Join arts writer Joyce Morgan in Sri Lanka as she reveals the secrets of this enchanting teardrop-shaped island, sacred to Buddhists and Hindus.

At a Glance

  • Explore the ancient cities of the ‘Cultural Triangle’, including Dambulla, Sigiriya and Kandy – a treasure trove of some of the world’s finest ancient monuments
  • Marvel at the unique architectural and garden landscape compositions of Brief and Lunuganga, designed by the famous Bawa brothers
  • Explore the colonial heritage of what was once British Ceylon in the misty hills of the tea country and be immersed in the history of the Portuguese-Dutch fort city of Galle

The ancient Persian sailors named the island ‘Serendip,’ capturing the essence of unexpected and fortunate findings.

Explore Dambulla, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Dambulla Cave Temple.

Be captivated by the distinctive architectural and garden landscape creations of the renowned Bawa brothers, two of the most influential Asian architects of the 20th century.

Discover Kandy with its gardens, bustling bazaars and the Temple of the Tooth Relic, and relax in the cool highlands at a tea-growing region dubbed ‘Little England’ for its colonial architecture.

In Galle, see the impact of the Portuguese, Dutch and British in echoes of Sri Lanka’s colonial past.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


14 – 29 March 2025 (16 days)

Tour leader

Joyce Morgan

Tour Status


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Arrive in Colombo on suggested flights and transfer to your hotel for check-in (transfer included in tour price). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including travel insurance (a condition of travel) and accommodation before or after the tour.

Following a morning talk by Joyce, enjoy a visit to the National Museum of Sri Lanka, the largest museum in the country, which highlights Sri Lanka’s natural and cultural heritage and includes regalia of the Kandyan monarchs.

Enjoy lunch at Gallery Café, one of the most iconic restaurants of the capital and the former working studio of Geoffrey Bawa, a Sri Lankan architect who is among the most influential Asian architects of the 20th century.

After lunch, continue to Number 11, Geoffrey Bawa’s residence, a fine example of tropical modernism. Geoffrey Bawa lived at Number 11 for 40 years and it functioned as his city residence. The three-storey villa has been featured in many publications on Sri Lankan architecture. It incorporates Bawa’s signature architectural features of courtyards and verandas.


This morning, visit the Colombo National Art Gallery, featuring among the most iconic works of some of the most famous contemporary Sri Lankan artists. Continue exploring the art scene in Colombo in the company of a local art gallery curator.

After an afternoon at leisure, visit a private collection of art pieces from local artists and then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.


Depart Colombo in the morning towards Puttalam, where the community of Ceylon Africans, descendants of African slaves, settled in the 16th century. Get to know their unique cultural identity, blending African, Portuguese and Sri Lankan influences, and how they have contributed to the multicultural fabric of Sri Lanka.

After lunch, continue to Anuradhapura for a visit to Ruwanweliseya Stupa, a temple that houses the largest collection of Buddha relics, and to Sri Maha Bodhi, the historical sacred bo tree (Ficus religiosa) in the Mahamewuna Garden. In the evening, witness a Buddhist festival and mingle with devotees before enjoying dinner at the hotel, designed by Geoffrey Bawa.


After a morning talk, visit Mihintale, a mountain peak adorned with ancient shrines and cave dwellings. Mihintale holds a major spiritual significance to Buddhists as it is known as the ‘cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka’, where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka in the third century BC.

In the afternoon, visit Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka and the centre of the island’s Buddhist civilisation, now one of the most important UNESCO World Heritage sites of the country. Explore the ruins of Brazen Palace, once a magnificent structure built in the second century BC with its 1,600 intact stone columns and Samadhi Buddha statue, which is one of the most famous statues depicting the Buddha in a state of deep meditation.


Today visit Ritigala, an ancient Buddhist mountain monastery whose ruins and rock inscriptions date back to the first century BC.

Continue to the village of Kandalama, which holds a privileged location close to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Dambulla cave temple and the Sigiriya rock fortress, and is home to the Heritance Kandalama, one of Sri Lanka’s first five-star hotels designed by Geoffrey Bawa.

Later in the afternoon, explore Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock’), a striking sandstone monolith which rises a sheer 200 metres from the ground. It is surrounded by the remnants of an ancient city with a series of moats, ramparts and water gardens, and a pair of giant stone lion’s paws guards the staircase that leads to the summit, which was once occupied by a royal palace.


Enjoy a morning talk before departing for Polonnaruwa, the second-most ancient of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese kingdoms and one of the best planned archaeological sites in the country. In the eleventh century, it became a magnificent walled city with an extensive irrigation system of channels and lakes.

After lunch, return to the hotel for some free time before dinner.


This morning, marvel at the beauty of the Dambulla caves complex. One of the very icons of Sri Lanka, this spectacular cave monastery is still home to Buddhist monks and is covered with exquisite 2,000-year-old murals while the shrines also house a collection of statues of Buddha, including a 15-metre-long reclining Buddha.

Enjoy lunch at a local spice garden before continuing to Kandy for a visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The temple houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics – the left canine tooth of the Buddha himself – and over the millennia since his death, wars have been fought for the possession of this sacred symbol of the Buddha’s power and protection. Today, the Temple of the Tooth Relic attracts Buddhist devotees from all over the world. The Royal Complex, situated around the Temple of the Tooth Relic and Kandy Lake, represents the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.


After breakfast, visit Gadaladeniya Temple, built during the Gampola kingdom during the period 1341 – 1408. Continue with a tour of the Suriyakantha Centre for Arts and Culture followed by lunch at the Hiyarapitiya Estate, a retreat of Channa Daswatte, one of the most celebrated architects of Sri Lanka and former personal assistant to Geoffrey Bawa.

In the late afternoon, attend a Kandyan dance performance, including the cobra dance, the mask dance and the Gini Sisila, a dance demonstrating power over fire. The entire frenetic and colourful spectacle comes to a climax with a fire-walking act.


This morning, after checking out of the hotel, visit the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Home to nearly 4,000 species of plants and encircled by a river, the gardens boast an impressive avenue of coconut palm trees, a fragrant spice garden, giant bamboo plants, an orchid collection and a gargantuan Javan fig tree.

From Peradeniya Railway station, board a train to Nanu Oya in the tea country. An engineering marvel, this route is spoken of as the most picturesque of rail journeys of the world. It offers a glimpse into the hill country and its lush tea plantations, waterfalls and dense forests.

On arrival in Nanu Oya, continue to Nuwara Eliya, known as the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka. Founded as a hill retreat for the British during colonial times, several buildings and parks here retain features from a bygone era of fox hunting, polo and cricket.


After a morning talk, visit a tea factory to discover how loose-leaf tea is converted into pure Ceylon tea through the process of withering, rolling and fermenting. Taste different kinds of tea while overlooking the vast tea fields.

Continue to the famous Hill Club, established in 1876 by British coffee planters, for lunch.


Today, depart for the Yala National Park, the second largest national park in Sri Lanka located in the southeast part of the country, bordering the Indian Ocean. Take a late-afternoon safari drive to witness the innumerable wildlife that inhabits the diverse ecosystems of this park, including the endangered Sri Lankan leopard, the sloth bear and more than 200 species of birds.

Upon return from the drive, enjoy dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.


This morning, depart for Kataragama to visit its famous temple known for being one of the few religious sites in the world that is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims and is a symbol of religious harmony.

After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Galle, the captivating Portuguese and Dutch coastal fortress town on the southwestern tip of the country. Regarded as the greatest example of a Portuguese fortified city in South and Southeast Asia, Galle demonstrates the fusion of native traditions with Portuguese and Dutch architectural styles.


After a morning talk, enjoy a guided walking tour of Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest surviving European-built fortress in Asia. First built by the Portuguese in 1588, when the Dutch gained control of the fort (and the fertile cinnamon-growing region around it) in 1640, they extended it with the construction of its three bastions – Sun, Moon and Star. Some of the most significant buildings still remaining include the Dutch Reformed Church, the old Dutch Government House, the Old Dutch Hospital, the Meera Mosque, All Saints’ Anglican Church, the Clock Tower and the cast-iron Galle Lighthouse.

Return to the hotel in the early afternoon, with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner is at a nearby restaurant.


Today, explore Brief, the former home and garden of Bevis Bawa, brother of acclaimed architect Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1929, Brief is a hillside estate overlooking a former rubber plantation. The house contains many wonderful artworks, including a magnificent mural of Sri Lankan life by Australian artist Donald Friend, painted in the Modernist style of Marc Chagall.

Afterwards, continue to Lunuganga, the former country estate of celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, and enjoy lunch followed by a guided tour of the expansive estate and gardens.

In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Joyce and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude with an included group transfer from Galle to Colombo International Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour and travel insurance (a condition of travel).



Per person, twin-share

AUD 11,750

Single supplement

AUD 1,850

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 2,500

Final payment due

13 January 2025

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in 4- to 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Train ticket from Peradeniya to Nanu Oya
  • Private airport/hotel transfer on arrival, and a group transfer on departure
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Joyce Morgan
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
  • Airport porterage
  • Airport transfer on departure if not using included group transfer
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) visa


Your hotels
Colombo – Galle Face Hotel ****
Anuradhapura – Lake Forest Hotel ****
Kandalama – Heritance Kandalama ****
Kandy – Queens Hotel ****
Nuwara Eliya – Grand Hotel ****
Yala – Jetwing Yala ****
Galle – Jetwing Lighthouse *****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted

More Details

Tour code: AG2504

Fitness level: Above Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.

Suggested airline: Qantas/Singapore Airlines
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Australian and New Zealand passport holders require an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) visa to visit Sri Lanka (to be completed online in advance of travel).

Download booking form here.


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