With a history that dates back two millennia, it is safe to say Sri Lanka is a gold mine in terms of history. The island is home to six World Heritage Sites and a multitude of other noteworthy ancient sites. Here we take a look at the best of them.
One of the oldest cities in Sri Lanka, the roots of the city can be traced all the way back to the fourth century when it was the capital of the country. It was at the centre of Buddhism for centuries and the signs of this can be seen all over the city thanks to the many imposing dagobas in the area such as the Ruwan weli saaya and the Thuparama. This World Heritage Site contains many well-preserved structures from past civilisations that are still in use today. Located approximately two hundred kilometres from the capital, Anuradhapura gives you an excellent glimpse into the marvellous architecture of ancient Buddhism. The city is well equipped when it comes to accommodation with plenty of hotels such as the Yoho Muditha Mawatha.
Commonly referred to as the eighth world wonder of the world, this ancient rock fortress is perhaps the most dramatic of sights in Sri Lanka. It was once a place that monks sought refuge but was turned into a fortress/palace during the short reign of King Kassapa. A flight of limestone rocks flanked by two gigantic lion paws take you to the top. The rock rises to an astounding height of 200 m and is famed for the frescos and the well-manicured gardens and pools atop. The Dambulla town is a short distance from Sigiriya and you can find a range of accommodation; be it cottages or hotels.
The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa is widely considered as one of the best planned archaeological relic cities in Sri Lanka, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers. Polonnaruwa’s architecture far surpassed their era and their irrigation system and tanks are used to this date to supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the dry season. The Polonnaruwa ruins are so surprisingly well preserved that one can still stroll through the old city and gain a good idea of how the city looked in its heydey.
Kande Viharaya Temple
Also known as the Mountain temple, which is derived from the fact that it is atop a hill, the Kande Viharaya played a major role in the Buddhist history in the country. The Bodhi tree in the premises is estimated to be at least three hundred years old and the pirivena is one of the key centres for education on Buddhism. Moreover, the Kande Viharaya Temple is also home to a sitting Buddha statue that is almost forty-nine meters high and is one of the tallest of its kind in the world. Once you enter the inside of the chambers, you can see paintings of the ancient Jataka tales that depict phrases of Buddha’s life.