Welcome to Sri Lanka! On arrival at the airport we are welcomed by a representative of Adventurous Women and transferred to our Hotel in Negombo (Little Rome) for check in. Being one of the major tourist beach resorts of the island, this lively town is mainly inhabited by the fisher-folk. It's located along the picturesque Negombo lagoon, along which hundreds of fishing boats and catamarans can be seen at any one time. The town is dotted with several churches, some dating from the earliest colonial times and is home to a substantial catholic community in Sri Lanka, hence why it's quietly known as "Little Rome". Upon check in, take a stroll on the beach, relax poolside or enjoy a cold drink at one of the little cafes nearby. A group meeting will be held at 6pm in the Lobby of the hotel where you'll meet your Adventurous Women Host, local guide and fellow travellers. Afterwards we'll enjoy our first dinner together.
After breakfast we head off to Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is the island's Medieval Capital (11th - 13th Centuries AD) which rose to fame after the decline of Anuradhapura. The city was fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and sanctified by many shrines. A unique Irrigation complex watered the city as well as the surrounding plains helping in agriculture which made the island "the Granary of the East". The largest of the man made reservoirs, the huge Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama), is larger in size than the Colombo Harbour. Polonnaruwa is home to two magnificent World Heritage Sites and numerous other sites of archaeological and historical interest, some of which depict the influence that Hinduism had on the Buddhist Civilisation during that period of history. We will be visiting many of these sites during our time here today, before retreating back to our hotel which is perched high above the beautiful Giritale Lake. The scenic views from the pool area are divine, making it a lovely spot to relax after a day of sightseeing.
Minneriya National Park/Sigiriya
Early morning, armed with a packed picnic breakfast weâ€™re off on a Jeep Safari the Minneriya National Park, famous for its many large herds of wild elephants on the move. During August and September each year the park is on the migration route for these huge beasts from many of the surrounding areas as they search for water and fresh grass. They gather in numbers of up to 300 at this time, beginning the largest meeting of Asian elephants in the world. The park is situated around a reservoir of the same name in the south central area of the island and comprises of grasslands, thorny scrub and many valuable species of trees. As well as the large number of elephants, some of the other wild animals found here include species of deer, wild boar, water buffalo and jackals. After this exciting adventure, we continue our drive onto our next destination. Sigiriya was a Royal Citadel for 20 years in the 5th Century AD - stark and forbidding, haunted by an epic story of murder and betrayal which we'll learn about this afternoon when we visit. This unique Rock Fortress or "castle in the sky" - a massive monolith of red stone that rises 600ft above ground, derived the name "Lion Rock", as the entrance to climb to the top of the fortress starts between the paws of a lion.
This morning, we leave for Kandy - "The Hill Capital" Kandy literally the "City on the Hills" so named, as it was protected by nature - water, rocks and jungles. It was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings before falling to the British in 1815AD and is now listed as a World Heritage Site. The name Kandy conjures visions of splendour and magnificence with many of the legends, traditions and folklore still lovingly kept alive. The city is often visited not only for its culture and history, but also for the variety of arts and crafts on offer here. En route to Kandy we visit the World Heritage Site of Dambulla Cave Temple, considered to be the largest painted caves in the world with more than 22,000 sq ft of painted surfaces with many paintings, sculptures, statues of Lord Buddha, his disciples, Kings. Afterwards we continue to Kandy where we take part in a conducted tour through a Spice Garden, learning about the growth and use of spices in the day to day life of Sri Lankan people. This evening there is an option to watch a Cultural Performance by traditional Kandyan Dancers and Drummers including devotional "Fire Walking"
After breakfast we undertake a City Tour including the Upper Lake Drive - a place where one could have a bird's eye view of the city below, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha - by far the most important place of worship for Buddhists world over, the Royal Botanical Gardens - one of the best of its kind in Asia with more than 5000 species of different varieties of flora which incidentally was the Headquarters of Lord Louis Mountbatten - the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the 2nd World War, a Gem Museum - to see how valuable gems seen in the stores are turned out from a raw stone, and onto a Silk Shop where we learn about the process of making silk, handlooms etc
Today is at our own leisure to explore the town of Kandy some more, enjoy a little relaxation, take a dip in the pool or perhaps hit the shops!! We re-group in the evening for dinner together.
After breakfast we leave for Nuwara Eliya - "Little England", travelling through some breathtaking country, including rolling hills covered in "Green Carpets" - Tea Plantations and cascading Waterfalls. Nuwara Eliya is nestled in a wooded basin at the foot of Mount Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka's highest peak. This region at 6,183ft above sea-level, has a cool, crisp climate unknown elsewhere in Sri Lanka. A serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, the town seems like a piece of the English Lake District. Unusual plants, birds and animals thrive here beside natural features like waterfalls and caves. Tea - the glistening green leaves of this lovely shrub, along with neat rows of green, cloak ridges and valleys providing a lasting impression of Sri Lanka's Hill Country. The Golf Course - one of the finest and picturesque in Asia- the serene Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity, beautiful parks and well-kept lawns and hedges give the place an air of nostalgia. En route we visit a Tea Factory and Plantation to witness the manufacturing process of world famous "Ceylon Tea" and to taste a pure unblended cup of factory fresh tea, before it's sent to the Tea Auctions in Colombo leading to Export. Our evening is free to enjoy a stroll, relax or explore the town - the important places being, the Victoria Park, Gregory Lake, Golf Course, Market etc.
This morning we're bound for Horton Plains, the only National Park situated in the Hill Country and Sri Lanka's highest and most isolated plateau at an elevation of more than 2000 metres. This 3,162- hectare National Park is a natural playground and is a watershed of tremendous importance containing the second and third highest mountains in Sri Lanka within its precincts. It's widely spread Patna grass-covered plains are the haunt of many species of flora and fauna among which are found leopards, sambur, deer, slender loris, purple monkeys, eagles and some 247 species of butterflies, also seen are rare orchids, rhododendron trees and exotic mosses. Bridle paths through the plains head to the precipice known as the World's End, a sheer drop of 1,050 meters and the famous Baker's Falls. We hike on a well defined trail to visit the World's end, where on a clear day we'll enjoy amazing views, afterwards we continue on to visit pristine Baker's Falls. If hiking is not for you, there are a couple of options - walk part of the way with the group to enjoy mother nature and stop when you're ready, turning around to follow the path back to where the walk begins, or alternatively come armed with a book, drawing pad, crossword book or hobby and simply find a shady place to sit and enjoy some downtime. The hike is approximately 9kms and generally takes the group 4 hours including stops and lunch break along the way. We then continue on to Ella where we enjoy the rest of our day at leisure
Today we have a couple of options on offer - Choose whatever activity suits you, or do them all!! Walk/Photography - 9 Arches Railway Bridge - Pleasant 30 minute walk from Ella Train Station to this stunning piece of architecture highlighting colonial-era railway construction. You can return by Tuk Tuk if you wish or walk back, alternatively Tuk Tuk both ways! Hike - Mini Adam's Peak - Continue on from 9 Arches Railway Bridge either walking or by Tuk Tuk. If walking, you're looking at another hour of walking approximately from the bridge. There are always Tuk Tuk's waiting at the Bridge or Mini Adam's Peak so you can grab one of these to return if you wish. You can also visit Mini Adam's Peak by Tuk Tuk if you're not wanting to walk. If you wish to go to the top however you will need to walk- it's steep but it's short and relatively easy. Adventurous - Trek to the Ravana Cave /Ella Rock - About 4 hours return and trail not marked. Spiritual - Attend a Meditation Session at the Rakkitha Kanda Jungle Monastery Relaxation - Ayurvedic Massage or Treatment - A few options scattered around beautiful Ella!
Tea Plantations/ Haputale
After breakfast we transfer to the Railway Station, leaving the main luggage with our driver. Travelling by train to Idalgashinna we enjoy a novel experience amidst breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. Once at Idalgashinna Station, carrying only a day-pack, we begin a leisurely 3 hour hike down (mostly downhill) through Tea Plantations, Pine Plantations and a patch of jungle before being picked up by our driver and transferred to the sanctuary of our beautifully located hotel in Haputale. If you're not a regular walker, you have an option to remain with the driver and meet the group after their walk, however, you will miss out on the train ride. Once at the hotel there is an opportunity to have a dip in the pool, relax with a massage and steam bath, or chill out in the lovely gardens.
We leave this morning for Galle, the Southern Capital of Sri Lanka, visiting places of interest en route and witnessing the Stilt Fisherman in action! Once in Galle, we visit the Galle Dutch Fortress which has such a unique charm, stands on one of the main sea routes in the southern part of the city and is classified as a World Heritage Site. It was first built in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which still after more than 423 years, maintains its polished appearance due to extensive reconstruction work done by the Archaeological Department in Sri Lanka. Afterwards we are transferred to our seaside accommodation where we are staying for the next two nights.
Today is a day of leisure. You may choose to grab a Tuk Tuk from out the front of the bungalow and head back in to Galle Fort for some more sightseeing and shopping, take a stroll along the beach, hire a bike and explore the surrounds, or simply while away your time at one of the little cafes or restaurants close by.
After breakfast we leave for Negombo We're taken on a city tour of Negombo including a Fishing Village, Old Dutch Fortress from 1678 converted to prison, the Hamilton Canal which was built by the Dutch for the transportation of Cinnamon,St. Mary's Church and the Old Dutch Cemetery and naturally, the Negombo Fish Market. In the evening we get together and enjoy our last group dinner, as the tour comes to an end tomorrow.
There are no activities planned for the final day, as the trip concludes, so you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. Transfer to the airport for departure.