Marco Polo dubbed Sri Lanka “the finest island in the world”, and visitors continue to be seduced by the warm air, the endless rich green foliage, ancient archaeological cities, mystical temples, rock fortresses, the luxuriant swirls of the Sinhalese alphabet, the multicoloured Buddhist flags, and the variety of saries, fruit, jewellery and spices on sale in the markets. Somerset Tours & Travel now invite you to join us on our 17 day tour to this charming island paradise.

Departing from South Africa on 10 November 2019 and flying on Emirates Airlines via Dubai to Colombo, the group will head to Negombo for a night before transferring to Anuradhapura, the greatest city of ancient Sri Lanka. For 1400 years its influence extended from China to the court of Rome. Trade relations existed with the better part of the world. Anuradhapura today is one of the great Buddhist centers in the world.

From Anuradhapura the group continues to the enchanting town of Jaffna for two nights. Jaffna is an absorbing mixture of colonial charm and vibrant Tamil culture. Jaffna offers remote temples, Jaffner Fort built by the Portuguese and the Jaffner Library, a symbol of the city’s post-war regeneration.

The tour then proceeds to Trincomalee for two nights. Trincomalee is one of the world’s finest natural harbours. This historic city is old, almost beyond reckoning; it’s possibly the site of historic Gokanka in the Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle), and its Shiva temple, the site of Trikuta Hill in the Hindu text Vayu Purana. Trincomalee has charm, plenty of history and an interesting mélange of people.

En route from Trinco to Sigiriya we’ll visit the rock cave temple at Dambula, treasured by kings since the 1st century BC. This remains an important holy place and should not be missed.

Rising dramatically from the central plains, the enigmatic rocky outcrop of Sigiriya is perhaps Sri Lanka’s single most dramatic sight. Near-vertical walls soar to a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient civilization thought to be once the epicenter of the short-lived kingdom of Kassapa. We’ll also be visiting Polonnaruwa. Kings ruled the central plains of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa 800 years ago, when it was a thiving commercial and religioius centre. The glories of that age can be found in the archaeological treasures that still reflect how the city looked in its heyday. We explore the archaeological park with its ancient structures; temples, statues and stupas. The Quadrangle alone is worth the trip!

Along the road from Sigiruya to Kandy the road north is lined with visitor-friendly spice plantations where vanilla, rubber, cinchona, jackfruit, cocoa and cardamom plantations thrive. The Matale area is also famous for kohila (a type of watercress) and small, mild chillies.

The sacred Buddhist city of Kandy, formerly known as Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2 500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. We’ll be visiting the famous pilgrimage UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha).

From Kandy, the itinerary travels south to Bentota on the coast for three nights. Here we’ll visit the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project. Kosgoda is a prime turtle nesting site of the Green and Hawksbill turtles and is operated by local people with the help of international volunteers.

Liz Cotton will lead the tour and the group will be escorted by an English-speaking local guide.

Marco Polo’s bold claim still holds true. Sri Lanka packs an huge variety of places to visit within its modest physical dimensions, and few islands of comparable size can boast a natural environment of such beauty and diversity. Sri Lanka boasts more than two thousand years of recorded history and the remarkable achievements of the early Sinhalese civilisation can still be seen in the occurrence of ruined cities and great religious monuments scattered across the northern plains.

For centuries, travellers and explorers have written thousands of words extolling the beauty of this ancient land, yet none could portray its absolute sensual essence. Like the tasty curries and tangy teas, it cannot be described, it has to be experienced!

If you have any queries, or would like to secure your reservation on this tour, please do not hesitate to contact me on +27 (0)21 786-2598 or cell +27 (0)83 357 4855 or email info@somersettours.co.za.