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Welcome to Sri Lanka and the start of your holiday! You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel for check in. Spend the morning at leisure, this afternoon enjoy a sightseeing tour of Sri Lanka’s capital including the Fort, once a colonial stronghold but now the site of many government buildings. Drive past the ‘Pettah’ – a traditional oriental bazaar and Jumi-UL Alfar Jumma Mosque. Continue on to Cinnamon Gardens, Independence Square and visit the national museum with its fine collection of antiques and local art. The night of the 1st has been booked so you can check straight into your hotel on arrival at 00:15 on the 2nd.
After breakfast we depart for Kelaniya where we visit the Raja Maha Vihara, a temple graced by Buddha on one of his three visits to Sri Lanka. Return to Colombo and drive to Dehiwela to visit the Zoological Gardens, home to a variety of birds and animals it is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Asia.
En route to Anuradhapura, we visit 13th century Dambadeniya, once the royal capital. Its principal surviving ruins are the Dalada Maligawa temple and the Dagoba, revered by the locals for the 60 corporeal relics of the Buddha it is said to contain. We also visit Panduvas Nuwara which features a well-preserved walled citadel, Padeniya, Arankele and the rock fortress of Yapahuwa.
Today, we visit Anuradhapura, the fascinating ancient city and one of Sri Lanka’s most important archaeological sites. It contains vast artificial lakes, temples, statues including the Samadhi Buddha, dagobas (solid hemispheres topped with spires), royal baths and museums. We also visit the holy Sri Maha Bodhi tree under which Prince Siddharta attained enlightenment. It is also the oldest historically documented tree on earth.
En route to Giritale, we visit the stunning Aukana Buddha statue and Dambulla Rock Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples. Situated in a cave, view the painted walls and ceilings comprising of over 150 images of the Buddha. We then visit ancient Polonnaruwa, an 11th century city of compact size. We explore the ruins of the Royal Palace, temples and Gal Vihara which boasts 3 enormous Buddha figures.
Continue on to Sigiriya, the elevated and mysterious 5th century fortress ruins of King Kasyapa. The ‘Lion Rock’ is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200 metres from the scrub jungle. Visit the world-renowned frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’ of Sigiriya, which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway. The final stop of the day is Matale, known for its spice gardens, enroute to Kandy. You’ll see firsthand how cinnamon, cardamon, curry leaves, saffron and other exotic spices are grown in the wild and then processed for consumption. Tonight, we visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, home to one of Buddha’s teeth. After, we enjoy a cultural dance show.
Today, we visit the elephant orphanage in Pinnawela, home to around 60 elephants, out of which some are baby elephants found abandoned or orphaned in the wild. Continuing on, we visit the ruined temples of Embekke, Gadaladeniya and Lankatilleke and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Back in Kandy, a scenic lakeside town, we visit the lake, bazaar, gem museum and lapidary.
Departing Kandy, we head further into Sri Lanka’s hill country to visit a tea plantation and tea factory, where the best tea in the world is produced. Learn all about the process of manufacturing tea, see how tea is graded and taste a cup of pure Ceylon tea in the factory. Continue on to Nuwara Eliya, situated at 6,525 ft/1,990 m, Nuwara Eliya is one of the highest and most attractive towns in the region. Tea pickers can be spotted all over the lush green slopes around Nuwara Eliya throughout the year. This evening take a sightseeing tour including the Hakggala Gardens and a drive through ‘Little England’
Early this morning, we depart by jeep for Horton Plains. Located on a high windswept saddle, Horton Plains offers the walker stunning panoramic views. We’ll hike to Bakers Fall passing en route the Gem Pit Pool, the Chimney Pool, and the Leg of Mutton Pool and then return to Nuwara Eliya.
Depart for Yala National Park, en route we visit the Mahayana Buddhist rock sculptures at Buduruwagala. This evening, we enjoy a jeep safari in Yala National Park. Yala is the largest National Park in Sri Lanka and is home to wild elephants, wild boar, wild buffalo, leopard, bear, deer and crocodiles. You can also see large flocks of migratory and indigenous birds.
This morning, we visit Bundala National Park – a bird sanctuary by private jeep. The parks wetland system harbours a rich bird life (approximately 197 species) and a total of 383 plant species have been recorded from the park. We continue on to Talalla Retreat a beach resort located on the southern tip of Sri Lanka between Matara and Tangalle. Talalla is a great place to take time out, relax and take in the surroundings. The beach is one mile of golden sand where often the only footprints will be yours. Where else can you share the amazing beach with just you and the fishermen.
The next three days are spent at your leisure. The water is a minute's stroll from your villa through tall palm trees and soft grass. The sea in this secluded cove is generally glassy and calm for safe swimming when most other southwest beaches are blown out by strong on shore winds.
After breakfast we depart for Colombo. En route we will visit Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery established in 1981 to protect Sri Lanka's turtles from extinction. The hatchery pays fishermen for eggs that they collect at night along the sandy beach. Visitors can see huge tanks filled with new born turtle hatchlings. After being fed, baby turtles are taken to the sea and released when they are 2-4 days old, usually during the safer hours of darkness. This afternoon enjoy a scenic cruise in a canopied, outboard motor powered boat, along the Madhu River. You pass dozens of islets forested with mangroves and can appreciate the timeless natural rhythms of rural life. Watch locals cultivating cinnamon and perhaps see local fisherman.
Sadly your tour with us comes to an end today, hotel check out is at 12 noon. Today is at your leisure before you will be transferred to the airport in time for your departure flight.