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Sri Lanka Destinations

The beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka is an ideal holiday destination for all kinds of travelers. Whether you want to trek through rainforest, climb a mountain or loll on a beautiful beach; Sri Lanka has it all. This picturesque island country is what inspires poets to pen down nature’s miraculous beauty in the most expressive way. The country is home to an incredible range of wildlife, including leopards, elephants and hundreds of birds. Sri Lanka is a place to restore hope, and rejuvenate self. It touches your soul and takes you a step closer to nature. Some of the popular destinations and places to visit in Sri Lanka are –

Arankele Forest Monastery
Arankele Forest Monastery in Sri Lanka is a haven of peace and quietude. Attracting locals and tourists alike, the monastery offers a refreshing and relaxing experience. Arankele Monastery was a 6th century cave hermitage situated up a forested hillside. Listed as one of the premier forest hermitages in Sri Lanka, the name ‘Arankele’ exaggerates about a hermitage where Arahants resided. It used to be the austere abode of a sect of recluse monks, who were attracted to the site for its isolation. Today, the place is a popular archaeological site containing the ruins of the ancient forest monastery.

Sri Lanka’s bustling commercial hub, Colombo is a surreal mix of old and new. This port city with its rich colonial heritage boasts of colourful street markets, colonial-era buildings, museums and galleries, churches, mosques and temples. The capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo has emerged as a must visit stop. The city is a magical mix of races, religions and cultures and draws a beautiful contrast with its mansions, gardens, malls etc.

Dambulla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fascinating town near Colombo. Every corner of Dambulla oozes spirituality with its gorgeous cave temples. Despite its slightly commercial air, Dambulla remains an important holy place. It will be wrong to assume that Dambulla is all about temples; the city carries with it a rich cultural history, from Portuguese to Dutch period.

Gal Oya National Park
Established in the year 1954, Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka is rich in flora and fauna. The most prominent attraction of the Gal Oya National Park is its elephant herd. Three important herbs of the Ayurveda medicine, triphala: Terminalia Chebula, Terminalia Bellirica and Emblica Officinalis are among the notable flora of the Park. Situated 314 fm away from Colombo, the National Park has about 32 species of mammals including Common Langur, endemic Toque macaque, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Elephant, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo and 3 species of deer.

Jaffna is the northernmost city in the tropical island of Sri Lanka located about 400 km north of Colombo and about 35 km from mainland India. Being a peninsula, the city of Jaffna stands as Sri Lanka’s 12th largest city.

Kaudulla National Park
One of the eminent national parks of Sri Lanka, the Kaudulla National Park is home to countless number of wild animals, aquatic animals, and exotic birds. Spread over a massive 6656 hectares, the place was declared as a National Park in the year 2002. The National Park is home to more than 200 elephants, different species of monkeys, crocodiles and also a handful of leopards. Surrounded by grasslands, the National Park can be visited year-round to see elephants and other great wildlife. Historically Kaudulla was one of the 16 irrigation tanks built by King Mahasen. Following a period of abandonment it was reconstructed in 1959.

Referred by many as the “cradle of Buddhism” in Sri Lanka, Mihintale is located 11 km east of the sacred city of Anuradhapura. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa. This was the moment that initiated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Each year a great festival, the Poson Poya, is held at Mihintale on the Poson full-moon night (usually in June) to commemorate the conversion of Devanampiya Tissa. Now a pilgrimage site, Mihintale has several religious monuments and abandoned structures.

Nuwara Eliya
Charmingly called “Little England”, Nuwara Eliya is only a few hours from Colombo. This place is completely different from the rest of Sri Lanka, and serves as the perfect spot to relax. A quiet place with breathtaking sceneries, Nuwara Eliya with its picturesque landscape and temperate climate makes for a perfect escape. The place has a vague British country village feel to it; with its colonial era bungalows, Tudor style hotels, and well tended hedgegrows and pretty gardens.

One of the most splendid cities in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is the second largest city in North Central Province. Polonnaruwa was once the capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th and 12th centuries. The true traditional essence of Sri Lankan culture can be experienced with the small towns and villages of Sri Lanka, and Polonnaruwa is one such place. One of the cleaner and most beautiful cities of this island country, Polonnaruwa has been declared as the World Heritage Site. To visit Sri Lanka and not explore the fertile land of Polonnaruwa would be a huge waste.

Situlpawwa is a pilgrim village situated inside Yala National Park. From historical sites to cultural attractions, there are a number of exciting things to do in Situlpawwa. Although situated within the National Park, the place is accessible without actually needing to enter the park itself. A visit to this small village lets you explore the exhaustive list of all the local attractions. Situlpawwa is famed as a place where thousands of Arhaths lived once. If legends are to be believed, a novice monk called Thissa lived here. Later a stupa was built encasing his remains. Therefore, this place has also been known as Tissa Thera Chetiya.

Udawalawe National Park
Udawalawe National Park is one impressive destination in Sri Lanka to explore elephants. Established in the year 1972 with the intention of safeguarding a reservoir, Udawalawe is one of Sri Lanka’s more understated national parks. Located 180 km from Colombo in South-Central sector of the island, it is the sixth largest animal sanctuary of Sri Lanka. The park is home to a good number of elephants, with one of the highest concentrations in the country, including some young elephants released from the Transit Home. Besides elephant, other mammal species in the park include sambar, chital and wild boar.

Veddas in Dabana
Native to Sri Lanka, Veddas alias Wanniyala Aetto as they call themselves are a small community descending from the island’s original inhabitants of the Neolithic era dating from at least 16,000BC.This indigenous community is very distinctive in terms of their cultural identity, indigenous language, traditional lifestyle and livelihood. The Veddas who live a simplest life are divided into three regional group’s viz. the Bintenne Veddas, the Anuradhapura Veddas, and the Coast Veddas. According to region, they have some differences especially in terms of the languages and religion.

Wilpattu National Park
The largest National Park of Sri Lanka, Wilpattu National Park spans over an area of 130,000 hectares. An interesting feature of the National Park is that the entire park is dotted with large sand rimmed natural lakes known as “Villus”. The name Wilpattu comes from the words Willu-Pattu meaning the Land of the Lakes. The National Park has been named so due to the large number of lakes and tanks found in the park. One of the oldest national parks of Sri Lanka, the park has been reopened after several years of closure, reason being the armed conflict in the country. The Wilpattu National Park was designated an animal sanctuary in 1905, and was declared a National Park in 1938.

Adam's Peak or Sri Pada
The tall conical mountain of central Sri Lanka is also known as Butterfly Mountain and Sri Pada or sacred footprint. It is basically a 1.8 m rock formation, which has many legends of almost every religion attached to it. Hindu’s say it is the footprint of Lord Shiva; Buddhists believe that it is Lord Buddha, Christians say it was St. Thomas and Muslims believe, it was Adam.

A monastic city of highest order, Anuradhapura, since prehistoric times has been a popular destination for spirituality. The land has been home to monasteries and their resident monks, who spent their lives meditating for the attainment of enlightenment. This is the reason; this city of Sri Lanka has touched the pinnacles of architecture and spirituality, which is applauded by the whole world.

Elephant Transit Home
A centre for rehabilitation of orphaned wild elephants has been established at Udawalawe National Park by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Increase of the country’s population, large scale irrigation and agricultural projects have fragmented the former habitat of elephants resulting elephant mortality and decrease of population. Despite the mitigation measures to control human elephant conflict considerable number of elephant claves was recorded as orphans.

One of the best tourism sites to travel; Ella has developed a lot and has been a major draw because of the Ella Rock, in the Ella town. The Rock is popular for its natural beauty, tea plantations, hiking activities, train tracks, and scintillating waterfalls. Those who are looking for small adventure travelcan explore the area on foot by hiking, walking and enjoying the nature around.  The easiest route to Ella rock is from the train rail track. It is a 2-hour steep hike from bottom to top. This effort blesses one with beautiful view of mountain ranges and the valley below. It is also a great achievement to climb up the highest peak of the Ella area.

Horton Plains
Cold and breezy destination in Sri Lanka, Horton Plains boasts of an array of ecosystems that has made it a popular tourist spot. Sprawling over 3,169 hectares, the place is full of evergreen forests, swampy lands, acres of rough grassland and aquatic ecosystem. A climb till 2,100 meters above sea level, will introduce you to a huge number of endemic flora and fauna species. Horton Plains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 30th July 2010, is a popular tourist attraction; that is surely not to be missed.

Arguably one of the most beautiful cities of Sri Lanka, Kandy is largely visited for its scenic beauty and rich culture. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it attracts people with tourist attractions like the Old Royal Palace and the famous Temple of Tooth. Other holy placed here are Gadaladeniya Temple and the Lankathilake Temple.  Nature lovers can opt for Royal Botanical Garden that is home to many tropical types of foliage. Surprisingly, this garden area used to be the regional headquarters during the World War II. Architecture buffs can marvel at the wooden carvings of Embekke Temples. Here, the wood is carved in shape of birds, wrestling, musicians, dancers and various birds and animals.

One of the most revered pilgrimage towns of Sri Lanka; Kataragama is where Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Veddah come for spiritual solace. Known for its natural beauty, the place is full of shrines and stupas that belong to the 1st Century BC.

Kumana National Park
Towards the southeast of Sri Lanka, Kumana is an ornithologist’s paradise. It sits on an area of 18,149 hectare as a bird sanctuary, home to a vast number of winged creatures. One of the main attractions of this park is the 'Kumana Villu' - which is a swamp lake, around 200 hectare. It is a mangrove swamp that serves as a resting place for many water birds specially during May and June. Bird watchers can catch a regular glimpse of rare black-necked stork, spoonbills, pelicans, painted storks, herons, egrets, white ibis and the little cormorants. Apart from birds, the National Park also has a considerable amount of Leopards and Elephants.

Minneriya National Park
A national park since 12th August 1997, the National Park protects the catchment of Minneriya Tank and also the wild inhabitants of the nearby. The tank was built by King Mahasen in 3rd century AD. It serves as the feeding ground for the elephants, especially during the dry summer season. During this congregation, one can witness elephants from the forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts. Apart from elephants, the park is a habitat for Sloth deer, purple-faced langur and toque macaque; alongwith sambar deer and Sri Lankan axis deer. The national park comprises of wetlands, low-canopy montane forests, intermediate high-canopy secondary forests, abandoned chena or shifting cultivation, grasslands, rocky outcrops and scrublands.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Towards the northwest Kegalle, is an Elephant Orphanage, which is home to orphaned elephants since 1975. It is a 25 acre coconut property managed by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department adjoining the Maha Oya River. The orphanage was built to protect and nurture the elephants found orphaned in the jungle. Here, they are fed, bathed and given medical treatment to raise as a healthy elephant. In 1978, the orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife. Since its inception, till date, the orphanage is home to around 60 elephants.

RatnapuraOne of the biggest cities of Sri Lanka, Ratnapura has attained international fame as a gem trading center.  Coined from ‘Ratna’ or gems and ‘pura’ or town, the place is full of scenic spots and scintillating waterfalls that attract people from all over the world. The history of the city goes 2000 years back when the Buddhist monks from Bodh Gaya, Varanasi and Patali Putra arrived here. They not only brought Buddhism to this place but also contributed to its development. The city then established itself as a stone mining centre and started exporting gemstones like Ruby, Sapphire and other such gems. Ratnapura also has some large plantation of tea, rubber, rice and fruits which interest the tourists who come here.

SigiriyaAlso known as Sinhagiri or Lion Rock, this massive fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It served as King Kashyapa’s capital between 477 – 495 CE. Historically and archaeologically significant site, Sigiriya attracts throngs of history buffs who reach here after a drive of 3 hours from Colombo to Negombo.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve Sinharaja or Lion King is a beautiful treasure trove of wild and nature. Comprising of three district islands, Galle, Matara and Ratnapura; it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Park is home to leopards, sambar, wild boar and barking deer. Other residents here are giant squirrels, purple-faced lagur, spotting cats and fishing cats. The park in totality has more than 45 species of reptiles, 21 of which are endemic; also 160 species of birds. One will also come across some of the deadliest snakes such as the green pit viper (which inhabits trees), the hump-nosed viper and the krait. The best time to visit January to March; August and September.

Yala National Park A wildlife sanctuary since 1900, Yala is a perfect combination of a nature reserve and a national park. Sprawling over an area of 130,000 hectares, it is divided into 5 blocks. Each one comprises of light forests grasslands, scrubs, lagoons and tanks. A hunting ground for the British, during the Raj, today it is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species. Here, one will find Leopards, Elephants, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Jackals, Spotted Deer, Peacocks and Crocodiles.

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