Touch down at Bandaranaike International Airport. A member of the A&K airport team will meet you and introduce you to your driver-guide, who will accompany you at all times (with the exception of your time in Bentota). Travel the short hop and check into your room at the Galle Face Hotel. This venerable hotel was built by the British in 1864. This evening, get to know the colourful, seaside city of Colombo on an exciting two to three-hour, night-time cycling tour.
Enjoy your morning - take a dip in the hotel’s saltwater pool or look around the hotel’s own museum. In this friendly city, the street food is worth a detour. Acquaint yourself with capital’s cuisine. It’s a fusion of influences – Indian, Malay, Dutch and Portuguese to name a few. Meet your guide for this foodie tour at the Old Dutch Hospital. You’ll go nuts for thambili (sweet king coconut) from a street vendor or a shot of arrack (fermented coconut sap) from a local bar.
Enjoy seeing the lush interior of this gem of an island from the passenger seat of your vehicle on the morning transfer from Colombo to Sigiriya, “The Lion Rock”. The island’s most dramatic sight and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is a 370-metre rocky outcrop. Incredibly topping this rock is a palace that was built in the fifth century by King Kassapa I. During the hour’s climb to the top, admire the mirror wall, historic graffiti and famous frescoes of the “Sigiriya damsels”. And once you reach the summit, the view is epic…
Today it’s off to another of Sri Lanka’s cultural epicentres, the ancient ruined city of Polonnaruwa, after breakfast. The drive from Sigiriya will take approximately an hour and half. Polonnaruwa was the island’s mediaeval capital between the 11th and 13th centuries. Cycling around this large, UNESCO World Heritage Site (4km from one end to another), you’ll see a vast man-made reservoir, palace ruins, exquisitely carved Buddhas, royal baths and stupas (or dagobas, as they’re known by in Sri Lanka). Return to your hotel and relax.
Post-breakfast, take the 30-minute journey to Dambulla, another point on Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sri Lanka’s greatest cave-temple complex, the walls and ceiling of this Buddhist site are resplendent with frescoes and there are hundreds of statues of Buddha, Hindu kings and deities. The history of these five caves’ embellishment dates from the first century BC and changes and additions have been made right up to nowadays. From Dambulla, it’s on to Kandy, which is three and a half hours away, to your elegant, colonial-style boutique hotel.
This morning get under Kandy’s skin on a walking tour. The last capital of the Sinhalese monarchy, Kandy is encircled by jungle-covered hills. You’ll appreciate the city’s architecture and watch Sri Lanka’s famed street food, kottu, being made; visit temples and take a tuk-tuk ride. The tour will end at the 16th-century Temple of the Tooth. This vast complex was built to house one of the Buddha’s teeth. Continue getting to know Kandy this afternoon, perhaps delving deeper into something you uncovered on your trip, or just chill out at your hotel.
Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka’s history is steeped in tea. It all started when the British brought a camellia sinensis here from China in the 1820s to be displayed in the Royal Botanical Gardens outside Kandy. By the 1870s, thanks to a blight of the coffee crops, tea production took hold of the island. By the end of the century, tea was synonymous with Ceylon and vice versa. After breakfast tea, it’s off to the Ceylon Tea House to start an informative three to four-hour hike in the famed tea-producing Hanthana mountain range before returning to your hotel. Time for a cuppa?
Today travel from Peradeniya railway station to Nanuoya, near to Nuwara Eliya, on a scenic three and a half-hour train journey (dependent on the local railway regulations) through Sri Lanka’s beautiful highlands. Enjoy a small picnic – provided by your A&K driver-guide – while the tea estate-dotted scenery rolls by. Your driver guide will meet you at Nanuoya and whisk you the 15-minute drive to your hotel for the next two nights.
It’s an early start this morning as you’re off to Horton Plains National Park – roughly 90 minutes from your hotel. Your three-hour hike with an expert local trekker will begin at 7am, but it will be worth it. This highland plateau is starkly different from any other place in Sri Lanka. Popular with walkers, it included the famous viewpoint of World’s End, where the southern plains dramatically plunge away to the lowlands beneath. The plains host many species of endemic plants, animals and birds. You’ll have a good chance of spotting sambar deer and purple-faced langur. Enjoy the rest of the day at your hotel or visit a tea factory and plantation.
Relax and watch the scenery roll by as you transfer to Bentota. It’ll take approximately six hours to reach your sensational seaside hotel on the southwest coast. Take a refreshing dip in one of the two pools or pay a visit to the spa room.
Spend two days at this 15-room historic hotel. Dating from the 19th century, this boutique property was first renovated by Sri Lanka’s best-known architect Geoffrey Bawa in the 1970s and brought up to date more recently by Udayshanth Fernando. Enjoy water sports at nearby Bentota Lake, see the mangroves on a boat safari, visit the local turtle hatchery or just chill on the sun-soaked sands – Sri Lanka’s beaches are among the best in the world.
After breakfast, bid farewell to Sri Lanka, transfer to the airport (a two-hour drive) to catch your flight home.