Sri Lanka has enormous amount of culture and heritage-based resources. Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Six Cultural Sites and two Natural Forest Areas.
We bring you an interactive google map showing the locations of these Cultural Heritage sites.
#1 Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (1982) – 10AD
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.
#2 Ancient City of Sigiriya (1982) – 5AD
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 180m high (the ‘Lion’s Rock’, which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.
#3. Golden Temple of Dambulla (1991) – BC
Dambulla is a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 m2 ) are of particular importance, as are the 157 statues.
#4. Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications (1988) – 17AD
Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height 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, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions.
#5. Sacred City of Anuradhapura (1982) – 5BC
This sacred city was established around a cutting from the ‘tree of enlightenment’, the Buddha’s fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again.
#6. Sacred City of Kandy (1988) – 17 AD
This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
#7. Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (2010)
Sri Lanka’s highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. This are comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.
#8. Sinharaja Forest Reserve (1988)
Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, 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.
Other Unique Attractions in Sri Lanka
According to the World Tourism Organization, Sri Lanka has the advantage of having 49 sites classified as unique attractions, 91 as rare attractions, and 7 world heritage sites, and 6 of the 300 ancient monuments in the world.
Sri Lanka has enormous amount of culture and heritage-based resources. Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including several Buddhist and Hindu temples. According to the World Tourism Organization, Sri Lanka has the advantage of having 49 sites classified as unique attractions, 91 as rare attractions, and 7 world heritage sites, and 6 of the 300 ancient monuments in the world.
These include the central highlands area comprising the Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the Dutch Fort in Galle, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the Temple of Tooth in Kandy, and the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna.
It has more than 2,500 years of history as a civilisation, including nine ancient kingdoms and ruins with temples of Buddhist heritage. It has designated a Cultural Triangle for heritage tourism which includes five out of seven world heritage sites (including ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Sigiriya, a spectacular fortress build by King Kasyapa in the 5th century AD).