The Polonnaruwa Vatadage, Sri Lanka
Basking under the Bodhi Tree
Discover Sri Lanka’s Buddhist past, starting at the ancient cultural city of Anuradhapura, full of intriguing archaeological ruins and home to the oldest living tree on earth. Explore Mihintale, where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka, and maybe climb its 1,840 granite steps. Then transfer on to Habarana where you will discover the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, site of the ruins of the Royal Palace.
You’ll visit the village of Hiriwaduna and trek around a beautiful reservoir surrounded by the contrast of long dead trees where birds roost, and the dense green vegetation of a banana plantation, and will explore the World Heritage Sites of Sigiriya and the Dambulla cave temples.
You will see Kandy and its revered 'Temple of the Tooth', which holds the tooth relic of Buddha. You will also visit the Nillambe Buddhist Meditation Centre to take part in a meditation session and take part in a traditional cooking lesson at a local village house, before heading to Bentota Beach to enjoy a boat trip along the Madu River then round off your trip relaxing on the sand.
Discover Sri Lanka’s oldest Buddhist shrines at the cultural city of Anuradhapura
See the trio of splendid Buddha statues carved out of rock at Polonnaruwa
Take a boat trip on the Madu River, home to 64 small islands and mangrove forests
Visit the Nillambe Buddhist Meditation Centre and take part in a meditation session
Relax and soak up the sun on the soft sands of Bentota beach
This spiritual trip to Sri Lanka includes international flights, transfers, accommodation and selected excursions.
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your holiday, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has travelled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip.
All of our trips are entirely bespoke and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
The first stop on your Sri Lankan experience is the breezy beach town of Negombo. You'll stay overnight at the Jetwing Lagoon, an eco-resort on the fringes of Negombo City - the perfect place to unwind from your flight and prepare for the adventure ahead.
This morning you’re off to the cultural city of Anuradhapura; Sri Lanka's ancient capital. Defined by its intriguing archaeological ruins, Anuradhapura marks the centre of the island's Buddhist civilisation. Sri Lanka’s oldest Buddhist shrines can be seen here, alongside dramatic white dagobas with their domed tops and monuments embellished with beautiful stone carvings.
It’s not just the architecture here that evokes a certain wonder though, as Anuradhapura is also the site of the oldest documented tree on earth - the Sri Maha Bodhi, which is believed to be over 2000 years old. Cool off as you wander around pleasure gardens, intricate stone baths and ponds connected by a system of reservoirs and canals.
You’ll continue on to Mihintale, where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka and where you will see large number of shrines and Buddhist dwellings originally used by monks. There’s an imposing looking stairway of 1,840 granite steps and while it is a bit of a trek (it’s optional though) if you take your time and have a reasonable level of fitness, you will be rewarded at the top by a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
You'll spend two nights at the Forest Rock Garden Resort. Spread throughout a forest, the resort features beautifully manicured gardens, reclaimed antique statues and carvings, and peaceful lotus ponds.
The cultural immersion continues on day 4 as you transfer to Habarana. You’ll spend the evening at your leisure and then, on day 5, it’s off to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Constructed during the 11th and 12th century, Polonnaruwa is Sri Lanka’s second capital and one of its nine World Heritage sites. Wonder at the ruins of the Royal Palace and take time to learn about the Gal Viharaya; a trio of splendid Buddha statues carved out of rock. You will also have the opportunity to explore the audience hall, the lotus bath, and the lake known as the Parakrama Samudra tank, which was built by King Parakramabahu the Great.
You’ll discover famous places of worship including the Shiva temple and the Kiri Vihare Dagoba, as well as the remains of a former Temple of the Tooth, then, in the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to visit a lesser-known local temple and monastery and meet the chief monk who will share his insights into Buddhism. The immersive experience doesn’t stop there though, and following his talk, you will join a short session of "Pirith Chanting" and blessings.
Rise and shine on day 6. It’s an early start but it’s well worth it as you’re off to the village of Hiriwaduna, which lies around a spectacular reservoir. Here, you will trek in the fresh air along a shaded gravel path, passing the ashen trunks of long dead trees favoured by roosting egrets as they rise up starkly against the dense green vegetation of the wetlands in the background. After a delicious picnic breakfast enjoyed in the cool shade, you’ll continue on to your reservoir crossing point then make your way through a dense banana plantation towards the home of a chena farmer and his family. Here you will enjoy a refreshing king coconut before concluding your trek.
On day 7 in the morning you will visit the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya. Rising 200 metres from the jungle, the 'Lion Rock' is encircled by a moat and beautiful water gardens. In the afternoon the adventure will continue on to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Dambulla cave temples. Used as a refuge by an ancient king, they hold magnificent carved images within the living rock, which were expanded upon by future kings during the years that followed.
During your time in Habarana you'll call Cinnamon Lodge your home. Nestled amongst lush forests, the lodge boasts an expansive outdoor pool, butler service, private balconies, a spa, a tennis court and even a butterfly garden!
Things to do
It’s time to head to Kandy, but not before stopping at the Temple of the Tooth, commonly known as "Sri Dalada Maligawa". The temple holds the tooth relic of Buddha, and is commonly regarded as the most sacred temple in the whole of Sri Lanka.
You will discover more about Buddhism the following day when you visit the Nillambe Buddhist Meditation Centre and meet with Guru Upul, or one of his associates, to take part in a meditation session and learn insights from a spiritual discussion.
On day 10 you will visit a 3-temple loop, starting with the 14th Century Embekke Devale; an audience hall filled with elaborate wooden sculptures depicting images of dragons, soldiers and battles between elephants and lions. From here you will make your way to the imposing structure of the Lankatilaka, completed in 1344 and resting on a large stone outcrop, and then to Galadeniya Viharaya which is also on a hilltop and is constructed almost exclusively from stone.
In the evening you will visit a local village house for a traditional cooking lesson and to learn about Sri Lankan culture and the villagers’ daily lives.
During your time in Kandy you'll spend three nights at the Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge. This quirky accommodation features deluxe tents with a terrace, spread over rolling green hills and the Madulkelle Tea Estate. There's an outdoor pool to unwind in, and the restaurant serves delicious food, with vegetables grown in the hotel's garden.
Things to do
After a cultural packed experience there really is only way to round it off… that’s right, you’re off to the beach! You’ll be staying on the southern coast at Bentota beach, where you will visit the Seenigama Temple and enjoy a boat trip along the Madu River where you'll cruise past tiny islets and mangroves, and keep an eye out - this area is also home to a crocodile den!
Your accommodation will be the Paradise Road The Villa Bentota, a beautifully designed beachside hotel with a stunning pool and gardens where you can reflect on the spiritual experiences you've enjoyed on your trip. You'll have plenty of time to simply rest, relax and soak up the sun before heading home with lots of memories and, no doubt, lots of photos!