Small wonder that Sri Lanka is home to some of the finest World Heritage Sites, with landmark monuments and ancient ruined cities that still stand in homage to the island’s past civilisations and cultures, their unique artefacts and archaeological treasures. Join us on this trip of a lifetime as we learn more about one of the earliest great Buddhist kingdoms, explore ethereal temples, dagoba shrines and catch a glimpse of the fascinating wildlife.
- Discover no less than six awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Climb Kasayapa’s citadel of Sigiriya and enjoy unforgettable views
- Witness the unique evening ‘puja’ ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth
- Enjoy a free day in Nuwara Eliya, a jewel of a hill station in the cool uplands
- Share the road with working elephant as you journey through tropical countryside
If you wish to stay in Sri Lanka a little longer, we offer a further three nights at the Heritance Ahungalla Hotel on a half board basis. An ideal opportunity to relax and unwind before your return flight to the UK. Contact our sales team for more information.
We depart from London on an overnight flight to Colombo.
Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel and take time to relax ahead of meeting for dinner in the evening.
Our day begins at the Gothami Temple which houses beautiful wall paintings that intricately and vibrantly depict the life of Buddha. In the afternoon we visit the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, where, according to legend, the Buddha converted the earliest inhabitants of Lanka to Buddhism. This temple is also renowned for its richly decorated walls, which include amazing murals painted by two well-known modern artists, Solias Mendis and George Keyt.
Today we leave Colombo, arriving in Anduradhapura for lunch. This area boasts a wealth of vocative sites and, this afternoon, we pay a visit to Mihintale, which was the site of the island’s first Buddhist sermon and first conversion of a long line of kings. Later, we transfer to our hotel.
Our day begins at the ancient city of Anuradhapura, royal capital from the late 5th century BC, until it was sacked and burned by Chola Tamils in 993. The power of the Sinhalese kings was then transferred to Polonnaruwa. It will take us the most of the day to examine the remains of 15 centuries of continuous occupation. As we stroll among the ancient buildings we will be awed by the huge dimensions of the three dagobas of the oldest periods and charmed by the unique architecture and moonstone thresholds of its monasteries and temples. We will also visit the site museum, which displays the sculptures, bas-reliefs and other precious artefacts from the site.
The story of King Kasyapa’s retreat to his palace, built 180 metres above the surrounding forest on the rock of Sigiriya, is filled with intrigue, murder, revenge and suicide. It took him seven years to build his citadel and its spectacular gardens, pools and pavilions, designed to blend with the natural landscape. This extraordinary complex is no less beautiful today than it was in the 5th century BC. We shall climb Kasyapa’s citadel slowly, stopping to enjoy the water garden terraces, the famous “Sigiriya maidens” painted in a rock gallery, the magnificent views and visit Sigiriya Archaeological Museum. After a full morning of activity, we have the afternoon at leisure. Choose to take the time to continue exploring or unwind before dinner this evening.
We will spend the full day at the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa. A series of great builders – including Vijayabahu I (1055-1110), builder of the first Temple of the Tooth, and Parakramabahu (1153-86), who built a vast number of dams, reservoirs and canals – have provided us with a magnificent, archaeologically rich site that boasts acres of unique architectural elements, delicately engraved columns and wonderful friezes. A tour of the new site museum will end this fabulous and interesting day.
This morning we will visit the huge Avukana Buddha, which stands at over 40 feet tall, and the massive 4th century BC reservoir at Kala Wewa, built by King Datusena in 307 BC. We then continue to the great Golden Temple of Dambulla. The easy ascent rewards us greatly as we will be able to stand before magnificent cave temples that are boldly decorated with paintings and effigies carved out of the living rock. The remainder of our afternoon will be spent at leisure. For those of us who have always wanted to see elephant in the wild there is the opportunity to take an optional safari this afternoon. Alternatively, you could choose to join a guided walk in the nearby nature reserve to study medicinal plants and wildlife.
En route to Kandy we will stop to visit Aluvihare, the site where the Buddhist doctrine Tripitaka was finally written down on talipot palm leaves. After viewing the cave temple’s graphic depictions of what awaits sinners, we have arranged an informal discussion about Sri Lankan Buddhism with the chief monk of this important temple. We will also visit a spice garden and stop for lunch at a restaurant created by a popular folk artist. Touring continues in Kandy at the Anglican Cathedral. This evening we will visit the Temple of the Tooth at the time of the puja, or prayer offerings.
Today begins at the three temples of the Kandyan era: Gadaladeniya Viharaya, with its strong southern Indian influences reminiscent of the Hindu art of Vijayanagar, Lankatilaka Viharaya, and finally Kataragama Devale, which is famed for its carved wooden pillars. We return to Kandy to visit a batik workshop and then have time at leisure ahead of meeting for dinner in the evening.
Before leaving Kandy, we visit the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, home to more than 4,000 species including orchids, palm trees and plants used for medicinal purposes. Our drive to Nuwara Eliya is along the edge of a lush highland landscape carpeted with verdant tea estates. We will stop to sample the famed Ceylon teas and learn the secrets of fermenting and processing the tea leaves. Tonight, will be spent in Nuwara Eliya, a former British hill station.
Today is your own to relax in the ‘cool’ climate of Nuwara Eliya. Perhaps take a stroll in Victoria Park, home to a large variety of plants, trees and several rare bird species, and enjoy relaxing at one of the many cafés and restaurants in the town.
En route to Galle today we will stop at Mulkirigala Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple built on a 205-metre high natural rock. Afterwards, we will arrive in Galle and check into our hotel.
Today, we will visit the Martin Wikramasinghe Folk Museum for an excellent overview of traditional life in Sri Lanka. We then tour the historical centre of Galle, including its ramparts and fort, as well as the National Marine Museum and the Marine Archaeological Project. We continue with a visit to the fishing village of Weligama to see a Megalith carved with a figure identified as Kushta Raja, the ‘leper king’, and the Purvarama Monastery, whose image house is considered to be one of the jewels of Buddhist painting. Later, we’ll experience a private performance of the Kolam Dance.
On our way back to Colombo, we stop at Ambalangoda, known for its wooden mask craftsmen. We then travel on to the airport for our return flight back to London, arriving in the evening on the same day.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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