You might want to add on a visit to the Cultural Triangle to the north of Kandy.
Sri Lanka has for so long intrigued European travellers. Marco Polo visited the country in the 13th century and said it was ‘the best island of its size in the world’. What might have intrigued the Europeans more were that ‘there are rubies found in this island and in no other country in the world but this. There are also sapphires and topazes and amethysts. The King of this island possesses a ruby which is the finest and biggest in the world.. a palm in length and as thick as a man’s arm’. It wasn’t long before the Portuguese were drawn to Ceylon in 1505, founding a fort in Colombo and establishing trading links. Marco Polo had commented that ‘the people of Ceylon are no soldiers’, and they stood little chance against gunpowder and modern European armies. The Sri Lankan King moved his capital to Kandy, and made a pact with the Dutch to rid them of the Portuguese, and offered a monopoly of trade, but in return the Dutch had to cede the Portuguese coastal areas back to the King. Unfortunately this never happened and the Dutch just occupied the areas where they had vanquished the Portuguese. The Dutch legacy can be seen in the amazing fort at Galle, colonial mansions of Colombo and the Dutch Fort at Trincomalee. In 1557, the remarkable story of the ‘Three Princes of Serendip’ was published in Venice (Serendip was the Persian/Arabic name for Ceylon), and the book furthered European interest in this magical exotic island. Indeed the word serendipity, which means ‘pleasant surprise’ derived from this name for Sri Lanka.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the British took over the coastal areas from the Dutch fearing French occupation, and not stopping there, defeated the King of Kandy in 1803 and 1815, taking over the whole country. They brought in Tamil workers from India to work the tea plantations and built hill-stations such as Nuwari Eliya. Exclusive clubs were founded, such as the Hill Club where planter’s lived the high life. Golf courses were laid out, and dramatically beautiful botanical gardens. It was one of the most sought-after postings for colonial service in the Raj, and planter’s made fortunes in the tea and rubber businesses. The hills are dotted with colonial era bungalows, many now re-opened as boutique hotels. There are churches, many with inscriptions and memorials to those who lived in Ceylon, all revealing interesting stories about the characters involved.
This private tour is all about glimpsing into this era, seeing the architecture, hearing about the stories of living and working in colonial Ceylon and staying in hotels that date from the time. Explore colonial Colombo, before visiting Kandy (base of operations in the Second World War), before working your way into the tea plantations and Nuwara Eliya and finally heading down to the Dutch fort at Galle on the south coast.
Writing in 1900, Henry Cave summed up a visit to the hill country of Sri Lanka well, ‘seven thousand miles from London, six degrees from the equator and 6,200 feet above sea, lies this unique retreat, whose precious attributes, not long ago inaccessible, are fast becoming familiar to thousands, and specially to the ever increasing army of wanderers who flee from the rigours of the European winter.’ Sri Lanka has always drawn the British in the winter, due to a love of the climate, people, food and scenery. It is why Sri Lanka is such a popular holiday destination to this day.
We arrange totally bespoke trips and design an itinerary that is designed around you. You may have seen a suggested itinerary that we can base your plans around, or we can start with a blank sheet and paper and design something from scratch.