archaeological tours
homeabout usscholarstour calendartravel tipscontact us
Our Tours
middle east
North & Sub Sahara Africa
Central & South America


India Banner

Sri Lanka Buddha

An Archaeological Study Tour
Sri Lanka
February 8 - 24, 2016
17 Days
Led by Prof. B.D. Nandadeva, University of Kelaniya


Among the world’s first great Buddhist kingdoms, the island of Sri Lanka offers the traveler wonders far exceeding its small size. As we explore this mystical place where history and legend are almost inseparable, its ancient cities will reveal the intertwining of the earliest forms of Buddhism with Hindu and animist cultures. We will have a glimpse of life under kings who created sophisticated irrigation systems, built magnificent temples and huge dagobas, carved 40-foot-tall Buddhas and one who chose to build his royal residence resplendent with gardens and pools on the top of a 600-foot rock outcropping. We will experience the spectacles of Sri Lanka’s colorful rituals and festivals and the variety of its lush vegetation and wildlife. As we travel through the countryside we will share the highways with working elephants and the sites with Sri Lankan pilgrims. Our journey will take us to six World Heritage sites as well as jungle wildlife sanctuaries, tea plantations, colonial hill stations and monasteries resplendent with fabulous art, giving us an understanding of Sri Lankan culture and history.

Monday, February 8:
Independent departures from our home cities.

Tuesday, February 9: COLOMBO:
We arrive into Colombo and transfer to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Our tour begins with dinner in our hotel.

Hotel: Hilton International Hotel
Meals: Dinner

Wednesday, February 10: COLOMBO:
After an opening lecture by Professor Nandadeva, touring begins at the Gotami temple, which houses beautiful wall paintings. The day ends with a visit to the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya, where, according to legend, the Buddha converted the earliest inhabitants of Lanka to Buddhism. The temple is also renowned for its richly decorated walls, including murals painted by two well-known modern artists, Soliyas Mendis and George Keyt.

Hotel: Hilton International Hotel
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Thursday, February 11: ANURADHAPURA:
Today we leave Colombo, traveling north to Anuradhapura. After lunch, we will visit Mihintale, site of the islandís first Buddhist sermon and first conversion of a long line of kings, and continue to the Palm Garden Village for the night.

Hotel: Palm Garden Village
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Friday, February 12: HABARANA:
Our day begins at the ancient city of Anuradhapura, royal capital from the late 5th century BCE until it was sacked and burned by Chola Tamils in 993 and the power of the Sinhalese kings was transferred to Polonnaruwa. It will take us the full day to examine the remains of 15 centuries of continuous occupation. As we stroll among the ancient buildings we will be awed by the huge dimensions of the three dagobas of the oldest periods and charmed by the unique architecture and moonstone thresholds of its monasteries and temples. We will also visit the site museum, which displays the sculptures, bas-reliefs and other precious artifacts from the site. Our hotel for the next four nights will be the Habarana Lodge, conveniently located in the middle of the cultural triangle.

Hotel: Habarana Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Saturday, February 13: HABARANA:
The story of King Kasyapa’s retreat to his palace, built 600 feet above the surrounding forest on the rock of Sigiriya, is filled with intrigue, murder, revenge and suicide. It took him seven years to build his citadel and its spectacular gardens, pools and pavilions, designed to blend with the natural landscape. This extraordinary complex is no less beautiful today than it was in the 5th century BCE. We shall climb Kasyapa’s citadel slowly, stopping to enjoy the water garden terraces, the famous “Sigiriya maidens” painted in a rock gallery, and the magnificent views. We will have earned an afternoon at leisure before our BBQ dinner and traditional Devil Dance performance at a local residence.

Hotel: Habarana Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Sunday, February 14: HABARANA:
We will spend the full day at the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa. A series of great builders, including Vijayabahu I (1055-1110), builder of the first Temple of the Tooth, and Parakramabahu (1153-86), who built vast numbers of dams, reservoirs and canals, have provided us with a magnificent site with acres of unique architectural elements, delicately engraved columns and wonderful friezes. A visit to the new site museum will end this fabulous day.

Hotel: Habarana Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Monday, February 15: HABARANA:
This morning we will visit the huge Aukana Buddha and the massive 4th-century CE reservoir at Kalavewa. We then continue to the great rock temple of Dambulla. The easy ascent rewards us with cave temples decorated with paintings and effigies carved out of the living rock. The afternoon will be at leisure. For those of us who have always wanted to try an elephant trek, our hotel will make the arrangements for this afternoon. An alternative option might be a guided walk in the nearby nature reserve to study medicinal plants and wildlife.

Hotel: Habarana Lodge
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tuesday, February 16: KANDY:
En route to Kandy we will stop to visit Aluvihare, the site where the Buddhist doctrine Tripitaka was finally written down on talipot palm leaves. After viewing the cave temple’s graphic depictions of what awaits sinners, we have arranged an informal discussion about Sri Lankan Buddhism with the chief monks of this important temple. We will also visit a spice garden and stop for lunch at a charming restaurant created by a popular folk artist. Touring continues in Kandy at the Anglican Cathedral. This evening we will visit the Temple of the Tooth at the time of the puja, or prayer offerings. Our hotel, the Chaaya Citade Kandyl, is on the Mahaweli River, a short drive from the center of town.

Hotel: Chaaya Citade Kandyl
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Wednesday, February 17: KANDY:
Touring today begins at three temples of the Kandyan era: Gadaladeniya Viharaya, with its strong southern Indian influences reminiscent of the Hindu art of Vijayanagar; Lankatilaka Viharaya; and Kataragama Devale, famed for its carved wooden pillars. We then continue to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage for lunch in a restaurant overlooking the elephants’ favorite bathing hole. We return to Kandy with time to visit a batik workshop and have some free time in town before attending a performance of traditional dance.

Hotel: Chaaya Citade Kandyl
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Thursday, February 18: NUWARA ELIYA:
Before leaving Kandy we will visit the lovely Peradeniya Botanic Gardens. Our drive to Nuwara Eliya is along the edge of a lush highland landscape carpeted with green tea bushes. We will stop to sample the famed Ceylon teas and learn the secrets of fermenting and processing the tea leaves. Tonight will be spent in Nuwara Eliya, a former British mountain resort, at the very colonial Grand Hotel.

Hotel: Grand Hotel
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Friday, February 19: GALLE:
En route to Galle we will stop at Mulkirigala Temples nestled amid a tranquil forest of coconut trees. Here we will explore seven cave temples decorated with beautiful Buddhist paintings and situated in five terraced areas. We then continue to the Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel in Galle,
our home for the next three nights.

Hotel: Lighthouse Hotel
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Saturday, February 20: GALLE:
This morning we will visit the Martin Wikramasinghe Folk Museum for an excellent overview of traditional life in Sri Lanka. We then continue to the historical center of Galle, including its ramparts and fort, as well as the National Marine Museum, leaving time to stroll the lanes and enjoy the traditional Galle facades

Hotel: Lighthouse Hotel
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Sunday, February 21: COLOMBO:
This morning our touring will include the fishing village of Weligama to see a megalith carved with a figure identified as Kushta Raja, the “leper king,” and the Purvarama monastery, whose image-house is considered to be one of the jewels of Buddhist painting. The remainder of the day will be at leisure before a performance of the Kolam Dance and our gala farewell dinner.

Hotel: Lighthouse Hotel
Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Monday, February 22: COLOMBO:
We return to Colombo stoppeng en route at Ambalangoda, known for its wooden mask craftsmen. This evening we will attend the annual Navam Perahera Festival at Gangaramaya temple. The very colorful parade features fabulously decorated elephants, dancers and musicians.

Hotel: Hilton International Hotel
Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Tuesday, Wednesday, February 23 & 24: COLOMBO:
Today we visit the small collection of archaeological and ethnographical material in the National Museum leaving the afternoon at leisure to explore the city.The very colorful parade features fabulously decorated elephants, dancers and musicians. Wednesday we depart for home.

Hotel: Hilton International Hotel
Meals: Breakfast daily


map of Sri Lanka





Sri Lanka Elephant Temple

Sri Lanka, Recliining Buddha


Sri Lanka, Young Buddhist Monks

Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Frescos

Sri Lanka Kandy







(excludes international airfare)
Single supplement: $1310

Please request brochure for full details