Tailor-made Tour 9 days from £2145 per person

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  Places Visited: Colombo, Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Tricomalee

Experience the wonders of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle on this varied tour. Offering superb value for money, with world-class luxury accommodation throughout, it takes in the cream of the island’s historic monuments and scenery and yields a vivid taste of the local Sinhalese Buddhist culture.

Marvel at the expansive views over the palm canopy from the hilltop ruins of Sigiriya. Experience the mystical atmosphere of the Dambulla cave monasteries. And wander among the giant Buddhas and whitewashed stupas of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, the island’s ancient capitals. Other highlights of this attraction-packed itinerary include visits to a nature reserve where you’ll see elephants in the wild.

Five-star luxury: 
Based at one of our favourite hotels in Sri Lanka, close to a major crossroads at the heart of the island, this fabulous resort is perfectly placed for explorations of the archaeological sites comprising the so-called ‘Cultural Triangle’. Most of the monuments you’ll visit require no more than 40 minutes of driving to reach (although to get to Kandy and the East Coast, you’ll be on the road for longer).

The lodge has all the facilities you’d expect from an international-grade five-star, including a luxurious spa and a large open-air swimming pool. The rooms – in double-storey, colonial-style blocks scattered around immaculate tropical gardens – are spacious and light, with high ceilings and traditional pan-tiled roofs.

Family-friendly: The hotel you’ll be staying in has excellent facilities for younger travellers, with a dedicated kids’ play park in addition to a large open-air pool, bicycles for hire and tennis courts. Fully trained staff are also on hand to keep an eye on your children should you wish to cut loose for a spa session or supper à deux. Crucially, the location of the hotel, at the heart of the cultural triangle, means that journey times to and from the sights are manageable for the majority of children.

Holiday Types

Cultural Holidays Wildlife Holidays Family Holidays Honeymoons Beach Holidays Adventure Holidays


Suggested itinerary

Day 1

Fly overnight from the UK to Colombo.

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Day 2

On arrival, you’ll be met by your TransIndus team for the transfer inland to Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey, perhaps venturing out around late-afternoon to explore the hotel grounds and facilities.

Built on a ground plan replicating the layout of the nearby ruins of ancient Ritigala, Cinnamon Lodge oozes retro-colonial chic. Its terracotta-roofed buildings are handsomely whitewashed, with architectural features picked out in traditional, Portuguese-style ochre. Deep, pillared balconies and verandahs provide plenty of cool outdoor space to relax in. All of the rooms and suites are air-conditioned. Meals are served in a beautiful, open-sided dining hall – ‘Ehala’ – whose sumptuous buffets feature a wide choice of European as well as Sri Lankan dishes. We particularly enjoyed the ‘Naughty Room’ – a chilled annexe devoted solely to sinful desserts!

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Day 3

Following a leisurely breakfast meet up with our local guide and decided how much or how liitel you choose to do on your vaction each day. Afterwards, savour the morning sunshine with a stroll around the hotel grounds, where grey langur monkeys and Toque macaques may be spotted amid the foliage. In the afternoon we head out for the nearby Dambulla Cave temple, Sri Lanka’s largest and best-preserved cave-temple complex.

Located on a huge granite inselberg, Dambulla occupies a wonderfully atmospheric spot, with views extending over the tropical canopy to distant Sigiriya and beyond. Adorning the interiors of the caves is an astonishing horde of 2,000-year-old murals and statues – unique in scale and degree of preservation. The mysterious, sculpted faces of the deities, and swirling reds and golds of the murals create an enchanting atmosphere.

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Day 4

thsi morning we head out to for a visit to the archeological sites of Polonnaruwa about an hour’s drive away. We'll luch back at the hotel with the afternoon at leisure to enjoy the pool, spa, tennis or one of the many other activities on offer at the hotel including an Eco Centre where the children (and adults) can enjoy guided birding tours or monkey spotting walks.

Set in an area of gently undulating woodland, Polonnaruwa is the most spectacular of Sri Lanka’s many ancient ruins. From the 11th to 13th centuries, a succession of kings developed an immense city here, ranged around a huge artificial lake. The finely sculpted statues, frescoes, colossal Buddha images and immense stupas surviving here vividly convey the wealth and sophistication of medieval Sri Lanka. Nowhere else on the island will you encounter ancient buildings fine as those enclosed within the walls of the Quadrangle, where the Tooth Relic was once enshrined, or statues as magnificent as the four great Buddhas of the Gal Vihara.

Optional excursion: if you feel up to more sightseeing in the afternoon, sign up for a trip to the nearby Minneriya National Park where, in the summer months, between 50 and 300 wild Asian elephants congregate in a vast herd – one of Asia’s most compelling spectacles. The great gathering occurs around a huge reservoir, enfolded by a mix of forest, scrub, swamps and open grassland. During the hot season the waters of the tank recede leaving in their wake fresh shoots and mud which the elephants enjoy.

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Day 5

This monring you will be invited to visit a local family home, if you choose, to help prepare a traditional Sri Lankan meal as an offering for local monks. Once the food is ready, you can accompany your host family to the village temple to present the offering.

In the afternoon, another optional (but highly recommended) excursion takes you to the UNESCO-listed fortress-palace at Sigiriya. These spectacular 5th-century ruins rest on the top of a towering rock outcrop that can be scaled by means of steep staircases and catwalks. Along the way you’ll pass the much photographed wall paintings of curvaceous apsaras, or ‘heavenly nymphs’. Featured on innumerable publicity images for the island, they are believed to have been modelled on the real-life queens and princesses who once lived in the palace on top of Sigiriya rock. Marvellous views across the countryside of the Cultural Triangle are your reward for the climb, for which you’ll need a bit of a head for heights!

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Day 6

Today we enjoy a full day excursion south through the lush mountains and Tea plantations of central Sri Lanka to Kandy, the island’s second largest city, where the Sinhalese Buddhist population took refuge from colonial invaders in the 16th century onwards, bringing with them the Tooth Relic that’s now enshrined inside the great temple here before returning to your hotel.

First port of call in Kandy will be the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya. Originally established as a royal retreat in the 14th century, the park is famed for its world-class collection of orchids, palms and, the real showstopper, a giant Javan fig tree.

After lunch, we’ll continue to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist shrine. Pilgrims dressed in flowing white robes file through the complex throughout the day, carrying lotus blooms and frangipani flowers. The resident monks will demonstrate the traditional Thevada ritual offering for the group, accompanied by temple musicians. Time permitting, we’ll also visit the adjacent royal palace and National Museum, whose exhibits include an intriguing collection of traditional Sinhalese water clocks.

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Day 7

The seventh day of your trip is a rest day, but more energetic members of the party may wish to undertake an optional excursion to Anuradhapura, the greatest and most resilient of all Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals.

Founded in 377 BC, Anuradhapura thrived for over a thousand years until its destruction by Indian invaders in 993AD. Today, its vestiges retain great appeal for both tourists and Buddhist pilgrims, thanks to the impressive ‘dagobas’, or stupas, rising from its midst. Sri Lanka is dotted with these bell-shaped, whitewashed memorials, but the largest and most impressive are found here. One, the Jethawanarama, was at the time of its construction in the late-3rd century AD almost as tall as the two great pyramids at Giza! The most revered monument on the site, however, is of more modest proportions. Enclosed within tiers of gold railings, the Sri Maha Bodi, or Sacred Bodhi Tree, is believed to have been grown from a cutting taken from the one under which the historical Buddha achieved enlightenment. The original, in Bodh Gaya, India, perished many centuries ago and worshippers from across the world have travelled here ever since to venerate its gnarled old off-shoot.

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Day 8

In the morning we’ll drive across the island to the east coast city of Trincomalee, and after a tour of the town’s historic sites will spend the afternoon on one of the island’s loveliest beaches.

Your first stop in Trinco will be stately Fort Frederick, originally erected in the 17th century by the Portuguese to guard the town’s impressive harbour, which served as the lynchpin of Dutch, French and British colonial trade in the region. Crowned by the whitewashed Koneswaram Temple, nearby Swami Rock is no less spectacular. From the terrace of the shrine, you can gaze over the dramatic expanse of white sand and blue water sweeping north, where the local Cinnamon resort occupies a prime position. This will be your venue for lunch, and the hotel where any clients who have opted to extend their tour will spend the next few days. Before heading back to Harbarana, there will be time for a refreshing ocean dip and laze on the beach in front of the resort.

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Day 9

Check out after breakfast, then board the coach for your transfer to Colombo airport, where you’ll catch your flight back to the UK.


The Cinnamon Lodge at Trincomalee, featured on Day Eight of this tour, is among our resorts of choice on Sri Lanka’s east coast, and the one we generally recommend to clients wishing to extend their stay to enjoy the island’s beaches. Extensively refurbished in 2017, the hotel is modern and luxurious, and enjoys a perfect location on one of Asia’s loveliest tropical bays.

Several other beaches lie within easy reach of the resort, including Nelaveli, a short drive north, which novelist Carl Müller once described as ”peach perfect . . . with a creaming sea of dreamy blue and a lagoon like a sculpted topaz”. Passikuda, a classic curve of shallow, translucent water and golden sand to the south, is equally beautiful, while Coral Island, just up the coast from Trincomalee, is the island’s best snorkelling site, its reef teeming with multi-coloured fish.

The seas off Trincomalee are also one of Asia’s top whale hot spots. Boats depart daily for a stretch of sea six miles offshore where blue and sperm whales are regularly sighted. March–April and August–September, when the whales migrate around the island, are the best periods.

Accommodation Options

Tailor-made Tour 9 days from £2145 per person

What's included

✓   7 nights accommodation
✓   All internal transportation and transfers
✓   English-speaking accompanying chauffeur-guide throughout
✓   Breakfast daily
✓   Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary

Places and Experiences in this tour

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