Cultural and Beach Sri Lanka Tour is a wonderful itinerary that combines cultural highlights, religious sites, UNESCO Heritage Sites, wildlife, cities, villages, and what better than to end the tour with relaxing at a beach resort.
Welcome to Sri Lanka!
Arrive at Colombo International Airport, and after immigration, baggage, and customs, exit the arrival hall. A Geringer Global Travel representative will greet you with a placard bearing your name.
You will be assisted and transferred (approximately 1 hour) to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Colombo is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Located on the west coast, it is a busy and vibrant city with architecture that spans centuries and depicts various styles. Many colonial buildings were influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. They exist alongside structures built in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Indian, and Contemporary architectural styles. In no other place is this more evident than in the heart of the city at the Fort.
After breakfast, take a walking tour in Colombo with resident expert Mark Forbes (or one of his colleagues). Explore the amazing architecture the Dutch and English left behind and enjoy some local food. The walk takes about 3 – 4 hours.
After lunch, take a guided tour around Colombo with a focus on Sri Lanka’s great architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Tour Bawa’s home with those who worked for him and still look after the house. They will share countless stories. Continue to Gallery Café, which he designed, for a drink. Visit Seema Malaka Temple on Beira Lake, which he redesigned in the 1970s.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Sigiriya (approximately 4 hours). En route visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which was started in 1975 to house abandoned and wounded elephants. The sanctuary covers 25 acres of lush vegetation with an approximate population of 77 adult and baby elephants. The best time to visit is the feeding and bathing time when all the elephants are taken to the river.
After lunch, continue the drive to Sigiriya and visit Dambulla Cave Temple. Dambulla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings, and 4 statues of gods and goddesses.
After breakfast, visit the magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 5th century rock citadel was built by King Kasyapa as his new capital on top of the rock. Halfway up the side of the rock, he built a gateway in the form of a large lion. The royal palace and capital were abandoned after the king’s death and was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. This is one of the best – preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
Visit the museum at Sigiriya.
After lunch, proceed for a jeep safari at Minneriya National Park designated as a national park on August 12, 1997 having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reason for declaring the area as protected is to protect the catchments of the Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The tank is of historical importance having been built by King Mahasen in the third century AD. The park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population dwelling in forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts.
At 5:30am with a packed breakfast, visit the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa, the second oldest of Sri Lanka’s ancient kingdoms, to meet clusters of curious primates and their devoted researchers. Medieval Polonnaruwa is home to thriving populations of torque macaques, grey langurs and if you cast your gaze upwards, higher-dwelling purple-faced leaf eaters. Their numbers have not always been so prolific and like many other countries, reduction of habitat meant monkey numbers were in decline. Luckily, in stepped the Smithsonian Research Center, whose field researchers will guide you around. Observe the social interactions and behaviors of local troops as you stroll around a small part of this area, learning of the challenges of monkey conservation.
Afterwards, visit the Polonnaruwa ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Polonnaruwa King Parakramabahu’s reign is considered as the golden age of Polonnaruwa when trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the king. He was adamant that no drop of water falling from the heavens was to be wasted, and each was used toward the development of the land. To this day, these systems supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season.
The rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to the Royal City of Kandy (approximately 3 hours). En route, visit Sri Lankan Garden, a spice garden in Matale. It is a picturesque farm spread over 15 and a half acres towards the top of a mountain with incredible views of the Aluvihare Mountains. Take a guided walk with your host to learn about the garden’s collection of Sri Lankan produce, from pepper to papaya, cocoa to coconut, and mango to mahogany. Afterwards, enjoy a traditionally prepared rice and curry lunch.
Afterwards, continue to Kandy and check into the hotel.
Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second-largest city located in the mountainous center of the island. It is considered by some as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. A cooler climate and smaller size make it more pleasant and accessible than Colombo. Kandy is the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a cultural program that offers a vibrant and unique show of Sri Lankan traditional dances. As many as 12 different folk and traditional dances are performed by the Kandy Lake Club Dance Troup.
After breakfast, enjoy a guided tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens. These gorgeous gardens were first planted and laid out for King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha (1747 – 1780) and cover some 150 acres of trees, lawns, and flowering shrubs, including a 50-acre arboretum of more than 10,000 trees. Under British rule, the royal park became a botanical garden in 1821 and is the largest of Sri Lanka’s three main botanical gardens. Exotic crops such as coffee, tea, nutmeg, rubber, and cinchona (quinine) were tested here.
After lunch, explore the historical Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that was established in the 4th century when Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka hidden from sacrilegious hands in an Orissan princess’s hair.
Visit a father and daughter whose art work is some of the best and most captivating in the region. This is a private experience at their home and inspiring studio. Enjoy chatting about philosophy, music, and of course art.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Nuwara Eliya also known as Little England (approximately 3 hours). Nuwara Eliya is a land of tea-laden hillsides, gurgling waterfalls, stirring mountains, and clear hill-country air. Temperatures are similar to a beautiful English summer’s day. It is wonderful walking country and a chance to experience Sri Lankan scenery at its finest.
After lunch, proceed to Moon Plains for a hike. It is classified as an Agricultural and Environmental Tourism Zone and one of the best places to have a panoramic view of the mountains in Sri Lanka.
Early morning, enjoy a nature walk at Horton Plains, World’s End, and trek up to Bakers Falls with a packed breakfast.
Visit a tea factory to understand the process of one of the world’s most renowned beverages.
Afterwards, visit Seetha Amman Temple also referred to as the Sita Eliya Kovil. According to local legend, this temple is believed to mark the spot where Sita was held captive by her abductor, King Ravana. The Sita Amman Kovil Temple is the only Sita temple in the world nestled ideally on the banks of a clear stream in the midst of pictorial landscapes.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and transfer to the railway station for a scenic train ride to Ella. Ella is a little village paradise in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. This sleepy mountain village with a view is the perfect base for relaxing while also offering lots of fantastic walks through tea plantations to temples and waterfalls.
Drive to Yala and check into the hotel (approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes).
After breakfast, visit Bundala National Park for bird watching. Bundala National Park is a thorny scrub jungle home to spotted deer, the rare pangolin, and the playful grey langur monkey. A walk along the beach at dawn reveals unusual tracks in the sand. The picturesque lagoons and inter-tidal mud flats are alive with flashes of brilliant color as wintering birds arrive to rest and feed.
In the afternoon, proceed for a game drive at Yala National Park that is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is situated in the southeast region of the country. The park covers 979 square kilometers. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and as a national park in 1938. It is best known for its variety of animals and birds ranging from leopards to elephants to peacocks.
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to Kalutara (approximately 4 hours). Kalutara is situated about 42 km south of Colombo and is a major city in the western part of Sri Lanka. This is where the Kalu Ganga River meets the Indian Ocean. Watch fishermen haul in their catch along the picturesque beaches at Kalutara.
After breakfast, visit the ancient city of Galle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (approximately 1 hour 20 minutes). It is a fortified harbor city that is a blend of different architectures. Galle was an ancient seaport and a center for trade along the silk route, where possibly large shiploads of spices and silks were exchanged for precious gems. As a strategically located ancient seaport, Galle has strong Chinese, Moor, Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences. The city has ancient churches, such as the Groote Kirk, the oldest Protestant church on the Island. Galle also has Dutch-style old manors with complex lattice work unique to Dutch architecture. The Dutch entrance to the fort has its emblems adorned on it with ‘VOC 1669’ carved in the inner archway and is still in operation.
Enjoy a cooking class that demonstrates how spices are used in the local cuisine. This authentic hands-on experience is conducted in a traditional expert’s house using earthenware utensils.
Afterwards, drive to Balapitiya for a boat ride on the Madu River. The Madu Ganga River is a complex coastal ecosystem of mangroves and islands. It may be one of the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in Sri Lanka. A boat trip is a wonderful way of seeing some of the hundreds of species of plants and animals. There are around 64 islands in the river and lagoon, from a tiny speck housing a deserted shrine to one housing 250 families connected to the mainland with a very long footbridge.
After breakfast, visit Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery (approximately 40 minutes) famous for its sea turtle conservation project operated by the Wildlife Protection Society of Sri Lanka. Understand the role it plays in turtle survival. It has tanks for injured turtles, including albino turtles that would not survive in the wild. The hatchery buries turtle eggs in sand, and when they hatch around 50 days later, the baby turtles are released into the sea at night. Only about one in 1,000 turtles survive to maturity.
Return to the hotel for the afternoon at leisure.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and proceed to Waikkala, a small village close to Negombo (approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes).
The rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast, the day is at leisure at the hotel.
Late check out until 6 pm. Transfer to the international airport for your flight home.