8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

Lapped by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a small & beautiful island country in South Asia near south-east India. Dotted with mesmerizing beaches, imposing mountains, historical monuments, stunning hill stations, and dense wildlife, Sri Lanka is one of the most affordable tourist destinations for Indians. Sri Lanka boasts more than two thousand years of recorded history, and the remarkable achievements of the early Sinhalese civilization can still be seen in the sequence of ruined cities and great religious monuments that are scattered on the northern plains of this island country. There are eight remarkable UNESCO world heritage sites in Srilanka indeed which speak volumes of the deeply rooted and connected cultural traditions that one must experience as part of Srilanka tour packages.

Check out the list of 8 epic UNESCO heritage sites in Sri Lanka here.

Ancient City of Sigiriya

The ancient city of Sigiriya is another cultural site recognized on the list of Epic UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. Fondly called Lion’s Rock, Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and a palace situated near Dambulla in the Matale district of Sri Lanka. This site, which is dominated by a massive column of rock that is up to 200 meters in height, holds the ancient remains of King Kassapa’s palace from the 5th century AD. Regarded as the 8th wonder of the world by locals, this ancient fortress has magnificent archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year.  The fortress complex comprises remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys, and fountains. The most important feature of the Sigiriya rock would be the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden. The frescoes and the mirror wall are other attractions in Sigiriya. This architectural and engineering marvel got UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1982.

                                  Book Here : Sigiriya Tour Packages

Sacred City of Kandy

Surrounded by lush forests and tea plantations, Kandy is a scenic town perched high in the hills of the island center. It is the capital of the Central Province and also considered as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka that has preserved deep-rooted Sinhalese culture for centuries, despite colonization by the Dutch, Portuguese and British. This delightful town is home to one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which holds a tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Over the years, the relic was politically important as it is believed that whoever held the tooth had power over the nation. The Sacred City of Kandy was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, mainly due to the Temple of the Tooth. Kandy Lake, Royal Palace of Kandy, Udawattakele Sanctuary, Ceylon Tea Museum, Botanical Gardens, and Bahiravokanda Temple are the popular places to visit in Kandy.

                                      Book Here : Kandy Tour Packages

Sacred City of Anuradhapura

Recognized for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization, Anuradhapura was the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th century BC to the 11th century AD. It is the largest of the ancient cities in Sri Lanka and among the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. This ancient city is he to some well-preserved ruins of ancient palaces, monasteries, and monuments attracting visitors to explore. It is the place where a sapling of the Maha Bodhi Tree in India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was planted. UNESCO titled the city as a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka in 1982. Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Jetavanarama, Abhayagiri Dagaba, Mirisaveti Stupa, Lankarama, Kuttam Pokuna, Kiribath Vehera, Naka Vihara, Sela Cetiya, Rathna Prasadaya, Magul Uyana, and Samadhi Statue are some of the popular places to visit in Anuradhapura that draws tourists throughout the year.

                                  Book Here : Anuradhapura Tour Packages

Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications

Situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, Galle is a major port city and also the administrative capital of Southern Province. Also called Gimhathiththa, the city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. A living heritage site, this 90-hectare attraction is a superb blend of European architecture and South Asian tradition, with fortifications that resemble those in the coastal areas of Portugal. The Old Town of Galle is the same site that was known as Tarnish of the Bible wherein King Solomon took spices and gems from. In history, the port is known as the site where the Portuguese landed when they first made it to Sri Lanka during the early 16th century. Dutch Reformed Church, Old Dutch government house, Great Warehouse near the Old Gate, the Old Dutch Hospital, Meera Mosque, Buddhist temple, Clock Tower, and the Galle Lighthouse are some of the top places to visit in Galle.

                                      Book Here : Galle Tour Packages

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

The second-largest kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa was first declared capital city by King Vijayabahu I after the destruction of Anuradhapura in the 1st century. Today, this ancient city remains one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in the country and the city forms the famous Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka along with the city of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. Inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is the first cultural site in this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, and among the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. The ruins of Polonnaruwa are scattered over an extensive area of about 4 km from north to south. Polonnaruwa was originally enclosed by three concentric walls and filled with parks and gardens. The royal palace complex, Menik Vihara, Rankot Vihara, Alahana Pirivena, and Jetavana monasteries, the famous Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara and Lankatilaka are some popular monuments here. Besides, the Parakrama Samudra, the largest man-made rainwater reservoir provides a beautiful backdrop to the town.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla is a large city situated in the Matale district of Central Province in Sri Lanka. Located 72 km north of Kandy, the town is famed for the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The temple complex that dates back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC has more than 80 documented caves in which the major attractions are spread over five caves built at the base of a 150 m high rock. These caves contain statues and paintings that are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings, and four statues of gods and goddesses. The cave walls and ceilings are covered with paintings and patterns, totaling 2,000 square meters of the gorgeous mural. Serving as one of the most eminent pilgrimage sites for the past 22 years, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 to preserve the magnificent wall paintings and over 150 statues in and around the temple.

                                Must Visit : Tourist Places in Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a forest reserve and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is one of the very few virgin rainforests in the world and the last undisturbed area of primary tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka. This reserve was once a royal reserve and in some colonial records, it is referred to as Rajasinghe Forest. Designated in 1988, the Sinharaja Forest is one of the two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. The reserve is only 21 km from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km from north to south, but it is home to over 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies as well as many kinds of insects, rare amphibians, and reptiles. Also, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is home to more than 30 species of birds that are endemic to Sri Lanka along with many species of migratory birds. The forest Simharaja which translates to “Kingdom of the Lion” has been largely inaccessible to the miscreants because of its hilly terrain.

                                Must Read : Srilanka Visa Guide for Indian Tourists

Central Highlands of Srilanka

The newest addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, the Central Highlands region encompasses three areas namely Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park, and Knuckles Conservation Forest. Adam’s Peak is the highest point, which has become a significant center for Buddhist pilgrims. At an altitude of over 2,500 m, this natural UNESCO World Heritage Site joined the others in 2010. There are plenty of hiking trails in the Central Highlands, and it’s a biodiversity haven for naturalists. This natural site is universally important as it provides a natural habitat to a wide range of mammal species such as Horton Plain’s slender loris, bear monkey, and other sub-species of mammals.

                               Also Read : Ramayana Related Places in Sri Lanka

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