Sri Lanka is a small & beautiful island country in South Asia near south-east India. For centuries, Sri Lanka has been a popular place of attraction for foreign travelers. The Italian explorer Marco Polo claimed that Sri Lanka to be the “best island of its size in the world”. This island country is home to different religions, languages, and ethnic groups. In view of its fascinating scenic beauty and rich cultural heritage, Sri Lanka is one of the most admired tourist destinations in the world.
Lapped by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka Tourism is known for its enchanting ancient ruins, endless soft-sanded beaches, imposing mountains, colourful festivals, tempting water sports, and dense wild-life. 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 scattered on the northern plains of this island country.
Colombo, the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is located in the western province adjacent to Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Due to its very large harbor and its position along the East-West sea trade routes Colombo was very popular among ancient traders 2000 years ago. Colombo is a vibrant city with a blend of modern life, colonial buildings and ruins.
Colombo is arguably Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destination. The Galle Face Green, the Beira Lake, World Trade Center, National Museum, Colombo Lighthouse and Vihara Mahadevi Park are some popular places to visit in Colombo. This coastal city also has plenty of Buddhist temples, the most famous of these being the Gangaramaya, and the Kelaniya Raj Maha Vihara.
Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka and the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura was the capital of the Sinhalese from the 4th century BC until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and also one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The city was the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries and is very famous among Buddhist pilgrims.
Anuradhapura is well known for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The sites include huge bell-shaped stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces, and ancient drinking-water reservoirs. Anuradhapura is the place where a sapling of the Maha Bodhi Tree in India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was planted. The Sri Maha Bodhi is the oldest documented tree that is still living. 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 the popular monuments situated in Anuradhapura.
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Kandy is one of the most scenic cities in Sri Lanka lies in the midst of hills. 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. It was called Maha Nuwara by locals, which means the great city. Kandy is declared as a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1988. Currently, it is the second largest city of the island and also one of the most visited tourist places in Sri Lanka.
The city happens to hold one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist religion – Temple of the Tooth. Also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Tooth is located in the palace complex that belonged to the former kingdom of Kandy and is one of the holiest places of worship for Buddhist around the world. Kandy Lake, Royal Palace of Kandy, Udawattakele Sanctuary, Ceylon Tea Museum, Botanical Gardens and Bahiravokanda Temple are the popular places to visit in Kandy. Kandy is also known for the Esala Perahara, one of Asia’s most spectacular festivals.
Sigiriya also known as the Lion’s Rock is a rock fortress and a palace located near Dambulla in Matale district of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya rock plateau, formed from magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles. Earlier it was a rock-shelter mountain monastery which was donated by Buddhist devotees. Later King Kassapa renovated it by building gardens and a palace in 5th century. This architectural and engineering marvel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must include place in Sri Lanka Packages.
Referred by locals as the 8th Wonder of the World, this ancient fortress has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains. The city is based on a square module. The most significant feature of the Sigiriya rock would be the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden. The opened mouth of the Lion leads to the staircase built of bricks and timber. However the only remains of this majestic structure are the two paws and the masonry walls surrounding it. The frescoes and the mirror wall are other attractions at Sigiriya.
Galle & Unawatuna
Galle is a major city situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka and is the administrative capital of Southern Province. Also known as Gimhathiththa, the city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century. A living heritage site, this 90 hectare attraction is a superb blend of architecture, with fortifications that resemble those in the coastal areas of Portugal. Some of the important heritage monuments in the fort are the Dutch Reformed Church, Old Dutch government house, Great Warehouse near the Old Gate, the Old Dutch Hospital, Meera Mosque, and Buddhist temple, Clock Tower and the Galle Lighthouse.
Unawatuna, which is about 7 km from Galle, is one of the popular Beaches in Sri Lanka. Unawatuna beach draws both local and foreign tourist alike for its placid turquoise blue sea and a fine coral reef for snorkeling. This is also an ideal place to take a dip in the ocean or indulge in some waters sports. The area is also frequented by sea turtles to lay eggs.
Nuwara Eliya, meaning ‘city on the plain or city of light’, is a town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. At an altitude of 1868 meters, the 19th century colonial hill station of Nuwara Eliya is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. The city is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka and is known for its picturesque landscape and temperate climate.
Nuwara Eliya is known as ‘Little England’ because the town has been designed and built like a typical English village. The old brick Post office, Hill Club, the 18 Hole Golf Course, Race Course, Lake Gregory, Hakgala Botanical Gardens and tea plantations are some popular tourist places in Nuwara Eliya. The Horton Plains, Laxapana Falls, Lover’s Leap Waterfall, and Adam’s Peak are the other tourist attractions nearby Nuwara Eliya.
Polonnaruwa was first declared capital city by King Vijayabahu I after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993 AD. Polonnaruwa is the Island’s 2nd largest kingdom. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in the country and also known as one of the cleaner and more beautiful cities in Sri Lanka. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Don’t miss this place during your Sri Lanka Tour.
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. At the heart of the city lies the royal palace complex, while immediately to the north are the city’s most important cluster of religious buildings, the so-called Quadrangle, containing the finest group of remains in the city. Menik Vihara, Rankot Vihara, Alahana Pirivena and Jetavana monasteries, the famous Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara and Lankatilaka shrine are other popular monuments here. To the west of the city lies the great artificial lake, the Parakrama Samudra (“Sea of Parakramabahu”), providing a beautiful backdrop to the town.
Ella is a small hill town in the Badulla district of Uva Province in Sri Lanka. Nestled in a valley at about 1000 m elevation, Ella is surrounded by even higher mountains. The hills surrounding Ella are all covered with farmland growing vegetables, tea plantations, and rice fields, all making the landscape very lush and green. The area has a rich bio-diversity, dense with numerous varieties of flora and fauna. One of Ella’s wonders is the Ella Rock which provides spectacular views of Ella valley, surrounding hills and low lying areas.
Cascading waterfalls are abundant in this area including the Ravana Falls, one of the popular waterfalls in Sri Lanka. The falls is said to have been named after the famous king, King Ravana. The story goes that King Ravana kidnapped Princess Sita from India and hid her in the caves behind the waterfall. The caves behind the fall are known as the Ravana Ella Caves. Dhowa temple, a 2,000-year-old rock temple, Bambaragala Peak, Little Adam’s Peak, Nine Arches Bridge, and Demodara are the other places to visit in Ella.
Dambulla Cave Temple
Situated 72 km north of Kandy, Dambulla is a large city situated in the Matale district, Central Province of Sri Lanka. The town is said to be built in just 167 days. Dambulla is famous for Dambulla cave temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. This World Heritage Site is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka as well as among the most visited places while in Sri Lanka Trip. Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.
There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. 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 gorgeous mural. Ironwood forest, Rose Quartz Mountain, and Rangiri Stadium are the other popular attractions in Dambulla.
Bentota is a beach town located between Colombo & Galle in Srilanka. Famous for its very long sand beach, Bentota is one of the top Sri Lanka Beaches. It is a popular destination for water-sports lovers as Bentota Beach is ideal for snorkeling, diving, sailing, wind surfing, water-skiing and deep-sea fishing on a traditional outrigger canoe. With an array of luxury hotels, facilities and amenities for the tourists, Bentota is the perfect place for beach lovers and is also famous for its toddy production, an alcoholic beverage made out of coconut nectar. It also has a turtle hatchery, located on Induruwa beach.
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Yala National Park
Yala National Park, the 2nd largest National Park in the island, is situated in the south-east region of Sri Lanka. Earlier established as a game sanctuary, Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and got national park status in 1938. Spreads over an area of 1260 Sq. km, the park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public and also adjoining parks. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands.
The park is best known for its variety of wild animals, especially Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds. Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Of 215 bird species of the park, seven are endemic to Sri Lanka. They are Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, crimson-fronted barbet, black-capped bulbul, blue-tailed bee-eater and brown-capped babbler. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
Arugam Bay is a wide sandy beach on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Renowned as one of the best surfing destinations in the world, Arugam Bay is famous for its fantastic waves, which attract surfers from all over the world. The beach consists of a coral reef which is home to an abundance of tropical fish and is a delightful snorkeling paradise. Many events are held each year under the patronage of Sri Lanka Tourism Authority to promote this beach. Arugam Bay is located on southeast corner of the island in close proximity to Kumana, which is one of the best places for birdwatchers, and Lahugala another destination to observe elephants in Sri Lanka.
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Santhi is an avid traveler and primary contributor to the blogs at Trawell.in. She has explored most of the states in India and gained vast knowledge on tourist destinations in India and abroad. She also contributes content to other travel websites.