The 13 best places to visit in Sri Lanka

 

Built in 1909 in the capital city, Colombo, is the Jami Ul-Afar Mosque, sometimes known as the red Mosque. As one of the oldest mosques in the capital, the distinctive red and white building was at one time the major visible landmark for visitors to the port.

13. Jami Ul-Afar Mosque

 

In the centre of the country directly east of the capital, Colombo, is a mountain known as Ella Rock, noted to be one of the finest treks in the Sri Lanka. Ignore the locals telling you that you're going to get lost and die, or fall and die or just instantly drop dead for no reason, and enjoy the four hour round trip to one of the best views in the country. The peak of Ella Rock stands at a height of 1,319 metres (4,329 ft) above sea level.

12. Ella Rock

 

In the south east of the country, hugging the Indian Ocean, made up of the Kudumbigala Sanctuary, the Kumana National Park and the Yala Strict Nature Reserve is the 234 square kilometre (90 square mile) Lunuagamvehera National Park, the largest in Sri Lanka. Situated within the countries dry zone the park is prone to severe drought as well as the torrent of the monsoons. Visitors will have the chance to see an abundance of wildlife with the most prevalent being the Sri Lanka elephant.

11. Lunugamvehera National Park

 

Completed in 1921 in the centre of the country directly east of the capital, Colombo, a stone's throw from Ella Rock is the Nine Arch Bridge, sometimes called the Bridge In The Sky. Built by the British when Ceylon was a colony of the Empire, it remains one of the most iconic bridges in Sri Lanka.

10. Nine Arch Bridge

 

In the almost exact centre of the country just east of Kandy is the Knuckles Mountain Range, though it's known by Sri Lankan's as the Dumbara Kanduvetiya, meaning Mist Laden Mountain Range. This forested landscape of steep hills, high craggy mountains, cloud forests and lakes has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Knuckles Mountain Range

 

In the centre of the country directly east of the capital, Colombo, is a protected area in the central highlands known as the Horton Plains National Park. Situated at an elevation above 2,000 metres (6,561 ft) above sea level the park holds two of the three highest peaks in the country. With some of the greatest natural landscape and richest biodiversity in Sri Lanka, Horton Plains National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the 1,200 metre (4,000 ft) sheer cliff known as World's End. 

8. Horton Plains National Park

 

In the north of the country is the ancient capital of Anuradhapura, famous for a myriad of well preserved ruins. Considered sacred to Buddhists, the city is one of the oldest continuously inhabited in the world, surrounded by monasteries covering an area of some 40 square kilometres (16 square miles). Today the entire city along with all it's treasures has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa. Built around 140 BC, it stands at a height of 103 metres (338 ft) with a circumference of 290 metres (951 ft) making it one of the tallest monuments in the world.

7. Anuradhapura

 

In the centre of the country, almost directly east of the capital, Colombo, surrounded by hills in the Kandy platuea is the last capital of the ancient kings, the city of Kandy. Today it is one of the major hubs for international tourists with notable landmarks that include the Royal Palace and the 16th century Temple Of The Sacred Tooth, supposedly housing a relic of the tooth of Buddha, making it one of the most sacred places in Buddhism. The entire city of Kandy has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Kandy

 

Directly south of the capital, Colombo, on the southern coast is the city of Galle, which just like Kandy has become a major thoroughfare for international tourists. Considered to be the best example of a Portuguese  built fortified city in South East Asia, the Galle Fort itself also holds the title of being the largest fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. With it's European architecture combined with traditional influences hugging the Indian Ocean, Galle has become a favourite among travellers. The entire city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5. Galle

 

In the northern centre of the country directly north of Kandy is the Dambulla Cave Temple, dating back to the third century BC it is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Spread among five caves are paintings, stupas, 153 Buddha statues, as well as statues of Sri Lankan kings and gods and goddesses, the largest Buddha statue totalling 15 metres in length. The Dambulla Cave Temple has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Dambulla Cave Temple

 

In the northern centre of the country, east of the Dambulla Cave Temple is what remains of the ancient royal city of Polonnaruwu, the former capital during the 11th century. Today the ancient city is a cross between a tourist friendly archaeological site and open air museum with largely ruined building structures, statues and decorative stone carvings. Such is the importance of this historical site the entire Ancient City of Polonnaruwu has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured are the standing and reclining Buddha's of Gal Vihara.

3. Polonnaruwa

 

Directly east of the capital, Colombo, is a 2,243 metre (7,359 ft) high mountain known as Adam's Peak. Near it's peak lies the Sri Pada, translated as sacred footprint, a rock formation that depending on your religious tradition is sacred for different reasons. The Hindu's believe it is the footprint of Shiva, where as the Buddhists believe it is the footprint of Buddha and the Christians and Muslims believe it to be that of Adam. Whatever it might be, the trails leading to the peak are considered one of the best treks in the country, as is the view from the top.

2. Adam's Peak

 

In the northern centre of the country close to the city of Dambulla is an enormous 200 metre (660 ft) tall column of rock, probably the most iconic structure in Sri Lanka. Atop the flat plateau are the archaeological remains of an ancient palace complete with a symmetrical hydraulic system that would have been revolutionary for it's time. Covered in unique frescoes and elaborate stone carvings Sigiriya is undoubtedly the single must see site in Sri Lanka, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site of huge importance.

1. Sigiriya

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