Best of Sri Lanka 
Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka. Exquisitely carved stone structures, serene statues of Lord Buddha, dazzlingly decorated temples built in to rocky overhangs and feats of irrigation that amaze the world even today are just some of the treasures left by a proud civilization stretching back more than two thousand years. 
Glorious Reminders of a resplendent past; the remains of Sri Lanka’s ancient palaces, monasteries, shrines, water gardens and temples bear witness to a thriving kingdoms and to the influence of Buddhism. These reminders of the past are so outstanding that five areas have the distinction of being designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Fortunately for the visitor, four of these are conveniently located in the same region, dubbed the Cultural Triangle 

Introduction of  Sri Lanka
Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka. Exquisitely carved stone structures, serene statues of Lord Buddha, dazzlingly decorated temples built in to rocky overhangs and feats of irrigation that amaze the world even today are just some of the treasures left by a proud civilization stretching back more than two thousand years. 
Glorious Reminders of a resplendent past; the remains of Sri Lanka’s ancient palaces, monasteries, shrines, water gardens and temples bear witness to a thriving kingdoms and to the influence of Buddhism. These reminders of the past are so outstanding that five areas have the distinction of being designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Fortunately for the visitor, four of these are conveniently located in the same region, dubbed the Cultural Triangle 
 
 
Capital : Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. 
Commercial center : Colombo. 
Area : 65,606 sq kms (25,322 sq miles). 
Dialing code : +94. 
President : Excellency Mr. Maithripala Sirisena. 
Prime minister : Excellency Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. 
Official languages : Sinhala, Tamil. English is widely used and understood in tourist areas. 
Religion : Buddhism (69%), Hinduism (16%), Islam (8%), Christianity (7%). 
Population : 21.4 million. 
Time : Sri Lanka is 5.30 hours ahead of Greenwich Time (GMT +05.30). 
International Airport : Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake (34km north of Colombo). 
Currency : Sri Lankan Rupee (one Rupee = 100 Cents). 
Exchange Rate : Approx. Sri Lanka Rs. 130 = $1 USD. 
Highest Water Fall : Bambarakanda – 241 meters. 
Highest Peak : Pidurutalagala – 2524 meters. 
Longer River : Mahaweli – 335 Km. 
 
Sri Lanka Highlights 
 
Location & Physical Features 
 
Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean is geographically situated towards to the south of the Indian subcontinent. It lies between 5O 55′ and 9O 55′ north of the equator and between the eastern longitudes of 79O 42′ and 81O 52′. 
The total land area is 65,606 sq. km. and comprises of an is astonishingly varied landscape. The island has a length of 445 km and a breadth of 225 km. The islands’ topography consists beautiful tropical beaches, verdant vegetation, ancient monuments and a thousand delights that pleases all tastes. 
The features of the island consist of a mountainous mass somewhat south of the centre, that spreads around with a height exceeding 2,500 meters, surrounded by broad plains. Palm fringed beaches surround the island and the sea temperature rarely falls below 27 Celsius. 

Location & Physical Features 
Climate & Seasons 
 
In the lowlands the climate is typically tropical with an average temperature of 27°C in Colombo. In the higher elevations it can be quite cool with temperatures going down to 16°C at an altitude of over 2,000 meters. 
Bright, sunny warm days are in abundance and are common even during the height of the monsoon. Climatically Sri Lanka has no off season. The south – west monsoon brings rain mainly from May to July to the western, southern and central regions of the island, while the north-east monsoon rains occur in the northern and eastern regions from December to January.
 
Climate & Seasons  
Seasonal Events 
 
Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic country and celebrates a wide range of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim festivals. The Kandy Esala Perahera (July/August) is one of the country’s most important and spectacular pageants. 10 days of vibrant processions bring together torch-bearers, whip-crackers, Kandyan dancers, drummers, colorfully dressed Elephants, throngs of devotees from all over the country and spectators from around the world. 
 
The Sacred Tooth Relic is honoured with great respect by the end of the festivities. 
Other celebrations include the Duruthu Perahera (January), Independence Day (February), which is celebrated with parades, dances and national games; Sinhala and Tamil New Year (March/April) celebrated with elephant races, traditional games such as pillow fights; Vesak (May), a sacred full moon festival commemorating the birth, death and enlightenment of Buddha; the Hindu Vel festival (July/August), where the ceremonial chariot of Skanda, the God of War, is hauled between two temples in Colombo; and the predominant Hindu festival in Kataragama (July/August), where devotees gather in hundreds to worship their respective deities and partake in various religious ceremonies that exhibits their undying devotion. 

Sri Lankan National Bird (junglefowl)
The Sri Lankan junglefowl (Gallus lafayettii), also known as the Ceylon junglefowl, is a member of the Galliformes bird order which is endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is the national bird. It is closely related to the red junglefowl (G. gallus), the wild junglefowl from which the chicken was domesticated. The specific name of the Sri Lankan junglefowl commemorates the French aristocrat Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette. In Sinhala it is known as වළි කුකුළා (Wali Kukula)[2] and in Tamil it is known as இலங்கைக் காட்டுக்கோழி (Ilaṅkaik kāṭṭukkōḻi).



National Flower of Sri Lanka  (Nil Manel)

 
National Flower of Sri LankaThe Nil Manel (Nymphaea stellata) Blue Water Lily was chosen as the national flower of Sri Lanka in February 1986. The Blue Water Lily of exquisite beauty is a common sight throughout the island. Growing in shallow fresh waters with no season for blooming, the Blue Water Lily thrives wherever lakes, ponds or marsh land is found. 
 
Nymphaea stellata 
Manel (Sinhala) 
Kamalam, Alli Tamarei (Tamil) 
 
There are three types of Authentic Water Lilies in Sri Lanka. In Sinhala they are referred to as Olu (white) the Nil Manel (magenta with yellow in the middle) and the Nelum (pink and white colors). 
 
In February 1986 Nil Manel or blue water lily (Nymphaea stellata, though it has been recently renamed as Nymphaea nouchali) was chosen as the National flower. Nil Manel is found all the part of Sri Lanka and grows in the shallow water. 
 
The manel is most popular among the local variety for its color and because it blooms from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - almost the whole day. 
 
It is with the first rays of the sun that the closed bud of the Manel opens and shows the world the beautiful pink blush that touches its petals. Blooming in shades of pink, blue and white on magenta with yellow in the middle, and also this plant has its roots deep in muddy waters. 
 
One of several flowering plants which show striking adaptations to life in water, this flower is highly valued in aquatic horticulture in Sri Lanka. It has several local varieties which differ in size and color. 
 
The flower blooms on a long stalk and floats on the surface. Each is 7-20 cm in diameter, has four sepals and numerous petals which vary in size and color. The petals are usually pale whitish violet or less commonly light blue and occasionally pinkish purple. 
 
The botanical name of the flower is Nymphaea stellata Wild. The first part of the name has been derived from the Greek word "nymphaia" which means water lily and the second part from the Latin word "stellatus" meaning star. This is because in a lake having an abundance of this plant, the leaves and flowers give the appearance of a star studded sky. 
 
We find the Apsaravas in Sigiriya frescoes holding these flowers in their hands. Seeds and the tubes are used as a vegetable by villagers while leaves stem and flowers are used in herbal medicine. 
 
The plant grows in streams, tanks and ponds throughout Sri Lanka’s low country and flowers almost all year round.

Madhu Church at Mannar
Madhu Church at Mannar – (Ancient Pattini Devalaya of Madhu) 
 
Madhu is a mystic jungle shrine dedicated to Mother Mary lying on a remote area in Mannar. The church is one of the few churches which is visited by Buddhists as well as Hindus from all over 
 
The history of Madhu is interesting. The Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka in 1505 and missionaries started poring in to the country to convert the Buddhists and Hindus in to Catholicism by various means. Many on the coastal region converted to this new religion for favors from the new masters. 
 
Many Tamils from the North too fell in the hands of the catholic missionaries. In 1640 the Dutch took control of the coastal regions of and started spreading their form of Christianity in form of Dutch Reformed Church. in 1670, the dutch took Mannar under their control and some 20 Catholic Tamil families from Mantai fled inwards with a statue of Mary from the coastal town and settled down on an area called Marutha Madu which was then a small village on the Royal Ramessaram-Kandy route and a custom house for the Kandyan King. Later a group of about 700 tamil Catholics fleeing from Jaffna also joined this group. 
 
During this period, Madhu was Devale dedicated to Goddess Pattini which probably has been existing since the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Godess Pattini is worshiped by Sinhalese and Tamils irrespective of the religions in Sri Lanka. 
 
At some point of time a church was built on the ground of Pattini Devale and the devale disappeared without a trace. With the invasion of the English and the subsequent defeat of the Dutch from the coastal areas the Catholic prosecution stopped and the annual possession of Madhu was started in 1870. In 1876 foundation stone of the current church was laid down. 
 
 
 
One of the reasons for all faiths to visit Madhu is the belief of miraculous healing powers of the statue from snake bites. 
 
The Madhu festival, originally held on 2nd July is now has 10 festivals during the year. The most popular and thar largest is the festival held on 15th Auguest which draws the largest crowd specially since this falls on school holidays.

The Grand Mosque of Colombo is a Mosque located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. the structure has existed since the time of ancient Sinhalese Kings, and has experienced Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule. The Mosque was rebuilt and enlargened during the time Ceylon was under British rule. “When the re-building of the Mosque was completed, the then British Governor of Ceylon, Lieut. General Sir Edward Barnes, GCB, visited the Mosque in 1826 and highly commended Muhammad Balangkaya on the excellence of his work.”
Red Mosque
Constructed in 1908, the Red Mosque is a historical landmark and recognized as one of the oldest mosques in Colombo. I did a bit of reading up and stumbled upon a snippet which stated that it was used as a landmark by sailors who came to Colombo from afar. Fun fact: this snippet could have been confirmed or sourced properly had any of the mosque employees thought it okay to divulge information about its history, instead of telling me that they’re not allowed to say anything about it. SUSPICIOUS.

A World Heritage Site
Anuradhapura has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 
Anuradhapura or ‘the kingdom of Anura’, is the earliest capital of Sri Lanka and was home to the royal court from 437 BC to 1017 AD. However it is not only a city, but one of the great centres of Buddhism in South Asia visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year. The site consists of a central ten metre high mound covered in jungle, marking the old urban core, surrounded by over thirty square kilometres of Buddhist monasteries and huge reservoirs. Amongst the most spectacular of the Buddhist monuments are four great stupas, solid domes of earth and brick, built over a Buddhist relic, which reach heights of over eighty metres and dominate the landscape of paddy fields and coconut trees 

The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader. While Vijayabahu’s victory and shifting of Kingdoms to the more strategic Polonnaruwa is considered significant, the real Polonnaruwa Hero of the history books is actually his grandson, Parakramabahu I. 
It was his reign that is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa, when trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the King, who was adamant that no drop of water falling from the heavens was to be wasted, and each be used toward the development of the land; hence, irrigation systems far superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age were constructed during Parakramabahu’s reign, systems which to this day supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season in the east of the country. Polonnaruwa 

Ancient Cities of Sri Lanka
Sigiriya 
 
Sri Lankan architectural tradition is well displayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning. 
 
The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. 
 
The plan of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden, moats and ramparts are based on an ?echo plan’ duplicating the layout and design on either side. This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in 5 th century Sri Lanka. 
 
For an in depth view, read our article on the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka 
 
 Dambulla 
 
Dambulla is sited on a gigantic rock which towers more than 160m above the surrounding land. The Rock is more the 1.5km around its base and summit is at 550km. The caves were the refuge of King Walagamba (Vattagamini Abhaya) 
When he was exile for 14 years. When he return to the throne at Anuradapura in the 1st century BC, he had magnificent rock temple built at Dabulla. 
The site has being repaired and repainted several times in the 11th, 12th and 18th centuries. 
For an in depth view, visit our article on the Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka 
 
Dambulla was designated a World Heritage site in 1991. The caves have a mixture of religious and secular painting and sculpture. There are several reclining Buddha’s, including the 15m long sculpture of the dying Buddha in Cave 1. the frescoes on the walls and ceiling from the 15th-18th centuries; the ceiling frescoes show scenes from the Buddha’s life and Sinhalese history. Cave 2 is the largest and most impressive, containing over 150 statues, illustrating the Mahayana influences on Buddhism at the time through introducing Hindu deities such a s Vishnu and Ganesh. 
Dambulla 
A new large white Buddha (similar to the ones in Kandy and Mihintale) is planned for Dambulla. There is little evidence of monks who are housed in monasteries in the valley below where there is a monks’ school. 
 
 Kandy 
 
Situated in 116 km from Colombo, Located in the foothills of the central highlands around the banks of a picturesque lake, steeped in history, and possessing a salubrious Climate, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s renowned second city. In many ways, however, Kandy is more important than the true capital, for although Colombo may be the hub of commerce and communication, it is Kandy that has always been the centre of Sri Lanka’s rich culture and the symbol of the nation’s complex identity. 


The city of Kandy lies at an altitude of 488.6 meters (1629 feet) above sea level in the center of the island and surrounded by the ranges of mountains. It is still very much a focal point of Sri Lankan culture. It was the capitol of last generation of Sri Lanka`s kings until it fell in to the hands of British in 1815. 
Kandy was originally known as Senkadagalapura after a hermit named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it ?Mahanuwara? meaning the “Great City?. But the name Kandy was derived from the Word “Kanda”, which means mountain. Due to it’s geographical location Kandy was not an easy target for the foreign invaders who could gain the control of coastal area of the island. 
 
Thus Kandyan culture was abler to foster and maintain its own social structure, mode of living, Art & Architecture. The kings of Kandy ensured the safety and sovereignty of the hill capital until the British finally captured the city in 1815. 
 
Kandy 
The royal palace in Senkadagala was built by King Vikramabahu the 3rd of Gampola on the advice of a Brahmin who selected the site as a lucky ground for a Capital city. The first king to ascended the throne of Senkadagala was Sena Sammata Wickramabahu. 

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil (Tamil: நல்லூர் கந்தசுவாமி கோவில்) is one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Northern Province, Sri Lanka.it stands in the town of Nallur. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan or Katharagama Deviyo in the form of the holy 'Vel' in the Sanctum, the primary shrine, and in other forms, namely, Shanmugar, Muthukumaraswami, Valli Kaanthar with consorts Valli and Deivayanai, and Thendayuthapani, sans consorts in secondary shrines in the temple.
Katharagame
The pilgrimage town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu and indigenous Vedda people of Sri Lanka. People from South India also go there to worship. The town has the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama devalaya, a shrine dedicated to Skanda-Murukan also known as Kataragamadevio. Kataragama is in the Monaragala District of Uva province, Sri Lanka. It is 228 km ESE of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Although Kataragama was a small village in medieval times, today it is a fast-developing township surrounded by jungle in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka. It houses the ancient Kiri Vehera Buddhist stupa. The town has a venerable history dating back to the last centuries BCE. It was the seat of government of many Sinhalese kings during the days of Rohana kingdom. Since the 1950s the city has undergone many improvements with successive governments investing in public transportation, medical facilities, and business development and hotel services. It adjoins the popular Yala National Park.
Arugam Bay
A-Bay has been a stepping-stone on the Indian Ocean trail for a long time, thanks to its reputation for being a class act in an exotic, laid-back zone. Long, lazy rights peel down the sand and rock southern point of Arugam Bay for hundreds of meters, bending to parallel the beach and slowly diminishing in size along the way. It starts off with a bit of a hollow section, then walls and shoulders in inviting sections that are more playful as opposed to powerful. This means all abilities are found in the extremely crowded line-up and drop-ins, snaking and bad vibes are commonplace during the peak season of May – August. 
 
It’s very consistent and often crowded with occasional barrels in front of the corner, but the afternoon SE sea breeze often messes it up. It can be dangerously shallow and sectiony at low tide over the old coral reef. There are lots of local surfers and competitions are regularly held here by both Sri Lankan and foreign surf associations.



In the 19th Century, during the British occupation of Sri Lanka, the British constructed the railway lines and started the Railway service in Sri Lanka to transport Tea from the Hill country estates to the Colombo Port and also imported goods to the interior of the Island. Sri Lanka’s hill country Railway line goes through Tea Estates, making the train journey a scenic ride. This itinerary is specially designed for Rail fans who would like to explore the Sri Lankan railway. 
 

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