Experience the highlights of this amazing island nation with our luxury 12-day Classic Sri Lanka itinerary. Soak up the culture, history and landscapes of Sri Lanka as you visit Colombo, Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Bogawantalawa Valley, Tangalle and Galle, staying at some of the most luxurious hotels the country has to offer.
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Begin your Sri Lankan adventure in the nation's capital, Colombo. The day begins with a visit to one of the most important places of learning and spirituality - The Gangaramaya Temple. Continue your spiritual experience by touring the Seema Malaka Temple, a tiny temple that is built on a lake and can only be reached by a small bridge. Next, get a bit competitive while watching a Sri Lankan cricket match. Head on over to the local markets, and stock up on traditional goods. The day finishes with an evening stroll along the half kilometer Galle Face Green Promenade. Revel in a sunset view over the sea. Retire to the Park Street Hotel, an exclusive 250-year-old colonial-style bungalow and your home in Colombo.
On to Dambulla, a 4-hour drive from Colombo. Explore the UNESCO sites, the Dambulla Cave Temple and the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. There’s an archaeological burial site located next to the temple. Take an elephant safari, and make friends with the massive native animal as you take a tour of the natural surroundings. Enjoy an unrivaled view of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress from your hotel, the mountainside Heritance Kandalama.
Take a half-day trip to Polonnaruwa, another UNESCO site around 80 minutes away from Dambulla, and a well-preserved ancient kingdom. Observe the time-honored ruins and imagine life in ancient times. Finish the day with a safari at the Minneriya National Park. The park is a wildlife refuge and if you’re lucky, you may even spot elephants feeding! Return to your luxury hotel to relax for the evening.
The next leg of your trip will take you to the lush green city of Kandy (2 hours away), the island nation’s cultural capital. This was the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. Take a tour of the Bahirawakanda Monastery, and see how Sri Lankan monks live and worship. See the Temple of the Tooth lit up at night by thousands of tiny white lights: a magical sight to behold. The temple contains the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Come nighttime, Earl’s Regency Hotel is the perfect place to relax poolside and catch some shut-eye.
See the stunning rolling hills as you travel 2 hours to Nuwara Eliya - located in Sri Lanka’s hill country. This is the temple where Sita, lover of the Hindu God Rama, prayed for Rama to rescue her from the evil King Ravana. Enjoy a fresh picnic overlooking the picturesque waterfalls nestled among the hills. Be enchanted by the flowers in the city’s sprawling botanic garden. For your accommodation in Nuwara Eliya, the Grand Hotel balances both old world charm and unending luxury.
Start off your second day in the big town of Nuwaray Eliya with a refreshing excursion. Spend the day hiking the Horton Plains National Park, another one of Sri Lanka’s gorgeous UNESCO sites. Return to your hotel and rest your tired feet, perhaps even indulge in a spa treatment.
Your next stop is the Bogawantalawa Valley, around 2 hours' drive away - a small town known for its tea estates. Stretch your legs post-journey by taking the Ceylon Tea Trail working plantation hike. Get the royal treatment and feel refreshed at a tea tasting at the plantation. You will be staying at the all-inclusive Ceylon Tea Trail Hotel, nestled in the middle of the tea plantation’s grounds, where you’ll be fed and pampered as royalty.
On your second day in the valley, take a half-day hike up Adam’s Peak. The Peak has been an object of worship for centuries. Take a tea plantation bike tour and see the greenest landscape you may ever have set eyes on. But don’t worry - you’ll want to exercise after indulging in the scrumptious, multiple-course meals served by the Ceylon Tea Trails hotel.
Drive 3 hours to Tangalle today, where you’ll have the once in a lifetime experience of watching baby sea turtles hatch on an isolated beach. The Rekawa Turtle Conservation works to preserve marine life and promote the turtles living in their natural habitat. This is a unique, intimate experience not soon forgotten. Learn to cook the flavorful local Sri Lankan dishes at a cooking class. Unwind beachside at the welcoming Amanwella resort.
Rising 676-feet into the sky, the Mulkirigala Rock Temple is unlike any other temple in the world. Wind your way through Mulkirigala’s cave temples carved into the terraces and see the many cave drawings of Buddha. Next take a safari through Yala National Park. The park is a wildlife sanctuary located seaside and hosts several aquatic bird species.
Galle, a beautiful coastal city some 90 minutes away, is our final stop. Marvel at the world’s wonders as you embark on a whale watching tour. Stop at another UNESCO Site - the Ancient Port of Galle, and see where commerce happened for centuries. Wrap up the day by paying the Yatagala and Rhumasala temples a visit. Amangalla, your hotel in Galle, is built in the old Fort within the Ancient Port. While the hotel may be historic, it’s 5-star treatment all the way.
Appreciate the rainforest during a hike in Hiyare. One of the best-kept secrets of the South, the forest is alive with wildlife. Rest for a picnic underneath the lush, green overgrowth and absorb in your surroundings. This is where we end our journey, and drive back to Colombo for an evening departure.
The dramatic and sultry Tintagel property is located in central Colombo, close to Colombo Town Hall, National Art Gallery and Sinhalese Sports Club. The hotel was previously home to three of Sri Lanka’s political leaders, making it an important structure of national heritage. This unique and intimate hotel boasts ten high-ceilinged suites with timber floors, lavishly decorated with a unique blend of color, texture and atmosphere. The spacious bathrooms feature rain showers, bathtubs and large vanities. All rooms include complimentary WiFi, LCD TV screens with DVD/CD players, a minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities and Egyptian cotton bedding. Selected suites come with a private courtyard or a balcony. There are a range of dining facilities including an alfresco restaurant, a chic indoor restaurant offering international cuisine, a private dining room and a bar with black leather lounges and bronze tables. Other facilities and services of the hotel include a spa with optional in-room service, swimming pool, gym, steam room, library and courtyard.
Designed by famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, the unique Heritance Kandalama hotel is set into a cliff face among dense tropical forests, flanked by the Dambulla rock temple and Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The hotel’s buildings were planned to blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment and are covered with hanging vines and flowering plants. Each of the 152 rooms faces either Kandalama Lake or the forest – even the bathrooms were planned to showcase the view – and is decorated in an elegantly simple contemporary style. The Kandalama is the first Green Globe 21-certified hotel in Asia, and the first hotel in the world to be awarded the prestigious LEED Green Building certification. There are three restaurants to choose from, including the Kanchana Café, which has won multiple awards. Among The Kandalama’s amenities are a pool, business center and fitness center, while the world-renowned Six Senses Spa has a location here that offers Asian, Swedish, aromatherapy and Ayurvedic massage.
Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon, is one of the world's historic centers of tea production, replete with rolling green hills and genteel plantation homes. Ceylon Tea Trails, run by the Dilmah Tea Company, has restored four classic colonial bungalows built for British tea estate managers in the days of the Raj. These historic houses offer guests the unique experience of life on a working tea estate in the highlands (elevation here is over 4,000 feet). The bungalows range in size from four to six rooms and two have their own pools. Summerville and Castlereagh are situated opposite each other on the shores of the Castlereagh Lake, Norwood is at the other end of the valley about 15 minutes away by car and Tientsin is about 30 minutes away in the next valley. Maintained trails with beautiful views run between all the bungalows, and through the surrounding hillsides and plantations. Each house comes with its own manager, chef, butler and houseboys; in-house massage appointments can be arranged. Meals and afternoon tea are prepared by your private chef using gourmet ingredients and produce grown right on the property, and can be served indoors or on the lawn.
Situated in the midst of a coconut grove on a secluded bay, the Amanwella resort is one of the world's most exclusive beach retreats. The resort sits on a perfect crescent of white-sand beach and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, national parks and exotic wildlife and a 5 and 1/2 hour drive from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). There are 30 suites, each equipped with a plunge pool, terrace, and floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. A number of ocean suites are located further down the hill and have uninterrupted views of the coconut palms and the beach. The Amanwella restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, and uses its location next to the ocean to cook up fresh Asian- and Mediterranean-style seafood. The Pool Terrace also serves meals in a more laid-back setting. When not enjoying a safari, snorkeling, or swimming in the pool, there is a library with Internet access and reference books on Sri Lanka. The spa offers massages and traditional therapies using local, natural ingredients, which can be given either in the spa's suite or in selected garden locations. There is no fitness center.
Located in the center of a preserved 17th-century Dutch Fort, the sumptuous Amangalla resort is also a beautifully restored UNESCO World Heritage site that perfectly captures the charm of the historic trading port of Galle. Amangalla has 17 rooms, eight suites and the Garden House, a two-story house with treetop views. Rooms are decorated in a style that blends luxurious contemporary amenities with a perfectly rendered colonial-era aesthetic. Sri Lankan curry and other traditional dishes are served in the dining room, and the Veranda is a cool spot to have a drink during the day; the fort's Zaal (Dutch for Great Hall) serves light meals and a classic afternoon tea. The pool is located in the resort's gardens and has five shaded pavilions where you can relax post-swim. A library with Internet access houses information on Sri Lanka and the history of the Fort. The Baths, Amangalla's spa, offers Ayurvedic massage, hydrotherapy pools, and a steam room and sauna, among other treatments. There is also a garden pavilion for yoga practice or meditation. There is no fitness center. The resort is roughly a four-hour drive from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB).