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SEVEN Wonders of SriLanka: Must-See UNESCO Sites & Natural Wonders

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Sri Lanka has a phenomenal density of UNESCO sites and natural wonders. Who would have thought that such a tiny island would have so much for us to gawp at?

Whether you are interested in wildlife or history, there will be something incredible for you to see in Sri Lanka. So, allow yourself to be transported back in time and be prepared to see nature like you’ve never seen it before. Chances are you won’t be able to see everything Sri Lanka has to offer on your holiday but you should definitely tick off a few.

1. Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Poḷonnaruwa (Sinhala: පොළොන්නරුව, romanized: Poḷonnaruva; Tamil: பொலன்னறுவ, romanized: Polaṉṉaṟuvai) is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Kaduruwela area is the Polonnaruwa New Town and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains as the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first established by the Chola dynasty as their capital in the 10th century. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site.[1]Currently the new Polonnaruwa is undergoing a major development project known as the “Awakening of Polonnaruwa” under the concept of President Maithripala Sirisena. It envisions the development of all sectors in Polonnaruwa including roads, electricity, agriculture, education, health and environment will be developed comprehensively.[2]

References:

  1. ^ “Ancient City of Polonnaruwa”World Heritage Convention, UNESCO. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  2. ^ “President commences “Pibidemu Polonnaruwa” – The official website of the President of Sri Lanka”www.president.gov.lk. Retrieved 2015-11-16.

2. Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock Sinhala: සීගිරිය, Tamil: சிகிரியா, pronounced see-gi-ri-yə) is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high.According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure — Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock (an etymology similar to Sinhapura, the Sanskrit name of Singapore, the Lion City).The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.[1] Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.[2]

References:

  1. Jump up to:a b Ponnamperuma, Senani (2013). The Story of Sigiriya. Panique Pty Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9873451-1-0.
  2. Jump up to:a b Bandaranayake, Senake; Aramudala, Madhyama Saṃskr̥tika (2005). Sigiriya: City, Palace, Gardens, Monasteries, Painting. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN 978-955-631-146-4.

3. Ruins of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura (Sinhala: අනුරාධපුරය, romanized: Anurādhapuraya; Tamil: அனுராதபுரம், romanized: Aṉurātapuram) is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.The city, now a World Heritage site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km (127 mi) north of the current capital of Colombo in the North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu River. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.

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4. Old Town of Galle

Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions.

5. Sacred City of Kandy & Temple of the Tooth

Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple.Bhikkhus of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.The temple sustained damage from bombings by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1989 and by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1998 but was fully restored each time.[1]

References:

6. Dambulla Temple

Dambulla cave temple (Sinhalese: Dam̆būlū Len Vihāraya, Tamil Tampuḷḷai Poṟkōvil) also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site (1991) in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country.[1] This site is situated 148 kilometres (92 mi) east of Colombo , 72 kilometres (45 mi) north of Kandy and 43 km (27 mi) north of MataleDambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and the Ganesha. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square metres (23,000 sq ft). Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha’s first sermon.Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibbankatuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes.

7. Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a forest reserve and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sinharaja is the country’s last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare.The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. The reserve’s name translates as Lion Kingdom.The reserve is only 21 km (13 mi) from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km (4.3 mi) from north to south, but it is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. There are about 3 elephants, and 15 or so[vague] leopards. The most common larger mammal is the endemic purple-faced langur.Birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless Sri Lanka Crested Drongo and the noisy orange-billed babbler. Of Sri Lanka’s 26 endemic birds, the 20 rainforest species all occur here, including the elusive red-faced malkoha, green-billed coucal and Sri Lanka blue magpie.Reptiles include the endemic green pit viper and hump-nosed vipers, and there are a large variety of amphibians, especially tree frogs. Invertebrates include the endemic common birdwing, butterfly and leeches.

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