Tailored from £17,300 per family excl. flights
15 days Kotugoda, Cultural Triangle, Kandy, Tea Country, Yala, Galle, Bentota
15 days Kotugoda, Cultural Triangle, Kandy, Tea Country, Yala, Galle, Bentota
Few islands in the world offer the diversity that exists in Sri Lanka, from ancient cities, to rich religious festivals, to colonial memories, to rolling tea plantations, to the best beaches in the Indian ocean, to an astonishing variety of bird and animal wildlife, and to a bustling and chaotic way of life, Sri Lanka intoxicates its visitors with its potpourri of cultures, religions, races, customs, its sheer natural beauty and its way of life. In this 13 day itinerary, with the aid of your expert Wayfairer guide, explore this incredible country as the perfect introductory holiday. I warn you now… I doubt your first trip will be your last.
Upon arriving into Colombo Airport, you will be transferred directly to The Wallawwa in Kotugoda, which is just 30 minutes away.
The word “wallawwa” refers to an old manor house and features columns, courtyards and verandas. This beautiful colonial bungalow dates to the mid-17th century and was once owned by a head chieftain of Galle. Today, the building has been restored and converted into a hotel, combining old-world charm with home comforts and creative design.
Your first full day in Sri Lanka will have you heading north up to the Cultural Triangle, a transfer that will take around four-and-a-half hours.
After a long drive, you’ll be able to relax and unwind with a stay at the tranquil Water Garden, which is spread across 35 acres and offers profound views of the lush scenery and of Sigiriya (Lion Rock). Water Garden was designed by local architect Channa Dasawatte and is a tribute to the water gardens that once surrounded the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in ancient times.
The journey to Sigiriya takes approximately an hour and a half. The mysterious Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, was built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century.
There are many theories and legends surrounding this impressive 180-metre monolith and no one knows for sure what the original construction was built for. Climb the rock yourself for stunning views and to ponder the purpose of the structure for yourself.
In the late afternoon, you will continue to the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, a former capital city founded by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 and sought to reunite the country under his leadership. Nowadays, the historic city is a well-preserved archaeological site and provides great context for the kingdom’s early history.
After breakfast, you’ll head to the local village of Hiriwadunna. This authentic experience will give you and your family the unique opportunity to interact with local Sri Lankan villagers and learn about village life, especially their respect for nature. Hiriwadunna is known locally as “God’s village” and is said to have been a refuge for King Wasaba between 66 and 110 AD.
The next leg of your family tour of Sri Lanka will take you to another former capital, Kandy, which takes around three hours to get to. You’ll be stopping at the Dambulla Cave Temple complex on the way to take in the largest and best-preserved examples of rock cave temples in Sri Lanka. Towering 160 metres over the land, more than 80 documented caves stand, some of which are home to ancient statues and paintings of Buddha.
In Kandy, you’ll be staying at Elephant Stables, which was the original wallawwa (ancestral home) of Ceylonese nobleman Sir Cudah Ratwatte. The elephants owned by the family once grazed in the surrounding gardens. Today, the house remains with the Ratwatte family, but has been refurbished and converted into a boutique hotel.
Next, you will be joined by a local botanist who will take you on a trip around the lush Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens – the largest botanical gardens in Sri Lanka and one of the best in Asia.
The climate in Kandy is similar to that of the Mediterranean, making it perfect for vegetation. The gardens sit 460 metres above sea level, mostly surrounded by the loop of the River Mahaweli (Great Sandy River), which is Sri Lanka’s largest river. During the Second World War, the gardens were also used as a headquarters for allied forces in the Pacific.
Another must-see sight in UNESCO World Heritage city Kandy is the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa), a Buddhist temple inside the Royal Palace complex which houses a relic of the tooth of Buddha. It is believed that whomever holds the tooth of Buddha holds the keys to the kingdom.
Take a scenic three-hour train ride through tea plantations to arrive in Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. You’ll stay at Mandira Dickoya, comfortable accommodation set in a tea plantation in the southwest of the country. The bungalow interiors include fireplaces and antiques, while the exteriors include colourful gardens and views out to the verdant greens of the tea hills.
Have you ever wondered where your cup of tea comes from? At Tea Experience, you can walk among the lush tea gardens, dress up as traditional tea plucker and field worker, as well as learn about how the leaves are processed at a Ceylon tea factory.
The next leg on your family tour of Sri Lanka is an exciting adventure to Yala National Park, which takes around six hours to get to.
You will stay at Jetwing Yala, an eco-friendly holiday resort spread across 38 acres of parklands. This luxury accommodation includes 80 Deluxe Rooms and 10 Tented Villas, with nature right on your doorstep. After the long drive to Yala, reward yourself with a relaxing swim in the pool and a meal of authentic local cuisine.
The best times for game drives at Yala National Park are morning and evening, when the animals are out and about. You’ll be riding around 100,000 hectares of scrubland and boulder-strewn parklands; a dramatic and different landscape from the lush jungles and paddy fields you may have experienced in the country so far.
Yala is home to much of Sri Lanka’s wildlife and is also known for having the highest leopard density in the world. Look out for “big game” such as elephants, deer and wild boar, as well as a wide variety of bird species including wild peacocks.
The next stop is the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle. You’ll drive along Sri Lanka’s southern coastline to arrive at your accommodation in the heart of Galle Fort. Fort Printers is a boutique hotel of 13 rooms, spread across three adjoining colonial villas, with heritage architecture and contemporary furnishings.
The original Fort Printers property was once home to a school and the Bank of Ceylon, as well as the printing press that gave the building its name. The hotel property has since expanded to add two more wings in adjoining Dutch period villas, but some of the buildings’ historical artefacts are still on display. Today, Fort Printers also features a restaurant and a swimming pool.
In the evening, take a stroll around the Galle Fort with a local resident guide, who will explain the rich history of the fort, guide you through the architectural and archaeological sites, and amuse you with stories and tales from days gone by.
Many visitors come to Sri Lanka with low expectations of the local food, especially as the island’s cuisine has been much overshadowed by its larger neighbours. However, many also leave pleasantly surprised by the diversity and delicious tastes of Sri Lankan cuisine.
The best way to appreciate a local culture is through its food, so you will take part in a hands-on cooking demonstration at a local village close to Galle. Sri Lanka’s most iconic dish, rice and curry, may sound simple, but the variations are limitless and the execution is more complex than you might think.
Start with a visit to a local market to see the array of tropical fruits and vegetables on offer, some of which you may be unfamiliar with, such as lotus root or banana blossom. Then, you’ll move to a traditional wattle and daub hut for an authentic culinary experience; sautéing vegetables in spices, boiling coconut milk, caramelising and grating raw coconut. This will be a true feast for all your senses.
In the evening, you’ll take part in traditional mask carving with your hosts. Masks have been used as part of village rituals in Sri Lankan for centuries, keeping ancient beliefs alive. Today, the masks are used in drama and dance performances, but in the past were believed to have protective and healing powers.
Next, it’s an hour and a half to reach the beautiful beaches of Bentota and the Club Villa property where you’ll be staying.
Set in a coconut grove, Club Villa was originally designed by Geoffrey Bawa, a local Sri Lankan architect, and uses original Bawa architectural features such as courtyards, verandahs, ponds, waterways and clay-tiled roofs.
There’s even a wooden staircase taken from a 19th century southern villa. This 17-bedroom retreat is beloved by loyal clientele who return time and time again for its high standards of service and excellent food.
Spend your final full day in Sri Lanka enjoying Bentota at your leisure. Relax at the beach or ask our luxury travel specialists about any activities or special interests you may have.
According to the time of your flight, you’ll check out of your hotel and take a two-hour transfer to the airport. As your family prepares to leave Sri Lanka, we hope you’ll be filled with happy memories and entertaining stories, which you will look back on in the years to come.