Sri Lanka is widely known for its beautiful landscape and luscious wildlife to the world. But its culture and history are a wonder that not only the locals but also the tourists that visit to this island admire. There are many wonderful heritage sites in this tropical island that has a history of more than 2000 years and many of them are inscribed by UNESCO as heritage sites. Here is a list of 08 wonderful heritage sites that are protected by UNESCO.
01- The Sigiriya Rock fortress
Referred by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World this ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is probably the most visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka.
The palace is located in the heart of the island between the towns of Dambulla and Habarana on a massive rocky plateau 370 meters above the sea level.
Sigiriya rock plateau, formed from magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungles.
Its view astonishes the visitors with the unique harmony between the nature and human imagination.
2- The old city of Galle and its Fortress
Galle Fort in the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 423 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka.
The fort has a colorful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world.
03- Historic city of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
The city, now a World Heritage site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km (127 mi) north of the current capital of Colombo in the North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu River. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
04- The Royal Cave Temple at Dambulla
Dambulla cave temple also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site (1991) in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. This site is situated 148 kilometers (92 mi) east of Colombo , 72 kilometers (45 mi) north of Kandy and 43 km (27 mi) north of Matale
Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and the Ganesha. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters (23,000 sq ft). Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha’s first sermon.
Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.
05- Sacred city of Kandy
This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.
06- Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a forest reserve and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sinharaja is the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare.
The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. The reserve’s name translates as Lion Kingdom.
The reserve is only 21 km (13 mi) from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km (4.3 mi) from north to south, but it is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
07- Central highlands of Sri Lanka
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is a recognized world Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. On 31 July 2010, the World Heritage Committee holding its 34th session in Brasília inscribed Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and Papahānaumokuākea of Hawaii as new World Heritage Sites. The site comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These are rain forests, where the elevation reaches 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) above sea level. The region harbors a variety of mammal species including the bear monkey, Trachypithecus vetulus monticola, (a subspecies of purple-faced langur) and the Horton Plains slender loris, Loris tardigradus nycticeboides, (a subspecies of red slender loris).
This is the first Sri Lankan World Heritage site to be designated in 22 years, since the Sinharaja Forest Reserve was enlisted in 1988. Originally submitted for inscription as a mixed cultural and natural site, the Committee recognized only the natural values of the site.
08- Ancient city of Polonnaruwa
Poḷonnaruwa is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Kaduruwela area is the Polonnaruwa New Town and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains as the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.
The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first established by the Chola dynasty as their capital in the 10th century. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site.
Currently the new Polonnaruwa is undergoing a major development project known as the “Awakening of Polonnaruwa” under the concept of President Maithripala Sirisena. It envisions the development of all sectors in Polonnaruwa including roads, electricity, agriculture, education, health and environment will be developed comprehensively.