City Guide of Srilanka

Sri Lanka has seduced travellers for centuries. Marco Polo described it as the finest island of its size in the world, while successive waves of Indian, Arab and European traders and adventurers flocked to its palm-fringed shores, attracted by reports of rare spices, precious stones and magnificent elephants.

Poised just above the Equator amid the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, the island’s legendary reputation for natural beauty and plenty has inspired an almost magical regard even in those who have never visited the place. Romantically inclined geographers, poring over maps of the island, compared its outline to a teardrop falling from the tip of India or to the shape of a pearl.

Dambulla

Dambulla is a big town, situated in the Matale District, Central Province of Sri Lanka, situated 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. Due to its location at a major junction, it's the centre of vegetable distribution in the country.

Major attractions of the area include the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka, and the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, famous for being built in just 167 days. The area also boasts the largest rose quartz mountain range in South Asia, and the Iron wood forest, or Na Uyana Aranya.

Ibbankatuwa prehistoric burial site near Dambulla cave temple complexes is the latest archaeological site of significant historical importance found in Dambulla, which is located within 3 kilometres of the cave temples providing evidence of the presence of indigenous civilisations long before the arrival of Indian influence on the Island nation.

Places to visit here are: Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, Thuparma Dagoba, Ruvanveli Dagoba, Jetavana Dagoba and many more places.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya was founded by Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Nuwara Eliya's climate lent itself to becoming the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was also a hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes such as fox hunting, deer hunting, elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket.

Although the town was founded in the 19th century by the British, the whole district is today visited by native travellers, especially during the month of April, the season of flowers, pony races, go cart races and auto rally.

Many of the buildings retain features from the colonial period such as the Queen's Cottage, General's House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club, Town Post Office and even new hotels are often built and furnished in the colonial style. Anyone who visits the city can wallow in its nostalgia of bygone days by visiting these landmark buildings. Many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is an ancient city, located at a distance of 206 km from Colombo. The city is in northern Sri Lanka and is the capital of North-Central province. Anuradhapura was established in 4th century BC. It was the first capital of Sri Lanka and remained so until 8th century AD. Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. The city is considered very sacred by the Buddhists and is home to the largest dagobas in Sri Lanka. A dagoba is a dome enshrining sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Buddha, or articles used by Him like the alms bowl and other objects of veneration. It is built in different sizes on a pedestal with a spire on top crowned with a pinnacle. The earliest dagobas had a stone umbrella on top of the dome in place of the spire.

Places to visit here are: Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, Thuparma Dagoba, Ruvanveli Dagoba, Jetavana Dagoba, Abhayagiri Dagoba.

Polonnaruwa

Polonnurawa-located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo-was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. Used by the Sri Lankan kings as a 'country residence' from the 7th century, Polonnurawa became Sri Lanka's capital in the 11th century AD. During its time the city was fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and sanctified by many a shrine and sacred place. The city and the surrounding area were watered by a unique irrigational complex known as the Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudra).

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. Its beauty was also used as a backdrop to filmed scenes for the Duran Duran music video Save a Prayer in 1982. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site byUNESCO..

Places to visit here are: Parakarma Samudra, Royal Citadel, Gal Vihara, Vata-Da-Ge, Hatadage, Lotus Pond.

Galle

Galle is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the south western tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo. Galle is the administrative capital of Southern Province, Sri Lanka and is the district capital of Galle District. Galle is the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka after the capital Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna.

Galle was known as Gimhathiththa (although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali) before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

Important natural geographical features in Galle include Rumassala in Unawatuna, a large mound-like hill, which forms the eastern protective barrier to the Galle harbour. Local tradition associates this hill with some events of Ramayana, one of the great Hindu epics. The major river in the area is the Gin River (Gin Ganga), which begins from Gongala Kanda and passes villages such as Neluwa, Nagoda, Baddegama, Thelikada and Wakwella, reaches the sea at Ginthota. The river is bridged at Wakwella by the Wakwella Bridge.

Places to visit here are: Dutch Fort, Dutch museum, Koggala, Dutch reformed Church, Ahangama/Midigama.

Colombo

The name "Colombo", first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name Kolon thota, meaning "port on the river Kelani".

Colombo-the capital of Sri Lanka-is the largest city and main port of Sri Lanka. It is also the commercial and financial center of Sri Lanka. A bustling metropolis, the city is an attractive blend of old and new. It has the lazy charm of the bygone era combined with the verve and vivaciousness of a modern city.

Colombo features a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification, falling just short of a tropical rainforest climate. Colombo's climate is fairly temperate all throughout the year. From March to April the temperature averages around 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) maximum.

Colombo is an ideal location to start the Sri Lanka sojourn.

Places to visit there are: the fort, Pettah, Galle Face Green, Slave Island, Mount Lavinia, Dehiwala Zoo and many more interesting places.

Matara

Southern most major town in Sri Lanka and the terminus of the coastal rail line, Matara is located at a distance of 160 km from Sri Lanka. The Nilwala River, which is the lifeline of the region, runs through the town. Matara is famous for its natural beautywhite sandy beaches, lush paddy fields, verdant tea estates, and fragrant spice plantations. The town was earlier under the Portugese and Dutch rule.

Matara historically belongs to the area that was called the Kingdom of Ruhuna, which was one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka (Thun Sinhalaya). Matara was previously called Mahathota. The Nilwala River runs through Matara and there was a wide area at this location where ferries used to cross. Hence the town was called Maha Thota which was derived from the Sanskrit word Maha Theertha, which means "the great ferry". According to Thotagamuwe Sri Rahul a Thera's Paravi SndesayaKing Weerabamapanam made Matara as his capital and named it "Mapatuna". The temple in the middle of the town is also built by ancient kings, and now it is a very popular sacred place among the Buddhists in the area.

Famous places to see there are: Matara fort, Dondra/ Devinuwara, Weligama, Tangalla, Mulgirigala Rock Temple.

Ratnapura

Ratnapura is a major city of Sri Lanka and is also known as the city of gems. Ratnapura is a direct Sanskrit word which means pure. It's a bustling market city servicing most of the surrounding towns.

Ratnapura is also spelled as Rathnapura and is located some 101 km south east of capital Colombo.

It is the centre of a long-established industry of precious stone mining including rubies, sapphires, and other gems. Apart from gem mining, the city is known for rice and fruit cultivations. Large plantations of tea and rubber surround the city. Tea grown in this region is called low-country tea.

There is a well-established tourism industry in Ratnapura. Sinharaja Forest Reserve,Udawalawe National Park, Kitulgala, and Adam's Peak are especially popular among tourists.

Sigriya

Sigriya is an ancient place located in the central Matale District. The name refers to the historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by the massive column of rocky mountain.

Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning. It is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka.

Environment around the Sigiriya may have been inhabited since prehistoric times. There is clear evidence that the many rock shelters and caves in the vicinity were occupied by Buddhist monks and ascetics from as early as the 3rd century BCE.

Climbing up the rock you will see the Mirror Wall, a highly polished rock surface that has weathered the times to shine and reflect even today. In a sheltered pocket are the famous frescoes of beautiful maidens, which appear to rise out of the clouds. A climb to the top is rewarded by a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Therefore, visit to the Sigriya will be a memorable experience.

List of Sri Lanka Journeys