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Updated by Roger Gary on Aug 20, 2015
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Roger Gary Roger Gary
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Top Attractions in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle - Must-Visit Cultural Triangle Highlights in Sri Lanka

As a popular tourist hub no visit to the island nation would be complete without a tour of its Cultural Triangle. From ancient temples to fortresses here are the top highlights in the area.

1

Anuradhapura

As one of Sri Lanka's most illustrious ancient kingdoms Anuradhapura is the focal point of the Cultural Triangle's attractions and a popular pilgrimage site as for local Buddhists. Having served as the administrative capital and central kingdom of Sri Lanka for 1500 years since 380 B C. Anuradhapura is home to come of the country's most breathtaking ancient ruins, monuments and temples. Must-visit points of interest include the 13m high iconic Aukana Buddha statue. Carved out of solid stone the monolithic statue is not the only cultural highlight in Anuradhapura as the Isurumuniya Lovers, Thuparama Temple and the Ruwanveli Seya are all located within the ancient kingdom. The Abhayagiri Stupa and its monastery holds the distinct honor of being the kingdom's largest monastic complex while the Jethawana Monastery and the Mihintale rock temple are equally worthy of exploration.

2

Polonnaruwa

As a former capital of Sri Lanka the Polonnaruwa kingdom was another medieval administrative hub in the island nation from the 11th to the 12th century A.D. Tipped to be one of the best preserved ancient cities within the Cultural Triangle Polonnaruwa is also home to ancient tanks/manmade lakes such as the Minneriya Lake and the Parakrama Samudraya constructed by monarchs such as the Great Parakramabahu. Divided in to 5 clusters the ancient ruins in Polonnaruwa include the Royal Complex (Vejayanta Pasada) which contains an Audience Hall and bathing pools used by the royal family. The Alahana Pirivena Group and the Nissanka Kalla Palace Complex and the Lotus Ponds are also intriguing hubs for history buffs while the Gal Viharaya and the Lankathilaka Viharya featured in Duran Duran's music video for "Save a Prayer" are other popular attractions in Polonnaruwa.

3

Sigiriya

Dubbed the Cultural Triangle's "palace among the clouds" Sigiriya is a rock fortress cum castle built by King Kashyapa more than 1500 ago. As the country's most visited UNESCO World Heritage Site Sigiriya is a palace built on mammoth rock fortress a whopping 200m above the ground. Visitors should miss an opportunity to explore the extensive water gardens at the base of the rock fortress while other points of interest on the way to the summit includes the iconic Sigiriya frescoes. The Mirror Wall is another highlight containing poems etched by visitors to the palace in centuries past while the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular. The Lion Platform leads visitors to the top where palace ruins including royal ponds, a stone throne and other structures are found.

4

Dambulla Cave Temple

Revered as the finest ancient cave monastery remaining in Sri Lanka the Dambulla Cave Temple is a vast religious institution housed within a compound of natural caves perched at a height of 150m. Believed to have been constructed in the period between the 2nd the 3rd centuries B.C the Caves are named Devaraja Viharaya, Maharaja Viharaya, Pachima Viharaya, Maha Alut Viharaya and the Devana Alut Viharaya. Containing over 50 Buddha statues, ancient murals and wall frescoes the caves temple is a functioning Buddhist temple even today.

5

Minneriya National Park

Sprawled across 8890ha the Minneriya National Park is the only wildlife sanctuary and national park within the Cultural Triangle. Home to countless herds of elephants, sambar deer and leopards the park is centred around the Minneriya Tank. The best season to visit the park is during the months from June and September when large groups of elephants congregate in the sanctuary to weather the dry season. Visitors based in Sri Lanka resorts such as the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana can a book a safari tour of the area through the hotel.