Colombo – Kelaniya
The first day of the tour will take you on a journey around the vibrant city of Colombo. The walking tour takes you around the historical heart of the city, as well as the bustling modern day markets in Pettah. You will be guided through the city to witness the rich colonial history it beholds. This journey will let you discover the impact that the Western colonial powers had on both the city and the rest of Ceylon.
The National Museum of Colombo would be one of the places you will be visiting on this day. Being the largest museum in Sri Lanka it houses many collections of cultural and historical significance, including the crown and throne of the Kandyan monarchs who were the last kings of Sri Lanka. It also contains artifacts and narratives which outline the island’s fascinating ancient history and the central role that Buddhism came to play in Sri Lankan culture.
You will also visit the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya which is away from the center of the city. This ancient temple built on the banks of the Kelani river is one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka. According to the ‘Mahavamsa’, a chronicle of Sri Lanka’s history that dates back to 543 BC, Lord Buddha stopped at this temple during a visit to Sri Lanka in 523 BC, where he was invited to preach by the king. This temple is also famous for its image of the reclining Buddha and beautiful paintings, which depict notable events in the life of the Buddha and the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Colombo – Dambulla
After Breakfast, you will be heading off to Dambulla / Habarana. On the way you will be visiting the most popular elephant attraction in the country, the elephant orphanage at Pinnawala. The orphanage was established to feed and provide care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild. Afterwards you will continue your journey to the Cave temple of Dambulla. According to tradition it is believed that King Valagambaha of Anuradhapura sought refuge in the caves after having fled from his kingdom during the South Indian invasion in first century BC. After having received shelter here by the local monks, upon reclaiming his throne Valagambaha showed gratitude by building a magnificent cave temple for them, which consisted of a complex of Buddhist image houses. This cave temple also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site which is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.
Dambulla – Anuradhapura
|After an early breakfast, embark on a journey to explore the historic city of Anuradhapura. Enroute you will be making a stop to witness the elegance of the Aukana Buddha statue. One of ancient Sri Lanka’s best masterpieces, the Aukana Buddha stands to the west of the large Kala Wewa tank near Anuradhapura. The creation of both the temple and the tank (reservoir) is believed to have been the great work of King Dhatusena in the 5th century. The statue stands 12 meters high and is completely free-standing, carved from a single rock. It is an example of the Abhayamudra Buddha, showing superhuman qualities: the right-handed gesture, raised to the right shoulder with the palm spread, signifies lack of fear. The left hand’s position draws the worshipper to Buddha for release from their earthly bonds. The statue has gained significance in recent times due to the destruction of a similar Buddha statue in Afghanistan.
After arriving in Anuradhapura, most of the day will be spent exploring the historic sites of the city. This city was Sri Lanka’s first civilisation and witnessed the island’s greatest kingdoms, acting as the royal capital for many kings between the 2nd century BC and 1073 AD. At its peak, Anuradhapura was home to thousands of monks from dozens of different monasteries, and it remains Sri Lanka’s most important cultural site, both in terms of history and religion.
Habarana – Polonnaruwa
After a hearty Breakfast, set off to explore yet another ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka, the city of Polonnaruwa. The city today is a showcase of the great ancient Sri Lankan architecture dating back to 12th century AD where it was a thriving commercial and religious centre. The glories of that era are evident from the archaeological ruins and treasures found which exhibit how the city looked in its golden days. The archaeological sites in this city are a delight to explore, with hundreds of ancient structures, tombs and temples, statues and stupas. It is quite a spectacular place to visit.
Habarana – Kandy
With an early breakfast you will travel to Kandy, a world-renowned city of Sri Lanka with beautiful landscapes, rich history and warm people. The drive from Habarana to Kandy is relatively long. Therefore it is best to take the rest of the day at a leisurely pace. On the journey to Kandy you will be making a stopover at Aluvihara Cave Temple.
This temple is of great significance in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was here that the teachings of Buddha were transcribed to writing in the ‘Tripitaka’ for the first time during the third century AD. There is a cave dedicated to the ‘Venerable Buddhagosa’, the monk who spent several years in this cave documenting the doctrines of the Buddha in Pali.
Later in the day you can get yet another glimpse of the beautifully reserved nature of Sri Lanka by visiting the Botanical Gardens in Kandy. They are home to a number of endemic flora in the country and is a place for great pictures and relaxation. You will end the day by witnessing a wonderful Kandyan cultural dance show.
On your second day in this beautiful city you will be visiting the most sacred site in Kandy, The Temple of the Tooth Relic. It is a picturesque religious monument that stands in the city centre surrounded by the tranquil Kandy Lake. Also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, this golden roofed Temple houses the relic of Lord Buddha’s tooth and an array of gifts donated by several presidents and Buddhist leaders from across the world.
A lesser known temple in the outskirts of Kandy is the Degal Doruwa Raja Maha Vihara cave temple which is famous for its Kandyan style paintings. The temple was constructed in the 18th century and the murals painted in the interior are fascinating to gaze upon. These fine paintings depict scenes from the tales from the previous lives of the Buddha.
Kandy – Gangatilaka Vihara – Galle – Tangalle
On this day you will be bidding farewell to the hill country and travelling towards the warm sunny coasts south of the island. On the way you will be visiting the massive white Dagoba of Gangatilake Viharaya. It is believed to house sacred relics of the Buddha. On the walls of the temple are beautiful murals depicting the life story of Buddha.
Afterwards you will head to Galle Fort to explore the fortress walking along ramparts at sunset. The fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which served as a key trading port for the Western colonial powers that were occupying most parts of the island between the 16th and 19th centuries. Commonly referred to as the Dutch Fort which was originally built by the first colonial powers to arrive in the island, the Portuguese, which was later heavily fortified by the Dutch in the 1700s who arrived afterwards. The ramparts were constructed from granite and coral and included 14 bastions and cannons to protect the port from invading ships. The fort today is a unique site which depicts the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions during the colonial era.
After a satisfying breakfast, you will set off to Mulkirigala Rock Temple.
This ancient temple is built on an enormous rock more than 200 meters high. According to ancient inscriptions carved on the rock Mulkirigala dates back almost 2,000 years when it was a site of a Buddhist monastery. The Dagoba stands at the peak of the rock with a spectacular view of the coast. The temple complex consists of ancient murals, a recumbent Buddha statue, devalayas and several cave temples all of which are found at different levels of the rock.
Leave Sri Lanka.