A Cultural and Historical Exploration of Sri Lanka
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
Every detail taken care of
- Privately guided tours with local experts
- Luxury accommodation throughout
- Private transfers
- Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
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
VIP meet and greet at Colombo airport
Private transfer to your hotel in Colombo
Accommodation in Colombo
- 17 rooms and suites
- Outdoor swimming pool
Located within five acres of landscapes tropical gardens is The Wallawwa, a colonial manor house with plenty of character and charm. A short drive from the airport and under an hour from the hustle and bustle of Colombo itself, this is a great option for those wanting a tranquil stay while never being too far from the action. The hotel features 17 elegant rooms and suites, some featuring their own verandah overlooking the garden. For families or small groups, the two-bedroom Mountbatten Suite with private plunge pool and garden is perfect. It is so named because Lord Mountbatten was commander in chief of the south east Asia command, the headquarters of which were in Sri Lanka – then Ceylon. Dine at the Verandah restaurant, which makes use of fresh, local ingredients to create delicious fusion cuisine. You can also enjoy high tea in the garden, enjoyed with a cup of Sri Lanka’s famous tea. When you want to relax and unwind, the Z Spa offers a range of rejuvenating treatments, and there is an outdoor pool nestled among the lush foliage.
- 11 suites
- Swimming pool
Set off tree-lined Park Street and close to the lakeside Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Residence by Uga Escapes is one of the finest boutique hotels in Colombo. The grand Victorian townhouse was built in the 19th century by a wealthy barrister, its great halls and expansive gardens once entertaining British governors, Indian maharajas, European nobility and the cream of the colonial Ceylon society. Today, its 11 unique luxury suites are a calm and secluded oasis in spite of its central location. The style is elegant, contemporary and comfortable, with numerous hints of its rich heritage. This urban retreat also has a wonderful swimming pool, private courtyards, a gourmet restaurant, bar and gym within its walls.
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.
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’.
Private transfer to the Cultural Triangle
The Cultural Triangle
Accommodation in The Cultural Triangle
- 36 rooms
- Restaurant and bar
- Swimming pool
With a strong focus on the environment and eco-friendly practices, Jetwing Vil Uyana is inspired by the reclaimed agricultural land on which it is built. Make yourself at home in a luxurious waterside suite and gaze out through the reeds towards paddy fields and forests. The hotel is built on a man-made wetland system, making for a beautifully tranquil escape from city life. The 36 rooms are spacious and stylish, with a focus on materials that blend in with the surroundings, and bold splashes of accent colour. With a serene rural atmosphere, the rooms offer modern conveniences to ensure the utmost comfort of guests. Whether you are in the mood for a light meal, a refreshing cocktail or Eastern and Western dishes, there are a variety of choices at Vil Uyana. For an exceptional evening, book a private spa dining experience, or select one of the other signature dining options. Whatever you choose, the backdrop will be as inspiring as the food. Focus on your overall well-being and take advantage of the therapeutic and traditional treatments at the Jetwing Vil Uyana Spa.
- 20 villas
- Outdoor swimming pool
The former ancestral estate of local Anuradhapura nobility, Ulagalla is a beautiful boutique property set among 58 acres of lush tropical gardens. At the heart of the hotel is a 150-year-old mansion which is surrounded by 20 villas, each with a private deck and plunge pool and huge windows looking out over paddy fields, forest or the lake. The two-bedroom Nikawewa Villa with separate living and dining room is perfect for families. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden are used to create mouthwatering Sri Lankan cuisine, which guests can enjoy in the main restaurant, on their private deck or in the beautiful surroundings of the paddy fields. Enjoy some time out at the spa, a tranquil haven where guests can unwind with a rejuevenating treatment. There is also an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre, as well as a pool table in the main house.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Private transfer to Kandy
Accommodation in Kandy
- Nine rooms
- Massage treatments
Set in a tropical garden near Kandy, this restored manor house, which dates from 1804, is the ideal place for a private getaway. The hotel blends contemporary décor and luxury with elegant antiques. Nine rooms, each with its own character, are named after Sri Lankan butterflies, and local fabrics, stylish furniture and modern amenities ensure guests are comfortable from the moment they arrive. At mealtimes, take a seat on the veranda and enjoy fresh fusion and a variety of international dishes. However, to get a true taste for Kandy, the speciality is traditional Sri Lankan cuisine – and don’t miss the twice weekly feast of local curries. Take care of your physical and spiritual wellbeing by booking a session with the in-house masseur and Ayurvedic therapist. Treatments on offer include energy healing, full body and head massages and reflexology. Enjoy a game of cricket with the Kandy House team, unleash your inner artist using art supplies from the hotel, or learn how to play carom, a combination of billiards and shuffleboard. Alternatively, simply while away your afternoons in the infinity pool gazing out at the paddy fields. While the hotel creates a sanctuary you may not want to stray too far from, there are lots of activities nearby to keep the more adventurous traveller happy. Visit temples, gardens and tea plantations and seek out some of the World Heritage Sites the region boasts.
- Five rooms
Stately colonial grandeur meets modern luxury at this elegant hilltop hotel in the grounds of Victoria Golf and Country Resort. Clingendael’s prime positioning offers expansive views of the lush Sri Lankan countryside, the Victoria reservoir, golf course and the Knuckles mountain range. Travel back to days gone by as you relax in one of the five spacious suites. Each has its own colour scheme and design accents. Artworks, antiques, polished wood floors and carefully-chosen furniture all contribute to the feel of old world extravagance. En-suite bathrooms are modern and feature double, overhead showers. Covered verandas with superb views offer the perfect private space for intimate dining. Meals are served according to guests’ preferences. Whether you would prefer to dine outside in the cool shade of the trees, at the pool side or in the dining room, you can sample Sri Lankan classics or enjoy gourmet Oriental and Western dishes. A tranquil garden oasis, the spa offers a variety of treatments designed to relax and wash away tension. Choose from holistic, energising and detox massages. Thoroughly pampered, spend some time on the golf course, or venture out onto the nearby jungle pathways, keeping a lookout for the vibrant bird life of the region. And at the end of the day, enjoy a refreshing cocktail above the water reservoir as you gaze out over the hills.
- Seven rooms
- Infinite pool
- Collection of classic cars
Located on top of a hill a few minute’s tuktuk ride from the bustle of central Kandy with a fabulous view over the sacred city and mountains behind, The Elephant Stables is a charming boutique hotel marrying colonial Art Deco glamour and modern comfort with a Sri Lankan twist. Once the private home of Sir Cuda Ratwatte, a former mayor of Kandy, many elephants were once housed in the gardens, hence the name. The Elephant Stables has seven rooms including spacious rooms with balconies and a collection of stylish suites, most of which have separate bedrooms and thus ideal for families, including a vast royal tent. All rooms have complimentary minibars, air-conditioning and DVD players with a collection of vintage Sri Lankan films. There’s a bar, living room, reading room and spa while outside there is an infinity pool with a truly fabulous view. The hotel also has a collection of vintage British cars from the 1950s and early 1960s, including a mustard yellow Mini Moke, which are huge fun on local drives around Kandy and longer trips such as to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The restaurant serves hearty breakfasts, light European lunches, afternoon tea and set menu dinners which feature traditional Sri Lankan curries, Asian Fusion or Western cuisine.
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.
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.
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.
Private transfer to the Tea Country
Accommodation in Tea Country
- 26 rooms
- Five bungalows
- Meals and drinks included
- Spa treatments
With astounding views out over green tea fields and misty mountains, the Ceylon Tea Trails resort is the ideal place from which to explore this breathtaking part of Sri Lanka. Dating back to colonial times, five spacious bungalows feature antique furniture and exemplary, personalised service. With between four and six rooms, they are perfect for families and small groups. All of the 26 rooms and suites, which are named after tea planters who lived there, are elegantly outfitted in natural colours and materials, and make for a tranquil escape. Spend time out on the veranda in the fresh mountain air enjoying the views of Castlereagh Lake, the Bogawantalawa Valley and Dunkeld Estate; or curl up with a book in front of a fire. Take long, leisurely walks through the tea plantations learning all about the ancient process of making tea, enjoy a tempting spread of sweet treats on the lawns or have a light lunch at the pool side. Sri Lankan-inspired meals at Ceylon Tea Trails feature the freshest of seasonal produce with home grown vegetables, herbs and teas from the estate. Rates at Tea Trails are fully inclusive of meals and drinks. Make the most of the calming surroundings and start the day with an aromatic bath, or treat yourself to a selection of therapeutic spa treatments in your room. Get a healthy dose of fresh air and explore some of the walking and biking routes through the mountains, or enjoy a game of tennis or croquet.
- Seven suites
- Dining room
- Cigar room
- Outdoor dining
Venture into the lush heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country and surround yourself in old-world luxury at Thotalagala, a carefully restored planters bungalow which dates back to the 19th century. Each of the seven suites is inspired by prominent role-players in the tea-growing region’s history. Situated on Pitaratmalie Estate, the hotel offers easy access to all tea country has to offer, including Dambatenne where Sir Thomas Lipton lived in the late 1800s. Décor is elegantly refined, with antique furniture complemented by carefully-chosen artworks. Enjoy a cigar or after-dinner drink in the lavish cigar room, indulge in a sumptuous tea out on the lawns or allow the chef to treat you to a feast of plantation-inspired cuisine in the dining room. For an extra special Thotalagala dining experience enjoy perfectly barbecued meat beneath the stars, while sipping a fine wine from the cellar. As this is a working estate, guests are welcome to explore the gardens and fields, learning about how tea is produced. Immerse yourself in the history of the area and keep a look-out for memorabilia from the region’s colonial past.
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.
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.
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.
Private transfer to Galle
Accommodation in Galle Fort
- 18 rooms and suites
- Restaurant and bar
- Private cinema
A cool retreat from the hot streets of historic Galle, Fort Bazaar takes up residence in a completely and immaculately restored 18th-century merchant’s townhouse right in the heart of town. 18 cool, chic rooms are arranged around a central courtyard, all spacious with high ceilings and four-poster beds. The family suite has two bedrooms. Branching out from the breezy courtyard you’ll find the acclaimed Church Street Social Restaurant, a bar, private cinema, library and spa. Walk out the front door and find yourself close to a range of boutique shops and the 300-year-old walls, making this the ideal place to soak up Galle Fort’s brooding atmosphere.
- 30 rooms and suites
- Two-storey Garden House
- Spa and yoga pavilion
Built in 1684 and converted into a hotel in 1863, the Amangalla is a beautiful historic property with plenty of old-world charm. The hotel features 30 rooms and suites, all with high ceilings, original Burmese teak floors and large windows that look out over the gardens, the harbour or the Extending the length of the hotel on the ground floor is a beautiful verandah with colourful floor tiles and palm trees. Here you can enjoy afternoon tea or a refreshing drink as you sit and watch the world go by. Step inside and you’ll find yourself in the Great Hall with its lofty ceilings, period lighting and overhead fans. The dining room sits at one end, an elegant space with crisp white linen and antique silverwear. Here you can enjoy traditional Sri Lankan dishes centred around what the chef finds that day in the local markets. At the other end of the hall is the lounge, the perfect place to enjoy a cup of Ceylon tea or an evening cocktail. There is also a library with a range of books on the history, culture and arts of Sri Lanka. Relax and unwind at the spa which features hot and cold plunge pools and a sauna, as well as treatment rooms where you can enjoy traditional Sri Lankan therapies. Take a dip in the refreshing waters of the outdoor pool, surrounded by the lush greenery of the garden or enjoy a morning yoga class in the yoga pavilion to set yourself up for a day of exploring.
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.
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.
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A Cultural and Historical Exploration of Sri Lanka
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We create fully personalised trips from start to finish, working with you to pick locations, accommodation and guides that suit you.
Each time you travel with us, you preserve an acre of precious rainforest through our partnerships.
From in-depth private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your journey.