Experience the natural beauty and vibrant culture of the Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka on this superb holiday, based for six nights at the tranquil Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana, in the heart of the country, and one night in the buzzing capital, Colombo. Spend time relaxing at the lodge, in between opportunities to explore colourful Buddhist temples, ancient fortresses and intriguing archaeological sites dating back thousands of years as well as discovering elephants, monkeys and other native wildlife in Minneriya National Park. In Kandy you’ll visit one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism, the Temple of the Tooth, while in Colombo a guided tour introduces us to the city’s rich colonial heritage.
7 nights in hotels and 1 in flight (accommodation as specified or similar)
Make your own way to London Gatwick Airport for a scheduled Emirates flight to Colombo via Dubai.
Day 2 Colombo - Habarana
Upon arrival at Colombo Airport, we transfer to the town of Habarana and our hotel for the next six nights, Cinnamon Lodge (4T+), where we enjoy a welcome cocktail before dinner this evening.
Day 3 Dambulla
This morning you are free to relax and enjoy the facilities of your hotel before this afternoon’s included excursion to the Dambulla Golden Rock Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Buddhist cave temple complex established in the third century BC is the biggest and best preserved of its kind in Sri Lanka, with extensive colourful murals depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life, and numerous statues. We return to our hotel for dinner.
Day 4 Minneriya National Park
You may choose to join us this morning on an optional excursion to the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Polonnaruwa, once the capital of Sri Lanka. It flourished in the 11th and 12th centuries, and is today one of the country’s most important archaeological sites. Among the highlights worth looking out for are the Gal Viharaya rock temple, adorned with four colossal rock-relief statues of the Buddha, the Thivanka Image House, with its Buddhist frescoes and the Shiva Devale Hindu temple. This afternoon, our included excursion is to Minneriya National Park, which is home to a variety of bird and mammal species including monkeys, sloth bears and leopards. At the centre of the park is a reservoir, built in the third century, which attracts many migrating elephants throughout the year.
Day 5 Sigiriya
We head to nearby Sigiriya this morning to visit a batik workshop where we will get a hands-on experience of this traditional craft under the guidance of the skilled artisans here, who will help us create our own colourful batik pieces to take home. This afternoon we have an optional excursion to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, another UNESCO World heritage Site. It was once the site of a 5th century palace and is renowned for its striking rock paintings of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’.
Day 6 Habarana
Today is at leisure, or you may join an optional morning excursion to the archaeological site of Anuradhapura, an ancient city founded in the fifth century BC. It is noted for its Buddhist stupas, including the bright white, 103-metre high Ruwanweliseya Stupa, built in the second century BC and restored in the early 20th century. Also here is the oldest known living human-planted tree in the world, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, which was planted in 288 BC. It is said to have been propagated from the Bodhi tree in India, under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, and is held sacred by Buddhists. This evening we have a cookery demonstration at our hotel, showing us how some traditional Sri Lankan delicacies are prepared.
Day 7 Kandy
Known locally as Maha Nuwara, or ‘The Great City’, Kandy is a beautiful and fascinating place, revered by Buddhists as the home of the Temple of the Tooth, reputed to hold a relic of Gautama Buddha. On our guided tour today, we will take in sights such as the Royal Palace, dating from the 17th century and Kandy Lake, an artificial lake created by the city’s last king in 1807, and we will also visit the lovely Peradeniya Botanical Gardens just outside Kandy, planted with a profusion of tropical plant species, including orchids and palm trees. On our way back to the hotel we will call in at the Matale Herbal & Spice Garden where you can learn about local spice production.
Day 8 Habarana - Colombo
After breakfast we transfer to Colombo, where we will be staying in the Galle Face Hotel (4T) for our final night in Sri Lanka. We take a guided tour of this buzzing city this afternoon, exploring the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial buildings in the Fort area, such as the 17th century Dutch Hospital and the British Old Parliament Building and visiting the Pettah bazaar district, where the streets are crammed with stalls and shops. You might also like to spend time in the tranquil surroundings of the Sima Malaka Meditation Island on Beira Lake, laid out with Buddha Statues and a temple or enjoy a stroll through Viharamahadevi Park.
Day 9 Colombo - London
This morning we transfer to Colombo Airport for a scheduled Emirates flight to London Gatwick via Dubai. Upon arrival, you are free to make your own way home.