Most Important places to Visit for tourists in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is fast becoming a top tourist destination and there are lots of great places for tourists to see in Sri Lanka. The places to see depends on your interest but below mentioned ones are of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. It is always advisable to contact your travel company before visiting these places because there are different activities available during different times. One good example of this is the Kandy Perahera which is once a year. Visiting Kandy during this festival is a great experience.
The nation's capital city is not generally considered one of its chief tourist destinations; however, many visitors stop there for a couple of days prior to or following a holiday at a Sri Lankan beach resort. The city is fairly chaotic by all accounts and its madness can challenge even seasoned travellers but those who persevere will find a colourful metropolis with a range of attractions. The National Museum, established in 1877, is considered one of the city's must-sees, while Pettah, the bazaar district, is perhaps the best place to experience local life at its most raw and traditional. For family visitors, the Zoological Gardens with its extensive collection of animals, birds, reptiles and fish is a popular option. With an extensive selection of eateries on hand, dining in the city is considered a highlight of any visit.
This was the country's first capital and was the island's ruling city for over a thousand years from 380 BC onwards. The remains of this ancient city are considered to be one of the county's greatest attractions and its magnificent palaces, temples and stupas are indicative of the civilised nature of the Sinhalese people who built them. The complex is home to several key attractions, including the Jetavanarama Dagoba building and the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha is alleged to have gained enlightenment. At a little over 125 miles from Colombo, Anuradhapura can be visited on a long day trip but an overnight excursion is a better option.
In the same vein as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa is an ancient city occupying a pretty lakeside location offering visitors views of temple and palace remains dating back to the Indian Chola dynasty of the 11th century. The remains are remarkably well preserved and as the city is somewhat smaller than Anuradhapura, its attractions can be experienced on an overnight trip. Polonnaruwa is 135 miles from Colombo.
The 'City of Light', as its name translates, is just 110 miles from Colombo and hence a popular weekend getaway for residents of the capital. The destination was developed originally as a holiday resort for members of the British Empire, its natural beauty being its main draw then and even now. Visitors can enjoy some stunning mountain scenery while participating in activities such as trekking, bird watching, horseback riding, golf and boating. A trip to Horton Plains National Park and a hike up the Pidurutalagala Mountain are both considered essential to see the best of the resort's aesthetic qualities.
Located on the west coast of the country and reached easily from the capital, this is one of Sri Lanka's most popular coastal holiday destinations. The pretty beach resort is built on the foundations of the local fishing industry and promises a mixture of modern tourist facilities and traditional charm. There are various places of interest to stop at on a sightseeing tour, among them the Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, Angurukaamulla Temple, Dutch Fort Gate and Dutch Canal. The chief appeal of the area however, is its gorgeous beaches and the opportunities they offer for relaxation and water sports.
Situated in the country's highland area, Kandy is a destination popularly hailed as Sri Lanka's cultural and spiritual capital. The town is best known historically for being the last stronghold of the Kandyan empire, so it has experienced plenty of interesting events in its past, with the legacies of some still evident in its contemporary culture. The town is a fascinating place to wander around and a sightseeing attraction in its own right, however the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Temple of the Tooth is possibly the area's biggest draw card and its most photographed landmark. Kandy is four hours away by train from the capital Colombo.
Kurunegala , is the capital of the Wayamba Province, Sri Lanka and the Kurunegala District. A transport hub, it has a railway station, and several main roads linking important parts of the country. Kurunegala is situated about 94 ;km from Colombo, and 42 ;km from Kandy. Ethagala a rock reaching 316 meters, towers over the town, which is located at an altitude of 116 meters above sea level. The shape of Ethagala resembles an Elephant.Kurunegala has been named after the Elephant rock. "Kurune" means Tusker or an Elephant with protruding teeth and Gala in Sinhala means rock. Kurunai means Tusker or an Elephant and Gal in Tamil means rock or hill. Kurunegala's old name was Hasthishaila-pura, which can be translated as The city of the Elephant rock in Sanskrit. In some ancient literature the word Athugal-pura is also employed to describe the city of Kurunegala.Nearby are three archeological cities - Parakramapura with remains of a moated palace and monasteries from the 12th century, Dambadeniya , and Yapahuwa .
Kurunegala enjoys a pleasant location overlooked by huge rocky outcrops some of which have been given names of the animals they resemble Elephant rock, Tortoise rock etc. According to folklore legend, long time back the city had experienced a severe drought. To exacerbate matters for the humans, animals had threatened the city's storage capabilities by consuming huge amounts of water. Fortunately for the humans, a witch had volunteered to alleviate the problem, transforming some of the animals magically into stone figures.
Kurunegala had a citadel in the thirteenth century. It's ascendancy as an ancient capital of Sri Lanka, began with a series of events that took place during the late 12th century at Yapahuwa. The sacred tooth relic which was in the Yapahuwa Kingdom was taken away by a warlord Arya Chackrawarthi to the Pandyan country during the rule of Buwaneka Bahu I from 1272 to 1284. The tooth relic was brought back by King Parakrama Bahu III who ruled from Kurunegala between 1287 to 1293. Over the next half a century Kurunegala was the capital and the governing centre for three other kings of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan architectural tradition is well displayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning. The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts.
The plan of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden moats and ramparts are based on an 'echo plan' duplicating the layout and design on either side. This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in 5th century Sri Lanka. Other Sri Lanka highlights: visitors with extra time on their hands might want to spend a few days on the beaches of Bentota, Unawatuna, Negombo or Alankudah beach, Kalpitiya.
World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka
Sacred City of Anuradhapura
This sacred city was established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again.
Ancient City of Polonnaruva
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.
Ancient City of Sigiriya
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 m high (the 'Lion's Rock', which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.
Golden Temple of Dambulla
A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 m2 ) are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues.
Sacred City of Kandy
This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
Old Town of Galle and its fortifications
Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve is also home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.