Sacred City Of Anuradhapura (Declared 1982)
Anurdhapura is one of the most ancient cities in Sri Lanka, spanning over 1330 years, it is by far the most rich in culture and values. It was Sri Lanka’s first capital and has one of the greatest and oldest civilizations in the world. The highlight of this ancient capital of Sri Lanka would definitely be the Sri-Maha Bodhi – which is said to be the oldest tree on earth, over 2200 years, it is believed that this tree grew from the sacred Bo sapling that was extracted from the tree which Lord Buddha was said to attain enlightenment. This city has some of the oldest Buddhist shrines – some even dating as far as 3rd century. Some of the city’s main attractions include impressive white ‘dagabas’ (relic chambers) and monuments studded with beautiful stone carvings and sculptures, pleasure gardens, stone baths and ponds and an incredible irrigation system of reservoirs and canals that empire the culture and heritage of this once most strongest kingdoms in Sri Lankan history.
More specific places to visit in this enchanting city would be the Ruwanweli Seya (2nd century B.C) this is the most famous of all the dagoba’s, which originally depicted the perfect water-bubble shape that modern architecture still has not been able to accurately rebuild, the Brazen Palace (2nd century B.C., this palace holds 1600 stone pillars which are the remains of a magnificent residence for the monks of that time, Samadhi Buddha (3rd century B.C.) known as one of the finest rock sculptures in Sri Lanka – portraying the Lord Buddha in a state of deep meditation, Isurumuniya rock temple (3rd century B.C.) renowned for its rock sculptures of the “Lovers”, Kuttam Pokuna, also known as the twin ponds (3rd century B.C.) which were said to be used by monks of this glorious era as a bathing pool. Thuparama (3rd century B.C.), the oldest dagoba in the island – preserves the right collarbone of Lord Buddha, Ratnaprasada with the most well preserved Guard Stone, Mahasena’s Palace with its most famous Moonstone, Abayagiri and Jetevanarama – a large dagoba also known to be the largest brick built structure in the world.
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (Declared 1982)
Polonnaruwa rose up after the decline of Anuradhapura and was the medieval capital of Sri Lanka during the reign of King Parakramabahu I from 1153-86 B.C. This city is filled with beautiful stupas, resting Buddha statues, irrigation canals, and amazingly carved Hindhu sculptures. It even contains the Relic House that holds beautiful stone carvings. It is said that there is a slight resemblance of Hindu architecture and statues found in Pollonnaruwa. The main attraction of this city is most definitely the Parakrama Samudraya – which is the manmade water reservoir – built by the famous King Parakramabahu during his reign. Also known as the sea of parakrama- as it is said to be even larger than the Colombo Harbour. A few other prominent sites in Polonnaruwa would be the ‘Galviharaya’ which contains 4 images of Lord Buddha, cut out from a single slab of granite, The Nissankamalla Council Chamber, the Royal Palace complex including the Kings Palace and Audience Hall, the Temple of Shiva, the Lotus Bath and many more.
Ancient City of Sigiriya (Declared 1982)
Sigiriya is a 5th century rock citadel which was built by Sri Lankan King Kashyapa in 477-495AD, is not only famous for its remarkable engineering and urban planning supremacy, but is also said to be quite famous for its unique art and culture. This beautiful monument is also known as the ‘Lion Rock’ and is a citadel of unusual beauty in Sri Lanka. It stands 200 meters tall and was the innermost stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town. Step through the huge ‘Lion Paws’ to witness the beautiful surroundings that once dominated this rock fortress. The walls are covered in beautiful frescos paintings that are said to resemble the Gupta style paintings in the Ajanta cave in India. A mirror wall faces the western side of Sigiriya, this mirror wall is covered in 100 meters of laminated graffiti and is a sight for art lovers. There is also a well fabricated museum downstairs. The irrigation systems back in the day, was so unique, where water was pumped straight to the summit through an ingenious hydraulic system that remained a mystery for several centuries.
Sacred City Of Kandy (Declared 1988)
Kandy is known as the last royal capital of Sri Lankan kings. This exotic city holds an array of culture, history and heritage in the minds of many visitors across the world. The most famous attraction of this city would be the sacred temple of the tooth – known as “Dalada Maligawa”, this temple holds the famous tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Kandy is also known for its beautiful botanical gardens that hold the world’s best Orchid collection. This city also holds a fabulous gem and jewelry collections, mainly the blue and star sapphires, and also exquisite silver and gold jewelry as well. The main highlight of this city is the “Esala Perahara” which is a procession that carries the sacred tooth of Lord Bhuddah for 10 beautiful nights in July/Aug followed by exotic beautiful dancers, drummers and approximately 100 elephants.
Golden Temple of Dambulla (Declared 1991)
The Dambulla rock temple is a place that has been treasured by many kings since the 1st century B.C. The Dambulla rock temple is an icon in Sri Lanka and houses some of the most unique paintings and statues of Lord Buddha. It is located in the North Central province in Sri Lanka and is a combination of five caves, holding 150 statues of Lord Buddha- the tallest being over 14 ft, carved of rock. There is also a gigantic gold Buddha statue that glitters as you descend the caves that overlooks the entire area. This area is said to be an important junction in the country’s economic and cultural uplifting.
Old Town of Galle & Its Fortifications
Galle is said to be the port where the Portuguese landed when they came to Sri Lanka in 1505. It is also believed that Galle was the first place where biblical King Solomon collected gems, jewels and spices. Galle is also known as the Southern Capital and is the intersection where classic Dutch architecture meets a tropical setting creating an amazing and distinctive atmosphere in beauty. This city still has the olden day’s look of Holland as it was captured and ruled by the Dutch in the 17th and 18th Centuries. You can notice the fusion culture that Galle has developed today; mixing the European and South Asian traditions together. The original ramparts and bastions that are preserved up to date are evidence of a heritage that has been around for over 3 ½ centuries. The famous Galle fort has the ‘old gate’ that carries the British Coat of arms, and adjoining the old gate is the Zwart bastion and the famous lighthouse that stands 18 feet tall. The Dutch bliss is surrounded with streets that spread out in a grid-like pattern and adorned with small houses with Dutch colonial style verandas and the Galle city is always buzzing with so much excitement and is filled with commercial buildings & old churches.
Singharaja Forest Reserve
Singharaja is situated in the South West of Sri Lanka and is particularly in the lowland and wet zone. It stretches out to three major districts of Sri Lanka – Galle, Matara and Rantnapura. This forest is a tropical wet forest and is home to many species of animals, plants, reptiles, birds, butterflies and even some rare amphibians as well. Sinharaja was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) in 1978 when UNESCO included it in its international network of Biosphere reserves, soon after, it was awarded as a National wilderness area in 1988, and finally UNESCO declared it as a world heritage site in 1989. The average temperature in these forests is an average of 23.6C and the annual rainfall is over 2500mm high.
Horton Plains is an Eco-tourism hideout in the heart of Sri Lanka, surrounded with unending stretches of green pastures, marking one of the healthiest wet montages of evergreen forests in Sri Lanka. The plains are a beautiful sight with misty grasslands and ice-cold rivulets. There are two famous places in this area, the first is known as the “World’s End” that is considered to have the finest view point in Sri Lanka and is a 400 ft drop towards the southern end. The second one is the “Bakers Falls” also known as “bridal veil” due to it gushing water. Horton Plains has an altitude of over 7000 ft and the plateau sweeps to a robust 3169 hectares, sheltering various varieties of plants and animals, some of them being, Bear Monkey, Barking Deer, Giant Squirrel, Fishing Cat, Wild Boar, Hare and even a few very rare sightings of Leopard have been recorded. Horton Plains gets a lot of rain from the North West monsoon and throughout the year. The average temperature for Horton Plains is around 13C, although one can expect temperatures as high as 27C throughout the day and 5C in the nights.
Knuckles Mountain Range
This is a new category addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list. It comprises of the Knuckles Mountain range, Horton Plains and the most protected and preserved wilderness areas. It is believed that the mountains rising above 2500 meters above sea level are a great habitat for certain endemic plants and animals’ survival. Some of them include the Horton Plain Slender Loris, the Srilankan Leopard, and the western- purple-faced Langur.y and 5C in the nights. This beautiful mountain range was given its name due to its unique formation. It is said to resemble that of the knuckles of a clenched fist. These mountains loom 6,112 feet above the Dumbara Valley and its surrounding areas have been declared as strict natural reserves. It is said that a large variety of plants that are not found in any other part of the country, are found here in this area. Knuckles mountain range is located North-East of the Kandy city.