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Location: Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura was founded in the 4th century BC and was the political and religious capital of Sri Lanka for 1,300 years until it was abandoned in 993 following a series of attacks by invaders from southern India. The ruins include palaces, monasteries and monuments such as the Ruvanvalisaya Dagoba (with a 90m high dome) and the Smadhi Buddha. A sanctuary near the Brazen Palace contains a bodhi tree which supposedly originated from a cutting from the tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. Close to Anuradhapura lies Mihintale, the site where the King of Anuradhapura was converted to Buddhism in 247 BC and therefore regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. There are many pagodas, monasteries and caves in the site which is accessed by climbing 1840 stone steps, offering spectacular views over the surrounding plains and back to Anuradhapura.

Polonnaruwa

After the destruction of Anuradhapura in the 10th century, Polonnaruwa became the capital city. The Chola occupiers built many monuments to Shiva and their Brahmanism religion before the reconquest of Ceylon in 1070. The city's golden age occurred in the 12th century when the rulers Parakramabahu I and Nissamkamalla I built a vast garden city of palaces and temples whose ruins are well preserved. Monuments of note included the Lankatilaka with a huge image of the Buddha, the rock sculptures of the Gil Vahara, the wall paintings of Tivanka Pilimage which illustrate previous lives of the Buddha, the enormous relic chamber of Rankot Vihara and the Temple of the Tooth Relic which once held the tooth of the Buddha. The city fell into decline in the 13th century and the capital was moved to Kurunegala.

Lion Rock of Sigiriya

The Lion Rock at Sigiriya is a granite peak that is 370 metres high. In the 5th century, King Kassapa I built a fortress on the slopes and summit of the rock. A series of steps and steel stairways leads to the top which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and contains the ruins of the king's summer palace. Halfway up beneath a rock overhang are the famous frescoes known as the Sigiriya Damsels while poems inscribed on the rock are some of the most ancient texts of the Sinhalese language.

Travel to Historic Sites of Sri Lanka


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