Gain an insight into the ancient culture, the contemporary folklore, the astounding scenery and the native wildlife of Sri Lanka with a safari in a National Park. This tour gives you more than just a taste of the country but enough time to visit and explore in more depth. If you don't have time to spend a full two weeks touring Sri Lanka, view details of the shorter 'Highlights of Sri Lanka' tour. This holiday can be undertaken staying in a range of hotels. To make things simple initially we are giving a Luxury option and a Value option. Each combination is based on tried and tested hotels within given price ranges but any other hotels we feature in the respective regions can be included instead and of course, Luxury and Value hotels can be mixed.DAY BY DAY ITINERARYDay 1 Arrive Colombo to NegomboYou will be met on arrival and driven by your English-speaking chauffeur guide who will accompany you throughout your tour of Sri Lanka. Negombo, set amid lush groves of coconut palms, breathes the spirit of the sea and the town itself shows its interesting colonial past with many historical buildings. Negombo is an important fishing town with Portuguese and Dutch colonial heritage. The Dutch legacy is seen in the remains of the grand Dutch Fort and the Dutch canal (now called Hamilton Canal) which runs from Colombo to Chilaw via Negombo. Although large parts of the canal are in disrepair, it is being revived and you can see gaily-painted boats using it as a waterway. Spend the remainder of your day exploring this historic city. Day 2 Negombo to Sigiriya Today, depart for the Cultural Triangle (approximately 4 hours). This area is considered to be the cradle of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist civilisation and is home to a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, alongside an abundance of wildlife and natural habitats. In the afternoon, set off to climb the spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya, with its rocky abode and water gardens. Sigiriya is famous for its rock of golden-hued granite. In the 5th century King Kashyapa ‘tamed’ the Lion’s Rock, by building a palace atop its summit. Day 3 Visit Polonnaruwa Today visit Polonnaruwa, an ancient royal capital, with its well-preserved 12th Century ruins and impressive stone sculptures recalling an inspired past and the story of Buddhism. This will give you the chance to experience the grandeur of this period and the artistry of the island’s early craftsmen. Highlights are the Royal Palace and Council Chamber, and the four graceful Buddha statues of Gal Vihara (Stone Temple), the pinnacle of Sri Lankan rock carving. Day 4 Sigiriya This morning you will take a short drive from Sigiriya to Hiriwaduna Village, where you will have the opportunity to meet with the local villagers. You can help in some of their daily tasks, such as farming and cooking, or even be taken on a bullock cart ride through a banana plantation, tasting the ripe bananas along the way! Afterwards, enjoy a typical Sri Lankan style rice and curry meal with the local villagers. This afternoon, visit the famous Dambulla cave temple dating back to the 5th Century BC. The walls of this World Heritage Site are covered with murals exceeding 21,000 square feet, and it really is one of the most spectacular sights on the island. This visit involves a 10-15 minute walk uphill with wonderful views over the plains at the top. Day 5 Sigiriya to Kandy Today drive to Kandy in the hill country, Sri Lanka`s second city (approximately 2.5 hours drive). Kandy was the last capital of the Sinhalese kingdom and is today still an important cultural and spiritual centre. Explore this picturesque lake-side city with its wealth of antique and gemstone shops, a bustling market and numerous restaurants. British legacies still remain in central Kandy, in the form of grand old buildings and hotels, St Paul’s Church and Royal Palace Park. It is also possible to walk most of the way around the lake besides which Kandy is built, where you can see the Royal Bathing Pavilion and the royal summerhouse which is on an island in the centre of the lake). There is a lively market and a plethora of shops, gem showrooms and arts & crafts workshops. There are also several nightly cultural shows that showcase traditional Kandyan drumming, music and dance and the city boasts a fine international cricket stadium. Day 6 Kandy to Tea Country After breakfast, head south into the cooler mountains to the heart of the tea country. See the curious ‘Little England’ hill station of Nuwara Eliya, with its racecourse, golf course, lake and British colonial buildings. This ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka sits against mountains, valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations, a perfect place for nature lovers. Whilst in tea country, visit a tea factory on a working tea estate, following the process of tea production and enjoying a tea tasting. Optional: Take the train with observation coach from Kandy to Tea CountryA leisurely way of experiencing the scenery is to take the train travelling in the first class observation coach from Peradeniya to Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya). The train leaves at 12.30 and arrives at 15.50.Day 7 Visiting Horton Plains Start early to drive through the early morning mist to Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka’s highest plateau. This is a world apart from the rest of Sri Lanka, a landscape with a unique climate and ecosystem. The circular walk in Horton Plains National Park will take you to the spectacular World’s End - a sheer drop of nearly 1,000 metres into the valley below, as well as to a view of the picturesque Bakers Waterfalls. More than 70% of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds can be found here. In the afternoon, relax back at your hotel or enjoy a walk through the tea plantations. Day 8 Tea Country to Yala This morning, enjoy more mountain scenery on the way to Ella Gap, where the mountains dramatically drop down to the plains of the south, continuing to the south-east coast of the island. This nature resort is located in ten acres of jungle bordering the entrance of Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean. A variety of wild animals are seen in the grounds, such as monkeys, wild boar and the occasional elephant. Yala is most famous for its leopards and has one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, offering the best chance to see them in the wild. This is a very dry terrain with little shade, bordered by a beautiful coastline and interspersed with watering holes. Daytime temperatures reach around 30c, so it is a dry heat with little rainfall.Day 9 YalaBegin early this morning for a wildlife safari by jeep. Elephants, sloth bear, sambhur and buffaloes are amongst the animals also seen in the park. You will see that Sri Lanka is blessed to have the opportunity to showcase a huge amount of fascinating wildlife, all of which you will experience during your safaris. Because of the high density of leopards in Yala, the lack of other carnivores means that the leopard is the top predator, so adults and cubs can be remarkably relaxed during the day. Young males in particular seem to have no fear of the jeep which can lead to some excellent photographic opportunities. On an afternoon safari, watch out for crocodiles basking in the evening sun.Day 10 Yala to Galle After an early breakfast, drive to Koggala near Galle, passing through Hambantota, Tangalle and Matara on the coast road. You will then spend the afternoon exploring Galle at your leisure. Southern Sri Lanka uncovers a world of historic Dutch forts, beautiful beaches and stilt fishermen, where sleepy villages lie hidden in palms behind the wide sandy bays and sheltered coves.Days 11 and 12 Galle Explore the city of Galle at leisure, taking in the rich heritage, culture and architecture of this vibrant coastal city. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become the perfect time-warp for the inquisitive traveller with its myriad narrow streets within the city walls. There are some lovely small shops to browse selling crafts, jewellery and antiques. Galle and the surrounding villages are full of artisans such as lace makers, jewelers, woodcarvers and painters. Small shops sell crafts, jewellery and antiques, as well as a few designer boutiques. The surrounding region is incredibly beautiful with its rainforest reserves, low-lying tea estates, ancient temples, coconut plantations, rice paddies, fishing villages and palm-fringed coves. Later, relax by the ocean or maybe indulge yourselves with a spa treatment.Optional: Carve your own traditional maskToday, have a go at creating your own traditional Sri Lankan mask, using Sri Lankan methods of carving with traditional tools. You’ll begin with a introduction into the history of Sri Lankan masks, their spiritual and historical meaning and how they have been influenced over time. Under the guidance of some fantastic traditional carvers, you will create your own mask which will reflect both traditional artistry and your own interpretations. Your mask is then yours to take home!Optional: Merchant of the Fort with Juliet CoombeTake a walking tour of the Galle Fort with local resident and author, Juliet Coombe. The focus is on the history of this huge, living coral fort and the merchant families of this thriving trading spot. You will meet some of the descendants of the original merchant families, experience the spice trade and learn how life was during the colonial period. Optional: Karuna’s cooking class in UnawatunaThis is a highly recommended day-long cookery course which teaches you the finer points of Sri Lankan cuisine and aims to have you mixing your own curry powder in no time. The course is led by Karuna and a trip to Galle market is included.Day 13 Galle to ColomboYour journey back to Colombo takes you along the coast road (approximately 4 hours drive). Depending on your interests, you may wish to make stops to see mask-making in Ambalangoda, Buddhist temples, the beautifully landscaped Brief Garden or the beach resort of Bentota along the way.In Colombo, you have time in the afternoon to visit the sights of the city and indulge in some shopping. Optional: Colombo City WalkOnce you have arrived in Colombo, you will have the chance to go on a guided personalised city walk through Colombo. This evening you will spend 3-4 hours exploring this fine city at dusk. You will be shown all the lesser known parts of Colombo; the secret alcoves, the historical landmarks, the fantastic architecture and Colombo’s beginnings as a tiny trading port. Day 14 Departure from Colombo After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport (approximately 1 hour drive).PRICE INFORMATIONPrices from £3580 per person luxury option, or from £2620 per person value option.Included in this tour: • Return scheduled flights with Sri Lankan Airlines from London Heathrow to Colombo in economy class• Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room• Private English-speaking chauffeur-guide in an air-conditioned Japanese car throughout the itinerary• Entrance fees to the monuments listed aboveNot included: • Visas (A visa is a requirement for entry to Sri Lanka and can be obtained on line from www.eta.gov.lk)• Meals, except as specified above • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses• Camera fees where applicable• Personal travel insurance (this is essential).Click on the 'Hotel Information' tab above to find out about the hotels featured in this itinerary.
This holiday can be undertaken staying in a range of hotels. To make things simple initially we are giving a Luxury option and a Value option. Each combination is based on tried and tested hotels within given price ranges but any other hotels we feature in the respective regions can be included instead and of course, Luxury and Value hotels can be mixed.Luxury option Negombo: Jetwing Beach, the cool, contemporary architecture complements a charming stretch of beach. There is a lovely spa, great restaurant and a choice of water sports (Deluxe room on bed and breakfast) or Jetwing Lagoon, the first hotel built by Geoffrey Bawa, its architecture is simple, yet manages a cool elegance, its low-lying buildings strung along the lagoon’s shore (Deluxe Room, bed and breakfast board).Sigiriya: Jetwing Vil Uyana, this eco-luxury hotel has 25 individual ‘dwellings’ most with own plunge pool and private deck. There is a spa, yoga pavilion and two great restaurants (Paddy or Marsh Dwelling on bed and breakfast)Kandy: Theva House, a private and luxurious boutique hotel, complete with awe inspiring views across mountains and valleys and just 2km from Sri Lanka’s cultural capital of Kandy (Deluxe room on bed and breakfast).Tea country - Nuwara Eliya: Heritance Tea Factory, nestled among endless hillsides and tea plantations, here is a luxury haven in the central region of Nuwara Eliya. Enjoy a welcoming cup of hot spiced tea and then relax in the luxury spa, perfect for when the mists descend over the hillside (Superior room on bed and breakfast) or Jetwing Warwick Gardens, over 5,000ft above sea level and amidst stunning majestic mountains, this unique Edwardian style lodge has been beautiful restored to reflect its original charm (Deluxe room on bed and breakfast).Yala: Jetwing Yala, set just on the outskirts of Yala National Park, this resort is a fantastic stay for those who want tog et unclose and personal with local wildlife. Take a dip in the huge outdoor swimming pool and relax in the scenic surroundings (Superior room on bed and breakfast) or Leopard Trails, this is luxury camping at its finest. If it’s a true wilderness experience you’re after, Leopard Trails ticks all the boxes while practising responsible tourism. (Tent on all-inclusive).Koggala: Fortress Hotel, this deluxe and elegant hotel has superb ocean views, an infinity pool, a wonderful spa and a choice of indoor and outdoor restaurants. It is very handy for visiting the city of Galle (Fortress room on bed and breakfast).Colombo: The Regency at the Galle Face Hotel, its position facing the Indian Ocean on one side and Galle Face Green Park on the other, gives this magnificent colonial hotel an airy, resort feel, despite being in the heart of Colombo (Regency deluxe room on bed and breakfast) or Tintagel, a luxury small hotel in an exclusive neighbourhood (Executive suite on bed and breakfast).Prices from £3580 per person for this optionValue optionNegombo: Jetwing Sea, overlooking the glorious stretch of golden sand of Negombo Beach, this hotel boasts simple, contemporary architecture to match the beachside lifestyle (Standard room on bed and breakfast).Habarana: Chaaya Village, a comfortable, rurally located hotel set in harmony with its natural surroundings. Your time here can be spent not just sight-seeing, but enjoying nature walks, Ayurvedic spa treatments, elephant riding and joining local fisherman (Superior room on bed and breakfast).Kandy: Cinnamon Citadel, offering peace and tranquillity from beside the Mahaweli River, this hotel is perfectly placed for exploring the city’s most important cultural attractions (Superior room on bed and breakfast) Tea country - Nuwara Eliya: Jetwing St Andrew’s¸ set in the hill station of Nuwara Eliya with a 100 year old stately mansion at the heart of the building, this hotel offers authentic old world charm (Superior room on bed and breakfast).Yala: Cinnamon Wild Yala, offers eco-friendly facilities and 61 comfortable, air-conditioned chalets in ten acres of jungle bordering the National Park, which is just five minutes’ drive away (Jungle chalet on bed and breakfast).Galle: The Fort Printers, an 18th Century mansion, recently restored into a small boutique hotel in the heart of the historic Galle Fort. The mansion itself traces its origins to the Dutch period although Moslem traders and English colonialists, and spells as a printing house and a school, have also contributed to its unique character (Double room on bed and breakfast).Colombo: Mount Lavinia Hotel, with a rich 200 year heritage as a British Governor’s residence and fashionable beach resort, the Mount Lavinia is an impressive resort (Direct ocean view room Bay wing on bed and breakfast).Prices from £2690 per person for this optionIncluded in this tour:• Breakfast and accommodation sharing a twin or double room• Private English-speaking chauffeur-guide in an air-conditioned Japanese car throughout the itinerary• Entrance fees to the monuments listed above• Scheduled return flights from London Heathrow to Colombo with Sri Lankan Airways.Not included: • Visas (A visa is a requirement for entry to Sri Lanka and can be obtained on line from www.eta.gov.lk)• Meals, except as specified above • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses• Camera fees where applicable• Personal travel insurance (this is essential).
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