Sri Lanka: Kandy to Colombo
The city of Kandy is an important religious center and place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Colombo has been known to traders for almost 2,000 years due to its position along the sea trade routes running East to West as the principal port of the Indian Ocean.
Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will be met by a Sri Lankan Airlines representative and accompanied through passport control, customs, baggage collection, and money exchange to the arrival lounge. Here, you will be introduced to your private guide and travel companion, who will address any last minute questions you may have regarding your itinerary.
You will be transferred three hours by car to the city of Kandy, at the center of Sri Lanka, located in the lush hills of the Kandy Plateau.
Check into Kandy House, an elegant boutique hotel surrounded by jungle and displaying a combination of Sri Lankan and Dutch architecture. The old home of one of Kandy’s wealthiest families, this hotel features rooms that are each uniquely decorated with antique furniture and overlook a central courtyard. Throughout the property are secret gardens, an infinity pool surrounded by lush jungle, and double hammocks in which to relax.
Dine at the hotel tonight, choosing from a selection of oriental and western dishes infused with Sri Lankan flavors.
Enjoy breakfast this morning on your veranda before beginning your day exploring the city.
First, you’ll visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, which were established as a garden for the Queen’s enjoyment in the 14th century, and later became part of a Kandyan Prince’s residence in the 18th century. Wander through the tranquil, immaculately designed lawns, pavilions, and plant houses, enjoying the tropical vegetation of the island’s largest botanical garden.
Lunch at the Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage.
During the 1815 arrival of the British, an estimated 30,000 elephants lived on the island. By the 1960s, however, the population was close to extinction. Today, following an initiative by the Sri Lankan government, there are approximately 3,000 elephants on the island. The elephant orphanage you’ll visit is home to about 60 elephants which were found abandoned or orphaned in the wild. The elephants are fed and trained by the wildlife authorities, who hope to eventually release them back into the wild. You’ll have lunch at the orphanage this afternoon, and you may even be able to accompany the elephants to a nearby river for their daily bath.
After lunch, stroll around Kandy and its pretty lake at the heart of the city. Next, you’ll visit the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka’s most sacred site, and one of the holiest places of worship for Buddhists. Tradition relates that a sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in the fourth century AD, and was enshrined within the Temple of the Tooth. The temple is a magnificent shrine with decorative walls, a gold roof, and fine woodwork. Religious services featuring traditional music and drumming are held daily at dawn, midday, and in the evening, and can be viewed by visitors.
Following breakfast this morning, you’ll board the train from Kandy to the heart of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. A two-and-a-half-hour ride, this is one of the most scenic train rides in Asia. As you leave Kandy, dense jungle opens into a cloud forest that offers stunning views of tea bush carpets. You’ll wind around hairpin bends on lush hillsides, between immense peaks, and past tumbling waterfalls.
Stop briefly at Nanu Oya, one of the highest train stations in Sri Lanka, close to Nuwara Eliya, a small town in the central highlands of the island, and considered the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. At an altitude of 6,128 feet, the town was established during the 19th century, and its architecture mimics that of an English country town with its brick walls and mock-Tudor half-timbering. Stop for afternoon tea at one of Sri Lanka’s oldest hotels.
Continue on to your next accommodation, Warwick Gardens, which is picturesquely tucked within the Ambewela mountain range overlooking a deep tea-bushed valley, and offers guests simultaneous seclusion and convenience with various major attractions located only a short distance away. Restored to a lovely five-bedroom home, your accommodation is an impressive two-story mansion which is surrounded by 30 acres of colorful gardens, and abundant tea and organic farmland, and which offers cozy rooms with period furniture and mountain views.
Dinner tonight will be at the hotel, where meal preferences are discussed daily with guests who are also invited to choose from a huge organic garden on the property to create a salad for their meal. Enjoy an authentic Sri Lankan spread of rice with various different flavors of curry, after which you’ll have time to relax before bed.
After a Sri Lankan breakfast of fresh fruits, rice patties, and homemade jams, you’ll travel even further into Tea Country towards the Golden Valley, where some of the best tea in Sri Lanka is grown and processed. En route, you’ll stop at one of the old planters’ clubs.
Upon your arrival at your accommodation, you will be greeted by your butler, who will give you an overview of the property and discuss your dinner options. Enjoy the late afternoon at this lovely setting, 4,000 feet above sea level, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea growing country.
Choose from four classic colonial bungalows built between 1890 and 1940 for British tea estate managers, each with an eclectic style of its own–some surrounded by lush gardens with lake views, others with swimming pools, sundecks, and mountain backdrops. Within each bungalow, guests will find oversized rooms featuring four-poster beds, lavish bathrooms, and a large fireplace.
Once you’ve had time to settle in, relax in the property’s lush gardens, enjoying the surrounding lake and mountain views. The gardens also feature sprawling sun decks, where various teas are served by the bungalows’ resident butler.
Wake up this morning for Bed Tea, served by your butler, followed by a traditional English breakfast of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and freshly squeezed juices.
Begin your day with an introduction to the tea-making process, with a resident tea planter who will share insights into the growth and manufacture of tea, a process that has gone unchanged for over a century. You’ll follow the sloping tea trails to watch planters pick the tea, and then head back to the factory where the conversion to tea occurs.
You may also choose from a number of hiking and biking trails throughout the area. Varying in distance, the trails wind through lush tea gardens, various estates, and small villages, and pass by an array of exotic flora. Return to your bungalow in time for a hearty meal this evening.
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred three hours by car back to Colombo, where you will spend your final days in Sri Lanka.
Upon your arrival in Colombo, check in at your boutique hotel, which is located in the city’s most elite neighborhood. Initially constructed in 1930, and the former residence of three of Sri Lanka’s political leaders, Tingatel offers individually-designed suites with high ceilings, comfortable beds, and timber floors.
After you’ve settled in, you will be met by your guide in the hotel lobby for a 30-minute private transfer out of the city to Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, Colombo’s most magnificent temple. Situated four miles east of the Fort, it is said that the Buddha preached in this prominent center of worship more than 2,000 years ago. The current structure was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, and contains an impressive reclining Buddha image.
Lunch is served at Barefoot Café, famous not only for its colorful handloom, but also for its frangipani-filled outdoor garden. Serving Italian food with a Sri Lankan twist, here you’ll enjoy a light lunch, a quick snack, or a cup of tea or coffee.
After lunch, head across the road to The Gallery Cafe and Art Gallery, Paradise Road and Rithihi. Paradise Road is one of the most popular shops in Colombo for antiques and home décor. Reproductions are available in addition to local Sri Lankan art, pottery, glass, porcelain, statues, and dolls. Rithihi specializes in beautiful, traditional, and unusual weaves from Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Later today, visit one of Asia’s oldest and most famed hotels, The Galle Face Hotel, for high tea or a sunset drink. The hotel takes guests back in time to a world when high tea served by sarong-clad staff was the order of the day, and when G&Ts sipped on the fan-cooled veranda at sundown precluded dinner in the company of good friends. The charismatic doorman is likely one of the world’s longest-serving hotel employees, having worked at the hotel since 1942.
Return to your hotel in time to relax and change before a suggested dinner this evening at ZaZa Casa Colombo’s own outdoor Tapas restaurant, which serves light tapas and fresh Mediterranean cuisine.
After dinner, stay for a drink at ICE3, on the Casa Colombo property. Try the signature cocktail – CASA Nova, featuring Toddy, coconut arrack in its purest form.
Meet your guide this morning for visits to the Fort and Pettah Markets. The Fort area did, indeed, contain a fort during the period of European colonization. Today, the area has been developed with modern buildings, most notably the twin towers of the World Trade Center, as well as several derelict buildings that have been damaged by separatist bombings. The area is mostly vehicle-free, and there are some stretches that feature street vendors, making it a pleasant place through which to stroll. Worth a look is the Clock Tower, which was once a lighthouse, as well as the busy port area, from where the Sambodhi Chaitiya temple is visible.
Pettah Market is Colombo’s busiest market. Located in one of the city’s oldest and most ethnically diverse districts, it is a fascinating place in which to browse and pick up souvenirs. Colorful and chaotic, you’ll find everything here from Ayurvedic medicine, jewelry, and food stalls to religious buildings and the fascinating Dutch Period Museum.
For lunch, we suggest Sponge, serving savory Sri Lankan pastries, iced coffee, and a slice of chocolate cake or artfully designed marzipan (made with cashews, rather than almonds, in Colombo).
In the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit the National Museum in Viharamahadevi Park. The museum contains a number of impressive collections, displaying everything from demon masks, Sinhalese artwork, and royal regalia, to antique furniture, palm leaf manuscripts, and china.
Just behind this museum is the Natural History Museum. Visit it on your own if you wish.
Return to your hotel on foot through Viharamahadevi Park. Set in Colombo’s upscale area of Cinnamon Gardens, this is Colombo’s largest park, and the perfect retreat from the busy streets of other areas of the city. The best time to visit is in the spring, from March to May, when you can enjoy the park’s stunning flowering trees. Visitors can cross from one end of the park to the other via the Green Path. Later, visit the old Town Hall, which sits at the northeastern edge of the park.
For dinner this evening try the celebrated restaurant on the hotel property, where you’ll have the option of dining outside or indoors. After dinner, stop for a drink at the exclusive Red Bar, a space where a privileged few can lounge in hip style on black leather lounges at bronze tables.
After a leisurely breakfast this morning, visit Galle Road, the busiest street in Colombo. Head out on your own, beginning at the Galle Face Green promenade, which stretches along the coast in the business district of the city. Observe the interesting combination of modern, glitzy buildings mixed with run-down eateries and shops, as you continue along the bustling main road.
This afternoon, return to your hotel where you will be met by your driver and transferred to the airport in time to meet your departure flight.
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