Sri Lanka with its documented history dating back to the 3rd century BC holds some of world’s most advanced and developed ancient cities including Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Remnants of these once glorious cities, their palaces, temples, monasteries, hospitals and theaters intricately carved out of stone lay amidst the thick jungles today, still fascinating and spellbinding its visitors. The introduction of Buddhism in 247 BC enriched the Indo-Aryan Sinhalese inspiring them to create magnificent feats of architecture and engineering. Within the comparatively small area of 65,610 square kms of land lie 8 remarkable attractions in Sri Lanka. Of the UNESCO declared World Heritage Sites, 6 are man-made wonders.
These are the ruins of the first capital, the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, the second capital, Polonnaruwa (9th to 14th century) and the fascinating Lion Rock, Sigiriya, The picturesque mediaeval capital city of Kandy (the seat of kings from the 16th to the 19th century), the Dambulla Rock Caves and Temple, the Galle Fort and two natural heritage sites designated being the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Central Highlands (Peak Wilderness, Horton Plains, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest.)
Anuradhapura in the north central province of Sri Lanka is a UNESCO declared World Heritage City. It flourished as the first capital of Sri Lanka from 377 BC to the end of the reign 1017 AD and was the Royal Seat for an unbroken 1400 years under 130 kings as the capital of the Country. It was Sri Lanka’s first planned city of which magnificent and glorious remnants and ruins give a fascinating glimpse of a stately, well laid-out pre-Christian metropolis. The city is adorned with massive Buddhist shrines and monasteries, splendid palaces, pavilions, and parks, bathing ponds and vast reservoirs, many of them are masterpieces of architecture, art, sculpture and engineering. The ancient city of Anuradhapura and its surroundings offer a remarkable experience into one of the most prosperous and rich civilization and cultures of the ancient world.
Places to see in Anuradhapura
The ancient Stone Bridge
The Samadhi Buddha
Sri Maha Bodhi
Anuradhpaura Archeological Museum
Located in the north central province in Sri Lanka, the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa was the second capital of the island between the 11th to 13th centuries. A UNESCO declared World Heritage City, Polonnaruwa was made the capital of the island by King Vijayabahu, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the nation. The well preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa both of secular and religious buildings with their scale, grandeur and architectural finesse gives the visitor a glimpse into the splendor and prosperity of the city at its zenith.
King Parakramabahu (1153 – 1186) undertook massive irrigation works, reservoirs and engineering feats of which the remains still marvel the world. Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Prakrama) which covers more than 2400 hectares was built as an irrigation solution to supply water for the many paddy cultivations in the kingdom. The area surrounding the lake is serene and pleasant with beautiful views of the sunset.
Places to see in Polonnaruwa
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
Lankatilaka Image House
Sigiriya, the “Lion Rock” is an ancient rock fortress about 200 meters in height situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka and is among the new Seven Wonders of the world, listed by Bloomberg. Even though it is believed that the ancient Rock Fortress and Palace was built by King Kashyapa during his reign in the 5th century AD, the mysterious and fascinating history of Sigiriya dates back to a ‘City of Gods’ built 50 centuries ago. According to recent archeological findings Sigiriya is considered as a post historical archaeology turning point of King Ravana where it could be the ‘Alakamandava’ or ‘City of the Gods’ that was constructed 50 centuries ago.
Fascinating Sigiriya holds immense archeological and historical importance and is considered the eighth wonder of the world. It is also a masterpiece of ancient urban planning, landscape designing and architecture. The construction technology, exceptional hydraulic engineering and aesthetics, refinement in design and the unique harmonization created between nature and man-made structures have truly amazed the world. The summit of the rock is reached by climbing 1200 steps that will take approximately 3 hours. The Frescoes, Mirror Wall, the landscaped gardens, Lion’s Paw, and the Cobra head cave are among the highlights of exploring Sigiriya.
Places to see in Sigiriya
Dambulla Cave Temple
Spice Garden in Inamaluwa
Minneriya National Park
Kaudulla National Park
The charming hill capital nestled between the central green mountains of Sri Lanka at an elevation of 465 meters above sea level is the island’s second largest city. It was the last royal kingdom, where more than 2000 years of royal rule ended as the island ceded to British rule in 1815. Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1988, it is one of Sri Lanka’s foremost tourist destinations. The most sacred and famous highlight of the city of Kandy is the historic ‘Dalada Maligawa’ or the Temple of The Tooth Relic, which enshrines the sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. The mesmerizing annual cultural pageant the ‘Esala Perehera’ held in honor of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha is known to be one of the most colorful cultural pageants in Asia. Kandy and its surroundings are a treasure trove of interesting architecture, traditional art and crafts, exquisite timber carvings, music and dance and is a living continuation of the island’s ancient cultural heritage.
Places to see in Kandy
Dalada Maligawa Complex and the surrounding sacred buildings.
The Royal Palace Complex housing the Archeological Museum
The 4 Devalayas (Shrines) – The Natha, Vishnu, Pattini and Kataragama Devalayas
Malwatte & Asgiriya Rajamahavihara Buddhist Monasteries
Kandy Lake, Ulpange and the island
Udawatte Kale forest monastery
Bahiravakanda Buddha Statue
Peradeniya Botannical Gardens
Peradeniya University Complex
The Dambulla Cave Temple dates back to the 1st century BC, and is one of the most distinct and unique cave temples in Asia. Located at an elevation of 1118 feet above sea level this massive rock in the plains of Dambulla rises to a height of 600 feet with a length of over 2000 feet. This most acclaimed cave complex holds magnificent Buddha images and a vast expanse of breathtaking traditional paintings on the rock ceiling and wall in vivid colors. The paintings date back to from the 2nd century BC (Anuradhapura Period) up to the 18th century (Kandyan Period).
UNESCO declared the Dambulla Rock Cave Temple as a World Heritage Site in 1991 given its outstanding archeological and historical importance. This unique Rock Cave Temple mesmerizes the visitor as he passes through magical spaces witnessing talented contributions of hundreds of generations of artists and craftsmen.
Places to see in Dambulla
Climb the Rose Quartz Mountain (Jathika Namal Uyana)
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Explore the ancient ruins of the Ritigala forest monastery
Minneriya National Park
Kaudulla National Park
The largest city and port in southern Sri Lanka, Galle is 115 kilometers away from the city of Colombo and is a popular tourist destination in the island. The city was occupied by all three colonial rulers of the island and its main attraction is the Galle Fort. It is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site and a proclaimed Archeological Reserve. Different to any other city found in Sri Lanka, the Fort in Galle adds character to the city and encapsulates within its fortifications a colorful and exciting old world charm with old colonial architecture and winding cobbled streets.
There are many interesting shops that are lined along the streets of Galle in which you can buy colorful and exquisite gifts and souvenirs. You can pick the famous handmade Galle ‘Beeralu’ lace, or select from an array of colorful gemstones ranging from moonstones to precious and rare gems the island is famous for.
Places to see in Galle City
Galle Light House
National Museum in Galle
Maritime Archeological Museum
Dutch Reformed Church
All Saints’ Church
Historical Mansion Museum
Places to see in Galle
Hummanaya Blow Hole, Dikwella
Wewurukannala Vihara, Dikwella
Kanneliya Forest Reserve
Star Fort, Matara
Mask Museum, Ambalangoda
Batik Factory, Ambalangoda
Watch-Stilt Fishermen in Kathaluwa
The Central Highlands
Situated in the south-central part of Sri Lanka it comprises of the Horton Plains National Park, the Peak Wilderness Protected Area and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. This area was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010 owing to the extraordinary range of fauna and flora found here. This region is considered a splendid bio diversity hot spot in the world. Situated at an elevation of 2100 – 2300m above sea level the Horton Plains National Park is covered by the montane grassland and cloud forest, rich in biodiversity with many species found here being endemic to the region. Peak Wilderness sanctuary spreads over a land of 224 square kilometers around the Sri Pada Mountain and is the third largest natural reserve out of the 50 sanctuaries in the island. The Knuckles is separated from the Central Highlands by the deeply carved valley known as the ‘Dumbara Valley’, or the ‘misty mountains’ and spans the Kandy and Matale Districts covering an area of approximately 21000 hectares.
Activities/Places around the Central Highlands
Exploring Horton Plains National Park
Adventure trekking in the Knuckles Mountain Range
Climbing Adam’s Peak
Visit Reverse Turn
Hiking in the mountains of the Central Highland
Walk to World’s End & Baker’s Falls
Hiking to Glory Mountains
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja, situated approximately 172 kms from Colombo in the south-west of Sri Lanka is one of the few virgin forests left in the world. A UNESCO declared natural World Heritage Site, it is also a designated Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO covering an area of approximately 11,000 hectares. There is much wildlife, especially birds and home to over 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals, butterflies, as well as numerous kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and are considered extremely rare.
it is accessible from any of its three entrances; Pitadeniya, Kudawa and Morning Side. The amazing variety of flora and fauna found in this dense rainforest makes scientists as well as nature lovers do excursions into the jungle to explore and appreciate its many untouched natural wonders.