Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Sri Lanka is a world apart, a deeply spiritual place where Buddhist values and a rich cultural heritage are interwoven with enduring colonial influences. On this extraordinary journey, we peel back the layers of the beguiling island nation.

Journey Overview

Sri Lanka is a world apart, a deeply spiritual place where Buddhist values and a rich cultural heritage are interwoven with enduring colonial influences. On this extraordinary journey, we peel back the layers of the beguiling island nation, and uncover its many treasures: a serene and gentle people, fragrant and flavoursome cuisine, fascinating ruins, and diverse terrain — from golden beaches and arid plains, to lush tea plantations and mist-covered mountains — everything suffused with a warm tropical glow, as will you be on your return from this exquisite destination.

Journey Highlights 

  • Explore World Heritage sites in the Cultural Triangle and climb the Sigiriya rock fortress 
  • Sit down to dinner with Oxford-educated Sri Lankan architect, historian and critic, Dr. Shanti Jayewardene 
  • Join the pilgrims for a nightly prayer ritual at the Sacred Temple of the Tooth, and enjoy VIP entry to the inner Shrine Room 
  • Admire the floral beauty of Kandy Botanical Gardens accompanied by acclaimed Botanist Bandara Palipana 
  • Seek out elephants and endemic wildlife at Minneriya National Park 
  • Meander through Galle Fort with an archaeologist 
  • Stay in a number of specially selected boutique accommodations 
  • Learn the secrets of Ceylonese tea in the plantations of Sri Lanka’s famous tea country 
  • Typically features a small group size of 10–12 guests
Itinerary

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Colombo

Welcome to Sri Lanka, arriving in the charismatic capital of Colombo to a warm A&K welcome and a transfer to your hotel. 

Cosmopolitan Colombo, gateway to the wonders of Sri Lanka, boasts a rich colonial heritage, featuring a melting pot of religions and cultures.  A city of contrasts, it's an eclectic mix of shiny hotels and modern office blocks, neighbouring beautiful red-tiled colonial-era buildings. Bustling street markets brim with fragrant spices, colourful silks, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Discover Colombo's varied history with churches, mosques and temples abound, and delve into iconic sites including Fort Station, the Red Mosque, and the Khan clock tower. 

Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure to explore this charismatic city.
Galle Face Hotel

Day 2: Colombo | Seaside Colonial City

This morning, meet with your Resident Tour Director and fellow travellers for a briefing before exploring the island's capital like a local - by tuk tuk. Weave your way through the city's bustling bazaars and markets, past landmark monuments and newly restored buildings to Galle Face Green for breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. 

Take some time to relax back at the hotel before meeting Mark Forbes, Colombo local, passionate photographer, and your guide on a captivating walk through the old town, bringing the city's multifaceted history to life. See the 17th century Dutch Hospital, Colombo Fort and charming colonial mansions, before finishing your tour at a speakeasy for arrack-themed (a traditional Sri-Lankan spirit) cocktails. 

Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner at Culinary Ceylon, and be introduced to Sri Lankan home cooking through a series of tasting plates.
Galle Face Hotel | Meals: BD

Day 3: Colombo | Tropical Modernism

Before leaving the capital, journey to admire the No.11 Bawa Residence, designed and built by the famed architect Geoffrey Bawa during the 1960s, from four smaller bungalows that Bawa bought and combined over a period of years. 

Continue your journey to the Cultural Triangle in the centre of the country, where ancient World Heritage sites abound and your resort-style boutique hotel awaits with its stunning views of the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya. 

Settle into your resort before enjoying dinner at the restaurant with special guest Dr. Shanti Jayewardene, Oxford educated Sri Lankan architect and historian. She will provide an incredible insight into Sri Lanka’s anthropology, aesthetics, architecture, history and politics in an accessible and insightful way.
Ulagalla Resort | Meals: BD

Day 4: Cultural Triangle | Design Your Day

Enjoy a healthy start to the day as you visit the organic garden to pick fresh produce for use in a cooking demonstration at the resort's traditional hearth kitchen. Watch as your fresh herbs and vegetables are transformed into Sri Lankan delicacies which you'll savour over lunch.

This afternoon, you may choose to partake in one of these Design Your Day activities:

  • Travel like a local on a village tuk tuk experience.
    Explore this colonial hub in the quintessentially Sri Lankan tuk tuk. Enjoy an afternoon discovering the best the city has to offer, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and day-to-day goings on of this incredible place.
  • Take to the waters of the Wannemaduwa Tank in a kayak.
    Experience the wildlife of the forest up close as you paddle quietly with your expert guide through Wannemaduwa Tank. As the sun goes down, gaze in awe as the soft light of the setting sun turns the air to honey and touches the dragonflies' wings with gold.
  • Learn how to craft and fly a classic Sri Lankan kite.
    Under the guidance of a local, learn how to craft, launch and fly a bamboo and paper kite of classic Sri Lankan design, taking to the skies to test your finished product.

Tonight, enjoy a delicious dinner at your leisure.
Ulagalla Resort | Meals: BLD

Day 5: Cultural Triangle | Cradle of Buddhism

Discover a world of ancient ruins today in the Cultural Triangle. Start at Anuradhapura, the country's first ancient capital which dates from the 5th century BC. Marvel at giant stupas (Sanskrit for 'heap', containing relics and typically places for meditation), a vast statue of Buddha and receive a blessing near the sacred Bodhi tree, the oldest recorded, planted in 236BC. 

After lunch, climb up to the spot where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka - the summit of Mihintale - and admire the religious monuments and spectacular views. 

Return to the hotel and spend the rest of the time at leisure, before enjoying a special barbecue dinner by the pool at the hotel. 
Ulagalla Resort | Meals: BLD

Day 6: Cultural Triangle | Ancient Temples & Forts

Delve further into the Cultural Triangle at World Heritage listed Polonnaruwa, an interesting blend of Buddhist and Hindu archaeological monuments. Discover the famous Gal Viharaya or 'Rock Temple', which comprises four colossal statues of Buddha cut into the stone. 

This afternoon, visit Minneriya National Park, for a chance to see elephants and, if you're lucky, the purple-faced langur and toque macaque endemic to Sri Lanka. 

Following your wildlife explorations, travel to your hotel and settle in with a group dinner at the in-house restaurant. 
Water Garden Sigiriya | Meals: BLD

Day 7: Sigiriya | Ruined Fortified City

Rise early for an exhilarating hot air balloon ride over the surrounding landscape, glimpsing Sigiriya from above (additional cost, paid locally). Then challenge yourself with a steep climb 200 metres up through the Lion Gate to the top of the imposing rock fortress, admiring the water gardens, moats and ancient frescoes on the way. Soak up the unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes before returning to the hotel for some time at leisure. 

This afternoon, pay a visit to a farmer's house in Sigiriya and immerse yourself in the day to day lifestyle and farming traditions, including an exploration of his organic garden. Enjoy a home cooked Sri Lankan lunch from your host, indulging in delicious traditional fare and savouring the locally grown ingredients.
Water Garden Sigiriya | Meals: BLD

Day 8: Dambulla | Buddhist Cave Temples

Begin early to visit the extraordinary World Heritage listed Buddhist cave temples at Dambulla. 

Dating back to the first century, Dambulla is a vast cave complex, converted into a rock temple regarded as one of the most important Buddhist monasteries. Decorating the rock ceiling is the largest collection of paintings in Sri Lanka within a cave temple, and you will see the highest concentration of Buddha statues found in one place. 

Travel south to Kandy, the country's cultural capital, with sundowners and a traditional Kandyan cultural performance awaiting you at your hotel. Embrace the opportunity to meet the dancers after the show, followed by dinner.
Jetwing Kandy Gallery | Meals: BD

Day 9: Kandy | Temple of the Tooth

Start your day with floral discovery, joining well-known botanist Bandara Palipana at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for a guided walk through the extraordinary collection. Discover over 4,000 plant species, including a priceless collection of 300 varieties of orchids. 

Relax for the remainder of the day with freedom to explore at your own pace, before a pooja ceremony (a traditional prayer ritual) this evening at the sacred Temple of the Tooth, the city's most famous landmark which houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Amid scents of lotus and jasmine, join monks and pilgrims who gather to make offerings to the Buddha. Enjoy VIP entry to the inner ‘Shrine Room’ where the sacred tooth relic of buddha is kept.
Jetwing Kandy Gallery | Meals: B

Day 10: Nuwara Eliya | The World of Ceylon Tea

Today, travel through the misty highlands, on a scenic journey past lush green tea estates and breathtaking waterfalls. 

Lunch in Nuwara Eliya before an afternoon 'Tea Experience'. Visit tea plantations and a factory to learn from an expert about the traditional 'two leaves and a bud', the journey from planting and plucking, to manufacturing, grading and processing, the auction system, and finally a tasting. 

Continue your journey to Kandapola, and this evening indulge in a delicious tea-themed dinner at your luxurious hotel, a converted tea factory.
Heritance Tea Factory | Meals: BLD

Day 11: Nuwara Eliya | Design Your Day

Today, choose your own adventure with Design Your Day activities: 

  • Admire endemic wildlife and breathtaking mountain views on a trek in Horton Plains National Park. 
    Horton Plains National Park is often shrouded in mist, ground frost and low-lying cloud. The only national park in the central highlands, the plains host many species of plant, endemic birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies. Keep an eye out for the endemic sambar deer and purple-faced langur. Trickling streams lead you to the picturesque Baker Falls and Slab Rock Falls, and you can drink in the breathtaking views from World's End.
  • Take a scenic train ride through the heart of tea country. 
    All aboard the breathtakingly scenic train ride to the hill station of Ella. This journey is considered one of the most beautiful railway journeys through the highlands of Sri Lanka. As you roll past the emerald tea estates that blanket the mountains, indulge in the unmistakable aroma of pure Ceylon tea. This hill country train ride usually takes around two and half hours.
  • Ramble through the tea fields on a plantation tour. 
    Take a two hour tour led by a knowledgeable plantation guide to explore the rolling green wonders of the tea plantations surrounding your hotel. Gain an in-depth understanding of how tea is grown, plucked and the process from 'two leaves and a bud' to a cup of classic Ceylon tea.

Between activities, the day is yours to enjoy at your leisure, exploring the expansive wonders of your luxurious accommodation.
Heritance Tea Factory | Meals: BD

Day 12: Galle | Colonial Walled City

Journey south to the seaside city of Galle, enjoying a packed lunch on your journey. Arrive in time to savour a spectacular sunset at the ramparts of the heritage listed Galle Fort. The central gem of the old port city, Galle Fort was founded by Portuguese colonists in the 16th century. Stone sea walls encircle car-free streets, with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, and many grand mansions and museums to discover. 

This evening, be treated to a night of welcoming Sri Lankan hospitality, visiting a local family and savouring delicious homecooked Sri Lankan cuisine before retiring to your hotel for the night.
Le Grand | Meals: BLD

Day 13: Galle | Craft & Heritage Walk

Today, join a local archaeologist and heritage expert Tharanga on an absorbing walking tour of the Galle Fort. Built by the Dutch in 1663, the fort is the largest remaining European fortress in Asia. Explore from the Old Dutch Church to the 'old gate' bearing the British coat of arms, the Zwart bastion and lighthouse. 

Later, savour tea and traditional refreshments on a visit to a local family before exploring the cobbled streets, seeking out local arts and crafts, textiles, jewellery, homewares and Sri Lankan delicacies. 

In the afternoon meet traditional mask makers and admire the skill of their carving before trying your hand at this age-old craft. Often resembling popular characters from Sri Lankan folklore, the usage of masks is fast diminishing and they are now typically a collector's item used mainly for decorative purposes. 

This evening, join your fellow travellers at your hotel and savour a Sri Lankan fusion style farewell dinner.
Le Grand | Meals: BD

Day 14: Depart Colombo

Transfer to Colombo for your departure flight.
Meals: B

Journey Details

Maximum Group Size: 18

Departures are guaranteed to operate with a minimum of 2 guests.

Tour Inclusions

  • All accommodation as detailed with private facilities
  • Meals as specified in itinerary, including welcome and farewell dinners
  • Internal flights as mentioned in itinerary
  • Services of English speaking A&K Resident Tour Director
  • Airport welcome
  • Porterage
  • Group transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle
  • Bottled water during transfers and touring
  • Wine & beer during lunches and dinners (selected by Resident Tour Director)
  • All entrance fees
  • Planning, handling, operational and communication charges
  • All tipping

Tour Exclusions

  • International flights to the tour start point and from the tour end point
  • Visas and other border fees
  • Insurance coverage of personal loss, injury, illness or damages incurred during your trip
  • Items of a purely personal nature such as drinks (unless specified), laundry, dry cleaning, internet, fax or phone charges
  • Transfers, sightseeing or meals not specified in itinerary
  • Excess baggage charges

Tailor Made Travel with A&K
If scheduled departure dates don’t work for you, or you would prefer to travel privately, talk to your A&K travel specialist or your travel agent about creating the perfect bespoke journey for your, or a small group.

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Accommodation/Partners

Accommodation/Partners

Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

An iconic landmark hotel Galle Face Hotel is located on the seafront in the heart of Colombo. One of the oldest hotels east of the Suez ... Read more

Ulagalla Resort

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Set within 58 acres of private grounds, Ulagalla Resort promises tranquillity, luxury and wilderness within easy reach of the many a ... Read more

Water Garden Sigiriya

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Surrounded by lakes, water streams and abundant flora sits Water Garden Sigiriya. This luxury hotel is situated 6 km away from the 2,000- ... Read more

Jetwing Kandy Gallery

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Positioned overlooking the Mahaweli River, the Jetwing Kandy Gallery welcomes you to the defiant stronghold of Sri Lankan kings. Away fro ... Read more

Heritance Tea Factory, Hill Country

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Heritance Tea Factory is located high on a hill 2 kms above sea level and has 360 degree dramatic views of the tea plantations and surrou ... Read more

Le Grand Galle

Sri Lanka: Secrets of the Spice Island - A Limited Edition Small Group Journey (2021/22)

Situated on a private promontory overlooking the Galle Fort, an iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the breathtaking Indian Ocean lies ... Read more

Dates & Prices

Journey Dates & Prices

Prices are per person, based on double occupancy

Apr 15, 2021 - Apr 28, 2021
Price AU$11,230pp Single Supplement AU$3,330 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Sep 22, 2021 - Oct 5, 2021
Price AU$9,995pp Single Supplement AU$2,175 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Oct 15, 2021 - Oct 28, 2021
Price AU$9,995pp Single Supplement AU$2,175 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Nov 10, 2021 - Nov 23, 2021
Price AU$10,815pp Single Supplement AU$2,820 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Jan 12, 2022 - Jan 25, 2022
Price AU$11,975pp Single Supplement AU$3,420 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Feb 10, 2022 - Feb 23, 2022
Price AU$11,975pp Single Supplement AU$3,420 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book
Mar 24, 2022 - Apr 6, 2022
Price AU$11,975pp Single Supplement AU$3,420 Internal Air (From) AU$0 Availability Available Book