ARRIVING IN SRI LANKA
TREASURES OF GALLE
TEA LEAVES AND SEA BREEZES
The Serendip Riviera
Itinerary at a Glance
ARRIVING IN SRI LANKA
Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, you will be met and assisted by our Airport Representative who will hold a board with your name as you exit the aircraft. We will then accompany you through passport control, customs, baggage collection and money changers, all the way to the arrival lounge where we will meet you, address any last minute questions you have about the itinerary and introduce you to your guide or guide who will be your travel companion and explorer around Sri Lanka.
The drive to the Wallawwa takes approximately half an hour. Check in, unpack and relax. There is a great spa for those interested in relieving the tensions of the flight.
TREASURES OF GALLE
The journey by road from the Wallawwa to Galle takes about 3 hours on the new highway. The road runs parallel to the west coast. Enjoy views of the Indian Ocean and your first experience of the simultaneously hectic and laid-back island atmosphere.
We arrive around midday. Lunch is on your own at the hotel.
EXCLUSIVE: Afternoon: Visit Galle Fort with a resident.
We will take a guided tour around Galle Fort with Resident Host
The best time to explore Galle Fort in the afternoon. The 16th century Galle Fort is a world heritage site. Spanning over 90 acres, it is Asia’s best preserved and largest surviving fort built by European occupiers. It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 and extended to its present glory by the Dutch in 1663. The best way to soak up the charm of the Old City and to get our bearings is by taking a stroll around the thick granite walls of the fort. This one hour circuit is most enjoyable at sunrise and sunset as the air is cool and the light is long and low. The real allure is found in simply wandering through its warren of narrow alleys and side streets, replete with colonial homes with original archways and verandas, 18th century churches, mosques, museums and impressive art galleries and clothing boutiques.
Dinner is on your own. Night at the Amangalla
TEA LEAVES AND SEA BREEZES
Today we explore the surroundings of Galle. Driving inland from Galle is a refreshing contrast of lush jungle interior, unspoilt and seemingly untouched by tourism.
GUIDED VISIT + LUNCH: A tea and cinnamon plantation.
A resident tea planter will meet you and take you around the private paradise of a working tea plantation. The plantation, which lies at sea-level is the famed Titigalla Tea Factory founded by Herman Gunaratne. Herman will take you on a private tour of his Virgin White Tea Estate plantations, where you will learn how the famous white tea, one of the most expensive in the world, favored by the Chinese Emperors and traditionally cut by virgins with gold scissors is grown and produced. The tour ends with a tasting session of some of the finest high and low grown teas from around the island.
Herman Guneratne, owner of the Tea Plantation was born in the Southern Province and is a planter by profession. He has had a fascinating career – working for British sterling companies for 35 years and then managing 100,000 acres of Sri Lanka’s best tea lands for the Sri Lankan Government. When he’s not playing golf in Nuwara Eliya, he can usually be found at Handunugoda, his beautiful 200 acre tea plantation in Ahangama, close to Galle where he produces some of the best white tea in the world. He is also the author of four books: The Plantation Raj, For a Sovereign State, The Tortured Island and The Suicide Club.
Directly and indirectly, over one million Sri Lankans are employed in the tea industry. A large proportion of the workforce is young women and the minimum working age is twelve. As tea plantations grew in Sri Lanka and demanded extensive labour, finding an abundant workforce was a problem for planters. Sinhalese people were reluctant to work in the plantations. Indian Tamils were brought to Sri Lanka at the beginning of the coffee plantations. Immigration of Indian Tamils steadily increased and by 1855 there were 55,000 new immigrants. By the end of the coffee era there were some 100,000 in Sri Lanka. Today – as a community they are still instrumental to the Tea Industry.
From here, we take a tuk tuk ride through winding paths to a breezy hilltop which overlooks pristine Ahangama coastline. A local cinnamon planter will greet you at the border of a vast cinnamon plantation, interspersed with landscaped tropical gardens and take you on yet another walking tour through a working cinnamon plantation where you will learn how Sri Lanka’s Southern Province produces the best cinnamon in the world. You have the option of a nearby factory visit to experience the processing and packaging methods of the spice or heading straight to a cinnamon inspired four course lunch at the luxurious Villa Mayurana, located in the center of the cinnamon gardens.
The gentle coastal hills of southern Sri Lankan are especially suited to the growth of cinnamon. A variety of laurel, Cinnamonum Zeylanicum, “true cinnamon” is more or less exclusively native to Sri Lanka. It is not to be confused with the cheaper and inferior “cassia” which is sometimes sold as cinnamon in North America. Cinnamon was valued as a spice in classical times; and, later on, achieved a reputation for rarity and expense. Eulogized in poetry from the Song of Solomon to Michael Ondaatje, more than any spice it has become subject of romance. Even now the aroma of cinnamon being peeled to create the “quills” induces a feeling of well-being tinged with sensuality.
Afternoon at leisure.
Here are some optional activities:
– Visit the Buddhist temple of Yatagala or the Rumassala peace pagoda.
– Half a day cycling in the rice fields inland from Galle.
– Head for the beach!
SPECIAL DINNER: Dinner in an old spice merchants home – the Sun House.
Today we have a lovely dinner arranged at the Sun House, the beautiful house of an old spice merchant. Built in 1861 The Sun House is beautifully sited on a leafy hill in Galle’s best residential district overlooking Galle Harbour and the sea. Converted into a beautiful seven-bedroom boutique hotel at the turn of the century, The Sun House maintains the charm and elegance of a bygone era.
Night at the Amangalla or Sun House.
Amangalla OR Sun House
Meal: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
The Serendip Riviera
EXCLUSIVE: Canoeing on the Ginganga river with resident host Jeff
A great way to spend a morning when you are in the Galle area is to enjoy a canoeing adventure on the Ginganga River. You will start from the banks of the sweeping gardens of a beautiful colonial hotel, and travel up-stream passing villages, gnarled mangroves and coconut groves. You will see a wealth of bird and animal life including monitor lizards and possibly even a python. Paddle along at your ease and enjoy the water nature trail and its own brand of Sri Lankan wildlife. Your host for the experience is colorful wildlife buff and Galle resident Jeff of Idle Boats. The excursion takes place at break of day.
We return to the hotel for breakfast – and then check-out.
SCENIC DRIVE: Between Galle and Tangalle you have first a stretch of coastline known as Thalpe which runs for about 5 kilometers. The coastline is mainly a coral reef like the one you have in front of APA. The first town you pass through is called Habaraduwa and here the coral reef gives way to a few coves with clear blue water which are beautiful. There is a café on one of them called The Strip – but perhaps a bit too close for a first stop. 20 minutes down the coast you come to Weligama Bay which is the largest and most impressive bay in the south. Here you will see Taprobane Island on your right.
Taprobane Island is a rocky private island with one villa, located just off the southern coast of Sri Lanka opposite the village of Weligama,. The island was named after the old Greek word for Sri Lanka. The island was previously owned by the Count de Maunay who, exiled from France, fell in love with Weligama Bay. It was he who had the villa built on this tiny island. Another previous owner was the American author and composer Paul Bowles. Other notable people who stayed on Taprobane include Dutch author Peter ten Hoopen, who spent a month there in 1984 during civil unrest on the mainland, as well as Australian performer Kylie Minogue, who composed a song about the island inspired by her stay titled “Taprobane (Extraordinary Day).”
At the end of the bay you cross a bridge and to your left, you have a very picturesque image of Sri Lanka with the railway bridge crossing the river and tropical jungle as a backdrop. Here there are known to be crocodiles and not the safest place to swim (not sure what a hotel is doing there!). Next is Mirissa Bay well known as a backpacker beach and then the town of Matara which is actually one of Sri Lanka’s largest cities.
Matara historically belongs to the area called Ruhuna, one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka (Thun Sinhalaya). The temple in the middle of the town is also built by ancient kings and now it is a very popular sacred place among the Buddhists in the area. In 16th and 18th centuries, Matara was ruled by Portuguese and Dutch respectively. The culture and architecture can be still seen in the area.
The Matara Fort is pretty but not so much as Galle Fort. Still it is very underdeveloped and there is nowhere to stay or have a decent meal. As you drive out of Matara it is worth taking the beach road – there are actually two roads, one interior and one along the coast which has better views. Very soon you will see to your left the University of Ruhuna, and the interesting fact is that is was designed by Geoffrey Bawa and you can clearly see his mark as you drive by.
The University of Ruhuna was established by Dr. Nissanka Wijeyeratne the Cabinet Minister of Education & Higher Education at the time. It was opened on September 1, 1978 as Ruhuna University fulfilling a long cherished desire of the people of the south to have a university in the region. It was housed in the Technical College buildings at Meddawatte, Matara with about 40 academics, 50 non-academics and 275 students. A new building complex for the university was designed by the world-renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa and was constructed at Wellamadama with a unique architectural landscape. The RUC was shifted to the new premises in 1984 and it was elevated to full university status. To date, it has produced about 10,000 graduates and over 75 postgraduates. Around 100 postgraduate students are pursuing masters and doctoral programs at the university in disciplines that are of particular relevance to the development of the region in particular and the country in general. It has seven faculties: Agriculture, Engineering, Fisheries and Marine Science and Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences, Management and Finance, Medicine, and Science. The university has responded to the needs of the country and established two new faculties, namely ‘Management and Finance’ and ‘Fisheries and Marine Science’ and Technology — the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Thus, the university has as many faculties as the University of Peradeniya, the largest university in Sri Lanka.
A few kilometers down the road you reach Dondra, the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. Here truly there is nothing between you and the south pole. The popular light house in Point Dondra was built by the Dutch and it is considered as one of the most beautiful and oldest light houses in Sri Lanka.
Dondra Head Lighthouse is an offshore lighthouse in Dondra, Sri Lanka and is operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. It is located on Dondra Head near the southernmost point in Sri Lanka and is the tallest lighthouse in the country. It was designed by Sir James Nicholas Douglass and constructed by William Douglass.
What follows after are a series of beautiful bays, Talalla and Dickwella with towns which were severely affected during the Tsunami.
We arrive at the spectacular seaside resort of Amanwella (in time for lunch) where we will spend the next two nights relaxing and soaking up the sun. The resort has a wonderful infinity pool overlooking the beach which is only steps away. Snorkelling is available nearby and the Aman can assist in arranging a trip if you are interested.
An early morning or evening stroll along the village paths that wind through the jungle provides an interesting insight into daily village life. Chances abound to view the diverse wildlife in the area, which includes monkeys, birds, mouse deer, monitor lizards, hares and mongooses.
Guests with a passion for cooking can spend an afternoon with the hotel chefs and learn to prepare an authentic Sri Lankan meal. On request particular herbs and spices can be specially wrapped for your return home. Early morning visits to the local harbour and fish market can also be arranged.
We recommend dinner at the hotel.
The Last House
Day at leisure in Tangalle. Here are a few of the things we would recommend one can do while staying in Tangalle:
• An early morning or evening stroll along the village paths that wind through the jungle provide an interesting insight into daily village life. Chances abound to also view the diverse wildlife in the area including monkeys, birds, mouse deer, monitor lizards, hares and mongooses.
• Guests with a passion for cooking can now spend an afternoon with Chefs to learn to prepare an authentic Sri Lankan meal. Early morning Sunday fish port and market visits may also be arranged. Dry herbs and spices that are difficult to find may be neatly packed for guests’ trips home.
• Bundala Bird Sanctuary (also elephants/crocodile/monkeys) is 75 minutes east of Tangalle but as you approach Hambantota in a white fog of un-mechanized salt pans there is much birdlife; finally holy Kataragama, a pilgrim destination where Muslims, Hindu, Buddhist gather in July after walking the length of the island from Jaffna to venerate Lord Skanda by boldly strolling on burning coals.
• At Dondra Head, the southernmost tip of the island an octagonal lighthouse brings home that there is nothing between you and Antarctica! The indigo sea is a swirl of coral, rock and foam. At Maha Vishnu devale – a 7th century shrine once pillaged by the Portuguese of its gilded Copper roof, a week-long Dondra Festival and a full scale Pera Hera venerates God Vishnu with fire-walking and devil-dancing at midnight.
• After Dickwella where brackish lagoons yield harvests of delicious prawns, the beaches don’t even have names but picking-your-own here means having a whole piece of heaven to yourself! Nilwala Cove this side of Tangalle is enchanting with a reef which provides surf further out and safe swimming within.
• At Kudawilla, the ferociously noisy Hoom-mane Blowhole spurts a spectacular 60 foot high fountain of water for its Cabaret in June. Villages say when the sea is rough it reaches a height of “three coconut trees”.
• North of Tangalle is Mulkirigala, a black rock temple thrusting 300 feet into the sky with beautifully preserved murals. In 1826, erstwhile government Agent of Ratnapura, George Turnour discovered ola leaf scripts which unlocked 23 centuries of Lanka’s missing history. On your way back try to visit a citronella distillery.
• The beach at Rekawa is very well known as one of the best Turtle Hatchery sites in Sri Lanka. From Amanwella the distance to Rekawa is about 45 minutes. We recommend combining the visit with dinner at Buckingham Place, a small hotel and restaurant near the site.
We recommend dinner at one of the other hotels we mention here. If you are staying at Maya you might enjoy dinner at the Aman or at Coco Tangalle, and vice versa.
The Last House
GUIDED VISIT: Guided visit to Lunuganga, Geoffrey Bawa’s House…
After a lazy breakfast we travel north towards Colombo. The trip takes approximately 3.5 hours. On route we visit Lunuganga situated approximately 2.5 hours from Galle, in the area of Bentota.
Created over several decades by the ‘father of Asian architecture’, the late Geoffrey Bawa, this beautiful 15 acre estate of Lunuganga, a few kilometers inland from Bentota, was fashioned by Bawa into a place of extraordinary beauty as his tropical vision of an Italian Renaissance garden bordered on two sides by the Deduwa Lake. Featuring rolling lawns, terraces and pavilions set out like a series of spacious outdoor rooms, whose position has been carefully chosen to exploit the fabulous vistas over the lake, tropical jungle and paddy fields. Statues, pavilions, courtyards and lily ponds provide much interest as they flank secret pathways that link gardens characterized by majestic banyans, silvery rubber trees and ageing frangipani.
Lunch: On your own.
Lunch is on your own in Bentota or Colombo.
EXCLUSIVE: Afternoon: City Walk with resident Mark Forbes.
Mark takes you right into the birthplace of what is modern day Colombo, and its pulse that is throbbing.
Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is often referred to as the capital of the country, since Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte is a satellite city of Colombo. Colombo is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins and a population of 647,100.
Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948.
SPECIAL DINNER: For dinner we take you to the Ministry of Crab. Dharshan Munidasa, in partnership with two of Sri Lanka’s best known faces – cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene – claims to be the best place in the world to sample the renowned Sri Lankan crab. Occupying prime space in the landmark Dutch Hospital complex, the restaurant specializes in serving enormous crustaceans that would otherwise be whisked away to more prosperous consumers in Singapore and Malaysia.
Meal: Breakfast & Dinner
At a pre-arranged time your chauffeur guide will take you to the airport for your departure.