Known the world over at the home of spices, this island nation has for centuries attracted traders from throughout the world. Discover its amazing history going back to at least 3,000 years, lush landscapes, exciting wildlife, and most of all the friendly local people. Buddhist traditions are embedded in this fertile land, and you will see many architectural monuments of astounding feat erected in Buddha’s honor. Your adventure includes swimming in crystal clear waters, enjoying folkloric shows, and searching for Asian elephants that are plentiful here. Feast on delicious food enriched by the local flavors of cinnamon, cardamom and curry, sip the Ceylon tea that makes this island famous, and indulge in a spicy sojourn that will leave you wanting for more.
YOUR JOURNEY INCLUDES:
- Superior accommodations in hotels mentioned or similar standard.
- Breakfast daily and other meals as specified in itinerary.
- Mineral water during transfers and tours.
- Transportation throughout the tour in an air-conditioned coach or minibus, depending on size of the group.
- Sightseeing in National Parks, and points of interest as indicated.
- Services of an English-speaking specialist guide throughout.
- All applicable hotel/lodge taxes and gratuities for baggage handling.
- All entrance fees as noted.
- Emergency evacuation insurance.
Get set for your adventure as you fly to Colombo, Sri Lanka. On arrival, you will be met by your expert guide and transferred to Negombo where the rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at the JETWING BEACH.
Drive to Sigiriya, and en route stop at the historic town of Dambulla for a visit to the Cave Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built by King Walagambahu, it is the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples and was built at the base of a 492-foot rock face over a period stretching from the First century B.C. to 1250 A.D. The Dambulla Cave Temple is comprised of five distinct caves, each of which functions as a shrine room. All of the five cave walls and ceilings are covered with Buddhist murals and there are more than 130 statues including representations of the Buddha, of gods, and of quondam kings. Check into your stunning, luxury hotel and enjoy your evening at leisure. Overnight at the HERITANCE KANDALAMA.
Explore the ruins of ancient Polonnaruwa city, which date back to the 10th century, and was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. The ruins of this ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudra, created by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign marks Polonnaruwa’s golden age. Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage site with many interesting well-preserved temple shrines and other buildings mostly of 12th century vintage. Of special significance is the Gal Vihare (Stone Temple) with three of the world’s most exquisite Buddha images carved out of solid granite. In the afternoon enjoy a game drive at Minneriya National Park where you will see Asian elephants in their natural habitat. The gathering of elephants in the park is the largest seasonally recurring concentration of wild elephants found in the world. Overnight at the HERITANCE KANDALAMA.
This morning, visit Sigiriya, a fortress palace that rests atop a 700-foot monolith. Climb a narrow path through the remains of the Lion’s Gate and see ancient frescoes and the ‘Mirrored Wall’. One of Asia’s major archaeological sites, this World Heritage Site presents a unique concentration of fifth-century urban planning, architecture, gardening, engineering, hydraulic technology, and art. Continue to Kandy, stopping in Matale to experience the spices. Spices used to be an important trading commodity during the era of Kings in Sri Lanka who retained sole trading rights and exchanged spices for jewelry and silk with Arab traders sailing the “Spice Route”. This evening experience a vibrant and unique cultural dance show with Sri Lankan traditional dances. As many as 12 different folk and traditional dances are performed by the Kandy lake club dance troupe within the span of an hour.
Overnight at the CINNAMON CITADEL HOTEL.
Overnight at the CINNAMON CITADEL HOTEL.
A special visit this morning to “Dalada Maligawa”– Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. This amazing temple is a marvel of architecture and devotion with pilgrims arriving from all over the world, as it is reputed to house one of Lord Buddha’s canine teeth. Next stop is at the Royal Botanical Gardens, founded in 1824 in Peradeniya, featuring an astounding variety of orchids and some of the most valuable collections of plants and trees in the world. Resume your drive to Bentota, a coastal town where you can enjoy the rest of your day at leisure.
Overnight at TAJ BENTOTA RESORT & SPA
Overnight at TAJ BENTOTA RESORT & SPA
Today visit the beach resort in Galle, the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka, with excellent examples of Portuguese colonial architecture. Stop along the way to take photos and learn about the ancient Sri Lankan practice of fishing on stilts. In the afternoon, transfer to Balapitiya for your mangrove boat ride on the Madu River. You’ll pass dozens of islets forested with mangroves and will appreciate the timeless natural rhythms of rural life, viewing 200-year-old temples and locals cultivating cinnamon. Bring your binoculars along if you can, as around 46 species of birds reside in the area, including 14 aquatic varieties. You can also spot huge water lilies and colorful butterflies. In the evening, luxuriate at your resort to the sound of crashing waves.
Overnight at the TAJ BENTOTA RESORT & SPA.
Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka, is today’s destination. Here be treated to a mosaic of cultural influences that is the result of centuries of trade with the world. Enjoy an afternoon free of scheduled activities. This evening, transfer to the airport for your return flights home, taking with you the memories of the many wonders of Sri Lanka.
(Breakfast, Lunch; Meals Aloft)
Before arriving Sri Lanka, take a few days to acclimate to Asia and discover the many wonders of the UAE. Stop in Dubai and the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding amidst towering modern skyscrapers, a symbol of the UAE’s economic prowess. In Abu Dhabi marvel at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which can hold 41,000 worshipers. From falconry to the excellent shopping at the suqs and luxury boutiques, from the iconic Burj Khalifa to the palm islands found here, you’re sure to enjoy this idyllic stop. TAJ JUMERAH LAKE TOWERS.
India’s rich culture comes to life on this post extension to the exotic South, which is so different from the northern part of the country. Experience the history of India as you explore beautiful towns and cities still showing evidence of European influence. Step into the past as you enjoy the serenity of a houseboat ride down a network of canals on the backwaters of Kerala. Discover Cochin, the oldest European settlement in India and one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Take a stroll through St. Francis Church – the original burial place of Vasco de Gama. Visit the Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue, and Fort Kochi to see historic Dutch and Portuguese buildings, and shop at Jew Street – a walk down the lanes of antiquity where every piece on sale has its own tale to narrate. VIVANTA TAJ MALABAR.
Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka has a complicated weather pattern and is governed by two monsoon seasons – from May to August the Yala monsoon brings rain to the island’s southwestern half, while the dry season here lasts from December to March. The Maha monsoon blows from October to January, bringing rain to the North and East, while the dry season is from May to September. Climatically speaking, the driest (and best) seasons in Sri Lanka are from December to March for the west coast, the south coast and the Hill Country, where most of our program occurs, and from April to September for the ancient cities region and the east coast.