The Story

Best time to go: October - April
Best for: Repeat Visitors, Historical

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.

Guide Pricing

Starting At

£3780
Price per person including all accommodation, private transfers, unique experiences and excluding international flights.

Highlights

  • Delve into Sri Lanka’s colonial past on a private tour, seeing the architectural legacy from Dutch mansions to colonial tea bungalows
  • Pop into churches to hear about the stories of those who lived and worked in Ceylon
  • Take the train through the tea plantations
  • Explore Nuwara Eliya, the former British hill-station
  • Take a walking tour through the fort in Galle
  • Have an expert driver/guide throughout
DaysLocationHotel
Day 1-2 Colombo Tintagel Tintagel
Day 3-4 Kandy Kandy House Kandy House
Day 5-6 Hill Country Ceylon Tea Trails Ceylon Tea Trails
Day 7-10 Galle Amangalla Amangalla

Suggested Hotels

Day 1-2

Tintagel

$ $ $ $ $  

Tintagel is a heritage residence located in one of Colombo’s most desirable addresses in Sri Lanka, offering wonderful boutique accommodation in the capital.

View hotel
Day 1-2

Tintagel

$ $ $ $ $  

Tintagel is a heritage residence located in one of Colombo’s most desirable addresses in Sri Lanka, offering wonderful boutique accommodation in the capital.

View hotel
Day 3-4
Kandy House | Luxury Sri Lanka Boutique Hotels | Millis Potter Travel

Kandy House

$ $ $ $ $  

The Kandy House is a magnificent manor house located in the quiet outskirts of Kandy offering nine gorgeous rooms and a delightful pool.

View hotel
Day 3-4
Kandy House | Luxury Sri Lanka Boutique Hotels | Millis Potter Travel

Kandy House

$ $ $ $ $  

The Kandy House is a magnificent manor house located in the quiet outskirts of Kandy offering nine gorgeous rooms and a delightful pool.

View hotel
Day 5-6

Ceylon Tea Trails

$ $ $ $ $  

Staying in one of the five Ceylon Tea Trails plantation houses is the most luxurious way to experience Sri Lanka’s hill country. In many ways, a stay at Tea Trails is the highlight of any tour of Sri Lanka. You can expect the most amazing service, cuisine and a chance to stretch your legs and …

View hotel
Day 5-6

Ceylon Tea Trails

$ $ $ $ $  

Staying in one of the five Ceylon Tea Trails plantation houses is the most luxurious way to experience Sri Lanka’s hill country. In many ways, a stay at Tea Trails is the highlight of any tour of Sri Lanka. You can expect the most amazing service, cuisine and a chance to stretch your legs and …

View hotel
Day 7-10

Amangalla

$ $ $ $ $  

Amangalla is the most exclusive and prestigious hotel in Galle offering excellent service and the highest level of accommodation.

View hotel
Day 7-10

Amangalla

$ $ $ $ $  

Amangalla is the most exclusive and prestigious hotel in Galle offering excellent service and the highest level of accommodation.

View hotel

Customise Your Itinerary

We can tweak and change any element of this itinerary and you can depart on any day you want, add nights here and there, and we can fully customise your day-to-day experiences depending on your interests. Here are just a few ideas of many that we can look at and discuss when we come to plan your tailor-made itinerary.

Idea 1

You might want to add on a visit to the Cultural Triangle to the north of Kandy.

Idea 2

If you are a wildlife enthusiast, we can add in a visit to one of Sri Lanka's National Parks.

Idea 3

Combine Sri Lanka with the colonial legacy in either Kerala or Tamil Nadu, or even further afield.

Further Itinerary Suggestions

Tea & Tiffin: Colonial India

Bombay - Shimla - Delhi - Lucknow - Calcutta - Darjeeling  

Delve into India’s colonial past on a private specialist tour which uncovers the history and architecture of the Raj. Visit hill-stations, imperial cities and tea-estates.

15 days from £3995 p. p.