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         SRI LANKA 2022


 The Golden Elephant Tour 
with Anna and Friends
August 2 - 19, 2022

                                               "Sri Lanka is the most beautiful island I've ever visited"


If ever there was the right time to visit Sri Lanka, it's this August.

Why? Because this year two major festivals happen to fall in the same month, a rather rare occurrence, and we're there for both of them.

In the far north, Jaffna's Nallur festival attracts Hindus for a riotous month of celebrations, whilst in central Sri Lanka, the most important Buddhist festival - The Perehera - will culminate on the night we spend in Kandy, where I've already reserved your fantastic viewing seats.

And why 'Golden Elephants'? Sri Lanka's indigenous elephants are inextricably linked with all aspects of island culture, their presence an essential element in both of these historic festivals. Caparisoned, venerated, stately and gorgeous, they lead the processions amidst cacophenous fervour, joyously celebrated with traditional music, dance, acrobatics and so much more ... last night of the Perahera has only must be experienced to be believed.

I'm so excited to share this tour with you! 

I've been here in Sri Lanka for the last 2 years, travelling widely, connecting with people who will make your experience of The Teardrop Isle a unique one, rich with touching, personal encounters, extraordinary experiences and spectacles.

This bespoke itinerary avoids all the things we don't like about tours  -  the guide's favourite shops, terrible buffet food, rushed, tourist-trap activities ... we've all been there - offering you  instead, a leisurely journey with beautiful, 'non-hotel' hotels, plenty of private time and opt-in activities only if you wish to add a little more sometimes.

Here's how our 19 day / 18 night  journey will unfold, and here's an interactive route map for an out-of-this-world- view of the journey 

John Gilmore, The Elephant Complex, 2015

Day 01


From GALLE FORT to UDAWALAWE (1 night)

From a C.17th Dutch fort to a C.3rd temple,  an elephant safari and a night under canvas

As the Art Retreat draws to a close after breakfast on 7th December, we'll head towards Tangalle, to before turning inland to visit the  C.3rd  Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara temple where one of the 32 seedlings germinated from the original Bodhi (the holy bo tree branch brought from India and planted in Sri Lanka when Buddhism  was first introduced to the country) was planted.

Udawalawe, 90 minutes away, is our lunch destination on the edge of the national park situated on the border of  the arid and wet zones, an area famed for its dense elephant population and birdlife - all to be discovered on your  extensive afternoon  jeep safari. Return to your tented 'glamping' camp for campfire drinks and an outstanding dinner this evening.

Included: B/L/D 

  • Tented Luxe Camp very close to Udawalawe National Park in a picturesque riverside location 

  • Park Entrance

  • 3 1/2 hr safari (this park is renowned for its large population of elephants)

  • Special event campfire dinner

WhatsApp Image 2021-09-25 at 7.38.20 PM.jpeg

Day 02

Bespoke Sri Lanka with Anna Kwiecinska.jpeg


A 'world's best' train trip through the central mountains & dinner at the famous Hill Club 

Awaken this morning to the cries of the wild - you're surrounded by wild Nature!  Breakfast on Sri Lankan favrourites  at our camping lodge before driving to Ella. Climbing steadily into the clouds, cooler and forested, the scenery is lush and dramatic. Visit Lipton's Seat, where Thomas Lipton, the man who made tea famous, surveyed his endless plantations.

Today you will take what has been described as "the most picturesque train journey in the world", riding in comfort in the Observation Car where A-reserve window seats have been reserved for you. Arriving in the quintessential hill town of Nuwara Elia - the heart of the island's famous tea indistry. A wonderful Heritage Hotel awaits you. The 1865 Tea Estate of St Andrews. You'll stay in Deluxe Room, and tonght be treated to a special private BBQ at St Andrews'.

Included: B/L/D

  • A-Reserve seats in the Observation Car for the train journey from Ella to Nuwara Eliya

  • Lunch in Ella  (depends on departure times, yet to be announced)

  • 5-star Nuwara Eliya Hotel: JETWING ST ANDREW'S  (2 nights, Deluxe Room with mezzanine)

  • Your Deluxe Room at Jetwing St. Andrew’s is the ideal mountain respite with ample space for comfort and relaxation on your holiday in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Hotel amenities are the simplest of pleasures. Earthen tones adorn the décor with timber floors and ceilings that house charming vintage furniture, but the gift of Sri Lanka's gentle, professional hosputality hospitality goes beyond – with signature luxuries such as a separate attic area with two single beds in addition to the king-sized bed below, complete with an individual heating unit for warmth in our cool climes.

  • Special event BBQ Dinner at St Andrews 

Jetwing St Andrews Nuwaya Elia.jpg
The Golf Club.JPG

Day 03



UNESCO Heritage Site & Biodiversity hotspot, Tea Planter's tour and a Dinner Surprise! 

Arise early for an exhilirating morning of guided trekking in the Horton Plains National Park. 32 km from Nuwaya Elia, at 2300m, its cloud forest and grasslands are home to many endemic species. Survey the stupendous landscape  from the  sheer precipice of World's End. 

Horton plains or Mahaeliya Tenna in Sinhalese is the great plains of the central hills of Sri Lanka, where elk, stag, butterflies, and many endemic types of flora will be seen


Return to your hotel for brunch and a rest before the afternoon at leisure. Stroll through the quaintly English village, enjoy some golf, make time for High Tea at The Grand, before a very special event dinner tonight. Este will hold a masterclass this afternoon.

For this prefering not to trek, alternative activities, can be arranged - or you may like to savour time to relax at the hotel. 

Included: B/D (because you will return to the hotel by late morning for breakfast after your trek, lunch is optional today)

  • Guided early morning trek on Horton Plains  (BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOT - CLOUD FOREST ZONE)

  • Afternoon tour of Nuwara Eliya

  • Afternoon masterclass with Este

  • 2nd of 2 nights at St Andrews (Deluxe Room)

  • 'wow' special event dinner (I don't want to spoil the surprise!)

NUWARA ELIA Horton Plains National Park 4.jfif

Day 04


NUWARA ELIYA to KANDY via the '18 BEND ROAD'   (1 night)

stupendous mountain journey, to meet the island's Indigenous peopel, the Veddas

After breakfast we set out, through lushly carpeted tea hills, our journey doted by  small vilages and huge tea estates. Heading  North-East, before we reach the steep eastern falls of central hills, we will visit the Pidurutalagala Shrine.

100 Km from Nuwara Eliya,we will encounter the people widely regarded as Sri Lanka's indigenous population.

The Veddas' lifestyle is determined entirely by the seasons of their natural habitat - the deep forests far away from streetlife. Our meeting with them could not provide a starker contrast to the kingly city of Kandy, home to the last of the Kandyn Kings, but a fitting reminder of the legendary toughness of the  island's mountain inhabitants attested to by would-be conquerors and pilgrims alike. Specatcular screnery as we  cross Hunnasgiriya and the famous 18 hairpin bends on the road to Kandy!

Arriving in Kandy, we'll walk  from our hotel to a historic lakeside location for cocktailsoverlooking the lake, followed by a la cartre dinner.

Included: B/L Kandy Hotel (1 night)

  • Arranged visit to Veddahs village

  • Pre-dinner cocktails from a historic balcony  overlooking the Royal Lake (UNESCO World heritage site)

  • You have a balcony room overlooking the Royal lake of Kandy, at the historic QUEEN'S HOTEL , over 160 years old .

  • One of Sri Lanka's historic hotels, situated in the heart of Kandy,facing the splendid Royal lake built by the last King of Kandy - indeed Sri Lanka.With a history of over 160 years , The Queen's Hotel is a British Colonial style luxury hotel - the former governor's residence, and one of te oldest hotesl in the country.

Kandy gardens.jpg

Day 05

Dambulla .JPG

KANDY and  the Road to DAMBULLA (3 nights)

Peradinya Gardens, Lunch with a Tea Planter & Dambulla's magnificent Buddhist caves 

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

Dambulla  Sri Lanka by Anna Kwiecinska.JPG
DAMBULLA - HOTEL KANDALAMA - Deluxe room 1.jpg
Sri Lanka Bespoke Tour.jpeg
DAMBULLA caves by Anna Kwiecinska.JPG

Day 06

Sigiriya Apsaras.jpeg


the impregnable rock fortress and its famous art, and a jungle-hidden monastic gem 

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)

Sigiriya fortress.jpeg
RITIGALA bicycle.jpeg
Sigiriya apsaras.jpeg
RITIGALA rest.jpeg
central province.jpeg
RITIGALA  retrea.jpeg
Near Sigirya.jpeg

Day 07


The medieval kingdom of POLONNARUWA

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Sri Lanka's Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms.

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

Bullock cart.jpeg
Central province walawa.jpeg

Day 08

Negombo Beach.jpeg


From the ancient Buddhist capital to a final night at your luxury beachside hotel

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

Buddhist monk.jpeg
JETWING BEACH  HOTEL- NEGOMBO - the final night of the Hidden Gems Tour.jpg
JWL 4.jpg

Day 09

Greeting hands.jpeg

Your Tour ends after breakfast

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.  We spend 2 and 3 nights at the same luxury hotel in 2 destinations to minimise packing and unpacking.  

It includes UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites, mesmerising tea country and opportunities to meet fascinating people I've come to know in my time here. Chat with a tea planter over lunch, dine in a vintage railway carriage, trek the UNESCO biodiversity hotspot of Horton Plains. You'll get  A-class window seats on the world famous train journey through the central hills, safari with elephants, witness ancient Buddhist cave paintings and meet the indigenous peoples of this island, the mountain-dwelling Veddahs in a deeply-hidden forest community.

sri lanka map with clik here.png


LATEST NEWS! Sri Lanka is 93% vaccinated

If you're from UK, USA, Europe +17 other countries, and double-vaccinated, you can enter into Sri Lanka without a PCR test on arrival if you hve a negative PCR test within 72 hours of dearture.

You can also return home without quarantining, pending neg. pre-departure test  more information.

WHAT YOU DO: (ths will be updated  today 2/10/2021) apply online as usual for electronic  visa for 1 month. You'll receive a reply with a REFERENCE normally within 48 hrs.

2.You send  this to Anna + copy of passport + vaccination certification or appropriate documents (if you've already had Covid) + flight tickets

For any assistance whatsoever please contact Anna.







  • 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 



  •  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 $2199                                          


DOUBLE or TWIN: USD $3799  (2 persons)

Secure your place on Hidden Gems with Este Macleod with a $500 deposit per person

Please let me know if I can reserve your place and I'll forward payment details (it's a Wise account, easy transfer) 


This tour is designed by Anna. Imges copyright 2021

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