Sri Lanka: The Gems

Sri Lanka, often described as a teardrop hanging off India’s southern coast and formerly colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, retains the staples of a colonial-era paradise—jungles, tea plantations, palm strewn beaches, colourful cities, ancient ruins and rock formations, spices in the air, and hundreds of Buddhist shrines and temples.


A tropical idyll with a heartbreaking past, this luxury tour promises truly exceptional accommodations, mostly in intimate boutique historic properties including the Amangalla; the startlingly beautiful cave-monastery site of Dambulla and other UNESCO World Heritage sites (of which there are no fewer than eight); two nights near the Yala National Park with the prospect of leopards and elephants; inspiring landscapes and terrific cuisine.


  • Gorgeous mostly boutique accommodations
  • Lush scenery from verdant tropical to savannah dry
  • Elephants in their natural habitat
  • Fabulous food – tropical fruits, seafood and spices
  • Significant historical sites


LENGTH: 13 Days
TYPE: Small Group Tour | AoL Escorted | Bespoke
STYLE: Culture | History | Arts | Buddhism
START | FINISH: Colombo | Colombo


All meals, entrance fees. local guides, porterage


Luxury + Heritage


Luxury mini coach


7 – 19 June 2019 


from USD 8990 per person based on twin/double share
Minimum 6 guests


  • DAY 1


    Arrive into Colombo and settle into your hotel, one of the capital’s finest boutique properties. This jazzed up 1930’s mansion is stylish, quirky, hip, with only 12 capacious individually designed suites, where the design-driven interiors were created by owner, Udayshanth Fernando of Paradise Road fame.

  • DAY 2


    Join our specialist walking guide, to discover on foot, the many points of historic and colonial interest in the Old Fort precinct- including the Gangaramaya Buddhist temple and the Seema Malaka floating temple redesigned by Geoffrey Bawa. The walk ends at the Dutch Hospital where you will enjoy a typical curry rice lunch. We also visit Number 11, the former residence of Geoffrey Bawa that is an essay in architectural bricollage. A romantic candlelit courtyard dinner highlights Sri Lankan cuisine

  • DAY 3


    Reach the “Cultural Triangle”, the driest region of the country with a web of Sri Lanka’s most significant ancient sites. Lunch in a rural village where dishes are cooked in earthen pots over a fire.
    Late afternoon, as the light softens and the heat of the day diminishes, visit Sigirya. This UNESCO site, an astounding feat of engineering is ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak.

  • DAY 4


    Wake to a symphony of birdsong in your divine eco retreat with villas cantilevered over wetlands abundant with wildlife. Make an early start for World Heritage Polonnaruwa, once a sprawling fortified city where Hinduism and Buddhism sit side by side that was the second seat of Sri Lanka’s royal dynasty.
 Later enjoy a jeep safari in Minneriya Park, one of the best reserves to get up close and personal with many elephants in large herds as well as rich bird life and a variety of monkeys.

  • DAY 5


    First stop today is Dambulla, a unique historical site. The temple’s many caves are a perfect witness to the evolution of the ancient Sri Lankan arts with stunning frescoes, reclining Buddhas and amazing statuary. Lunch today is an elaborate curry rice banquet at Aluwihare Heritage Centre the inspiration of artist Ena da Silva who established a brilliant batik centre here. Reach Kandy in time for the evening devotional drumming ritual at the famed Temple of the Tooth.

  • DAY 6


    Wake up in your ancestral mansion home turned boutique hotel midst lush tropical gardens for a swim in the infinity pool. Visit the famed and truly impressive Botanical gardens of Peradaniya. Lunch today is in a special local home in Kandy, the Suryakantha Cultural Centre whose founders, through their private collection of art and objects, embody their love of two cultures, Sri Lankan and French.

  • DAY 7


    Today’s longish scenic drive is through pine and eucalyptus forest, stylised landscapes of immaculately manicured and sculpted tea plantations and market gardens which periodically open up to reveal heart-stopping views through the hills. Arrive at famed Yala National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most popular wildlife reserves, and famous for one of the world’s highest densities of leopard, though they remain elusive to spot.

  • DAY 8


    Awake to the sounds of the ocean. Today there are two game drives with an expert naturalist.

  • DAY 9


    Meander along the coastline where fishermen try their luck perched on stilts, though this is a dying tradition. Arrive at your abode for the next two nights – gorgeous suites overlooking lovely jungle settings, with a mix of English décor and Sri Lankan style, relaxing verandahs, and lovely open pavilions for dining and lounging as well as an inky green rainwater infinity pool. A boat cruise on the lake takes you to the house of a cinnamon peeler and a Buddhist temple. Cinnamon was once worth its weight in gold and Sri Lanka is still the world’s largest producer.

  • DAY 10


    Cycle through the paddy fields and villages to reach the seaside in time for a seafood lunch. Later visit a Tea Estate famous for its production of white tea plucked with golden scissors (“virgin” tea originated with the Chinese Emperor Tsong).

  • DAY 11


    June 18, 2018

    Segue to 16thC Fort Galle for a delightful lunch and walking tour of the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South Asia, illuminating the interaction between European architectural styles and Asian traditions. 
Your residence the last two nights is at glamorous Amangalla, a sensitive restoration of a 400-year old building that has respected, down to the finest detail, the heritage and beauty of its legendary predecessor. There is a secluded garden, gorgeous pool and a stunning dining balcony that connects to the life of the street as well as serving sumptuous food. Of course the service is without parallel.

  • DAY 12


    Gardens are today’s inspiring focus. First visit Brief Garden, once the home of Bevis Bawa, brother of renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. Italianate in its compartments and balustraded staircases it is a controlled riot of a Jungle Book garden, and the house has an eclectic range of artworks, including some by Donald Friend. Later continue to Lunaganga. the country home of the renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Lunuganga takes the wild and airy English Romantic tradition and gives it a Sri Lankan twist, with rubber, rice and cinnamon woven into the mix.

  • DAY 13


    Today, enjoy a late Brunch. With most flights leaving late evening, you have most of the day to relax or do last minute shopping amongst the Fort’s delightful boutiques and craft shops. Early evening transfer to the airport for international departures.


    • An Ayurveda Retreat
    • Lakshadweep Islands – Bangaram Is
    • Maldives
    • Seychelles
    • South India


Jen Anderson

Dear Marieke these are my most cherished memories of my first trip to Sri Lanka with you as tour designer and guide:

– The three diverse and stimulating climate zones we travelled through: the dry plains of the north, the cool mountains of the centre and the monsoonal south.

– The Buddhist art that echoed Bagan’s Plain of Temples in Myanmar, their powerful geometries given highest expression in the caves at Dambulla and joyful celebration in the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy.

– The contemporary design aesthetic and colour palette found in many of the marvellous boutique hotels you found for us, which seem to reference the amazing ouevre of Sri Lanka’s one and only Geoffrey Bawa.

– The generosity and skill of our driver Indika, who made the journey so comfortable and safe.

– The stand out curry banquet served for dinner at the elegant Amangalla – a most memorable culinary sensation.

I do so hope to visit again. Love Jen Anderson

Caroline Baum Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, Marieke does so much more than seek out the most exquisite accomodation and sites. She maneoeuvres her travellers to front row seats to witness age old temple rituals, finds the stalls in the market with the ripest mangoes and brings them back to your hotel for sunset cocktails. If she could, she would spot you the leopard on safari. Nothing is too much trouble. Her knowledge is deep, broad and always up to the minute. Her quest for the best is relentless. She has a sixth sense for when her guests want more and when they need less. She shares their enthusiasm for watching a herd of elephants grazing almost within reach, or their pleasure relaxing by an exclusive pool or watching them inhale the aroma of freshly rolled cinnamon bark on an island or visiting a private garden lush with memories of past revelries. She can find you the perfect gemstone and the place to set it, the length of hand dyed cloth you have to have, the recipe for the eggplant dish you had at dinner, the best place to see a kingfisher at dawn or a peacock in the rice paddies. Once you have travelled with Marieke, there is no going back. Without her, a country is a paler version of itself.

Caroline Baum | Author • Journalist • Curator • Moderator


Tour Leader Marieke Brugman

Marieke fell in love with Sri Lanka soon after peace had been restored - to discover this is not a soft version of India, nor the new Bali – though evocative of both in terms of women wearing sarees, a fabulous coastline and beaches that attract sun seekers and surfies, and the use of heady spices and coconut milk in their cuisine. She discovered a culture that is very family oriented, a gentle and friendly people still living life in the slow lane, and much that was still unspoiled because the protracted war had virtually brought development to a standstill.
Marieke’s unerring eye for style, detail and meticulous planning enables her guests to be totally immersed in the sheer pleasure of experience that brings lasting memories and luxurious comfort. She is most excited about returning again to the resplendent island of Sri Lanka, which is now beginning to experience an escalated period of change and modernisation, and invites you to explore this wonderful isle before she becomes unrecognisable.


Your Guide

Sri Lanka has not yet developed a thoroughly professional guide culture. Where needed, we engage local guides and trained naturalists to explicate particular sites visited throughout the tour. We work within the system of driver/guides. Indika Perera was my first driver when I conducted the research some years ago. He has been our driver ever since, for good reason. He returned to his homeland after a miserable working stint in the Middle East and is now the proud daddy to two little girls. He is just so sweet and kind and solicitous towards our guests. He is unflappable, a great driver and a most generous person. Previous guests have felt great affection towards him and have encouraged him to put their tip towards his girls education fund which he has done.


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