A journey through Sri Lanka covering the high lights of the cultural triangle visiting Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Nuwaraya Eliya along with Yala – famed for its leopard population and Galle.
Highlights: Culture, history, wildlife, temple and old town
On arrival in Colombo: Having cleared immigration, collected your luggage and passed through customs, please make your way towards the exit of the terminal building where you will see a bank of people waiting for you. Amongst them will be Trail Blazer Tours Representative who will be waiting to greet you with a paging board with your name on.
Fly into Colombo International Airport, where you will be met by your private chauffeur cum guide who will take you to your hotel of stay near the airport in Negombo.
This morning after breakfast proceed to Anuradhapura (approx. 5 hrs).
Commanding a rich Sri Lankan heritage, Anuradhapura – is one of the greatest and oldest civilizations in the world starring 113 kings & spanning over 1300 years in its peak – avows of being the greatest city of ancient Sri Lanka following its reign as the first capital. The sapphire of its crown is certainly the Sri Maha Bodhi – the sacred Bo sapling extracted from the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment – standing more than 2200 years in its pride.
Stroll through the sacred trails of the venerated city to adore the legacy that interweaves Ruwanweliseya – the gigantic dagoba resting alongside the Basawakkulama Tank – shading the Samadhi Buddha Statue & Isurumuniya Rock Temple that empower the culture, heritage and supremacy of arguably the strongest kingdom in Sri Lankan history.
This morning after breakfast proceed to visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress (approx. 2 hrs).
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Sigiriya is an enormous rock boulder rising 200 meters above the surrounding jungle. Incredibly, the rock fortress was built by King Kassyapa I in the fifth Century and served as a royal citadel for more than 18 years, something that seems more astonishing with every step you climb.
Pause occasionally during your ascent to admire the mirror wall, the sigiri graffiti, the famous Sigiriya frescoes (paintings) and the great lion paws. Upon reaching the summit you’ll immediately see that it was worth the effort.
Wander through the ruins and admire the courage and work it must have taken to build this palace all those years ago – you will even find a fully functional swimming pool up there. Aside from the ruins, with the unparalleled 360-degree view of the surrounding jungle and hills, it will not be just be the climb that takes your breath away.
This morning after breakfast transfer to visit Polonnaruwa, the ancient Kingdom (1 ½ hrs one way)
Rising with the decline of Anuradhapura, the city of Polonnaruwa – medieval capital & crown jewel of King Parakramabahu I – remains superior proof of ancient culture & heritage blended with religious beliefs. Walk across its scattered walls of the World Heritage Site – blessed by stupas, resting Buddha statues, irrigation canals and fantastically carved Hindu sculptures – while observing the relic house – Watadage – which boasts of beautiful stone carvings.
Take a close glance and you will realize a subtle Hindu influence on architecture and statues found in Polonnaruwa. Or sit by the side of Galviharaya and observe the absolute beauty gushing out of every bend of its huge Buddhist statues. Nissankamalla Council Chamber is, however, a head-spinning beauty to just sit back and observe with its swaying pillars reminding the aesthetics of a powerful kingdom which rests beside Parakrama Samudraya – sea of Parakramabahu & masterpiece of irrigation!
Upon completion proceed to do a jeep safari in the Minneriya National Park. If you’re up for a serious rumble in the jungle, then Minneriya is your Colosseum! Spreading over 8800 hectares, this is a sanctuary for elephants. Minneriya is home to herds of deer and ample birdlife, but its spotlight remains between swaying trunks & flapping ears. Park your jeep on the bank of the reservoir and switch off its engine. Watch carefully as herds of elephants – one by one – roll on to the grass-covered banks, to feed on tender shoots. In fact, this is the largest elephant gathering in the world – over 300 at a time – which has garnished the park to become a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts across the globe.
After breakfast, leave for Kandy with a stop at the magnificent rock-cut cave temples at Dambulla (approx. 3 hrs).
This is a vast isolated rock mass of 500 feet high and a mile around the base. Here is found the famous Rock Temple dating to the First Century B.C. The caves of Dambulla sheltered King Walagamba during his 14 years of exile from Anuradhapura. When he regained the throne, he built the most magnificent of Rock Temples to be found in the Island.
Upon completion transfer to Kandy. (Approximate Driving Duration – 2 hours + traffic)
Kandy which is the hill capital is another “World Heritage Site”. It was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings during the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule and finally ceded to the British in 1815 after an agreement. To the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and the World, Kandy is one of the most sacred sites as it is the home of the “Dalada Maligawa” – Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. Today it is the center of Buddhism, Arts, Crafts, Dancing, Music and Culture. Visitors can see these Dance & Music at the daily Cultural Performances held at several places in the city.
Last ruled by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe – before it was brought under the British rule in 1815, Kandy – the World Heritage Site & last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings – crafts an array of culture, history and heritage in the minds of visitors across the globe. Experience an ancient Kandyan legacy engraved around its crown jewel, the temple of the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. A stroll across this small lakeside town – cradled among the misty hills – will feature the Kandy City Centre – bundled with latest and world class brands, bazaar, an arts & crafts centre, as well as a gem museum & lapidary.
Walk in color as you glide through fresh fruits and vegetables in the Kandy market.
Fine tube your evening by stepping to the beat of traditional music & drumming amplified by a cultural show enhancing the rich and vibrant culture of the Wonder of Asia, Sri Lanka.
After breakfast, leave for Nuwara Eliya (approx.. 3 hrs)
Option to do a blue mountain train ride through the rolling tea gardens and beautiful mountains. Stop at a tea garden and learn the process the “leaf to cup”.
Take a tour to the cold & misty hills that take pride of an ultimate tea tour, covering lush green blankets of tea plantations. Or just step into a tea factory processing the prestigious brand of Ceylon Tea, to observe a rich tradition kept alive up to date. As you observe the hissing and swishing of machines, inhaling the heavenly scent arising from these facilities, make sure to end your day in style over a perfectly blended cup of pure Ceylon Tea.
Misty steep roads, twisting through lush green blankets of tea bushes in a cool climate, remind visitors that they are within the range of the renowned British colonial retreat, Nuwara Eliya. Augmented by an English countryside atmosphere, the city of light – once governed by English & Scottish planters – is still studded with colonial bungalows, hedgerows & one of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the world.
Drive through green valleys of the hill country pierced by endless waterfalls & dotted by tea puckers draped in bright colour saris. Or rent a bike for a gentle ride along the banks splashed by the waters of Lake Gregory.
Take an excursion to Horton Plains, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and trekking paradise & Eco-tourism hideout in the heart of the isle, painted with unending stretches of green pastures marks one of the healthiest wet montane evergreen forests in Sri Lanka.
With an altitude above 7000ft, the plateau sweeps to a robust 3169 hectares sheltering flora and fauna varieties that may be found nowhere else on earth. As the tributary of Belihul Oya – Bakers Falls – thunders down rocks head along the 9 km trekking path – across frost-covered grass – to feel the icy-cold wind against your face.
You may even gaze down World’s End, a head-spinning 3700ft drop towards the Southern end or drive carefully through herds of sambar deer, shy to human touch & birdlife chirping across the plains. If you’re cautious enough you may be greeted by the sights of a grunting wild boar, a pouncing fishing cat, otters or even the ‘Spotted-Ghost that haunts the plains’, the Sri Lankan Leopard!
Leave in the morning to Yala (approx. 5 hrs).
Spreading into a vast 1259 Kms Yala – with its glory spinning around vast grasslands, shrubs, tanks and dunes – rightfully is the heartland of wildlife. As your jeep rumble through the giant gates of Yala, you are not only stepping into the most visited national park in the country, but also the lands of a civilization which thrived during the reign of Sri Lankan kings. You name it, and Yala has it! Its usual inmates cover herds of elephant, sloth bear, spotted dear, jackal, extensively populated birdlife as well as the highest density of leopards in the world that garnish the park to be one of the finest destinations in the country. Feel the rough track as your jeep thunders over rocks and swish passing narrow bends for an exhilarating experience blended with the cries of wilderness under the tropical sun.
After the morning game drive into the park, leave for Galle (approx.4 ½ hrs).
In the morning do a tour of the city and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Galle, the epic Southern capital, is the intersection where classic Dutch architecture meets a tropical setting creating a vivid atmosphere in beauty. Walk the Dutch-haunted streets listening to the creaks of wooden saloon doors and observe how European architecture mingles with South Asian traditions today flooding cultural enthusiasts on a global scale. Its original ramparts and bastions preserved up to date showcase evidences of a heritage preserved for more than 3 ½ centuries. Walk clockwise within the fort to observe the ‘old gate’ carrying the British coat of arms.
Flanking the old gate is the Zwart bastion – the oldest of all – and the lighthouse standing 18 feet in its glory next to the Point Utretcht Bastion. This Dutch bliss is painted with streets that spread in a rectangular grid pattern pierced with houses carrying Dutch colonial style verandas. Hop into the Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex to be mesmerized by an array of souvenir selections. However, its hallmark stands a reality where the Dutch fort remains a working community with its usual buzz of administrative offices, court complex, commercial buildings, churches and Southern folks frequenting its streets bracing the air of the Elysium of architecture, Galle!
Spend the morning at Galle. Later leave for Colombo airport for the onward flight back home.