Visit some of the most beautiful and significant gardens in the country and be mesmerized by the stunning floral displays, magnificent parkland, island-famous flower shows, dramatic architecture and stately bungalows, exclusive private gardens and picturesque lakes and rivers…
This itinerary offers selected locations around the golfing hotspots in Sri Lanka, however can be customized to suit your travel plans.
Drive time: 1 hour approximately
Overnight: Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
Meet your English speaking Chauffer at the airport and transfer to Colombo, the sprawling city that is one half metropolitan and one half characteristically historic.
Colombo, located in the west, was originally a small seaport. Due to its planned location on the East-West sea trade routes used by Arab, Roman, Chinese and Persian trade sailing vessels, Sri Lanka has always been a part of the world’s history.
No longer just the extensive city you have to pass, it has become a commendable destination in its own right and makes an excellent start to your adventures.
Your chauffeur guide will transfer you directly to Galle Face Hotel; an iconic landmark situated in the heart of Colombo along the seafront and facing the infamous Galle Face Green! Have a well-deserved rest or go on a street food sampling tour in the Galle Face green.
Overnight: Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
Rise early for a scrumptious breakfast on the terrace of the historic colonial hotel overlooking the famous Galle Face Green.
Set out on your first day to visit the present parliament building complex situated in Kotte, which the President at the time commissioned the late architect Geoffrey Bawa to design in 1979, was created in the center of a vast lake. This building includes traditional South Indian and Sri Lankan architectural structures with a series of pavilions with copper roofs. See the water gardens and marsh lands all around the same, giving a sense of the building floating away from the land.
Then visit the Diyasaru Park which is a wetland artificially built in a marshland. It covers about sixty acres with ponds and canals where you could see many species of birds, fish and butterflies. The park offers many features such as a bird watching tower, bird hide, butterfly garden, organic agriculture area, open study area, buildings which are adaptive to nature, boardwalks to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness whilst walking through the wetland you would meet a plant nursery and an ecology laboratory.
The afternoon would be rewarded with a visit to the Baddegana Wetlands which serves to protect the flora and fauna in the area, while helping to control the flooding that occurs from any overflows from the Diyawanna Lake. It is famous for bird and butterfly watching. This trail consists of a boardwalk through the greenery, runs alongside the lake and ends at a floating deck that offers an amazing view of the lake. The trail passes through 2 key zones which are the Duck Pond and Butterfly Walk.
End the evening with a visit to the flower and plant market in Diyawanna Oya Park and see the local budding plants and flowers which are on display and enjoy a conversation regarding gardening with the experienced local gardeners, with whom you share a passion with.
Drive time: 4 hours approximately
Overnight: Diyabubula Art and Jungle Hideaway
Rise early for a breakfast of egg hoppers, before driving four and half hours to Dambulla to experience the inland delights of Sri Lanka.
En route visit the Gampaha Botanical garden which spreads over acres of beautiful landscape with the lake developed besides it. It is a well-tended garden exhibiting a wide range of florae and fauna. It was established by the British to conduct tests on exotic plants such as rubber and explore the development of economy through plant wealth in the colony.
We also recommend breaking the journey at the Ganewatte Medicinal Plant Garden in Kurunegala. Being located in the intermediate zone, this garden offers an ideal site for cultivating a large number of medicinal plants. About half of the land is occupied by coconut cultivation and a collection of tropical plants that are used for medicinal purposes. This garden further supports economic development, education programs and conservation and contains an extensive collection of medicinal plants locally and globally.
Upon arrival in Dambulla, check into the hideaway garden residence and have lunch here. The day ends with a visit to the Rose Quartz Mountain which is a naturally formed garden of sorts adorned with unique colored rose quartz. According to myth, Emperor Jehan had used pink quartz from this stunning highland for his masterpiece in India; the Taj Mahal. According to archaeological researchers, this pink quartz mountain holds a history of more than millions of years. The climb up the rock surface is exciting as there are no handrails to support you and has miles of greenery spread out below in every direction. With the statue beckoning you, you will constantly be distracted by the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape with the sunset in the background.
Drive time: 2 hours one way approximately
Overnight: Diyabubula Art and Jungle Hideaway
Rise early to the sounds of nature and make your way to explore the pristine Mahamega gardens in Anuradhapura. The Anuradhapura Sacred City was originated by King Pandukhapura with specially designed gardens along the surrounding river and an equally large garden of fruit and flowers – the Mahamegha Gardens (Great Raincloud Gardens), with the most famous resident being the sacred Bo Tree. This was a sapling from the tree under which Lord Buddha got enlightened under. The gardens round the Tisa reservoir survive and have stone boulders which were used for royal summer houses.
Afterwards visit the Popham’s arboretum which is a place where trees are grown for study and display as a tree garden, without allowing unwanted undergrowth. The IFS-Popham Arboretum, the island’s only dry zone arboretum was established over fifty years ago on a few acres of thorny scrub jungle and uninhibited ‘Chena’ land, where history and culture merge amidst natural scenery of water and foothills. The forest harbors around seventy different species of trees and has created a very attractive environment for a large number of animal species as well, such as slender Loris.
In the evening, check back into your hideaway retreat and meet the artist whose residence this is and who helped to design the gardens around the same. He will be happy to take you around the vast architectural gardens and have a chat with you regarding gardening over a pot of tea!
Drive time: 3.5 hours approximately
Overnight: Galavilla & Spa
Relish an early breakfast in the morning and ascend the Sigiriya Rock Fortress; a UNESCO world heritage site. It is usually called the ‘Fortress in the Sky’ and is the most visited wonder in the country. It is also called the Lion Rock because of the huge lion that used to stand at the entry to the palace on the peak of the rock. Further exploration will show you the details of the beautiful landscape of the Sigiriya ancient gardens. The Miniature Gardens, Pavilion Gardens, Fountain Gardens, Moated Palace Gardens, Octagonal Pond Gardens, Boulder Gardens and Terrace Gardens are some if its unique features.
By afternoon, journey south out of the arid dry-lands to the lush green jungles of Kandy, stopping en route in a small spice garden in Matale which will offer a tour of the same with a guide who can explain the merits and health properties of each of the herbs, spices and plants including cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, coffee, vanilla, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, aloe vera and henna. The key fascination is to investigate the unusual herbs being prepared in the most stunning way. Learn about the herbs, their development procedure, their advantages and helpfulness in human life. The common habitat and tranquil excellence of the spice gardens is also one of the hypnotizing encounters for each traveler.
Rest of the day at your mountainous villa enjoying the gorgeous views and spa!
Overnight: Galavilla & Spa
Enjoy a simple breakfast and then head to Udawattakelle forest preserve. As you explore this treasure, its beauty and atmosphere will blow you away. The mist covering the hills and the slight nip in the air will make the trek around the forest more enjoyable. The trek is spotted with intriguing sights, like the medieval rock dwellings of Buddhist monks and hermits and the Garrison cemetery; a British military burial ground.
Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden, the largest of the botanical gardens, couldn’t be better positioned. The Mediterranean weather, the entry to the central highlands and the very gardens were tightly bounded on three sides by River Mahaweli; the largest of the country. You’ll share the gardens with many monkeys, hundreds of wing-flapping fruit bats and a few canoodling couples. Highlights include a stately avenue of royal palms, the extraordinary aptly named cannonball fruit tree, a fine collection of orchids, a giant Javan fig tree and unusually highly grown Burma bamboo.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the Kandy city center and the fresh vegetable & fruit markets sampling the goods and street food at your leisure.
Drive time: 3.5 hours train ride approximately
Overnight: Grand Hotel
Enjoy a breakfast on dhal and hoppers before heading to Nanu Oya station (8km away) and taking the train on the old British-built railway through the mountains, plantation and lush forests of the Tea Country. While on board you will encounter food vendors with their offerings of “short eats” and local musicians who will serenade you for a few rupees. Don’t forget to try some street food in the train which is mostly freshly cut pineapple slices or deep fried vades!
As you descend from the footsteps of the train, be met by views of the stunning tea estates and if you’re lucky, you’ll see the tea pluckers’ expertly harvesting tea leaves in the fields – Welcome to Nuwara Eliya! En route to the hotel visit a tea estate and factory and make a stop at St. Claire’s waterfalls to admire the scenery. You can learn the process of making Ceylon tea and have a tasting session as well. The intricately maintained tea estates are a sight to behold as they are gardens in their own right.
Enjoy your time in Nuwara Eliya town checking into a hotel with an award winning garden! Often referred to as ‘Little England’, this refined highland does have a rose-tinted, indefinitely British-country-village feel to it, with its Tudor-style hotels, well-tended hedgerows, colonial-era bungalows, and attractive gardens.
Overnight: Grand Hotel
After a hearty breakfast, you can visit the gardens in the area. Hakgala Botanical gardens is a must visit where two old green gates invite you to one of the most charismatic gardens featuring 10,000 species of flowers. Here the tropical blends with the alpine, palms standing next to Bunya pines on grasslands; ferns droop over dark pools creating scenes from a Jurassic world, flower beds ornamented in elaborate designs and motifs will fascinate you. While there, watch out for uncommon birds among the greenery, like the Forest Eagle Owl. A woody trail also connects the gardens to the Hakgala Nature Reserve; home to a variety of wildlife including the Sloth bear. Highlights include a a Japanese garden, an orchid collection, cedars, giant cypresses and a fine rose garden.
Your afternoon is free to visit the Victoria garden park in the city. Victoria Park is old, as in extremely old! This garden was initially the research field for the Hakgala Garden, but was renamed in 1897 after Queen Victoria. It covers a pretty large area spanning over 25 acres. A stroll around its paths, past the manicured lawns, is a pleasure. The park comes alive with flowers around August and September and March to May. It’s also home to fairly a large number of bird species, including the Indian pitta, grey tit and Kashmir flycatcher.
End the evening with a high tea at the Grand Hotel gardens or visit the Golf club to play a round during the rest of the day.
Drive time: 6 hours approximately
Overnight: Fort Bazaar
Drive six hours south and you reach Sri Lanka’s pristine coastline – to the historical city of Galle.
Break your journey to visit the Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanic Garden which is currently being established in Hambantota. This is one of the first botanical garden developed by local experts for the purpose of conservation of declining species of medicinal herbs, trees and shrubs, and popularizing plants of the dry zone by providing an attractive destination for students, specialists and interested visitors.
No visit to the Island is complete without visiting the picturesque Galle city which is a perfect combination of blue ocean, history and culture. Hence, your afternoon is free to explore the beautiful fort town, its rich history and the fresh fruit, vegetable and fish markets. Interestingly, Galle is a living world heritage site that you can explore by a leisurely walk in the afternoon. Explore an boundlessly exotic old trading port with imposing Dutch-colonial structures, antique churches and mosques, impressive museums and mansions, fashionable cafes, individual boutiques, perfectly restored hotels serving yummy food and cold beer. Find an idyllic spot to witness the mesmerizing sunset and enjoy ultimate relaxation out on a cool open-sided veranda.
Drive time: 1.5 hours approximately
Overnight: Lunuganga Gardens Country Estate
Visit the Cinnamon Island in Koggala in the morning, along with a packed breakfast picnic. History, nature and culture collide on an aromatic trip to Sri Lanka’s cinnamon heartland. Did you know that 90% of the world’s highest-quality cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka? We encourage all to hop into the dhoni and glide across Koggala Lake. Visit the home of a local planter, and over a fragrant mug of fresh cinnamon tea, learn the story of cinnamon from soil to stick. Watch as the fine layer of outer bark is gently scraped off, and the inner bark is expertly cut away from the wooden limb, before being rolled into the familiar cinnamon stick we all see in spice shops today.
You will head to Bentota today after learning all about cinnamon plantations. Keep driving through rice-paddy fields; veer down a few roads and meet the small handmade signpost with “Brief” indicating the turn off to enter a luscious corridor driveway. Nestled within the heart of the Bentota city is the breathtaking Brief Garden; a place that transports you to a different universe! Designed and landscaped by Bevis Bawa, (brother of architect Geoffrey Bawa) this legendary garden offers a number of inviting corners, hilly slopes, stone steps and cooling ponds. Do also take the time to stroll through his residence which takes you through a myriad of different paintings, sculptures, exquisite Dutch furniture and wall hangings.
Overnight: Lunuganga Gardens Country Estate
Your garden escapade continues to the Amuura Permaculture gardens this morning. At Amuura Permaculture Garden, witness the model garden created for permaculture farming, food sovereignty, self-sustainability and eco-tourism. It is a role model for local farmers and encourages all farmers to also start their own gardens, be more independent from the food industry and rebuild a healthy nature. The garden model not only produces organic cinnamon but also plants a great variety of fruits, spices and vegetables. Of course, they only use compost and never use pesticides in a proper organic farming way. The long term goal is to cultivate a large variety of plants and thus be able to provide a wide palette of fresh, diverse and organic food.
Your afternoon is complemented with a picnic lunch at the famed Lunuganga estate which was the country home of famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa for many years and he has done many basic experiments here, for most of his masterpieces of architecture. Today all garden enthusiasts are welcomed to have a guided tour around the estate appreciating his art work followed by an authentic Sri Lankan lunch. A visit to this garden will surely add color, while you stay in Bentota.
As you take a stroll around the gardens, you will be amazed by the spectacular, well maintained gardens and building structural designs. Bawa has carefully designed the landscape so that one can view the stunning scenery from any location of the garden. This garden is designed with shabby elegance and whimsical beauty and is a paradise in an eccentric way!
Reward yourself with a late afternoon tea at Villa 87 which is also designed by Bawa and which features a secluded lap pool, magnificent garden and private lake. An exceptional specimen of Bawa’s vision of tropical minimalism, it’s all about architecture and nature blending together in perfect harmony in a garden concept.
Drive time: 2 hours approximately
With a notebook and a camera memory card full to the brim of your gardens revels, your chauffeur guide will return you by way of a scenic drive to the international airport for your departing flight and a safe journey home.
Learn more about the luxurious properties available for your trip.
One of the oldest hotels East of the Suez, the Galle Face Hotel was established in 1864. Over the years, the hotel has housed royalty and celebrity. It has survived many trials and stands testimony of the inherent the Sri Lankan warmth.
Galavilla’s mission is not only to provide lodgings for guests in a hotel but to treat them to comprehensive care. Their comfort and relaxation are facilitated by a 20 meters long pool and Jacuzzi for up to 8 people.
Fort Bazaar is perfect for guests that are looking to soak up the Fort’s legendary atmosphere, a spot of gem shopping or walking the walls of the Forts 300 year old walls. Once occupied by spice, tea and gem traders, the Fort Bazaar has undergone an incredible 9 year renovation and is now Galle Fort’s newest and certainly hippest boutique hotel, restaurant and bar.