With a Buddhist cultural heritage spanning more than 2 and quarter millennia, most of Sri Lanka’s cultural sites are Buddhist in nature. However, there are a few notable Hindu and Catholic places of worship which would interest the traveler in search of spiritual fulfilment.
The historic cities namely Kandy, Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa is dense with Buddhist cultural sites. Among these are the world famous Adam’s Peak, Sigiriya and the giant Gal Vihara Buddha Statues which are all World Heritage sites. The knowledge-hungry traveler should be ready to be taken on a journey back in time; to the era of kings, distant explorers, colossal structures and medieval fantasy, turned reality.
Just a 3-hour drive from the capital Colombo, is the Island’s scenic hill-capital and the last historic stronghold of the Sri Lankan kings. The drive to Kandy takes you through lush green acres of paddy fields, coconut groves and rich mountainous landscapes. The Pinnawela elephant orphanage is en route, and visitors even have the honor of bottle feeding baby elephants during meal time. The elephant park is a short drive away where tourists can even take an elephant ride! The palace of the sacred tooth relic, now a heritage site, brings in locals and tourists alike, all enthralled by the fact that the sacred tooth of Buddha is housed within this temple. The national museum of Kandy is another favorite, where visitors can view ancient artifacts of the kings and relics of the ancient Kandyan kingdom.
One of the Island’s ancient capitals, which still houses well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization. Here, you step into the arena of the kings, you can experience first-hand remnants of a civilization that date as far back as the 10th century BC. The city is strewn with ancient monastic buildings, ‘stupas’ containing ancient Buddhist relics and large stone bathing tanks. The city is also known for its massive Bo tree that still grows there, dating back to 245 BC.
This ancient city is said to remain one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country. Remnants of the royal palace, large stone statues dating back to the time of the kings and the Parakrama Samudraya, a tank built around 386 AD which is so vast that it is most often mistaken for the ocean, can all be seen in this city that defies time.
Also known as Lion's Rock, Sigiriya is an ancient palace and rock fortress ruin. It is surrounded by the remains of an intricate system of lush gardens, reservoirs, and other ancient ruins, including the Lion’s stone entrance to the fortress. Its ancient paintings, known as frescos, date back to around AD 480. The climb to the rock’s summit takes roughly about an hour, but it’s well worth the climb. Sigiriya continues to baffle even present day archeologists by its complex design, boulder & water gardens and moreover, how it has managed to flourish and remain for so long.