A Cultural Odyssey on a Tropical Isle


The teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka in the blue Indian Ocean brims with delights, from rainforests where elephants roam to emerald-green tea estates and 2,000-year-old royal cities. On our grand adventure, we visit Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s atmospheric medieval capital, hike up the stone steps of the 5th century fortress of King Kashyapa at Sigiriya, and watch a private demonstration of Sri Lanka’s traditional martial arts. We’ll also explore the cool, verdant mountain country where British tea estates once held sway, sample a cuisine flavored with curry and coriander, meet tea planters and orange-robed monks, and look for wildlife in tropical Yala National Park, with its wild elephant herds and fabulous birdlife.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-5
Colombo / Anuradhapura / Polonnaruwa / Sigiriya

The royal cities of ancient Sri Lanka fill our days as we explore three World Heritage Sites: the Buddhist gardens of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s capital for 1,300 years, 10th century Polonnaruwa, with its graceful pagodas, and King Kashyapa’s impressive citadel at Sigiriya. At a local martial arts school, we’ll watch students perform angampora, the ancient Sri Lankan fighting art.

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Days 6-10
Dambulla / Kandy / Nuwara Eliya / Ella

We climb up to the great cave-temple complex at Dambulla, enjoy a private lunch in the home of a local professor and art collector, and head up to tea country. In Kandy, the hill capital and last stronghold of the Sinhala kings, we visit the famous 16th century Temple of the Tooth, and from our heritage hotel above colonial Nuwara Eliya, walk through tea plantations and learn the fine art of “tasting” tea. A rail journey brings us to the peaceful town of Ella, where we enjoy a village bike ride and a lesson in preparing Sri Lankan cuisine.

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Days 11-13
Yala National Park / Galle

Yala is home to fabulous bird life, troops of monkeys chattering in the trees, and herds of wild elephant. After walking the ramparts of the historic seaside trading post of Galle, founded as a Dutch fort, we depart on Day 13 via Colombo.

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Enjoy lunch in a local home, ride bikes in the village of Ella
Explore Anuradhapura, where Buddhist shrines date to the 3rd century BC, colonial Nuwara Eliya, and the Buddhist cave temples of Dambulla
Charming accommodations, from seaside hotels to a resort overlooking the rock fortress of Sigiriya
Meet monks, tea planters, artists, and students, and learn about Sri Lanka’s ancient traditions


Length: 13 days
Cost From: $6795  
Arrive: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Depart: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Lodging: 12 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

A mix of easy to moderate walks and hikes, cultural explorations