Arrive Colombo. Met on arrival at the Bandaranaike International airport and transfer to your hotel (15km / approx. 30 minutes) (standard check in time at the hotel is 1400 HRS).
Spend the evening at leisure or take an optional visit to a local market.
Overnight Stay in Negombo
Today you will proceed to the cultural hub of Sri Lanka - Habarana (175 km / approx. 4 hours). En route you will visit the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.
A venture initiated by the Sri Lankan Government to safe guard one of its National Treasures, the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage has been operating for over 30 years, nurturing orphaned calves, treating the feeble and rehabilitating the injured. Today, the orphanage has 60 elephants, with hundred watching their antics during their bathing times!! It is a definite treat watching them frolic in the water and observe the unique characteristics of each and every one of Sri Lanka’s gentle giants! The ideal time to watch them is 1000hrs-1200hrs and 1400hrs- 1600hrs.
After witnessing the feeding and bathing of elephants, you will proceed to your hotel in Habarana. On arrival, check in to your hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight Stay in Habarana
This morning you will leave your hotel after breakfast and drive to Polonnaruwa (46km / approx. 1.5 hours).
The second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader. This city is known to have been the pinnacle of the Golden Age of Sri Lanka, during the reign of Parakramabahu I, a ruler whose goal that no drop of water falling from the heavens be wasted led to the development of irrigation systems which are still utilized to this day. The greatest of these systems – the Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama) is a tank so vast that it is often mistaken for an ocean. It circles the main city like a ribbon, acting both as a defensive border against intruders and the lifeline of the people in times of peace.
Rest of the day is at leisure.
Overnight Stay in Habarana
This morning you will visit the Lion Rock, one of the seven World Heritage sites in the island (25km / approx. 45 minutes).
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a spectacular Rock Fortress, is one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions. The most impressive facets of the unique complex are the Water Gardens, the Frescoes of beautiful maidens, the Mirror Wall with ancient graffiti, the Lion platform and the Summit of 1.6 hectares, which was completely covered by buildings during the period of Sigiriya’s glory. Built by King Kashyapa (477-495 A.D), the “Lion Rock” is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200m from the scrub jungle. The rock was the innermost stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town and the base is ringed by a moat, rampart, and extensive gardens. The world-renowned frescoes (originally 500, of which only 19 remain today) which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway are painted in earth pigments on plaster. The old stairway to the top led through the mouth of a crouching lion but today only the huge paws remain giving an indication of the massive proportions of the head. Remains of the handsome royal citadel are on the summit and several caves for meditation, audience platforms and baths complete the unique site.
Next you will take a 20 minute village walk across the Sigiriya area.
Return to your hotel for lunch. Later in the afternoon you will drive to the Minneriya National Park* (20km / approx. 45 minutes).
Located between Habarana and Polonnaruwa, the 8,890 hectares of Minneriya National Park consists of mixed evergreen forest and scrub areas and is home to favorites such as sambar deer, leopards and elephants. However the central feature of the park is the ancient Minneriya Tank (built in 3 rd century AD by King Mahasena). During the dry season (June to September), this tank is an incredible place to observe the elephants who come to bathe and graze, as well as the huge flocks of birds (cormorants and painted storks to name but a few) that come to fish in the shallow waters.
* Depending on the elephant movement, you will visit the Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park.
Overnight Stay in Habarana
This morning you will leave Habarana and drive to Kandy (105km / approx. 3-3.5 hours). Enroute you will visit the Dambulla Cave Temples.
Dambulla – located in the north central province this UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the 01st century BC, is an amazing complex of 05 caves, first used as a refuge by an ancient king who on regaining his throne, commissioned magnificent carved images within the living rock. Later kings made further improvements and the caves contain over 150 images of the Buddha of which the largest is a colossal figure spanning 15 meters. Cave inscriptions from the 2nd Century BC are found and on the walls are many paintings most of which belong to the Kandy period (early 19th century). This temple is a perfect location to view evolution of ancient Sri Lankan art and is an important historical site due to the amalgamation of the material from many eras.
Matale Spice Gardens - Indulge your senses and dabble in the homeopathy remedies of the East!
Arrive finally at the famed city of Kandy (Nuwara). The Last Kingdom of Sri Lanka, Kandy holds a special place in every Sri Lankans heart as it accommodates the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha.
In the evening, you will experience a show on the cultural dances of Sri Lanka, after which you will visit the famed Temple of the Tooth which is commonly known as "Sri Dalada Maligawa" is situated in the city of hills, Kandy. It is an important shrine for Buddhists as it holds the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. It is famous for its carvings and the beautiful art that is unique to Sri Lanka. The most important part of the Dalada Maligawa is the octagon (Pathirppuwa). The Sri Dalada Maligawa is the most sacred temple in the whole of Sri Lanka. Thousands of people line up each day to get a glimpse of its majesty.
Overnight Stay in Kandy
Today you will take a City Tour around Kandy, the last capital of the Sinhalese kingdom, which includes a chance to pick up local crafts at the bazaar.
Later, enjoy a leisurely stroll among the orchids and royal palms of the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens (10km / approx. 45 minutes).
Located 460 m above sea-level close to Kandy and surrounded from three sides by the river Mahaveli, Peradeniya botanical garden was founded in the year of 1824. One of the best and most valuable collections of Plants and Trees in the world. (more than 4000 species, indoor and outdoor). Giant trees of "Ficus" family, different Bamboo and Palm trees of the world, rare Ayurvedic plants, Orchid House, spice garden, timber trees such as ebony, teak, satinwood, mahogany, tamarind and jack etc. can be seen here. Most of the honorable guests who visited Sri Lanka, for instance The Queen Elizabeth, Marshal Tito, Chancellor Henry Kiesinger and Juri Gagarin, have planted memorable trees in this park.
Overnight Stay in Kandy
Today you will leave your hotel after breakfast and proceed to the quiet town of Nuwara Eliya (115km / approx. 3 hours).
Enroute you will stop at a tea factory and tea plantation and it will allow you the opportunity to discover the tea making process.
Sri Lanka's premier hill resort with a fine bracing mountain climate, Nuwara Eliya is also the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country, producing some of the world’s best tea. The mountain slopes and valleys are a carpet of velvety green tea plantations, interspersed with gushing streams and tumbling waterfalls. Red or green roofed plantation bungalows, English country style homes and hotels with lovely flower gardens, a fine 18 hole golf course and a racecourse gives Nuwara Eliya a decidedly British character.
You have the option to stop and walk, and also see the old English church, the golf course, the racecourse, vegetable markets and the Gregory’s lake.
Overnight Stay in Nuwara Eliya
This morning you will leave your hotel and drive past picturesque scenery on the way back to Colombo airport for your onward arrangements (186km / approx. 5 hours).
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