Pilgrimage to Sri Lanka

with Tempel Smith &

Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

January 7–18, 2020

Journey Highlights

  • January 7–18, 2020
  • Daily sessions with Buddhist teacher Tempel Smith
  • Accompanied by Sam Mowe, Associate Publisher of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
  • Escorted by a local Sri Lankan expert, Chandima Wanasinghe
  • Explore the ancient Buddhist sites of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle: Anuradhapura, Poḷonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla & Kandy
  • Spot wild Asian elephants during an afternoon jeep safari
  • Limited to 20 guests
  • Early bird price of $4999 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)  EARLY BIRD PRICING EXTENDED UNTIL NOV 30th!







On this itinerary, we’ll visit some of Sri Lanka’s beloved UNESCO World Heritage sites, including:

  • The ancient city of Polonnaruwa
  • The ancient city of Sigiriya
  • The Golden Temple of Dambulla
  • The sacred city of Anuradhapura
  • The sacred city of Kandy

Helen Tworkov, Founder of Tricycle, on the Sri Lanka Pilgrimage: 

The combination of the uninterrupted Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka, the fantastic group of pilgrims, the breathtaking natural beauty of this island, and the extraordinary archaeological sites, made this one of the best trips I have ever taken. It offered a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in Buddhism to learn the basics, or to deepen or reinvigorate one’s personal practice.

Click Here to See More Sri Lanka Pilgrimage Testimonials

Thank you so much for putting together such a great time for those of us lucky enough to go. All the support staff and hotel staff were lovely and helpful. I have had dreams about the trip every night since I’ve been back.

I absolutely loved the trip! I loved Sri Lanka, but also the amazing people that were in our group. Life long friendships were made with memories that will last a lifetime!

That trip was awesome. I’ve done a lot of group trips like this and I have to say that this one was the most organized. I can’t say anything negative about it, to be honest, and I had a fabulous time. Thank you for everything!

I wanted to THANK YOU for everything! I believe all the experiences surpassed what I had expected. In one of our group meetings I thanked everyone for being so inviting and helpful—it was such an honor to be with others who have had and believe the experience of Buddhism!

I loved the tour, the group, and the experience. Thanks for putting it together. I would do it again in a flash.

Although the emphasis is definitely Buddhist history and sacred texts, this tour also provides a spectrum of experiences across socio-cultural, nature, crafts, and shopping opportunities as well. A unique strength of this Tricycle–RetreaTours partnership is the incredible group of fellow travelers it attracts. I really appreciated the warmth, kindness, intellectual verve, and flexibility of this group. Chandima is an outstanding leader and guide in every way.

Fantastic trip, Sri Lanka is a paradise. Great mix of Buddhist historical and sacred sites with Sri Lankan culture and nature. Exceptionally well-designed and executed. A joy from start to finish

Everything about the tour was very well-organised from our point of view and the attention to detail was terrific. Just some little things like providing us all with 3,000 rupees in change helped smooth the transition (since we didn’t get time to find an ATM at the airport late at night on arrival) and the local phone chips. Very thoughtful touches. …The tour was well-planned with a very good balance of Buddhist historical sites and other Sri Lanka attractions like the safaris, tea-plantations, and spice gardens. Yes, we did see lots of elephants and lots a great birds, too! The hotels were very lovely overall, quite shocking but very welcome, the spaciousness of the rooms in some places.


Itinerary at a Glance

  • January 7: Arrival & welcome dinner this evening. (overnight in Negombo)
  • January 8: Explore Salgala Monastery & Anuradhapura (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 9: Explore the ancient stupas of Anuradhapura & the sacred Bodhi tree (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 10: Visit Mihintale, the cradle of Sri Lankan Buddhism (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 11: Discover the Dambulla cave temples from the 1st century BC (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 12: Discover the ancient capital of Poḷonnaruwa & visit a local Dhamma school (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 13: Climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya Enjoy a jeep safari in the afternoon (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 14: Explore Alu Vihare rock monastery & continue on to Kandy (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 15: Visit the Temple of the Tooth, and explore the Buddhist Publication Society & its Forest Hermitage (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 16: Wander the Royal Botanic Gardens and enjoy lunch in a local village (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 17: Visit a mid-grown tea factory and plantation on the way back to Colombo, with another stop at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. Tonight is our farewell dinner (overnight in Colombo)
  • January 18: After breakfast, depart for home or further adventure in Sri Lanka!

Itinerary at a Glance

  • January 7: Arrival & welcome dinner this evening. (overnight in Negombo)
  • January 8: Explore Salgala Monastery & Anuradhapura (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 9: Explore the ancient stupas of Anuradhapura & the sacred Bodhi tree (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 10: Visit Mihintale, the cradle of Sri Lankan Buddhism (overnight in Anuradhapura)
  • January 11: Discover the Dambulla cave temples from the 1st century BC (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 12: Discover the ancient capital of Poḷonnaruwa & visit a local Dhamma school (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 13: Climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya Enjoy a jeep safari in the afternoon (overnight in Sigiriya)
  • January 14: Explore Alu Vihare rock monastery & continue on to Kandy (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 15: Visit the Temple of the Tooth, and explore the Buddhist Publication Society & its Forest Hermitage (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 16: Wander the Royal Botanic Gardens and enjoy lunch in a local village (overnight in Kandy)
  • January 17: Visit a mid-grown tea factory and plantation on the way back to Colombo, with another stop at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. Tonight is our farewell dinner (overnight in Colombo)
  • January 18: After breakfast, depart for home or further adventure in Sri Lanka!

Daily Itinerary

January 7

Ayubowan–welcome to Sri Lanka! This journey officially begins with dinner at 7:30 PM tonight. If you choose to arrive early, we can help you with logistics. (Please see the “Early Arrival” tab on this page for more information.)

You’ll be greeted at Bandaranaike International Airport and take a short drive (~30-minute drive) to our hotel in coastal Negombo. Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner together and you’ll get to meet your fellow pilgrims. Over the next 10 days you will thoroughly explore the ancient heritage sites of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. The relaxed pace of this trip allows downtime for synthesizing the sites you see, personal practice, relaxation, and the itinerary allows plenty of opportunity for discussion with your fellow pilgrims and Tempel Smith.

January 8 – 10

For the next few nights, we’ll use Anuradhapura as our home base as we explore the local treasures.

After breakfast on the 8th, we’ll visit the Salgala Forest Monastery (~90-minute drive from Negombo). 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). 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.

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.

You’ll also have the opportunity to discover 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.

January 11 – 13

Moving on, we’ll use Sigiriya (~90-minute drive from Anuradhapura) as our next base of operations. Today we will explore the impressive Dambulla cave temples, dating from the 1st century BC.

We’ll also 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 also have the opportunity to visit a Sunday Dhamma school to connect with local children and learn more about their lifestyle and their Buddhist studies.

On your last full day in Sigiriya, we’ll depart early in the morning for the opportunity to climb the iconic rock fortress (“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” itself.

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 experience.

January 14 – 16

On our way to Kandy (~2.5-hour drive), our home base for the next 3 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.

Kandy is yet 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 is said to house 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.

You’ll also visit the Buddhist Publication Society (BPS), a charity whose goal is to explain and spread the doctrine of the Buddha. It was founded in Sri Lanka in 1958, and for thirty years, the BPS in Sri Lanka was the most important publisher of Theravada literature in English. You’ll spend time at the moving Forest Hermitage; for many guests, this feels like a true pilgrimage site, understanding the BPS’s importance in the dissemination of Buddhism through the west. 

On your last day in Kandy, pay a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, renowned for their magnificent orchid collection. The origins of the Botanic Gardens date as far back as 1371, and the framework for the modern-day Botanical Garden at Peradeniya was formally established in 1843. Once reserved exclusively for Kandyan royalty, today everyone can enjoy the most impressive and largest garden in Sri Lanka, including 4,000 labeled species.

Afterwards, enjoy lunch in a local family home to get a true taste—in every sense—of what village life is like in Sri Lanka. You’ll experience an interactive cooking session with a Sri Lanka family and have the opportunity to gain insights about village life, customs, and Sri Lankan traditions.

January 17  

This morning we’ll bid farewell to Kandy as we head back to Colombo for our final night together. On the drive back to Colombo (~4 hours) we’ll visit a local mid-grown tea plantation and tea processing factory. Sri Lanka’s tea productions over 300,000 metric tons per year!  The Kandy area is famous for mid-grown tea, located at elevations of 2,000 to 4,000 feet; the first tea plantations were established right here!

Before you reach Colombo, you’ll visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, believed to have been hallowed during the third and final visit of the Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka, eight years after gaining enlightenment. This stunning complex features an 18-foot stone statue of Avalokitesvara and beautiful murals by Sri Lankan artist Solias Mendis which depict important events in the life of the Buddha & the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Tonight we’ll have our final dinner together and reflect on what we have experienced and learned during our time together!

January 18 

The retreat officially ends after breakfast today. However, if you need to leave late on the 17th or early this morning, or if you wish to extend your time in Sri Lanka, our Sri Lankan partners can advise on those arrangements!

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

Price & Inclusions

This all-inclusive journey is $4999 (USD) per person (double occupancy) before November 30, 2019. After that date the price is $5299 (USD).

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $699 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 $2000 is due by August 10, 2019 (150 days before the start of the trip) and the balance is due by October 9, 2019 (90 days before the start of the trip).  Single supplement ($699) is due along with the last installment.

Price Includes:

  • Sri Lanka visa fee
  • Internal transportation within Sri Lanka, including airport transfers
  • Daily sessions with Tempel Smith
  • All accommodation
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner (from dinner on the 7th until breakfast on the 18th)
  • All site fees
  • All tips to hotel staff, restaurant staff, and drivers
  • Donation to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
  • Donation to Tempel Smith

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Additional tip to your guide Chandima
  • Souvenirs
  • Laundry fees
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Snacks and beverages outside meal times
Payment Details & Schedule

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

A $1000 non-refundable deposit holds your space; the second installment of $2000 is due on August 10, 2019, and the balance is due October 9, 2019. 

We accept payments via check and credit/debit card. For guests outside the U.S., please see RetreaTours.com/twdetails for your best option or contact us for bank transfer details. 

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours 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 green 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 have a PayPal account to pay this way; Please click here for instructions. 

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

Click here to pay the $2000 installment by credit card (via PayPal) [due by August 10th, 2019]

Final installment due on October 9, 2019. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice well before the due date.

About the Daily Practice

On this pilgrimage we will be exploring the Buddha’s three trainings to Great Peace: Harmlessness, Mindfulness, and Wisdom. The Harmlessness practice will be training in the 5 Precepts, the Mindfulness practice will come though meditation on breathe, body and loving kindness. Through teachings and group discussions we contemplate what the Buddha understood about suffering and how it comes to an end.

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

Please click here to download a copy of the contract for your records. 




  • 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, 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.


  • 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.



  • 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. 

Please see RetreaTours.com/Travel-Insurance for more information.



  • How much money should I bring?

Only what you need for extras (souvenirs, alcohol, massages, etc) since everything else on this trip is included. We have included all base tips to hotel and restaurant staff, but we would never take away the opportunity to tip more if you feel moved to do so. We can advise on the tipping to your local expert guide, Chandima. 

  • 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.



  • 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.  Here are the names of the hotels we will be using:



  • 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 cell phone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.



This journey is not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs or walkers. Guests must be able to walk 1 mile unassisted and participate in 3-5 hours of mild physical activity on most days. Some of our sites will have steep steps, although it is not required to climb at each these spots (such as Mihintale).

About the Hotels

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.  Here are the names of the hotels we will be using (and their websites) if you would like to check them out online!

Early Arrival or Early/Late Departure

Early Arrival

This journey will officially begin at dinner on January 7th. If you wish to arrive early, we can help you make arrangements at our starting hotel or elsewhere. If you wish to arrive to the hotel (Suriya Resort & Spa) early, a single room is $165 (including breakfast & dinner) and a double room is $185 (including breakfast & dinner).

Please remember that if you arrive in the wee hours of January 7th (~2 to 5 AM), you’ll still need a place to rest your weary head, necessitating a room the night of January 6th/morning of January 7th. Otherwise, you may have to wait until 2 PM to check in.

No fear if you can’t arrive until later on January 7th; if your flight arrives after dinner on January 7th, we’ll make sure you are caught up to speed and know when to meet the group for departure on the 8th and you can meet everyone at breakfast!


Early Departure

We will arrive back in Colombo in the late afternoon of January 17th. Dinner and your hotel room that night are included, as well as breakfast on January 18th. If your preferred flight leaves late on the night of the 17th or early in the pre-dawn hours of the 18th, it will be nice to have a hotel room to recollect, repack, and freshen up before your flight.

If you wish to remain at our last hotel (Dwell) longer, a single room is $125 (including breakfast & dinner) and a double room is $145 (including breakfast & dinner).

Packing List

Weather Notes

The average temperature in your travels around Sri Lanka will be between 72 and 88°F (22 and 32°C) with a relative humidity between 65% and 90%. Hopefully for most of you, this will be a reprieve from some harsh winter weather! Although this is not the rainy season, rain can still occur, so you’ll want to bring some protection from the sprinkles.

Here is a suggested packing list, clothing first and accessories second.

NOTE: As we’ll be visiting many active temples and sacred spots, you’ll want to approach your wardrobe with relative modesty, with shorts and skirts below the knee. You’ll want to cover your shoulder at sacred sites, so bringing a lightweight cotton scarf for a quick wrap solution is a fantastic idea. If you choose to wear shorts above the knee, you can also use a sarong/scarf to cover up during your time in the temple.

Considering the warm weather, you’ll want to opt for lightweight fabrics, like cotton or linen. Although it is not at all necessary for tourists, it is still worth noting that Sri Lankans traditionally wear all white when visiting sacred sites.

For any excursions at dawn or dusk, you’ll want to wear lightweight long sleeves and pants in order to prevent mosquito bites. Although there is no malaria in Sri Lanka, you don’t want to be itchy the whole trip!

Please use this clothing list as a mere suggestion, and wear what you feel comfortable in! You will have the opportunity to have laundry done at your own expense at the hotels; please confirm with the hotel that the laundry will be down by the time you have to check out in each location.

  • 10+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them in your bathroom
  • 3-5 pair light cotton pants or long skirts.
  • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or shirts.
  • A light sweater/cardigan for chilly morning or evenings.
  • Sleeping attire
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t at all necessary and can be cumbersome when going in & out of and temples (where you’ll have to remove shoes). Sneakers, comfortable slip-ons, or walking sandals (like Tevas, Chacos, or Keens) will suffice.
  • A pair of sandals or flip-flops, if you wish.  They’ll be convenient for around the hotels and local excursions.
  • Scarves/sarongs are super handy for so many reasons (men and women, as outlined above, for cover-ups at temples)
  • A swim suit or two for your time on the beaches or hotel pools. You may wish to bring a cover-up for lounging.
  • A heavier shawl or light to mid-weight cardigan for your air conditioned vehicle rides and restaurant meals, if you are easily chilled.


  • Some guests like to bring convenient inflatable meditation cushions for their sitting practice. Here are some examples over at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2wbHx92 
  • A hat with a brim is a great idea for your daytime adventures.
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by this! Click here for more of our tips on preventing and dealing with jet lag. 
  • Good sunscreen.  Lauren prefers mineral-based ones like Devita: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. They might be a little pricier initially, but a little goes a long way.
  • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, just email him. We can discuss what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to lug around.)
  • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries and/or your charging cord! You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
  • Binoculars for your safaris (especially if you don’t have a zoom camera)
  • Toiletries. Although our hotels will have shampoo and soap, you may wish to bring your own favorites, and don’t forget the hair conditioner!
  • A few packs of travel tissues isn’t a bad idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
  • Wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer. Nothing replaces good ol’ hand-washing, but this will work in a pinch.
  • Ladies will want to bring any necessary feminine hygiene products with them.
  • Plug adaptor for electronics. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well. (Click here for a visual of Sri Lanka’s plugs).
  • A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary. You can also have it readily accessible on your phone (you may want to save it as a photo).
  • Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
  • A small travel umbrella; can work for rain (which we’re not expecting) OR as a parasol
  • A lightweight rain shell or poncho.
  • Small notebook and pen for journaling purposes, if you desire!
  • A small flashlight (or the flashlight on your phone)
  • Mosquito repellent. While there is no malaria in Sri Lanka, there is still dengue and the general nuisance of itchy mosquito bites. Prevention is the best solution!
  • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
  • An extra pair of prescription eyeglasses and/or sufficient contact lenses.
  • We will have wifi at all of our hotels, if you want to stay in touch via your smart phone or tablet. Don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.

BJ and Lauren live out of their suitcases year round and they swear by packing cubes!  Rolling your clothes (instead of folding) and using packing cubes make packing a dream!

Travel Insurance

We require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment, and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.

Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like. This website includes options from companies like Allianz, Travel Guard, Trip Assure, April, GeoBlue and more.

It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.

Contact RetreaTours

Please email Lauren@RetreaTours.com if you have any questions not addressed on this site. Thank you!

About Tricycle

Established 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 Tempel Smith

Tempel Smith began practicing vipassana and metta meditation in 1989 within the Theravada Buddhist tradition at Insight Meditation Society (IMS). Tempel focused his younger years on service and activism within nuclear disarmament, environmental protection, and working in crisis shelters for homeless and abused youth. In 1997 he spent a year in Myanmar (Burma) as an ordained monk with both Ven. Sayadaw U Pandita and Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, and later practiced in silence for a nine-month retreat back at the IMS.

Since 2001 Tempel has begun to teach meditation and Buddhist psychology to a wide variety of people including prisoners, activists, youth, service providers, and those with severe and chronic illnesses. He founded the B.A.S.E. House in San Francisco – a residential community dedicated to living a socially engaged Buddhist life. Tempel spent a year in volunteer service for Zen Hospice, and in 2003 he initiated an international meditation retreat and program for teenagers and young adults which became iBme (Inward Bound Mindfulness Education). Tempel worked for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley coordinating the B.A.S.E. and Young Adults programs and also has lead pilgrimages in Thailand, Burma, and India for the past ten years.

In 2008 Tempel joined a four-year teacher training program run by Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock Meditation Center (SRMC) and IMS, and now leads the 2-year Dedicated Practitioner Program. The Dharma Tempel teaches is informed by western sciences and psychology, Theravada Buddhism, and somatic based trauma healing.  See more at TempelSmith.info

About Sam Mowe

Sam Mowe is the Associate Publisher at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. With a background in both editorial and marketing, he wears multiple hats, from content creation to community-building. Former editor-in-chief at the Garrison Institute, Sam’s focus has been to bring a Buddhist perspective to the modern world and contemporary life.

Sam has a longstanding interest in Buddhist pilgrimage. As an undergraduate, he studied abroad in Bodh Gaya, India, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and later as a Fulbright Student Scholar he studied in Lumbini, Nepal, the Buddha’s birthplace.

About Chandima Wanasinghe

You’ll be accompanied on this tour by our fantastic Sri Lankan guide Chandima. Like every Buddhist child in Sri Lanka, Chan went to Sunday Dhamma school from age 5 until 18. Chan went on to complete a ‘Dharmacharya’ exam to be qualified as a teacher and volunteered for three years at the village Dhamma School. He completed a One Year Diploma at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka.

Chan’s experience in Qualitative Marketing Research and the Hospitality Industry laid a firm foundation for his next move: pursuing a lifelong passion for travel and adventure. Upon qualifying as a National Tourist Guide Lecturer from Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management, he commenced a career as a freelance tour leader, designer, and a tour consultant. Chan brings a wealth of knowledge to the table, expertise that has been acquired through facilitating and exchanging of ideas with travelers across the globe who come from numerous backgrounds, cultures, and interest levels.

During his free time, Chan loves to pack a tent, jump on his scooter and visit places far off the beaten track in search of unique getaways. A runner, cyclist and an outdoorsman in the truest the sense of the word, Chan dreams of completing the Ironman Triathlon at least once in his lifetime.

Chandima’s thoughts about our 2018 Pilgrimage: “It was an amazing experience to be among this group of Buddhists from different backgrounds, and it was inspirational to see their commitment to deepen the knowledge of Dhamma and spiritual development. I will remember this for years to come.”


Read what our 2018 & 2019 Pilgrims had to say about Chandima:

  • “Chandima could not have been better. He was calm, gracious, cheerful, knowledgeable, organized. I miss him; wish he were still guiding me about.”
  • “I would especially like to add my support for Chan.  He was terrific.”
  • “One of the most important things about our trip being so successful was Chandima, the wonderful tour guide. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about all the places we visited and the culture and history of Sri Lanka, but he also had a great interest in Buddhism himself, and showed consistently wonderful kindness and care to all of us on the tour. What a gem!”
  • “Chandima was fabulous. He was a true asset on this trip.”
  • What Tricycle founder Helen Tworkov had to say: “Chandima is a very special young man whose contribution to this tour cannot be overestimated. Charming, knowledgeable, smart, gracious, and infinitely patient and responsible. He won our hearts.”
  • “Chandima knew his stuff, was organized and worked hard. Everyone liked him, and he was always smiling and helpful.”
  • “Chandima is brilliant and approached perfection as a guide. He was graceful, elegant, obviously deeply respectful of Buddhism. Every time he said something, I learned something. He spoke about a wide array of historical and current topics. He frequently mentioned that he had further researched a question and gave more info the next day.  He was quick, attentive, always pleasant, despite becoming naturally fatigued as the days progressed.  He worked with efficiency. Arrangements were ready when we arrived.”
  • He’s FABULOUS! knowledge, personality, caring, attention to details — he’s that rare complete package person who excels at his role.
  • The ultimate guide, perfect person for this adventure. Took SUCH good care of us and never a negative word or “spin” on an issue or situation. The BEST!
  • “I’ll add my BRAVO’s regarding the amazing Chandima.”

About 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.

Although we will not be with you on tour in Sri Lanka this year, we are in involved in every aspect of the trip planning & execution, and we are deeply committed to bringing you the best experience possible!

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. 

Want to extend your journey in Sri Lanka?

Please click below for some add-on ideas, depending on your interests! Should you desire a trip extension of a different length or focus, please let us know and we can put you in touch with M&S Travel Solutions to create your perfect add-on!

These trip extensions are offered as a courtesy through our Sri Lankan partners, M&S Travel Solutions, and are not part of your travels with RetreaTours & Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. You will be working directly with M&S Travel Solutions to set up and pay for your trip extensions.

Want to extend your journey in Sri Lanka?

Please click below for some add-on ideas, depending on your interests! Should you desire a trip extension of a different length or focus, please let us know and we can put you in touch with M&S Travel Solutions to create your perfect add-on!

These trip extensions are offered as a courtesy through our Sri Lankan partners, M&S Travel Solutions, and are not part of your travels with RetreaTours & Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. You will be working directly with M&S Travel Solutions to set up and pay for your trip extensions.

Want to see our other Pilgrimages with Tricycle?

We love traveling with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and we know that you will enjoy these transformative journeys, too. Please click here to see all of our current Tricycle Pilgrimages at a glance.