You might want to add on a visit to the Cultural Triangle to the north of Kandy.
This wonderful tour of Colonial Sri Lanka uncovers the people, stories and architecture behind the history of the colonial era in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has always 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. Moreover, 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.. also 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 as a result, 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. The Dutch were 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 consequently, 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). As a result, this 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 after fearing French occupation. The British didn’t stop there and defeated the King of Kandy in 1803 and 1815, and moreover, took over over the whole country. They brought in Tamil workers from India to work the tea plantations and also built hill-stations such as Nuwara Eliya.
Exclusive clubs were founded, such as the Hill Club, where planter’s lived the high life. Golf courses were laid out, and also dramatically beautiful botanical gardens were planted. 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, and many are now re-opened as boutique hotels. There are many churches, with inscriptions and memorials to those who lived in colonial Sri Lanka. These all reveal interesting stories about the people who lived and worked in Sri Lanka.
This private tour is all about glimpsing into this era and exploring the colonial architecture. You will be staying in hotels that date from the time, in addition to seeing delving into history by day. Furthermore, we can tailor the itinerary to see a little of the other highlights Sri Lanka has to offer. You will start by exploring colonial Colombo and then visit Kandy which was the base of operations in the Second World War. Next, continue your journey into the tea plantations and Nuwara Eliya. Finally, conclude your itinerary in the former Dutch fort of 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 especially to the ever-increasing army of wanderers who flee from the rigours of the European winter.’ Sri Lanka has always attracted the British in the winter. This is due to a love of the climate, people, food and scenery. This 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. You can leave a phone number and suggest a time to call you back, and we can also arrange to do this during the evenings or at weekends if you are busy during the daytime. We can also meet up with you in you fancy a coffee and are based in and around London.