DAY 1: Bed and Breakfast
Negombo is a beachside town 20 minutes from Colombo’s international airport. The tour meets for the first night at the Jetwing Blue. It is a gracious, Bawa inspired hotel on the beach. It’s a good place to relax after the flight. With the geography of being between Europe and Asia, many flights arrive in the middle of the night. Guests who wish a more relaxed entry can opt for an extra night at this hotel.
DAY 2, 3: HB, Half Board, breakfast and dinner
Next day we head for the hills, avoiding the punishing Colombo traffic. The Cultural Triangle is about 3 hours northeast of Colombo. It is home for many of the historical architectural sites from SL’s ancient past. On the way, we stop and tour the Giant Buddha Caves. We book into the Jetwing Lake Hotel as it is central all the sites and activities to explore.
It is up early as the best time to climb the incredible Lion Rock is before breakfast. This is must-do activity as the remnants of the 2500-year-old fort atop a column of granite. It needs to be experienced first-hand. Anyone with average fitness can make it to the top, but no problem to take it to your own level.
Then back to the hotel for brunch and resting up around the pool. In the afternoon we board special 4WD vehicles for the Minneriya National Park. The park has an abundance of wildlife, and we are bound to sit beside herds of elephants, see crocodiles and, maybe, a leopard or two. Back to hotel for more abundance at the buffet.
DAY 4: BB
It’s only a few hours’ drive to the original capital of Kandy. On the way, we stop at the Heritance Kandalama. This is one of Geoffrey Bawa’s most admired creations – a hotel built into a granite cliff face and merging with the surrounding jungle.
After checking in to our hotel (hotel TBC), we experience the Temple of the Tooth. The temple houses the original tooth of Gautama Buddha and is greatly revered. After the 6 PM ceremony we do some local dining and night markets.
DAY 5. 6: BB
The car will take us to the nearby train station, and we board the carriage for the ride up the mountainous passes to Nuwara Eliya. This is one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world and brings us to what is known as Little England and the centre of SL’s tea growing region.
We check into St Andrews Hotel which looks like a leftover ice cream cake from the Raj. The next day we do the tea tour and visit a working tea harvesting factory. Today’s walk is along scenic Lake Gregory, and a rest before high tea at the Grand Hotel – the converted governor’s mansion from the colonial days. Another night at St Andrews.
DAY: 7, 8, 9: FB, all meals
Day 7 is the longest day on the road – but anything but boring. It’s about 2 hours to the town of Ella, perched on the edge of the scenic rim. The walk for the day is to Little Adams Peak, through tea plantations and up to the Buddhist temple. It is then about 3½ hour’s drive to our beachside hideout for the next three days.
Talalla Retreat is six acres of landscaped gardens around a turquoise pool and a white sandy crescent beach. It has a Byron Bay connection and includes two yoga chalets, surf school, massage, and full spa facilities. Organic produce is grown on site and your full board includes all meals at the communal restaurant with fellow international guests.
A side trip is to Herikitiya Beach, one of the most beautiful tropical beaches I have ever seen. If we can get access, we will visit Claughton House, a luxury and exclusive Vila complex designed by Bawa.
DAY 10: BB
The historical fort city of Galle was originally occupied by the Portuguese in the late 1500’s. Then came the Spanish, Dutch and English and the bustling, cosmopolitan vibe continues with its current incarnation. Get lost in the unique shops and restaurants lining the cobblestone streets. Our walk for the day is along the fort ramparts at sunset before dinner. We spend the night at the Fort Printers in the heart of the town.
DAY 11,12: BB
On the way to Colombo from the south, we stop at Lunaganga, Bawa’s weekend retreat and architectural studio. The grounds are scattered with sculptures and artworks by well-known international artists.
In Colombo we check in to Colombo 7, a good serviceable hotel, well located. There are a myriad of sites and activities to choose from in the capital. It is easy and cheap to get around in the three-wheel Tuk-Tuks. Exploring on your own will be fun but I recommend we all do:
- Bawa’s house at #11
- Piping in the flag at the Galle Face Hotel
- The city tour
- Barefoot: an alternative shopping experience
- Final dinner together at either Galleria Paradise Road or The Ministry of Crab.
Day 13: BB
The day of departure will be casual and easy. You will be provided with airport shuttle when required. It is an hour and half to the airport. Extra nights or late check outs can be arranged if required.
Tour ends June 10th.