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Sri Lanka – A Passage to the Indian Ocean

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Join us on this culinary journey to an exotic land which permeates spirituality and adventure, Sri Lanka. For generations of travellers, Sri Lanka has conjured up often dreamlike images. During this tour, you will realize why Sri Lanka is so irresistible as you encounter timeless ruins, friendly locals, epic train rides, famous tea, and mouth-watering cuisine. Few countries can boast as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites (eight) as Sri Lanka does – all packed into a small area. Impressive ancient sites are plentiful and depict Sri Lanka’s 2000-plus years of culture on cave walls, in temples, and even in its trees.

Tour Highlights

Sampling delicious Sri Lankan cuisine and regional delights
Feeling like a local while enjoying the spectacular views from the train
Exploring the incredible UNESCO World Heritage site of Sigiriya
Learning about tea harvesting from seed to cup
Shopping and wandering the streets of Galle
Soaking-in the astonishing beauty of Sri Lankan countryside
Beautiful wildlife

Description

Day 1 Feb 18th: Arrival Colombo, Sri Lanka 

Ayubowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka! Meet your private national guide and get transferred to your hotel.

Sri Lanka is home to cuisine and food scene that has been nurtured and carefully brought to levels unmatched with the exposure to cataclysmic conquests, cunning colonialists, cultures anew where such diverse culinary delights stand witness, as per Douglas Bullis and Wendy Hutton in their book, the ‘Food of Sri Lanka”, in the Arab Biriyani (Yellow rice with meat and nuts), Malay Nasi Kuning (Turmeric Rice), Portuguese Bolo D’Amor (Love Cakes), Dutch Breuders (Dough Cakes) and Lampreis (Savory Rice and Meat Packets). You may feel similarities and even come to a conclusion that Sri Lankan cuisine is similar to Indian regional cuisine but it is not, let the taste show you the truth and the way.

OPTIONAL: In the evening, when the sun is ready to retire, meet Rashan, a young fellow from the town of Moratuwa where the locals are well known for their love of arrack and music. Rashan is what we can call an insider, he knows the places where locals go for a tipple from the fancy and classy locales to the real dive bars known locally as “dodgy bars”. From the time of its origin to the present, the history of arrack is closely knit with that of Sri Lanka. This gentle liquor that comes from taping the flower of the coconut tree has been drunk from ages from Marco Polo to Magellan’s crew. Arrack is aromatic but it does have a kick, so take it easy enjoy his selection, as they are a profile of Sri Lankan society and embark on a little journey behind the scenes in Colombo. For a moment you might feel like an adventurous TV show host discovering new exciting destinations to shoot, bring an open mind, thirst and let Rashan do the rest. This is truly one of a kind way of looking at Colombo and one thing is certain – fun is guaranteed. Cheers!

Overnight Stay at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo – Landmark Room

Highly recommended: Dinner at the Ministry of Crab where the Crab is King and the kade paan (Local Bread) goes so well with even the most gourmet of Dishes. A brainchild of Dharshan Munidasa in collaboration with two maestros of cricket Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, which was later elevated to the status of one of the 50 best restaurants in Asia. Overnight Stay at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo – Landmark Room

 

Day 2 Feb 19: Colombo – Navam Full Moon Poya
Meals: Breakfast

After Breakfast, proceed to have the day at your leisure. Your tour leader will help you organize your day.

At dusk, we head out on a leisurely walk with Rashan where he will take you through the Galle Face Green and to the inner roads of Slave Island. Come to see it now before it all changes as the Colombo is undergoing modernization and many of its architectural gems will be gone in a couple of years. Our favourite part of the program is walking through the crazy streets of the Slave Island. You will meet a lot of locals here and you can experience how their daily lifestyle is spent. No frills or scripts here, simply local life as it is! Also, Rashan will take you to a street Food “joint” (yeah that’s how it is best described) where you can have a Kottu Rotti, a delicious everyday Sri Lankan meal not to be missed and best enjoyed on the street.

Overnight Stay at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo – Landmark Room

NB: Today is observed as a religious holiday in Sri Lanka so all the Bars/Pubs will be closed and prohibited from selling liquor on this day. But fret not as you can enjoy a little tipple at the privacy of your room from your minibar (It’s called Il Poya in Sinhalese as it commemorates a number of important historical events in the history of Buddhism).

Overnight Stay at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo – Landmark Room

Day 3 Feb 20: Colombo – Ritigala (Approx. 5 ½ hrs) – Sigiriya (Approx. 45 minutes)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, proceed to Ritigala and visit the Ritigala Monastery, a little-known place where serenity and adventure reside, side by side.

Think Indiana Jones, well that is a bit exaggerated but Ritigala in a way has that feel of an undiscovered world away from the most famous sights in Sri Lanka. Make sure you take time to explore in depth and walk all the way to the higher part of the complex. The archeological site bears a certain mysterious nature owing to the long meditational pathways that open into the thick jungle and large stone-lined reservoirs. Take time to sit down and connect with nature in this pristine meditation grounds.

Upon completion, proceed to Amaara Forest, your accommodation for the next two nights.
It’s all about Hoppers tonight where the chef will show you how this simple yet highly coveted dish called Hoppers, all from small-scale boutiques to high-end celebrity endorsed places like “Kaema Sutra” serve with different touches, different recipes but the appeal remains the same. Same goes for String hoppers as its popularity has it immortalized in song by the famous Sri Lankan band “Gypsies”.

Overnight Stay at Amaara Forest, Sigiriya – Deluxe Room

 

Thur 21 Day 4: Sigiriya (Approx. 30 minutes)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After Breakfast, proceed to visit one of the marvels of the ancient world, the Sigiriya Citadel.

Sigiriya, the marvellous rock fortress also known as Lion Rock is a rare jewel among the many treasures in Sri Lanka. The site was the domain of King Kashyapa whose aim was to build an impregnable fortress and within it, a heavenly abode. Rising over the dry plains of the Sigiriya district, the tough climb of 1200 footsteps up this flat-topped monodon ends with the most scenic bird’s-eye view of the emerald plains and leafy villages beneath. The skeletal layout of the ancient city within the fortress marvels its observers with the grandeur and complexity of 5th-century urban-planning of Sri Lanka.

Tip: Suggest you reach here early around 7 am in order to avoid the large crowds of tourists who come in later as well as the heat of the day. It makes the climb easier with the pleasant climate and this is the best time for photographs.

Upon completion, proceed to a local restaurant to have a lunch that captures the true essence of village cuisine. Lakmal, the proprietor of this establishment finds joy in feeding and his greatest accomplishment lies in that satisfied smile of his clients. Renowned for his rice and curry for miles over, this is the to go place to sample a true Sri Lankan Lunch, close to the heart. Here we will be looking at the preparation of a side dish that is so Sri Lankan and so unique, it is what Apple Pie to the Americans, what Poutine is to Canadian. So simple in preparation but gargantuan in taste, the Coconut Sambol or by the Sri Lankan name, “Pol Sambole” can be eaten with rice, bread and if you are creative with any main dish. Its versatility and straightforwardness is unmatched and never outgunned. You will also get to involve in making this relish and let me tell you, scraping the coconut and beating it with the mortar can be fun as it gets.

Tonight, a specialized Sri Lankan themed Dinner will be arranged at the Forest Restaurant along with a special twist. You will get to see and get to help on one signature local dish, which is the Baby Jack Fruit Curry or “Polos Maaluwa” which in some places in the country is an ascertaining factor of the culinary prowess of local women. You will do a double take when you taste it because it tastes like soft, succulent meat but it isn’t. In rural areas it is used as a substitute for meat and the mouthwatering feel of it never gets old.

Also, you will be a given a sampling of toddy, the sugary concentrate collected from the Coconut/Betel or the Treacle Palm that is used to brew the Arrack that the Sri Lankans love to have for a tipple. It will be a bit sour but it is easy on the body. Plus it is said in local lore to aid digestion after a meal (Handle carefully because you may not know when you feel tipsy because it is that smooth).

Overnight Stay at Amaara Forest, Sigiriya – Deluxe Room

 

Fri 22 Day 5: Sigiriya – Matale (Approx. 1 ½ hrs) – Kandy (Approx. 1 ½ hrs)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, proceed to Kandy and on the way stop over at Matale for a mouthwatering lunch along with a visit to a Batik Workshop where local women do their magic with some colouring and wax!

Ena’s home where the Batik is made is on the hills of Aluwihare where her ancestors lived for generations, hidden amidst a garden full of flowers and trees. A variety of wild flora grows among splashes of bright pink bougainvillea, orange anthurium and bunches of beautiful white flowers. Also when it comes to the meal and when we say ‘mouthwatering lunch’ we mean it literally because there are more than 15 curries for you to choose from – each curry burst with flavour due to the spices such as clove and cardamom that are used in their preparation!

Thereafter, proceed to Kandy – the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings.

Kandy belongs to the fabric of legends. While Sri Lanka was under the Portuguese and Dutch rule the Kings of Kandy remained defiant and independent. It was much later during the British rule that Kandy finally fell to the biggest Empire in the world.

Today Kandy is a big city that still retains touches of its colonial history in buildings such as the Queen’s hotel a beautiful 19th-century neoclassical beauty. Wander around the lake and the streets of Kandy getting a feel for this wonderful city and exploring the local markets.

Later visit the temple of the Tooth, which is no doubt the city’s biggest pride. As Bella Woolf described in her 1927 guide How to see Ceylon.

“The courtyard is crammed with worshippers of all ages, bearing offerings in their hands, leaves of young coconut, scent, flowers and fruits. As the door opens, they surge up in the dark and narrow stairway to the silver and ivory doors behind which lies the tooth.

The doors are opened and a flood of hot heavy scented air pours out. The golden karandua or outer casket of the tooth stands revealed dimly behind gilded bars. In the weird uncertain light of candles in golden candelabra, the yellow-robed priests move to and fro. The tooth is enclosed in five karanduas and slowly and solemnly each is removed in turn, some of them are encrusted with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. At last the great moment approaches; the last karandua is removed – in folds of red silk lies the wondrous relic – the center point of faith”.

After the temple visit, proceed to a place that withstood the test of time and a standing symbol of the colonial past, the Royal Bar in Kandy.

Fusion Dinner will be arranged at the Empire Café, a chic new establishment in the heart of Kandy which taking the local elements of the culinary scene and transforming them into something quite unique with names that ring up closely with Sri Lankan identity such as Wrap – “The Lankan”, Salad – “Kandy King”, Savourite – “Perehara Stack” to be finished off with the Coconut & Banana & Treacle Extravaganza.

Overnight Stay at Ozo Kandy – Sleep Room

 

Day 6 Feb 23: Kandy – Nanu Oya (Approx. 3 ½ hrs) – Kandapola (Approx. 01 hour)
Meals: Breakfast

After a relaxed breakfast, proceed to the Station to board the train to Nanu Oya. A train ride unlike any other with its fair share of mist-veiled mountains, lush tea estates and colonial era man-made tunnels.

It’s also a fabulous way to see Sri Lanka’s hill villages and gain an insight into the daily lives of the local people. The chauffeur guide will pick you up with the luggage at the Ella Railway Station. It’s a hassle-free process.

Upon completion, proceed to Nuwara Eliya for your tea country experience.

Dubbed the ‘Little England of Sri Lanka’, Nuwara Eliya is located in the thick, misty hills of this paradise isle. It is one of the few areas where the colonial atmosphere is preserved, still resembling a British countryside complete with rose gardens, hedges and red-roofed bungalows. During British rule in Sri Lanka the highland town become a refuge for families of the elite escaping the baking temperatures of the capital, it also offered a sugary version of “home” complete with a horse race track, a golf course, a Victoria park, botanical gardens and an eclectic mix of Neo-Tudor building and even Scottish bungalows.

Much has changed since the heydays of the town in the 20’s and 30’s yet the climate is still gorgeous even with a cool drizzle and sometimes fog. Today Nuwara Eliya is a town re-inventing itself. After the civil war and with the advent of tourism colonialism become something to be embraced: at least in terms of a revival for commercial reasons.

Check into your Hotel and spend the rest of the day at your leisure.

Overnight Stay at Jetwing St Andrew’s – Deluxe Room (Non-A/C)

 

Day 7 Feb 24: Kandapola – Ramboda (Approx. 1 ½ hours)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

After a leisurely breakfast, proceed on a tour centring on tea and learn the art of plucking tea with a lady who is a maestro in that regard.

Today you get to learn and experience the harvesting of tea, a brew that is held in very high regard all over the world. Learn how to pluck tea leaves with Tangamma, which will be followed with a delicious Lampreis wrapped in Banana leaf topped off with a very special tea prepared by Tangamma herself to be finished off with a tea tasting intro that will seal the deal of Sri Lankan tea right into your heart.

What to wear or bring: Camera, sunscreen and a cap.

Upon completion, proceed to your hotel for an evening high tea.

The drinking of tea not only became a social event for the upper classes, it altered the time and manner in which they took tea. Afternoon Tea became the bridge between meals because many wouldn’t eat their evening meal until maybe 8 pm. As such, Afternoon Tea became a ‘mini meal’ in itself. Tea Factory revives this tradition with hot cakes and other delicatessen accompanied with the choicest Ceylon tea for an experience overlooking the tea fields and the swaying breeze.

Overnight Stay at Jetwing St. Andrew’s – Deluxe Room (Non-A/C)

 

Day 8 Feb 25: Kandapola – Galle (Approx. 6 ½ hrs)
Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast, bid farewell to the comforts of the tea country and proceed to the Southern Coastal belt and its greatest city, Galle.

Old Galle is a unique example of a preserved 17th-century colonial Fortress. The Galle Fort itself is still a living monument with a bustling community within the great ramparts, massive bastions, pepper pot towers, while narrow streets display its Dutch heritage with beckoning pillared verandas and fretwork facades. Walking around is best so you can peep through frangipani filled courtyards at houses, galleries or shops selling antiques, spices, pictures and hand-woven sarongs.

Tip: The afternoon will be at your leisure. Once you are inside the Fort, take a stroll around the ramifications and the lovely buildings teeming with history. Also, Galle Fort is home to a number of lovely boutiques so if something catches your eye, you can purchase it directly.

Overnight at Fort Bazaar – Bazaar Bedroom

 

Day 9 Feb 26: Galle
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast, discover the forgotten history behind one of the most sought-after things that brought the colonials, conquistadores all the way from Europe, Spices.

Sri Lanka was formerly one of the original Spice Islands and the history of this trade was part of the fabric of the Galle area; a long time before the Portuguese when the great Arabian sailor Ibn-Batuta traded in aromatic cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

Meet spice merchant who is a resident of the Fort who specializes in the ancient spice trade – his curry mix is legendary. He will share his secrets on of how to pound and mix with the correct elements to make his perfect mix. The best part is you get to keep it and take it home so you can re-create the aromatic flavours of Ceylon cuisine from your kitchen.

Upon completion, seek to discover the true faces of Galle with Shanjei.

We travel to seek experiences and to create memories and to learn from the people and places we visit; this sounds simple but can sometimes be difficult if we don’t take time to open our mind and let the destination in. From Muslim gem traders, Portuguese conquistadores, savvy Dutch privateers, and let’s not forget the English imperialists. They all made Galle their home at some point in history. With suave shops, restored colonial mansions and an upcoming foodie scene the city has it’s own unique vibe to it. But how about looking beyond the glitzy magazine articles and boutique hotels and experiencing Galle through its people who happen to be a proud repository of hundreds of years of living history. Taking the time to sample tea with a gentleman who pours a magical cuppa, enjoying a chat with a passionate local amateur historian or buying some samosas from a smiling lad on a bicycle cart, Galle reveals itself in its full depth once you succumb to its warm embrace.

After the walk around the Fort, it is time to eat – walking makes hungry – and what a better way to finish the evening that in the company of friends and with a home cooked meal fit for a king.

Mom Washanti makes some of the tastiest curries in this part of Sri Lanka – we are not exaggerating her food is above anything else you will find in a restaurant, you know when you want to try the real deal in terms of local food – this is it. Dad Sam used to be a cabbie in NY and he has some very cool stories to tell. There is also Mira the Labrador and Pooser the cat. Maybe it is the family atmosphere or the fragrant spices or the casual conversation, by the time you leave the house, you will feel like a new family member!

NB: Since we cherish the experiences we can offer, please note that Mom Washanthi’s is a simple home in its day-to-day setting and nothing fancy and expect what you do expect in a country home setting.

Overnight Stay at Fort Bazaar, Galle – Bazaar Bedroom

 

Day 10 Feb 27: Galle – Miriswatta (Approx. 2 hrs) – Airport (Approx. 1 hrs)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Sadly, it’s time to leave the Isle of Serendipity!

But before that stop by at a local home and enjoy one of our signature programs – Mother’s Curry and Gin Tonics!

When we travel we always try to look for authentic cuisine that is not as simple as many restaurants cater to tourist tastes and they will give you a watered down version of the classics. That is not what we are after we want to find the real flavours of Sri Lanka. Let us show you what real home-cooked Sri Lankan food tastes like – it will be an eye opener a world apart from the dreaded hotel buffet. Memories of childhood and food always lead to mothers and grandmothers, their food always tasted special for the simple reason that it was made with love a powerful ingredient. Tonight prepare to meet your Sri Lankan Mother at her home who will make you a curry crab that will make you cry – of happiness and of spice. And if we pair the fiery curry with some gin tonics to battle the heat you are in for one memorable evening; a trip down memory lane to a faux childhood in Sri Lanka. Just tell us if you have any special dietary requirements and the wonderful Surangi will work her magic with the curries, you can curry basically everything from pineapple to veggies, seafood and meats. One thing is guaranteed it will take your taste buds to the moon and back! (Depending on the departure flight).

Proceed to the airport 3 hours prior to your flight (Standard check out time from the Hotel is 1100 hrs.)

Up, up and away!

OPTION TO EXTEND YOUR STAY – GO ON A WILDLIFE SAFARI OR VISIT ONE OF SRI LANKA’S AMAZING BEACHES

** Travel times, sightseeing, itinerary are subject to change due to reasons beyond our control.

What's Included

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as we travel through the heart of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean!

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