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Updated by Helix Digi Labs on Jan 02, 2022
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Must Visit Religious Destinations in Sri Lanka

As lauded as it is for its exquisite beaches, diving hotspots and incredibly diverse nature reserves, Sri Lanka is also famous as a land of rich religious history. From its histories of ancient Buddhism and the storied presence of Hinduism to the colonial introduction of Christianity and the deep embedding of Islam, from ancient Middle-Eastern traders of old Sri Lanka is teeming with a religious and spiritual history that’s every bit deserving of a visit on your next trip to the island.

For a quick list of religious sites to visit and things to do in Sri Lanka, read on!

1

Kalutara Bodhiya

Kalutara Bodhiya

Located in the coastal town of Kalutara, this old Buddhist temple has a much storied history with regards to the sacred Bodhi tree on its premises, with some accounts tracing it as far back as the 15th century. Since then, a new stupa and temple compound has been built in homage to the ancient tree’s history and is a much revered and popular religious site among both locals and tourists alike.

For quick travel to Kalutara Bodhiya, a stay at Citrus Waskaduwa is ideal, both for its proximity and its reputation as one of the best hotels in Kalutara.
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2

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Reputed to house the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha, Kandy’s large Temple of the Tooth acts as one of the most religiously important sites to many Buddhists the world over. As such, it draws in thousands of visitors each year. Even without the religious ties, the compound itself was the Royal Palace of Sri Lanka’s last king and stands as a proud monument to the Kandyan Kingdom and thus deserves a visit to appraise the history as well as the beautiful and carefully preserved architecture.

Because of Kandy’s small size as a city, there’s any number of hotels that provide easy access to The Temple. For a comfortable stay with a gorgeous view over the Mahaweli River, we recommend the Mahaweli Reach Hotel.
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3

St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Colombo

St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Colombo

St. Lucia’s Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic and one of only 15 cathedrals in the whole of Sri Lanka. With a history dating back almost two centuries, the iconic Gothic style of the Cathedral is instantly recognizable. With pews of dark polished teak and massive Cathedral Bells from France, this is one site of worship you definitely do not want to miss.

There’s quite a large number of hotels in Colombo to choose from for a stay but for an affordable and easy stay within convenient reach, The Steuart by Citrus is just a short 10 minute ride away.
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4

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura

This Sacred Bodhi tree is commonly reputed to be a branch of the original Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Planted in 288 BC, the Sri Maha Bodhiya is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date.

The city of Anuradhapura is part of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and thus holds many ancient archaeologically preserved remains of old temples and worship houses. For easy travel to the ancient remains as well as the Sri Maha Bodhiya, Hotel Alakamanda is a highly recommended option.
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5

Sita Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Sita Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Located just 1 kilometer away from Nuwara Eliya’s Hakgala Botanical Garden, the Sita Amman Temple is believed to be where Sita of India, from the story of the Ramayana legend, was held captive by the mythic Lankan King Ravana. The village that the Temple is located in is also named for Sita and is a popular site for Hindu devotees and travellers to visit.

There’s not a more iconic hotel you could stay in Nuwara Eliya than the old, colonial Grand Hotel, set right within Nuwara Eliya proper.
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6

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, Jaffna

With histories dating back to the 1st Century CE, Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in Jaffna is one of the oldest and most important religious sites for all Sri Lankan Tamils of Hindu faith. Its location in Jaffna serves as a reminder of the magnificence of the old Jaffna Kingdom and its strict adherence to Hindu tradition,culture and religion has made it a symbol for all Hindu devotees in Sri Lanka to deeply take pride in.

Because of its location within Jaffna town, Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is within close proximity to a number of great hotels and easy accommodation. Of them, North Gate by Jetwing is sure to to satisfy even the fussiest traveller with its great amenities, world-class service and ease of access.
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7

Koneswaram Temple, Trincomalee

Koneswaram Temple, Trincomalee

The most famous of the ancient five Hindu coastal temples around the Island, the Koneswaram Temple is said to have pre-classical origins dating as far back 400 B.C.E. Having undergone constant patronage and renovation by a succession of Tamil Kings, Koneswaram Temple stands as an important pilgrimage site to all Sri Lankan Tamils of Hindu Faith.

For a laid back and luxurious stay in Trincomalee with easy access to both its famed beaches and Koneswaram Temple, Amaranthe Bay Resort and Spa is the go-to hotel to check out.
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8

Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Cave Temple is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Detailed, hand-painted murals cover an extensive area inside the cave and the entire complex dates as far back as the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BCE, thus making it one of Sri Lanka’s oldest yet best-preserved and still functioning temples.

Amaya Lake Dambulla is a common choice for travellers and visitors looking to find accommodation nearby for easy travel to and from the Dambulla Cave Temple.
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9

Dutch Reformed Church, Galle

Dutch Reformed Church, Galle

Built in 1755 by the Colonial Dutch, the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle is one of the oldest Protestant churches still in use in Sri Lanka. An proud witness to old Dutch architecture and craftsmanship, the church was fully renovated in 2004 with a grant from the Dutch Embassy and stands as a testament to the Colonial legacy of the historic Galle Fort Area.

Many indulgent hotels can be found in Galle for your stay while visiting this World Heritage site. The Bartizan Hotel, housed in an old Dutch building, is the perfect to serve as your hub for your Galle explorations.
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10

Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruwa

Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruwa

Built in the 12th Century, Gal Viharaya in Polonnaruwa is a collection of four rock relief statues of the Lord Buddha in three different positions, all hewn from the same mammoth granite gneiss rock. The statues are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculptural arts and usually sets the Gal Viharaya apart as the most visited attraction in the historic Polonnaruwa region.

Right on the edge of Polonnaruwa’s Parakrama Samudraya Lake is EKHO Lake, housed in an old British mansion that once played host to Queen Elizabeth in the 1960s, is just 4km away from the Polonnaruwa historic district and the perfect choice for your stay.
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