Culture & Heritage Tour
Ancient Kingdoms, sacred cities, cave temples, rock fortresses and lost ruins in hidden forests – let’s take a few steps back in time… maybe 2000 years or so; and explore the past wonders of the treasure island of Sri Lanka. Over 10 full days we go deep into the heart of the Cultural Triangle, discover World Heritage Sites and also spend some time relaxing and taking it all in.
It’s the warmth that meets us first. The warm smiles and the traditional Sri Lankan greeting - ‘Ayubowan’. Our guide is there with colourful garlands of flowers. What a lovely welcome! Watching the ever changing scenery sweep past, we ride in cool, air conditioned comfort to our hotel in Negombo – the tourist hotspot of the Western Coast, close to the airport. Rest and recoup tonight, and excitement begins tomorrow.
Early start, but breakfast is amazing! Heading north and inland to Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka’s first ancient kingdom, we stop by a little village stall in the middle of nowhere. Fresh king coconuts are cut; their ‘water’ is incredibly refreshing. After lunch at the hotel we start our Anuradhapura City Tour. First built around 380 B.C. this religious and political capital thrived for over 1300 years. Now a World Heritage Site its history lives on – Ruwanwelisaya, The Brazen Palace, Abhayagiri Monastery, the Samadhi Statue, and Isurumuniya are just some of the astounding wonders we visit. At 2,250 years, the sacred ‘Bo Tree’ Sri Maha Bodhiya is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world and still worshipped today. Awestruck, we recover over drinks and dinner back at the hotel.
A heavenly breakfast and we set off for Ritigala, 43 km away. The mountain is draped in primeval forest and the monastery is hidden deep inside. The rock caves have been inhabited since the 1st Century BC. An air of mystery hangs over the old stone ruins and a deep sense of peace stays with us as we head for Polonnaruwa, the 2nd historic kingdom of Lanka. Built in the 11th Century, the colossal ruins speak of its former glory. The giant statue and palace of King Parakramabahu, the massive stone Buddha images of Gal Vihara, the architectural marvels of Vatadage, Lankatilake, the Lotus Pond… there’s so much to see. A long day, but rewarding; and dinner awaits at our hotel.
A meal fit for royalty, as we’re climbing the rock fortress of King Kassapa - built around 500 AD, now a World Heritage Site. The giant Sigiriya rock rises 660 feet over the plains; its history dates to the 3rd century BC when it was a Buddhist sanctuary. Sprawling gardens, hidden caves, carved pools, ingenious waterways, huge lion paws, and frescos on the rock face… all amaze us - but the view from the top takes our breath away! After a quick lunch we set off back to the 1st Century BC – to the Dambulla Cave Temple. Its five grottos house immense Buddha statues, stupas and intricate frescoes on ceilings. The climb down offers more amazing sights! Overdosed on views but look forward to some well-earned rest and dinner.
We’ll meet the mountains today as we head for Kandy, the hill capital and the last kingdom of Lanka. En route through the heights of Matale we stop at a Spice Garden where a huge variety are grown for export and we’re treated to a wonderfully reviving massage. After lunch in Kandy and some sightseeing around this historic town, we enjoy a cultural show. The vibrant rhythms and swirling dancers thrill us and we’re ready to join the evening ‘pooja’ at the most revered Buddhist shrine in the country – The Temple of the Tooth Relic. The tooth itself is kept in a gold casket and devotees flock to worship. The air of serenity, fragrant incense and oil lamps stays with us even back at the hotel.
After a leisurely breakfast we leave for Colombo – the commercial capital of Sri Lanka on a scenic journey down to the coast. Colombo is a colourful mix of contrasts. Taking a city tour, we pass the business hub of Fort and the chaos of Pettah with its market and stalls; we visit an amazing old Hindu Temple, and a Buddhist shrine by the Beira Lake, the beautiful park with huge trees right in the middle of the city, and of course go shopping for gifts and keepsakes. There a few big malls where you can find excellent bargains on big designer brands, and also little markets and stalls full of interesting things from batiks, leather to carved elephants. Our minds buzzing, we check in to our hotel for the night.
A late breakfast and we set off to Negombo for a few days of taking it easy. The journey is a quick one and we are soon checking in to our stay by the beach. Rest and lounging by the pool perhaps for the rest of the day. The sunset is spectacular and even better with our favourite drinks in hand. We look forward to dinner and bed to the rhythm of the seas.
Day 8 & 9
Two whole days of complete idling ahead of us, we take our time over breakfast. We may just laze around the pool, read and sip cocktails over lunch or maybe head off to explore the exciting prospects of Negombo before dinner. Perhaps do both. It has been an overwhelming tour of a beautiful island and we are happy to sit back and collect the memories before we fly back home tomorrow.
Our last breakfast in Sri Lanka, and we make the most of it. We say goodbye to the little treasure island of Sri Lanka as we take in the last sights on our way to the airport for our flight back.