ancient sri lankan wall painting

Sri Lanka: Journey to Sri Lanka

3 January to 15 January 2015

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, museum opening hours, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies.

Hotels for Zen Oriental Study Tours are chosen for their quality, location, and as much as possible, their heritage ambience and affordability. They are generally of a 3-4 star standard. All breakfasts and most dinners will be provided in your hotels and most other meals in restaurants, many chosen specifically for their historic or local flavour.

Day 1: 3 January 2015

Depart Adelaide by Malaysian Airlines MH 136 at 10:00. Arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 15:10. You have the afternoon and evening free. Plenty of time to take the high speed train into Kuala Lumpur or you may care to book a room at the Sama Sama Express Hotel right in the airport. Depart Kuala Lumpur by MH at 2305. Arrive Colombo at 23:59. Complete Immigration and Customs and meet our local representative in the Arrivals Hall. Transfer directly to your hotel.

Overnight stay at the Goldi Sands Negombo – Standard room

Day 2: 4 January 2015

Late breakfast and be ready in the lobby at 12:30 for an afternoon tour of Negombo that will include a boat ride through the Ma Oya River Delta. From your boat you will be able to see rainforest, mangroves and local farms. You will also be able to taste the local distilled spirit, called Arak. Return to your hotel after the tour and relax on the sands of the Indian Ocean before our Welcome dinner.

Day 3: 5 January 2015, Negombo – Pinnawala – Kandalama - Dambulla

Check out after an early breakfast. Board your coach and proceed to visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is unique in that it breeds wild elephants in captivity and also takes care of orphaned wild elephants found in the jungles. It is an overwhelming sight to observe how these gentle giants - orphaned and sometimes three-legged – have been taken care of since 1975 at the Orphanage. Over 20 calves have been born here, and it is surprising to hear that some of its inmates have even seen their grand-children during the past few decades! Watch as they feed at 9:15 am, (or you may feed the calves yourself), and take a river bath at 10:00 am for an experience that could never be experienced anywhere else on earth!

Continue to Kandalama to experience a unique one hour ride in an “Angula”, the Sinhala name for a high floating raft from which you can observe Sri Lanka’s magnificent bird and wildlife populations which abound. Later we continue on our journey to the ‘cultural triangle’ of ancient cities of Sri Lanka. Upon arrival, check into our hotel. Time permitting, you may take an optional (at additional expense) evening jeep safari into Minneriya Wild Life Sanctuary where you may see herds of elephants in their natural habitat.

Overnight Stay at Kassapa Lions Rock Dambulla – Standard room

Day 4: 6 January 2015, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa Excursion

After breakfast, there is an option (at additional cost) to drive to the rock fortress of King Kashyapa; ‘Sigiriya’. This 5th century rock citadel and UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn't only boast of ancient Sri Lankan engineering & urban planning supremacy, but also acclaims to be one of the finest monuments of art and culture. (Please note. The ascent to the summit can be strenuous, which is why it’s an option. Many thousands climb and there are ‘helpers,’ - strong ‘boys’, to assist you). Surrounded by ramparts and moats, the Lion Rock - resembling the mythological 'City of the Gods' - is adorned with frescoes that relate to Gupta style paintings found in the Ajanta Caves of India. Half way up you will walk in the shade of an eminent 'mirror wall' embracing the Western face of Sigiriya representing the superb artistic heritage of Buddhist painting. Step through the gigantic 'Lion Paws' - overlooking the remains of the symmetrical royal gardens below - to comprehend the absolute splendour that once dominated this rock fortress. Wander into the well-fabricated museum downstairs to realize how the citadel ‘floated’ above citizens with the castle, ponds and irrigation systems that pumped water onto its summit with an ingenious hydraulic system describing a colossal masterpiece of the great king which remains a supreme example of the achievement of the peoples of Sri Lanka. The tour will return to the hotel to collect anyone not wishing to climb the rock. Anyone may however, travel with the group and stroll around the perimeters and lakes.

Thereafter, the program ensures you will experience a traditional Sri Lankan rural village, to which you will travel by Bullock cart through lush green paddy fields. You will be served tea and "juggery", witness traditional cooking methods, and visit a paddy field to see how the local farmers protect their crops from wild animals. Then its lunch prepared and served in an authentic Sri Lankan style and setting.

After lunch we drive to another of Sri Lanka’s famed World Heritage sites: Polonnaruwa - the ruined city which displays the influences of both Indian and Sinhalese cultures. We will be overawed by the Gal Viharaya which consists of three huge stone monoliths of the Lord Buddha, in sitting, standing and reclining positions. Also visit the Vatadageya, Sathmahal Prasadaya, Rajasaba Mandapaya, Nisshanka Latha Mandapaya, Parakrama Samudra - the most famous places of Buddhist interest in Polonnaruwa. Later we drive back through towering rain forests and beautiful countryside to Dambulla.

Time permitting there is another opportunity to take an optional (at additional expense) evening jeep safari into Minneriya Wild Life Sanctuary where you may see herds of elephants in their natural habitat.

Day 5: 7 January 2015, Dambulla – Matale – Kandy

After breakfast, drive up into the hills through spectacularly scenic tea growing areas which surround Kandy to visit the stunning Dambulla Cave Temples. Dambulla has been treasured by many kings since the 1st century B.C. Today the Dambulla Rock Temple housessome of the most unique paintings in 5 magnificently constructed cave temples flanking the golden temple of Dambulla. Observe the exquisite cave paintings along walls that shelter 150 images of the Lord Buddha.

Continue through an agricultural zone in the Central Province, to Matale, an area famous for its remarkable contribution to the ‘flagship’ crops of the island extending from tea, rubber and vegetables, and especially to its famed spices. Spearheading a rebellion back in 1848, Matale today takes immense pride in its story woven around spices. Stop by the side of a spice garden - into which you will be most welcome - and observe the therapeutic values of spices & processes over a refreshing cup of herbal tea! After the visit, continue on our journey to Kandy and on the way visiting a wood carving workshop and a Batik centre. In the evening you may wish to participate in the spectacle of the "Evening pooja at Dalada Maligawa" – (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th c. A.D). The sacred relic has ever since been the symbol of sovereignty for its rulers and is always enshrined in great splendour.

Overnight Stay at Hotel Suisse Kandy – Standard room

Day 6: 8 January 2015, Kandy

Today’s orientation tour includes one of Sri Lanka’s finest gem and jewellery showrooms with an explanation of how the famed Ceylon rubies, sapphires and many more gems were mined. Last ruled by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe before it was brought under British rule in 1815, Kandy - the World Heritage Site and last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings – displays an array of culture, history and heritage. Experience an ancient Kandyan legacy engraved around its crown jewel, the temple of the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. A stroll across this small lakeside town - cradled among the misty hills - will feature the Kandy City Centre - bundled with latest and world class brands, bazaar, and the arts and crafts centre. Stroll through fresh fruits and vegetables in the Kandy market.

In the early evening we witness Kandyan dancing and drumming, Sri Lanka’s iconic performing art, and you’re unlikely to spend long in the city without seeing a troupe of performers going about their (rather noisy) business, clad in elaborate traditional costumes, with dancers twirling, stamping and gyrating to a pulsating accompaniment of massed drumming. The art form originated as part of an all-night ceremony in honour of the god Kohomba, an elaborate ritual featuring some fifty dancers and ten drummers. This ceremony flourished under the patronage of the kings of Kandy and reached such heights of sophistication that it was eventually adopted into local religious ceremonies, becoming a key element in the great Esala Perahera festival.

Day 7: 9 January 2015, Kandy - Nuwaya Eliya

Sri Lanka, Tea and Spices are words which cannot be separated. We drive up spectacularly scenic roads this morning to the cool and misty hills covered by lush green blankets of manicured tea plantations. At Nuwaya Eliya we visit a working tea factory and watchthe complete process of tea making. Situated in the heart of the tea growing region of Sri Lanka, "Little England" as the Sinhalese say, this beautiful little town has a very strong British influence in its streetscapes, architecture and town planning. Upon arrival, check in at the hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure. Why not end your day in style over a perfectly blended cup of pure Ceylon Tea?

Overnight Stay at Jetwing St. Andrews Nuwara Eliya – Superior room

Day 8: 10 January 2015, Nuwaya Eliya

Free Day. You may care to relax and reflect on the journey so far or take an optional tour of the Hakgala Botanical Garden. The pleasure garden of Ravana in Hakgala today shouts out to all lovers of flowers. Listen to the bells clanging uphill from the HanumanTemple which proves valid evidence of the epic tale of Rama & Sita. Perhaps you can enjoy High Tea at the Grand Hotel.

For the adventurous of spirit you may hire a jeep for the day and visit the spectacular Horton Plains National Park, a protected area in the central highlands and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region.

The Horton Plains are the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. In Sinhala the plains are known as Maha Eliya Plains. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The plains' vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Large herds of Sri Lankan sambar deer feature as typical mammals, and the park is also an Important Bird Area with many species not only endemic to Sri Lanka but restricted to theHorton Plains. The sheer precipice of World's End and Baker's Falls are among the most majestic tourist attractions of the park and indeed Sri Lanka.

Day 9: 11 January 2015, Ella - Galle

Check out after breakfast and board a scenic train ride from Nanu Oya to Ella where we will stop at the breathtaking Ravana Falls for a photo opportunity. The Ravana Ella (Ravana Falls) is one of the most spectacular sightseeing spots in Sri Lanka. These popular falls are connected to the famous Indian epic, the Ramayana. Named after the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, and according to the epic, it is said that after kidnapping Sita, the wife of the hero Lord Rama, Ravana had hidden her in the caves behind this waterfall. The cave came to be known as Ravana Ella cave. The place was at that time a thickly forested region in the midst of wilderness. Continue down the mountains to Galle where you will check in.

Overnight Stay at the Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel and Spa Galle 4* - Deluxe room

Day 10: 12 January 2015, Galle

Galle, the epic Southern capital, is the intersection where classic Dutch architecture meets a tropical setting creating a vivid atmosphere in exotic beauty. This morning we will walk the Dutch styled streets listening to the creaks of wooden saloon doors and observe how European architecture mingles with South Asian traditions. Its original ramparts and bastions showcase evidence of a heritage preserved for more than three centuries. Walk clockwise within the fort to observe the 'old gate' carrying the British coat ofarms. Flanking the old gate is the Zwart bastion - the oldest of all - and the lighthouse standing 18 feet in its glory next to the Point Utretcht Bastion. This Dutch city is criss-crossed with streets that spread in a rectangular grid pattern, pierced with houses carrying Dutch colonial style verandas. Hop into the Dutch Hospital Shopping Complex to be mesmerized by an array of souvenir selections. However, its hallmark is the reality where the Dutch fort remains a working community with its usual buzz of administrative offices, court complex, commercial buildings, churches and peoples frequenting its streets.

The rest of the day is free but in the evening, you will be taken for a cooking class in Galle. Learn the secrets of Fort food and then go around the Fort sampling the best of Sri Lankan street food. The cooking course teaches you how to make some traditional Sri Lankan favourites, including pol (coconut) sambal and fish curry, all of which you get to sample throughout the lesson and then eat your creation at the end of the tour.

Day 11: 13 January 2015, Galle - Colombo

Check out after breakfast and board your coach for the journey to Colombo. A sense of romance and wonder sweeps up all visitors to Sri Lanka's south coast; after all, this is the land where people dance across fire on monsoon nights, fishermen float on stilts above the waves and turtles crawl up onto moonlit beaches. Prepare your senses for overload on today’s journey. The landscape is one of utter beauty; the radiant-green rice paddies and forests of swinging palm trees contrast with endless beaches of ivory-coloured sand and an ocean of rich turquoise. On arrival, tour the nation’s capital, the throbbing metropolis of Colombo. Drive along the clean streets edging the crystal white Race Course - horse racing hub in 1893 & World War II airstrip - furnished today with lavish clothing, food & tea boutiques. Meanwhile, ride to Pettah and tune into the Floating Market - an offbeat shopping experience. Head along Bauddhaloka Mawatha towards 'Arcade' facing a historic waypost, the Independence Square. Every designer boutique, top-notch cuisine outlet and even the 'walk-over fish tank', have revamped this colonial masterpiece into one of the trendiest shopping zones in Sri Lanka.

Check into your superb Colonial Hotel Mt Lavinia and after a rest we have arranged a special Farewell Dinner.

Overnight Stay at the Mt Lavinia Hotel

Day 12: 14 January 2015

After Breakfast, check out before departing to the Airport for your MH flight departing at 12:55. Transfer in Kuala Lumpur to fly home at 22:30. There are options available for those who wish to extend their program in Kuala Lumpur.

Day 13: 15 January, Arrive in Adelaide at 08:15

Cost per person in a twin share room AUD 4500.00
Single Supplement AUD 1065.00
Triple Room reduction per person AUD 110.00

PLEASE NOTE: Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Flight times are subject to change by the airline.


• Return international flights from Adelaide to Colombo. Fares from other capital cities may be slightly different. Please e-mail Lee Grafton for details.
• Accommodation as per detailed within the above itinerary (or similar)
• Meals as specified above
• Welcome dinner on 04th January 2016 at Goldi Sands Hotel Negombo
• Farewell dinner on 13th January 2016 at Mount Lavinia Hotel
• Transportation in an a/c private vehicle from arrival to departure as per specified within the above mentioned itinerary
• Sri Lanka Tourist Board qualified English Speaking national guide services on tour from arrival to departure as per specified within the above mentioned itinerary
• Entrance fees at the following sites.
Kandy Temple
• Boat safaris at Negombo, Kandalama
• Habarana Village tour (Bullock cart ride, village lunch)
• Train Tickets from Nanu Oya to Ella
• Cooking Class at Galle
• Mandatory govt. tax


• Meals not specified
• All extras or any expenses of a personal nature or anything not specified
• Entrance fees for optional sites/jeep hire/ excursions specified below
(Minneriya wild life sanctuary entrance and jeep hire, Sigiriya, Hakgala botanical gardens, Horton plains entrance and jeep hire)
• Visa fee into Sri Lanka, for details visit (currently US$ 30 per person and payable online) for the latest update re visas
• Tips/ porterage

Options as stated in the itinerary

Minneriya Wildlife Reserve: US$ 25.00 (per person)
Minneriya x 1 jeep hire: US$ 55.00 per jeep (6 pax max. per jeep)
Sigiriya Lion’s Rock Fortress: US$ 32.00
Hakgala Botanic Gardens: US$ 12.00 (Per person)
Horton Plains: US$ 25.00 (per person)
Horton x 1 jeep hire: US$ 55.00 per jeep (6 pax max. per jeep)

Cancellation fees:


• Anytime prior to departure: Loss of Deposit

Land content

• N0 refund available for the land component if cancelled after 15th November 2015
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