I’ve just got back from the Gandys inspired Sri Lanka tour and loved returning to a few of my favourite places, as well as discovering new sights and experiences. The tour is a 10-night suggested itinerary visiting rock fortresses, temples, tea plantations and the best safari locations. You’ll travel around the island in a private car and the driver acts as your guide. For me, it was a great way to soak up a local’s knowledge about the culture, wildlife and landscapes. Here are some of the highlights from my trip…
Galle is an absolutely lovely place. It’s got this amazing big fort, a beach and a fantastic cricket pitch. If you want to take a quick look at the cricket ground, rather than buying a ticket for a whole game, you can head up to the fort and see into the stadium. The city also has little boutiques and cafes, and there’s a real Dutch-cross-Portuguese feel to the place. It’s definitely worth spending a day there, having a coffee and exploring. There’s also a lighthouse and local rickshaws can take you to secluded beaches 15 to 20 minutes away. And best of all, the people are really friendly.
Sigiriya Rock is one of my favourite places in Sri Lanka. It’s an energetic climb that can be done in around 45 minutes, but what I love about it is the holiness of the place. You can stand in the ruined palace at the top and enjoy the spectacular views over the surrounding countryside – there’s no wonder why it’s one of the top things to do in Sri Lanka. We stayed at Water Garden Sigiriya, where you look out of your room and all you can see the most incredible view of Sigiriya Rock. I definitely recommend staying in this hotel!
One of my favourite hotels on the trip was the Heritance Tea Factory in the Nuwara Eliya district. It’s amazing how they’ve converted a historic tea factory into a luxury retreat. You’ll be in good company here – past guests include Prince Charles! They have won awards for the design and they still have the old machinery that powers the factory which they start up every evening at about 7pm for guests to see. It’s interesting seeing equipment that’s still working over 100 years later, emblazoned with stamps of Birmingham in the UK. If you’re into history, it’s worth checking it out. Going for a walk around the hotel and seeing the green tea plantations and its tea pickers is an unforgettable experience. You can also have dinner in a vintage train carriage while you’re there – either book a table or hire out the whole carriage.
A good thing about this trip is that you’ll be travelling with an expert driver/guide. They have so much knowledge, so if you needed to know the name of a bird or animal they will be there to tell you. Our guide told us all about the island’s culture and the festivals; what he didn’t know about Sri Lanka wasn’t worth knowing!
My brother and I started the Orphans for Orphans foundation six years ago with the goal of building a children’s home in honour of our parents who we lost in the tsunami in 2004 in Sri Lanka. Our Kids’ Campus in Galle was completed a few years ago, allowing us to provide support to children, their families and the community as a whole. For every Gandys-inspired Sri Lanka itinerary that is booked, Kuoni will make a donation to Orphans for Orphans to help us continue to make a difference to the children’s lives.
What’s amazing about this Gandys-inspired Sri Lanka tour is it’s not all about the beach. You can explore tea plantations, go on some amazing walks, meet incredible people and really get to know the island’s wildlife, which varies from birdlife and wild elephants to leopards and reptiles. You’ll experience the island’s many different cultures and see how they have influenced the architecture in each region. You can try surfing during your trip and I highly recommend the optional hot-air balloon ride. Sri Lanka really is fascinating to explore and, if that’s not enough, the food is delicious!