Sri Lanka may be a tiny island country off the southern coast of India, but it packs a big punch when it comes to incredible sights, sounds and cuisine. It is also home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as one of the oldest cultures on earth.
Spotlight on Sri Lanka
A sacred pilgrimage site since the 3rd century B.C.E., the Golden Temple of Dambulla is home to 157 statues and an extensive collection of Buddhist murals. Dambulla stands out among cave monasteries as one of the best-preserved examples in the world.
This ancient ruins of Sigiriya, also known as the Lion Mountain, rise 400 feet above the surrounding jungle. Although the king who built this fortified palace ruled for a brief 11 years, the frescoes and poetry found on the walls of the palace influenced Sinhalese culture for generations.
Formerly home to several civilizations, this immense capital city is more than another relic. The buildings at Polonnaruwa show a remarkable approach to architecture, combining the elements of the surrounding countryside with urban features and elaborate gardens.
One of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world, Kandy houses the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth of Buddha. The city, and the relic it contains, played an instrumental role in the spread of Buddhism.
Like Kandy, Anuradhapura was built around a relic of the Buddha—a cutting from a fig tree. The cutting, planted in the 3rd century B.C.E., continues to thrive and spread through the ruins of the city. Later abandoned, this sacred city has since been uncovered and stands as a testament to the unique religious beliefs and culture of Sri Lanka.
Founded by the Portuguese and built by the Dutch, the fortified town of Galle demonstrates a fusion of Western and South Asian building styles. The town is typified by European structures composed of local materials including coral, and measured in regional increments. Much of the town can be seen in good condition today.