Sri Lanka Unpacked – UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Fewer places in the world offer so many UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites in such close proximity than Sri Lanka. From natural wonders boasting a plethora of native species to intriguing cultural spectacles you won’t find anywhere else, here is our round-up of Sri Lanka’s breath-taking UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Built as the second capital city after the destruction of Anuradhapura, this incredible site contains the remains of the fantastic 12th century garden city. Check out the unusual remains of the royal palace and the carved lions of the Audience Hall before taking a trip to the Sacred Quadrangle and its beautiful staircases and entrances. Built in honour of a past queen, the incredible white structure of Dagaba Kiri Vihara is a must-see for anyone visiting this ancient city.
Ancient City of Sigiriya
Instantly recognisable as it looms above the dramatic landscape, the rocky outcrop of Sigiriya boasts 360-degree views of the jungle below accessed by a set of stairs built on to the side of the mountain. At the top loves the ancient remains of King Kassapa’s 5th century palace. The ‘Lion’s Rock’ contains a series of galleries and steep staircases emerging from the mouth of a lion. With landscaped gardens and a monastery , this looming feature is a sight not to be missed.
Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
Built by dutch settlers in the 16th century, the Old Town of Galle and its fortifications were once home to the Dutch East India Company and is surrounded by thick stone ramparts built to protect the goods within. Wander the historic cobbled streets, wonder at the mix of architectural styles and discover a completely different atmosphere to the other main sights of Sri Lanka.
Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple
One of the most well-preserved cave temples on the island and certainly the largest, Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple contains a massive 157 statues wihin and around the temple with some magnificent wall paintings to discover. A pilgrimage site for the past 22 centuries, the historical and cultural significance of this temple makes it a must-see for any visitors wishing to catch a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s culture.
Sacred City of Anuradhapura
The first ancient capital of Sri Lanka, this incredible site is home to an abundance of well-preserved ruins of temples and religious centres and as such still holds a place as a sacred Buddhist centre. Home to one of the largest and most sacred Bodhi trees in Sri Lanka, this tree is believed to be a descendant of the Bodhi tree where Buddha was illuminated. After being hidden in dense jungle for a number of years, the city has been rediscovered and is the perfect place to discover incredible palaces and more.
Sacred City of Kandy
Once home to the Sinhalese kings, this mountain city is the site of the hallowed Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Tooth. The temple is believed to hold a tooth of the Buddha, something that is believed to give the holder power over the Buddhist population. A famous pilgrimage site, it is now known as the location of the annual Tooth Relic Procession where hundreds of drummers and dancers make their way to the temple by night in a colourful celebration.
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
At over 2,000 metres above sea level, the views from the central highlands are unbeatable with the area spanning the Hortons Plains National Park, the Peak Wilderness Protected Area and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. Those looking for jaw-dropping hiking spots will find no shortage of them here whilst the massive biodiversity of its inhabitants makes it ideal for nature lovers of all kinds.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Packed to the brim with an incredible range of plants and creatures, the last remaining rainforest in Sri Lanka is well worth its status as one of the nations two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Look out for the rare amphibians who make the forest their home along with larger mammals such as leopards and elephants.
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