A ruin city with colossal monuments standing tall as evidence of a glorious past is considered to be the third capital of the first Kingdom of Sri Lanka, with evidence to prove of a very advance irrigation system and well planned and laid out city with purpose built building such as hospitals, resting halls, temples and palaces of which some buildings over 9 stories high are engineering achievements even with present day technology. Though the location has traces of prehistoric civilizations the monuments and structures of a proper city dating back to 10th century BC is believed to be founded by the 4th Century BC and has been the capital of the kingdom till the 11th century AD. The additions and constructions done over the years gave way to this magnificent city that evolved around the sacred “Bo” tree brought to the country during the 3rd century AD, a sapling of the very same tree where lord Buddha attained enlightenment still stands and is believed to be the oldest religiously worshiped tree in the world. The well preserved ruins of this ancient city is as impressive as any found in the world and for its archeological value was declared a world heritage site in 1982 by UNESCO.
Polonnaruwa was the capital city of the second kingdom of Sri Lanka and was built after abandoning Anuradhapura, with the knowledge and expertise gained from building Anuradhapura – Polonnaruwa was made as an even greater city, well laid out and planned as a garden city. Massive irrigations projects were created during Polonnaruwa era agriculture was given prominence, according to historical records the excess rice crop has even been exported to neighboring countries. Polonnaruwa is one of history’s most astonishing urban creations, both because of its unusual dimensions and because of the very special relationship of its buildings with the natural setting. The city was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1982. Lankatilaka, a large brick structure which has preserved a colossal image of Buddha – the Gal Vihara, with its gigantic rock sculptures which may be placed among the best of the ancient world creations – Rankot Vihara, an enormous stupa 175 m in diameter and 55 m high, are some of the most impressive and not to miss on a visit to Polonnaruwa.
A palace, a pleasure garden and an impenetrable fortress created by a parricidal King during 5th century AD, this magnificent creation centering a 180 feet tall bolder where on the summit the king built his palace with walk ways leading to the palace decorated with magnificent frescos and gardens created with immense precision with the grandest entrance – between the paws and through the mouth of a massive figure of a lion, is truly one of the greatest creations and wonders of the world. Traces of pre historic civilizations were found at the location and based on stone inscriptions found, the area surrounding has been used by meditating Buddhist monks for centuries. The intricate details of the structure as a fort, as a pleasure garden and as a palace complex is truly amazing and the technological feat achieved building this magnificent creation is evident with its to-date functional irrigations system even after many centuries.
In a country where many magnificent temples were created, of most were destroyed by time and invaders Dambulla stands out special as its preserved unbelievably throughout centuries, with an impressive 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses spread over 5 caves at the massive rock towering over 160 meters with a breath taking view of the surrounding from the entrance to the temple. Dambulla dating back to 01st century BC was declared a world heritage site in 1991 by UNESCO and recent excavations have found more than 80 caves that is documented to have existed in the area, along with a prehistoric burial site with skeleton remains dating over 2700 years back at a close by Location named Ibbankatuwa. All the Buddha statues in the temple was plated in gold at one point of time giving it the name “Golden Temple of Dambulla” where with some statues the gold plating is still visible. Another unique feature is the well preserved murals covering an area of 2,100 square meters where one cave has over 1,500 paintings of Buddha covering the ceiling. This is considered a must visit site of any tourist visiting the cultural triangle area of the country.
The capital of the last kingdom of Sri Lankan royalty, this garden city created centering the magnificent place and temple complex housing the most treasured possession of the Sri Lankan monarchies – the tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Considered to be the most sacred pilgrim site of the Buddhists, the temple of the tooth relic is always full of devotees chanting prayers and offering flowers taking one to a trance of tranquility spiritually. Due to the invasions by the Europeans many of the islanders were heading interior seeking refuge, in 14th century city Kandy believed to was founded and became the capital of the kingdom in 1592. Although the islands coastal areas were conquered several times by the invading Europeans, the city remained one of the bastions of Sinhalese independence until finally the British troops entered the city on 14 February 1815 and tactfully gained control over the island. The temple housing the sacred tooth relic and the palace complex was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. To-date Kandy remains the religious capital of Buddhism and a sacred city for millions of believers and as the cultural center of the country. Each year the splendid ritual of the great processions takes to streets for 10 days with over 4000 dancers and hundreds of elephants, considered to be one of the most colorful pageants in the world, the Kandy Perahara is truly a pageant of religious and cultural extravagance and a testimony of the history, culture and pride of a great nation.
Considered to be the best colonial fort built in south and south east Asia, started as a small fort with 3 bastions built in 1584 by the Portuguese and then later taken over and occupied by the Dutch exists still, but with few changes. The fort area covers 52 ha inside the walls and is defended by 14 bastions. Majority of the construction took place in 1663 with additions of the northern fortified gate, protected by a drawbridge and a ditch, bearing the date as 1669. This magnificent fort city is still occupied and is considered to the only to-date inhabited Dutch fort remaining in the world. The fort has a colorful history, and today has a mulch-ethnic and mulch-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a UNESCO World cultural Heritage Site. The fort is now a popular tourist destination with a number of luxury hotels, guest houses and restaurants and is gaining popularity fast with the development of Whale Watching in the area.