Explore Sri Lanka’s Historical and Cultural Heritage

Guided Tour | With Excursions

Negombo | Anuradhapura | Habarana | Sigiriya | Polonnaruwa | Kandy | Hatton | Galle | Colombo

Arrival and transfer to Negombo

Arrive in Sri Lanka and transfer to the coastal town of Negombo. This is an ideal introduction to Sri Lankan culture with its multiethnic community. Here in Negombo you find the Islands main ethnic and religious communities living in harmony and as a result there are many Cathedrals, Buddhist temples, Hindu Temples (known as Kovils) and Mosques in proximity. Spend the evening at leisure or explore the Negombo town.

Negombo to Anuradhapura

After an early breakfast transfer to Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first significant civilization and the cradle of the island’s religion and culture. Founded on the banks of the Malwathu River, it was an agricultural civilization which lasted over a thousand years. The ruins of this city are still standing and from a cultural perspective there are many insights one can gather. There are many large constructions that rival the Egyptian pyramids. The most significant are the great Stupas which are dome shaped buildings which are over a hundred meters tall. Most of the Anuradhapura civilization was influenced by Buddhism and one can observe many of the states and sculptures and buildings and facilities built to house thousands of monks and scholars. In the afternoon set out to explore the ruins of the old city and spend the sunset at the Ruwanweli Stupa where you will get a chance to interact with the pilgrims who visit this venerable site for various religious reasons.

Explore the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura

After breakfast spend the day exploring the highlights of the Anuradhapura civilization. Today you will visit the other great stupas and the various administrative buildings of the Anuradhapura era. Later in the day you will also have the chance to see some of the beautiful ponds and stonework from this period. Enjoy a delicious picnic lunch of rice and curry under the cool shade of a tree, like the locals do when they are visiting the sacred sites of Anuradhapura.

Anuradhapura to Habarana

After breakfast visit Mihintale which is a Temple complex near Anuradhapura. It is believed to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda Thero and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Thereafter visit the Aukana Buddha Statue which is considered to be a masterpiece in ancient Sri Lankan stone sculpture. In the late afternoon proceed to your next hotel and spend the evening at leisure.

Sigiriya and Optional visit to Minneriya National Park.

Set off early morning with a picnic breakfast to explore the 5th century ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya (meaning lion rock). This magnificent complex was built by a prince who was fleeing from the consequences of patricide. Today it is a tourist hot spot where visitors come and marvel at the ruins of the royal palace complex and fortress built upon a rock that rises 200 meters above the surrounding landscape. This was an ideal vantage point for the troubled prince. There are many architectural, artistic and engineering marvels to explore in Sigiriya. The Sigiriya complex consists of a royal palace and citadel consisting of an inner city and outer city. The palace is surrounded by three ramparts and two moats. There are gardens with fountains watered by elaborate water retaining systems together with surface and sub-surface hydraulic systems. One of the crowning highlights are the beautiful frescos of heavenly maidens which are painted on the western rock face about 100 meters from ground level. They are remnants of a much larger collection that covered an area nearly 140 meters long! Spend the early afternoon visiting a local village farmer and learn about their various farming practices and livelihood and enjoy a delicious home cooked meal. Return to the hotel and spend the evening at leisure or setoff on an optional wildlife safari at the Minneriya national park which is famous for its large herds of Asian elephants.

Explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa

In the morning set off to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa which was the medieval capital from the eleventh to the first quarter of the thirteenth century. During the thousand-year period when Anuradhapura was the capital of the country Polonnaruwa served as a fortified outpost and the country residence of the royalty of Anuradhapura. Being far from the North Western shore which was the main entry point for the South Indian invaders, Polonnaruwa became the capital after the fall of Anuradhapura. Here too like in Anuradhapura the kings built many great reservoirs which sustained an agro based economy which in turn sustained a flourishing civilization. The Polonnaruwa site is more compact than Anuradhapura but offers a wealth of architectural and cultural jewels. Some of the key sites are the remnants of the old palace which is said to have had a thousand rooms and stood seven stories tall, it also had many religious and administrative structures and there is evidence of the Indian influence in the form of the Hindu temples that are found within the complex. The museum in Polonnaruwa is especially interesting as it has many examples of how the ancient architects and engineers built these impressive structures. Spend the day exploring Polonnaruwa and return to the hotel in the evening.

Habarana to Kandy (via Dambulla)

After breakfast transfer to Dambulla and visit the cave temple complex in Dambulla. The Dambulla rock temple complex which is home to a well-preserved collection of ancient Buddhist paintings and statues. The creators of Dambulla have carved out a gutter in the stone that protects the temple inside from the elements. The creative work spans many centuries and the temple has been maintained under the patronage of many kings during their respective reign. After visiting Dambulla proceed to Kandy and on the way pay a short visit to the Aluvihare in Matale which is the site where the oral Buddhist canon which was first converted to written pali scripture in an effort to preserve it for future generations. Thereafter transfer to Kandy, the last Capital of the Sri Lankan kings. Kandy is remarkable for the natural beauty of its setting in a peaceful wooded valley overlooking a vast artificial lake. The palace buildings, shrines and the British period buildings give it a special character. With the fall of the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa kingdoms the capital and the royal residence moved to the hill country. The geographical location of Kandy was critical in creating a natural defense strategy and the city was built in a valley surrounded by three mountain ranges and encircled by the Mahaveli River. Spend the afternoon relaxing at the hotel.

Three temples tour

After breakfast, spend the day exploring some of the highlights of Kandyan culture and architecture such as the three temples, Lankathilake, Gadaladeniya and Embekke which are located on the outskirts of the city. The buildings are mostly of timber and clay. The timber doorways, columns, brackets, beams and rafters were intricately carved with traditional decorative patterns. Door frames and furniture were frequently embellished with finely carved ivory and metal. The refinement of the richly decorated components of the Kandyan period gave it its distinctive character. In the evening return to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.

Visit the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha

After breakfast set off to explore the magnificent Peradeniya Botanical Garden which is located on the outskirts of the Kandy town. Considered one of the finest botanical gardens in Asia, Peradeniya is home to a wide array of plants and trees as well as an impressive collection of exotic orchids. This garden was established during the time of the Kandyan monarchy and further developed during the colonial rule. In the evening pay a visit to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth which is home to the Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha. You will be able to witness one of the regular ceremonies and interact with the local pilgrims who consider this site one of the holiest in the country. Later in the evening witness a Kandyan dance performance which is complete with acrobatic performances as fire walking!

Kandy to Hatton (by train)

In the morning set off on a train journey into the island’s tea country. The cool climate in the town of Hatton and its surroundings offer much needed peace and quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of Kandy. This is an ideal time to relax and enjoy the fresh air. If you are interested in Ceylon tea you are in luck as there are many lush green tea plantations you can visit to learn about the tea production process from the picking of the leaves to the final product that leaves the factory.

Hatton to Galle

After breakfast transfer to the coastal town of Galle. The Galle Fort is a city with the perfect blend of past and present, the native and the colonial. Galle Fort was first built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and then modified by the Dutch during the 17th century. The Galle Fort is one of the best-preserved examples of 17th century colonial fortifications in the world and is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Much of what visitors see of the Galle Fort is a reflection of the way Galle Fort was during the time of the Dutch.

Explore the Galle Fort

Enjoy a relaxed morning. In the afternoon you will visit the Historic Galle Fort for a guided walking tour to explore its ramparts, bastions and inner streets. Your knowledgeable guide will explain the background and the cultural elements that were infused into the island during the colonial period in Galle. If you wish to you can also visit the Galle Maritime Museum which exhibits some interesting artifacts. In the late evening pick out a scenic location along the ramparts and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Relax at the hotel

Spend the day at leisure relaxing at the hotel.

Galle to Colombo

After an early breakfast set off to visit the city home of the late great architect Geoffry Bawa. He was a prominent figure in the post-independence period and a pioneer in the Tropical Modernism style of architecture. This sanctum is preserved as it was during Mr. Bawa’s time and offers great insights to his life and work. Speaking of his work, the next stop is the current Sri Lankan parliament designed by Bawa which celebrates the architectural diversity of the country. Thereafter setoff on a sort tour that covers the highlights of Colombo and enjoy lunch back at your hotel. Later in the evening as the sun sets make a short transfer to Colombo fort. As the name suggests this is the old fortification used during the Dutch Era. During the British period most of the military buildings were either altered or demolished to make way for commercial structures. This walk offers a unique opportunity to study the thinking and planning behind the old city of Colombo. End the evening with drinks at the Grand Oriental hotel overlooking the Colombo Harbor.


Today, transfer back to Colombo Airport for your onward flight.