A small island filled with countless treasures.
Although it can be easy to fall into the local way of life in Sri Lanka, and slow your pace of life down to a crawl, don’t forget – you’re on holiday! You won’t be there forever, so try not to waste all your time lying on the beach and eating delicious food. Inside it’s 65,00 square kilometre of beautiful land there is a veritable treasure trove of sights to take in – that you won’t find anywhere else on earth.
Over 2,000 km high, known locally as ‘Butterfly Mountain’, Adam’s Peak is a landmark that can be seen for miles around in the region of Samanala. It’s name is taken from an imprint found at the top of the mountain, revered greatly by Christian, Islamic and Hindu faiths. Due to the sacred nature that is attributed to it; many devotees, pilgrims and tourists flock to it’s summit all year around.
Access to the peak of the mountain is provided by 6 trails, all of which are lit up at night to allow access during the early hours of the morning. The tradition of making this ascent for the rising of the sun, is something that has existed for decades now – add a spiritual touch to your visit, by following the pilgrims to the top and watch the mountain’s shadow race across the surrounding landscape.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Anurahapura is a verified World Heritage Site (one of eight that Sri Lanka can lay claim to). A city of vibrancy and decadent history, it’s almost a microcosm of all that makes Sri Lanka great. Gorgeous nature (in the form of ancient trees and wildlife) collide with wonderfully preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilisation.
The ancient city has been dated as far back as the 10th Century BC and, although the sites are well preserved, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how much freedom tourists are given to explore the four core suburbs. If you’d like to do some research before you go there are endless amounts of historical volumes and ancient texts to give you context, before you dive head first into your Indiana Jones style adventure.
Although most visitors aren’t aware when they visit, Sri Lanka’s National Park is home to well over 300 different species of animals. All of which you can spy from the regular Safari Tours that are not only affordable, but almost always worth taking. Unlike African Safari Tours, where the animals roam over far bigger territories, Yala is relatively small in scale.
Boasting the highest concentration of Leopards in the world, as well as several endemic species of animals such as the Sri Lankan flying snake and Sri Lnkan krait. Arguably, the Park’s biggest attraction are is Sri Lankan Elephants who are not only plentiful but also extremely friendly – often approaching vehicles to greet visitors. Tour guides know their stuff and also have a great eye for spotting the animals.
Golden Temple of Dambulla, another World Heritage Sight, is home to 153 Buddha statues, including three kinds and four gods and godddesses (including iconic Hindu statues of Ganesh and Vishnu). The cave walls and ceilings are covered with paintings and patterns, totalling 2,000 square metres of gorgeous mural.
Human remains, discovered by archaeologists, have been dated as up to 2700 years old – meaning that the first Sri Lankans could well have dwelled in these caves. Five caves make up the bulk of the Temple there. Although it might feel like more of a natural history sight – the Temple is considered a sacred space, so the usual rules for these place still apply. This is a peaceful spot of introspection, that you won’t want to miss.
The real-life basis for Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Yakkagala’ from his 1979 novel Fountains of Paradise, it’s not hard to see why the novelist was so inspired upon seeing this place. Surrounded by lush grass land, and trees, the rock fortress stands nearly 200m high and dominates the entire landscape.
Situated near the city of Dambulla, the History of Sigiriya is a rich and storied one – illustrated by the well reserved frescoes and murals that line the side of its winding stairway. Climb the sturdy, yet shaky metal stairs. around the side of the rock to view the hundreds of beautiful ladies painted for the warring leader Kashyapa. He also commissioned the huge stretches of man-made gardens and pools that surround the massive monument.
The second most ancient city in Sri Lanka, this settlement dates back as far 1070 – the Ancient City is absolutely rammed with statues, temples and ancient buildings. Although the area is about to go through an intense development period – the buildings have still maintained their ancient grandeur from the past.
The area has long been an attraction for tourists; the blissful combination of lush forestland, ancient ruins and tourist-friendly hotels winning the hearts of thousands of visitors a year. In addition to the 400,000 or so people that live in the surround district, the area is almost famous for its considerable population of toque macaques. Although you can find these primates in other parts of Sri Lanka, nowhere else are they as comfortable or numerous.