Let’s start with Anuradhapura, one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world. It is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka and is renowned for it’s well-preserved ruins. Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage site and can be dated back to the 10th Century BC. It is sacred to Buddhists, containing some of the world’s largest stupors and is surrounded by monasteries.
Next is Polonnaruwa the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s Kingdoms. Once again it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lush and breathtaking scenery. King Vijayabahu defeated the Chola reign and reunited the country in 1070. But it was under King Parakramabahu that the ancient town really established itself. It was completely self sufficient during his reign, he wasted nothing. If only we all lived like that now!
Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and was the last capital of the Kings. What makes Kandy most special is that it is home to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. It is believed when Buddha was cremated his left canine tooth was kept, and that whomever holds that tooth holds governance over the country. The temple is one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world.
The Dambulla Cave Temples are yet another World Heritage Site, and the largest and best preserved cave complex in Sri Lanka. There are five main caves that are full of carvings and paintings, mainly devoted to Lord Buddha. The caves date back to 1st century BC but were restored in the 18th century by the Kandyan Kings. What makes these caves so appealing are all of the intricate ceiling paintings, mostly depicting religious imagery. As Dambulla is still a functional monastery it is one of the best-preserved ancient edifices in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya rock is one of the most visited historic sites in the whole of Sri Lanka. Again, of course, the rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning. Sigiriya rock is about 200 metres high, and sitting on top of this huge rock are ruins of the palace built by King Kasyapa. Half way up the rock is a huge gate in the form of a lion and some beautiful fresco paintings.
Other cultural wonders include the Colossal Buddha statue found in Aukana, the ruins of Mihintale, Mulkirigala Monastery and many others.
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