ll be shown around the traditional colonial centre for a fascinating introduction to this melting pot of a country.

Then head way back to the Sinhalese past in the Cultural Triangle, a vast swathe of ancient monuments, sacred temples and countless archaeological remains, it’s corners marked by the historic former capitals of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. You’ll visit a 2000 year old monastery in the forest and meet a renowned photographer for an insight into Sri Lanka’s more recent history, climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya and see the sacred Temple of the Tooth.

Relax among the emerald hills of Tea Country and learn about how this humble crop has shaped the landscape and country since its introduction in the 19th century, before a final two nights in Galle Fort. A Portuguese, Dutch then British trading port, its walls and everything they encompass are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-3

Colombo

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

VIP meet and greet at Colombo airport

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Colombo

Accommodation in Colombo

Two nights in Colombo Two nights in Colombo

On the western coast of the island, Colombo is a sprawling city home to over five million people. It is traditionally centred around Fort, a business district with its roots as a fortified Portuguese trading post, and the green waters of Beira Lake, all facing out to sea.

Hot and busy, recent years have seen Colombo gradually transform from a place visitors could not avoid to a fascinating destination well worth exploring. Its historic quarters and grand 19th-century architecture have been restored, the seafront spruced up and cosmopolitan vibe revived with numerous museums, galleries and characterful eateries opening that celebrate its unique and diverse heritage.

Historical walking tour of Colombo Historical walking tour of Colombo

Colombo is Sri Lanka’s multifaceted commercial capital, a city with an intriguing mix of history, colonial buildings, ruins, modern developments and a vibrant yet chaotic nature that often confuses first-time visitors. Your host is a local history buff and will accompany you on a walking tour through the Fort area, stopping off at various historic landmarks. Once you’ve finished in the Fort, you’ll stop for tea with a spectacular view overlooking the harbour and then you’ll head towards the bustling Pettah markets to try street snacks, chat with the local ‘bombay sweet’ sellers, and perhaps even try drinking a ‘falludah’.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the Cultural Triangle

Days 3-6

The Cultural Triangle

Accommodation in The Cultural Triangle

dambulla-temples-sri-lanka
Three nights in the Cultural Triangle Three nights in the Cultural Triangle

Kandy, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were the three great Sinhalese capitals, and together they form an area known as the Cultural Triangle. The heart of Sri Lanka’s ancient civilisation, this historic region is crammed full of temples and monuments and its ruined cities are fascinating places to explore.

Sigiriya Sigiriya

The iconic Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, was the site of a city and forest, built around and on top of a huge column of rock in the 5th century by King Kasyapa. Abandoned soon after his death, it was then used as a Buddhist monastery. You'll explore the gardens and archaeological remains below before scaling the 1200 to the top for an amazing view.

Ritigala ruins Ritigala ruins

Explore the ruins of Ritigala, a monastery in the jungles of the region’s highest mountain. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman accidentally dropped a chunk of a Himalayan mountain he was carrying back from India for his mortally wounded brother Lord Rama, thus accounting for the pocket of vegetation of healing herbs and plants at the strange mini-plateau at the summit. The remains visible today date back over 2000 years and include stone pathways, platforms and unusually plain structures without any of the traditional icons of Buddhist temples as the monks here devoted themselves to extreme austerity in search of supreme enlightenment.

Anuradhapura by bicycle Anuradhapura by bicycle

Ancient cities don’t get much bigger than Anuradhapura, and few capitals around the world have ever been as long lasting. Dating back to the fourth century BC, Anuradhapura was the spiritual and secular capital of the island for well over a millennium. At its height, the city was dotted with monasteries and home to over 10,000 monks, many of these monasteries and colossal dagobas can still be seen today.

This privately guided cycling tour takes you through a dozen sites, such as the three largest man made stupas in Sri Lanka, the Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig said to be the southern branch from the tree under which Buddha was enlightened. You will bike along flat terrain and can make stops along the way for pictures and to enjoy the scenery.

Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological sites in the country, standing testimony to the kingdom’s first rulers.

The visit starts with the Kings Palace and Baths. You then visit three different tooth relic temples and then proceed to the stupas. The visit ends on the far western side of the complex where you will see one of the most astonishing Buddha rock carvings in Sri Lanka. One can choose to walk, bike or drive between locations.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Kandy

Days 6-8

Kandy

Accommodation in Kandy

kandy-aerial-landscape
Two nights in Kandy Two nights in Kandy

A world of ancient kings, ornate temples, lush gardens and vibrant traditions, Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and its cultural capital. Nestled in the midst of hills and surrounded by tropical paddy fields and tea plantations, the town is the home of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), the country’s most important religious shrine. Browse the bustling market places with bright, fresh produce, local delicacies and fragrant spices, or spend the day exploring the opulent temples and learning about the city’s rich history. The dense downtown area is surrounded by tropical rainforest, so look out for exotic monkeys swinging overhead.

Temple of the Tooth tour Temple of the Tooth tour

Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Tooth, is a temple in the city of Kandy which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site partly due to the temple. Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily, at dawn, at noon and in the evenings.

Tea and stories with a photographer Tea and stories with a photographer

Spend a morning or afternoon with renowned photographer Stephen Champion at his home in the hills in Kandy, just outside of Kandy city. Re-live some of Sri Lanka’s recent history through his books and prints and engage with traditional village culture, everyday modern scenes and observations throughout the 26 year old civil war which ended in 2009. Since gaining his BA in photography in the UK and his MFA at the Arts Institute San Francisco in the early 1980s and time as a freelance portrait photographer in London, Stephen's iconic photographic work has received much local and international attention during the last 30 years.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the Tea Country

Days 8-10

Tea Country

Accommodation in Tea Country

tea-picker-sri-lanka
Two nights in Tea Country Two nights in Tea Country

Undulating hills blanketed in green plantations, Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. You'll see the hills dotted with women quickly but meticulously harvesting leaves by hand, baskets slung across their backs. Skilful workers deftly pluck the most flavoursome and aromatic parts of the bushes – the topmost leaves and buds – which are then sent to nearby factories to be dried and processed.

The first tea plantations were established in Kandy in the 1860s and now most of the scenic central region’s elevated slopes are covered in contoured rows of painstakingly maintained plants.

Tea plantation tour Tea plantation tour

Visit a typical plantation, and observe how the plant is grown and harvested. From here you will travel to a factory, and learn about the whole processing procedure and how different types of teas are created.

Warleigh Church Warleigh Church

Visit Warleigh Church, a gift from Englishman William Scot in 1878 to the Wanarajah Estate near the hamlet of Dickoya. Built like a typical British church, the church's original bible is still kept at the alter.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Galle

Days 10-12

Galle Fort

Accommodation in Galle Fort

Two nights in Galle Fort Two nights in Galle Fort

Spend your days soaking up the unique atmosphere of Galle, a stunning town at the southern edge of Sri Lanka with fascinating colonial history evident at every turn through its eclectic assemblage of architecture. It's walls and everything inside them are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with beautiful Dutch fusion architecture, a commanding Victorian lighthouse, grand churches and mosques, all in a sultry tropical setting.

Walking tour of Galle Fort with an archaeologist Walking tour of Galle Fort with an archaeologist

Spend an afternoon discovering the historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument that is the Galle Fort with a Researcher and Building Archaeologist. First built in 1589 by the Portuguese, and extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century, Galle Fort has a colorful history, and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site today.

Private transfer to Colombo airport Private transfer to Colombo airport
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A Cultural and Historical Exploration of Sri Lanka

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