Must visit iconic cultural hotspots during your Sri Lanka trip


Planning to travel to Sri Lanka which is also popularly known as “ The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” to spend your well-deserved vacation? Here is a guide to explore this postcard-worthy holiday destination and what it has in store for travellers. 

Sri Lanka is blessed with a range of mini climates, a wealth of flora & fauna, plenty of high mountain peaks, mountain gaps, rugged terrain, high waterfalls, snaking rivers, and many more. Apart from these, with many amazing attractions, Sri Lanka is a dynamic hub for those interested in culture and heritage-associated travel. The island’s recorded history and civilisation date back to at least 2500 years. Embarking on a Sri Lanka tour that covers the ancient wonders of architecture, well-preserved ruins as well as many other countless tourist attractions is no easy task unless you hire an experienced Sri Lanka travel operator. Although Sri Lanka is a tiny island, it is home to breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating tourist hotspots to offer for any type of tourist. 

Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka – History of Sri Lanka brought back to life

Millions of travellers visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka as it has brought the island’s history back to life and has a few locations with intricate & extensive archaeological ruins that have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

These are some of the most intriguing locations in Sri Lanka that are counted as part of world history. The cultural triangle area is located on the central plains of Sri Lanka and covers the ancient royal cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy. The great heroic kings of Sri Lanka such as Vijaya, Pandukabhaya & Devanampiyatissa ruled from these places during different eras, creating a great civilisation based on agriculture and centred around Buddhism. These kings treasured ancient healing wisdom & the powers of Ayurveda that are still considered the holistic approach to preventing and curing diseases in rural areas. The first capital of Sri Lanka was Anuradhapura and remained so for over one thousand years. It was reputed as the greatest monastic city of the ancient world and was ruled by more than one hundred kings belonging to royal dynasties from 4th Century BC up to the 11th century AD.

After a period of heavy war casualties, Anuradhapura was abandoned and Polonnaruwa was chosen as the capital of Sri Lanka in the medieval period. Two great heroic kings Vijayabahu I and Parakramabahu I were instrumental in establishing Polonnaruwa as the royal capital of Sri Lanka with great irrigational and agricultural developments made by them that exist and are used even today. Polonnaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka until the late 13th century. Sri Lanka’s history was forever coloured with the embracing of Buddhism in 247 BC as the country’s religion during the reign of Devanampiyatissa in Mihintale. 

Sigiriya became the dynastic capital of Sri Lanka for a brief period during the reign of Sigiri Kassyapa who murdered his father to capture the throne and established a majestic castle on top of Sigiriya Rock which later became a wonder to the world. Scientists and archaeologists are still puzzled by how this king managed to create such ingenious structures and facilities way ahead of time.

Hand-painted by ancient artists, the Sigiriya frescos are visual stunners that colourfully depict women of the royal palace with lotus flowers in their hands ready to worship Lord Buddha.

There are countless ruins that you can discover in Anuradhapura which was the first capital of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura stayed abandoned and lost for more than a thousand years, during which most of its precious buildings and temples shambled due to negligence. Embark on an informative Sri Lanka tour with a professional tour operator such as Olanka Travels. There are a massive number of sacred Buddhist shrines and sites that can be discovered in Anuradhapura. These include iconic dagobas, palaces, monasteries, monumental statues, and an ancient Bo tree called Jaya Sri Maha Bodiya which is a sapling brought from the Buddha Gaya Bo tree where Lord Buddha reached enlightenment. Mihintale is best visited on a Full Moon Poya Day, especially during Poson Full Moon Day, when it is believed that Mihindu and Sangamitta theros arrived from India to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The philosophy was received at the Mihintale rock by King Devanampiyatissa. 

Polonnaruwa which was the second kingdom and capital of Sri Lanka is known for its magnificent granite stone sculptures in Gal Vihara that depict the Lord Buddha. Don’t forget to visit the archaeological museum located in Polonnaruwa that provides in-depth information about this ancient and prosperous kingdom. 

Dambulla is most famous for its incredibly old cave temple which features rows upon rows of Buddhist statues with a ceiling made of natural rock covered with beautiful frescos. The ancient city is famous for its rock caves which are marvellously crafted and designed with lots of Buddhist paintings and statues meticulously placed inside the caves. 

Kandy, the last kingdom of Sri Lanka boasts a rich religious and cultural heritage. The ancient hill country is home to the most venerated iconic Temple of The Sacred Tooth Relic widely known as Sri Dalada Maligawa. The rich cultural heritage of Kandy is woven around this historic temple that houses the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Kandy and Sri Dalada Maligawa are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

This iconic temple is visited by Buddhist devotees from across the island. Tourists visiting the country too make their way to Sri Dalada Maligawa as it is a must-see attraction in Sri Lanka. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is quite significant as it has played a pivotal role when it comes to local politics since the ancient times of kings. It is believed that anyone who holds the sacred relic holds governing authority of the island. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was the creation of Kandian King Vira Narendrasingha. The octagonal-shaped, architecturally brilliant Patthirippuwa and the moat were added later by King Sri Wickrama Rajasingha who was the last king of the Sri Lankan royal dynasty. 

The famous tourist attraction, the annual Kandy Perahera or festival parade takes over the streets of Kandy between July and August. During the parade, the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is carried inside a casket on top of a specially chosen and anointed majestic elephant. The sacred tooth relic is only taken out from the inner chamber of Sri Dalada Maligawa during the days of the Kandy Perahera for public worship and admiration. The procession is graced by Kandyan dancers, fire breathers, drummers, and a myriad other fascinating consorts.

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