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Updated by Kelinton Felder on Mar 24, 2016
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Top Places to Visit on a Cultural Tour in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is heritage to an ancient kingdom; leaving behind magnificent historical relics in reference to the birth of Buddhism, culture and tradition in a land of diverse ecological marvels.

1

The Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The Sigiriya Rock Fortress or Lions Rock is one of the most inspiring historical sites worldwide. It is a proud heritage and iconic attraction sitting in the sleepy hamlet of Sigiriya. Built atop a rectangular shaped rock in the 5th century by King Kashyapa; Sigiriya was a stronghold for many years. It is testament to amazing engineering and artistry. Walk around the compound and you will be astonished by the ancient irrigation methods, plumbing and ingenious cooling systems. Likewise art dominates Sigiriya; the famous Sigiriya frescoes depicting ethereal damsels are known throughout the world and are now a closely guarded treasure. Climb to the summit of the rock and drink in the expansive views while admiring the well laid out gardens and water features; it is no doubt that Sigiriya is regarded as the eighth wonder of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2

Tissamaharama Viharaya

Touring the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka the town of Tissa or Tissamaharama is a popular stop. The grassy fields, wide open spaces and cultural allures haven given rise to excellent Tissmaharama hotels being built. These new abodes face rolling paddy fields and offer idyllic settings in which to rest relax and rejuvenate. The Tissamaharama Viharaya located close to the Kithala Resort is a treasured piece of vintage history. Legend states the majestic temple was built by King Kavantissa ruler of the land in the 1st century BC. There is also folklore to state that it was first started by King Mahanaga in the 3rd century BC and King Kavantissa finished the structure. Interestingly King Mahanaga was the brother of King Devanampiyatissa; Sri Lanka's first Buddhist King. It is believed that a tooth relic of Lord Buddha is buried within this temple and it is also one of the revered sites visited by the Buddha on his 3rd visit to Sri Lanka.

3

Aukana Buddha

The Aukana Buddha Statue is found to the western region of the mighty Kala Wewa. It is one of the most revered and gigantic statues of the Lord Buddha to be found in the land. The temple and tank – Kala Wewa – were both creations of King Datusena in the 5th century BC. The free standing statue is carved out of a single piece of rock and measures a height of 12 metres. The statue is that of the Abhayamudra Buddha which depicts supernatural powers where the right hand is raised symbolising a lack of fear. The left hand beckons devotees towards Buddha and away from their earthly bonds. This statue is quite similar to those destroyed in Afghanistan. Visit the Aukana Buddha on-route to Anuradhapura and drink in the scenic beauty surrounding the mighty Kala Wewa.

4

Kataragama

Kataragama is a jungle shrine and one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. It is just an hour's drive from Tissamaharama. Kataragama exudes an abundance of religious and cultural significance unhindered by race of religion; it is favoured by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. There are various temples belonging to all faiths located within this sacred city while the sacred Menik Ganga – River - which winds its way across the religious sites is considered a holy place to bathe and wash away your sins and troubles. Walk amongst the shrines and take in the daily rituals held on behalf of the many Hindu Gods of Kataragama, most popular are the fire walking ceremonies and night festivities dedicated to the 2nd century shrine of the Kataragama God. There is also a 1st century Buddhist Temple the Kiri Vehera well worth exploring.

5

Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

Anuradhapura was site of the first kingdom in Sri Lanka; it was later preceded by Polonnaruwa. Both cities pay homage to Buddhism housing many ancient temples, statues and other relics classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Anuradhapura is in fact one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites on the island. Both cities offer an excellent dose of historical culture and should not be missed for their many allures and vintage attractions.