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Pilgrimage to Sri Lanka

with Andrew Olendzki & Tricycle founder Helen Tworkov

 

January 7 – 19, 2018

Journey Highlights

  • January 7–19, 2018
  • Daily sessions with Buddhist scholar, teacher, and writer Andrew Olendzki, PhD
  • Accompanied by Tricycle’s founder, Helen Tworkov
  • Escorted by a local Sri Lankan expert
  • Explore the ancient Buddhist sites of Anuradhapura, Pollonawura, Dambulla, Kandy, and more
  • Experience 2 jeep safaris and spot wild Asian elephants
  • Enjoy coastal life during two beach stays
  • Limited to 20 guests
  • Early bird price of $4999 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)

Our visit to the beautiful island of Sri Lanka will be an integrated study and practice experience. We will be learning about how the classical Buddhist teachings made their way to Sri Lanka from India during the time of King Ashoka in the third century BCE, and how the island welcomed and nurtured the early tradition as the winds of change and innovation swept across north India. Many of the sites we visit are important landmarks in the process of transmission, and we will have a copy of the ancient historical chronicles (Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Culavamsa) on hand as we tour the island.

We will make an opportunity to sit in meditation each day, in a peaceful natural setting whenever possible, and allow the grace and dignity of a country steeped in Buddhist teachings for more than two millennia to infuse our practice.

Andrew Olendzki

Negombo

Anuradhapura

Kandy

Sigiriya

Uduwalawe

Beruwala

Colombo

Polonnaruwa

Dambulla

On this itinerary, we’ll explore seven of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including:

  • The ancient city of Polonnaruwa
  • The ancient city of Sigiriya
  • The Golden Temple of Dambulla
  • The old town of Galle and its fortifications
  • The sacred city of Anuradhapura
  • The sacred city of Kandy
  • The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

Itinerary at a Glance

  • January 7: Arrival (overnight in Negombo)
  • January 8–9: Explore Anuradhapura (2 nights in Anuradhapura)
  • January 10: Explore Mihintale & Dambulla (2 nights in Sigiriya)
  • January 11: Discover Pollonawura; jeep safari in Minneriya National Park
  • January 12: Climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya; visit Aluvihare Rock Temple (2 nights in Kandy)
  • January 13: Tour Kandy’s temples, including Temple of the Tooth
  • January 14: Explore tea plantations; visit Elephant Transit Home (overnight in Udawalawe)
  • January 15: Jeep safari at Udawalawe; visit Galle en route to Beruwala (3 nights in Beruwala)
  • January 16: Madhu River tour, island temple exploration
  • January 17: Paniyawala rainforest monastery visit; beach sunset
  • January 18: Explore Colombo’s temple and culture (overnight in Colombo)
  • January 19: Departure

Itinerary at a Glance

  • January 7: Arrival (overnight in Negombo)
  • January 8–9: Explore Anuradhapura (2 nights in Anuradhapura)
  • January 10: Explore Mihintale & Dambulla (2 nights in Sigiriya)
  • January 11: Discover Pollonawura; jeep safari in Minneriya National Park
  • January 12: Climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya; visit Aluvihare Rock Temple (2 nights in Kandy)
  • January 13: Tour Kandy’s temples, including Temple of the Tooth
  • January 14: Explore tea plantations; visit Elephant Transit Home (overnight in Udawalawe)
  • January 15: Jeep safari at Udawalawe; visit Galle en route to Beruwala (3 nights in Beruwala)
  • January 16: Madhu River tour, island temple exploration
  • January 17: Paniyawala rainforest monastery visit; beach sunset
  • January 18: Explore Colombo’s temple and culture (overnight in Colombo)
  • January 19: Departure

Daily Itinerary

January 7

Ayubowan–welcome to Sri Lanka! You’ll be greeted at Bandaranaike International Airport and take a short drive (~30-minute drive) to coastal Negombo. You can relax at our beachfront hotel on your first night in Sri Lanka. We’ll enjoy dinner together and you’ll get to meet your fellow explorers.

January 8 – 9

After breakfast on the 8th, we’ll head to the ancient city of Anuradhapura. On the way, we’ll visit the Salgala Forest Monastery (~90-minute drive). The name ‘Salgala’ is a derivative of ‘shila guha’ or ‘shila gul’ meaning ‘rock caves.’ This forest has trees well over a hundred feet tall and thick undergrowth, and it is also home to 30 varieties of rare butterflies, birds and many reptiles.

After Salgala, we’ll continue on to Anuradhapura (~3-hour drive), where we’ll explore over the next 2 days. Anuradhapura is the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities and contains the largest number of ancient monuments of the great Sinhala civilization. Its greatest treasures are its dagobas, or stupas, constructed of small sun-dried bricks. The most notable of these dagobas are the Ruvanveli, the Jetawanarama, and the Thuparama (which is said to contain the collarbone of the Buddha).

Perhaps the city’s most renowned relic is the sacred Bodhi Tree, a direct descendant of the original tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. This tree was planted in 288 BC and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. The sapling was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC by Sangamitta Theri, the daughter of Emperor Asoka and founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka.

January 10

Today we’ll visit Mihintale, known as the cradle of Sri Lankan Buddhism. In the year 247 BC, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka at this spot by Arahat Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa. This picturesque site holds sacred many stupas, ponds, and boulders to explore and enjoy.

We’ll continue on to the town of Sigiriya (~60-minute drive from Mihintale) and check into our hotel, where we’ll be staying for two nights. After freshening up, this afternoon we will explore the impressive Dambulla cave temples, dating from the 1st century BC.

January 11

Today we’ll explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa (~60-minute drive), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th centuries, and its monuments are preserved beautifully. From the rock temple at Gal Vihara to the Royal Palace and the circular relic house at Vatadage, Polonnaruwa’s sites are sure to fascinate and inspire.

We’ll have the opportunity to visit a Dhamma school in a rural village as well, to connect with local children and learn more about their lifestyle and Buddhist studies.

This afternoon we’ll experience a jeep safari at Minneriya National Park. Although it is home to 24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish, and 75 species of butterflies, the undisputed crowd favorite is the amazing Asian elephant population! Witnessing these majestic creatures roam freely in their natural habitat is truly a breathtaking, humbling opportunity.

January 12

This morning we have to opportunity to climb the iconic rock fortress at Sigiriya (“Lion Rock”) (~30-minute drive). This ancient complex includes the impressive 660-foot (200-meter) remains of this former capital. Constructed in the 5th century, this UNESCO site is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning, from the ornate gardens and colorful frescoes to the imposing “Lion Rock.”

On our way to Kandy (~2.5-hour drive), our home base for the next 2 nights, we’ll explore Aluvihare Rock Temple. Aluvihare Rock Temple is the historic location where the Pāli Canon was first written down completely in text on palm leaves. It is said that 500 scholarly monks congregated at Aluvihare to perform the difficult task of reciting the doctrines and agreeing on an acceptable version before transcription.

January 13

Welcome to Kandy, another former capital and the second largest city in modern Sri Lanka. Kandy is home to countless temples and we’ll visit several important venues, including Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa). This temple is a venerated place for the Buddhists all over the world, as it houses the Buddha’s left canine tooth, retrieved from his funeral pyre. This important relic was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the 4th century and had been carefully enshrined in many former capitals of Sri Lanka, finally coming to rest in Kandy in the 17th century.

January 14

We’ll get an early start this morning to our next destination, Udawalawe. Although it’s a 5-hour drive, we’ll enjoy the gorgeous vistas of Sri Lanka’s hill country along the way. We’ll visit one of Sri Lanka’s verdant tea farms and take a tea factory tour to learn more about (and taste!) this beloved beverage.

We’ll check in at our hotel in Udawalawe to freshen up, and this evening we’ll visit the Elephant Transit Home. This rehab facility for orphaned elephants is educational and adorable, and we will witness one of the many daily feedings of these young elephants.

January 15

This morning we’ll have another opportunity to see Asian elephants in the wild at Udawalawe Reservoir.  This national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, and there is said to be a herd of about 250 elephants that permanently reside there. This safari will also be an unforgettable bird watching experience!

After the safari, we’ll continue on to our next beachfront hotel in Beruwala, our home on the west coast for the next three nights (~4-hour drive). On the way, though, we’ll stop to visit scenic Galle. The seaside city of Galle was first fortified by the Portuguese in the 16th century, then by the Dutch in the 17th century. However, Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians, and Chinese were doing business through Galle port, making this a true ancient crossroads even as early as 1400 BC with the cinnamon trade. Galle’s historic fort area (also a UNESCO site) is now a thoroughly charming neighborhood, its Dutch-colonial buildings filled with boutiques & cafes.

January 16

This morning we’ll head south to Balapitiya (~40-minute drive) and embark on a river trip up the Madhu River. We’ll visit an island temple in the middle of the river. We’ll continue up the Madhu River to visit one of the islands that grows and processes famous Ceylon cinnamon. The boat journey will show you the daily life of the riverside villages, including the prawn harvesting methods in the middle of the lagoon.

January 17

Today we have the option to head inland and visit a forest monastery within the Paniyawala rain forest (~1-hour drive). Experience the serenity of nature around you in this untouched natural setting.

The rest of the day will be yours to relax at the beach or explore the town of Beruwala.

January 18

After breakfast, we’ll depart Beruwala for the largest city in Sri Lanka, Colombo (~90-minute drive). Colombo has had a rich trading history for over 2,000 years and is currently the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. We can visit Buddhist temples in and around Colombo, such as Gangaramaya. Gangaramaya is a fascinating, eclectic mix of architectural styles, and the temple complex also includes a library and a museum. We’ll also visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, where it is believed that Buddha spent time during his third and final visit to Sri Lanka, eight years after gaining enlightenment.

We’ll stay on the waterfront in Colombo for our last night in Sri Lanka, reflecting on all we’ve explored and learned together.

January 19

We’ll say our goodbyes after breakfast, and hope our paths cross somewhere again in the world. But for now: onward! Back to home or to more adventure! We can help you arrange any trip extension you like, within Sri Lanka, India, or elsewhere in South or Southeast Asia.

Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.

Price & Inclusions

This 13 day/12 night all-inclusive journey is $4999 (USD) per person (double occupancy) before August 1, 2017. After that date the price is $5299 (USD).

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $499 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

A $1000 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1800 is due by September 9, 2017 (120 days before the start of the trip) and the balance is due by November 8, 2017 (60 days before the start of the trip).  Single supplement ($499) is due along with the last installment.

Price Includes:

  • Sri Lanka visa fee
  • Internal transportation within Sri Lanka
  • Daily sessions with Andrew Olendzki
  • All accommodation
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • All site fees
  • All tips
  • Donation to Tricycle
  • Donation to Andrew Olendzki

 

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Souvenirs, laundry fees, alcoholic beverages, snacks and beverages outside meal times

 

NOTE: 

  • There is a minimum of 6 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up.  Please do not purchase any airfare until you receive notice from RetreaTours that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.  
  • If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 3 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.
Payment Details

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check (which we prefer) and credit card (via PayPal).

For guests outside the U.S., please write us for payment methods which can save you conversion fees.  

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to Insight Travels, LLC and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below.  Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD.  Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance, but can pay with any debit or credit card.

Final installment due on November 8, 2017. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice well before the due date.

Click here to pay the $1000 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Click here to pay the $1800 installment by credit card (via PayPal) [due by September 9, 2017] 

About the Daily Practice

Andrew will be leading a meditation sitting of about 30-45 minutes each day. Simple instruction will be offered to those who are new to the practice. The meditation is entirely optional, and is not particularly complicated—it involves simply sitting in silence while cultivating enhanced awareness of all that is arising and passing away in the present moment.

In addition, Andrew will offer optional talks each day, describing some of the historical events associated with each of the sites we will visit, along with some explanation of his understanding of basic Buddhist teachings and their value in our lives today.

And, of course, you are welcome and encouraged to continue your own personal practice during our downtime.

Registration Questions & Contract

Please click here or the green button below to access the registration questions via Google Forms. Your spot is considered reserved when you have completed these questions and submitted your deposit. 

Click here to complete your registration questions

FAQ

PASSPORT/VISA

  • What do I need to know about the visa?    

First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, August 8, 2018), and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section). 

As a convenience to you, we will be applying for the Sri Lankan visa on your behalf before the trip and the fee is included in your trip price.

 

FOOD

  • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of delicious curries and dal available along with local rice and other starches. Celiacs and those avoiding gluten will also enjoy the abundance of rice, meat proteins, and vegetable options, as well. Part of your registration includes asking about dietary allergies and special needs, but please feel free to contact us beforehand if you have any specific questions or concerns about Sri Lanka food.

You can read more about the specialties of Sri Lanka cuisine here. 

  • Can I drink the water?

In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.

HEALTH

  • What vaccines do I need?

None are required to enter Sri Lanka, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the American CDC’s Sri Lanka recommendations here and the Scottish NHS Sri Lanka recommendations here.

  • What about malaria? What about Zika?

As always, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information about malaria.

The World Health Organization declared Sri Lanka free of malaria in September 2016.  Here is a link to the Scottish NHS Malaria risk map of Sri Lanka.

Please click here to learn more about the CDC’s recommendation about Zika in Southeast Asia (please note that Sri Lanka is not currently listed as a country of concern).

   *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.

 

  • Do I need travel insurance?

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind!  When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation. We also highly recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances.

We like World Nomads for our guests under 70, but ultimately you have to choose the company and policy that is right for you. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.

MONEY

  • How much money should I bring?

Coming soon! The short answer, though, is only what you need for extras (souvenirs, alcohol, massages, etc) since everything else on this trip is included.

  • How do I get the local currency?

The local currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR). You can either exchange cash in Sri Lanka or use a local ATM (which we prefer) to get soles. Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Sri Lanka, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. When exchanging cash, you always get a slightly better deal when exchanging $100 bills. You do NOT need to exchange money before you arrive in Sri Lanka, as exchanging money while still in your home country usually has a very poor exchange rate.

HOTELS

  • What kind of hotels will we be staying in?

All of our hotels in Sri Lanka are in the 4-star category, and they each have wifi, hot water, air-conditioning, and private bathrooms with Western-style toilets.

COMMUNICATION

  • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our hotels to pass along to your loved ones. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.

Packing List

Coming soon!

Travel Insurance

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind for very little cost. When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that your policy cover medical expenses, medical evacuation, and emergency repatriation.

We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.

We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (please see below). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    For guests over 70

    InsureMyTrip.com is a great resource to see and compare a lot of options at once. We require that your policy cover medical expenses, medical evacuation, and emergency repatriation. We highly recommend that your policy covers trip cancellation and baggage, but we understand that premium costs for guests over 70 can increase quickly the more coverage you add to your policy.

    As of June 2017, some policies that cover the basics (as found on InsureMyTrip.com) include AIG Travel Guard MedEvac Plan, GeoBlue Trekker Essential, IMG Patriot International, and Seven Corners Liaison International, although it is your responsibility to make sure these policies cover our base requirements. If you would like to purchase a policy with more coverage, that is encouraged but not required.

    About Andrew Olendzki

    Andrew Olendzki, PhD, is a Buddhist scholar, teacher, and writer living in Amherst, MA. Trained at Lancaster University (UK), the University of Sri Lanka (Perediniya), and Harvard, he worked in leadership positions for 25 years in Barre, Massachusetts, first at the Insight Meditation Society and then at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, where he was the senior scholar for many years. He has taught at various New England colleges (including Amherst, Brandeis, Hampshire, Harvard, Lesley, and Smith), and spent two years at the Mind & Life Institute working on their Mapping the Mind project.

    Andrew has contributed chapters to many books on Buddhist psychology, writes regularly for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and is the author of Unlimiting Mind: The radically experiential psychology of Buddhism (Wisdom, 2010) and Untangling Self: A Buddhist investigation of who we really are (Wisdom 2016). He is currently the senior scholar at the Integrated Dharma Institute, developing and teaching a series of online study and practice programs.

    Learn more about Andrew at AndrewOlendzki.org

    About Tricycle

    Tricycle logoEstablished in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values. Our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion that Buddhism has to offer. By remaining unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect or lineage, Tricycle provides a unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhism, establishing a dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture, and introducing Buddhist thinking to Western disciplines. This approach has enabled Tricycle to successfully attract readers from all walks of life, many of whom desire to enrich their lives through a deeper knowledge of Buddhist traditions.

    Tricycle has been recognized with the prestigious Folio Award for Best Spiritual Magazine three times, and has twice garnered the Utne Media Award, most recently in 2013. As part of our commitment to our readers who are seeking to implement or sustain Buddhist values and practices, Tricycle accepts advertising only from teachers, programs, centers, and businesses whose offerings we believe will support those aims. Because of this selective policy, we depend on donations to support ever-rising printing and production costs, content updates to our website, and life-enriching programs. The Foundation also hosts occasional pilgrimages that provide opportunities for new and experienced practitioners to explore sites of importance to Buddhist history and practice.

    Mission Statement

    The mission of The Tricycle Foundation is to create forums for exploring contemporary and historic Buddhist activity, examine the impact of its new context in the democratic traditions of the West, and introduce fresh views and attainable methods for enlightened living to the culture at large. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is the alleviation of suffering that Buddhist teachings are meant bring about. Tricycle is an independent foundation unaffiliated with any one lineage or sect.

    Why “Tricycle?”

    A three-wheeled vehicle aptly evokes the fundamental components of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism itself is often referred to as the “vehicle to enlightenment,” and the tricycle’s three wheels allude to the three treasures: The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or the enlightened teacher, the teachings, and the community. The wheels also relate to the turning of the wheel of dharma, or skillfully using the teachings of the Buddha to face the challenges that the circle of life presents.

    About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

     

    Husband and wife team BJ Graf & Lauren Rathvon created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding.  In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)

    BJ & Lauren craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

    Photo Album

    Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album. All Sri Lanka photos have been taken by BJ and Lauren during their time in this beautiful country.