The 8 Must -Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is home to a collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

This list includes:

  • Sacred City of Anuradhapura
  • Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya
  • Dambulla Cave Temple
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya
  • Galle and its fortifications
  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Here’s all you need to know about the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka before your next Sri Lanka trips.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka (Cultural) 

Sacred City of Anuradhapura

The north-central district was initially established around 300 B.C. The capital city of the time was home to numerous Buddhist kingdoms whose remains have been preserved to date. Among the ruins lie Buddhist shrines, palaces, monasteries, dagobas, and historic water tanks. This is why the city is known as one of the most sacred places in the nation. The site also includes sacred a Bo Tree which is over 2000 years old. To Sri Lankan Buddhists, the Sacred City of Anuradhapura is a site of cultural appreciation and religious exploration. For tourists, it’s an attraction to uncover the history of Sri Lanka.

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Around the 11th century A.D., the next popular ancient capital that came to be was the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Its legacy as a capital city commenced following the leadership of King Vijayabahu I. Nearly a millennium later, the ruins of the city lie unharmed. The astonishing marvels that stand to date include the Royal Palace, temples, monasteries, dagobas, enormous Buddhist statues, water fountains, and mysterious caves. This is yet another city that serves as a must-visit site on your next Sri Lanka trip for all cultural enthusiasts that enjoy historic background.

Ancient City of Sigiriya

The icon of the ancient city of Sigiriya is the Rock Fortress. It is also referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by UNESCO. During the latter few decades of the 5th century A.D., King Kashyapa built his palace on the flat peak of the Sigiriya rock, which stands at an astonishing height of 660 ft. Other sites of historical and cultural value within the fortress’s bounds include the Lion Gate, Royal gardens, ancient pools, the Sigiriya frescoes, and Sigiriya Museum. If you’re on a Sri Lanka tour seeking an adventurous hike that yields scintillating views, then the Lion Rock is one site to set foot on.

Sacred City of Kandy

The unique icon of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka is the Temple of the Golden Tooth Relic. Home to the sacred tooth of the Lord Buddha, the temple is the #1 attraction for vast numbers of Buddhist pilgrims across the globe. The temple is situated within a palace complex close to the Kandy Lake. The cool, laid-back atmosphere of the city is great for exploring its other icons – ones that range from historical museums to colonial architecture and modern facilities and gardens. Kandy is a wonderful place for travellers looking for a relaxing and historical experience.

Golden Temple of Dambulla

The next UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka is the Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple. The site in Dambulla includes five cave temples, each decorated with a vast array of Buddhist artefacts, paintings and is densely populated with statues of the Lord Buddha. While they elaborate on his teachings, a few other artefacts and statues are dedicated to ancient rulers of the Buddhist kingdoms. Despite them being centuries old, they still manage to glisten golden inside the caves that otherwise would be dark and murky.

Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications

The first location that comes to mind when thinking of a southwestern Sri Lanka tour is Galle. Centuries ago, this city was once a buzzing port during foreign rule. The Portuguese initiated the development of the city of Galle in the early 16th century. The city was later ruled by the Dutch and ultimately by the British, and this mix of colonial cultures resonates throughout the architecture of the city. Its main attraction is the breezy Galle Fort. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka is one with immense minimalistic vibes and is great for a relaxing getaway beside the windy oceans and deep blue seas.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka (Natural)

Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

The first natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka covers three key areas in the Central Province of the island. They include the Peak Wilderness, Horton Plains, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. The hill-country is home to the island’s densest tea plantations, scenic waterfalls, misty mountain tops, and dense forest cover. This one is for an adventurous Sri Lanka trip packed with many hiking trails, mystical views, and tranquil moments in nature.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Located in southern Sri Lanka is the low-lying Sinharaja rainforest, home to many exotic species of flora and fauna. The well-preserved biosphere which is the latest UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka has exciting trails running through the forest, overlooking beautiful waterfalls amidst enriched biodiversity. Here’s to the nature lovers and adventure seekers who dream of a Sri Lanka trip through its most famous forest reserve.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are sites of significant cultural or natural value in a global context. There should then be no doubt that you must visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, not just to add value to your Sri Lanka trips but also to appreciate the beauty of these sites from a global perspective.

Eager to check out some Sri Lanka tour packages? To visit these sites and many more on your next tour of Sri Lanka – plan your Sri Lanka trips with us today!

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