This dry area of Sri Lanka contains the most famous cultural and arheological reminders of a rich civilization more than 2500 years old. Escavations during the last 100 years have pushed back years of jungle encroachment and restored many ancient sites and access to them.
If you have a late arrival into the airport, why not rest your heads for a night at Hideaway, a pineapple plantation, and Horathapola, a coconut plantation bungalow are within 1-hour from the airport towards Kurenagala and the Ancient cities.
Dambulla’s sacred temple - the Golden Temple - consists of 5 separate caves housing Buddhist statues and many paintings both religious and secular. The interiors are impressive but the climb up to the Rock temple is steep. Dambulla is the centre point of the Cultural Triangle and an ideal base for overnight stays. .
Travel North now to Sigiriya to wonder at Lion Rock where the remains of a 5th Century fortress palace sits 600ft above the surrounding country. The steep and in parts precarious climb, accompanied by the long tailed monkey, is rewarded by frescoes and the mirror wall on the way. At the summit await spectacular views where you can wander amongst the foundations of a surprisingly sophisticated palace. One of the best views of the Lion Rock can be enjoyed from the dining verandah or your personal bathroom at the Heritance Kandalama
In the small village of Sigiriya around the base of the rock are beautiful water gardens within a walled enclosure, ponds and fountains.
Head North on the road to Polonaruwa and you reach the sleepy town of Habarana. Here adopt the mantle of the ‘Raj’ and allow a patient elephant to carry you around the lake.
Also North of Dambulla but to the West lies the medieval capital of Polonaruwa, once protected by 3½ miles of walls. The many sculptures, friezes ruins, temples etc are contained within a family compact area. A preferable and equally historic destination to Anuradhapura for the traveller with less time. It is also just 2-3 hours drive to the beautiful beaches of the East Coast.
Water is and has been of great significance and the Parakrama Samudra- a gigantic water tank covering 6000 acres- irrigated surrounding paddy fields by way of 11 channels. Inhabitants of that time could also enjoy the Baths with crocodile-mouth visitors, wild elephants – and the tiered 8 petalled Lotus flower pond - the national flower of Sri Lanka.
Amongst many rock carvings the Galvihara images of Buddha are the most remarkable. The delicate features of these carvings are apparent to this day and their size-standing 7m tall, 14m reclining- truly impressive.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura, lying to the North West of the modern town and 2 hours from Dambulla, was once the greatest monastic city of the ancient word. Abandoned in 1073 to the mercy of the jungle, the British explorers who discovered it in the 19th Century thought they had stumbled on a “lost” city. Restoration has continued to this day on this spread-out site.
The sacred Bodhi Tree “Sri Maha Bodhi”- the oldest known in the World- a cutting of the tree in India where the Buddha achieved enlightenment- is central to the buildings and religious awareness. Golden railings maintain its safety and to approach with the pilgrims please remember to remove hat and shoes. Palaces and temples too numerous to list are there to be explored and revered.