Villages, ruins, and wildlife in the Pearl of the Orient
New for 2011!
With its white sand beaches, spices, diverse wildlife, and over 2,500 years of recorded history, it’s no wonder that early Arab explorers to Sri Lanka called it “Serendib.” It’s hard to imagine a more serendipitous combination of history, culture, and ecologically preserved natural beauty. Our sampler of Sri Lanka’s wonders takes us to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, like the huge red stone Sigiriya, an astonishing 5th-century rock fortress, experiencing this charmed land's incredible wildlife and enchanting cultures along the way. Alternating between hiking and jeeps, this active journey is exclusive to MTS!
Hiking, nature walks, jeep safari, touring
- Visit several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Wildlife viewing in three national parks: sloths, leopards, crocodiles, and much, much more!
- An active exploration of Sri Lanka, yet based in some of it's most remarkable and comfortable hotels
Duration: 12 days Start Location: Colombo End Location: GalleDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Arrive in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka (most flights arrive very early in the morning). You'll be met at the airport and transferred to Galadari Hotel (We are holding the rooms for you beginning the afternoon before Day 1). The hotel is on the wonderful Colombo sea face and Galle Face Green (wide expanse of green facing the Indian Ocean that is ideal for picnics and other outdoor activities), the Presidential Secretariat and light house are within walking distance.
In the afternoon, we'll visit National Museum and Gangaramaya temple. In the evening you will meet for a special “welcome” dinner and trip briefing. (Approx. driving time from airport to hotel: 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the traffic).
Day 2 : Dambulla-Sigiriya
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll drive to the beautiful Vil Udana Resort in Sigiriya, one of the most uniquely designed and well maintained hotels in Sri Lanka. Our drive will snake through rural Sri Lanka filled with emerald green paddy fields merging along with pockets of virgin forest cover. We’ll be passing through many towns and small villages, including Radawaduna, which is famed for its cane craft. We’ll stop for lunch in Dambulla and, after lunch, visit the Dambulla Rock Temple. Dambulla is a World Heritage site and the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples. It was built by King Walagambahu in the first century B.C. and then donated to Buddhist monks. The complex of five caves is decorated with numerous paintings and statues, and is the largest area of paintings found in the world. We will climb up to the temple and explore the caves, which contain over 150 images of the Buddha, of which the largest is the colossal figure of the Buddha carved out of a rock spanning 46 feet.
After our exploration of Dambulla we'll continue driving to our hotel for the night. After dinner, we’ll take an optional walk (1 hour) on Loris trail around our hotel. The Red Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus) is a small, nocturnal prosimian native to the rain forests of Sri Lanka. (Approx. driving time: 5 hours).
Our hotel is 10.1 hectares property which is a truly ‘Lifestyle Hotel’ designed to integrate with four types of landscape. In other words, the villas are built on a paddy field, on a marsh, over water, or in the cover of the forest. The rice and vegetables grown here are organic.
Day 3 : Sigiriya / Minneriya National Park
After breakfast we transfer to Sigiriya, a fifth century rock fortress that is yet another World Heritage Site (Sri Lanka boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites and we’ll visit four of them on this trip). The “Lion Rock,” built by King Kashyapa (477–495 A.D.), is a citadel of unusual beauty, an astonishing, huge red stone outcropping rising 600 feet out of the jungle. Sigiriya, “rediscovered” by a British hunter in the mid-19th century after centuries of neglect, had a brief spell of glory as a royal seat in the fifth century. The rock was the innermost stronghold of a 70-hectare fortified town, with a moat, rampart, and extensive gardens including the renowned water gardens ringing the base of the rock, while ruins of its former palace lie across the flat top. We’ll visit the famous frescoes of the “Heavenly Maidens” of Sigiriya, which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock and approached by a spiral stairway.
After our visit, we’ll drive to Polonnaruwa, the capital of Sri Lanka between the 11th and 13th centuries. We’ll hike around this World Heritage Site, discovering the ruins of the Royal Palace, the Gal Viharaya, where four splendid statues of the Buddha in “Upright,” “Sedentary,” and “Recumbent” postures are carved out of rock, the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, King Parakramabahu’s statue, and the Parakrama Samudraya, a lake built by King Parakramabahu. There are also monuments of famous places of worship such as the Shiva Temple, Lankathilake, Watadage, Galpotha, Kiri Vehera, and the remains of a former Temple of the Tooth Relic.
We’ll finish our day with an evening jeep safari looking for toque macaques, sambar deer, migratory birds, leopards, sloth bears and Asiatic Elephants. Inside Minneriya National Park are two ancient man made tanks called Minneriya and Girtale dating to 270 to 303 B.C., which were dug out as reservoir to irrigate paddy fields in the vicinity. Elephants gather in this place during the dry season to drink and to feast on new shoots of grass which sprout on the banks, so the chances of sighting herds of Asiatic Elephants are high. We return to our hotel Vil Uyana after an eventful long day. (Approx. driving time: 4 hours)
Day 4 : Sigiriya - Kandy
Optional early morning walk on bird trail around the hotel. This is also an opportunity to see the hotel property and the different topographies on which the hotel is built. After breakfast, we drive to Knuckles range. En-route, we stop at Manikdena, an intriguing place in the forest with ruins dated between 5th to 6th Century A.D. The Menikdena Viharaya and Arboretum lies beside the manmade Menikdena Tank and the Menikdena Hill Range (Menikdena peak is 2,870 feet high). The archeological reserve and the arboretum cover almost 40 acres of land. The arboretum must have once served as a sacred grove, and now has the local and botanical names of most trees on boards. It is a botanist’s paradise and has some very old and rare trees. Historical evidence points out to the monastery having existed in 6th century A.D. The backdrop to the archeological complex is the Menikdena Hill Range. In the front you have the Menikdena Tank. Various birds visit this water body at different times of the day. After seeing the monastery complex, we’ll hike around the lake and the country side. Green paddy fields with tall coconut trees on the edges of the fields will take us through a small village. We can have a first hand view of the rustic life in this agrarian village, with men and women going about their daily work. The hike will takes us to the edge of the lake where we walk on an embankment to see the vast vista of the lake. The walk will bring you back into the monastery complex. After our packed lunch, we continue drive to our hotel. This drive up the hills has stunning sceneries and water falls. This is tea garden area and you’ll find the road go through lush tea gardens with tea factories in their midst. (Approx. driving time: 4 hours; Approx hiking time: 2 hours)
Day 5 : Kandy
Today we spend the whole day exploring Kandy--visiting temples and hiking around the lake. In the evening, enjoy a cultural show at your hotel.
Day 6 : Kandy-Nuwara Eliya
In the early morning we'll walk the Shaheen Falcon trail in Hunasgiriya, near Hunas Falls Hotel. Hunasgiriya is the home to the Shaheen Falcon, Kites and White Bellied Sea Eagle. The Shaheen Falcon trail traverses through a reforested area and grassland that resulted from the abandonment of tea cultivation, and from the frequent fires which have checked the colonization of other plant species. The summit we'll climb to is 3,600’ high, and gives a panoramic view of Hantana range, Matale range and Kandy valley. Apart from birds this trail also gives us an opportunity to see blue mormon and common jezebel butterflies, as well as upper and lower Hunas Falls. This is a very scenic hike.
We return to our hotel to freshen up and have breakfast, then drive to Kandy, the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and a World Heritage Site. The name Kandy conjures visions of splendor and magnificence, and many of the legends, traditions, and folklore are still lovingly kept alive. We’ll visit the town, its bazaar and the Temple of the Tooth Relic and witness a cultural show featuring traditional Sri Lankan dancing.
We'll continue to drive to Nuwara Eliya along the mountain road past jade green tea estates, tea factories, waterfalls, and orchards. This portion of the drive is one of the most famous mountain drives in Sri Lanka, and is on a very nice road.
Nuwara Eliya is a charming colonial-era town reminiscent of British days, set amid tea plantations at 6,000 feet. It’s the country’s most popular hill resort because of its invigorating mountain climate and scenery (Sri Lanka’s highest mountain, 8,282-foot Pidurutalagala, is located here). Nuwara Eliya is also the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country, and produces a significant share of the world’s best tea. (Approx. driving time: 4 hours; Approx. hiking time: 3 hours).
NOTE ABOUT ST. ANDREWS HOTEL: The St. Andrews Hotel lies about 6,000’ above sea level and is right in the center of town. This property has recorded history from approximately 1875. It has a well-preserved, 123-year-old billiards table and cues and collection of antique furniture, paintings, photographs, artifacts, paneling and architecture. Portions of the hotel are from the original building which served as a Planters Club for the British.
Day 7 : Horton Plains National Park
This morning, we’ll leave our hotel early (6am) to drive to Horton Plains. We’ll carry packed breakfast and lunch. This mist shrouded drive through winding, steep mountain roads, embraced on both sides by tea plantations, tea factories, a dairy farm, pine forests, eucalyptus plantations, orchards, agricultural farms, and patches of montane forest, is truly breathtaking. Once inside the park our naturalist will give us a quick tour of Farr House, a 100+ year-old former hunting lodge that has been converted into a visitors information centre, before we begin our hike.
Horton Plains National Park is a gently undulating highland plateau that lies at a height of 6,888’. Sri Lanka’s second and third highest mountains, Kirigalpotta (7,856’) and Totapola (7,738’) are adjacent to the park. This is the only national park in Sri Lanka that allows hiking. There is a regulated pathway for hiking, and we must take care to walk only on the designated pathway. The hike will take you through three types of ecosystems: grassland, montane forest and water bodies. The entire hike will be on level paths, over rough rocky terrain with extraordinarily brilliant colors in the rocks along our trail. We'll hike past Mini World's End before reaching the World's End, a sheer precipice with a 2,900’ drop that offers stunning views of the southern horizon. We'll return to our hotel in evening. (Approx. driving time: 3 hours; Approx. hiking time: 4 hours)
Day 8 : Yala
Morning drive to Yala. This is another scenic drive through the mist covered mountains of the hill country. We’ll stop for views of the Ella Pass and the Ella Peak. Before touching the plains where we’ll stop for a brief moment at Ravana Ella Waterfalls. We continue our drive through quaint agrarian villages, lush paddy fields, small hillocks of forest cover and water bodies which are a sanctuary to egrets, herons and other birds. We’ll pass through the town of Tissamaharama (aka Tissa) where we drench ourself with the views of the huge manmade lake with a small island with a number of nesting birds called Tissa Wewa before reaching our hotel. After dinner at the hotel, if you are interested you can join in for the screening of ‘Leopards in Drought’ a film by Nature Odyssey, a conservation group in Sri Lanka who also run programs in Yala National Park. (Approx. driving time: 5 hours).
Wild animals such as wild boar, foxes and the occasional family of elephants could be lurking in the vicinity of your room. Therefore we'll be expected to call the resort staff in case we want to walk from our rooms room to other parts of the hotel after sundown. And don’t miss watching the birds, monkeys and giant squirrels early in the morning!
Day 9 : Yala National Park
After breakfast, a resident naturalist will give a presentation-cum-brief lecture about Yala National Park and the Five Lakes around the park. We'll then leave the hotel for Five Lakes safari. The wewa, or lakes, we will visit are Yoda, Tissamaharama, Debara, Pannagamuwa and Weerawila. This safari is a unique opportunity to observe the rural agrarian life which revolves around these water bodies. We'll see and learn about traditional irrigation methods, including intricate canals, channels, locks, some of which are centuries old. Along the way we'll have the opportunity to observe various endemic and migratory birds visiting these water bodies. Look out for lotus-filled lakes teeming with pelicans, herons, kingfishers, and paradise fly catchers. We'll also pass through an area on the banks of Tissamaharama Wewa where you'll see trees filled with huge fruit bats. While most of the drives around the lakes will be on the lake bunds, one will have an opportunity to take a brief walk on one of these bunds to observe paddy cultivation aided by these huge man made water bodies. En route we will also pay a visit to a local potter's home. We'll return to the resort for lunch.
After lunch, we begin our Yala National Park safari. Yala National Park is a multifarious mixture of ecosystems. This is the largest national park in Sri Lanka, with the highest concentration of Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), a subspecies native only to Sri Lanka. The residents of Yala National Park also include sloth bear, elephants, jackals, sambars, spotted deer, crocodiles, water buffalo, mangoose, monkeys, and about 150 varieties of birds. In 1900 Yala was identified as a protected area and shortly thereafter, in 1909, it was made a sanctuary. In 1938 was it upgraded to a national park. During this wonderful safari look out for the Elephant Rock, which from a distance resembles an elephant. We’ll also visit some places that were completely destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, as well as the Tsunami Memorial. (Approx. driving time: 3 hours for each for both morning and afternoon safaris)
Day 10 : Galle
In the early morning we will enjoy bird-watching on the hotel grounds, then return for breakfast. After breakfast, we drive to charming Galle where we spend two nights. Our drive will be through several small towns and villages along the seashore. Once again we stay in a Bawa-designed hotel which is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection. This stunning hotel overlooks the Galle Fort, has its own private beach, and features many comforts, including two swimming pools. You'll have the rest of the afternoon to relax. (Approx. diring time: 5 hours).
Day 11 : Galle
In the morning we'll visit the Galle fort and walk along the ramparts, exploring this historic town and its fortification. We'll return to the hotel for lunch and have the rest of the day free.
Day 12 : Depart Galle for home
Morning is free to relax in the Galle beach. Afternoon drive to airport to connect international flight to USA. (Approx. driving time: 5 hours)
DATES: Best time to go: October Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
Lighthouse HotelGalle, Sri Lanka
The Lighthouse Hotel sits atop a hillock overlooking the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Inspired by the Dutch influence in Sri Lanka, the hotel exudes a touch of history and class and offers guests exquisite cuisine, first-class service, a rich ambience and stunning locations boasting splendid unmatched views of the sea making it the ultimate retreat for a tranquil experience.
Designed by the world renowned architect and Sri Lanka’s best, Geoffrey Bawa, Lighthouse features wide open spaces combined with magnificent views of the garden and sea. The furniture of this stylish Galle hotel is elegant yet minimalist. Sustainable development, recycling, waste reduction and usage of renewable resources are among the primary goals of the Lighthouse Hotel.
Vil UdanaSigiriya, Sri Lanka
Located within three miles of SigiriyaVil Udana is a unique lifestyle hotel created within a wetland system, built on stilts over water on reclaimed agricultural land. Drawing from local, rural traditions, the buildings grow not out, but into the landscape. The ‘habitats’ created by the local flora and fauna imbue the grounds with a timelessness, providing a peaceful and relaxing setting. A member of the Small Luxury Hotel’s of the World, Vil Udana is a haven for those who wish to escape from the norms of everyday life and for those nature lovers who wish to indulge in their hobbies whilst pampering themselves in luxurious comfort. With dwellings tastefully designed boasting space as its prime characteristic of luxury. Dine in the privacy of your dwelling or ‘under the stars’ or simply relax and pamper yourself at the Island Spa offering a range of treatments to choose from.
St. Andrew's HotelNuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
St. Andrew's is a unique colonial retreat where you'll find yourself surrounded by all the old world charm and quaint details of a Tudor mansion. Perched high above sea level amidst mist shrouded mountain peaks in Sri Lanka's cool tea country, this colonial residence is over a hundred years old and still retains the pace and style of life from that era.
At St. Andrew’s you'll enjoy the comforts of every modern convenience alongside the more traditional delights of plush antique 4-poster beds and open wood fires, as well as timeless culinary creations.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
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