Arrive Colombo by international flight. After clearing immigration and customs formalities you are met by a representative from First Tours India and and transferred to Galle Face Hotel located in the heart of the city of Colombo, the Capital of Sri Lanka. Bordering the Indian Ocean, this Luxury Heritage masterpiece of Victorian architecture was built by British Entrepreneurs in 1864. In the afternoon enjoy sightseeing tour of Colombo. Drive through the commercial and city centre area known as the "Fort", built by the Portuguese in the 16th century where grand colonial era buildings stand alongside modern office structures. See the busy markets and noisy bazaars of Pettah, the National Museum with its fine collection of lovely antiques and art of Sri Lanka. Drive past the Town Hall, Independence Square, the B.M.I.C.H (International Convention Centre) and the Cinnamon Gardens residential area. Later visit a Buddhist temple and a Hindu Kovil to experience the diversity of religion, ethnicity and customs of the people.
Galle Face Hotel
After Breakfast leave Colombo and drive 100 miles in 4 hours to Sigiriya. En route visit Dambulla Rock Cave temple. The famous Golden Rock cave temple which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sacred pilgrimage centre for 22 centuries. This cave temple, a vast isolated rock mass with its five caverns is the largest and best preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings covering an area of 2100 sq. meters are of particular importance. It has 157 statues including a 47 foot long statue of the recumbent Buddha. The ceiling of one cavern is fully illustrated with paintings that follow the natural folds of the rock so closely that it appears to be made of cloth. This complex of caves is one of the most impressive Buddhist temples in the world. Arrive Sigiriya and check in to the Elephant Corridor, a luxury boutique hotel constructed on an elephant corridor between Minneriya National Park and Sigiriya National Park.
The Elephant Corridor
In the morning drive 50 miles to Anuradhapura to visit the sacred ancient city founded in the 4th century BC. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 and has the largest number of ancient monuments of the great Sinhala civilization which flourished in this region. Visit the 2nd century BC Ruwanweliseya Dagoba and its famous elephant walls, the 3rd century BC Thuparama Dagoba, ruins of ancient royal palaces specially the pillars of the Brazen Palace which once had nine storey, many temples, the image of the Samadhi Buddha one of the finest pieces of Buddhist sculpture, monasteries, the twin ponds, guard stones and the moonstone. Also visit 'Sri Maha Bodhi' the 2200 years old sacred Bo Tree which was grown from a branch of the very tree under which "The Buddha" attained enlightenment – the oldest historically documented tree in the world. After sightseeing, drive to Mihintale, a sacred place which is regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The rock is dotted with shrines and rock dwellings. A grand stairway of 1840 steps made of granite slabs, 5 meters wide leads to the summit with its splendid views of the surrounding countryside. Afterwards proceed to Aukana to see the statue of the Aukana Buddha, undoubtedly the most magnificent undamaged ancient image in the island. This 5th century statue ascribed to King Dhatusena is 13 meters high standing beneath a recently constructed brick shelter. Aukana means 'sun eating' and is best viewed at sun rises. Return to Sigiriya in the late afternoon.
Today visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, built by King Kassapa in the 5th century AD. This was a Royal Citadel for more than 18 years. The lion rock is a citadel of unusual beauty, rising 200 meters from the scrub jungle. The base of the rock is ringed by a moat and rampart and extensive gardens including the renowned water gardens. The majestic Lion's Paw picturesquely guards the stairway of the palace on the summit. See the famous frescoes of the "Heavenly Maidens" of Sigiriya in a sheltered pocket of the rock and the 10 foot high Mirror Wall. After sightseeing drive 40 miles to Polonnaruwa, the Capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a well-planned medieval city defended by enclosing walls, graced by palaces, shrines, monasteries, pavilions, parks, ponds and irrigation lakes. Polonnaruwa is strewn with ruins in a resplendent state of preservation. Of these, the 'Vatadage' and the 'Thuparama Image house' are the most spectacular. The 'Gal Vihara' which consists of statues of the recumbent, standing and seated Buddha have been cut from a single granite wall and rank among the true masterpieces of Sri Lankan Art. Return to Sigiriya after sightseeing.
Today leave Sigiriya and drive 45 miles in 3 hours to Kandy. En route visit a Spice garden in Matale. Kandy, the bustling hill country capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for the pink painted Temple of the Tooth which houses the most sacred religious relic, the tooth of the Buddha. Kandy is also famous for the Kandy Lake built in 1807 which is an attractive centrepiece to the town, the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and the annual festival known as the Esala Perahera where the inner casket covering the tooth relic of the Buddha is taken in a grand procession through the streets of the city. This festival held in the month of July or August. On arrival check in to the Kandy House, the ancient home of the chief minister of Kandyan Kingdom built in 1804. In the evening visit the sacred Temple of Tooth. Thereafter enjoy the Kandyan Cultural Show at the Kandyan Arts & Cultural Centre. The show features the graceful and rhythmic dancers and drummers culminating in an impressive fire walking display.
The Kandy House
After breakfast, drive to Pinnawela, a distance of 30 miles in 2 hours to visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage was set up by the Government of Sri Lanka to take care of baby elephants lost or abandoned in the wild. Witness the feeding of the elephants. The baby elephants being bottle fed with milk is a heart-warming sight. Thereafter observe them as they take their daily bath in the river nearby, which affords marvellous photo opportunities. Bath time is enjoyed by all elephants, young and old alike and it is a good time to closely observe their tightly knit family structure. The young elephants are protected and cared for by the older ones in the group and the leader of the group is respected by all. In the afternoon sightseeing of Kandy, visit the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens where a rare collection of tropical exotic and indigenous flora including the famous Orchid House could be viewed.
Today leave Kandy and enjoy a joyride by train to the beautiful town of Nuwara Eliya. This beautiful town of Nuwara Eliya, set in the heart of Tea country and situated at a height of 1890 meters above sea level is where the British succeeded in creating an English countryside with homes in styles from Georgian to Queen Anne with well-kept lawns with hedges. Arrive Nuwara Eliya and check-in to the Governor's Chalet overlooking the picturesque Lake Gregory which is a testament to British engineering since 1873 during the Colonial period. Surrounded by lush greenery, the luxury chalets in the hills provide privacy for a perfect holiday gateway.
The Governor's Chalet
Once the favourite hill stations of the British, Nuwara Eliya still retains the vestiges of the British Empire. Located in the heart of Sri Lankan Tea country and affectionately known as "Little England" where the British colonialists could immerse in their favourite pastime such as fox hunting, deer hunting, elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket. After breakfast, explore the city visiting the Nuwara Eliya town, market place, the Golf Course which is one of the finest 18 holes Golf courses in Asia, the Hill Club and drive around this hill station viewing Lake Gregory. Afternoon is at leisure.
After breakfast drive 180 miles in 7 hours to Galle. En route, visit Kitulgala where the famous Film "Bridge on River Kwai" was filmed. Galle is situated on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshis from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. It was a major seaport long before western rule of the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Indians and the Chinese were doing business through Galle Port. Modern history of Galle starts in 1505 when the first Portuguese ship was driven there by a storm. When the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, the Portuguese took it by force. Arrive Galle and check-in to Amangalla located within the ramparts of the 17th century Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Europeans in the South and Southeast Asia showing the interactions between European architectural styles and south Asian traditions. Galle Fort also known as Dutch Fort was built in 1588 by the Portuguese and then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century. The fort has a colourful history and today it has a multi ethnic and multi religious population. Its massive ramparts form the older part of Galle and shelters within its walls sturdy Dutch houses, museums and churches. Today explore the historic fort, its narrow streets lined with buildings from the Dutch and British colonial eras, the trading port and surrounding countryside.
Today leave Galle and drive 95 miles in 4 hours to Colombo airport. On arrival, board your homebound flight with colorful memories that will add untold pleasure to last for a lifetime.