World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

There are eight world heritages sites were declared as UNISCO World Heritage. Sri-Lanka is a small miracle island filling with rich nature, ancient history and culture. There are amazing archeological sites, the tourist must visit during their stay in Sri-Lanka. 

Man made:

  1. The sacred city of Anuradhapura
  2. The medieval capital of Polonnaruwa
  3. Sigiriya rock fortress
  4. Dambulla rock cave temple
  5. The sacred city of Kandy
  6. Dutch fortress of Galle


  1. Sinharaja rain forest
  2. Peak wilderness.(Horton plains, Knuckles rage, Sri-Pada(Adam’s peak))


The sacred city of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is the first ancient capital of Sri-lanka during 4th B.C. to end of the 10 A.D. it more than 1500 years and home to 127 kings of island. The civilization which was built upon this city was one of the greatest civilizations of Asia and in the world too. The city now was declared as a world heritage site and 205kms away from Colombo. This is a huge archaeological site which extends 40 km² and one of the world’s major archeological sites and it’s famous for well preserved ruins of great civilization. This is the turning point city of local culture in different way, religion, custom and tradition, language, art and craft, agriculture, architecture, any way of life.

Attraction of the city:

Mahavihara monastery complex (Srimahabodi, Ruwanweliseya, Lovamahapaya (brazen palace))

Abayagiri monastery complex (Abayagiri stupa, Samadhi statue, Twin pond, Eth Pokuna, Rathnaprasadaya, Moonstone)

Jethawanarama monastery complex (Jethawanarama Stupa)

Note: Four and half hours drive by car from Colombo.


The medieval capital of Polonnaruwa

The second capital of Sri-Lanka during 11th and 12th centuries A.D. Polonnaruwa was a first declared the capital city by Vijayabahu I, who defeated Cholas Invaders and reunite the country once more under a local leader and shifted of kingdoms to more strategic Polonnaruwa 101kms away from Anuradhapura. During 12 century A.D. his grandson King Parakramabahu I came to power, defeated Cholas from India and became most famous hero in Sri-Lanka because of his braveness, and his management of the country. This is the golden period of country and Sri-Lanka became “Granary of the East”. Then later time King Nissanka Malla came to power and who was able to stop the decline for short period after the Great king Parakramabahu. Within the nine years of his reign he did much, but after 1215 attacked from (kalinga) India then downfall of civilization of Polonnaruwa. Later the kingdom shifted to Dambadeniya (South West). Today Polonnaruwa declared as a world heritage site and it is famous for well preserved ruins of the ancient civilization.

Attraction of the city:

Parakramabahu Palace complex, Tooth relic temples complex, Alahana pirivena complex, Lankathilaka image house, Thiwanka image house, Galvihara image house.

Note: Polonnaruwa city is a small area comparing to Anuradhapura, all the monuments situated as a complex by complex, it’s easy to move one to another. Here you can see the high technology of constructions and amazing Buddhist carvings, Hindu temples and Hindu influence for constructions and the statues.

Four and half hours drive by car from Colombo.


Sigiriya Rock Fortress

According to the archaeologist of Sri-Lanka, Sigiriya is a unique combination of the 5thcentury A.D. urban planning, landscaping, hydraulic management, engineering, architecture, sculptures, paintings and graffiti (Bandaranayake s, 2005). This was declared as a world heritage site and concerned as an eight wonder of the world.

Attraction of the site:

Pleasure gardens (water garden, boulder garden and terrace garden), still function water fountains, Frescoes, Mirror wall and graffiti, Lions paw, Summit and museum.

Four hours drive by car from Colombo.


Dambulla Rock cave Temple

Dambulla rock cave temple is a world heritage site in Sri-Lanka which is located centre of the country and 148kms away from Colombo. This is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri-Lanka. There are five natural caves together with rock cut or grip ledges and donation inscription belongs to 2 B.C. But the history of Dambulla goes to 1B.C. the reign of King Walagambahu and up to 1921, it has an unbroken documented history. Today this is famous in the world because of its amazing colorful Buddha statues and murals which cover an area more than 2000sqm. There are different postures of Buddha statues, Kings Statue, Bodhisattva statues were made out of different material such as granite, clay, wood etc. For the tourist this a great experience to see huge scale of colorful Buddha statues after have seen the mono color statues in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Today majority of painting and statues were followed the kandian style and few statues representing the Anuradhapura period 6th – 8th Centaury A.D.

Attraction of the Site:

Five natural caves fill with colorful statues and paintings. Deverajalena (cave no1), Maharajalena {Largest (cave no2)}, Maha Aluth Vihara (cave no 3), Pachchima Vihara (cave no4), Devena Aluth Maha Vihara (cave no 5).


The Sacred City of Kandy

Kandy is situated in the hill country region, 116Kms away from Colombo. It can be reached by motor vehicles, train and air. The city is surrounded by mountain rages such as Knuckles, Dumbara and Kadugannawa/Balana. The longest river of the country Mahaveli flows like a loop around the city. Historically it has been protected by this geographical features and one must encounter a pass to enter the city. The temperature is cooler than Colombo and it ranges from 24-29 degrees C. throughout the year. The elevation above the mean sea level is 1500 feet or 435 meters.

Kandy is supposed to be the second capital city of Sri-Lanka after Colombo. Kandy city has been declared by UNESCO as a Living World Heritage Site. Thirty two buildings in the city have been identified as heritage buildings and UNESCO symbol has been demonstrated on the wall of those buildings. The last capital of Sinhala kings and Kandy is remarkable for the natural beauty of its setting in a peaceful natural surrounding with an artificial lake.

King Wimaladharmasuriya I made it capital city of the country in Kandy is considered as a city which preserves countries, custom and tradition. There are still traditional families and also villages, which engage in age old Kandiyan arts and crafts, Kandiyan dance, Silver, brass, copper embossed ornaments and jewelry, wood carvings, Dumbara mats, are very popular among the tourists. There are several Gem museums and factories.

Attraction of the city:

Temple of the tooth relic – The sacred tooth relic is the most venerated object not only to the Sri-Lankans but also to the whole Buddhist world.

Artificial Lake – Optional: Boat safaris can arranged

Royal Botanical Garden Peradeniya

Hantana tea museum

Gadaladeniya/Lankatilaka/Embekke (16kms away from Kandy)

Udawatha Kele- Bird watching/Trekking/Mountain Bike

Shopping- Gem museum/Silk factories/Batik factories/Wood carvings



Since pre Christian era, Galle was a natural harbor, has been used as a port for trading purposes frequented by traders from both East and West of the world because of the strategically location of the international sea route. The history of Galle fort is the history of Galle too. It was regarded as a safe harbor and a place for international trade but not as a big city. Galle is mentioned as “Ceteum Proment” in the first ever world map cartographer by Ptolemy, the famous geographer in the first century A.D. Sophater a Greek writer states that Galle port was situated in the center of the sea route to East and West and in the 4th and 5th centuries, ships sailed to Galle from India, Persia, Ethiopia and Arab countries. It is also said that ships sailed from Galle to those countries, commercial good received from China such as Silk, Cloves, Sandal wood, and pepper from Malakka, Kasturi(musk) from Sindhu reached “Seila deepa” in exchange from goods and transactions were done in Galle. Emerson Tenant believes that Galle would have been a leading trading center in the East. He thinks that Tarshis mentions in the Old Testament would be Galle, from where the King Solomon brought sapphires, tamed elephants, monkeys and peacock.

Galle Dutch Fortress

This was well established fortress by Dutch in 17th Century A.D. This was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO and concerned as a living colonial city, because inside fortress is still functioning such as colonial hotels, restaurants, museum, Shops, Post offices, Churches, Banks, School, police station, Court, Gasoline station etc. When walk inside the fortress it will give for all tourists a completely different experience.

Attraction of the fortress:

Several bastions i.e. Sun/moon/star/Akers loot bastions.

Black fort/Old gate with emblems of VOC and English (in and out) wall, Cruise Kerk (Dutch reformed church), mosque, Light house, Commando’s house, Belfry Anglican Church, Clock tower, light house, Leynbahnstrat. (Rope making st) Peddler st. etc.


Sinharaja Rain Forest

The last extensive tract of undisturbed lowland rainforest in Sri-Lanka, Sinharaja is one of the island’s outstanding natural wonders and an ecological treasure-box of international significance, as recognized by its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989. A staggering 830 of Sri-Lanka’s endemic species of flora and fauna are found here, including myriad birds, reptiles and insects, while no less than sixty percent of the reserve’s trees are endemic, too.

Sinharaja stretches for almost thirty kilometers across the wet zone at the southern edges of the hill country, enveloping a series of switchback hills and valleys ranging in altitude from just 300m up to 1170m. to the north and south, the reserve is bounded by two sizeable rivers, the Kalu Gaga and the Gin Ganga which cut picturesque, waterfall-studded courses through the tress. The oldest part of the rain forest comprise dense stands of towering trees enmeshed in fantastic tangles of ferns and lianas; the top of the canopy reaches heights of up to 45m. Sinharaja receives as much as five meters of rain annually- you’ll be struck by the sudden overwhelming humidity (approaching ninety percent) as soon as you step in to the forest, as well as by the incredible noise of cicadas.

Mammals : Purple faced langur monkeys, Three species of squirrel (dusky-striped jungle squirrel, flame-striped jungle squirrel and western giant squirrel), mongooses, Less common, and very rarely sighted, are leopards, rusty spotted cats, fishing cats and civets.

There are rich reptile population and Sri-Lanka richest bird population.

Note : In the rainy days you want to attention form Leeches.


Peak Wilderness (Horton plains/Knuckles range/Sri-pada (Adam’s peak)

Horton plain: Please see “Things to do Page” Wild Life.

Knuckles range: From Kandy, the A26 wriggles past the Victoria Reservoir and Dam, opened in 1989 as a part of the huge Mahaweli Ganga Project and one of the island’s major sources of electricity, just off the southern highway to Mahiyangana offers fine views of the spectacular dam itself. North of the reservoir, the rugged peaks of the Knuckles Range (Dumbara Hills), named by British for their resemblance to Knuckles of a clenched fist- cover a rugged and still largely untouched area of great natural beauty and biodiversity. The steeply shelving mountain terrain reaches 1863m at the summit of the main Knuckles peak itself (Sixth highest in Sri-Lanka) and includes stands of rare dwarf cloud forest. The area is home to leopards, various species of deer (sambhur, barking and mouse), monkeys (Purple faced langur and macaque), Giant squirrels, rare species of lizards such as the horned black-lipped lizard, and an exceptionally fine collection of endemic bird species.

Corbet’s Gap- Where there are magnificent views of the main Knuckles directly ahead.

Attraction: Camping site in Cobert’s Gap, Trekking.

Sri-Pada (Adam’s Peak)

Poking up from the southwestern edge of the hill country, the soaring summit of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) is simultaneously one of the Sri-Lankan’s most striking natural features and one of its most celebrated places of pilgrimage. This is Sri-Lanka’s fifth highest peak (2243m) and mountain has accumulated a mass of legends centre around the curious depression at its summit, the Sri-Pada or Sacred Foot print. The original Buddhist story claims that this is the footprint of the Buddha himself, made at the request of the local god Saman. Some Muslims believe this is a foot print of Adam and some Hindus believe this foot print was created by Loard Siva.

Despite all these rival claims, Sri-Pada (Adam’s Peak) remains an essentially Buddhist place of worship. The mountain has been an object of pilgrimage for over a thousand years, at least since the Polonnaruwa period, when Parakramabahu I and Vijayabahu I constructed shelters here for visiting pilgrims. In 12 centurary A.D. and Nissanka Malla became the first king to climb the mountain, while foreign travelers including Fa-Hsien, Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and Robert Knox all described the peak and its associated traditions with varying digress of fanciful inaccuracy.

The Climb

The Adam’s peak climb is exhausting and mainly stepped foot path (there are some 4800 steps) which can reduce even seasoned hill walkers to quivering wrecks. The best way to go up is slowly. Allow around four hours to get up the mountain, including time for tea shops. When you arrived to the summit you can see a Buddhist’s temple with more crowded in the season of climbing (December to May) and can see a spectacular panoramic of sunrise. The descent is much quicker (Two and half hours) though no less painful, since by now your legs will have turned to jelly.