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Updated by Joanna James on Jul 25, 2020
Headline for Top Temples to Visit in Sri Lanka – Sacred Sites, Cultural Insights
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top Temples to Visit in Sri Lanka – Sacred Sites, Cultural Insights

Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich religious heritage which can be experienced at the country's many temples be it for Buddhist or Hindu devotees. Here are some of the well-known sacred sites which are also ideal spots to discover the local culture.


Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

A key attraction in the Sacred City of Kandy which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic houses one of the most revered religious objects for Buddhist devotees; a tooth relic of Lord Buddha. This magnificent temple with its characteristic gold roof offers visitors a chance to enter the shrine room where the tooth relic is kept within special caskets. Apart from the main shrine complex, there are other shrines, temples and sites of interest here; highlights include the Royal Assembly Hall, Natha Devalaya and Temple of the Tooth Museum.


Koneswaram Temple

The Koneswaram Temple or Kovil can be found in the city of Trincomalee along the island's east coast. A key place of worship for Hindu devotees, this temple has been built in honour of the deity Shiva of whom there is a large statue here. Located on Swami Rock around 400 feet above the ocean, it can be found within Fort Frederick and is where an ancient temple once stood; known as the "Temple of the Thousand Pillars", the original site was destroyed during the time of Portuguese colonial rule. However, the temple was restored following the findings of original relics and artefacts and if well worth visiting.


Gangaramaya Temple

The commercial capital, Colombo, is where you will find the well-known Gangaramaya Temple; among the best places to stay in Sri Lanka are those that offer easy access to such sacred sites where there's much to discover. Located close to Colombo hotels including properties of Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, this Buddhist temple dates back to the late 19th Century and is home to many fascinating features; these include a sacred Bo Tree, an image house (viharaya) with captivating statues and paintings and the Ata Visi Hall with 28 statues of the Buddha. There's also a museum with all manner of religious artefacts as well as items that have been gifted to the temple.


Golden Temple of Dambulla

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and amongst the main attractions in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, the Golden Temple of Dambulla is an outstanding cave temple complex. The origins of this site date all the way back to the 1st century BC and it is home to five caves. The largest cave is referred to as the Cave of the Great Kings and features statues of Lord Buddha, Sri Lankan kings as well as the Hindu deities, Saman and Vishnu. A 15-metre long reclining Buddha statue and 19th-century paintings are amongst the many other highlights within the complex.


Kataragama Temple

A popular temple for Buddhist and Hindu devotees alike, the Kataragama Temple also has significant meaning for the indigenous community known as the Veddas. This temple in the Kataragama area is believed to have its origins in the 15th century; it is unique since it is built in honour of Murugan, the Hindu God of War and the Kataragama Buddhist guardian deity. Within the complex, you will find both Hindu shrines and Buddhist temples and even a mosque. The temple is well worth visiting during the main festival season in July / August when one can witness the diverse traditions and rituals performed by different devotees.