The Golden Elephant Tour 2022

                

 Experience the splendour of  the Kandy Perahera festival  and the Nallur festival in Jaffna with Anna 
 
January 11 - 24, 2022
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The Golden Elephant Tour is a rare opportunity to witness not one, but two , of Sri Lanka's most important festivals - the Kandy Perahera, when the Holy Tooth Relic of the Buddha is celebrated in spectacular style in Buddhist heartland, whilst Hindus celebrate the vibrant Nallur Festival of Jaffna on the northern tip of the island.

 

This is a 5-Star Luxury Heritage Experience, staying in exceptional hotels, many designed by Tropical Modernism's great architect, Geoffrey Bawa,  whose Colombo and country residences we will visit.

You'll stay at some of the finest hotels in Sri Lanka - iconic and historical - and savour their world-class cuisine at special dining events;

    "It's a rare year that sees both the Kandy Perahera and the Jaffna Nallur festivals in the same month"

Sri Lankan food is absolutely outstanding and is a highlight every day on your journey - whether it's fine dining in an awarded beachside restaurant or enjoying local specialties freshly prepared in traditional clay pots, food is an adventure all of its own here. You'll love it!

Meet the expert-in-their-field guides whom Anna has secured for this journey:

  • A Colombo academic with a passion for social and art history to take us around the oldest  part of Colombo - The Fort

  • Mr Nadesh, a Jaffna-born guide with clear speaking English and a comprehensive knowledge of the North will explain the intricacies of Hinduisim and will help us navigate the Nallur festival.

  • Our Buddhist pilgrim guide to share his knowledge of Sri Lanka's main religion, and the competing historical narratives 

  • Dr Martin Pieris,  Sri-Lankan-born photographer and film maker, who joins us from Australia to share his discoveries of  the tea hills of Hatton and the fascinating story of one of the world's earliest female photographers who lived there.

  • You will have a personal set of (bluetooth) headphones for this journey so that you can clearly hear the narratives (and tune out when you want to!)

This bespoke itinerary is leisurely with plenty of rest time each day, and won't waste your time  with the guide's favourite shops, terrible buffet food, tourist-trap activities  (we've all been there) . 


Here's how our 9 day / 8 night  journey will unfold  - there's an interactive route map at the other end of the itinerary below ...

Day 01

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COLOMBO  arrival  (2 nights)

Ayubowan - welcome to Sri Lanka! 

You'll arrive in to Sri Lanka at the Bandanaraike International Airport in Katanayake, near Negombo, 34 kilometers from the capital city, Colombo. After you have cleared Customs and immigration you'll be met by your Driver bearing a name sign board. The drive to  Colombo is usually a little over an hour.

Included:

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Day 02

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COLOMBO DAY TOUR  (2/2 nights)

Walking tour with historian through Pettah, guided visit to National Museum plus

We begin our tour with a short walk from our hotel to the Grand oriental Hotel with our expert guide Dr Ashoka. Passing the president's official residence, you'll see the vast sweep of architectural styles which graced the commercial heart of Colonial Colombo. From a vantage point offering spectacular views across the extensive  Port, enjoy morning refreshments as Prof Ashoka introduces us to his city, before we set off  on a walking/tuk tuk tour of Pettah district, the most fascinating melting pot of Sri Lanka's capital city.

Lunch today is at one of Colombo's finest dining destinations, The Gallery Cafe.an elegantly relaxed oasis, once Renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa's office, and a fine example of Dutch colonial architecture re-purposed for modern living.

Spend  some time after lunch in the spacious national museum, home to many of the treasures whose original places of discovery you'll visit on our journey.

You're now in the heart if Colombo, and the later afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy -  check with Anna for shopping destinations, dining possibilities and even spa options ... Colombo is yours for the evening.

Included: B

  • morning tea+history talk followed by guided walking/ tuktuk (3-wheeler) tour through the old Fort Area of Pettah

  • Entry and Guided Tour of National Museum  

  • free evening with many dining possibilities 

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Day 03

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TRAIN JOURNEY to JAFFNA (3 nights)

Travel the entire length of the island to arrive at the fascinating historic city of Jaffna

Today  your  journey north takes you the entire length of the island!

We depart from Colombo Train Station at 6am in reserved seats, accompanied by our Jaffna-born guide Mr Nadesh who has come to Colombo  to meet us. You'll be able to enjoy Mr Nadesh's commentaries so that you get the most out of this really fascinating journey.

Arriving in Jaffna around 12 pm, our coach will pick us up and transport us through the town of Jaffna to our hotel, where lunch will be served. Leisure time will be followed by a walk towards the nearby Old Dutch Fort, passing the historic Jaffna Library. 

Diner this evening will be at your hotel with an option to visit the Nallur Temple  after dark.

Included: B/L/D 

  • Reserved A/C seats  on the train from Colombo to Jaffna

  • Sri Lankan Welcome lunch on arrival at your hotel

  • The services of our specialist guide from Jaffna, Mr Nadesh

  • 1st of 3 nights at the luxury JEWING JAFFNA HOTEL  - easy walking distance to the Jaffna Library and Jaffna Fort

  • Terrace Cocktail followed by early dinner and cultural performance this evening at your hotel 

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Day 04

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DISCOVER POINT PEDRO and NALLUR FESTIVAL TONIGHT (2/3 nights)

Sparkling seas, candy-coloured Hindu temples, and a unique landscape await you

Travelling with our Jaffna guide, today you'll explore the northern most reaches of Sri Lanka, with it's distinctive landscape, abundant bird life (many migratory), and really friendly people. Many ruins, temples and sites significant in the history of Buddhism will be revealed today, whilst enjoying traditional Jaffna cuisine by the sea at lunch. 

Scattered amongst the jungle are the pastel-coloured covils  - Hindu temples, some small and intimate, others rambling and magnificent ... today we have time to see them  and learn about their iconography and the stories pertinent to this part of the island 

Included: B/L/ D JETWING JAFFNA HOTEL  (2nd of 3 nights)

Day 05

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BOAT JOURNEY to DELFT ISLAND  (3/3 nights)

 

After breakfast you'll visit the famous Peradiniya Gardens, a vast botanical sanctuary of flora gathered from equatorial locations worldwide - the orchid house is spectacular! We will spend time in the Kandy Museum, a small but rare collection of items that reacall life and times of the last rulers of the island - wonderful chronicles exist from these times to bring these centuries to life.Then a short walk to enjoy a la carte  lunch  by the royal lake.

Our 72 km drove northwards to Dambulla brings us to a series of caves painted in the evolving ' Kandy Style' by successive generations of Buddhist monks, who, patronised by Kandy's kings, have left a chronicle of courtly style as well as spiritual stories. 

Your hotel for the next three nights is simply spectacular. Designed by Geoffrey Bawa, your  deluxe room has a jungle-hidden sky-balcony from which to view the wilderness and lake that reaches as far as the eye can see ... wildlife, bird life, a sanctuary of Nature.

Included: B/L/D

  • Entrance to Peradiniya Botanic Gardens

  • Entrance to Kandy Museum

  • a la carte lunch

  • Entrance to Dambulla Caves (UNESCO World Heritage site)

  • Dambulla Hotel (3 nights) at the fabulous HERITANCE KANDALAMA designed by Geoffrey Bawa. 

  • DELUXE ROOM with BALCONY (room size  27 sq ft) 

  • Dinner at your hotel

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Day 06

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JAFFNA to ANNURADHAPURA (2 nights)

From Hindu heartland to the UNESCO site of Sri Lanka's first Buddhist kingdom  

Family squabbles, battles, fratricide ... history swirls through the valleys and across mountain tops here like mist, and  nowhere more than King Kasjyapa's C.5th pinnacle fortress of Sigirya. Occupied by monks for another 900 years, it fell silent in the C.14th, its only witnesses the silent frescoed maidens whose identities remain beautifully enigmatic.

Not far away, hidden amongst dense junge, the much-less visited monastic sanctuary of Ritigala, whose hospital can still be glimpsed amongst picturesqe ruins.  Weather permitting, we'll  take a canoe ride on the lake shown in the video on this page - a secretive spot full of birdlife. Tonight you'll experience an authentic clay pot Ayurvedic dinner, and  we 'll have time to make art with Este.

 

Included: B/L/D 

  • Entrance to Sigiriya Medieval Site  and Museum ( UNESCO World Heritage site)

  • Lunch in Sigiriya

  • Entrance to Ritigala monastery

  • Afternoon birdwatching from a kayak ride on a secluded lake (it's the lake that appears at the top of this page in the video)

  • Special Ayurvedic clay pot dinner where you'll learn about the medicinal qualities of Sri Lankan food

  • Art tutorial with Este

  • The Kandalama Hotel (2/3 nights)

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Day 07

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ANNURADHAPURA  (2/2 nights)

A day of in-depth discovery to understand the Buddhist beginnings of Sri Lanka

For three centuries, Polonnaruwa was the royal capital of the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms, reaching is zenith in the C12th/ Despite being almost 1000 years old, she is much younger than Anuradhapura and better preserved. The vast archaeologcal park is a wonderful place to sit and sketch, the museum a treasure trove.

Depending on our pace today, we  could include towrads the end of the day, a visit to the Minneriya National Park, a dry zone landscape  with significant elephant populations. Another safari anyone ?

A masterclass with Este is planned for this evening at your hotel.

Included: B/L/D

  • entrance to museum and  ancient site of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World heritage site)

  • Home-cooked lunch in Polonnaruwa with a local family who will show us around their spice gardens and paddy fields.

  • Optional elephant safari at Minneriya National Park (it depends on our timing and will be separately payable) 

  • Dinner at Kandalama Hotel with a tutorial with Este

  • 3rd of 3 nights at The Kandalama Hotel, Dambulla

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Day 08

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ANNURADHAPURA to SIGIRIYA via RITIGALA (2 nights)

Discover this mysterious monastic site of great significance for the history of Ayurveda 

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Today we journey 100 km in a Northwest direction to reach the UNESCO site of the oldest of Sri Lanka's royal cities. Anuradhapura first became the capital in 380 BC. under Pandukabhaya, but the city acquired special importance even under Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 BC), during whose reign Buddhism came to Sri Lanka, and was for centuries the centre of  Thervada Buddhism. It's a sprawling, rambling complex, much added to over centuries, but as a site of Buddhist veneration it is one of the most important in the world.

Our journey southwards will include stops at significant temples en route before we reach Negombo and our celebration dinner. 

 

Included: B/L/D

  • entrance to museum and  site of The Sacred City of Annuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage site)

  • Lunch in Annurahapura

  • 5-star beachside hotel- DELUXE ROOM (65 sq m)  - Jetwing Beach Hotel 

  • Exceeding the expectations of a Sri Lanka beach hotel, the  Deluxe Rooms at Jetwing Beach have been designed to immerse you in absolute seaside luxury with a private balcony or terrace that extends into the beautiful coastal landscape.The furnished earthen tones of every room embody an elegant aesthetic that is naturally welcoming. And as added pleasures of our legendary hospitality, each Deluxe Room also features a plush bathroom with a rain shower enclosure, among a host of various other modern essentials such as free Wi-Fi, a mini bar, and a satellite TV with a DVD library on request.

  • Fine dining celebration dinner at THE BLACK CORAL restaurant  - possibly the finest dining experience in Sri Lanka

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TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS and VISAS

 

VISA

All visitors are advised to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to enter Sri Lanka. Visitors can apply for an ETA on the ETA website. Further information on eligibility is available on the Department of Immigration and Emigration website.

On arrival visa facilities are available, however applying for an ETA before travel is advised for ease of travel and to prevent delays on arrival.

COVID VACCINATION 

Fully vaccinated travellers  are no longer required to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test before arrival.

You can read the details HERE :

COVID-19 travel insurance is mandatory for all visitors to Sri Lanka. You can apply & pay online for the official Sri Lankan government's scheme using this link

If you have your own travel insurance which specifically covers the treatment and care for COVID-19, you will not be required to obtain the government one. 

Further details can be found on the website of the

Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority

 

 

 

WHAT YOUR TOUR INCLUDES 

 

  • 9 days/8 nights private guided tour with Anna

  • complimentary art masterclasses and tutorials with Este Macleod

  • luxury coach with extra leg room (33-seater converted to 18 seats) 

  • private national guide throughout

  • staying in 5-star properties (6 nights), Historic property (1 night), tented glamping (1 night):

  • Luxury facilites at wildlife lodge, Udawalawe ( 1 night)

  • Deluxe Rooms at St Andrews Heritage Estate by Jetwing, Nuwara Eliya  (2 nights)

  • Luxury Rooms at Kandalama Hotel  - designed by Geoffrey Bawa (3 nights)

  • Riverside Balcony Room at Queen's Hotel Kandy (this hotel is more than 160 years old)  (1 night)

  • Beach Side Room at Jetwing Beach, negombo (1 night)

  • 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners (inluding 3 fine dining experiences, Ayurvedic clay pot dinner, family farmlands home-cooked lunch, and jungle lodge fireside dinner)

  • all entrances to monuments and parks: 

  • Udawalawe National Park

  • Dambulla UNESCO site

  • Peradinaya Botanic Gardens, Kandy

  • Kandy Museum (Kandy is a UNESCO destination)

  • Sigiriya UNESCO site

  • Polonnaruwa UNESCO site

  • Annuradhapura UNESCO site

  • Ritigala archaelogical site

  • Visit to the Veddahs

  • Elephant safari ay Udawalawe National Park

  • Boat ride near Ritigala

  • A-Reserve Observation Car train ticket for hill stations adventure

  • complimentary cocktails in Kandy

  • comlimentary bottled water for the journey each day 

 

NOT INCUDED:

  •  extra safari or other activites not in the program 

  •  minibar and other items consumed or purchased at hotels including laundry, phone, and media services

  •  gratuities for porterage and other services - we'll have a group 'tip tin' so that personnel are tipped by Anna for the group. - I'll let you     know the budget for this. 

  •  transport after arrival at hotel in Negombo at conclusion of tour. 

SINGLE : USD $TBC                                         

 

DOUBLE or TWIN: USD $TBC  (2 persons)

Secure your place on The Golden Elephant Tour with Anna with a $250 deposit per person

Once I receive your reservation request I'll forward payment details (it's a Wise account, easy online transfer) 

 

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Day 09

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Sigiriya 

We'll arrange the transport for your onward journey, the airport is nearby. 

This is a well-balanced itinerary that won't wear you out with too-long days or steal your time with shops and tourist traps.