Highlights of Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura Ancient Capital
Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka's first Capital Kingdom founded in the 5th Century BC according to the ancient Sinhalese Chronicle 'Mahavansa'. The unique feature of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is the Stupa (Dagoba) usually a curved dome which enshrines relics of Lord Buddha and objects of veneration. The strikingly white Ruwanweliseya Stupa built during the 2nd Century BC is by far the most beautiful. The 'Samadhi' Buddha statue that dates back 4th Century AD is a statue of Buddha in a meditative pose and considered as a masterpiece of sculpture. Receive a blessing by a resident monk near the sacred fig tree that bears a branch brought from India over 2500 years ago.
Polonnaruwa Ancient Capital
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Polonnaruwa is the 2nd ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka that remains today an interesting blend of archeological monuments. The huge water reservoir which was ideally named as Parakrama "Samudra" or "the sea" of Parakrama was one of his greatest achievements. Look out for the famous Gal Viharaya or the "Stone Temple" where four colossal statues of the Buddha cut in stone reflecting peace, serenity and strength.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sigiriya is a large colossal rock boulder, which is about 200 meters high. The rock fortress was built by King Kassyapa I in the 5th Century AD and was a royal citadel for more than 18 years. In a sheltered pocket approached by a spiral stairway are the famous Sigiriya frescoes, 21 figures of females depicted as rising from the clouds, some of the earliest surviving pictorial art in Sri Lanka. The poems inscribed on the rock by admirers of the frescoes, and known as the 'Sigiri graffiti,' are among the most ancient texts in the Sinhalese language. Climb up the 850 steps with us and we will treat you to a glass of champagne for having made it to the top and back!
Dambulla Cave Rock Temple
Dating back to the 1st Century BC Dambulla is a vast caved rock mass which was later converted to a rock temple. The rock of Dambulla is the center of a Buddhist cave-temple complex established in the 3rd century BC as one of the largest and most important Buddhist monasteries occupied continuously until today. The rock ceiling is one large sweep of colorful painting, which is the largest collection of paintings in Sri Lanka within a cave temple and the most number of Buddha statues found in a single place.
Galle Dutch Fortress
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city of Galle has been exposed to the best of the Colonial rule in Sri Lanka, an urban ensemble which showcases the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions during the 16th to 19th Centuries. The Fortress of Galle which is most impressive, built by the Dutch, exists still, only with few changes. The fort contains a large number of public administrations, trade establishments, a light house and a Protestant church, the oldest in Sri Lanka and plush boutique hotels.
Kandy Heritage City
The city of Kandy is considered as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to being home to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth. Kandy is located about 1600 ft above sea level and this topographic location means cooler temperatures compared to the tropical climate prevailing throughout the rest of the island. Some other highlights in the city are the historic Kandy Lake, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya and the scenic Udawatta Forest reserve. The ancient Embekka Temple, Gadaladeniya Temple and Lankathilake Temple have all gained international fame for their intricate wooden and stone craftsmanship. The Kandyan craftsmen produce the most exquisite items and consequently entire traditional craft villages are set up in the area.
Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve
Situated in the south-west lowland wet zone, bordering the villages of Rakwana, Deniyaya & Matugama lies the exotic Sinharaja Rain Forest reserve. It is the largest forest reserve in Sri Lanka covering 9800 hectares. More than half of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. Out of a total of 830 indigenous species of flowering plants found on the Island, Sinharaja hosts over 500 of them. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve is also home to more than half of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is a national park of 3,160 hectares with an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) above sea level, therefore the annual temperature at the park is approximately 13°C with plenty of mist, ground frost & cloudy weather patterns. During the British rule the plains were renamed after the British Governor Sir Wilmot Robert Horton & thus far the name remains unchanged. Due to the biodiverse nature of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka including the Horton Plains, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The plains protect the sources of important rivers such as the Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe and also feed smaller rivers. Trickling streams, swamps and waterfalls are the important wetland habitats of the park thus forming a major catchment area. The picturesque Bakers Falls and Slab Rock Falls compliment the plains and another highlight is "World's End" where the southern plains suddenly end and drop off to nearly 1050 metres. The plains host over 500 species of plants, 50 species of grass, over 20 endemic bird types, over 20 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies. Look out for the Sambar Deer and the Purple-Faced Languor when you are on the plains. The best time to start your trek is early morning.