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SRI LANKA

Colombo, Galle, Ella, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy and Sigiriya

Sri Lanka – the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka is an island paradise with a few thousand years of cross-cultural percolation. English sailors, Dutch traders, and Portuguese spice merchants – they’ve all called Sri Lanka home. And they left behind a colonial legacy that makes this tea-scented spice island a historical goldmine. One minute you’re climbing a 1500 year-old Kashyapa temple, the next you’re checking out a colonial church in Colombo, chatting with Tamil fisherman or sipping a Ceylon brew from tribes people in the misty highlands of Kandy. 

Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoiled. Few places in the world can offer the traveler such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location. This is an island of magical proportions, once also known as Serendib, Taprobane, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and Ceylon. 

We begin and end in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. We’ll travel through the Lunuganga Country Estate en route to Galle, and photograph stilt fishermen on the beach. Enjoy and photograph the magical village of Ella and the train ride to Nuwara Eliya. Tea plantations and the famous Demodara 9 Arches Bridge. We’ll photograph the Sri Lanka “Veddas” indigenous tribal communities and their unique culture, and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. All while staying in stunning hotel properties that are bound to captivate your soul.

This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity, so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity. 

In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better country to express your creativity than Sri Lanka.

Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoiled. Few places in the world can offer the traveler such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location. This is an island of magical proportions, once also known as Serendib, Taprobane, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and Ceylon. 

We begin and end in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. We’ll travel through the Lunuganga Country Estate en route to Galle, and photograph stilt fishermen on the beach. Enjoy and photograph the magical village of Ella and the train ride to Nuwara Eliya. Tea plantations and the famous Demodara 9 Arches Bridge. We’ll photograph the Sri Lanka “Veddas” indigenous tribal communities and their unique culture, and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. All while staying in stunning hotel properties that are bound to captivate your soul.

This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity, so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. Apart from the technical aspect of learning your camera settings and capabilities, you will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity. 

In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. We cannot think of a better country to express your creativity than Sri Lanka.

Group Size

4 – 8 Guests

Experience | Difficulty

  • Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers
  • DSLR, mirrorless, compact or iPhone cameras
  • Moderate schedule
  • Travel by private air-conditioned car, train and minivan
  • Minimal elevation changes and lots of walking
  • (non-photographers also welcome)

Weather | Sun

February / March – Temps 87/76 F  30/24 C  Sunrise 6:26 | Sunset 6:22 (18:22) – Low Rain

Includes

  • Travel, street, people, landscape, nature and architecture photography
  • Professional photographer | guide
  • Photo walks & discussions
  • Small group size (4 – 8 guests)
  • 5-star luxury hotels
  • Breakfasts
  • 8 meals
  • Airport transfers
  • All entrance fees & permits
  • Sri Lanka train ride
  • Local transportation

Travel Information

Arrival & Departure Airport: Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) – Transfer time to hotel 50min
Our adventure begins at 11 AM on the first day and ends at noon on the last day.
Travel Visa: A visa may be required depending on your nationality. Go to Visa Map to find out.

Accommodations

Colombo – UGA Residence or similar >> (see our blog post about this hotel)
Galle – The Fortress Resort & Spa or similar
Ella – 98 Acres Resort and Spa or similar
Nuwara-Eliya – Jetwing St. Andrew’s or similar
Sigiriya – Hotel Kandalama or similar

Helpful Links

Residence by UGA Escapes – by Michael Chinnici
> Sri Lanka – Asia’s Hidden Gem – by Michael Chinnici



Photo AdventurePriceRegister
SRI LANKA | FEBRUARY 11-22, 2020 From: $9,995 Register
SRI LANKA | FEBRUARY 9-20, 2021 From: $10,795 Register
Photographer Leader

Photographer Leader

Sebinster Francis

February 11 – 22, 2020
February 9 – 20, 2021

*All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Please select single occupancy for a private room. For your convenience, we offer optional early arrival and late departure accommodations so you can extend your stay before or after the trip. We typically stay in boutique hotels in the 4-star category. Not all destinations offer these types of properties. We look for unique hotels which offer cultural, historic and/or authentic features. Depending on the size of the group, smaller boutique hotels may have limited room inventory. In some countries or in remote locations, we may be limited to lodges or branded chain hotels. Breakfast is included only if included in our room rates.

ITINERARY

SRI LANKA 12 DAYS

Day 1 | Colombo - Usavi Watta

We begin by meeting in the lobby of our amazing hotel in Colombo, where we will have our group introductions and discuss the days ahead. At lunch we will discuss our individual photographic styles, preferred subjects, techniques and level of experience. We will also talk about what to expect over the coming days, and how to achieve our photographic goals. 

Located on the west coast of the beautiful island nation, Colombo is the lively commercial hub of the country. The city occupies a superb position on the East-West sea trade route, and therefore is home to the country’s largest and main port. Colombo’s port itself has a unique and remarkable history. In 1815 Colombo became Sri Lanka’s capital city under the rule of the British Empire and it remained so until Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. Colombo, with its rich colonial heritage, is a potpourri of races, religions and cultures. Colombo displays the best and worst the country has to offer. The city is a contrast itself, with mansions, lush gardens, fine dining options, shopping malls packed with expensive designer brands standing next to urban slums, diesel fumed congested roads and street markets.

With that said, we will spend the afternoon exploring one of Colombo’s slums. We’ll waste no time exposing you to the poverty. But don’t worry, we’ll be safe, together with our local guide and fixer who knows the neighborhood very well. It is believed that half of Colombo’s residents dwell in illegal settlements or in houses designated as unsuitable for human dwelling. We’ll be interacting with locals, photographing environmental portraits, and documenting peoples’ lives.

After what’s sure to be an emotional day, we’ll return to our hotel before heading out for a “Welcome Dinner” at one of our favorite Sri Lankan restaurants. (L) (D)

Day 2 | Colombo - Pettah Market - Neighboring Communities

We begin early by wandering through the streets of one of Colombo’s busiest places, the Pettah Market, a mix of market vendors selling anything from fresh vegetables, meats and seafood to jewelry, clothing and electronic goods. The numerous streets are dedicated to different trades, with one of the most notable being sea street at the end of the open market, specializing in the trading of gold and jewels and mostly administered by migrant Tamil people. With the multitude of labyrinthine side lanes it is hard to take in every angle of Pettah Market. The dynamic set-up is a living organism, expanding and adapting to supply and demand. It offers a truly authentic insight into the lifestyle and habits of the local population, and while many tourists frequent it, it is mainly visited by locals.

After lunch we will tour several other neighborhoods not frequented by tourists as our objective is to provide you with an opportunity to photograph a truly authentic view of Sri Lanka. (B)

Day 3 | Colombo - Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple

After breakfast we do a morning photo shoot at the 120 year old Buddhist Temple “Gangaramaya”, including devotees, monks and perhaps a temple panorama. What was once a swamp adjoining the famous Beira Lake, a landmark in the capital city, is today a vibrant complex, comprising of the Gangaramaya temple, the ‘seema malaka’ – an assembly hall for monks – in the picturesque Beira Lake and a vocational training institute.

The temple has been in existence for over 120 years, having been established by one of the most famous scholar monks, Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera, founder of the Vidyodaya Pirivena, originally an institute of oriental learning for monks, now a State University – Sri Jayewardenapura University.

After lunch our day will focus on cityscapes, iconic monuments, people, life on the beach, street scenes, local markets and Buddhist monks, including Independence Square and the Parliament Building just in time for sunset. (B) (L)

Day 4 | Colombo - Lunuganga - Galle - Stilt Fishermen

We depart Colombo and head to Galle via the Lunuganga Country Estate. Here we will photograph the Lunuganga Gardens and countryside home of Sri Lanka’s foremost, modernist, contemporary architect – Geoffrey Bawa. We will have special permits allowing us to photograph in the entire estate and gardens. Click here for a preview of the Geoffrey Bawa Lunuganga Experience.

Geoffrey Bawa was Sri Lanka’s most prolific and influential architect. His work has had a tremendous impact upon architecture throughout Asia and is unanimously acclaimed by connoisseurs of architecture worldwide. Every turn and every bend in Bawa’s country home is an interesting experience – with so many exotic plants and trees and views to take in throughout the sprawling estate. The house itself is sparse but beautiful, full of impressive paintings and photographs of a bygone age.

After lunch we continue on to Galle. Galle is endlessly exotic, bursting with the scent of spices and salty winds, and yet also, with its wonderful collection of Dutch-colonial buildings, a town of great beauty. Classic architecture melds with a dramatic tropical setting to create a reality that is endlessly interesting. Above all else, Galle is a city of trade and, increasingly, art.

Today the historic fort area is crammed full of little boutique shops, cafes and hotels owned by local and foreign artists, writers, photographers, designers and poets. Built by the Dutch, beginning in 1663, the 36-hectare Galle Fort occupies most of a promontory that’s surrounded on three sides by the ocean. Just wandering the old walls and streets at random yields one architectural surprise after another as you explore the amazing collection of structures dating back through the centuries. Its glories have earned the Fort status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Before dinner we will photograph the stilt fishermen during sunset, including local vendors, people and fishermen on the beach. (B)

Day 5 | Galle - Ambalangoda

We are up very early for a morning drive to Ambalangoda. Located in the southern province of Sri Lanka lies Ambalangoda, a region that is synonymous with traditional Sri Lankan masks and devil dancers. Colorful and vibrant, these traditional masks that are handcrafted and painted are much more than mere embellishments as they reflect a fascinating dimension of authentic Sri Lankan culture.

As those delving into the sensational world of masks and their accompanying rituals would discover, there are three distinct kinds of masks and rituals that stem from the region. Kolam masks are used in satirical plays of the Colonial Era, Raksha masks are utilized in processions and festivals and Sanni masks are worn during traditional devil dances performed to exorcise demons.

We’ll spend the day exploring Ambalangoda, it’s artisans who make the ubiquitous “devil masks” – used in devil dances, which drive out spirits causing illness. These dances still occur regularly in the hinterland villages. In the afternoon we return to Galle. (B) (L)

Day 6 | Galle - Ella

Today we begin with an early morning drive to Ella from Galle, where you will witness the beauty of Ella. Ella is a relaxing small town in the middle of the beautiful green fields of tea. A tiny, picturesque village in the highlands of the country, it is a place for those seeking an offbeat experience. Ella is where life hits the slow button, where you pause and are able to notice floating clouds, the rustling that arises from the nearby forests, steam rising off a slowly-chugging train, and all the colors that a butterfly brings. Most travelers fall in love with its surroundings, which seduce them into staying longer than they planned.

Needless to say, the photography opportunities at Ella are quite enchanting. We’ll have the chance to shoot incredible landscapes, carpeted tea plantations, mountain ranges, plus railway life and very friendly local people. Additionally, you will get an opportunity to walk through tea plantations and take shots of “Tea Leaf Plucker Ladies” and plantation workers as they go about their daily workday. Tea plantations also offer panoramic views of the surrounding hill country. Excellent for taking landscapes. The surrounding countryside is nature’s paradise. Thick-canopied jungles, waterfalls and infinite horizons and more!   

The highlight of our photo adventure to Ella may very well be shooting the famous Demodara 9 Arches Bridge. It is just a 35-minute walk from the Ella train station. The bridge was built without any steel bars and is a true engineering feat as well as being a spectacular structure. We will be photographing the bridge from unique angles. The Ella Train Station also promises to be an interesting place to shoot a “typical train station”, where time has stood still. If we are lucky we may be able to get some shots of Station Master and his staff, formally dressed in their crisp white uniform with a hat and a tie! A legacy from Colonial times, which has remained unchanged even today. How amazing is that? 

At the end of the day we will capture the sunset at Little Adam’s Peak, which looks out over the dramatic mountain range and Adam’s Peak. And finally, in true PWA tradition, you will be able to taste mouth-watering Sri Lankan traditional dishes in local restaurants. (B)

Day 7 | Ella - Nuwara Eliya

We are up early to take in as much as possible before we leave. After a morning shoot and breakfast, we head to town to capture the village just one more time before bidding Ella farewell. We’ll board a late morning train to Nuwara Eliya.

On board the train, you will again have plenty of opportunities to take photographs of people and passing landscape, small village hill train stations etc. The train travels at a slow speed, so there will be excellent opportunities to park yourself at exit doors to get uninterrupted views of the scenic beauty. 

By late afternoon we arrive in Nuwara Eliya where we will check into our hotel and enjoy a relaxing dinner. (B) (L)

Day 8 | Nuwara Eliya

After breakfast we visit a tea plantation followed by a Nuwara Eliya city tour. The salubrious climate has branded Nuwara Eliya into a sanatorium that attracts Sri Lankan tourists as well as foreign travelers. Golf tournaments, horse racing, motor cross, clay pigeon shooting and carnivals are some of the main festivities.

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea. Since the introduction of tea to Sri Lanka in the mid 19th century, Nuwara Eliya has been the capital of the tea industry. For many miles prior to reaching Nuwara Eliya, you will witness tea estates as far as the eye can see. In the evening we will review images. (B)

Day 9 | Nuwara Eliya - Kandy - Indigenous Tribal Communities

After an early breakfast we will check out and travel to Kandy. While in Kandy, we will visit the Buddhist temple Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple or the “Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic”. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country.

Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple. Bhikkhus of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.

Next we will travel to Dambana where our focus will be on photographing the Sri Lanka “Vedda” – indigenous tribal communities and their unique culture. Sri Lanka’s Aborigines’, or the “Vedda” meaning “people of the forest” have a history much older than Prince Vijaya’s landing in 5th century BC and the origins of the Sinhala race. Archaeological evidence suggests that modern Veddas neolithic ancestors inhabited this island as far back as 10,000 BC.

Once roaming the Great Plains’ of the north central region to the central mountains, today the remaining Vedda population are confined to Dambana which is close to Maduru Oya sanctuary. They are essentially hunter gatherer forest dwellers without much change in their lifestyle from stone age to modern times. The language used by them is an ancient dialect of Sinhala, their staple diet being venison, Veddas are allowed to hunt legally to sustain themselves within certain areas. They are also expert fisherman, and collect bee’s honey, that they use to exchange with the locals for axe blades and cloth.

Later in the evening we check into our hotel in Sigiriya. (B)

Day 10 | Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa

After an early breakfast we visit the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Our focus will be on the compelling ancient architecture, numerous Buddhist temples, ancient monuments, temple complexes, people, devotees and monks.

The Gal Vihara , also known as Gal Viharaya and originally called Uttararama, is a rock temple of the Buddha situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in North Central Province, Sri Lanka. It was fashioned in the 12th century by King Parakramabahu I. The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is an ancient structure dating back to the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa of Sri Lanka. It is believed to have been built during the reign of Parakramabahu I to hold the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha or during the reign of Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa to hold the alms bowl used by the Buddha.

In the afternoon, we will explore the ancient rock fortress “Sigiriya”, with its caves, wall paintings and the surrounding landscape. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress located in Northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the central province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters (660 ft) high. After dinner we will review images. (B)

Day 11 | Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Colombo

After an early morning sunrise shoot, we have breakfast and begin our drive back to Colombo. Once in Colombo we will check into our hotel, relax, allow you some free time to shop or capture some final shots of Sri Lanka (assuming you have enough memory space on your card).

In the evening we will enjoy a beautiful “Farewell Dinner” at one of Colombo’s best restaurants. (B) (D)

Day 12 | Colombo

After our morning breakfast we exchange information and bid you farewell. Our driver will be escorting you to the airport in time for your flight. We urge you to extend your stay in Asia and make good use of everything you will learn on our photo adventure. (B)

(B) Breakfast, (L) Lunch, (D) Dinner, (E) Excursion

May all who come as guests... leave as friends®

OPTIONS AND BENEFITS

Pricing

 

All prices are per person and based on double occupancy. Please select single occupancy for a private room. For your convenience, we offer optional early arrival and late departure accommodations so you can extend your stay before or after the trip. We typically stay in boutique hotels in the 4-star category. Not all destinations offer these types of properties. We look for unique hotels which offer cultural, historic and/or authentic features. Depending on the size of the group, smaller boutique hotels may have limited room inventory. In some countries or in remote locations, we may be limited to lodges or branded chain hotels. Breakfast is included only if included in our room rates.

Private Guided Adventures

 

We offer amazing private guided photo adventures, cultural tours and vacations for individuals, couples, families and groups. We can customize any of our published adventures, as well as others, to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. This may include the finest 5-star accommodations, business-class travel, and private guides and fixers who are able to make the impossible possible. If you are not interested in a photo-centric vacation, but you love our approach to private travel, we will be happy to design and deliver an amazing adventure focused on travel, culture and cuisine. Click here to request a quote. Feel free to call us at 1-888-834-0288 or contact us for more information.

 

Travel Insurance

We offer travel insurance through the internationally recognized Travelex Travel Insurance Company, as well as evacuation and medical transportation insurance through MedJet, one of the best in the industry.

The cost for travel insurance can be as low as 4% of the total trip cost, depending upon age and other factors. Knowing you have trip cancellation coverage can make a big difference should you have to cancel for some unforeseen reason. Travelex Insurance Services is a BBB Accredited business with an A+ rating. Click here to learn more about why you should consider travel insurance.

Rewards Program

Start earning points today and SAVE $200 - $900 off future trips!
Simply register for one of our amazing photo adventures and begin earning points today!

How The Program Works
For every adventure reservation you make with Photo Workshop Adventures, you earn valuable points which you can redeem on your next trip. This is a great way to save up to 8% off future trips. Our Rewards Program is designed with three tiers: Orange, Gold and VIP Members. Points may be applied towards balance payments on your next trip, or you may choose to accumulate points for a free trip in the future.

ORANGE REWARDS
All guests begin with our Orange Rewards Program (Level 1), which earns 4 points for every dollar you spend. You begin earning points immediately after your first trip. A $5,900 spend earns 23,600 points with a value of $236 USD.

GOLD REWARDS
With our Gold Rewards Program (Level 2), you earn 6 points for every dollar you spend. Orange Members who reach 120,000 accumulated lifetime* points (approx. 4-6 trips), automatically move up to Gold Rewards. A $5,900 spend earns 35,400 points with a value of $354 USD.

Additional Gold Benefits:

  • Earn up to double points during promotional events
  • Advance notifications for upcoming adventures and special offers

VIP REWARDS
With our VIP Rewards Program (Level 3), you earn 8 points for every dollar you spend. Gold Members who reach 350,000 accumulated lifetime* points (approx. 8-12 trips) move up to VIP Rewards. A $5,900 spend earns 47,200 points with a value of $472 USD, (8+/-% discount).

Additional VIP Benefits:

  • Earn up to double points during promotional events
  • Advance notifications for upcoming adventures and special offers
  • Ability to Gift or Transfer points to others
  • Receive complimentary airport transfers at the destination location*


Redeeming Your Points

Redeeming your points couldn’t be easier. You can always log in to your account to check your points balance. When you are ready to book your next trip, register and pay your deposit. When you go to pay your balance you will be given the option to apply your points and receive a discount.

THINK ORANGE Magazine

Subscribe to our Think Orange Magazine and eNews. THINK ORANGE is a wonderful mix of stories and tips related to travel, photography, adventure, culture, art, technology, cuisine, lifestyle, people and more. Our objective is to immerse you in a world you may only fantasize about. Raise your awareness and inspire your creativity. Perhaps even help make you a better photographer. We deliver similar experiential experiences that our guests enjoy on our photo adventures. Like all of our adventures, our blog is “photo-centric”, while also allowing you to experience all the nuances and cultural aspects of travel and adventure. Welcome to our world. We hope you enjoy. Our eNews is a great way to receive information about upcoming photo adventures, exciting new destinations, photography tips, special offers and more. Subscribe today!

Gift Cards

Give someone you know a Gift Card, good toward any of our Photo  Adventures, Photo Tours, Private Guided Tours, Online Courses, Prints or Merchandize. Our beautifully personalized eGift Cards and Certificates are delivered to you electronically. They are fully transferable and have a 2 year expiration date. They are available in any amount from $100 to $5000. It makes a great gift for anyone who loves photography, travel or adventure. Order now, or email for more information.

Combine-N-Save

You can SAVE up to $1200 by combining two or more back-to-back 6-Day or longer Photo Adventures. Call us at 1-888-834-0288 or contact us for more information.

Private Online Lightroom & Photoshop Tutorials

We offer private online Lightroom and Photoshop photo editing tutorials for individuals who would like to improve their post-processing skills. Each is customized to meet your individual needs, schedule, budget and interests. We provide you with one-on-one discussions using online connectivity. Many of our Photo Adventure guests select our online post-processing as an extension to their trip. Click here for more information.

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