Botanical Histories in Sri Lanka

29 Mar - 12 Apr 2025
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Travel in the company of botanical expert, Carolyn Fry, to discover Sri Lanka’s botanical treasures.

Learn about its spice trade and production, both historical and contemporary, with practical applications in a cooking demonstration. Discover the significance of the Bo-tree and lotus flower at Dambulla Caves and walk through the Popham Arboretum, Sri Lanka's only dry zone arboretum.

Visit the impressive botanical gardens in Peradeniya and Nuwara Eliya, as well as Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya for the annual flower show, with which the tour coincides.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Carolyn Fry

Carolyn Fry

Carolyn Fry is an author and journalist specialising in science, conservation, natural history and adventure travel. She has written and contributed to 11 books, covering botanical explorers, the origins of plant-based foods and climate science. Carolyn has won many awards for her work, including the 2016 Garden Media Guild Award for Best Environmental Book for 'Seeds: Safeguarding our Future.'

A former editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, Carolyn has contributed to New Scientist, BBC Wildlife, BBC History, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Independent on Sunday and Kew Magazine, among others. Her work has taken her far and wide; from visiting the world’s most remote post office in Antarctica, to following in the footsteps of Livingstone in Zambia and wandering ancient palm forests in the Seychelles.

She has appeared on two BBC documentaries, to discuss the role of plants as commodities during the British Empire and the resurgence of tropical gardens.

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  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Colombo (Sat, 29 March) Arrive in Colombo and transfer to the hotel to settle in before dinner.
  • Day 2: Colombo (Sun, 30 March) Visit the Thalangama Wetlands. Continue onto the flower market at Diyatha Uyana (the water garden) near the Water’s Edge Complex. Colombo is an official Ramsar Wetland City since 2018 - managing the wetlands in the city is part of the city development plan. That afternoon explore the old town of Colombo around the old Dutch Hospital and learn of the spice trade and the history of Colombo. Return in time for sundowners and a welcome dinner.
  • Day 3: Colombo / Kandalama (Mon, 31 Mar) Drive to Habarana via the Ceylon Kingsmen Garden at Negombo. Arrive and check into Kandamala Hotel, a stunning hotel designed by Sri Lanka's famed architect Geoffrey Bawa, surrounded by jungle. Explore the hotel and grounds on a tour in the late afternoo before dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 4: Kandalama (Tue, 1 April) Early start to visit the legendary sky citadel of Sigiriya, famous for the ‘Lion Rock’ and its frescoes of ‘Celestial Maidens’. As well as the rock fortress it has some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. Visit a local village with a small school and continue on to a village house, where you will take part in a cookery demonstration using local spices followed by a delicious local lunch where you will dine with locals in the house. Return to the hotel for dinner.
  • Day 5: Kandalama (Wed, 2 April) Option to visit the ancient site of the monastery of Ritigala, an ancient Buddhist site set within the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve. The site includes a historic Ayurveda herbal medicine hospital. Later in the afternoon visit Minneriya or Kaudulla National Park and see large herds of elephants and flocks of birds. Local dinner at the Tropical Village in Dambulla.
  • Day 6: Kandalama / Kandy (Thur, 3 April) Drive to Kandy via Dambulla and take a walk through the Popham Arboretum, Sri Lanka's only dry zone arboretum. The arboretum has many species of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, spiders and the main building was designed by Geoffrey Bawa. Continue to the Cave Temple Complex of Dambulla. Learn of the Bo tree and the lotus - both of which can be seen outside the caves. This area is also the main distribution centre of vegetables in Sri Lanka. See how the vegetables are loaded into tuk-tuks bound for Colombo and other regions. Continue on to Matale and visit a spice plantation, where you will watch a cookery demonstration using many spices, followed by a delicious Sri Lankan lunch. Arrive at the Cinnamon Citadel Hotel in Kandy.
  • Day 7: Kandy (Fri, 4 April) Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradaniya, visit the plantations of coffee, tea, rubber and cinchona and the orchid house along with medicinal herbal section. Visit the city of Kandy and the gemstone market and gem workshops. Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, followed by the evening ceremony in the temple. Dinner in a local restaurant in Kandy.
  • Day 8: Kandy / Nuwara Eliya (Sat, 5 April) Take the scenic train journey through the beautiful tea country and high country to Nuwara Eliya. Take part in a Sightseeing of the colonial hill station including the golf course, race track, gentlemen’s clubs, British cemetery and the Holy Trinity Church. Check into the Grand Hotel. Dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 9: Nuwara Eliya (Sun, 6 April) Visit the Somerset Tea Estate and visit the plantation and tea factory. Sri Lanka grows some of the world’s finest teas, including white tea and orange pekoe tea. Visit Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya for the annual flower show. It is organized by the Municipal Council of Nuwara-Eliya and this competition encourages flower growers in the area. Farmers take advantage of this occasion to display their farming skills and also talk about their new techniques. Dinner at the historic private Hill Club.
  • Day 10: Nuwara Eliya (Mon, 7 April ) Visit Hakgala Botanic Garden near Nuwara Eliya a contrast with Peradeniya. It was established to grow cinchona and has a dramatic setting. At leisure with an option to return to the Flower Show. Enjoy a high tea in the Grand Hotel
  • Day 11: Nuwara Eliya / Galle (Tue, 8 April ) Travel from Nuwara Eliya to Galle via Mattala and the southern expressway. Arrive in the evening and check into the hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
  • Day 12: Galle (Wed, 9 April) A leisurely start and explore the old City of Galle and hear of the stories of Dutch and Portuguese trading history. At leisure.
  • Day 13: Galle (Thur, 10 April) Full day at t leisure on the coast with options to go whale watching. Sri Lanka is the best place in the world to see blue whales. Dinner at a local restaurant.
  • Day 14: Galle / Colombo (Fri, 11 April) Visit Geoffrey Bawa’s Lunuganga Estate. Continue to the Brief Gardens, the home of Bevis Bawa, before returning to the Galle Face Hotel for a farewell dinner.
  • Day 15: Colombo (Sat, 12 April) Depart the hotel after breakfast.

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