Itinerary 'DS' Days 07 (06 Nights)
Accommodation at Kingsbury Hotel on the ocean front and beautiful city centre of Colombo.
(Dinner will be served on arrival at night)
Sri Lanka’s dynamic capital Colombo offers plenty of atmosphere. Shiny office blocks rub shoulders with tumbledown local cafés and shops, while serene Buddhist shrines and colonial churches stand next to the garishly multicoloured towers of Hindu temples – all evidence of the rich stew of races and religions that have gone into the making of this surprisingly cosmopolitan city. In the context of Sri Lanka’s almost 2500 years of recorded history, Colombo is a relative upstart. At the heart of the old colonial city lies, the Fort district, Colombo’s former administrative and financial centre, while to the east and south lie the bustling mercantile district of the Pettah and the engaging temples and old-fashioned street life of Slave Island. From here, it’s a short walk to Galle Face Green – perfect for a stroll along the seafront.
Accommodation at the The Grand Hotel, heritage hotel in Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Eliya was first conceived as a health resort – a hill station – in British colonial jargon – around 1825. This explains its somewhat anachronistic and even alien character. The British were quick to appreciate Nuwara Eliya’s ruggedly picturesque location and soft English-spring climate. Located in the heart of the tea country, the phenomenal rise in importance of this industry helped to add to Nuwara Eliya’s growing reputation.
Both road and rail approaches to Nuwara Eliya are spectacularly beautiful; both routes hug narrow mountain passes to make the 2,000 metre climb in rather steep gradients. And in this case, it is as good to arrive as to journey. Just outside the town are some of Sri Lanka’s best tea gardens. Cauliflower, rhubarb and beds of strawberries, very improbable, when one remembers that Nuwara Eliya is less than seven degrees north of the Equator, can be seen here. But then this is Sri Lanka the land of serendipity – of happy surprises.
Visiting a team plantation and a processing centre (commonly called a Tea Factory) at Mackwoods Labookelle will provide an instructive glimpse of the manufacture of Ceylon Tea. It provides visitors with a tour of the tea factory, an educational experience in the tea cultivation and manufacturing process.
Accommodation at Cinnamon Wild, by the beach in Yala.
Yala National Park (properly known as Yala West or Ruhunu National Park), Sri Lanka’s most visited and most rewarding wildlife reserve.
The park’s dry-zone landscape is impressively wild and unspoilt. In addition, the park’s wildlife has its own distinctive charm, with huddles of colourful painted storks perched on the edge of lagoons between the supine shapes of dozing crocodiles; fan-tailed peacocks kicking up clouds of dust while monkeys chatter in the treetops; or the incongruously conjoined sight of elephants marching sedately through the bush while rabbits scamper through the undergrowth. Yala’s most famous residents are its leopards – the park boasts a higher concentration of these elusive felines than anywhere else in the world. Leopards can be seen year round, though they might be slightly easier to spot during the latter part of the dry season, when the ground vegetation dies back. Adult leopards are mainly active from dusk until dawn. Most daytime leopard sightings are of cubs and sub-adults, who are dependent on their mother for food. These confident and carefree young animals can provide hours of viewing, often showing themselves to visitors in the same spot for several days running. Much more visible are the resident elephants. Other resident mammals include sambar and spotted deer, wild boar, wild buffaloes, macaque and langur monkeys, sloth bears, jackals, mongooses, pangolins, porcupines, rabbits and (rare) wild cats, as well as plentiful crocodiles.
Yala also offers outstanding birdwatching year round, although from October to March visitors have the added bonus of seeing thousands of migratory species arrive to escape the northern winter. Around 130 species have been recorded here.
Accommodation at Mandara Resort, Mirissa
The village of Mirissa is one of the most appealing places to spend a day next to the sea in southern Sri Lanka. The beach here is one of the nicest along this stretch of coast, with a fine swathe of sand tucked away into a pretty little bay, backed by a dense thicket of coconut palms – particularly lovely at night, when the lights go on and the sands transform into a magical tangle of fairy lights. It’s not exactly unspoilt, but development remains refreshingly low-key for the moment, confined to a string of fairly rustic little restaurants and modest guest-houses, with a merciful absence of big resorts and a lively but pleasantly low-key atmosphere, attracting a youngish crowd of mainly independent travellers.
Mirissa is perfectly placed for whale-watching expeditions, being where the continental shelf on which Sri Lanka sits is at its narrowest, with ocean depths of 1km within 6km of the coast – ideal whale country. Sightings are most regular from December to April (with Dec & April being the best months).
Departure from the hotel after breakfast with a stop at Galle, a World Heritage City
Lunch at Galle and head to the Colombo Airport for evening departure.
Perched on the coast close to the island’s southernmost point, the venerable port of Galle (pronounced “Gaul”) has grown from ancient origins into Sri Lanka’s fourth largest city. At the heart of the modern city – but strangely detached from it – lies the old Dutch quarter, known as the Fort, Sri Lanka’s best-preserved colonial townscape, enclosed within a chain of huge bastions which now guard the area from modernization as effectively as they once protected Dutch trading interests from marauding adventurers. The Fort is Sri Lanka at its most magically time-warped, its low-rise streets lined with Dutch-period villas, many of which retain their original street-facing verandas and red-tiled roofs, and dotted with a string of imposing churches and other colonial landmarks. The main pleasure here is just ambling round the atmospheric old streets and walls, savouring the easy pace of life and and enjoying a meal at one of the numerous little cafes.
Galle is thought to have been the Biblical Tarshish, from whence King Solomon obtained gold, spices, ivory, apes and peacocks, and the combination of its fine natural harbour and strategic position on the sea routes between Arabia, India and Southeast Asia made the town an important trading emporium long before the arrival of the Europeans.