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Sri Lanka is an island of the Indian subcontinent, shaped like a teardrop falling from the southern end of India, situated between longitudes 79º 42'E and 81º 52'E and latitudes 5º 55'N and 9º 50'N. It is 433km long from north to south and only 224km at its widest. Its area of 65,610sq km is about the same size as Ireland. The Geographer Ptolemy called it 'Taprobanam'. It was the north Indian prince 'Vijaya' who first settle down in the island and established the Sinhalese kingdom in the 6th century BC, However the earliest recorded civilization dates back to 4thc. BC and many centuries after the island encountered with the traders and colonizers. The Greeks called it 'Taprobane', 'Serendib' by Arabs, the Portuguese- Seylao, the Dutch - Ceilon and Eventually to Ceylon by British until the independence of the country. Since then, the country's culture being enriched by a rich diversity and today with a population of nearly 21 million, the people of the country belong to different ethnicities and faiths. The Sinhalese are constitute about 74% of population who are Buddhists, Tamils are 18% of population mainly Hindus, Moors 7% of population who follow Islam, and sharply declining number about 1% of population are Burghers descended from the Portuguese ,Dutch and British ancestry who are Christians. Sinhala and Tamil are official languages in Sri Lanka but English widely spoken and understood, places names and sign boards are usually in all three languages.

Sri Lanka is considered one of the most bio-diverse areas in South Asia. According to the Recent scientific evidence indicates that, Sri Lanka has been one of the world's 25 different hotspots in biodiversity. Since it is a tropical country, there are distinct dry and wet seasons. There is two monsoon seasons. From May to September south-west monsoon brings rain to the south and west coast regions and the central highlands. The north-east monsoon season from December to February bringing rain to the north and east of island. What may strike you most about Sri Lanka is its amazing diversity of scenic sights, sounds and scents; possible to pass brilliant green paddy fields, tropical rain forests to arid scrub jungle; extravagant fauna and flora, wonderful sanctuaries for wild life; Plus over 1340 km of unspoiled sun bronzed beaches, ruined cities and hill country tea plantations literally within hours of each other.

EIGHT UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SRI LANKA

SACRED CITY OF ANURADHAPURA

 

declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1982. lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka It is the largest and oldest of all ancient capitals in Sri Lanka, has served as one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia with 113 kings, dating from 4th century BC to 11th Century AD. In late 10 century AD the city was fought over and abandoned when the capital was moved to Polonnaruwa. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, but was rediscovered in the 1820s by Ralph Backhaus a young British civil servant. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by well preserved stupas, monasteries, image houses, stone carvings or sculpture, pleasure gardens etc… covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²) and is one of the world's major archaeological sites.

The Sacred Bodhi- tree (fig tree) shrine has been carefully protected day and night. This is the sapling of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in 528 BC. It was brought from India in the 3rd century BC, making it the oldest historically attested tree on earth (over 2250 years). In the city there are other seven most sacred places to be visited, 

The 'Thuparama Dagoba'- the oldest stupa (dagoba) in the island 3 century BC, The 'LankaRama Dagoba' (1st century BC) - The ruins show that there are rows of stone pillars and it is no doubt that there has been a house built encircling the stupa (vatadage) to cover it. The 'Ruwanweli Seya'(2nd century BC) -At a circumference of 254 feet and a height of 180 feet, it is the third largest stupa of Sri Lanka. Built in replicating the shape of a bubble of water, The 'Jethavanarama Dagoba' (3rd century AD) - this stupa is the tallest brick building ever built by man (400 ft), Approximately 93.3 million baked bricks were used in its construction, and it was the third tallest structure in the ancient world behind the Great Pyramids of Giza.

The 'Abhayagiri Dagoba' (1st century BC) - it is believed to have stood around 350ft tall, however, today this main attraction of this site stands at 74 m (242ft) to the tip of the damaged spire. 'The Mirisawetiya Dagoba' (2nd century BC) - This Magnificent Structure is a must see for any visitor to the sacred city of Anuradhapura. The great king built the Mirisaveti Stupa after defeating the King "Elara" (south Indian king). After placing a sacred relic of Buddha in the sceptre, he had gone to 'Tisawewa' (tank) for a water festival leaving the sceptre. When he returned to the place where the sceptre was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved. Witnessing the miracle, the stupa was built in the place where the sceptre stood. 'The Brazen Palace' (2nd century BC) - It is also known as 'Lohaprasadaya' because the roof was covered with bronze tiles, described as an edifice of nine stories. Sadly, fifteen years after it was built, this superb work of architecture was destroyed by a fire. It was then rebuilt by the great king's brother, to seven floors. One side of the building was 400 ft (120 m) in length. There are 40 rows, each row consisting of 40 stone pillars, for a total of 1600 pillars.

Other places of interests in Anuradhapura-
• Isurumuniya rock temple- (3rd century BC) has some very fine rock carvings. One or two of these (including one of elephants playfully slpashing water) remain in their original place on the rock face beside a square pool. Best known of the sculpture in the 'lovers' which dates from around the 5th century AD


• Rathna Prasadaya- with the best preserved Guard Stones in the island.


• Kuttam Pokuna- the pair of pools known as Kuttam Pokuna. These ponds were built in 6th-8th century in Anuradhapura and built specifically as the bathing ponds for the monks.


• Samadhi Statue - is a statue situated at Mahamevuna Park in Anuradhapura, The Buddha is depicted in the position of the deep meditation posture associated with his first Enlightenment. Statue is 8 feet in height and carved from granite.

POLONNARUWA THE MEDIEVAL CAPITAL (11TH - 13TH CENTURY AD) 


Polonnaruwa lies 216 km northeast of Colombo, and 104kms southeast of Anuradhapura. It is a UNESCO world heritage site inscribed in 1982. It was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. There were three Kings dominate the annals of the city and the period. The Parakramabahu Samudra 'the Sea of Parakramabahu' (reservoir) created by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), the largest of its kind in ancient Sri Lanka. His reign was Polonnaruwa's golden age. Among the main tourist attractions at Polonnaruwa are preserved ruins of magnificent royal palaces, enormous Buddhist temples, large tanks, Image houses, intact monumental sculpture in colossal four Buddha statues ('Gal Vihara' carved from an immense granite rock) some of the best and even stand majestically today. 

ANCIENT CITY OF SIGIRIYA 


Sigiriya is only 169km from Colombo and 24 km north east of Dambulla, and one of the eight UNESCO world heritage sites (1982). Sigiriya or 'the Lion Mountain' rises over 180 metres (600ft) from the surrounding forest, and is one of Sri Lanka's major attractions also a popular tourist destination. This astonishing masterpiece was built by 'King Kasyapa' (477-495 A.D) Unique features of this royal city are pleasure gardens (which consist of water, boulder, terrace gardens) considered one of the oldest surviving gardens in Asia, and famous 5 century frescoes (paintings) of 'Heavenly Maidens' only 15 out of an estimated 500 pictures now remain, the 'mirror wall' constructed of brick and plaster and preserved in its original form with ancient graffiti, the Lion's Paw one of the most dramatic features at Sigiriya through which the final ascent to the summit. The summit encompasses an area of around 1.6 hectares, the remains of the foundations show that the summit would have been completely covered with buildings. 

GOLDEN TEMPLE OF DAMBULLA 


Dambulla was designated a World Heritage site in 1991 By UNESCO. The city of Dambulla is situated in the in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, situated 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. The area is thought to be inhabited from as early as the 3rd century BC. Major attractions are spread over five caves where the king was provided refuge by the meditating Buddhist monks in these caves for his protection from enemies in the 1st century BC. After 14 years regaining his Throne, the king had a magnificent rock temple built at Dambulla as a gratitude to the monks in Dambulla. The statues and paintings in these caves date back to the same Era, Which are related to the Buddha and his life. Inside the caves, the ceilings and walls are painted with intricate patterns and unevenly on the surface. These colorful murals cover an area of 2,100 m². But the paintings and statues were repaired and repainted in 11th, 12th, and 18th century AD. There are a total of 157 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of god and goddess.

SACRED CITY OF KANDY 


Kandy locates only 115km southeast of Colombo and is a city in the center of Sri Lanka surrounded by hills at an altitude of 500m above sea level covered with residential areas concealed by greenery. It was the last capital of the ancient kings' era of Sri Lanka. It was established in the 14th century and became the nation's capital in the 16th century, however several foreign invasions occurred by the Portuguese and the Dutch (16th, 17th and 18th century) and until the British troops entered in 1815. In the year 1988, the sacred city of Kandy was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO organization. the Royal Botanical gardens – cover 60 hectares contain over 4000 species of plants and home to one of the world's best collections of Orchids. The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), One of the holiest Buddhist shrines in the world which housed the sacred tooth relic of Buddha, and one of the most venerable places for the Buddhist community of Sri Lanka and all around the world. The world-famous Esala Perahera, a cultural pageant venerating the Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha, is a spectacular parade which goes on for ten nights between the months of July and August and features up to a hundred colorfully adorned elephants, along with the tusker which carries replica of the casket containing the tooth relic, highly skilled Kandyan dancers, flame dancers and traditional drummers.

OLD TOWN OF GALLE AND ITS FORTIFICATIONS 


The capital of Southern tip of the island 116km away from Colombo, is a quiet town with a long history. Galle was inscribed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. The town formed up around its harbour and the Dutch period Fort. Although the Portuguese landed in Galle to discover an important trading centre routes between East and West in 1505, captured and fortified into 90 acre fort surrounded by grassy ramparts by the Dutch in 1663. The walls defended by 14 bastions. After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796 used it as the administrative centre of Galle. Although they preserved the Fort unchanged they had few additions with new blockhouses, a gate put in between the Moon bastion and the Sun bastion, a lighthouse installed on the Utrecht bastion. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in south and south East Asia. Traces of well-preserved colonial architecture makes the town still looks very much European from the outside. 

SINHARAJA FOREST RESERVE 


Located in the south west of Sri Lanka Is a national park and a tropical wet evergreen forest, which was declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, also was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978. The reserve is only 21 km from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km from north to south and it has an an average temperature of 23.6C and an annual rainfall of more than 2500mm. The forest offers a huge diversity of species both flora and fauna with a large proportion of those being indigenous to the country with More than 60% of the trees are endemic. Many endemic and rainforest species occur here such as Jungle fowl (Gallus lafayetii ), the Spur fowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata), the Ceylon Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtonii), the Ceylon Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus), the Ceylon Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), the Red-faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus) and the Ceylon Blue Magpie (Urocissa ornate) are among others. Reptiles include the endemic Green pit viper and Hump-nosed vipers, and there are a large variety of amphibians, especially tree frogs.

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS OF SRI LANKA


situated in the central part of Sri Lanka. The site comprises of 'the Horton Plains' a National Park and a Nature Reserve, and 'the Knuckles Mountain Range' a Conservation Forest, inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010. These montane forests, where the elevation reaches 2,500m (8,200 ft) above sea level Horton Plains – designated a national park in 1988 and its plateau at an altitude of 2,130 metres (6,988 ft), region with an astonishing variety of scenery from misty mountains to montane grasslands. This park is a home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, mammal species such as the Bear Monkey (Purple-faced Langur), the Horton Plains Slender Loris and Sri Lankan Sambar Deer. The most prominent 'World's End' on the edge of the precipice here, you look down almost 1000m sheer drop and the beautiful "Bridal Veil" Bakers Falls.
Knuckles Mountain Range - lies in central Sri Lanka, north-east of the city of Kandy, and covers an area of about 90 Sq.Miles or 234 Sq.Km of land extent. The reason to call it Knuckles is because; there is a mountain with five peaks in itself, (ranging from 3000 ft – 6000 ft) that looks like the knuckles of a clenched fist when viewed from Kandy area. Rainfall annually varies from about 2540mm (100 inches) to 5080mm (200 inches), and holding a rich diversity of fauna and flora. The entire area is characterized by its striking landscapes and a series of isolated cloud forests, for those who love to hike or mountain bike, offering numerous mountainous trails that journey across clear rivers, past flowing waterfalls and lush tea plantations.

THE WORLD'S BEST BEACHES IN SRI LANKA 


since Lanka is a teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean, it is undisputable that it has coastline. Rather a fascinating coastline that stretch about 1,340 km long. Sri Lanka fringed with an encompassing golden beaches, which are the most beautiful in the world. It is the ideal holiday destination that blessed with all the ingredients for a perfect sun and sand holiday. The sea is fine for Swimming diving, sunbathing and just relaxing are some of the favorite pastimes or if you are keen on water sports such as Snorkeling, windsurfing, surfing, angling and sailing are just a few of major tourist attractions. Sharks are unheard in this part of the ocean. A large percentage of Sri Lankan hotels and resorts are located along the seacoast. Sri Lanka's best coastline extends from Negombo in the northwest passing miles and miles of beautiful beaches in the south west and south(Dec-April is recommended as the best time to visit) and to Trincomalee in the northeast(May to September best time to visit) of Sri Lanka. Some of which are;

NEGOMBO BEACH


A fishing town located 37 km north of Colombo and 6 km from island's main International Airport,as well as a paradise for the seafood buffets. Old world fishing craft like the outrigger canoe and the catamaran bring seer, skip jack, herring and mullet together with lobster and prawns are caught in the lagoon.

KALPITIYA BEACH


160 km North West of Colombo is a newest tourist destination. The beach stretched by sea on one side lagoon on the other. Fourteen unspoiled islands basking in the sun, presently it is an attraction for the Dolphin and Whale population.

MOUNT LAVINIA BEACH


Just 12 km south of Colombo. A favourite beach for the people in the suburbs and foreigners, to indulge in relaxation and enjoy the sea, The Mount Lavinia Hotel which was The Governor's House built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland. Large crowds gathered to participate in many beach sports activities such as swimming, wind surfing, beach volleyball, beach rugby, etc. Music by Live bands & Entertainment by DJs while enjoying your favourite dish. 

BERUWELA BEACH 


The place located 55 km from Colombo, is the starting point of 130 km long southern coast also a main fishing village. Stretch of transformed into a grand holiday resort with numerous luxury hotels for the holiday makers. The bay remains ideal for swimming almost throughout the year.

BENTOTA BEACH


located 62 km south of Colombo. The Bentota Resort Complex is a romantic rendezvous of river and sea with several hotels, Railway station, post office, shopping arcade. A tropical beach dotted with palm trees and blue waters popular place for wind surfing and water skiing.

HIKKADUWA BEACH


The place located in south of the country, 98 km from Colombo. Hikkaduwa is the place for the famous coral reef and the fascinating underwater world, hire a glass bottomed boat or goggles and flippers and explore the fantasies under your feet.

UNAWATUNA BEACH 


is a beautiful wide curving golden beach located125km from Colombo just south of Galle, said to be ranked amongst the twelve best beaches in the world. There is a reef protecting the beach, which makes it safe for bathing, snorkeling, Scuba Diving.

MIRISSA BEACH 


This small sandy tropical beach boasts about for some best and most stunning sunsets and sunrises in the island, Located close to the Southern tip of the Island 136 km from Colombo. About 95% of the beach is sandy and rock free ideal for snorkeling or surfing or just relax. Mirissa Beach one of the famous spots for Whales and Dolphins watching in December to April season.

TRINCOMALEE


located in the Eastern Province in Trincomalee district. Trincomalee or 'Trinco' is regarded as on of the world's largest natural harbours. Admiral Nelson called it in the 18 century 'the finest harbour in the world'. This sea town has the largest Dutch fortress of Sri Lanka has the oldest Hindu temple Tirukonesvaram Kovil in Sri Lanka. Traincomalee offers some of the best, unspoiled beaches in the East Coast of Sri Lanka: May to September is considered as the best time to visit east coast.

NILAVELI BEACH


distance of 271 km from Colombo, and 14 km from Trincomalee, Pigeon Island, a ten-minute boat ride from the Nilaveli beach, is an ideal place to skin/scuba dive, or to just have a sun bath. There is an old Portuguese/Dutch fort reminiscent of the Colonial era. This beach is one of the longest and widest beaches in Sri Lanka, is fairly shallow and easy for swimming. 

BATTICALOA


Batticaloa is situated 314 km from Colombo in the East Coast. Batticaloa is famous for its 'singing' fish and a great lagoon and beach with a fascinating culture of the east.

KALKUDAH BEACH AND PASEKUDAH BAY


Are two separate beaches situated 32 km north of Batticaloa of eastern province, 282 km from Colombo. Kalkudah is one of the finest beaches in the east coast and emerging as a popular tourist centre. Passekudah Bay is another wide beach 4 km. long just south of Kalkudah .The combined beaches of Kalkudah and Passekudah are ideal for bathing as the sea is clear, calm and reef-protected. It is a favorite among the nature lovers and for those looking for some exciting water sport activity

ARUGAMBAY 


The place located in south east of the country 314 km from Colombo. Arugam Bay is a fishing village and it has been identified as the best surfing beach in Sri Lanka and ranked one of the five best places in South East Asia for wind surfing. It also comes with the ten best surfing beaches in the world. The ISA (International Surfing Association) staged Arugam Bay's first international surfing competition in the summer of 2004, Pro Surfing competition held in 2010 and in 2011 ASP World Long board Championship. The best time of the year is between May and November. 

PINNAWELA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE


This Orphanage Is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, and 77 km from Colombo on the Colombo Kandy road. It is an orphanage and breeding ground for about 70 wild elephants, It was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property with just four baby elephants, was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found abandoned by their mothers in the jungle. The orphanage was taken over by the Department of National Zoological Gardens, and in 1982 captive breeding program was launched. More than twenty-three elephants have been born since 1984, and the orphanage has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. The orphanage is very popular among local and foreign tourists. The main attractions are to observe the bathing elephants from the broad river bank, bottle feeding of elephant calves, and feeding of all other elephants.

SRI LANKA NATIONAL PARKS


The Island most certainly is a paradise and a home for animal lovers who interested in a large variety of fauna or bird watching. According to wild life experts both local and foreign stating 'Sri Lanka is best for big safaris outside Africa', though difficult to imagine this tiny island stands next to African continent. There are 21 National Parks and 60 Sanctuaries with diversity of 441 bird species. All these parks managed by the department of Wild Life and Conservation. For these Parks visitors need to obtain permission and a guide provided by the park. The animals to be seen in Sri Lanka's national parks include elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambur, deer and monkeys, wild buffalo, wild boar (pig), porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, jackal, mongoose, Loris (unique to Sri Lanka) several varieties of lizards, squirrels, reptiles and amphibians. However, the topography, fauna flora change from park to park.

YALA NATIONAL PARK


Located in the south east corner of the island and 309 km from Colombo. Yala is approximately 1,259 sq.km in extent is divided into 5 blocks of which only block 1 and 2 open to the visitors. The five blocks together with Strict Natural Reserve. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. Yala has well over thirty leopards, probably the highest density anywhere in the world, is a distinct subspecies of its Indian cousins, the largest in Asia. There is also a substantial elephant population along with 32 species of mammals such as Sambar deer, spotted deer, muse deer, barking deer, wild boar, wild buffaloes, pangolins, porcupines, macaque, Grey Langur, toque monkeys are to name some. The park is worth visiting for its birdlife over130 species have recorded such as white-winged black terns, curlews, pintails, barbets, hoopers, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Malabar pied Hornbill and jungle fowl are the most frequently seen.

UDA WALAWE NATIONAL PARK


This Park is the best place in Asia for its large elephant populations, locates 175 km. South East of Colombo south of central hills. It covers approximately 30,821 hectares in extent that retains their leaves even during the dry season, is one of Sri Lanka's Dry Evergreen Forests. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and diversity of valuable species of trees and centered on huge 'Uda Walawe' reservoir and 'Walawe' river. It is a home to jungle cat, sloth bear, porcupine spotted & barking deer, wild boar, sambur, jackal & ruddy, grey & striped necked mongoose are among the many, Though the leopard, jungle & fishing cats have recorded as very rare sightings. Birds gather in large numbers around the tanks such as kingfishers, herons, Indian darters and some of the endemics species include the Sri Lanka spur fowl, the Sri Lanka jungle fowl, the Malabar pied hornbill.

WILPATTU NATIONAL PARK 


Located in the northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka and about 183 km from north of Colombo, span an area of no less than 131,693 hectares. Nearly sixty lakes (Willu) and tanks are found spread throughout park, surrounded by open grassy plains amidst the dense scrub jungle. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka, and famous for its Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) population. The Leopard population in Wilpattu is still not yet known. There are 31 other mammals including Sloth Bears, Elephants, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, sambur, barking deer together with large variety of birds' life are frequently spotted.

BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK


Located 257 km southeast of Colombo, in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. The national park contains five shallow, brackish lagoons. It is an important wintering ground for migratory water birds in the Island. Bundala harbours about 100 species of water birds, half of them being migrant birds with a large flock of the Greater Flamingo along with Brown-capped Babbler, Ceylon Jungle Fowl, Cattle Egret, Median Egret, Large Egret, Openbill, Spoonbill, Etc…Migrant birds include Asiatic Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lesser Sand, Large Sand Plover, Kentish Plover, and Little Stint. Bundala is home to 32 species of mammals, 383 plant species, 15 species of amphibians, 48 species of reptiles, and 197 species of birds.

MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK 


Located 182 km away from Colombo in the North Central province of Sri Lanka, covers an area of 8,889 hectares surrounded by the 'Minneriya Tank' (built 3 century AD) .The Park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population that attracted to grass fields on the edges of the reservoir. Individuals or herds of elephants gathered here in search of food and water is numbering around 150-200, sometimes numbering up to 400. The park is also important habitat for the two endemic monkeys of Sri Lanka, Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque, and mammals such as Sri Lankan Sambur Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer also frequent the park. Rare species such as Leopards and Sri Lankan Sloth Bear also inhabit in Minneriya It has recorded over 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles. Tourists visit Minneriya largely because of elephants, especially in dry season.