Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island south of India in the Indian Ocean. Its diverse landscapes range from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. Sri Lanka is famous for its ancient Buddhist ruins, including the 5th-century citadel Sigiriya. The city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, has many ruins dating back more than 2,000 years. Did you know Sri Lanka achieved independence from Britain in 1948. Sri Lank’s main religions are Buddhism, and Hinduism and the main languages spoken there are Sinhalese, Tamil and English. Main exports from the country are: tea, rubber, coconuts and gem stones. We have put together a list of some great places to visit on your trip to Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park
Yala national park was open in 1900, as a wildlife sanctuary park, and it is famous for the number of leopards that live there. Situated in the south-eastern corner of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is the island’s main national park and offers the greatest diversity of animal and bird life in the country. The habitats found in the park are wide-ranging, from freshwater lakes to beaches, rocky outcrops to green plains and jungle. This creates an area of immense biodiversity and is one of the world’s most popular destinations to spot leopards. You can take a safari at Yale National Park by jeep, tours usually start early the morning or later afternoon. Other wildlife you can see at the park are elephants, crocodiles, lizards, deers, wild boar, and over 230 species of birds.
Referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World this ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of visitors every year and it is one of the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka. The Sigiriya rock plateau, is formed from magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles. It has the most spectacular view from the top and the fortress complex includes a palace, and numerous other ancient buildings.
During the 3th century BC the rocky plateau of Sigiriya served as a monastery. In the second half of the 5th century king Kasyapa constructed a royal residence there. It was designed in the form of a huge stone lion, whose feet have survived up to today but the upper parts of the body were destroyed. The term Sigiriya originates from the word Sihagri, i.e. Lion Rock. The gardens of Sigiriya are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. Considering the uniqueness of Sigiriya UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1982.
Unawatuna is one of the most FAMOUS beaches in Sri Lanka. It is located approx 1 hour from Colombo on the southern coast of Sril Lanka. Unawatuna is a great place to stay as it has a beautiful stretch beach and many smaller beaches locally such as (Jungle Beach and many others). The area also has a great selection of accommodation, bars and restaurants and fantastic tours and sightseeing experiences.
If your staying in Unawatuna below are some of the activities and places you can visit:
- Historical Galle Fort
- The Jungle Beach
- The Peace Pagoda
- The Turtle Hatchery
- The Tea Plantation
- Cinnamon plantation
- The yatagala Temple (Old Temple)
- Martin Wickramasinghe Museum
- Maritime Archeology Museum
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. The second city listed in Sri Lanka’s long line of kingdoms, Polonnaruwa became the kingdom in 1070 AD after the fall of Anuradhapura, the western point of the Cultural Triangle.
Among its many attractions, the Parakrama Samudra (sea) is a landmark. Created by King Parakramabahu, it is the largest man-made rainwater reservoir in the country. There are many fascinating ruins, including a 16m carving of Buddha, all of which can be viewed. There are also some ancient Hindu temples in the ruined city. The city of Polonnaruwa was named the capital of Sri Lanka by its first king, Vikayabahu who was popular for defeating the Chola invaders in the year 1070. This is a great place to explore if you love ancient places and history.
The sacred city of Anuradhapura, now in picturesque ruins, was once a major center of Sri Lankan civilization. The fascinating ancient ruins include huge bell-shaped stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces, and ancient drinking-water reservoirs. The city also has palaces, monasteries and monuments (all in ruins) that are fascinating to visit.
The ancient city is full of these iconic buildings, remnants of a people from a bygone era that flourished under the rule of their kings and queens. Walking amongst these ruins is a real treat, as you learn about their ways of life. The buildings were beautifully built by craftsman and adorned by artists.
Historians believe that from around 4th century BC to the 11th century AD, Anuradhapura was the capital Sinhalese and a thriving economic hub in South Asia. Although Anuradhapura’s history is easily traced from the 4th century BC, excavations have been able to identify artefacts from the Iron Age which easily dates back to 900 BC. It is believed that from those times the community grew and flourished to become one of South Asia’s grandest kingdoms.
Kandy & Nurweya Eliya
Sri Lanka’s second largest city, Kandy, is famed for not only its history, artefacts and temples, but also for its tea, its stunning scenery and lush botanical gardens. The most visited site within bustling Kandy is the famed Buddhist Temple of the Tooth, home to the tooth relic, said to be a piece of Buddha himself. There are also a number of temples including the Lankatilaka Temple and the Gadaladeniya Temple as well as some beautiful gardens such as the Royal Botanical Gardens. Surrounding Kandy are rolling tea plantations and mountainous thickly forested hills that offer fantastic walking and hiking opportunities.
Famous for its surf, this remote beach and village in the far east also has bags of laid-back charm and a number of interesting sights nearby. Many people choose to stay or base in Arugrum to explore the wonderful and developing Eastern Coast and it’s beaches and sights.
One of the finest stretches of beach on the west coast, running south from the magnificent Bentota lagoon and lined with a string of alluring hotels. Lying half-way between big-hitter destinations like Colombo and Galle, making a stop at Bentota is usually a great choice if you’re looking for more upmarket hotels and a central place to stay.
One of the south coast’s most intimate beaches, with a picture-perfect arc of sand screened by toppling palms and a great place to go whale-watching too. Mirissa has the most amazing beaches and activities to do, swell as various accommodation choices to suit your budget.
Check out this great article on WHALE WATCHING to read more.
Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka is a 7362 foot (2243 meter) peak of Sri Pada, the ‘Holy Footprint’. Also called Adam’s Peak, the mountain has the unique distinction of being sacred to the followers of four of the world’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Long before the development of these religions, however, the mountain was worshipped by the aboriginal inhabitants of Sri Lanka.
According to Buddhist traditions from as early as 300 BC, the real print is actually beneath this larger marking. Imprinted on a huge sapphire, it was left by the Buddha during the third and final of his legendary visits to Sri Lanka. When Portuguese Christians came to the island in the 16th century they claimed the impression to be the footprint of St. Thomas who, according to legend, first brought Christianity to Sri Lanka.
At the top of the peak is a small Buddhist temple and the shrine of Saman with the strange footprint. Offerings are made here, for recovery from sickness; and rain-water taken from the footprint is known to have healing powers.