Tourists hitting Sri Lanka for a vacation must not miss any of the 5 most awesome places to visit in Sri Lanka. An island nation located in the Indian Ocean, south of the Indian peninsula, Sri Lanka is an idyllic holiday destination with a plethora of touristy experiences to choose from, be it azure golden beaches and palm trails, religious and historical attractions or majestic mountains and gurgling waterfalls. The country is home to as many as 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a fact that speaks volumes about the immense cultural and natural heritage embedded in its very fabric. The following five places ought to be visited for a true experience of the magic that is Sri Lanka.
Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya
The Lion’s Rock is a humongous column of granite, some 180 metres in height, situated in the middle of a vast jungle. The summit of the rock holds ruins of a palace built by King Kashyapa in the 5th century. The entrance to the palace is constructed in the shape of the mouth of a giant lion. A series of staircases and galleries lead up the steep slope to the fort. Countless frescoes or paintings adorn the walls of the rock, while a highly polished ‘Mirror Wall’ has verses inscribed all over it by visitors to the rock as far back as the 8th century. The rock palace is surrounded at the bottom by ornately designed gardens, water pools and a moat. One of the most unique places to visit in Sri Lanka, the Lion’s Rock is a recognized World Heritage Site, sometimes also touted by travellers as the 8th wonder of the world.
Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
With a more than generous sprinkling of ancient Buddhist temples, colonial architecture and a number of museums, Kandy is one of the most culturally gifted places to visit in Sri Lanka. Sri Dalada Maligawa or ‘The Temple of the Tooth’ is a world-renowned Buddhist shrine that treasures the sacrosanct Danta Dhatu or the left tooth of the Buddha. With the beautiful man-made Lake Kandy right next to it and the lush Udawattakele Forest Sanctuary in the background, it is a tranquil retreat away from the urban crowds. And it stays open 24 hours a day! Another popular attraction forty kilometres East of Kandy is the Knuckles Mountain Range whose unique name stems from its close resemblance to a closed fist. It is an ideal spot for photography, painting and trekking. The Embekke Devalaya is another historic temple, famous for the world’s finest wooden carvings. A stone’s throw away from here is the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, housing some 4000 species of plants, several kinds of fauna and a small artificial lake as well.
Dambulla Cave Temple Complex
Another example of Sri Lanka’s rich collection of World Heritage Sites, Dambulla is the largest and the most well-preserved cave temple complex in the country. Although there are over 80 recognized caves in the adjoining area, five caves especially endowed with paintings and statues related to Lord Buddha and his life form the Dambulla cave temple complex. The cave temple dates back to the 1st century BC and is built at the base of a 160 metre high rock. The inner walls and ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas as also various gods and goddesses. From such a height, one can catch a panoramic bird’s eye view of the surrounding plains with the Sigiriya Rock fortress standing in the distance. Over many centuries the caves have been turned into shrine rooms and many kings have added characteristic elements of their respective periods’ art and sculpture, making the Dambulla cave temple complex truly representative of Sinhalese art and sculpture. It is one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Around 14 kilometres from present day Polonnaruwa town are the ruins of the ancient walled city of Polonnaruwa, a World Heritage Site dating back to the 11th century Polonnaruwa kingdom under King Parakramabu. He built a glorious city with magnificent palaces and temples, Buddhist monasteries and statues, many of which have stood the test of time and made Polonnaruwa one of the most exquisite places to visit in Sri Lanka. Parakrama Samudra is a reservoir complex made up of three shallow reservoirs connected by narrow channels. The ancient ruins cover an extensive area and are densely populated by Toque Macaques, who are known to have inhabited the place ever since human occupation. A few of the ruin sites most worthy of being visited are the Gal Vihara rock shrine, that has a number of gigantic statues of Buddha in different postures, the Alahana Pirivena Buddhist temple complex and the Lankathilake temple.
Galle Fort and Old City
Located on the southwest tip of Sri Lanka, Galle is an ancient port city known to have been an important trade centre for cinnamon and other spices since the 15th century. The Old City has an unmistakeable colonial air, with several Dutch-style architectural marvels waiting to be explored in every nook and cranny. The most impressive of these is Galle Fort, built in 1588 by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch, eventually to be recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is now home to a multi-ethnic population and plenty of bustling restaurants, stores, cafes, hotels and souvenir shops. Near the Old Gate of Galle Fort is the National Maritime Museum, known to hold several underwater treasures and artefacts recovered from the deep seas. The Ariapala Mask Museum is also a must-visit, for it unravels Sri Lankan history and culture through the country’s mysterious tradition of masks. Tourists from all over the world identify Galle as one of their most favoured places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Each of these top five best places in Sri Lanka holds great historical, cultural and architectural significance and each in its own right makes Sri Lanka onetruly enchanting holiday destination, the likes of which aren’t to be found in the whole of South Asia.
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