Reconnect with the history and cultural legacy of the Sinhalese at these alternative archaeological sites in a culture trip Colombo.
One important aspect of travel is connection: with the people, with our planet, and with our history, culture and spirit. All too often, in this tech-savvy modern world, short holiday trips and all-inclusive resorts, we lose sight of the connections that once made travelling great.
One of the best ways of connecting with the history and culture of Sri Lanka is venturing on a trip to Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, a string of Buddhist temples, Dagobas, stupas, palaces, man-made ancient lakes, forts and many other ancient structures are just a day-trip away from Colombo, Kandy and 140+ beach resorts on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The travellers can connect with the spirit and pathos of the people living in the past with an intimacy and immediacy that is lost in the bigger and more-trafficked ancient sites in the cultural triangle sites, like Sigiriya rock fortress.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage
To start your adventure, head north-east from Colombo airport, via Kurunegala, where you hit the first of the two foster homes for orphan baby elephants in Sri Lanka. This is a hilly coconut land bordering paddy field, the elephants at the orphanage have easy access to the nearby Maha Oya River, which is the main bathing spot for elephants.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage is not an archaeological site, but travellers love it and it gives you the best opportunity to encounter with hundreds of jumbos. Due to its popularity, Pinnawal elephant orphanage is part of most Sri Lanka trips such as Sri Lanka 5 days trip and Sri Lanka 7 days Classical tour.
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Dambulla cave temple
Dambulla golden temple sits next in the row, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island and attracts a large number of travellers every day. You are already roaming in the region, which was flourished under the Sri Lankan kings and which had been the centre of ancient Sinhalese culture for many thousand years ago. In this historical temple, you can marvel at a broad collection of some 150 statues that are mainly dedicated to Buddhism.
The temple is located in Dambulla, which is a rolling scrubland surrounded by lush tropical forests, rice paddies, lakes and crumbling historical monuments. Dambulla golden temple is a UNESCO world heritage site, which showcases more than 150 Buddha statues, and god figures and a statue of a Sri Lankan King. The temple is consisting of 5 Granite caves and they are hiding the inner wall and the ceiling of the caves with beautiful paintings.
Culture trip Colombo visiting Ibbankatuwa Megalithic tomb
Next up on Sri Lanka your trip is a small site but with highly important in terms of historical value. The Ibbankatuwa Megalithic tomb is located just a few kilometres from Dambulla golden temple, however, it is not mentioned in most Sri Lank trips, especially it has no room if you are venturing on a short trip like Sri Lanka one day trip, or Sri Lanka 2 days trip.
The burial ground dates back to many thousands of years and burial ground belonged to the ancient human habitat located near the burial ground. With a dozen of excavated tombs, this place is impressive for its size alone. Continue to Ibbankatuwa burial ground, where you will discover stone slabs places on 4 sides to make a rectangular shaped box, while the roof is also covered with a flat granite stone slab. Inside the tomb are many clay pots with ashes of the cremated people, food, and clothes as well as ornaments, which belonged to the diseased people.
Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for Sri Lankan birds like common myna, White-throated kingfisher, Greater Coucal, Pale-billed flowerpecker as well as monitors, mungo and other wildlife. The Sri Lanka cultural triangle has a lovely environment with a large number of patches of forests, and stopping to chat about the local flora and fauna is always a welcome break.
Culture trip Colombo visiting Pidurangala temple
Yet another important tourist site in the cultural triangle with more than 1500 years of history. The temple hides a large number of Buddha statues and paintings and still serving the devotees as a place of worship.
Exploring Sigiriya rock fortress on the culture trip Colombo
To finish the culture trip of Colombo, head to the iconic tourist site of Sigiriya rock fortress. By far Sigiriya is the most impressive historical site in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and visited by a large number of travellers every day. It has an impressive collection of granite caves, ancient construction such as fountains, swimming pools, stone statues, Sigiriya paintings and many other ancient structures dating back to 5th century AD.
The impressive fortress is surrounded by walls and a water ditch providing maximum security for the king and his retinue. The core of the fortress is the monolithic granite rock that stands in the middle of the site. The rock rises about 300 meters from the surrounding area and King had lived on top of the rock. Even today the visitors can witness the remnant of the king’s palace, his throne, swimming pool, guardrooms and many other unrecognized ancient structures. The travellers need to climb the rock to see and feel the best of Sigiriya rock fortress. The 360° view from the top of the rock will make an everlasting picture in your mind.
This is the biggest tourist site you visit on this Sri Lanka trip, which spreads over many hectares and comes with a large number of interesting activities for travellers. Average traveller spends about 2 hours at this site, however, the time you spend for rock climbing largely differs depending on your physical fitness.
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Getting there and back
While many travellers venture on this trip with an organized package from Colombo and other major tourist resorts, with help of an operator like Seerendipity tours, adventurous spirits can rent a car to check out the sites at their own pace. Sri Lanka is a country, where English is widely spoken, and the basic understanding of English is a very handy tool for those who decide to go it alone. So far, we have covered only a part of the Sri Lanka cultural triangle, if you have time for another day or two, you are in a position to explore some more interesting places in the cultural triangle.
For those deciding to stay the night in the cultural triangle, a hotel in Sigiriya or Habarana is the best choice as it gives easy to access all major tourist places within the cultural triangle. If you plan the 2 days cultural triangle trip or three-day Sri Lanka trip to explore cultural triangle, on your way back from the triangle, extend your trip with a visit to Kandy tourist places like Peradeniya garden and tooth relic temple.
Sri Lanka 1 day trip to see the major tourist places in the cultural triangle
A fantastic way to reconnect with the history and culture of Sri Lanka is along with the cultural triangle, a string of four well preserved archaeological sites are just one day away from Colombo. This is a perfect opportunity to connect with the spirit and pathos of Sinhalese people. With intimacy and immediacy that is lost in the bigger and more-trafficked Sri Lankan ancient sites of the cultural triangle like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy.