Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:00am
Introduction to SRI LANKA
Date travelled: 17th January to 31st January 2000
Tour Operator: Kuoni
This archaeological site at Sigiriya has been declared a World Heritage Site. Built in the 5th century AD to fend off a feared invasion, it is situated atop a 200m (656ft) high rock, and at the height of its glory must have been akin to a European chateau plonked on top of Ayers Rock. There are water gardens, 5th century rock paintings of well endowed damsels, a 1000-year-old graffiti wall recording visitors impressions of the pin-ups, a couple of enormous stone lion paws and tremendous views.
Twelve miles from Sigiriya is Dambulla, a vast isolated rock mass 500 ft. high and a mile round the base. Here is found the famous rock-temple dating to the first century BC. The caves of Dambulla sheltered the king during his 14 years of exile from Anuradhapura. Inside the caves there are images of deities associated with Buddhism, frescoes on the walls and ceiling could be dated to the 15th-18th centuries, 150 life-size statues of gods, numerous images of Buddha as well and the recumbent image of the Buddha 47 ft. long, cut out of the rock. Unfortunately photography inside these caves is not allowed.
Once the favourite hill stations of the British, Nuwara Eliya, still retains the vestiges of Empire. A blend of Tudor and Georgian architecture, gabled roofs, immaculate lawns with rose bushes and moss-covered gravestones. Soak up the quaint atmosphere by visiting the Hill Club, there's a golf course, tennis courts, even copies of Country Life here. Visit the botanic gardens or tea plantations in the surrounding hills, where you'll get a lovely cup of tea.
Kandy town centre is a delightful compendium of old shops, noise, buses, markets and hotels. Its main attraction is the octagonal Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), a temple which houses Sri Lanka's most important religious relic - the sacred tooth of Buddha. There are daily ceremonies of homage to the Tooth Relic, each attracting white-clad pilgrims carrying lotus blossoms and frangipani. During the frenetic Kandy Esala Perahera celebrations, a replica of the shrine is carried through the city on an elephant.
Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka's first capital and the most extensive and important of Sri Lanka's ancient cities. It became a capital in 380 BC and its impressive remains were 'discovered' in the early 19th century and have been in the process of restoration ever since. The Sacred Bo-Tree is the city's holiest site, and was grown from the tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment. The Thuparama Dagoba is the oldest of many temples in Anuradhapura and is believed to contain the right collar-bone of Buddha. The Jetavanarama Dagoba is the largest remaining structure.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was set up by the government to save abandoned and orphaned wild elephants. They roam freely in the sanctuary and many are trained to become working elephants. Each morning crowds of elephant go down to the river to bathe.
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Sri Lanka's medieval capital (11th - 12th century AD) is a well-preserved city of ancient dagobas, moonstones, beautiful parks, massive buildings and stunningly beautiful statues.
** Information on the travel pages was correct at the time of publishing. Passport & Visa information applies to UK citizens.