Sri Lanka is a small but very beautiful island with a rich and ancient history and culture. It is full of the most amazing places to visit and in recognition of the wondrous beauty of these sites, eight of the best have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Sri Dalada Maligawa
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic which is an integral part of Sri Lankan Buddhism is situated in the hill capital of Kandy. The relic itself is a tooth of the Lord Buddha which was saved from his funeral pyre and is venerated by all Buddhists. Historically this relic has been very important since whoever had it in his possession was considered the ruler of the country. For this reason the kings who ruled in the past went to great lengths to protect it.
Worship rituals are conducted daily in the Inner Chamber by monks of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters of the temple. Services are held at dawn, noon and every evening. The Sacred Relic is bathed in a symbolic ceremony on Wednesdays with a herbal preparation of fragrant water and flowers. This ritual is called Nanumura Mangallaya and people believe that this water has healing powers and is therefore distributed among devotees present.
During Sri Lanka’s turbulent civil war, the Temple sustained some bomb damage as well, but has been restored fully.
Located in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, Sigiriya is part palace and part fortress and was used in the 4thCentury AD by King Kasyapa. Even though it was lived in centuries ago, there is evidence of how advanced the people were in areas such as culture and engineering. The flat rock surface has ruins of an upper palace, a terrace at mid-level with the Lion Gate, mirror wall and beautiful frescoes, a lower palace and of course the walled gardens and moats at the bottom.
The view from the top of the rock is stunning and extends for miles. The palace situated there even contains cisterns cut into the rock wall and these still retain water, an example of the ingenuity of the ancient people.
Anuradhapura the seat of ancient Sri Lankan civilization is also located in the Cultural Triangle, and was one of the capital cities several centuries ago. Anuradhapura is 205km from Colombo and contains some ruins of ancient palaces and buildings that have been preserved quite well.
The city lies on the banks of the Malvathu Oya and is revered by Buddhists because of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a Bo Tree that has been grown from a sapling of the tree under which the lord Buddha was enlightened.
Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient Sri Lankan kingdom, and its most famous ruler was King Parakramabahu I, who constructed the giant Parakrama Samudraya (tank) and many Buddhist temples and statues.
Even today, this ancient city is considered the best example of a meticulously planned Archealogical site, which is a reflection of the greatness displayed by the rulers of that era.
Cave temples of Dambulla
The Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla is located 148km from Colombo and is considered the biggest cave temple complex in the country as well as the best preserved. The rock stands 160m or 525ft above the nearby plains and there over 80 recorded caves. These contain paintings and statues of the Lord Buddha, Kings of Sri Lanka, Gods and Goddesses including those of the Hindu faith.
The temptation of the Lord Buddha by Mara (the demon) and his first sermon are some of the events depicted on the cave walls.
Galle is a seaside town on the southwestern coastal belt, 119km from Colombo. Gimhathiththa and Qali are names it was known by in centuries gone by, and it was then the island’s main port. Galle was at its peak when it was a Dutch stronghold, before the British rule began and evidence of this still exists in the form of the Galle Dutch Fort and the quaint Dutch period buildings that abound there.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is one of Sri Lanka’s important National Parks and has been declared a Biosphere Reserve as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Translated as ‘Kingdom of the Lion’, Sinharaja is a hilly rain forest that is home to an abundance of rare and precious endemic species – trees, amphibians, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
It is not possible to view the resident wildlife as easily as in the National Parks of the dry-zone due to the dense vegetation. Elephants are not found here and there are just a few Leopards, with the Purple –faced Langur the most common mammal here.
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
The Central Highlands is made up of three wet-zone parks situated in the hills in the middle of Sri Lanka.
- Peak Wilderness Sanctuary which includes Adam’s Peak
- Hortain Plains National Park
- Knuckles Range
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