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HIGHLIGHTS OF SRI LANKA

Overview

Tour Description

The 'Highlights of Sri Lanka' Tour is a perfect itinerary for those who love diverse landscapes from golden beaches to lush forests, verdant tea plantations to rolling hills. Welcoming people, timeless ruins, ample wildlife and nature, and scrumptious food make Sri Lanka a fascinating destination.

This tour begins in the bustling, ever expanding national capital city, Colombo. You experience the erstwhile colonial legacy along with the teeming chaos of a cosmopolitan city. The tour then takes you to the centre of the country, to the mysterious ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. We visit Kandy, the beautiful city surrounded by green hills and an iconic lake in the town centre. We enjoy some tea amidst the lush hills of Nuwara Eliya on old British tea plantations, drive alongside wild elephants at Yala National park and sip exotic cocktails on the pristine Bentota beaches.

Itinerary

After a traditional Sri Lankan welcome at the Colombo airport, we will check into our hotel. Colombo is a chaotic mix of the old and new, experiencing a building boom with an ever transforming skyline. It is a vibrant and sprawling city with it's historic colonial architecture at Fort, bustling street markets in Pettah, and stylish eateries and modern hotels on Galle Road. We'll take a city tour covering its historical and important landmarks such as the mile-long promenade of Galle Face Green and the exclusive district of Cinnamon Gardens where you will find Independence Hall. We'll go to the vibrant bazaars of Pettah, the pristine beaches of Mt. Lavinia, and shop for mementos starting from tea to Raksha masks, handwoven items, and the famous Ceylon cinnamon at Colombo's many markets, shops and boutiques.

After breakfast, we'll drive 4 hrs to Dambulla, a town north-east of Colombo known for it's archaeological cave temple complexes and sigiriya. Enroute, we'll visit the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala which was founded to care for and protect the many wild elephants that were abandoned and found wandering around the forests of Sri Lanka. The visitors can witness the daily routine of these elephants such as bottle feeding of calves and elephants bathing in the river. We'll then visit Sigiriya, also known as Lion's rock, a dramatic sight of a red stone rising 660 feet, with ruins of an ancient civilization at the summit. The steep climb up is worth the trouble, as you come across some remarkable frescoes on the way to the top which have a unique painting style. We check in and stay overnight at the hotel in Dambulla. After breakfast the next day, we'll drive north west for 1.5 hrs for an excursion to the ruins of Anuradhapura. This splendid sight with its palaces, monasteries and monuments had been hidden away in dense jungles for a long time before they were rediscovered. The sacred 'tree of enlightenment' here is the oldest documented tree in the world, brought there in the 3rd century BC by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. We'll alsovisitMihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, believed to be the site of the meeting of a buddhist monk and the king. En-route to the hotel, we'll visit ""Aukana"" jungle shrine, a standing statue of Buddha which is more than 40 ft in height and was made out of a solid granite stone in the 5th century. We return to the hotel in Dambulla/Sigiriya. The 3rd day after breakfast, we'll head out an hour east of Sigiriya for an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital city of the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms 800 to 1000 years ago. We'll visit the ruins of the once royal city including the palace, the audience hall and the sacred quadrangle among many other sites. We'll then return to the hotel for a relaxed evening.

We'll check out of the hotel and leave for the spectacular Dambulla caves complex, enroute Kandy. These caves hold 5 cave temples containing a collection of Sri Lankan buddist artwork including statues, shrines and murals. There are a total of 158 statues throughout the complex which covers an area of 2100 square meters. We'll move onwards to the city of Kandy, which is beautifully located on a plateau surrounded by the Central Highland mountains. It is a World Heritage site where the Sinhalese culture is still preserved. It is also home to ""Buddha's Tooth"", rescued from the flames of his cremation and Sri Lanka's most cherished relic, showcased at the Temple of the tooth built in the 4th Century. In the evening, we'll witness the captivating Kandyan dance performance with elaborate costumes, swirling dance moves, and fire breathing stunts before returning to the hotel. The next day, we'll visit the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens just outside the city. Spread over 147 acres, it houses over 4000 species of plants, with a beautiful collection of orchids, cannonball trees, coconut palm trees, a spice garden, giant bamboo, rubber trees, as well as a stately avenue of royal palms that was planted in 1950. We'll spend the rest of the day at leisure in Kandy.

After breakfast, drive 2.5 hrs to Nuwara-Eliya, charmingly called 'Little England', due to it being the holiday home for the British in colonial days. Owing to the cool climate, it is a good area for tea production. We'll visit a tea factory and understand the process while drinking freshly made tea. We'll then drive around the quaint town enjoying the views including the historic landmark Gregory lake before checking in to our hotel. The following day, we'll have early breakfast and leave for Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka's highest and most isolated plateau. The plateau comes to a sudden end at World's End, a stunning cliff that plunges 880m. World's end offers spectacular views of the hill town with rolling tea plantations and the coast in the distance when visited in the early morning before the heavy list moves in. The 9. 5km round trip takes a leisurely three hours. We'll return to the hotel for a relaxed evening.

After breakfast the next day, we'll drive 3.5 hrs to Yala, Sri Lanka's most famous National Park, for a jungle safari. Spread over 1268 sq kms, this light forest with grassy plains and brackish lagoons is rich in wildlife such as elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and monkeys. We'll stay overnight in a stunning jungle resort.

After breakfast, we'll drive for 3 hrs from Yala to Bentota, to the laid back coastal town on the southern coast. Enjoy the pristine golden beaches and stunning sea views here! We'll experience turtles in there natural habitat at the Kosgoda turtle conservation project, and take a tour of Cinnamon island to learn all about the processing of the world famous cinnamon and its uses. En-route Bentota, we'll visit Galle and the Dutch Fort. About 50 kms south of Bentota is the Galle Dutch Fort, a centuries-old fortification that has been beautifully preserved. Sprawling across 87 acres, it houses ancient churches, museums and is a cultural hot spot where many art and literary festivals take place.

After breakfast in Bentota, we travel 2.5 hrs to Colombo airport in time for departure.

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