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Welcome to Sri Lanka! You will be met very early (00:15am 31st Dec) at Colombo airport and transferred to (Pegasus Reef Hotel 4 Star - Standard Room) in Wattala for early check in on arrival. Today we head inland to Polonnaruwa stopping en route at one of Sri Lanka’s most impressive cave temples, the Dambulla Rock Temple. This stunning complex of 5 caves contains over 150 images of Buddha including an impressive 14 metre statue carved out of the cave rock. After exploring this ancient site we continue on to Polonnaruwa. This fascinating 11th century city is home to many interesting ruins and famous monuments including the Royal Palace and the Gal Vihara. Polonnaruwa is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This morning we head to Sigiriya and the famous ‘Lion Rock’ fortress. Built over 1500 years ago, this beautiful citadel stands 200 meters high in the middle of verdant jungle and was an important stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town. It can be viewed from miles around and is definitely one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic and famous sites. You’ll be able to view the world famous paintings of the Heavenly Maidens which stand in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway. Once we’ve fully explored the rock we continue on to a spice garden. Here we learn about some of Sri Lanka’s famous spices, how they are grown and what they are used in. You’ll also have the opportunity to buy some. Later on we drive further south to Kandy for the evening.
This morning we visit the famous Pinnawala elephant orphanage where we meet some of the 89 abandoned elephants, many of which are babies. On our return to Kandy we stop by the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens home to an amazing variety of plants, flowers and trees. Once back in Kandy itself we embark on a city tour, drive around the lake and visit local bazaars and a local gem museum. Later on this evening we visit the world famous Temple of the Tooth Relic, home to one of Buddha’s teeth before attending a traditional cultural evening complete with fire walkers!
After breakfast we visit a tea plantation. Tea is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest exports and they are very proud of it. Learn about the manufacturing process and how they grade it before enjoying a delicious cup of pure Ceylon tea in the factory. Next we drive to Nuwara Eliya, the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country and home to the country’s highest mountain, Pidurutalagala. Later on we embark on a sightseeing tour of the area including a drive through ‘Little England’.
Today we head south to Embilipitiya, our base for exploring Udawalawe National Park.Udawalawe is probably one of the best places to spot the famous Sri Lankan Elephant, the biggest of all the Asian Elephants in the wild. It is thought that there are around 400 elephants here. The park is also home to the elusive leopard, the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, the cheeky Langur monkey and lots of types of deer. We take an afternoon game drive here before returning to the hotel for the night.
We begin our final journey back to Wattala on the outskirts of Colombo this morning with a visit to the Gem Mine and Museum at Ratnapura. Sri Lanka is famous for its gem industry and is home to 40 out of the 85 types of gems that exist in the world. After we check in to the hotel we head into the bustling city of Colombo for an informative city tour. Explore the Fort area in the north of the city, famous for its government buildings and interesting shops. Take a stroll along Galle Face Green and watch locals play cricket plus head over to stunning Gangarama Temple
After breakfast we head south to the beach resort of Kalutara. Transfer to your accommodation with the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight Blue Waters Hotel - Deluxe Room
Originally an important spice trading port, Kalutara is now a bustling market town with many road side stalls selling a variety of goods. It is popular for the purple Mongosteen fruit, a local speciality which is worth trying – but hard to get out of clothes if soiled! There is also the popular local brew of ‘arrack’ to sample.
Kalutara is great place to roam the local markets due to the amount of local crafts made. Basketry is the speciality here and there is a Basket Hall Exhibition Centre which is a great place to learn about the trade and definitely well worth a visit. Kalutara has many cultural attractions including the renowned Gangatilaka Shrine. This shrine is the only hollow Buddhist shrine on earth and features 74 murals depicting the story of Buddha. Not far from here is the plantation mansion, Richmond Castle. Built at the turn of the century the castle tastefully blends British and Indian architecture. Once the property of a wealthy philanthropist it stands majestically on top of a hill in a 42 hectare estate and has now been converted into a school for under privileged children. It is possible to take a leisurely canoe or cycle around these picturesque grounds.
The beautiful palm fringed beach is one of the main reasons for visiting Kalutara. This huge white sandy expanse of a beach is north of town and remains relatively unspoilt. Inevitably there is a myriad of water sports available so why not try your hand at snorkelling, waterskiing, windsurfing or jet skiing? There are also opportunities to head off in search of the giants of the sea on a whale watching tour. You have your room up until you leave later tonight to transfer back to Colombo airport for your flight home (01:30am 10th Jan).