India and Sri Lanka: Celebrating Holi, Exploring Southern India and Sri Lanka
Feb 20-March 8, 2024
The group (limited to 14 travelers) will be led by one of Latitiude's agents. Our first stop will be the island of Sri Lanka, known for its beaches, jungles, temples, elephants, wild nature, friendly people and tumultuous history. While growing modern at a fast pace, ancient customs are revered and practiced and locals will welcome visitors with charm and wide open arms.
The journey next moves to Southern India and the cities of Kumarakom and Kochi situated on the south-west coast of the Indian peninsula in the breathtakingly scenic and prosperous state of Kerala, hailed as 'God's Own Country'. Its strategic importance over the centuries is underlined by the sobriquet Queen of the Arabian Sea.
The Holi celebration begins in Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan renowned for its forts and palaces and popularly known as the ‘Pink City’ because of the pink colored buildings in its old city. An ideal base for touring the royal state, the city has the distinction of being the third jewel of India's "Golden Triangle". It is the most natural place to begin a discovery of Rajasthan's multifaceted attractions. Its beautiful buildings including the City Palace, Amber Fort and the landmark Hawa Mahal are truly worth seeing. Browsing through the markets in Jaipur, where skilled craftsmen display jewelry, paintings, carvings and colorful textiles, is a one of a kind experience.
Feb 20: Arrive Colombo
Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, after immigration and customs your private driver will escort you to the check the hotel to relax and rejuvenate before our adventure begins.
Feb 21: Sigiriya
Today after a short panoramic tour of Colombo you will drive 4 hours to Sigiriya to tour the historic sites as well as visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress, built in the 5th century and a contender for the "Eighth Wonder of the World.
Feb 22: Sigiriya
Two area highlights will be visited today: First, Polonnaruwa , an ancient town during King Parakramabahu’s reign that was considered the golden age, when trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the King. Next is Minneriya National Park for a jeep safari to a spectacular wildlife event known as the ‘Gathering’. During the dry season when water supplies start to diminish, more and more animals congregate around the Minneriya reservoir where the grasses are rich and fertile. For several months of this drought season different herds of wild elephants gather at the reservoir. They come from areas beyond Minneriya, and at any one time it is possible to witness up to 300 to 400 elephants.
Feb 23: The Road to Kandy
The 3 hour drive to Kandy will have two stops enroute. Dambulla is famous for five cave temples on a rock, three of which date back to the First Century B.C. Paintings and statues are scattered throughout the caves, most related to Gautama Buddha and his life. You will also stop at a Sri Lankan garden, a particularly picturesque farm spread over 15 and half acres towards the top of a mountain boasting incredible views of the Aluvihare range. On a guided walk, learn about the garden’s collection of Sri Lankan produce, from pepper to papaya, cocoa, coconut, mango and mahogany. After observing these crops growing, enjoy the fruits of the planters’ labor with a traditionally prepared rice and curry lunch.
Feb 24: Kandy
As crazy as it sounds, a visit to Sri Lanka would not be complete without a visit to the Temple of the Tooth. Ever since 4th Century A.D, when the Buddha's Tooth was brought to Sri Lanka hidden from sacrilegious hands in an Orissan princess's hair, the Relic has grown in repute and holiness in Sri Lanka and throughout the Buddhist world. It is considered Sri Lanka's most prized possession.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the resort, spa, swimming pool or surrounding area.
This evening you will attend an hour long performance that originated from a dance performed by Indian shamans who came to this island centuries ago. The performance plays an important role in Sri Lankan culture, depicting the graceful movements of birds and animals. The dances play homage to the ancient ritual known as the Kohomba Kapkariya.
Feb 25-26: Nuwara Eliya
This morning board a train to Nuwara Eliya the ‘Little England’ of Sri Lanka, is set against a beautiful backdrops of mountains, valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations. Afternoon is at leisure to explore the town and resort.
On March 9 trek the Horton Plains, known to be the highest plateau at 7000ft (2134 meters). Filled with marshes, streams, hills, cliffs and jungles, the park is full of rare and endemic plants and boasts butterflies, birds, bear monkeys, large herds of sambhur deer, and even leopards.
This evening visit a tea plantation.
Feb 27-28: Hikkaduwa
Famous for its long sandy beach, Hikkaduwa boasts good waves for surfers, reefs for snorkelers and divers, plus seaside hotels, restaurants, and bars. Add an island temple, tsunami museum, and turtle sanctuary, and you have one of Sri Lanka’s best beach-holiday haunts.
Spend some time at leisure, visit the fortified city of Galle or join in a whale watching cruise. Both excursions are included in the price of the tour.
Mar 1: Flight to India
This morning you will depart Sri Lanka and arrive in Kochi. After clearing immigration and customs you will meet your private driver who will escort you to your hotel for check in.
March 2: Kumarakom- Kerala
After breakfast you will transfer to the Alappuzha jetty, where you will board a Kettuvallam boat. The 'boat with knots' is so named because coir ropes tied in knots hold the entire structure of the boat together. During the entire assembly of the boat, not a single nail is used. The boat is made of huge planks of Jack wood joined with the coir. The houseboat will glide at a leisurely pace upon the mirror still backwaters through canals and villages for a leisurely 5 hour cruise, complete with lunch on board.
Mar 3: Kumarakom- Kerala
Today you will visit a local spice plantation and farm followed by a cooking demonstration and lunch. The demonstration will showcase the use of spices and cooking methods unique to Southern India. You will have some hands-on experience in preparing part of the meal. The major crops on the farm are coconut, toddy tapping (juice from palm tree flowers), nutmeg, cocoa, banana, and pepper along with fruits, vegetables and spices.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the resort, spa, swimming pool or surrounding area. This evening attend Kathakali, a traditional dance show famous to Kerala. A goup dinner follws the performance.
Mar 4: Kochi
The next day you return to Kochi to immerse in local culture with a visit to a fisherman's village to engage in various activities such as coir yarn weaving, crab farming, coconut leaves weaving, clam meat processing, fishing with Chinese nets, broom making, beedi (local cigarette) making, pottery, basket making and a boat ride. This afternoon will include a visit to Mattancherry Palace, aka "Dutch Place followed by an hour show of the ancient martial art Kalaripayattu, an entertaining show of graceful art, acrobatic rolls jumps and dives that are used to evade both armed and unarmed attacks that mirror fighting techniques of the animal kingdom.
Mar 5: Arrive Jaipur
Today you will fly to Jaipur.
Upon arrival in Jaipur and check in, enjoy an afternoon at leisure followed by a group dinner at a wilderness sanctuary and farm outside the city.
Mar 6 : Jaipur
Today you will visit several historic and important places in Jaipur: the Amber Fort, the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal), Jantar Mantar, an observatory which was built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. The huge stone instruments were devised to study the movements of the sun, moon and planets and are incredibly accurate. During the the tour of the observatory our guide will explain the fascinating use of astrology in guiding the Hindu lives, such as a factor in determining who is compatible for marriage and when to make a career change or other big decision.
Jaipur offers some of the best shopping opportunities in India, from the chaotic and bustling bazaars to upscale carpet and textile shops. You will have time for a stroll through the markets as well.
Mar 7: Jaipur Holi Fest
Today will be devoted to a full day celebration of Holi, beginning with a visit to a local residence and continuing the community celebration with them throughout the day. Bring white clothing you are prepared to become stained and cover your mobile phone!
Mar 8: Depart for Home or Extension to Goa, Varanasi, Mumbai or Delhi
After a day at leisure, transfer to the airport for an evening flight to Delhi to transfer to your flights home.
Pricing and Accommodation
Sigiriya: Set amid the tropical forest, this upscale hotel is 9 km from Minneriya National Park. The hotel has a bar, a teahouse, and 2 restaurants. Other amenities include a spa, tennis courts, an outdoor pool, an environmental center, and a treehouse with chess and backgammon.
Kandy: The 134 room hotel has a reputation as on of the finest traditional hotels in Sri Lanka.On-site facilities include a swimming pool, an assortment of sports such as tennis or badminton, a gym and spa. Golf enthusiasts will appreciate the close proximity to the Victoria Golf and Country Resort.
Nuwara Eliya: The hotel is an excellent architectural structure of the Elizabethan era and is also the former mansion of Sir Edward Barnes, who was the Governor of Sri Lanka from 1830-1850. The hotel includes 4 restaurants, 2 bars, an indoor pool, a spa and cooking classes.
Hikkaduwa: Located along Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coast, this beach front property offers 150 spacious rooms with private balconies. It features an outdoor pool and PADI dive center and is a 20-minute drive from the scenic coastal towns of Bentota and Ambalangoda. It has a rooftop spa, gym and 2 restaurants. The hotel is easy walking distance to the village.
Kerala: Set along the waterfront, amidst 8 acres of lush tropical gardens, the retreat houses 27 luxurious villas designed to maximize the glorious views of the lake.
Kochi: Originally built in the 1800s, this mansion was restored to its past glory as a 27 room boutique hotel.The property includes a swimming pool.
Jaipur: A small, charming boutique property built over 150 years ago as the Samode Royal family's suburban manor house, later converted into a hotel in 1988.
$7,200 per person, sharing double.