Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are world-renowned. With a history that spans 2,500 years, Sri Lanka has a rich mosaic of past civilizations that have left their subsequent marks well into the present. Here are short and concise introductions to five of the most well-known places in this magical island.
Known to be the second most ancient of kingdoms in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa was a former capital city as declared by king Vijayabahu I. During these ancient times, advanced irrigation systems were put in place that to this present day supplies sustenance to the paddy fields. The most famous of these systems happens to be the Sea of Parakrama or Parakrama Samudraya. Polonnaruwa is home to some of the best kept relic sites in Sri Lanka. Some sites to visit would be the Lankatilaka Temple, Thuparama, Sandakada Pahana, Medirigiriya Vatadage, Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, Polonnaruwa Vatadage, Statue of King Parakramabahu, Shiva Dewalaya, Kiri Vihara, and the Satmahal Prasada.
Sigiriya is also known as the Lion Rock; it is one of the best preserved locations when it comes to urban planning. The site was constructed by King Kasyapa during the 5th century, and is resplendent with colorful frescoes, gardens, and swimming pools. While the site itself speaks of King Kasyapa and his infamous life, including his hand in the murder of his own father, it was converted to a monastery by his brother who won against him in battle. The Lion Rock serves to be an interesting tourist spot, since its creation and architecture is of a superlative and inimitable standard.
Situated in the district of Matale, the site of Dambulla is 148 km northeast of Colombo. This location is home to the largest and most well-preserved cave temple compound in Sri Lanka. Dambulla also boasts the biggest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, in addition, to the Iron wood forest, or Na Uyana Aranya. What makes Dambulla significant from a historical perspective is its prehistoric burial site known as Ibbankatuwa, which is located near the Dambulla cave temple complexes. This burial site provides evidence of the existence of indigenous civilizations. As documented, Dambulla is an area that was inhabited as far back as the 7th to 3rd century BC.
Close to 205 km from Colombo, Anuradhapura is one of the most well-known cities in Sri Lanka. Home to a rich history, Anuradhapura offers much in the way of archaeological ruins and sites. There are three different types of ruins that need to be looked at: dagobas, pokunas, and monastic buildings. King Dutugamunu’s Brazen Palace constructed in 164 B.C. is certainly a popular spot for tourists to visit. Other noteworthy sites that should be visited are the Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiri Dagaba, Jetavanarama, Isurumuniya, Magul Uyana, Vessagiri and Rathna Prasadaya, just to name a few.
Kandy, which is also known as Maha Nuwara, is a religious and administrative city that is highly significant for the Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka. Kandy is home to the The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). There are many places of interests for tourists in Kandy, such as the Lankatilaka Temple, which is thought to be an excellent example of traditional Sinhalese temple architecture that is well preserved. Other noteworthy places that should be visited include Gadaladeniya Temple, The Royal Botanical Garden in Peradeniya, Udawatta Kele, and the The Royal Palace Park. Interestingly, Kandy is only second to Colombo as the center of the Sri Lankan economy.
Named as one of the eight UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka, Galle is a romantic city with a colonial ambience still finely preserved. Located on the fine southern coastal line of Sri Lanka, you will be able to relive the glorious past of the colonial era among the Portuguese and British influences in the surrounding architecture. At Galle, amidst the vibrant colours and the gay ambience, important landmarks that you should jot down would be Galle fort, which is also recorded as the largest remaining fortress in Asia by European Occupiers, National Maritime Museum and St. Mary's Cathedral. For natural wonders, Galle is naturally a wonderful harbour, which also includes Rumassala Mountain in Unawatuna and beautiful Gin river that smoothly flow down to the great Indian Ocean.
Sinharaja is a national park which is rich with the diversity of flora and fauna. This park is a hotspot to explore the bio diversity in Sri Lanka. As an admiration this site has been declared as Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This is a hillside virgin forest which is located in the low land side of Sri Lanka.
Central highlands highlight few spectacular mountain ranges in Sri Lanka. This includes Horton plains national park, Knuckles mountain range and the holistic Adams’ peak. These three has its’ own coherences while being in the same boat for being highlands. What’s special of Horton plains is the uniqueness of being the highest plateau of the country. Speaking of Knuckles Mountain, the name derived for the shape it’s blessed with. The mountain range shows itself to the world as a clenched fist with its’ protruded knuckles. At last but not least there is the Adams’ peak which tells two different stories about the foot print carved on the top of it. Buddhists say that it belongs to the Lord Buddha at his third visit and Christians say that it’s the foot print of Adam, the angel who fell from the Garden of Eden after being punished for eating the forbidden apple and started the human race on the earth. That’s all about the stories. This brings us to the main point. These mountains are very special tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. Though they have trivial differences still they belong to the same family of central highland. Paying a visit at least to one of these places would explain you how wondrous it is to look up on from the highest peak at the panoramic view which resembles a green cloak spotted with multicoloured dots. The feeling you get when you climb up would be fabulous.