From intricate lacquerware to carved masks and exquisite weaving, Sri Lanka's traditional arts and crafts hold a special place in its cultural heritage. On this fascinating nine-day itinerary, you'll take a deep dive into the island's historical and contemporary artistry. You'll visit the famed weavers of Divulapitiya, admire the ancient treasures of Dambulla, learn the basics of ceremonial mask-making in Galle, and sit down with some of the island's pre-eminent artists in Colombo and Kandy.

Highlights

  • Learn about the ancient art of Sri Lankan weaving in Divulpitiya & Dumbara
  • Explore the Dambulla Cave Temples' intricate murals and gilded statues
  • Discover lakeside temples & palaces in the cultural capital of Kandy
  • Try your hand at traditional mask carving in coastal Galle
  • Meet some of the island's pre-eminent artists for tours of their homes and studios

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo Negombo
Day 2 Transfer to Sigiriya, Discover the Hand-Woven Textiles of Divulapitiya Sigiriya
Day 3 Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Explore Ancient Polonnaruwa Sigiriya
Day 4 Transfer to Kandy via Dambulla, Matale Spice Garden & Temple of the Tooth  Kandy
Day 5 Discover Dumbara Weaving, Art & Philosophy in an Artist's Home  Kandy
Day 6 Transfer to Galle, Sunset at the Japanese Peace Pagoda Galle
Day 7 Sri Lankan Mask Carving Workshop, Discover Galle's Dutch Fort Galle
Day 8 Transfer to Colombo, Visit a Colombo Artist's Home Colombo
Day 9 Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Colombo, Transfer to Negombo

Colorful boats line Negombo's canals
Welcome to Sri Lanka! On arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, your driver will be waiting to transfer you north to the laid-back beach town of Negombo. Known for its melting pot of Dutch, Portuguese, and British influences, Negombo's golden beaches, peaceful canals, colorful streets, and friendly locals are the perfect introduction to the island.

Day 2: Transfer to Sigiriya, Discover the Hand-Woven Textiles of Divulapitiya

See the traditional weaving practices of Divulpitiya

Your driver will be waiting this morning to transfer you northeast toward Sigiriya and the Cultural Triangle. Along the way, you'll stop to visit the village of Divulapitiya, home to an ancient creative community that has been producing hand-woven textiles for generations.

Take a stroll to explore the lovely surroundings that serve as inspiration for the local artisans, then step into a textile workshop to learn about the ancient Sri Lankan tradition of weaving that dates back two thousand years. Watch the local craftsmen practice their trade, absorb their experience, and even try some weaving of your own.

Day 3: Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Explore Ancient Polonnaruwa

Ascend the carved fortress of Sigiriya
Climb through the carved lion's paws of Sigiriya

Discover one of Sri Lanka's most treasured monuments today as you climb the 1,200 steps to Sigiriya, the remains of a spectacular carved fortress that dates from the late 5th century CE. Admire the intact 1,600-year-old frescoes and other relics of the UNESCO-listed site as you ascend through giant carved lion's paws to reach the top—where you'll be rewarded with sweeping views across the surrounding countryside. The countless hidden wonders along the way make the long climb relatively easy, but you can also opt for a less strenuous hike to the halfway point.

Then it's on to the craftsmanship of Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Once a thriving city that ruled the island from the 11th through 13th centuries, today, you'll find the incredibly preserved ruins of this ancient city dotted around the central, ancient reservoir of Parakrama Samudra. Discover impressive palaces, shrines, and statues within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and don't miss a visit to the Gal Vihara temple complex, where you'll find dozens of statues of reclining, sitting, and standing Buddhas.

Day 4: Transfer to Kandy via Dambulla, Matale Spice Garden & Temple of the Tooth 

Dambulla Rock Temple.
Admire the intricate murals, frescoes, and statues of Dambulla

Today takes you south toward the UNESCO-listed city of Kandy, Sri Lanka's cultural capital and a welcoming gateway to the Hill Country. Along the way, you'll stop to explore the cave temple complex of Dambulla, a UNESCO-listed site that dates back to the 2nd century BCE. Wind your way deep into the cliffside caves to admire some of the country's most important religious art. Gilded interiors, painted frescoes, and over 153 Buddha statues line the interiors, some of which are still used for meditation by monks. Afterward, climb to the dramatic clifftops for panoramic views.

Upon arrival in Kandy, discover more of the city with a tour of its Royal Palace, which sits on the edge of serene Lake Kandy and houses the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha within the Dalada Maligwa (Temple of the Tooth). An important pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide, an evocative soundtrack of traditional drumming sets the scene as you explore the spectacular series of shrines, temples, and gardens.

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Finish the afternoon with a stroll through the National Spice Garden in nearby Matale, where you'll gain a fascinating insight into Sri Lankan history, botany, and gastronomy. The fragrant gardens are home to an exotic collection of trees, bushes, and flowers, all of whom lend their flavors and spices to the diverse melting pot of Sri Lanka's cuisine. Follow your guide as they lead you through aromatic cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, chocolate, vanilla, and pepper. At the end, you can even buy some of your favorite spices to bring a little bit of Sri Lanka home with you. 

Day 5: Discover Dumbara Weaving, Art & Philosophy in an Artist's Home 

Traditionally-woven Dumbara mats

Today you'll head to the small town of Uda Dumbara, located in the spectacular Dumbaragama Valley about an hour's drive from Kandy. Home to the famous weavers who bear its name, the town is renowned for its unique woven Dumabara cloth, once created for royals and the aristocracy. Most of the Dumbara weaving families continue to live and work here, in low buildings hidden in the trees below the road. Meet these skilled artisans, watch how they weave on traditional free-standing looms and admire the exquisite textiles they create.

Next, you'll dive deeper into Kandy's artistic and cultural legacy as you meet two of the island's most revered artists in their countryside home. You will be welcomed with a glass of juice and serene views from your hosts’ veranda before exploring the house and gaining privileged access to this father and daughter’s celebrated artwork. Spend the evening drinking tea on the veranda, chatting about philosophy, music, and art.

Day 6: Transfer to Galle, Sunset at the Japanese Peace Pagoda

Climb to the Japanese Peace Pagoda over Galle in time for a colorful Indian Ocean sunset
Head for the coast this morning as your driver transfers you south to the historic fortified city of Galle. After settling in, get your bearings with an afternoon hike to the nearby Japanese Peace Pagoda. Located at the summit of Rumassala Hill, this beautiful white structure was built as a monument to peace on the island. Its elevated position offers far-reaching views across the Indian Ocean coast and spectacular sunsets.  

Day 7: Sri Lankan Mask Carving Workshop, Discover Galle's Dutch Fort

Try your hand at traditional Sri Lankan mask carving 

Today masks are used for Sri Lankan performances and rituals, but ancient beliefs tell of their healing and protective powers. Learn fascinating, age-old techniques from your host in Kolam this morning, where masks are still traditionally made from a light wood called kaduru. Follow your host’s guidance as together you mold your creations using sustainable resources such as recycled paper, kithul (treacle), kurundu (cinnamon), clay, broken tiles, beeswax, and even cow dung.

Discover more of Galle in the afternoon with a relaxed walking tour. This beautiful colonial town is surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean and houses the largest occupied fort in Asia. Built by the Portuguese and later extended by the Dutch in 1663, the UNESCO-listed site spans over 90 acres. Amid the wealth of fascinating architecture, you'll find Dutch-colonial buildings, historic mosques, grand mansions, and museums. Wander the streets at our own pace to discover stylish cafés, shops, and boutique hotels owned by local and ex-pat artists and designers. 

Day 8: Transfer to Colombo, Visit a Colombo Artist's Home

Admire the home and studio of one of Sri Lanka's pre-eminent artists

Bid the south coast farewell today as your driver transfers you north to the vibrant commercial capital of Colombo. After settling in, you'll spend the afternoon meeting one of Sri Lanka's most successful and globally-praised artists as you visit her wonderful studio and gallery/home.

Entering through an inconspicuous doorway in Colombo's Cinnamon Gardens, you'll step into a secret garden and pavilion-style gallery that blends antique and contemporary styles. The space which has been in the family since 1872, the library, in particular, is a joy to explore with your host. Her multimedia trilingual exhibitions on sustainability, climate change, diversity, and peacebuilding are themes she continues to push boundaries on, and her works are in collections across the globe.

Day 9: Transfer to Colombo Airport & Depart

Dusk over Colombo's Seema Malakaya Temple

After a final leisurely morning in Sri Lanka, it's time to say your goodbyes as your driver transfers you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels and ayubowan (the traditional Sri Lankan blessing of long life).

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Map

Map of Arts, Crafts & Culture in Sri Lanka - 9 Days
Map of Arts, Crafts & Culture in Sri Lanka - 9 Days