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Discover the beauty and culture of Sri Lanka
This tropical, teardrop-shaped island in the middle of the Indian Ocean boasts culture and wildlife in equal measures. Its impressive landscape includes a verdant interior of hills and mountains, as well as a coastline scattered with palm-fringed beaches. There are also Buddhist temples and ancient monuments to explore within the famous Cultural Triangle.
On this 11-day tour, exclusively for Country Living readers, you'll take in highlights such as Dambulla, where you'll visit the 600ft-high Sigiriya Rock Fortress, and Minneriya National Park, where you'll see elephants in the wild on a jeep safari. You'll also visit Dambulla Cave Temple, which dates back to the first century BC, the scenic city of Kandy, and Nuwara Eliya in the hill country, home of Ceylon tea.
Travelling in a private air-conditioned car with your own English-speaking guide and staying in hand-picked hotels throughout, this wonderful holiday ends with five nights in a beachfront resort on the south coast where you can relax in the sun.
Wildlife and scenery
Known as the 'Pearl of the Indian Ocean', Sri Lanka is naturally beautiful and you'll see plenty of stunning scenery. Enjoy a half-day jeep safari in Minneriya National Park, where you can spot sambar deer, leopards, elephants and flocks of birds, including cormorants and painted storks. You'll also explore the Matale Spice Gardens, and travel to Nuwara Eliya.
World Heritage sites
There are eight in Sri Lanka, with six being within the Cultural Triangle. Sigiriya is the mighty rock-fortress of a fifth-century king, famous for its amazing frescoes; Kandy is a UNESCO-listed city where you will enjoy a guided tour and visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic; and the Dambulla Cave Temple contains more than 150 images of the Buddha.
Nuwara Eliya is the famous hill country town, which was retreated to in summer for its cooler climate. Often referred to as 'Little England', this genteel place still has colonial-era bungalows, Tudor-style hotels, well-tended hedgerows and pretty gardens.
Tours and excursions
Everything is included in this exclusive tour, such as a visit to a working tea plantation and factory, where you'll learn how Ceylon tea is cultivated, selected and processed. You'll also visit the bizarrely named Dambulla Dedicated Economic Centre, which is Sri Lanka's biggest wholesale market.
You'll stay in stylish hotels throughout on a mix of half-board and all-inclusive basis. The tranquil Sigiriana resort by Thilanka near Dambulla is surrounded by paddy fields and has its own mango orchards and cashew, pineapple, and banana plantations. In the regal city of Kandy, you'll be based at the Hotel Topaz, known for its breathtaking views.
Reasons to book
All-inclusive stay in Kalutara
Dambulla Cave Temples visit
Visit a spice plantation
Tea plantation and tea factory
- Return international flights from Heathrow (regional airports available on request)
- Three-night half-board stay at Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka
- Two-night half-board stay at Hotel Topaz, Kandy
- Five-night all-inclusive stay at the Turyaa Kalutara beach resort
- Private tour with internal travel by chauffeur-driven car
- Excursions and monument fees, including a visit to Sigiriya Rock Fortress
- Jeep safari at Minneriya National Park
- Dambulla market and Dambulla Cave Temples
- Spice plantation visit
- City tour in Kandy and Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
- Tea plantation and factory tour
- Sightseeing in Nuwara Eliya
- Airport transfers and all taxes
- Optional carbon-offset fee (£15pp)
Price by departure month:
March: from £1,529pp
April: from £1,419pp
May from £1,399pp
June: from £1,419pp
July: from £1,559pp
Aug: from £1,499pp
Sept: from £1,399pp
Oct: from £1,419pp
Nov: from £1,479pp
Day1Welcome to Sri LankaDambulla , Sri Lanka
On arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will be met by our representative and transfered to your hotel in Dambulla. You'll stay overnight at luxury resort Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka in Dambulla, in a Deluxe Room on a Half Board Basis, surrounded by paddy fields and orchards.
Day2Sigiriya Rock and Jeep safariSigiriya, Sri Lanka
Transfer to the mighty 600 ft high rock-fortress of a 5th-century king, famous for its entrancingly beautiful frescoes which are found in a sheltered pocket of the rock.
Later on you'll drive to Minneriya National Park for an evening jeep safari. Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8,890 hectares of Minneriya National Park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to favourites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants. However, the central feature of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3 rd century AD by King Mahasena). During the dry season (June to September), this tank is an incredible place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze, as well as the huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters.
Day3DambullaDambulla , Sri Lanka
Early morning, you'll drive to Dambulla to visit the Dambulla Dedicated Economic Center, one of the largest such markets in the country, with 155 trade stalls. This place is meant for wholesales and hundreds of buyers gather each morning to bargain, purchase large quantities of vegetables, fruits, fish, groceries, etc. Join the crowds and visit each shop and learn interesting items that are for sale inside this Dedicated Economic Center at Dambulla.
Drive back to the hotel for a late breakfast, and enjoy free leisure time for the rest of the day.
Day4Dambulla Cave Temples and KandyKandy, Sri Lanka
After a leisurely breakfast, you will drive to Kandy, stopping for visits at the Dambulla Cave Temples and a spice garden in Matale, en route.
The UNESCO World Heritage Dambulla Cave Temples site dates back to the first century BC and was first used as a refuge by an ancient king who on regaining his throne, commissioned magnificent carved images within the living rock. The caves contain over 150 images of the Buddha - the largest a colossal figure spanning 15 meters - and cave inscriptions from the second century BC can be found here.
At Matale Spice Garden, you can observe various types of herbs and plants and learn about their many uses from a guide, who will walk you through the spice garden, imparting knowledge about the plants. The gift shop offers a great opportunity to purchase products for yourself, friends and family.
Upon arrival in Kandy, take a city tour, including a visit to the Temple of the sacred tooth relic. Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka and one of the most scenic cities here, lying in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical plantations, mainly tea.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which houses the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, is an important landmark in Kandy. The Tooth is kept in a two-storey shrine fronted by two large elephant tusks and rests on a gold lotus flower, encased in jewelled casket that sits on a throne. The temple is decorated with beautiful local paintings and architectural features.
Day5Tea plantation visit in Nuwara EliyaNuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
After breakfast at the hotel, you will drive to Nuwara Eliya (approximately 3 ½ hours). This route is one of the country's most scenic. En route, you'll stop off at a tea plantation and a tea factory. Tea is a huge industry in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Tea is world famous for its taste, quality and the health benefits as well. You will see how the tea pluckers with their baskets and bags pluck tea leaves from the plantations. With women of various ages engaging in this activity, seeing the tea plucking activity is fun and exciting. The trick is to pluck the right tea leaves with the correct properties. These tea leaves are then taken into the factories where the selection process starts. The fresh and best leaves are put into the machines for the processing. The rolling, withering, processing is all done with the help of the machines and a lot of helping hands gather around to do the packaging, storing activities as well. You will also get the chance to taste a fresh cup of tea straight from the factory.
Upon arrival in Nuwara Eliya, your chauffeur will take you around this scenic city, the famous hill country town which formed as a summer retreat for the British. Later, drive back to Kandy for your overnight stay.
Days6-10Kalutara beach stayKalutara, Sri Lanka
After a leisurely breakfast, you will check-out from your hotel and drive five scenic hours to Kalutara for your beach stay. You'll be treated to a Deluxe Room on All Inclusive Basis for five nights at Turyaa Kalutara.
Day11DepartureColombo, Sri Lanka
This morning you will be transferred to Colombo's international airport (approx. 2 hours) for the flight back home.
Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka
Tranquil luxury resort in the heart of Dambulla, surrounded by paddy fields and orchards
Sigiriana is a luxury resort located in remote Sri Lankan jungle, 25 minutes walking from Dambulla Cave Temple and a 30-minute drive from Sigiriya Rock. Within the grounds of Sigiriana you can tour mango orchards, cashew, pineapple, and banana plantations. unwind at the pool or play tennis, cricket and volleyball on the courts, or rent a bicycle for independent exlporation. Relaxing massages are available at Ayurveda Spa, which also offers yoga and steam baths. External activities, including trekking and fishing, can be booked through the hotel, as well as safaris to Minneriya and the Pidurangala Rock, at an additional charge. Rooms feature colourful murals and private balconies with views of the surrounding greenery. Each bathroom is fitted with a spa bathtub for the ultimate relaxation.
Where heritage meets luxurious living
Hotel Topaz, sat high atop the hill above the city of Kandy, boasts amazing views of Sri Lanka's hill country. Rooms are comfortable, with ensuite bathrooms and a seating area overlooking the mountainous plains of Kandy. There's an Ayurvedic spa on-site with sauna and jacuzzi, and plenty of space for recreation, with a children's play area, pool table, tennis courts and bar. Dishes in the restaurant are boldly garnished and table design is bright and colourful.
Pools, bars, nightclubs and dining
Sprawled across six acres of oceanfront land, Turyaa Kalutara offers a range of dining options, a gymnasium, blissful spa and sauna, two bars and a nightclub. There are 109 sea view rooms with private balconies and activities such as badminton and pool. The hotel boasts two restaurants: Svar and Pink Lobster, and two bars: Taaza and Twist.