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World Heritage Sites


Virgin forests, royal and sacred cities, cliff top citadels, colonial strongholds and temple caves. with seven World Heritage Sites declared and listed by UNESCO, Sri Lanka is one of Asia's richest treasure troves of both natural and man made wonders.

Sacred City of Anuradhapura (4th century BCE): Located in the North-Central part of the island, Anuradhapura was founded in 500 BCE. It has served as the royal capital of 113 kings. The 'tree of enlightenment'-the Buddha's fig tree-brought to the island in the 3rd centuryBCE, was planted in Anuradhapura. The city flourished for 1300 years. In 993 CE, Anuradhapura was fought over and abandoned. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, was re-discovered in 19th century.

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (10th century CE): Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. In its time, a 6 km rampart protected the city. It offers the Brahmanic monuments, the monumental ruins of the garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century, and many more temples.

Ancient City of Sigriya (5th century BCE): Sigiriya was the capital city, built by King Kasyapa who reigned from 477-495 CE. It is a citadel, lying on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370m high. A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.

Sacred City of Kandy (17th century CE): This sacred Buddhist site, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.

Golden Temple of Dambulla (1st century BCE): Dating back to the 1st Century BCE, this is the most impressive cave temple in Sri Lanka. The cave ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images, following the contours of the rock. There are images of the Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses.

Old Town of Galle and its Fortification (17th century CE): The port town of Galle was founded by the Portuguese in 16th century. In 1663, the Dutch built the 36-hectare Fort, which is now a World Heritage Site. Galle is an intricate blend of European architecture and South Asian traditions.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve: This tropical rain forest is a living heritage. Bio diversity of the forest is very high and a large proportion of the flora in this forest is endemic to the country and some endemic to the Singharaja Forest itself. This is a very good place to see many endemic birds.