For those with limited time, this 9 night itinerary by private vehicle and Domestic Internal air flights encompasses the areas of Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa ,Minneriya, Dambulla, Matale, Kandy, Yala & Koggala covering the countries most iconic highlights from the Unesco World Heritage Sites, through fortresses and the mountainous regions viewing extraordinary wildlife and historical monuments then ending on a stunning beachfront.
On arrival, your driver will await to pick you up at Sigiriya Domestic Airport who will then take you to your hotel in Sigiriya.
Check in at your hotel and rest until afternoon. Proceed to visit Sigiriya Rock late afternoon.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sigiriya is an enormous rock boulder rising up 200 meters above the surrounding jungle. Incredibly, the rock fortress was built by King Kassyapa I in the fifth Century and served as a royal citadel for more than 18 years, something that seems more astonishing with every step you climb. Pause occasionally during your ascent to admire the mirror wall, the sigiri graffiti, the famous Sigiriya frescoes (paintings) and the great lion paws. Upon reaching the summit you’ll immediately see that it was worth the effort. Wander through the ruins and admire the courage and work it must have taken to build this palace all those years ago- you will even find a fully-functional swimming pool up there. Aside from the ruins, with the unparalleled 360 degree view of the surrounding jungle and hills, it will not be just be the climb that takes your breath away.
Return to your hotel.
An interesting blend of archaeological monuments, Polonnaruwa was the second kingdom of Sri Lanka and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The iconic man-made reservoir was appropriately named “Parakrama Samudra”, or “the sea of Parakrama”, due to its enormous size. Look out for the famous Gal Viharaya or “Rock Temple” where you will see four colossal statues of the Buddha cut into the stone, reflecting peace, serenity and strength. Polonnaruwa also boasts ruins of ancient palaces, intricately carved moon stones and royal baths.
Following the city tour of Polonnaruwa proceed Minneriya National Park late in the evening for a safari.
The Minneriya National Park, located in the North Central district of Sri Lanka is a sanctuary for wildlife. Alongside the Udawalawe National Park it is one of the best places on the island to see the Sri Lankan Elephant up close, all year round. As well as elephants, you are likely to see a whole host of other mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians. The park is also an important habitat for the two endemic monkeys of Sri Lanka – the Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque.
Aside from the wildlife, the impressive Minneriya tank – a reservoir built by an ancient civilization – is undoubtedly the highlight of the park. If you are visiting between June and September you are likely to experience the dry season when the reservoir slowly dries out, giving way to fresh grass and shoots and attracting large herds of elephants, deer and water buffalo. It is during this time that Minneriya National Park gains fame in the viewing of “the Gathering” of wild elephants. If you are lucky, you may witness between 50 and 300 wild elephants making their way to the shores of the reservoir in what is considered to be the largest known meeting point of Asian Elephants in the world. We recommend an early morning or late evening visit to the park.
Return to your hotel.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and proceed Dambulla Rock Cave Temple (Approximate Duration – 30 minutes – 16 kilometers).
Dating back to the first Century BC, Dambulla is a vast cave complex, converted into a rock temple which is still regarded today as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries. Covering the rock ceiling is the largest collection of paintings in Sri Lanka within a cave temple, and surrounding you is the highest number of Buddha statues found in one single place. As you wander through the temple, notice the serenity and the exceedingly well-preserved nature of the place. It is no wonder the Rock Temple has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On completion Proceed to Kandy visiting a Spice Garden in Matale en-route. (Approximate Duration – two and half hours – Distance 73 kilometers)
An agricultural zone in the Central Province, Matale seldom drops off the maps due to its remarkable contribution through flagship crops of the island extending from tea, rubber & vegetables to spices. Spearheading the Rebellion back in 1848, Matale today takes immense pride in its story woven around spices. Stop by the side of a spice garden – into which you will be most welcome – and observe the therapeutic values of spices & processes over a refreshing cup of herbal tea! Or spend some time idling on the hardened streets if you mean a real town adventure filled with voices and colors.
Check-in at your hotel and rest of the day is at your leisure.
Join Bandara Palipana, an experienced botanist, on a fascinating walk through the scenic Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, located in the hill capital of Kandy. Palipana has worked in the gardens, which house over 4,000 species of plants and trees, for well over 30 years. Listen as he shares stories of the garden’s history and the precious live collections gathered over the past centuries. He explains how this ancient royal pleasure garden transformed into a botanical garden in 1821 and also about the ‘Grand Circle’ where world leaders have donated and planted trees since 1875. As you stroll along under the canopy of the trees, he points out features such as the bamboo collection, Palm Avenue and the herbal plants, which are in fact his favorite. Undoubtedly the most colorful collection is the orchids, where a priceless collection of over 300 varieties bloom in all their glory.
On completion proceed back to Kandy to visit to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Built during the 16th Century, the Temple of the Tooth is one the most important temples for Buddhists as it houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. The Relic of the Tooth is kept in a two-story inner sanctum. The ‘Thevava’ or auspicious offering to the Sacred Tooth Relic takes place three times a day at pre-set times and a visit during this time is quite an experience. The resident monks demonstrate this age-old tradition as you become surrounded by the sound of drums and the smells of lotus and jasmine flowers, as well as incense.
Return to your hotel and enjoy rest of the day at leisure.
On arrival, your driver will await to pick you up at Mattala Airport who will then take you to your hotel (Approximate Duration – one hour thirty minutes – 67 kilometers).
Venture out on a game drive in search of native wildlife through Yala National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest national parks.The park covers an area of 151,778 hectares comprising of five blocks, one of which contains a strict nature reserve. Currently only Block I, covering 14,100 hectares, is open to the public. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot three of Sri Lanka’s “Big Five” endangered animals on one single safari, since the Sri Lankan leopard, sloth bear and elephant can all be found here. In fact, the park is known to have one of the highest density of leopards in a concentrated area.
We recommend an early morning or late afternoon game drive to elevate your chances of spotting the most animals, although the mini night safaris on the outskirts -which use night-vision infrared lights – are also extremely fun. Whilst searching for the elusive leopard, herds of spotted deer, Mugger crocodiles, wild boar, wild buffaloes, langurs, and peacocks also provide brilliant photograph opportunities. Bird-lovers will particularly enjoy the display of over 200 different species, including large flocks of migratory birds.
Return to the hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure until you proceed on the next game drive.
Check in at the hotel and rest of the day is at your leisure.
After breakfast, proceed to Villa Mayurana for a Cinnamon Experience (Approximate Duration 30 minutes – Distance – 15 kilometers).
Approximately 30 minutes away is Villa Mayurana, a piece of paradise set among a cinnamon plantation offering magnificent views of Koggala Lake and the coastline beyond. Upon arrival, freshen up with a cinnamon-infused towel before venturing on a guided tour of the estate. Learn about the method of growing and harvesting cinnamon as well as how a cinnamon tree can be transformed into the cinnamon sticks we buy. Watch a fascinating demonstration from one of the estate’s expert peelers to see how this intricate process is carried out. Continue to the estate’s factory and learn how this aromatic spice is gathered for grading and how it is prepared before being sent to market.
If you wish, you may end your spice trail with a delicious cinnamon-inspired lunch at the villa, accompanied by a fragrant cinnamon tea (to be arranged in advance and payable locally).
On completion proceed to visit Handunugoda Tea Estate which is a few minutes away from Villa Mayurana. The only plantation to produce Virgin White Tea, completely untouched by the human hand. This unique variety of tea is high in antioxidants and is considered a completely pure tea. Take an escorted tour around the estate and admire the meticulous process of plucking the tea leaves whilst your guide explains the culture of tea to you. Your tour of the estate comes to an end at the tea factory, where you can watch the manufacturing process taking place before tasting over 20 varieties of the tea produced at Handunugoda. Subject to availability, Herman Gunaratne, owner of the estate and veteran planter, will meet you and share his personal stories over a cup of his award-winning tea.
Return to the hotel.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city of Galle mixes the exotic with the colonial. The impressive Fortress, originally built by the Portuguese and further fortified by the Dutch, remains standing today with only a few changes, and is a living example of the interaction between European architecture and South Asian traditions during the 16th to 19th Centuries. Explore the Galle Fort on foot at your own pace, perhaps paying a visit to the Maritime Museum, the Old Dutch Reformed Church, the Sun and the Moon bastions, the lighthouse and the souvenir shops along the way. Early evening is the perfect time to climb the ramparts and sip a refreshing cup of Ceylon tea, or perhaps something stronger, as you gaze upon the setting sun.
Return to your hotel.
Transfer to the Airport (Approximate Duration two-and-a-half hours – Distance – 162 Km) in time to connect with the international flight for departure.