Cultural Tour - Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla
Duration: 3 Days
The paradise island of Sri Lanka is renowned for its magical combination of palm-fringed beaches, clear waters, dramatic landscapes and spectacular wildlife, but it is also a country steeped in history. A wealth of archeological wonders and a rich cultural heritage make this one of the most fascinating countries in the world to explore. This memorable tour will undoubtedly inspire you during your holiday in Sri Lanka, where ancient ruins, nature reserves and sacred temples await you in a land of natural beauty and mystery.
Leaving early in the morning from your beach resort in Colombo, we head to the sacred city of Anuradhapura. After checking into your hotel around mid day, enjoy a guided city tour of this ancient capital, which has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Established in the 4th century BC, Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka until the beginning of the 11th century BC, but more importantly it was the birthplace of Sinhala civilization. The city developed rapidly after the arrival of Buddhism in 247 BC and the construction of its numerous temples, monasteries and palaces. The imposing ancient monuments surrounding the city today remain testament to Anuradhapura’s glory.
There is so much to see here, but the highlights include the sacred Bodhi Tree (the historic 'tree of enlightenment'), believed to be the oldest documented tree in the world, and the Kuttam Pokuna (twin ponds). Considered masterpieces of old Singhalese architecture, these ancient granite baths were used by Buddhist monks during their daily rituals in the 3rd century. We will also visit the magnificent Buddhist Stupas – gigantic dome-shaped brick structures that contain Buddhist relics and remains. At the end of the day you will return to your hotel for an overnight stay.
After breakfast we travel east to the sacred mountain of Mihintale, the place where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka in 247 BC. A grand stairway of 1840 granite steps will lead you up the summit, but you can stop and admire the magnificent architecture on the way, which include the ruins of shrines, stupas, dagobas, temples, statues, cave dwellings and an ancient hospital. We continue onwards to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s medieval capital from the 11th to the 13th century A.D. We will drive through a beautiful nature reserve on the way, so look out for wild elephants on the roadside.
Steeped in history, Polonnaruwa was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982. One of the most striking features of the city is the Parakrama Samudra, a large 5940-acre reservoir built by King Parakramabahu. You will also visit the magnificent Gal Vihara (Stone Temple), where you will see some of the world’s finest Buddha sculptures. Carved out of a granite cliff, these spectacular monuments originally formed part of King Parakrambahu's northern monastery. This tour will introduce you to other fascinating ancient ruins and sacred sites in Polonnaruwa before we proceed to Sigiriya, where you will stay overnight at your hotel.
After breakfast we will make our way to Sigiriya to climb the famous Rock Fortress. This magnificent fortress-palace was built on top of an enormous rock by King Kasyapa in the 5th century. Visitors can admire the well-preserved frescoes of beautiful Sigiriyan court ladies halfway up the rock, and the summit offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Before heading back to your resort, we drive 12 miles away to the famous Dambulla Rock Temple, the largest and best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka, and one of the most impressive in Asia. Dating back to the 1st century BC, this vast, isolated rock mass towers 500 ft high and is a mile round the base. A selection of 12th century statues can be found inside the gilded walls of the caves, as well as late 18th century Sri Lankan paintings relating to Lord Buddha and his life. The site was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 as part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.
Tour includes: half board accommodation on twin sharing basis, air conditioned transportation, an English speaking chauffeur guide and entrance fees as per itinerary. Optional extras: elephant ride and safari.
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