The fascinating ancient cities and UNESCO-listed heritage sites of Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’ are a must see for all. Visit the cave temples of Dambulla, Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the stepped pools and stupas of Anuradhapura. There are also a host of wonderful wildlife adventures close by; join one of the famous Leopard Safari’s in Wilpattu National Park to the west or enjoy a day out at the elephant-rich Minneriya National Park further east.
Anuradhapura consists of more than a dozen archaeological sites and what better way to explore than on a bike. The most important/significant sites are the three largest man mad stupas in Sri Lanka. Cycle along the flat terrain and stop along the way for pictures and to enjoy the scenery. Cycling through Anuradhapura takes approximately 2 hours.
Just half an hour’s drive from Pollonaruwa is Minneriya National Park. The park covers 8,890 hectares and consists of a mixed forest of evergreen shrubs, a favorite habitat for animals, which include leopards, deer and wild elephants. The Park’s main feature is the former reservoir or tank built by King Mahasen in the third century AD. During the dry season from June to September, this is a fantastic place to watch herds of elephants come to graze and bathe. In more recent times it been discovered that the park witnesses the largest elephant gathering in the world during these months. You can also see huge flocks of birds, including cormorants and painted storks that come to fish in the shallow waters.
The Dambulla Cave Temples are the largest and best preserved rock cave temple in Sri Lanka, with over 80 caves in the surrounding area and 160 metres high! Climb the 200 steps of the base of the rock and make your way to the top and enjoy the fabulous views of the surrounding plains before you enter the caves.
Make your way in to the caves with your guide and explore the wonders. The caves contain historic art with paintings and ancient statues relating to the Lord Buddha and his Life and so it is a site of interest for all art and historian lovers.
Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, built on top of a huge boulder in the 5th century. A palace. A rock fortress. The hidden castle of King Kasyapa. A Buddhist monastery from the 14th century. Similar to the cosmic mountain of Meru? The eighth wonder of the world? No place in Sri Lanka has generated as many theories and legends as the 180m monolith, set amidst stunning scenery.
Sigiriya consists of 1200 steps. The first part of the visit is a leisurely walk through the pleasure gardens. Then one starts to climb. There are two areas where one can take a break on the way up. The entire duration of the experience takes approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the speed at which you want to climb.
Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers.
Polonnaruwa is divided into four areas. The visit starts with the Kings Palace and Baths. We then visit 3 different tooth relic temples and then proceed to the stupas. The visit ends on the far western side of the complex where you will see one of the most astonishing Buda rock carvings in Sri Lanka. One can walk, bike or drive between locations. It’s hot – no doubt. If it looks like it might rain don’t forget to take an umbrella from the vehicle.
Where to stay in the Cultural Triangle
Best time to visit the Cultural Triangle
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