Founded in the fifth century BC, Anuradhapura was the capital of the island for 1,400 years. Under the patronage of three major Buddhist monasteries, she grew up around huge reliquary buildings, the dagobas, built in memory of the Buddha. Their large brick domes are the object of devotion of Buddhists from around the world: Thuparama, ancestor of all the dagobas of the island, pristine Ruvanveliseya, most revered, and two giant dagobas, the Jetavanarama and Abhayagiriya are still being restored. The holy city of Anuradhapura is also the custodian of the Bo tree, a wonderful banyan tree grown from a cutting from the tree under which the Buddha experienced enlightenment and brought to the island by an Indian princess in the third century BC. See the Samadhi Buddha statue with a serene face carved in the fourth century. A city of the past, the royal capital has kept much of its treasures: The Ran Masu Uyana royal gardens, the delicately carved half moon stone threshold of the Mahasena Palace, the sculptures of Ratna Prasada or rock temple Isurumuniya. Anuradhapura was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
Aukena is 58 km southeast of Anuradhapura and 54 km from Minintale, near the Lake Kalawewa. The site is famous for its colossal statue of a blessing Buddha dating to the fifth century BC, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and also one of the best preserved. It is carved directly into the rock, 15 meters high making it one of the largest in the world. The beauty of the face and folds of the tunic borders on perfection. It is called the " sun eater " because it faces the rising sun.
Continue the visit by the Dutch Church Wolfendhal, the courts of Hulfsdorp and the residential area of Cinnamon Gardens. Then, towards the Independence Square, the Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall (International Conference Centre Bandaranayake Memorial) and the National Museum.
Take a tour of Colombo passing through the commercial area of the "Fort", so named because the Portuguese and the Dutch had constructed a fort. Visit "Pettah", the noisy Oriental bazaar with a mixture of humanity, ancient vehicles, bargains, mosques and temples. Visit a Hindu and Buddhist temple and the Jumi Ul Alfar Jumma Mosque.
Also listed by UNESCO since 1991, The Golden Temple of Dambulla is a cave monastery. The five cave sanctuaries are fully decorated with Buddhist murals, carried out in the eighteenth century. The shimmering composition of vermilion and ochre covers approximately 2,100 m2.
This site made history when King Abhaya Vattagamini was chased from Anuradhapura by armed Tamouls in the first century BC. The king took refuge in Dambulla and was greeted by a poor hermit who taught him how to survive. After recovering his throne, he transformed the caves into richly decorate temples which he donated to the Buddhist community. The caves are carved into a granite rock 160 meters high, topped by a terrace with a beautiful view of the surroundings.
Having come trade in spices on the island, the European traders, in turn, left a legacy, the most remarkable of which is Galle, a beautiful natural harbor at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The fortifications and houses built by the Dutch in the seventeenth century are still intact. UNESCO has classified the entire complex, considered the largest preserved Dutch fortress in the world. Galle has miraculously preserved all the buildings constructed during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Walk along the bastions of gray granite, which overlook the sea and enclose a European city dating back to the time of the spice route. The former officers' quarters of the Dutch garrison, converted into a colonial palace, the Oriental hotel built in 1885, is partly converted into a museum, retracing the daily lives of the people of that era. The church Groote Kerk, of simple architecture, is the only witness to the attempt to impose reform on the island along with the Wolfendahl, an imposing building constructed in Colombo in 1749. Outside the bastions, the Closenberg Hotel is an enchanting residence, built by a British captain on the location of the Klosenburg, an abandoned Dutch fort. Its terraced garden overlooks the bay and a fishing village.
At the gates of the mountainous region, Kandy was the last capital of the kingdom, which, in the 16th Century, welcomed the famous Tooth Relic of Buddha in a temple of understated elegance, the Dalada Maligawa. Along with the Devala shrines of four guardian gods of the relic, the sacred group has been inscribed by Unesco as a World Heritage in 1988. In the beautiful surrounding countryside, there are dozens of religious archaeological foundations. The Kataragama Devale comprises a forest of exquisitely carved wooden columns. The Lankatilaka Viharaya overlooks rice fields from a rock of granite. Degaldoruwa is a chapel adorned with painting. Hidden under a block of granite, the Gadaladeniya Viharaya houses beautiful sculptures.
The hills of Mihintale, near Anuradhapura, hosted the first Buddhist mission to the island. In the third century BC, the king of Anuradhapura, Devanampiya Tissa, maintained the best relations with the emperor Ashoka. The Indian ruler had not only converted to the doctrine of Buddha, but had begun to promote it around the world. By a warm evening in May 250, a mission led by his own son Mahinda Thera, reached the shores of Sri Lanka. The mission arrived at Mihintale, where Mahinda Devanampiya Tissa converted to Buddhism in the shade of a mango tree. For seven days, he preached at Anuradhapura, before a growing. The king donated the park south of the palace to the Buddhist community. Thus was born the Mahavihara, the first Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens are 6 km from Kandy. Before the arrival of the British, it was a royal park. Today it is the largest botanical garden in Sri Lanka, covering 145 acres and planted in a loop of the river Mahaweli Ganga. It contains, among other plants, a superb collection of orchids and a beautiful avenue of palm trees planted in 1950. One of the main attractions is the huge Java fig tree, which is planted in a large lawn area of 1600 m2. The park contains beautiful vegetation, including: cannonball trees (Couroupita guianensis), palm trees, sea coconut palms in which each fruit weighs 4 to 8 Kg, giant bamboo, rubber trees from Assam, and the sausage tree (Kigelia pinnata). In the spice garden grows nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, etc.
Polonnaruwa succeeded Anuradhapura in the role of capital in the tenth century. It remained the capital only for two centuries, but its archaeological remains extend for 15 km2 and are the heritage of UNESCO since 1982. In addition to the royal palace and its annexes several temples and monasteries were discovered. The huge Alahena Pirivena monastery complex covering approximately 200 acres, the four Buddha rock statues of Gal Vihara and Tivanka Pilimage along fragile mural paintings. Built on a monumental terrace devoted to the glory of the most precious relic of the Buddhist world, the Tooth of Buddha, now kept in the temple of Kandy, the vatadage and five other religious buildings make up a unique architectural group in the world.
50 km southeast of Anuradhapura, this monastic complex dating from the second century BC (that is, prior to Anuradhapura ), belongs to the Cultural Triangle and is located in a wildlife reserve. This gives the site, buried under vegetation, a special charm. A grand staircase bordering a stream passes through the forest to the ruins of ancient monasteries, including a large pool surrounded by terraces that belonged to a former hospice.
Perched 370 meters atop a huge granite rock overlooking a harmonious garden designed in the fifth century the Citadel of SIGIRIYA is classified by UNESCO since 1982. A large crevice in the rock retains beautiful Sri Lankan paintings : the portraits of twenty-one young women. The delicate colors have kept their hue since 1500 years. On the opposite, graffiti drawn between the sixth and thirteenth century, pay tribute to the grace of the women. The the palace of the summit is reached by climbing up a narrow staircase that winds between the giant legs of a lion.
Sinharaja Rain Forest Reserve
Located in the southwest of Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the last viable area of primary tropical rainforest in the country. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. Endemic fauna is numerous, including birds and 50% of mammals and butterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rare amphibians.