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Day 1 - We begin our adventure in style at the historic Mt. Lavinia Hotel, the former residence of the British Governor General overlooking the azure blue waters of the Indian ocean. After a bountiful breakfast we will have our orientation meeting and formally meet fellow tour members and guides. We will enjoy the comforts of Mt. Lavinia for the next two nights as we make day trips into the capital city ofColombo. Wasting no time, our first destination in town is a visit to atea blending and flavoring plant. After lunch we get even more into the main stream of the tea world with a visit to Sri Lanka's leadingtea broker John Keells Ltd., for an introduction into Sri Lankan tea and training inprofessional tea tasting. After anexecutive meeting with one of the major tea firms we return to our hotel for a sea-side welcome dinner including the serenade of Sri Lankan folksongs.
Day 2 - Today we begin our study with a fascinating visit to the Colombo tea auctions - the largest in the world. The amazing pace of the auctions sees thousands of kilos of tea sold within seconds. Following, we will meet representatives of the Sri Lanka Tea Board for an informative exchange and a top-down look into the tea industry. Before returning to Mt. Lavinia we will have another chance to meet with one of the major tea trading companies to learn about tea estate management and current issues confronting tea distribution and exports. After our schedule of meetings we certainly deserve some refreshment. This afternoon we can recover our strength with an ocean-side, proper tea, served right on the beach. Very formal attire of bare feet, beachwear and sunscreen is suggested.
Day 3 - This morning we depart our ocean side retreat and head inland to Ratnapura, an area known for precious gems. We will enjoy a visit to a gemstone refinery and then take our first visit to a tea garden and factory. Enjoy a discussion on the unique aspects of the Ruhuna teas from this area and participate in a tasting of some representative samples.
Day 4 - Continuing toward the interior of the island, our next stop is the Uda Walawe Nature Reserve. Famous for its elephants we will board a safari jeep and venture into the bush in search of rare and exotic creatures. With certainly dozens of trophy photos, we'll continue on our way and stop for the night in Bandarawela.
Day 5 - Our destination today is the Uva district and visits to the Uva Highlands and Sarnia estates. Uva teas have a reputation as some of the finest in Sri Lanka and have captured the highest prices ever paid at the auctions. Strap on the tea picker's basket and head for the tea garden where we will receive instruction on how to pick the finest teas. We'll bring our pluckings back to the factory and learn the entire process of tea manufacture, leaving the estate with our very own tea. After a tasting session where we'll experience the special qualities of these fine teas, we continue our travels, and arrive in the hills of Nuwara Eliya. Our accommodations this evening are at the elegant Grand Hotel which was once the posh residence of the British Governor in the colonial days.
Day 6 - We have good fortune to be in Nuwara Eliya at the peak of the flavor season. This is one of the most important areas for tea production and we will have the chance to visit a number of estates and compare their finest efforts as well as learn the differences from the teas of other region's. Retire for the evening in the comfortable beds of the Grand Hotel.
Day 7 - Our next stop is the ancient capital of Kandy. The last bastion of pre-colonial Sri Lankan rule the culture here goes back well over 2,500 years. It was also the first place where tea was grown in Sri Lanka and we will visit the original estate set up by James Taylor, Loolkandura. Other stops on today's agenda include the sprawling and beautiful Kenilworth estate and a visit to the Ceylon Tea Museum where we will study the development of tea production and attend a lecture on Ceylon tea history, in the midst of James Taylor's actual artifacts.
Day 8 - Today's plan is one full of all kinds of delights for the senses. We will visit a colorful batik workshop and have a try at wearing a traditional sarong. At the spice garden we will have a fragrant tour of the grounds, refresh with some invigorating spiced tea and even enjoy a soothing and aromatic spice massage. This evening we will take in the spectacular display of Kandyan culture with performances of traditional dance, music, acrobatics and more. Nearby is the impressive Buddha's Tooth Temple, said to hold an actual relic of the Buddha himself. Join the other pilgrims for a look into the spiritual side of the Sri Lankan people.
Day 9 - Venture even farther back into history with a visit to the ruins of the ancient palace on Sigiriya, a monolithic plateau that still shows the magnificent frescoes from ages past. And, since we are in the area, we can stop off for one last tea garden visit to learn about the robust mid-country teas.
Day 10 - Today we come full circle with our return to Colombo. But on the way we'll stop at Pinnawela elephant orphanage to get up close to some of the residents. At our farewell dinner this evening we will reminisce about the favorite memories that will last a lifetime.