We arrive in the afternoon at Colombo's Katunayake Airport and transfer to our hotel at Marawila on the coast approximately an hour north of the airport. Those not flying with the group will join us at the hotel.
Today we drive out to Sigiriya. This town is famous for the impressive 5th century rock fortress, which rises 600 feet from the plains and overlooks the surrounding countryside, giving far reaching magnificent views. The afternoon is free to relax at the hotel, explore the town or enjoy a dip in the pool.
Sigiriya is our base for the next two days, used as a safe haven from invaders, the route to the top is up a series of steep steps and gangways. From the base, where a moat surrounds impressive water gardens, we ascend 200m, passing an overhanging rock under which superb portraits of native maidens holding flowers and temple offerings still adorn the rock wall. Crowning the flattopped summit of the rock are extensive remains of the King's Summer Palace from where there are breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside. The descent however is much easier and will take a lot less time. Please make sure that your children are accompanied at all times as there are some steep drops on this climb. It is of course optional and you may not wish to climb to the top of the fortress itself. In the afternoon we include the opportunity to cycle slowly through local villages and soak up the atmosphere, this is usually a great experience for everyone.
After breakfast we take a short drive to, the 10th century capital of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa. This is an optional activity and if you do not wish to visit this site then the morning is free. At Polonnaruwa there are many Buddhist relics and ruins dating from a thousand years ago when Sinhalese culture reached its zenith. Polonnaruwa flourished in the 12th century after the decision was made to move the capital from Anuradhapura so it was further away from the incursions from southern India. After lunch we spend the afternoon at an elephant camp at Habarana where you and your family can take an elephant ride (included) into the natural surroundings (occasionally this activity is not available during the Perahera festival season - usually part of August). The jungle is great fun and the bird life is fantastic too, though this is usually weather dependent.
Today we visit the magnificent Cave Temple at Dambulla, for some, the most impressive sight in Sri Lanka. There are colourful, and very well preserved, paintings and statues of the Buddha inside the caves, which date back to the 1st century BC. After lunch we stop at a spice garden near Matale where you and your children can see various spices and herbs growing and there is a chance to stock up on massage oils, spices and Ayurvedic medicines. We then drive to Kandy.
Kandy is a picturesque hill town situated on a lake and home to Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic. We begin with a visit to the Temple of the tooth during the ceremony. The Tooth of Buddha, which was taken from the funeral pyre in 543 BC and only found its way to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. There are normally hundreds of worshippers who visit the temple each day and it is open to the public. Then we visit a gem museum where you can see the products of the traditional methods of gem extraction.The rest of the day is free to wander round Kandy, by the lake or take a taxi up to the surrounding hills for wonderful views over the town.There is an optional excursion to the elephant orphanage where you get to see 70 elephants playing in the water for two hours.
Today we make the spectacular drive through tea plantation districts to Nurawa Eliya. This was the favourite hill station during the British era and, situated in the cool highland air at 1890m, has a very British feel to it. Known locally as 'Little England' it is dotted with British style houses, hotels and a racecourse. The area is famous for its high quality tea and we visit a working plantation later in the day. We stay in the hill country overnight at Bandarrawela.
Today we continue on to Ella Gap where we have spectacular views of the coastal plain nearly 1,000m below. Almost the whole of the southern part of the island is in view and on a particularly clear day the shimmering silver of the ocean is visible. At the times of year our trips take place, the weather is normally clear in the mornings, however, as in any mountainous area, bad weather does sometimes occur which will obviously limit the view. We then head south out of the hills to Kataragama down on the plains, this is our base for visiting Yala National Park. After lunch we will drive to the park for a game drive; Yala is best known for its elephants but we may also see deer, monkeys, buffalo and a wide range of bird life. If you are lucky you may also see a leopard as Yala has one of the highest concentrations of leopards in the world (Please note that sometimes the sanctuary is closed for 4-6 weeks from September to October allowing the park authorities to check the animals. We therefore go to an alternative area close by, usually the Udawalawe National Park).
Day 9 - 11
Today we leave for the coast with its beautiful palm fringed bays. On the way we stop at Tangalle and walk through a rice field to a village where you get to try some unusual local delicacies. You will get to see daily life and may even take part in some traditional Sri Lankan sports activities. We then get back to our bus in little tractors used by the farmers. We will have lunch (optional) at a house built by Exodus for Tsunami victims; this may well be one of the best curries of your trip! We will arrive at Ahangama in the afternoon and the rest of your time here is free with a chance to swim, relax on the beach or by the pool and do any one of numerous optional activities that your leader can organise for you.
We set off early today and drive along the coastal road to the historic port of Galle. Dating back to the 17th century and now a world heritage site we have a short visit of the Galle Fort. We then follow the coast for the drive to Colombo, visiting a turtle hatchery on the way. We reach Colombo in the late afternoon and check into our hotel.
We have a relaxed breakfast before those flying on the group flight transfer to the airport for an early afternoon flight. Arrangements for those not flying with the group ends after check out.