Heritage & Culture

Influenced by the heritage of Theravada Buddhism passed on from India, Sri Lankan culture is a blend of modern elements with traditional aspects combined with regional diversity. Southern and Central regions being its stronghold, the northernmost region of the country is influenced by the South Indian culture. The colonial occupations such as Portuguese, Dutch, and British also left a mark in the Sri Lankan culture. In addition, Indonesia and SouthEast Asia have also influenced the culture of Sri Lanka in certain ways.

The country also has a rich tradition of arts such as music, dance, and visual arts. Internationally it is identified with cricket, a unique cuisine, an indigenous Ayurveda medical practice, religious iconography such as the Buddhist flag, and exports such as tea, cinnamon, and gemstones, as well as an impressive tourism industry. 

Sri Lanka was first inhabited by Homosapiens who crossed the Indian Ocean about 125,000 years ago and Sri Lanka has a 2,000-year-old documented history, mainly due to ancient historic scriptures like Mahawamsa.  Buddhism had a significant influence on Sri Lankan architecture with a rich variety of forms and styles.

UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka

Eight sites of Sri Lanka, 6 cultural and 2 natural, have been declared by UNESCO as the World Heritage Sites. The sites are as follows:

  • The ancient city of Polonnaruwa: 

It is the second most ancient of Sri Lankan Kingdoms. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is considered to be one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country which is a living testimony to the architectural brilliance of the Kingdom’s first rulers. 

  • The ancient city of Sigiriya:

Considered as the eighth wonder of the world, it consists of an ancient castle used by King Kashyap of the 5th century AD. The site is both a palace and a fortress. The site is made of an upper Sky-Palace placed on the flat top of the rock; a mid-level terrace which includes  a Lion Gate, the Mirror Wall, and the Frescoes; and the lower palace resting on the bottom of the rock and the moats, walls, and gardens that extend out from the base of the rock. This is solid proof of the imagination, creativity, and innovation of the builders.

  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka:

Central Highlands was added to the World Heritage Sites list in 2010. The three regions—the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest—make this site.

  • The old town of Galle and its fortifications:

The town is situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo. It was the main port of Colombo before arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century.

  • Dambulla Cave Temple:

Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, it is situated in the central part of the country, 148 km east of Colombo. It is the largest and the best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock is 160 m tall and there are more than 80 caves out of which only 5 caves consist of major attractions such as statues and painting related to Buddha and his life.

  • The sacred city of Anuradhapura:

Anuradhapura is the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka which lasted for the longest period as the capital in the country. It is world-famous for its well-preserved ruins of the Great Sri Lankan Civilization.

  • The sacred city of Kandy:

The Sri Dalada Maligawa of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the famous temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka which houses the tooth relic of the Buddha, a tooth which is venerated by Buddhists.

  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve:

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park in Sri Lanka that is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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