This trip was one of our much planned trip and the first ever International family trip! Spending the New Year in the Gem of Indian Ocean way back in 2016, was something I could not have asked for more. Our trip was a complete 7N/8D package arranged by Su Lanka Tours. Right from the pick-up from the airport (Colombo) to the drop at the Colombo airport was just right. We reached Colombo early in the morning at 4 and started our much awaited tour in the same morning by 9. Not wasting much of our time, we went out to discover the city of Sri Lanka, “Colombo”.
DAY 1: COLOMBO: From the airport, we were transferred to Mirage Colombo. From our hotel room, we could see a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean with Srilankan railway line running along side the coast. After taking some rest & a nice breakfast, we were picked up by our driver, Mr. Ajith Pushpakumara
As you all may know, Colombo is Sri Lanka's commercial capital and the largest city with a population of nearly five million. One of the best destinations in Sri Lanka in the metropolis and suburban areas. Colombo boasts a lot of attractions and we sited few of them.
The Galle Face Green is a ribbon of green space located in the heart of the city along the Indian Ocean Coast, and is a popular destination amongst the tourists. The Galle Face Hotel is a historic landmark on the southern edge of this promenade. The stroll alongside the coast is one you ought to experience!
Gangaramaya Temple, also known as The Temple of the Hair Relic, is one of the most important temples in Colombo. The temple complex demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture. The area that was once a swamp beside the Beira lake, has now turned to be an iconic complex which consists of the temple, the assembly hall and the vocational training institute.
Gangaramaya Buddhist temple is quite enchanting and beautifully maintained. This temple is famous for the ‘bodhi tree’ which was grown from a sapling from the original bodhi tree from Anuradhapura.
Independence Square is a national monument dedicated to the SriLankan independence movement from the British rule with the establishment of Dominion of Ceylon on February 4, 1948. It is located at the Independence Square (formerly Torrington Square) in the Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo. It also houses the Independence Memorial Museum. Located at the head of the monument is the statue of the first Prime Minister of the country Rt. Hon. Don Stephen Senanayake, "Father of the Nation". The Independence Square is a popular attraction among families, friends and the keen joggers who spend their time at leisure.
The Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference is a convention center gifted by the People's Republic of China in memory of Solomon Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, from 1956 to 1959. The construction of the Hall was carried out by Sri Lankan and Chinese workforce with a considerable portion of the building materials imported from China.
Viharamahadevi Park is a sprawling public park named after queen Viharamahadevi next to the National Museum, Colombo. Considered to be the oldest and the biggest park in Colombo, featuring a large Buddha statue (a spectacular identity), this park has a mini-zoo & a children’s play area and is situated in front of the town hall building.
Other places included the old Parliament, Town Hall, National Museum, Beira Lake, and National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka.
DAY 2: GALLE: Our next halt was Galle (3 hours drive from Colombo) which is blessed with a variety of attractions such as pristine beaches, breath taking coral reefs and fortress. The trip from Colombo to Galle was very much reminiscent of coastal landscape in India. On our way to Galle, we halted at a Turtle farm where the rescued turtles are reared and bred. We got a chance to see different kind of turtles including the Olive Ridley turtles. In fact, there are many such farms on the way! Our next halt en-route was a riverside spot called Mathu Oya. We got on to a boat here and sailed through the entire Mathu river; spotted monitor lizard, bought world famous cinnamon sticks, had fish-feet therapy – overall a great excursion. By the time we reached Galle, it was almost 3 PM. Galle represents a perfect blend of European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. There are a number of things to see and do while holidaying in this fortified city of Galle.
The Fort of Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was initially built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and then extensively fortified by the Dutch in the 17th Century. The Fort of Galle is one of the largest and most secured fortress in Sri Lanka.
A stroll at the Fort of Galle is something which is not to be missed! Trains run between Colombo Fort station and Galle 5 – 10 times per day and can take anywhere between 2 hours and 3.5 hours. Galle lighthouse stands apart with a breathtaking view of the beacon that lies within the complex.
Galle International Cricket Stadium - Every city/town has its own cricket stadium for its budding cricketers. Galle is one of the most picturesque stadium in the world. This is the stadium where the renowned cricketer Shane Warne got the 500th Test wicket.
One may like to visit the Historical Mansion Museum, National Maritime Archaeology Museum and the Port of Galle. Galle is definitely a place of mesmerizing beauty at its best. It’s a place to sit and relax
Our journey then stepped into a wonderful train ride from Hatton to Nanu-Oya (via the main line) to head to our next destination Nuwara Eliya. The 2 hours train journey helped us to see some breath-taking and mesmerising views of Sri Lanka hills.
DAY 3 & 4: NUWARA ELIYA is one of the cities that lies at the highest altitude of Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of the popular tourist destination and is a classic example of climate diversity of Sri Lanka. Like any other hill station, Nuwara Eliya boasts a cool climate but gets warmer during the day. Nuwara Eliya is a place where a lot of Ramayana action took place. A place where Lord Hanuman is still supposed to be living (Piduratalagala mountains), where Sita was held captive by Ravana (Ashok Vatika). Thus many Hindu temples dot this town and around..
Sita Amman Kovil lies close to Haggala Botanical Garden (Ashoka Vatika). Legend has it that Sita was held captive by Ravana. The stream that runs close to this spot is believed to be the place where Sita bathed and the rock beside it is supposed to be the place where she sat praying.
Haggala Botanical Garden is said to be the highest set botanical garden in the world. With beautiful landscapes and paved way flanked by trees on either sides, this place is definitely worth taking a stroll! The main sections of the garden are the rock garden, water garden, fern garden, Japanese garden and the seed room.
Besides, Gregory lake is a significant tourist attraction. Unfortunately, due to heavy rains, we could not enjoy boating.
While the tourists in Nuwara Eliya prefer to visit the Pedro Tea Factory, we decided to visit the Mackwoods Tea Factory, which produces high quality tea and is considered as one of the most modern tea factories in Nuwara Eliya. With various water falls dotting the place, Nuwara Eliya is a place blissful to watch!
DAY 5: KANDY VIA PINNAWALA: Before proceeding to Kandy, we had a pit-stop at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which was established in 1975 with 5 orphaned elephants. It is a house for nearly 90 orphaned elephants. The orphange serves as a conservation and breeding centre and is a world famous attraction due to its unique way of maintaining such a large herd of elephants.
Visitors have an opportunity not only to observe the elephants bathing in the Ma-Oya River but also to feed them with fruits. In the past, the visitors were allowed to feed milk as well; but now it is fed by the experts and is open to all to watch the same. We had a great time witnessing the baby elephant being protected by adults all around in the herd!
We then proceeded to Kandy, most famous for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The temple's complex depicts the architectural marvels of ancient Sri Lanka.
Since we visited the temple in the morning hours of the New Year, it was overcrowded by the worshippers to seek the blessings of the Almighty. We then visited Sri Dalada Museum, International Buddhist Museum, Magul Maduwa (Audience Hall), Rajah Tusker Hall, Kandy Lake all in and around the temple. The Rajah Tusker Hall has the stuffed remains of the noble Tusker "Rajah" who carried the casket of the Sacred Tooth Relic in the Kandy Esala Perahera for 37 years and took part in the Esala Perahera for about 50 years until his death in 1988. International Buddhist Museum showcases the connection of Buddhism in 17 countries. Let us not forget, that the origin of Buddhism is from India (Our Mother Land)! And it’s so good to see India being given importance and highlighted by other countries!
We then headed to Matale, which lies between Kandy and Dambulla and is famous for spices. We visited the spice garden and were guided by the Ayurvedic and herbal specialist who informed us about the various importance of spices and its benefit. I had a facial massage which was quite relaxing.
DAY 6: SIGIRIYA via DAMBULLA: After checking out from Kandy & wishing everyone a prosperous new year, we headed out to Sigiriya via Dambulla. On our way to Dambulla, we visited Muthumariamman temple at Kandy and had lunch at a roadside restaurant. Dambulla is located 55 km north of Matale. It is famous for the cave temples and also for the iconic Golden temple. The caves are considered to be the finest storehouse of Sinhala art and sculpture.
It has five caves under a vast overhanging single rock. The ceilings of the complex are painted with religious images. There are also images of Lord Buddha, the Bodhisattvas as well as various Gods and Goddesses, a little complex to understand without a guide! Each cave describes the period of Buddhist establishment starting from Anuradhapura period to Pollanaruwa period. The caves and the paintings are magnificent to look out, though most of the paintings are faded and beyond recognition. Dambulla caves is a must visit for any traveller who visits Lanka.
Golden Temple is a modern temple lying at the foot of the cave temples hill established as a monastery. A 30-metre high gilded Buddha image depicting the Dhammachakka Mudra lies atop this magnificent temple.
This breathtaking Buddha image was erected in 2001 with Japanese donations.
We then checked in to our hotel at Sigiriya (our final destination) for our adventure the next day.
DAY 7: SIGIRIYA, also known as the lion rock fortress, is a wonderful ancient palace, near the town of Dambulla, built atop 660 feet top rock column, and a creation of King Kassapa (AD 477-495). It is considered to be one of the most important urban planning sites of the first millenium. On the west side of the rock, there is a park for the royals which contains water retaining structures with hydraulic systems, some of which are working even today. To the South, there is a man-made reservoir. Five gates were placed at the entrances. There is a mirror wall (which is a 3 metre high brick wall with a mirror like highly polished plaster). This wall was meant for early visitors to note their impressions of the women in the gallery. It contains about 1000 year graffiti which shows evolution of Sinhala language.
There are also frescoes which date to 5th century and are one of the most famous feature of Sigiriya. These represent either apsara or concubines of King Kassappa but unfortunately most of them have faded today and only few paintings can be clearly seen.
One needs to climb 1200 steps from the base to reach the royal palace of the King. However, one can only see the remains of the palaces, cisterns, gardens and a large pond used for water storage. The breezy air was making it highly impossible to climb, but the sight atop is worth the climb. The flat top is quite a large area for one to walk around and see the beautiful terrace gardens, boulder garden & water gardens that dot the beautiful facade. I would strongly recommend one to start climbing in the morning hours so as to avoid hot sun. En-route there are other facilities for the king like a massage centre, the King's and the Army's rest place, the dance courtyard etc.
This place was one of the best we visited in Lanka and every step has a history to tell!
DAY 8: COLOMBO: This was the last day of our trip & we said goodbye to beautiful Sigiriya & headed back to Colombo via Dambulla again. We halted briefly at Dambulla for some local purchase and resumed our journey. The trip back to Colombo took us a long time as the roads were jam packed due to repairs and other blockages. Finally, at about 3:00 PM, we reached our destination and were immediately taken to our hotel, Mirage once again. This time, we were given an accommodation on the 7th floor with more or less the same view of the Indian Ocean and the railway line running along the coast. After freshening up, we headed straight to the beach which we missed on our 1st day. Post spending a wonderful evening, we decided to call it a day a bit early as we had an early morning flight to catch.
Looking forward to soon cover the North of Sri Lanka. Truly, Sri Lanka is a Gem of Indian Ocean! Hope this post helps you to plan a trip to this exotic destination!
Kandy - Riverside Villa, Kandy Sigiriya - Kassappa Lion Rock