• Visit Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage, nursery and breeding grounds for wild Asian pachyderms. Sri Lanka.

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  • Sacred fresco in Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sri Lanka.

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  • One of Dambulla's exquisite cave temples. Sri Lanka.

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  • Polonnaruwa, remains of an ancient royal city. Sri Lanka.

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  • Chinese fishing nets line the waterfront in Fort Cochin, India.

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  • Charminar, built by a mighty sultan in A.D. 1591. Hyderabad, India.

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Sri Lanka & South India. Five Millennia of Spices, Artistry, & Architecture on the Indian Ocean.

Spice traders, Buddhists, and powerful dynasties all made their way to Sri Lanka (once, Ceylon) long before Europeans headed there for some good old-fashioned colonization. We explore the fascinating island nation of Sri Lanka, then hop over a bit of the Indian Ocean to neighboring South India for some quality time in the watery wonder that is Kerala State.

    From Sri Lanka's de facto capital of Colombo, head to several ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites: Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla. Spend time in the interesting city of Kandy before we fly to South India's Kerala State, a network of islands, canals, and peninsulas. Explore the historic city of Cochin. Cruise the inland waterways and lakes that radiate from the backwater town of Alleppey. Then to Hyderabad, a city with an entirely different character.

India, Sri Lanka

Type:Custom Journeys


Sample Journey

This is a 14-day sample itinerary. Remember that R. Crusoe can create a Sri Lanka & South India journey of any length to meet your exact specifications.

Day 1: United States
• Overnight flight to Sri Lanka.
Overnight in flight

Day 2-3: Colombo, Sri Lanka
• Arrive Colombo, leisure time, Parliament House, Paradise Road.
Overnights in Colombo

Day 4: Dambulla
• Drive to Dambulla.
• Elephant viewing at Minneriya, Kaudulla, or Eco national park.
Overnight in Dambulla

Day 5: Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla
• Ancient Anuradhapura UNESCO World Heritage site
• Ancient Sigiriya UNESCO World Heritage site.
• Return to Dambulla.
Overnight in Dambulla

Day 6: Hiriwadunna, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla
• Morning at Hiriwadunna village.
• Leisure time.
• Ancient Polonnaruwa UNESCO World Heritage site.
• Return to Dambulla.   
Overnight in Dambulla

Day 7: Dambulla, Matale, Kandy
• Ancient Dambulla UNESCO World Heritage cave temples and Buddha.
• Drive to Matale, spice farm, Ena De Silva home.
• Drive to Kandy.
Overnight in Kandy

Day 8: Kandy
• Royal Botanical Gardens, private viewing at Temple of the Tooth, batik and gem workshops, Anglican Cathedral.
• Leisure time with option to play a round at Victoria Golf Course.
Overnight in Kandy  

Day 9: Pinnawala, Colombo; Cochin, India
• Elephant Orphanage Center, Samarasinghe home.
• Drive to Colombo, fly to Cochin.
Overnight in Cochin

Day 10: Cochin, Alleppey
• Chinese fishing nets, Fort Cochin, St. Francis Church.
• Drive to Alleppey, private boat ride including private home visit.
• Return to Cochin, cooking demonstration in a private home.
Overnight in Cochin

Day 11: Cochin, Hyderabad
• Jew Town, synagogue, Mattancherry Palace.
• Fly to Hyderabad, leisure time.
Overnight in Hyderabad

Day 12: Hyderabad
• Morning options include drive to Pochampally, weaving and dying workshops, Chatrashala houses, and Gajam Govardhana weaving workshop, or tour HITEC township and “Cyberabad.”
• Return to Hyderabad, tour Chowmahalla Palace, Charminar.    
Overnight in Hyderabad

Day 13: Hyderabad
• Falaknuma Palace tour with historian.
• Fly home.

Day 14: United States
Welcome home.

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Per person sharing room from $8,990 for this 13-day sample itinerary.
Internal air per person (estimate) $320

For more information, to book, or to speak to an R. Crusoe & Son travel specialist, please call us at 800-585-8555.

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Sri Lanka, Formidable Treasury of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The tiny island nation of Sri Lanka, just off India’s southern tip, is about the same size as West Virginia, but it boasts a remarkable six UNESCO World Heritage sites. No surprise, once you know that the history of the island stretches back to the ninth century B.C. (though prehistoric humans inhabited the island 35,000 years ago).

     Herewith, a quick roundup of the UNESCO sites and their significance.

     The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in A.D. 993. It comprises Brahmanic monuments as well as monumental ruins of a fabulous garden-city created in the 12th century. Kings ruled the central plains of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa when it was a thriving commercial and religious center. From here, merchants haggled for rare goods, and the pious prayed at its numerous temples. Today, the glories of that age can be found in archaeological treasures that illustrate how the city looked in its heyday. The archaeological site has hundreds of ancient structures—tombs and temples, statues and stupas—within a compact area. Its Quadrangle alone is worth the trip.

     The Ancient City of Sigiriya. The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (A.D. 477–95) stand at the summit of a granite peak—the Lion's Rock—that dominates views of the jungle from all sides. A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site. Iconic Sigiriya is perhaps the nation’s single most dramatic site. Climb a series of vertiginous staircases along sheer walls, you pass a series of quite remarkable frescoes and the colossal lion's paws carved into the bedrock. The surrounding landscape includes lily pad-filled moats, water gardens, and serene sacred shrines. There is also an excellent on-site museum. Sigiriya absolutely mustn’t be missed.

     The Golden Cave Temple of Dambulla. A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. Its Buddhist mural paintings are of particular importance, as are the 157 Buddhist statues. Major attractions are spread over the five sanctuary caves, which contain statues and paintings related to Gautama Buddha and his life. Ancient cave murals covering about 23,000 sq. ft. depict the temptation by the demon Mara and Buddha's first sermon. Prehistoric Sri Lankans lived in these caves before the arrival of Buddhism, as evidenced by local burial sites with human skeletons about 2,700 years old.

     The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications. Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese (who built the fort in 1588), Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South or Southeast Asia and illustrates the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian tradition from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The fort is filled with interesting historic remnants including the Dutch Reformed Church and its belfry (1707-1709); the old Dutch government house; the residence of the commander; the Great Warehouse built in 1669 to store spices and ship equipment (it now houses the National Maritime Museum); the Old Dutch Hospital; Meera Mosque, built in 1904; the Buddhist temple at the site of the Portuguese Roman Catholic church; the All Saints Anglican Church (1871); the 1882 Clock Tower; and the Galle Lighthouse.

     The Sacred City of Anuradhapura. This sacred city was established around a cutting from Buddha's Bodhi Tree of Enlightenment brought there in the third century B.C. by the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after A.D. 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries, and monuments, is now accessible once again.The sprawling complex contains a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: enormous stupas, soaring brick towers, ancient pools, crumbling temples. Today, several of the sites remain in use as holy places and temples.

     The Sacred City of Kandy. Locally known as the city of Senkadagalapura, Kandy was the last capital of the Sinhala kings, whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the  British occupation. Kandy is also home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), a famous pilgrimage site. During puja (offerings or prayers), the heavily guarded room housing the tooth is open to devotees and tourists alike. However, you don’t actually see the tooth. It is kept in a gold casket shaped like a stupa, which contains a series of six stupas of diminishing size.

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