Founded 2600 years ago, Anuradhapura was long the capital. You can visit the well-preserved ruins, which are Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Isurumuniya temple (the oldest on the island) and the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, one of the most sacred relics in Sri Lanka, are worth seeing.
Trincomalee, located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, is renowned as one of the most picturesque natural harbours of the world. Over the centuries, it has attracted various groups of foreign invaders and colonists, who recognized its potential as a major port city, and today, it remains one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions, around 257 kilometres from Colombo.
Called by many names including “The Lion Rock” for its initial name of “Sinhagiri”, Sigiriya is near the town of Dambulla and is a colossal column of rock nearly 200m high. It was a royal citadel for 18 years (477-495) when it was fortified by King Kasyapa. The architectural and irrigational technologies of Sigiriya, such as the Water Gardens, still baffle engineers. The climb up steep steps of metal with railings passes a wall decorated with frescoes of bare-breasted women. Art experts consider them unique.
UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura. An ancient city with well preserved partly statues and temples.
The ancient kingdom of Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha as well as Edwardian buildings, a king-made lake, a nature reserve and exciting shops.
As the second largest city of the island and the capital of the Central Province, Kandy has grown from being a medieval kingdom to a friendly, busy city set in forested hills and surrounded by tea plantations and close to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya. As well as the Temple of the Tooth, there are many Buddhist monasteries and Hindu places of worship to visit, and cultural dance performances to watch.
Kandy is a convenient base to stay for a few days while exploring the Cultural Triangle as there are comfortable hotels to suit every budget. The city is easily accessible from Colombo by rail, road and float plane
Venerated by four religions, Adam’s Peak is at 2,243m above sea level, where pilgrims flock to climb during the night in the special season of January to April. It is near the hill country town of Hatton, 123km from Colombo. The spectacular sunrise seen from the peak rewards pilgrims who climb to pay respect to the footprint set in rock at the summit.
The climb is up uneven steps of granite and cement and climbers are encouraged by others to keep going; the descent is just as taxing. A ritual, after worship, is to ring the bell, not on the first visit, but only on subsequent visits. The various faiths regard the footprint as representing their own beliefs, so it is a symbol of the multi-cultural character of Sri Lanka.
At an altitude of over 1,800m above sea level the picturesque landscape of Nuwara Eliya is known as “Little England” because of the resemblance of its homesteads to English bungalows, and it’s cool climate (there are even log fires in some hotels).
Nuwara Eliya is overlooked by Piduruthalagala, the highest mountain in Sri Lanka. In colonial days it was the retreat from the coastal heat for British residents and even today rituals like horse racing, boating on the lake, beautiful flower garden competitions and golf tournaments are held during the local holiday season months of April and August.
Most of Sri Lanka’s fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables are grown in the area and there are also dairy and strawberry farms. The Hakgala Botanical Gardens near the town is a prime attraction, as is a trek across Horton Plains.
Ella is a beautiful small backpacker-hub on the southern edge of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. It has become to go-to town in the hill country for tourists and as a result has a reasonably well-established tourism-orientated economy. For example, there is espresso coffee and fish and chips on offer, as well as lounge/backpacker -style bars aimed solely at the visitor.