Of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka, five are in our famed Cultural Triangle, traditionally known as ‘The King’s Land’. Among them are the three most historic ancient Sinhalese capital cities: Anuradhapura in the north, Kandy in the south and Polonnaruwa in the east. All three played vital roles in the development of Sri Lanka as a vibrant and ordered society; not only as centers of culture and learning, but also the cradles of Buddhism on the island.
The history of Anuradhapura, that great city on the plain steeped in antiquity, is home to some of the most amazing Buddhist art and architecture on the planet. At its centre is the sacred tree of Buddhism in Anuradhapura, the Bo tree, grown from a cutting taken 1,000 years ago from the tree in India under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Says the UNESCO World Heritage citation: “The sacred city exerted a considerable influence on the development of architecture during several centuries. “It includes remarkable monuments, particularly the Dagabas [stupas] of colossal size, placed on circular foundations and surrounded by a ring of monolithic columns, characteristic of the Sinhalese stupas.”
The history of Polonnaruwa, the fabulous garden city founded after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993, likewise reveals a treasure trove of historical antiquity: the Lankatilaka, with its huge image of Buddha; the Gal Vihara, the pinnacles of Sinhalese art; the Tivanka Pilimage, where gorgeous wall paintings illustrate the lives of Buddha. And then there is Kandy, “the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815” (UNESCO).
Anuradhapura, sacred City of the Kings, is redolent with history and mystery. Founded in the 6th Century BC and venerated by Buddhists the world over, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies at the heart of Sri Lanka’s famed ‘cultural triangle’.
Visit Ancient Heritage Sites
Explore Forest Monasteries
Safari in Wilpattu
If any one place can be called the cradle of civilization in Sri Lanka, it is Dambulla. Doubly significant, this hugely important historical and cultural site is also where Buddhism gained its first footholds. The region’s prehistory is dated in part from burial site near the Dambulla caves complex. This highlights the development of at least one indigenous civilization long before the arrival of Indian influence, and thus Buddhism.
Explore cave temple
Scenic walk in Kandalama
Elephant back ride
Hot air Balooning
Elephant rides and safaris in the Minneriya and Kaudulla wildlife sanctuaries are what the small city of Habarana, also within easy reach of the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, is all about. Also hosting some of the best hotels in Sri Lanka, and with excellent cultural-triangle transport links, Habarana combines history and hedonism as a perfect backdrop to any tropical island adventure holiday. But it is the elephant rides that are the highpoint of any visit here, a once-
Matale often written as Mathale, is the largest town of the Matale District of the Central Province, of Sri Lanka. It is 142 kilometres from Colombo and near Kandy The town of Matale is something of an urban sprawl, with very little to commend it to sightseers. It is what lies to the north and east—a fertile valley filled with plantations of spices, vanilla and rubber, and the magnificent Knuckles mountain range, with its incomparable views, that are definitely worth a visit
Visit Spice Gardens
Explore Knuckles Mountain Range
Visit water falls
Learn about tea processing in factories
The history of Polonnaruwa shines a dazzling light on the history of Sri Lanka. And ancient ruins and latter-day aging rock-stars underscore why this World Heritage Site lies at the centre of our sacred cultural firmament.
Explore the ancient Kingdom
Visit the ruins of the ancient city
Enjoy traditional local cuisine
Safari in Minneriya
The Sigiriya rock fortress, a spectacular and once-impregnable edifice built atop a massive 660ft (200m) granite column, dominates the surrounding plain. The topmost fortress, accessible after a lengthy climb that ends in a vertiginous metal spiral staircase, is literally the highpoint of any trip to Sigiriya, with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. Guarded by an enormous lion’s-head gateway, hence the name Lion Mountain, this magical and mysterious complex