8 World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

Cultural heritage represents our history and our identity; our bond to the past, to our present, and
the future. Sri Lanka's cultural depth is recognized by UNESCO, which has declared six archaeological
World Heritage Sites in the country which are:

Let us have a look at each of these heritage sites briefly.

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is the first capital of Sri Lanka located in the north-central province of Sri Lanka. It is situated along the Aruvi Aru river. A part of Anuradhapura, now preserved as an archaeological park and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, is the best known of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. In the nearby area, one can see huge bell-shaped dagobas (Buddhist commemorative shrines, or stupas) as well as temples, sculptures, palaces, and ancient drinking-water reservoirs. There is an ancient pipal tree that is believed to have been grown from a branch of the BO tree at Bodh Gaya (Bihar, India), under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. The BO tree branch was planted at Anuradhapura in about 245 BCE, and it may be the oldest tree in existence.

The Ancient Cty of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa kingdom or the ancient city of Polonnaruwa which is located in the north- central province of Sri Lanka was the second capital of Sri Lanka for three centuries between the 11th to 13th centuries after the destruction of the Anuradhapura Kingdom in 993. The city reflects archaeological brilliance and technological excellence, and therefore UNESCO declared Polonnaruwa a World Heritage site in 1982. Today, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is known to be one of the best-planned archaeological relic sites in the country which is evidence of the greatness of the Kingdom's early rulers.

The Golden Temple of Dambulla

Located in central Sri Lanka, the Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple is a living Buddhist site that comprises a series of five cave shrines. these natural caves have been transformed continuously throughout the historical period into one of the largest and most outstanding Buddhist complexes in the Southern and South Eastern Asian region, standing as a testimony to the innovative ways of interior decoration. A clever arrangement of polychrome sculptures of exceptional craftsmanship divides the vast internal spaces of the cave shrine. The monastic ensemble of Dambulla is an outstanding example of the religious art of Sri Lanka and South and Southeast Asia. The cave shrine, its painted surfaces, and its statuary are magnificent. The monastery includes adorable masterpieces of 18th-century art in the Sri Lankan school of Kandy. The shrine is remarkable for its association with the long-standing and widespread tradition of living Buddhist ritual practices and pilgrimage for more than two millennia.

The Ancient City of Sigiriya

This ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological and historical importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is probably the most visited tourist destination in Sri Lanka. Bloomberg Businessweek lists Sigiriya Rock Fortress as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, making Sri Lanka the only Asian country to make it onto the list along with six other iconic sites appealing to the new age traveler with a thirst for adventure. The palace is located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. The rock fortress was built on a massive rocky plateau 370 meters above sea level. Sigiriya rock plateau, formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles. One of the highlights of the Sigiriya is the Frescoes painted on the western surface of Sigiriya Rock, thirteen hundred years ago. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by a network of fortifications, vast gardens, canals, alleys, lavish ponds, fountains, flower beds, and flowering and fruit-bearing trees.

The Sacred City of Kandy

Located 123 km from Colombo, Kandy is Sri Lanka's second largest city after Colombo, brimming with an astonishing history, rich culture, spectacular beauty, and old-world vibrancy. The city comprises lush forests, sprawling mountain ranges, sinuous Kandy Lake, an array of distinguished colonial buildings, and magnificent Kandyan-inspired architecture. It boasts exceptional cultural and historical attractions, set amidst forested hills. It is a sacred city because of the well-known Temple of the Tooth Relic (a sacred tooth of the Buddha), and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Lying at an altitude of 1 640 feet (500 meters) above sea level, the temperatures around Kandy are slightly cooler than its lowlands.

The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications

Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the peak 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, displaying the connection between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Galle is one of Sri Lanka's most popular cities, situated on the southwestern corner of the island, approximately 119 km south of Colombo. This coastal paradise is one of the country's most iconic due to its historic value.

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Sinharaja is a tropical rainforest located in southwest Sri Lanka. More than 60% of the trees are endemic, and many of them are considered rare. It also has rich wildlife, mostly endemic, 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

Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is a recognized world Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. The site comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These are rain forests, where the elevation reaches 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) above sea level. The region harbors a variety of mammal species including the bear monkey, langur, and slender loris.

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