Ancient Cities and Colonial Splendor takes you on an fascinating journey across the country from north to south and past to present. The journey begins with the exploration of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities and UNESCO world heritage archeological sites. We travel inland to experience the tradition and pageant of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s mediaeval capital and onto the hills and the southern coast to experience the romance of bygone colonial days. We end in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s modern yet unsophisticated capital.
Day 1: Colombo Airport - Horathapola
We will meet you at Colombo airport and transfer you to Horathapola Estate, an hour’s drive north of the airport. Unwind and relax in their beautiful gardens and enjoy what many have described as Sri Lanka’s best rice and curry dinner!
Days 2, 3 & 4: Horathapola – Cultural Triangle
Sri Lanka’s famous cultural triangle offers plenty to see and do over the next three days. The trip from Horathapola estate takes approximately 3 hours.
The Cultural Triangle
We will arrange a visit to the 5th century rock fortress of Sigiriya, also known as the "Lion Rock". The best time to visit is 7.30 AM. If you are lucky you might have the site all to yourself. We will also visit other sites of important historical and cultural significance including either Anuradnapura or Pollonaruwa, the first and second capital of the ancient Singhalese civilization.
Anuradnapura was the first royal capital 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 there 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.
Polonnaruwa became Sri Lanka’s capital in 10th century AC at a time when Sri Lanka achieved its triumph as a civilizations with an ingenious network of hydraulic engineering -- the construction of water tanks and irrigation canals. In 1411, an invasion from Southern India forced the Sinhalese to abandon the city. Pollonaruwa is well maintained and makes for a great half day visit.
Days 5 & 6: Cultural Triangle - Kandy
The journey from Horathapola to Sri Lanka’s hill capital - the small lakeside city of Kandy will occupy most of the day. On route we will visit a spice garden. The following day a city tour includes the fabulous Botanical gardens and the Temple of the Tooth, in which a sacred relic of the Lord Buddha is enshrined. Another option is to see Kandy’s sites on the first day in Kandy and on the second day head over to Victoria Reservoir for a round of Golf and lunch, colonial style, at the club house overlooking the Victoria Reservoir.
Kandy is known for its mild climate, colonial architecture, its spectacular festival - The Kandy Perahera which takes place in August. The Perahera is a procession of the sacred Buddha relic through the streets of Kandy, accompanied by dancers, musicians, entertainers and elephants. Kandy is also well known for being home to Sri Lanka’s holiest temple, the Temple of the Tooth. Victoria Reservoir, a short half hour ride from Kandy is home to Sri Lanka’s best golf course, the Victoria Golf Club, regarded by many as one of the most scenic golf courses in Asia.
Days 7 & 8: Kandy – Tea Country
Your next stop is the hill country, also known as the tea country. The train ride from Kandy to the heart of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country is one of the most scenic train rides in Asia. There is an observation carriage at the end of the train with large windows to enjoy the views. There are two trains daily and the travel time is approximately 2.5 hours. The train stops in Hatton where your driver will await at the station to drive you to the Tea Trails bungalow of your choice. Tea Trails consists of 4 classic colonial bungalows built for British tea estate managers in the days of the Raj, one of the most exquisite hotels in Sri Lanka, with private butler service and the finest cuisine.
Days 9, 10 & 11: Tea Country to Galle
After breakfast, perhaps a plateful of steaming string hoppers with potato and coconut milk curry, we travel along the south coast towards Galle.
Old Galle is a UNESCO world heritage site; a unique example of a preserved 17th C colonial Fortress. The Galle Fort itself is still a living monument with a bustling community within the great ramparts, massive bastions, pepper pot towers, while narrow streets display its Dutch heritage with beckoning pillared verandas and fretwork facades. Walking around is best so you can peep through frangipani filled courtyards at houses, galleries or shops selling antiques, spices, pictures, nouveau-boule and hand-woven sarongs. Boutique hotels incongruously cheek by jowl with postage-stamp size cafes, so you are never far from a perfect sun-downer. Pondicherri meets Cadaques!
After a lazy breakfast we travel north up the west coast to Colombo.
A final stop in Colombo will not disappoint. A glimpse beneath the chaotic façade of this metropolis on the banks of the Indian Ocean will reveal a treasure of delights and surprises to the inquisitive visitor. We always encourage our guest to experience Colombo for at least a day or two. Colombo is not a city where crowds of tourist are shoved from one monument to the next. It is not a city of shopping malls or gigantic plasma screens pumping out advertisements night and day. It is a city with charming little hideaways waiting to be discovered. We have carefully handpicked the best shops and galleries, and the best restaurants. Sri Lanka In Style offers a personalized shopping tour of Colombo for those interested.
Day 8 Colombo – Colombo Airport
Depart in good time for your flight back home. The journey to the airport will take approximately 1 hours although it can take 1.5 hours during peak traffic hours.