In order to get acquainted with Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankans, we offer a number of half-day tours that are compatible with your cure.
This is a trip along the beautiful coast and through an untamed landscape right
into the heartland in Bentota to the rambling Brief Garden. Anyone with an
interest in lush tropical flora and landscape gardening will be in their element
here. You will find some very rare plants here and some noteworthy landscaping.
Stepping through a gate surrounded by statues in the middle of a bamboo hedge,
you will find yourself in a verdant paradise with dainty pergolas, some lovely
nooks and secret retreats, expansive lawns, several ponds, a multitude of statues
and many more surprises. Our tour ends at the house of Bevis Bawa; a
landscape designer, sculptor and bon vivant, whose life work can be witnessed in
the house and the garden. The grounds are a little overgrown and exhibit some
decadently charming signs of time and use. You should plan at least 60 to 90
minutes for your visit to Brief Garden, but please note that many people stay
much longer than intended.
Bevis Bawa stemmed from a highly esteemed upper-class family, with ancestors who hailed from the Netherlands, Portugal and England. His younger brother Geoffrey Bawa was the most well-known Sri Lankan architect. His father was a lawyer and purchased the land with the help of a legal brief - that is why the property is called “Brief”. Originally it was a rubber plantation, but Bevis Bawa cleared the grounds and turned them into a lush green paradise. When he died in 1992, there were no heirs, therefore the land, which measured approximately ten hectares, was distributed pro rata to his loyal employees, depending on their length of service. Bawa’s colleague Dooland De Silva manages the Brief Garden today.
Galle is the metropolitan city in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka with
approximately 120.000 inhabitants. The old town, which is located in Galle Fort
is especially noteworthy and has its own quaint and quiet charm. The fort was declared a UNESCO world cultural heritage site and only measures 35 hectares, therefore it is easily explored in the space of an afternoon. You can walk all
around the fort on the top of the impressive ramparts, take a stroll through the
picturesque narrow lanes or go for a shopping spree. Several Sri Lankan
designers have opened up shop there and you will be able to find lovely clothing,
books, postcards, photographs, paintings, jewelry, bags etc. The buildings in the
fort have been refurbished beautifully and are well worth seeing. It’s very
pleasant to just amble along and explore the fort in your own time.
Galle is said to be the ancient town of Tarshish, where King Solomon obtained gems and spices. In 1505, the Portuguese conquered the city and reigned for 140 years. Then the Dutch conquered the whole island and made Galle their base. In 1640, they built a new fortress on the ruins of the former Portuguese fort, which is the most popular attraction in Galle nowadays. The British, who took on dominion of the colony in 1796, did not leave much of a mark on the fort and it still looks pretty much the same today, as it did during their colonial period. The economic boom in Sri Lanka, following the end of the civil war in 2009, is especially evident since much has been renovated and redesigned.
1. On the way to Galle, we will visit the silk factory where you can see silkworms and experience how silk is being produced. Adjacent to the factory, there is a well-stocked shop where you can buy high quality fabrics, clothes and accessories or even have something made to measure.
2. A visit to the fort with a stroll along the ramparts and through the alleys and the opportunity to do some shopping.
3. At the end of the tour, we will have tea or juice at one of the following hotels:
- Lighthouse Hotel: built by the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa. The staircase of the hotel is spectacular and you can enjoy a glorious Sri Lankan sunset from the terrace, overlooking the bay.
- Amangalle Hotel (formerly known as the New Oriental Hotel): built in the colonial style. This hotel is very noteworthy. From the spacious terrace, you can enjoy the view of Church Street and the sea.
- Lady Hill Hotel: built on the highest elevation of the city. From its spacious roof terrace, you can enjoy a unique panoramic view over the whole bay of Galle.
This tour leads you south, along the coastal road, through a beautiful landscape
and then inland to the Handunugoda Tea Estate near Ahangama. It’s an organic
tea plantation, which boasts a rich fauna and flora. The tea processing factory lies
in the midst of the tea plantation. Apart from tea, cinnamon and rubber, several spices are grown and harvested here, without the use of pesticides. This
plantation also cultivates the famous Virgin White Tea. This unique tea is
harvested by cutting the tips with silver scissors, wearing white gloves and mouth
protection. It’s one of the most pure teas in the world. After a short guided tour of
the plantation grounds, a delicious cup of home-grown tea will be served on the
porch of the manor house. This is followed by a visit to the factory, where you will
be able to experience the process of tea production and purchase some tea from
the vast array of the plantation shop.
Processing the tea begins with the harvest. Then the fermentation process begins. For this process, the leaves will be air-dried, shredded and rolled. The more oxygen gets to the plant cells, the stronger the fermentation (oxydation) and the more intense the taste of the tea will be. After the fermentation, the stems will be separated and the tea leaves will be sorted by size. The quality level of the final product depends on where the tea plantation is located (high or low lands) as well as which leaves are being processed, for example:
Best quality: only the uppermost tip of the leaves will be processed (e.g. Golden Tip, Silver Tip).
Normal quality: the whole leave will be processed, e.g. Fanning.
Low quality: the dust, that is only particles, are being processed.
A minibus will take you to Balapitiya, where you will change to a motorboat in
order to explore the islands in the Madhu Ganga lagoon which is formed by the
Madhu Ganga river in the back country. Here you will find lush vegetation with
mangroves, balsa trees, wattakeya (wild pineapple), palm trees, breadfruit trees
and many more. Additionally, you will see many different animals, such as
monitors, cormorants, egrets and other birds.
We will make a stop at a cinnamon island where the inhabitants will show you
how cinnamon is grown, harvested and dried. Furthermore, they will be happy to
explain how you can make simple functional objects yourself. You will be able to buy
cinnamon sticks, cinnamon oil and also cinnamon powder. Later on, we will visit
the noteworthy island temple with its Dagoba, several statues of Buddha and an
old palm leaf-library.
At the lagoon, there are many small islands which mostly do not have electricity and can be accessed only via catamaran. Some of the islands are inhabited, some are not. The largest island is connected to the mainland by a narrow bridge. There are cinnamon islands, a temple island and some islands which are reserved for Buddhist monks and their meditation. There are many fish and shellfish at the lagoon which is why a multitude of fish traps have been set. In some ponds, the blue water lily, which is Sri Lanka’s national landmark, is cultivated.
Ambalangoda is a typical, lively Sri Lankan town with lots of shops and even
more traffic. There are two parallel roads where you can amble along, do some
shopping and go people-watching.
First and foremost, Ambalangoda is famous for its mask carving. The famous masks are mainly made from the light wood of the Kaduru tree which is a kind of mangrove. There are three types of masks: comedy masks, devil or demon masks as well as masks for expelling illnesses. Puppets are also manufactured locally. The museum of masks (open from 8 am to 5 pm) offers several interesting old pieces. The founder, Ariapala, was a carver, drummer and dancing teacher and runs his dancing school right next to the museum. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can watch some dancing students practicing. In any case, you can watch the carvers working and just above the museum there is a shop, which is well worth visiting. The museum of masks was co-founded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin.
The tour to Galagoda temple leads into the heartland where you will pass small houses in the midst of tropical vegetation. The temple is just five kilometres away from Ambalangoda and lies on a beautiful hill with a great mountain panorama. The Buddha statue is located in a simple building. With its length of 50 metres, it is the biggest reclining Buddha statue in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s masks, theatre and dance are rooted in pre-Buddhist times. The rituals serve to expel demons, calm the spirits and summon up protecting gods. Buddha called upon people to find their personal fulfillment through their own effort, but nevertheless the pre-Buddhist popular beliefs stayed alive. During the colonial era, these traditional arts were suppressed. Once Sri Lanka became an independent nation, this cultural heritage was revived, the masks colourfully designed and dances performed for entertainment. Only puppetry has become rare these days.
A small bus or a Tuk Tuk will take you seven kilometres from the hotel to
Dodanduwa and the Kumarakanda Maha Viharaya temple. You can ask the
driver to drop you off in front of the imposing stairs and meet him again inside the
temple complex. At the top of the stairs, you can walk around the building and will
reach the sanctuary with its reclining Buddha statue and wonderful old mural
paintings, depicting the life of Buddha. Afterwards, you have an opportunity to
stroll around the ample temple grounds. Then you will be taken to see the
Jananadarama temple. It also has a sanctuary with many colorful paintings and
statues which portray the most important events of Buddha’s life. In both temples
you may try to make contact with the residing monks and if you are lucky they
might show you the temple complex, answer your questions or explain the
images and the stages of Buddha’s life to you.
For your last stop, ideally shortly before sunset, you will visit the Seenigama
Devol Devalaya temple, which is located by the sea. It is not a real temple per se
because there are no monks. Nevertheless, you will find a Buddha statue and a
small Bodhi tree lined with small altars, as well as statues of Hindu gods. In this
temple, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as old folk tales are intermingled.
Additionally, you can watch how vehicles will abruptly stop in front of one of the
small shrines, so that the passengers can quickly jump out of the car, take off
their shoes, drop a coin in the donation slots and fold their hands, and then
quickly jump back into the car and continue with their busy day.
The three temples share some similarities, such as a sanctuary with one or more Buddha statues. The wall paintings in each temple describe stations of Buddha’s life and teachings. The Bodhi tree in the middle of the walkaway with the small Buddha shrines, is a sapling of the tree under which Buddha experienced his enlightenment.
There are a few everyday rituals which our guest can practice just like the locals do. Pick some nice flowers on your way to the temple or from inside our garden. Inside the temple, there is a tap so you can wet the flowers and arrange them carefully on the different shrines. You can also light incense sticks or take oil and candlewicks with you. Going to the temple is not only a cultural event because of its architecture and location but also an energetic and spiritual experience.
You will take a minibus to Aluthgama to visit the famous Kande Viharaya temple.
Afterwards, a motorboat will take you through the backwaters of Bentota Ganga,
a small side branch of the Bentota river. Here you will find rich vegetation with
mangroves, balsa trees, wattakeya (wild pineapple), palmtrees, breadfruit trees
etc. You will also see many different animals, such as monitors, cormorants,
egrets and a variety of other birds.
The temple was built in 1734 and serves as the main attraction in Aluthgama since it can already be seen from a distance. During the Tsunami in 2004, countless evacuees found safe shelter there. In 2007, the temple was reconstructed and since then the country’s largest sitting Buddha statue towers over it. The huge statue is accessible from the inside and boasts wall paintings which tell tales of Buddha’s life and wisdom. In front of the entrance, traders sell fruit baskets, incense sticks and souvenirs. In the back part of the complex you can find the Bohdi tree, which is surrounded by a walkaway, as well as further sanctuaries - some even containing Hindu gods, which is no contradiction according to Buddhists. Furthermore, countless monks live there because this place is an important Buddhist educational center.
A catamaran (dugout with outrigger) will take you through Dodanduwa, a fishing
village near Hikkaduwa, and to the lagoon. During this quiet journey you can
enjoy the sights of nature and watch birds, reptiles and other animals. Often, you
will even be rewarded with a gorgeous sunset. The boat will dock at a temple with
many statues and depictions of Buddha’s life and you are welcome to take a tour
through the temple.
This lagoon shelters two “hermit islands”. They were founded by a famous German hermit and monk named Nyanatiloka Mahathera (Anton Gueth, 1878- 1957).
He was one of the first German Buddhist monks. There are simple houses in the midst of nature where the monks can quietly pursue meditation. On one of these two islands, a German nun named Ayya Khema used to live. She was born as Ilse Kussel in Berlin in 1923 and converted to Buddhism after a turbulent life. In 1985, she founded a convent only for Western nuns and worked as their Abbess until the beginning of the 1990s. Apart from her intense meditation work she was also deeply committed to championing the cause of the Buddhist nuns. At the end of the 1980s she left Sri Lanka to found a Buddhist Meditation and Educational Centre - the Buddha House - in Germany. This is where she died in 1997. Today, monks and nuns are living in seclusion on both islands to devote themselves to Buddha’s teachings.
Unawatuna is a beach town in one of the most beautiful bays of Sri Lanka. Here
you will find two kilometers of sandy beach which is protected by two reefs,
therefore you are able to swim inside the warm Indian Ocean the whole year
round. The bay is located away from the coastal road and has a beautiful tropical
outback called Rumassala. On the Western end of the bay, there is a temple with
a glowing white Dagoba and a great Buddha statue on top of a hill; the Peace
Pagoda. You can watch amazing sunsets from there. There are many hotels and
restaurants near the beach and the beach road is lined with small shops and
bars. Before the Tsunami, the reef had many more species of fish than the Great
Barrier Reef in Australia, but now it’s in danger of being destroyed. You can
access it easily (at the end of the beach in the direction of the temple) and it is a
true paradise for snorkeling. Some local offers include boat trips by catamaran or
glass bottom boat, or a tour around the peninsula of Rumassala Kanda by motor
In former times, it was a heavenly refuge for Dutch commanders and traders who found a quiet harbor and a golden beach with some fishing huts. Today, the bay has a broad selection of beach restaurants, bars and shops. You can watch the hustle and bustle there day and night. In 2014, the beach got very narrow, due to an artificially induced flow deflection, therefore it was built up again with sand from Hambantota. And now Unawatuna sparkles again just like in its glory days.