SRI LANKA

An Introduction To Sri Lanka

15 days

You will kick-start this expedition through the 'country of kings' with visits to a beautiful, 13th century royal capital. Then take in rock temples, monuments, sculptures, paintings and Mihintale, a grand stairway of 1,840 steps made of granite slabs. See ancient ruins, gigantic Buddha rock statues and rock caves. You'll also experience spice gardens, tea plantations, an elephant orphanage, as well as a national park for stunning waterfalls, wildlife and birds. This jam-packed journey is interspersed with water activities and down time relaxing on the beach. By visiting a range of towns and cities, seeing a variety of historic sites as well experiencing modern life, you'll really feel like you know Sri Lanka when it's time to head home.

Day 1: NEGOMBO

On arrival at Negombo check in to your hotel, then the rest of the day is leisure time.

Day 2: NEGOMBO - ANURADHAPURA

We begin our travels with a visit to Yapahuwa Rock Fortress Complex, a beautiful, 13th century royal capital. This citadel is built on a huge rock boulder and was a military stronghold against foreign invaders for many years. A collection of fascinating antiques including stone figures of God, stone filigree windows from the Temple of the Tooth and a collection of Chinese pottery are on view at Archeological Museum here. We then visit Haththikuchi (Elephant's Belly), an impressive rock temple complex dating back to the 1st century BC. Spend the night in Anuradhapura.

Day 3: ANURADHAPURA - MIHINTALE - ANURADHAPURA

Today, take in the sights of Anuradhapura. This was the first ancient capital of the 'country of kings' for approximately 1,400 years. In the pinnacle of its glory, the city extended over 52 square kilometres. Its magnificent monuments, refined sculpture and paintings are testimony to a veritable and original Sri Lankan culture. We also visit Mihintale, a grand stairway of 1,840 steps made of granite slabs. There's a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside from the summit. We also take in the significant sites of Ambastala Dagaba, Aradhana Gala, Maha Thupa,Kathaka Chetiya, Naga and Kaludiya Pokuna.

Day 4: ANURADHAPURA - SIGIRIYA - POLONNARUWA - GRITALE

Visit and climb the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress, one of Asia's most important archeological sites. Set in the green jungle, this massive rock was, in ancient times, a retreat for Buddhist monks. The monastic complex includes caved temples, frescoes, bathing pools, ponds and Asia's oldest surviving landscaped gardens. Next we take in Polonnaruwa, once the medieval capital and one of the most beautiful centres in Sri Lanka's cultural heritage. Visit the ancient ruins and the Gal Vihara complex, where three gigantic Buddha statues are carved out of a single rock. Overnight stay at Giritale.

Day 5: GRITALE - TRINCOMALEE

Morning drive to Trincomalee where the afternoon is free for to relax on the beach.

Day 6: TRINCOMALEE

Spend the day in the port city of Trincomalee. It has one of the world's best deep harbours and the largest Dutch Fort in Sri Lanka. It also has excellent beaches and plenty of water activities such as deep sea diving, snorkeling, fishing and sea angling. You can visit the Hot Wells in Kinniya, Pigeon Islands, Swami Rock (Lovers Leap), Fort Fredrick, Koneswaram Rock Temple and the WWII Cemetery. Trincomalee was one of the cities hardest hit by the December 2004 tsunami but has now been completely rebuilt.

Day 7: TRINCOMALEE - DAMBULLA - MATALE - KANDY

Today we head to Kandy via Matale. Known for its great kings who ruled the city for almost 225 years until the British took over in 1815, Kandy is also where the Sacred Tooth of Lord Buddha is laid in a magnificent temple. Each August, Kandy hosts the Perahera celebration, a spectacular procession of more than 100 elephants. We also visit one of many local spice gardens near Matale, and stop at Nalanda Gedige, the place considered to be the exact centre of the island. The stone building here dates back to the 8th century and is one of the most remarkable examples of the amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist architectures. Spend the evening in Kandy.

Day 8: KANDY - PINNAWELA - PERADENIYA - KANDY

Make an early visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage where you can see baby elephants being bottle-fed before the entire herd is taken to the river for a bath. Next is the Royal Botanical Garden. Established in 1821, the garden is well known for it's large variety of plants and creepers, including a nutmeg grove and more than 300 orchids in the orchid house. Next visit Dalada Maligawa to see the 'Sacred Tooth Relic', one of the most sacred places for Buddhists all over the world. Then there's the royal palace of Raja Wasala. This unique wooden pillared hall dates back to 1784. Finally watch the traditional Kandyan Dance. The dancers wear frilled costumes with glistening headdresses and breastplates, with the highlight being fire walking at the end of the performance.

Day 9: KANDY - NUWARA ELIYA

Today we go to Nuwara Eliya in the hill country. At 1,884 metres, it is also known as the city of eternal spring, where the air is pure and cool. The journey takes us through narrow passes, beside deep ravines and over gushing streams. On the way tour a tea plantation and factory. After checking in to our hotel at Nuwara Eliya, visit the golf course. It is considered to be among the finest and most picturesque in Asia. You may instead choose to visit the Victoria Park or drive around Lake Gregory.

Day 10: NUWARA ELIYA - ELLA

We leave early for Horton Plains National Park and a picnic breakfast. Here you may see a number of important animals, including the slender loris, purple monkey, sambhur (deer) and the occasional leopard. This park is also a habitat to a large number of endemic birds. We trek to World's End, a vertical drop of 1,312 metres, and the Baker's Falls, for fantastic views of the mountain ranges. Then continue on to Ella where we stay for the night.

Day 11: ELLA - TISSAMAHARAMA

This morning we visit Ella Water Falls and the Buduruwagala, a group of seven ancient colossal standing rock-cut Mahayana Buddhist figures carved in high relief on a cliff face in thick jungle. The central Buddha figure is 15.5 metres tall. The afternoon takes us to Yala National Park to see herds of elephants, leopards, wild boar, wild buffalo, crocodiles, peacocks, jackal, sloth bears and other animals. There are also about 130 species of resident and migrant birds in the park including painted stalkes, serpent eagle, sea eagle and pelicans. Spend the night in Tissamaharama.

Day 12: TISSAMAHARAMA - GALLE - UNAWATUNA

On the way to Unawatuna, along the southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka, we'll stop at Weligama to see the local stilt fishermen. Next, visit the World Heritage City of Galle and the majestic Galle Fort, the centre of the Dutch regime in the 17th century. Take in the Dutch Museum, Groote Kerk (Great Church) and the National Maritime Museum. Galle is known for its delicate handmade lace and ebony carvings. The Galle International Cricket Stadium has made the city a popular sports destination. Stay at Unwatuna for the night.

Day 13: UNAWATUNA

Your days are free to enjoy the Unawatuna Hotel and leisure time at the beach.

Day 14: UNAWATUNA

Your days are free to enjoy the Unawatuna Hotel and leisure time at the beach.

Day 15: UNAWATUNA

Head to the airport for your onwards flight.

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