I had wanted to write about historical places in Sri Lanka for a long time because visiting historical places are one of the very popular activities among the travellers and included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. But in front of a heap of work and busy schedule I had to keep it postponing. But this time I thought of completing this article because the inquiries for Sri Lanka trips with historical attractions are increasing day by day.
This article is mainly about historical places in Sri Lanka, you might be also looking for some information on historical places in Sri Lanka, that’s why you landed on this page, I think. I’m intending to write about only the most famous historical places in Sri Lanka. Because. If I try to pack all the historical places in Sri Lanka into this article, I will not be able to complete it within few hours, it might even take years because the number of the historical place in Sri Lanka is that much great.
Sri Lanka tourism is thriving on a big scale and the number of travellers increasing day by day. Sri Lanka had been primarily a beach holiday destination in the past but now it is branching out into other areas such as eco-tourism, adventure holidays, honeymoon tours, cultural tours. I thought this article cannot be delayed anymore because we get a large number of emails from travellers around the world and making questions like “what are the popular historical places in Sri Lanka”, “what are the historical places we can visit during our Sri Lanka tour” etc.
After having done much research we have chosen below sites as historical places in Sri Lanka and we discuss only on these few historical places in Sri Lanka because they are the most visited historical places in Sri Lanka by travellers. All of them are historically very important but located in different parts of the country. If you wish to visit all of them you need to plan on a 3 days Sri Lanka tour at least. But some of the places such as the tooth relic temple, Dambulla golden cave temple can be visited on a Sri Lanka day tour from Colombo.
What are the top 8 Historical Places In Sri Lanka?
- Anuradhapura historical city – 200 km
- Polonnaruwa historical city 229 km
- Sigiriya Rock – 176 km
- Dambulla golden temple – 160 km
- Tooth relic temple – 115 km
- Kataragama temple – 300 km
- Seetha Temple – 173 km
- Adams peak
4 Days Tour to explore Sri Lanka historical places
- Anuradhapura historical city
- Polonnaruwa historical city
- Sigiriya Rock
- Dambulla golden cave temple
- The tooth relic temple
- Entire ground transportation an air-conditioned and modern vehicle
- All entrance fees
- English speaking tour guide
- 3 nights accommodation with daily breakfast and dinner
Sketch of the program
- Day 1 Colombo-Anuradhapura-Dambulla-Habarana
- Day 2 Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa
- Day 3 Habarana-Kandy
- Day 4 Kandy-Colombo
If you are intending to explore the historical places in Sri Lanka, the First historical site to explore undoubtedly be Anuradhapura because it is the root of Sri Lankan history. None of the Sri Lanka tours to explore historical sites of Sri Lanka is complete if it does not include Anuradhapura. It was the capital-ruling centre of Sri Lanka for more than a thousand years, starting from 3rd century BC.
Several historical buildings such as Ruwanweli Stupa, Thuparama dagoba are in good shape while most of the ancient structures are reduced to ruins. The historical part of Anuradhapura is belonging to the UNESCO world heritage sites. The historical part of Anuradhapura includes prominent landmarks such as Isurumuniya, Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Stupa, Kuttam Pokuna, many other places, and museums.
- Simaha Bodhi
- Ruwanweli stupa or dagoba
- Jetawanarama Dagoba/Stupa
- Abhayagiri Dagoba/stupa
At the heart of the historical site is Sri Maha Bodhi, which is the oldest documented tree in the world, is considered to be one of the most sacred places for Buddhists in the world. This temple is visited by many thousands of local as well as foreign travellers every day. As per the historical evidence, the Bo Tree was planted at the present site in the 2nd century BC. It is believed that there had been many Buddhists around the bo tree in the past. The king had been the guardian of the bo tree as well as Buddhist monasteries.
Around the corner is Ruwanweli Stupa is another important Buddhist monument, it was built by the King Dutugemunu in 2nd century BC. About a hundred meters away from Ruwanweli Stupa is the Thuparama Dagoba, which believed to be the oldest Stupa in Sri Lanka and built by King Devanampiyatissa in 2nd century BC.
Apart from these three places, there are dozens of important places to visit in this historical site such as Twin pond, Lankarama dagoba, Samadhi Buddha statue, Jetawanarama dagoba, museums, Moonstone …the list is endless and a tour around this historical city of Anuradhapura is one of the most loved guided tours of Sri Lanka.
The major historical places in Sri Lanka Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy mark three corners of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. The cultural triangle of Sri Lanka harbours hundreds of historical places within its borders and Polonnaruwa historical site is an essential part of it. The historical city of Polonnaruwa was the second ruling capital of the Sri Lankan dynasty and held the role of capital of Sri Lanka for several decades until it fell into negligence due to the south Indian invasions.
- Duration-6 Days
- Regions-Cultural triangle, Upcountry, Beach
- Places-Sigiriya rock, Dambulla temple, Minneriya National Park, Royal botanical garden, Tooth relic temple, Tea country, Bentota beach, Colombo
- Transport-Private vehicle
- Accommodation 4-star hotel
- Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
- Age range-all ages
- Availability-From Nov 2019 to Nov 2020
Special Price US$ 690, save $80, Regular Price US$770
The historical places of Polonnaruwa and ruins of Polonnaruwa are much younger than the ruins of Anuradhapura, hence the temples, places, hospitals, parks and other historical places of Polonnaruwa is in very good condition compared to the historical places of Anuradhapura. Owing to this reason, a large number of tourists opt to visit Polonnaruwa instead of visiting Anuradhapura, when they have timing constraints.
What are the important historical places in Polonnaruwa?
- Parakrama Samudra
- The palace of Parakramabahu (12th century)
- Galvihara with 3 gigantic granite statues (12th century and)
- Vatadage (12th century)
- Rankoth vehera (stupa)
- Pothgul Vehera
These are some of the noteworthy places in the historical site of Polonnaruwa. Don’t forget to step into the historical museum of Polonnaruwa near Parakrama Samudra, this is the best place to have a good insight into the glorious historical past of Polonnaruwa.
As one of Sri Lanka’s most visited historic sites, Sigiriya rock fortress welcomes nearly about one million tourists every year, and it should be on every traveller’s bucket list, who is fascinated by exploring historical sites during their trips. Sigiriya is another UNESCO world heritage site on the island and its one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The well-planned garden is comprising of swimming pools, palaces, caves, guardrooms, protected walls, and a ditch.
Sigiriya rock fortress is dating back to 5th century AD, and it was built by King Kashayapa. The frescoes of Sigiriya is world-renowned and shows similarities to paintings at Ajanta caves. The paintings are also dating back to 5th century AD. They were painted using natural colours but they are still very bright and clear. The restoration work of this archaeological site began during the British rule in Sri Lanka (18th century). Still, the excavations and restoration activities are going on at the site under the purview of the archaeological department.
The upward walk on the rock to the lion’s paw and beyond is strenuous but well reworded because the view from the top of the rock is breathtaking. You can have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding jungle area. On top of the rock, there had been a palace (today only the foundation to be seen), which was occupied by the king, few steps away from the palace is the huge pond or a swimming pool.
The Golden cave temple of Dambulla is one of the oldest Buddhist shrines on the island of Sri Lanka. The origin of the ancient temple is going back to the 1st century B.C. The temple is situated in Dambulla, which is a modern metropolis in the central province of Sri Lanka. The temple majestically lies on the mountain of Dambulla towards the western slope of the mountain. Dambulla golden cave temple is one of the earliest cave temples on the island and still in very good condition. The temple is comprised of 5 spacious natural caves.
Due to its strategic location on the main route of Jaffna-Kandy (A-9 road) the temple is visited by a large number of local as well as foreign tourists. The temple is managed by the central cultural fund. Dambulla golden cave temple is one of the many important historical sites of Sri Lanka cultural triangle and it is a UNESCO world heritage site, therefore the temple is a part of any multi-day Sri Lanka road trip.
The temple was known as Dambulla cave temple in the early days. In the 12th century, King Nissanka Malla added several Buddha statues and plated them with gold, since then the cave temple is named Dambulla golden cave temple. The temple is primarily dedicated to Buddhism but Hindu God figures are also can be seen in the temple.
The temple is believed to have provided shelter to one of the Buddhist kings known as Walagambahu in the 1st century BC, during a south Indian invasion. It is believed that the king took refuge at the site for 14 years, during this time the king managed to organize his army. Later the king expelled the foreign forces from the country and regained his throne.
When the king took the kingship back from the invaders he created the cave temple of Dambulla and added many Buddha statues, and decorated with beautiful paintings.
The temple was renovated many timed by the kings who ruled the country in the later periods, these kings had added many Buddha statues, god figures and repainted the wall and ceiling paintings while renovating the temple. Same time they have added new paintings. Therefore the temple of Dambulla has become the historical temple with the largest concentration of Buddha statues of The island, numbering 150 Buddha statues. Today this cave temple is considered as great antiquarian, an epigraphical and archaeological site on the island.
A large number of beautiful ceiling and wall paintings depicting the life of Buddha can be seen on the inner wall and the ceiling of the caves. A colossal Buddha statue, which is in recumbent position can be seen in the first cave, This Buddha statue is one of the biggest Buddha statues on the island measuring 14 meters long.
Kandy is one of the most important historical places in Sri Lanka and a must-visit place for every traveller. Especially, it is a must-visit place for local travellers (Buddhists) due to the presence of tooth relic of Buddha. For foreigners, it is one of the must-visit places as it offers many important places to explore such as tooth relic temple, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Peradeniya botanical garden, tea plantations, etc. Kandy is another UNESCO world heritage site and lies about 500 meters above sea-level.
It was the last kingdom of Sri Lankan monarchy and the ruling capital of the island before the British occupation in Sri Lanka (1796). The city has a fascinating blend of historical monuments, colonial buildings as well as modern structures. The landmark building of the temple of the tooth relic (earlier the king’s palace) is the oldest structure in the city, is still in very good shape. There is a large number of buildings built by the British administration in the 18’s and all of them are also belong to the old part of the city.
Travellers who venture on a trip to southern Sri Lanka might visit this multi-religious site located towards the southern tip of the island. This is one of the most historical places in Sri Lanka as well as a religious site. most importantly the temple showcases the religious harmony among the different ethnic groups of Sri Lanka.
It is most popular as a religious site than a historical place on the island. Therefore most visitors of Kataragama temple are Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims who are coming to take part in religious observances. And you don’t encounter many foreign travellers here. If you are a foreign traveller and wish to see the religious aspects of Sri Lankan people, then it is worth visiting this place. Here you can see the true attachment of Sri Lankan people to their religion.
Kataragama temple is one of the most historical places in Sri Lanka, which believed to be one of the historical places in Sri Lanka, where Buddha visited in 6th century BC. Kirivehera stupa believes to be the place where Buddha meditated as he visited Kataragama. Today Kataragama is most popular due to the Kataragama Ddevala, where God Kataragama or God Skanda is worshipped. The god of Kataragama believed to be able to fulfil the wishes of the devotees. A large number of local devotees present here with a plate of fruit as offering every day.
Sitting in the central hills of Sri Lanka, Seetha Amman temple is the only historical monument in this list that is directly attributed to Hinduism. Because most historical sites in Sri Lanka are closely related to Buddhism, however, there is a large number of historical monuments in the northern and eastern Sri Lanka that are dedicated to Hinduism. If you look for historical places in Sri Lanka that have Hindusim influence, it is best to explore on east coast ad northern Sri Lanka, where the majority of historical places have strong Indian influence.
According to Ramayana Seetha Amman temple is the place, where Seetha was kept by King Ravana when he abducted Seetha (the wife of Rama). Temple is dedicated to worshipping Seetha along with other Hindu deities. According to the information, the temple is dating back many decades but the present temple is not more than a decades-old. Seetha Amman temple is visited mostly by the Hindu devotees. This is one of the few temples in the world where Seetha is venerated. The temple is included in most Ramayana tours that are been sold to Indian tourists.
Adams peak is another important historical site on the island which resides in the western part of the central mountain range. The history of Adams peak is going back to 6th century BC and coincide with Buddhist 1st visit to the island. Adams peak ios a leading Buddhist pilgrimage site and Catholics, Hindus, Muslims as well as Muslim also conquer the mountain.
Adams peak is the 5th highest mountain on the island, which rises up to 2,243 meters (7,359 ft) from the sea-level. A large number of Buddhist devotees climb the mountain, mainly during the peak pilgrimage season from November to April. If you head to Adams peak on a holiday during this period there is a high possibility of encountering hordes or visitors and thereby your trek to the peak gets considerably delayed.
Sri Lanka cultural tour
Below mentioned Sri Lanka cultural tour is carefully crafted to explore the most important historical places, which are located in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. You will be travelling in private luxury, fully airconditioned vehicle with our experienced driver/guide.
This is a private tour, means you are part of a big group of tourists from various part of the world and you have to follow a predefined tour itinerary. Even though there is a tour itinerary for this trip you have maximum flexibility because it is a private program.
The Itinerary of the 4 days Cultural triangle tour in details
DAY 1: Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour
Places to visit on day 1 of the cultural triangle tour are Anuradhapura
COLOMBO / ANURADHAPURA / SIGIRIYA
Arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport, meet & greet by “Seerendipity Tours” Representatives and proceed to the hotel in Sigiriya, En-route visit Anuradhapura historical site.
Anuradhapura is the first capital of Sri Lanka dating back to 3rd century BC. It was the capital of Sri Lanka for more than 1000 years and the country was ruled by more than 100 kings and queens from Anuradhapura. Today an Anuradhapura is visited by local and foreign tourist. Buddhist temple, Palaces, Museums, Parks, and lakes are some of the important places to visit in the city.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Anuradhapura
DAY 2: Cultural triangle tour itinerary
Places to be visited on the 2nd day of Sri Lanka tour are Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, and safari at Minneriya national park
SIGIRIYA / POLONNARUWA
Breakfast at Hotel Leaves for the Historical city of Polonnaruwa.
Sigiriya is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, which is dating back to 5th century AD. The Sigiriya was built by King Kashayapa and consisted of many parts such as Sigiriya water garden, Sigiriya fortress, Gallery with paintings, mirror wall with old scripts. The paintings of Sigiriya originated in the 5th century AD. The paintings are still in very good shape.
The historical city of Polonnaruwa is the 2nd most important historical city in Sri Lanka. Many kings ruled the island from Polonnaruwa and 3 Buddhist kings namely Vijayabahu, Parakramabahu and Nissankamalla are the most important rules who rule the country from Polonnaruwa. Today Polonnaruwa houses a large number of temples, palaces, parks, hospitals and many other buildings of historical importance.
SAFARI AT MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK (optional)
Minneriya national park safari is an optional activity and can be included to your Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour. The Minneriya safari lasts around 2 hours and you will be able to spot a large number such as wild elephants, deer, monkeys, crocodiles, wild buffaloes.
Minneriya national park is most popular to spot wild elephants and there is a chance of spotting large herds of wild elephants here. A large number of the wild elephant gathering is sighted in the grasslands of the park near the Minneriya tank. The herd of wild elephants exceeds several hundred in some instances.
Overnight stay Hotel in Habarana / Sigiriya
DAY 3: cultural triangle tour itinerary Sri Lanka
SIGIRIYA / KANDY / COLOMBO
What do we see on the 2nd day of Sri Lanka cultural triangle trip- Dambulla cave temple, Spice garden, tooth relic temple of Kandy, cultural show.
After breakfast leave for Kandy en-route visit spice garden and Dambulla cave temple.
DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE
Dambulla golden cave temple is another important historical site with religious importance. the temple is dating back to 1st century BC. The temple believed to have provided refuge to the King Walagambahu in the 1st century BC during a south Indian invasion. Later the King had built the temple after regaining his kingship. Today it is a Unesco world heritage site and harbours more than 100 statues. The ceiling and wall paintings of the temple cover more than 2100 square feet.
Spices is a very important commodity for the island for many centuries, even today spices help the island to earn a large amount of hard currency. The village of Matale holds the reputation as the centre of the spice trade. You will encounter many spice gardens here and you are able to visit one of them and learn about the local spices.
KANDY TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH
The temple of the tooth relic also an important world heritage site in Sri Lanka and houses the tooth relic of Buddha. The temple rises next to the Kandy lake and near the modern part of Kandy city. The temple is visited by thousands of foreign as well as local travellers every day.
Visit Temple of Tooth Relic in Kandy, p.m. enjoy a typical Sri Lankan Cultural Show of Drumming Dancing music and fire walking.
Overnight stay in Kandy
DAY 4: Sri Lanka cultural triangle itinerary
KANDY / COLOMBO
Places to visit on last day of Cultural triangle tour are Pinnawal elephant orphanage and Colombo
After the breakfast leave for Colombo, en-route Colombo sightseeing tour.
Ready to take a trip with Seerendipity tours and visit historical places in Sri Lanka?
Seerendipity tour is a fully locally owned travel company with the head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka. When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, it means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see. Our staff make a personalized program for you, which you can change until you find the best package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration; all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write us on email@example.com