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India | Sri Lanka | Maldive Islands | Nepal | Bhutan | Tibetan Autonomous Region

India is larger than life. It is a hospitable country founded upon a breathtaking matrix of languages, customs and religions ~ a sea of humanity where a thousand behaviors breathe as a single nation. India’s appeal begins in the past and present of Rajasthan’s palaces and royalty, deserts and fortresses, lumbering camels and graceful dancers in colorful saris. For those who seek inner peace, the sacred waters of the Ganges beckon, and pilgrimage to the holy city of Varanasi becomes a quest and a must. Sultry southern India enchants with its swaying palm trees, mysterious temples, and the white-sand beaches of the Indian Ocean. In the midst of all this, the Bengal tiger remains elusive in Ranthambhore National Park. To the north at the foot of the majestic Himalaya, the magic of the “hidden” Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan lies in wait for those who seek her serenity. Next door in Nepal, the search goes on for the fabled Shangri-La, while the world’s tallest mountains never cease to entice and enthrall. Feast your eyes and hearts on the mysterious, charming, complex subcontinent of India. Whether it’s the smile of a child or the power of the Taj Mahal, a journey through India will render you a changed person.

Sri Lanka Explorer


Sri Lanka is one of the most entrancing places on the planet, an enthralling mix of cultures, languages, and religions. European explorers, Arab merchants, and Buddhist pilgrims have all been drawn to its palm-lined shores and have all left their mark. This exploration of the Isle of Serendip weighs in at just about two weeks, making it a fine trip on its own or a tempting addition to any Southeast Asian odyssey. 

Begin in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle where you will explore the World Heritage Sites of the Dambulla Rock Templesa pinnacle of Buddhist art - and the three ancient Sinhalese dynastic wonders:  Sigiriya, Polonaruwa and Anuradhapura - archetypes of lost cities cut out of the jungle. Then head south to storied Kandy, set on a majestic lake encircled by lush green hills and home to the revered Temple of the Tooth Relic. From Kandy climb high into the misty mountains where you will be swept away by the natural beauty and human charms of Tea Country. Finally, descend to the far south to the Dutch colonial port city of Galle, before surrendering yourself to exotic balmy beaches.

Itinerary 

Day 1:  Arrive Colombo, Sri Lanka 
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by our representative and taken to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings. Accomodation: The Wallawwa  

Day 2:  Cultural Triangle
Today you’ll depart for the Cultural Triangle, where you’ll spend the next five days exploring this archaeological wonderland of UNESCO World Heritage sites, comprising the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the rock fortress of Sigiriya, the Dambulla Cave Temples, and the sacred city of Kandy. This is the cradle from which Theravada Buddhism and Sri Lanka’s rich Sinhala culture spread throughout the country.
Accommodation: Vil Uyana

Day 3:  Anuradhapura
Today you’ll visit Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s first capital founded in the 4th century B.C. Over 100 Sinhalese kings ruled here for more than 1,000 years. This ancient civilization is credited with inventing one of the earliest and most advanced irrigation systems in the world (a set of channels and reservoirs locally known as “tanks”), enabling their society to flourish amidst the harsh aridity of their land. Set in rolling parklands, Anuradhapura is a complex of many fascinating monuments, including Ruwanweliseya (2nd century B.C.), the most famous of all the stupas due to its perfect “bubble shape,” and Jetavanaramaya (2nd century B.C.), the largest stupa in the world and the highest brick building ever built. Accommodation: Vil Uyana

Day 4:  Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa
Today you’ll depart your hotel to climb one of the most astonishing sites in Sri Lanka: the 5th century Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a massive monolith of red stone rising 600 feet from the green scrub jungle below. Fifteen centuries ago, this rock was the innermost stronghold of the 70-hectare fortified town and was crowned by the palace of the mad genius King Kasyapa. Though the palace no longer exists, the paws of the great lion - which guarded the entrance to the summit - are still intact, and a moat, rampart, and extensive gardens, including the renowned water gardens, ring the base of the rock. The world-renowned frescoes of the “Heavenly Maidens” of Sigiriya, can be seen in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway. These frescoes are painted in earth pigments on plaster. 

Continue on to Polonnaruwa, where you’ll spend the afternoon exploring the second capital city of Sri Lanka. Its Hindu and Buddhist archaeological treasures are awe-inspiring and exceedingly well preserved. Polonnaruwa is also where tank building reached its zenith, and many of these impressive irrigation systems are still in use today. First, you’ll visit the museum and then continue by road to the ruins of the Royal Palace - the Gal Vihara - where you'll see four splendid rock statues of the Buddha. In addition, you’ll visit the Audience Hall, the Lotus Bath, King Parakramabahu’s statue, and the Parakrama Samudraya Lake, built by King Parakramabahu. Accommodation: Vil Uyana

Days 5-6:  Kandy and the Dambulla Caves
Today you’ll drive to the Dambulla Cave Temple. Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the most impressive of Sri Lanka’s cave temples. The cave complex houses more than 2,000 square meters of painted walls and ceilings and over 150 images of the Buddha. The largest is a colossal figure of the Buddha carved out of rock spanning 14 meters. There are five separate caves, and, for the energetic, a walk to the top (350 feet) offers an expansive view of the surrounding jungle and Sigiriya Rock in the distance. The largest cave - the fourth on the right after the gateway - dates from the 1st-2nd century B.C. The paintings on the ceiling so closely follow the natural folds of the rock that many mistake the surface to be of cloth.

You’ll continue on to Kandy, capital of the venerated 16th-century Kandyan Kings. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings, who fiercely and successfully defended their kingdom against Portuguese and Dutch invaders for 300 years, until it eventually fell to the British in 1815. Despite British rule, Kandy has maintained its position as the Sinhalese cultural epicenter and important spiritual pilgrimage for Buddhists. Many of the legends, traditions, and folklore are still lovingly kept alive here. While in Kandy, you’ll have the chance to explore the most revered Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that they must make at least one spiritual pilgrimage here during their lifetime. 

Another beautiful stop is the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. The gardens were first built as as a pleasure garden by a Sinhala King and were later expanded by the British. Today, the 147-acre gardens are home to an amazing variety of trees, plants, and flowers. Early evening is the ideal time to take a stroll around Kandy Lake. Shady trees, wide boulevards, and a decorative wall called ”walakulu” (cloud wall) encircle the lake. Your walk will eventually lead to the Kandy Cultural Center, where you’ll witness a traditional Kandyan dance performance. Accommodation: The Kandy House

Days 7-8:  Tea Country 
Today you’ll depart early for the train bound for hill country. The three-hour ride to Hatton is filled with the most dramatic and enchanting scenery in Sri Lanka, climbing its way through bright green hills blanketed in tea, lush valleys, misty mountains, and rushing waterfalls. You’ll also catch your first glimpse of the 7,360-foot Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka’s most holy mountain and spiritual pilgrimage for Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians alike. You’ll begin to feel the distinct and pleasurable change in temperature as you slowly ascend toward your final destination. Nestled into the heart of tea country, you’ll find the classic colonial bungalows of Ceylon Tea Trails. These secluded bungalows were home to the British tea estate managers. They are meticulously restored and elegantly appointed, set amidst colorful gardens and stone pathways. Upon arrival, you’ll be welcomed with high tea and homemade scones on the veranda, where you can relax and look out upon magnificent views. 

Your home for the next two nights serves as an ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. You may choose to trek through the endless maze of tea trails, watching the plantations come to life: pickers diligently at work filling their large wooden baskets full of bright green tea leaves, children holding hands on their way to school, devotees praying at the small Hindu temples that dot the landscape. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit a working tea factory to observe the entire manufacturing process and taste the final product. In the evenings, you’ll be treated to delectable feasts of Sri Lankan and British-inspired cuisine, followed by a glass of port by a roaring fire. Accommodation: Ceylon Tea Trails

Days 9-10:  Galle
Today you’ll wind your way through the tea plantations, which gradually give way to tropical jungle, and eventually to the sparkling palm-fringed coastline of the Indian Ocean. Then you’ll arrive at the colonial fort town of Galle, situated at the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. As you pass through the imposing fort gates, you are instantly transported to the erstwhile colonial era. Galle is the country's oldest living city and has a unique fusion of European and Arabic cultural and architectural influences.

Galle rose to prominence as a port of call for Chinese, Persian, Arab, and Indian traders, later followed by Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonialists, all leaving their indelible mark on this enchanting seaside town. You’ll spend your time leisurely exploring within the crumbling fort walls of the Old City. The 16th-century Galle Fort is a World Heritage site. Spanning more than 90 acres, it is Asia’s best-preserved and largest surviving fort built by European occupiers.

The best way to soak up the charm of the Old City is by taking a stroll around the thick granite walls of the fort. This one-hour circuit is most enjoyable at sunrise and sunset as the air is cool and the light is long and low. The real allure of the Old City is found in simply wandering through its warren of narrow alleys and side streets, replete with colonial homes with original archways and verandas, 18th-century churches, mosques, museums, and impressive art galleries. Accommodation: Amangalla

Day 11:  Colombo
Today you’ll embark on the final stretch of your journey along the spectacular coast, arriving in the nation’s capital, where you’ll set off to explore some of the highlights of the city. Colombo, like many capital cities in developing countries, is fast-changing its face - skyscrapers replace old buildings almost overnight. Still, the old-world charm is retained in many parts of the city. You’ll drive through the commercial area of the “Fort,” so named because both the Portuguese and Dutch had forts here. You may also visit the Pettah, a noisy bazaar with a hodgepodge of humanity, ancient vehicles, bargains, mosques, and temples. 

Time permitting, you may also visit Wolvendaal Dutch Church, Independence Square, and Gangaramaya Temple. This evening, you can dine out at any number of fantastic restaurants in Colombo, ranging from traditional Sri Lankan establishments to trendy Asian fusion cafes.
Accommodation: Tintagel Hotel

Day 12:  Depart Sri Lanka 
Today, transfer to the airport in time to catch your international flight home, OR extend your visit by spending a few glorious days at one of Sri Lanka's exotic seaside resorts. 

 

Courtesy of and in collaboration/Edwin d'Haens/GeoEx - Geographic Expeditions Inc. 

 

 


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