Day 1: Australia – – Colombo – Negombo
Depart Australia today on your flight to Sri Lanka. You will arrive at Colombo International Airport. Following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection, a Webjet representative will meet you as you exit the arrivals hall. (please note, flights arrival late evening on Day 1).
Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is a bustling city and a hopping-off point for beaches in the island nation’s south. It has a long history as a port on ancient east-west trade routes, ruled successively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. That heritage is reflected in its spicy cuisine as well as its architecture, mixing colonial buildings with high-rises and shopping malls.
Day 2: Negombo – Anuradhapura (B,D)
Today, we drive to Anuradhapura, the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province and the capital of the Anuradhapura District. The city’s greatest treasures are its dagobas; domes enshrining sacred relics. The most notable is the Ruvanveliseya Dagoba, dating back to the 2nd century BC, which you will visit today along with the Thuparamaya, said to contain the collarbone of Buddha. Discover the city’s most renowned relic, the sacred Bo Tree. Emperor Asoka’s daughter brought to Anuradhapura a branch of this tree under which Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment. Planted over 2,250 years ago, it is the oldest surviving historic tree in the world.
Day 3: Anuradhapura – Polonnaruwa- Sigiriya (B)
This morning after breakfast we leave Anuradhapura for the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka from 11th to the 12th centuries and is a well preserved city of stupas, frescoes and statues. While here, explore the Gal Viharaya, a magnificent group of rock temples consisting of four separate statues; a meditating Buddha, a smaller Buddha said to be visiting heaven, a standing Buddha and the reclining Buddha entering Nirvana. Explore the Vatadage, an ancient structure with elaborate stone carvings. Although it may have had some Indian influence, it is a structure that is more or less unique to the architecture of ancient Sri Lanka. Vatadages were built around small stupas for their protection, which often enshrined a relic or were built on hallowed ground. Tonight we overnight in Sigiriya.
Day 4: Sigiriya – Dambulla – Kandy (B)
This morning we explore Sigiriya, home to the 5th-century UNESCO World Heritage listed Rock Fortress, also known as ‘Lion Rock’. The rock fortress was built by King Kashyapa and was named so because a massive lion was carved out of the rock and once sat at the entrance to the palace. Today only the lion’s paws remain. While here you can climb to the top for panoramic views of the area and explore the surrounding gardens. Afterwards, travel to Dambulla where we will tour the Dambulla Rock Temple. Dating back to the 1st century BC, the temple is made up of five caves that have been converted into shrine rooms containing around 150 Buddha statues and colourful frescoes. After, we continue our drive to Kandy en route visit a spice garden in Matale where cinnamon, cardamom, pepper creepers and other spice trees are grown. Learn about the use of spices in Sri Lankan cuisine and watch a cooking demonstration before arriving in Kandy where the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 5: Kandy (B)
This morning, visit the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens. At one time these beautiful botanical gardens were reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty. Today even commoners are allowed into what are, at 60 hectares, the largest and most impressive botanic gardens in Sri Lanka. Later, visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, one of the most revered Buddhist sites in the world. The temple houses an important Buddhist Relic, a tooth of the Buddha. Stolen at his funeral, the tooth was smuggled into Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess who fled from India. The relic of the tooth is kept in a two-storey shrine fronted by large elephant trunks. Explore the remains of the Royal Palace, now a museum. This evening you enjoy colourful cultural performance choreographed with traditional Sri Lankan dance.
Day 6: Kandy – Nuwara Eliya (B)
Today we leave fascinating Kandy behind us and drive to Nuwara Eliya, the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka. In earlier times, Nuwara Eliya (meaning ‘City of Light’) was the favoured cool-climate escape for the hard-working and hard-drinking English and Scottish pioneers of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. While most British visitors struggle to recognise modern England in Nuwara Eliya, the toy-town ambience does have a rose-tinted English country village feel to it. Situated at 2,000m above sea level, Nuwara Eliya is the main hill station of Sri Lanka and is known for its excellent tea production due to the cool climate which creates tea with a unique flavour. Enroute we visit a tea plantation and tea factory and learn what makes tea grown here some of the best in the world. After, we continue on to Nuwara Eliya where the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day 7: Nuwara Eliya – Yala National Park (B)
This morning we travel to the world famous Yala National Park. Situated in Sri Lanka’s south-east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, Yala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and was designated a national park in 1938. Ironically, the park was initially used as a hunting ground for the elite under British rule. Now the park has a protected area of nearly 130,000 hectares of land consisting of light forests, scrubs, grasslands and lagoons. Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Among its more famous residents are the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles. Once here, enjoy morning and afternoon jeep safari rides that takes you on an experience of a lifetime to spot these elusive animals!
Day 8: Yala National Park – Udawalawe National Park – Yala National Park (B)
Today we head to the neighboring Udawalawe National Park. With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe National Park is the Sri Lankan national park that best rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. In fact, for elephantwatching, Uda Walawe often surpasses many of the most famous East African national parks. Here we visit the elephant Transit Home located in Udawalawe National Park, where abandoned baby elephants are cared for before they are released into the Udawalawe National Park. Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home is a refuge for baby elephants, the majority of which have been affected by the tragic elephant – human conflict (when mothers are often separated from their young or even killed). This incredible project provides food, medical care, and anything else a baby elephant needs before being released back into the wild when mature enough.
Day 9: Yala National Park – Weligama – Koggala (B)
Today we depart for Weligama leaving Yala behind us. The area is famous for its distinct stilt fishermen, who erect a single pole in the chest-deep water on the beach, just few meters off-shore, where they perch on a cross bar and using bamboo fishing rods cast their lines out beyond the surf break to catch small fish. This is an old tradition practiced by around 500 fishing families in the region. With one hand they hold the stilt and with the other they use their fishing rod. On arrival the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy this beachside town.
Day 10: Koggala – Galle – Ahungalla – Bentota (B)
This morning we leave for Mirrissa to board a whale watching cruise (November to April only) in search of the remarkable Blue Whale. There may also be a chance to witness turtles hatching. Later we proceed to Galle to explore the city including the lighthouse and the Old Town. Also visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Dutch Fort, the largest intact Dutch fort in Asia. Within the ramparts and stonewalls of Galle Fort outstanding buildings remain. The narrow streets are dotted with Dutch colonial villas, museums and antique shops. We then drive to the Hummanaya Blow Hole, the second largest of its kind in the world before continuing to Dikwela Wewurukannala Temple dominated by an image of a seated Buddha that is over 48m high. Continue driving to Bentota for our overnight stop.
Day 11: Bentota – Colombo (B)
After breakfast we begin our journey back to Colombo. Enroute we make a stop at the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery. The hatchery is home to Sri Lanka’s pioneering sea turtle conservation project, established in 1981 to protect Sri Lanka’s turtles. Here learn about the dangers Sea Turtles face and how the Sea Turtle Center program aims to protect sea turtle eggs and increase hatching rates. After, we continue on to Colombo. On arrival, we embark on a city tour of Colombo. Explore the Fort district, the historic centre of the city. Wander through Pettah Market. Visit the Dutch Church of Wolfendhall dating back to 1749, Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, a major pilgrimage site for Buddhist devotees, and the Colombo Natural History museum before proceeding to your hotel for check-in.
Day 12: Colombo – – Australia (B)
Today is free to explore the city at your own pace before being transferred to Colombo airport to board your overnight flight to Australia.
Day 13: Australia
Arrive home today