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  About Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is famous for its 1,600 km of unspool, golden beaches. It's a paradise Island shaped like a tear drop in the Indian Ocean. Formerly known as Ceylon and famous for its wonderful Tea, Sri Lanka is a vibrant country with an incredible history. It's a country of 18 million people; rich in its diversity of culture, race, language and religion.

The island has an abundance of natural resources, fauna and flora, mountains, rivers and beautiful beaches. It is located at the crossroads where East meets West and is regarded as the gateway to South Asia. The hill country has gorgeous rolling hills and tea plantations. The entire island is teeming with bird life and exotics like elephants and leopards.

The people are friendly, food delicious and costs low! A stunning island filled with beaches and wild life sanctuaries like the Elephant Orphanage, ancient cities, hills, beaches - and most of all, it's incredible beauty. Letter from Travellers Volunteer Alice Nimmo: 'Hello Travellers, I just wanted to let you know what a wonderful time I had in Sri Lanka in March this year at the elephant orphanage! I can't fault the experience at all, and the staff were fantastic.

I have definitely taken a love for visiting countries of completely different culture now, and hope I can take part in another voluntary work placement in Africa in the next couple of years. Thank you for all your help, you were fantastic at sorting it out for me and nothing ever went wrong, apart from the monsoon season coming a little earlier than planned!

There's good swimming at any number of beaches along the south-western coast. Excellent scuba diving, snorkelling and surfing are found at Hikkaduwa, there's pleasant snorkelling at Unawatuna, and sailing, windsurfing and water skiing on the Bentota River.

For trekking, try climbing Adam's Peak or walking across the strange silent plateau of Horton Plains near Nuwara Eliya to see the 700m (2296ft) drop at World's End.

Animal life is profuse and includes the ubiquitous elephant, as well as leopards, deer, monkeys, sloth bears, wild boar, cobras, crocodiles, dugong and turtles. The island is an important seasonal home to migrating birds, including flamingoes, who flock to the lagoons, wetlands and bird sanctuaries for respite from the northern winter.

Climate: The driest and best seasons are from December to March on the west and south coasts and in the hill country, and from May to September on the east coast. December to March is also the time when most foreign tourists come, the majority of them escaping the European winter.

The coastal stretch south of Colombo offers palm-lined sandy expanses as far as the eye can see. The Kandyan dances, a procession of elephants or the masked devil dances. Then there are the ruins, ancient and inspiring architecture in the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to satisfy any archaeologist.

The city of COLOMBO is the commercial and administrative capital of the country, It is a strange and fascinating blend of the ancient and modern, of east and west, of the commonplace and beautiful.

From time immemorial Sri Lanka has had a sparkling reputation for highly treasured gems. Nature in her bounty has chosen the bosom of Sri Lanka to enshrine some of her rarest treasures. Blue Sapphires, Cat's Eyes, Alexandrites, Rubies, Star stones found embedded in layer of gravel and sand, in river beds, marshes, fields or accumulated at the foot of hills have made Sri Lanka the renowned island for gems. These precious stones perfected in the laboratory of nature lay hidden of countless ages, their luster undimmed, their value unrecognized.

Sinhala, Tamil and English, are the three official languages, with Sinhala being spoken by more than 80% of the population. Tamil, a Dravidian language of southern India, is mainly spoken by people living in the northern and eastern provinces. English is widely used in many activities and businesses throughout the island.

Udaya Nanayakkara, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, says ... "Sri Lanka has been the focus of the world's attention since the tsunami hit our shores on December 26, 2004. And while we will never forget the enormous impact on our coastline and the sadness caused by the deaths of 107 tourists and 30,618 Sri Lankan's, our people have shown a remarkable resilience, an amazing determination to rebuild our lives and our nation, to emerge even stronger than we were before.

Tourism is key to that rebuilding process. A healthy tourist industry will provide jobs and in turn the dignity that will put the world-famous smile back on Sri Lankan faces. In urging visitors to return to our shores, it is important to present the real facts about Sri Lanka, a true picture of the situation on a daily basis."

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka



Sri Lankan Culture

Sri Lankans are at large a hospitable by nature and very much obliging. One can always see a smile and in times of trials too this nature looms through. This country has gone through decades of turmoil from the north and south and is seemingly emerging from this chasm towards development and nation building.

A culture that's rich and diverse encompassing a highly advanced civilization born of king Vijaya over 2500 years ago, has transcended an assortment of cultural influences from ancient kingdoms like the 500 BC civilization of Anuradhapura, which, steeped in Buddhism has a host of Buddhist monuments and the oldest historically documented tree in the world, the 11th century kingdom of Polonnaruwa with its maze of reservoirs and world famous dagobas, the Lion Rock of Sigiriya, the impressive caves of Dambulla temple, the great monastic city of Mihintale, the last capital of Kandy to vestiges of western influence left after colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.






Customs
Customs and rituals have been part and parcel of the Lankan society from ancient times. They have been handed down from generation to generation spanning over the 2,500 year old history of the country. Most of these customs and rituals are connected with the day to day lives of the people in the social and religious spheres. Sri Lanka's classical architecture, sculpture and painting are predominantly Buddhist. Stupas sprinkle the countryside, and there are several extravagantly large Buddha sculptures, notably at Aukana and Buduruvagala. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have the most impressive archeological legacy.




People
Sri Lanka is the land of multi-ethnic groups, distinctively divided by two main characteristics: language and religion which consequently intersect to create four principal ethnic groups. The first one is the largest group of the country-that is Sinhalese people, accounting for 74% of its total population, densely populated in the southwest of the island.
The second largest group is Tamils which is subdivided into two groups: the Ceylon Tamils or Sri Lankan Tamils and the Indian Tamils. Altogether, these two groups of Tamils account for 18% of the country's populace. The Ceylon Tamils concentrate in the northern and eastern parts of the country while the Indian Tamils separate to settle in the south central Sri Lanka. The next group is Moors, the Arab origins, recognized as the Muslims of 7% of total population scattering around the Central Highlands. Actually, among Moors, themselves, comprises of three subdivisions: the Sri Lankan Moors, the Indian Moors, and the Malays. The fourth group is the Burghers who are the descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka



Sri Lankan History

Island of the Sinhalese

The large island off the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent is occupied by hunter-gatherers until the arrival, in the 6th century BC, of the Sinhalese - a tribal group of Indo-Europeans which has moved south through India.

These people give the island the name by which it has been known throughout most of history: Sinhaladwipa, meaning 'island of the Sinhalese', which becomes Ceylon in English. The name of the country is changed to Sri Lanka ('beautiful island') when it becomes a republic in 1972.

 

 

 

Theravada Buddhism: from the 3rd century BC

The most formative event in Sri Lanka's long history is the arrival of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. This island is the furthest outpost and the most lasting achievement of the missionary efforts of the emperor Asoka.

The Sinhalese of Sri Lanka have remained faithful to Asoka's religion - the only people of the subcontinent to do so. They are still adherents of Theravada, the first and simpler form of Buddhism. In the sacred temple at Kandy there is no crowd of sculpted demigods to distract the pilgrim. The only holy thing here is a tooth. But it is, so they say, the tooth of Buddha himself, smuggled to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century AD, hidden in the folds of the long dark hair of a princess.

 

 

 

Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa: 3rd c. BC - 13th c. AD

At the time of the conversion of the ruling family to Buddhism, in the 3rd century BC, the capital city is Anuradhapura in the north of the island. This becomes the first Buddhist centre of Sri Lanka, characterized by the massive dome-shaped stupas (also known as dagobas) which are built to contain sacred relics.

The monks here tend a sacred pipal tree, believed to be grown from a branch of the very tree under which Buddha found enlightenment. The branch of Buddha's tree, they say, was sent by Asoka himself as a precious gift to Sri Lanka.

 

 

 

 

 

The main threat to the Buddhist kingdoms of Sri Lanka is raids across the sea from the Tamil rulers of south India. The intruders differ from the inhabitants of Sri Lanka in two respects - in language (Tamil is Dravidian, Sinhalese is Indo-European) and in religion (the Tamils are Hindu).

In the first millennium of the Christian era the raiders are successfully resisted. But the pressures causes Anuradhapura to be progressively abandoned, from the 8th century, in favour of Polonnaruwa further to the south. At Polonnaruwa (itself deserted in the 13th century) a glorious past is revealed in the gigantic stone Buddhas seated or reclining in the jungle, carved from solid outcrops of rock.

 

 

 

Kandy and Kotte: 12th - 16th century

In the 12th century Tamil rulers finally establish a permanent Hindu presence in the north of the island. Buddhist Sri Lanka shrinks further south again. By the 15th century there are two related Buddhist kingdoms: one is based in Kandy in the hilly centre of the island; the other occupies a new palace at Kotte, a place surrounded by swampy lagoons a little inland from Colombo, by now a thriving harbour used by Arab traders.

This is the situation when a new wave of intruders makes a first appearance in the early 16th century. In 1505 Portuguese ships anchor off Colombo.

 

 

 

Portuguese and Dutch: AD 1505-1795

On their first visit, in 1505, the Portuguese make a treaty with the king of Kandy enabling them to trade in the island's crop of cinammon. Soon they win permission to build a fort to protect their trade. From this first fort they steadily encroach upon Sinhalese territory until the entire southern part is under their control - restricting the kingdom of Kandy to the highlands.

Jesuits and friars follow the armed traders and convert many of the population. Southern Sri Lanka becomes in effect a Portuguese colony. Towards the end of the 16th century it is formally annexed in the name of the king of Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sinhalese lack the strength to dispute this claim, but in the early 17th century other Europeans in these eastern waters have their own interests in the region's trade. The Dutch enter negotiations with the king of Kandy, offering to help him drive out the intruders. He is unaware that he is merely exchanging one set of Europeans for another.

The Dutch finally get the better of the Portuguese in 1656, when they capture Colombo after a six-month siege. For the next century and more they are able to corner the trade in cinammon, controlling most of the coastal areas of the island under governors sent from the capital of the Dutch East Indies at Batavia.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sinhalese royal house in Kandy retains a measure of independence, protected by the impenetrable combination of mountain landscape and tropical climate. Both Portuguese and Dutch forces reach Kandy on occasion but are unable to hold it.

As in so many other places, the next transfer of power in Sri Lanka is a result of the French Revolutionary wars. A British fleet arrives in 1795 and captures the island from the Dutch.

 

 



Source: Historyworld.net

 

Sri Lankan Museums

Sri Lanka's rich cultural heritage is depicted through various museums scattered all over the country.

National Museum, Colombo: It is the oldest and largest Museum in the country, established in 1877. Housed in a fine colonial-era building, the museum is famous for collection of ancient royal regalia, Sinhalese artwork (carvings, sculptures et al.), antique furniture, china, and Ola manuscripts. The museum contains: more than 4.000 palm leaf manuscripts; ancient and medieval jewelry; rare collection of traditional masks; wood and ivory carvings; temple frescoes; ceramics objects including VOC plates of the Dutch period; stone sculpture and lithic inscriptions. The museum is open daily from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs except on Fridays.

National Museum of Natural History, Colombo: It is located in the same premises as the National Museum. This museum depicts natural heritage of Sri Lanka. It displays birds, mammals, reptiles, sea-mammals, insects, botanical plants, gems and geological specimens of Sri Lanka. The museum is Open daily from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs.

The Dutch Period Museum, Colombo: The museum is housed in the old `Dutch House' on Prince Street, Pettah, which was earlier the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow. The museum displays Dutch legacy through artifacts such as furniture, ceramics, coins, arms etc. The museum is open daily from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs except on Fridays.

Bandaranaike Museum, Colombo: The museum contains photographs, objects and documents of former Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who was assassinated in 1959.

The National Maritime Museum, Galle: The museum is housed in an old Dutch building in the historic fort of Galle. It has on display objects connected with marine biology and botany and also some beautiful diagrams showing local fishing methods, natural coral beds, sea grass beds and deep sea fishes. The museum is open daily from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs.

Gems Museum, Ratnapura: The museum displays its collections of pre historic objects and fossile of Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus and Elephant collected from the gem pits of Ratnapura District. Other exhibits include jewelry, textiles, flags, gems and semi-precious stones. Some of the artifacts displayed here, reflect the unique art & culture of the Sabaragamuwa Province. The museum is open daily from 09.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs except on Fridays.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

Sri Lankan Beaches

Shimmering in the Indian Ocean, this lush green tropical island lies surrounded by glorious sandy beaches framed by idyllic coconut palms and fishing boats bobbing in the blue expanse of water silhouetted in the golden sunset. The warm rays of the sultry sun falling on the golden sands, the calm breeze that titillates the waves into a surfers' paradise or the wonders of the rich and varied undersea world paints a spellbinding picture of paradise.

Negombo
The major beach resort in the West Coast is Negombo. The wide sandy beaches and the safe sea are the major attractions of Negombo, a traditional fishing town. Besides the beach, the fish market is worth visiting where busy trading of a variety of fish including prawns, crabs and seer takes place in the mornings when the fishing crafts return to the shore with their catch. The most popular fishing craft is the outrigger canoe called oruwa dug out from a huge log and is seen in large numbers in the Negombo lagoon.

Beruwela
58km to the south of Colombo, together with Bentota further south, has been developed into Sri Lanka's chief package tour resort zone. It has a long string of midrange and top-end hotels along its fine beach, where locals address foreigners initially in German. There's little to attract independent ravellers here. Morgalle is techinally slightly north of Beruwela, but it has practically merged with it.
Hikkaduwam
Hikkaduwam, 98 km south of Colombo, has long been among the most popular of Sri Lanka's beach spots. It's the variety that attracts people - accommodation ranges from handful of top-end hotels to heaps of laidback guesthouses for backpackers. Hikkaduwa has swallowed the village south of it and it's thee or four km long - sprea out on either side of the road and along the beach. There's a varied choice of beach and sea - coral for snorkellers, waves for boards and bod surfers, and good wide strips of sand, backed by cafes, if you just want to sit back and relax.

Unawatuna
Four kilometers south of Galle is Unawatuna (120 km. from Colombo), a wide, curving bay with a picturesque sweep of golden beach Swiming is safe thank to the reef that protects the beach, and unlike Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna does not have a dangerously busy road running through it. These factors have made Unawatuna popular with travellers, including package-tour groups and locals. on public holidays and weekands in particular, Unawatuna can get very crowded.

Trincomalee
Trincomalee is the gateway to some of the finest beaches in Sri Lanka : Uppuveli and Nilaveli. With one of the world 's best deep harbours, it is the East's largest industrial centre and naval base, and a potential economc centre postwar. There are handful of things to see in town and prety view across the three main bays, but many people pass through on their way to the beach.

Kalkudah & Passekudah
The long, wide, fine white-sand beaches around Kalkudah Bay Stretch south beaches around Kalkudah Bay stretch south for kilometres, while curved Passekudah Bay is more compact, but still impressively vast. The Kalkudah beach from the sweep of Passekudah, where the reef turns the bay into a calm, blue, shallow swimming area. The combined area of Passekudah and Kalkudah is an ideal stretch for bathing, windsurfing and water skiingnd beautiful shoals of fish can be explored either by snorkeling or taking a ride in a glass bottom boat.

Batticaloa
Like most other coastal townships, Batticaloa was under Portuguese and Dutch rule. A Dutch Fort stands close to the Batticaloa lagoon. The most famous attraction of Batticaloa is its 'Singing Fish'. On full moon nights a faint but distinct musical sound rises from the lagoon waters. This is attributed to a noise emanated by a kind of fish found in the lagoon.
Nilaveli
This is a prime beach resort in the East Coast. It is ideally suited for sun bathing, sea bathing and diving. A few meters off shore is a small rocky island good for snorkeling.

Mount Lavinia
Mount Lavinia, on the southern fringe of Colombo, only seven miles from the centre, acts as the city beach. It is a fine beach situated in a crowded suburb of Lavinia. Locals come to the beach on weekends to participate in beach and water sports and listen to live music.

Koggala
Koggala beach is about 12 kms south of Galle. Koggala beach is one of the most enchanting in Sri Lanka. Stilt -Fisherman are a familiar sight here.

Source: Sri Lanka Travel Info

 

Gems in Sri Lanka

BLUE SAPPHIRE
Sri lanka's Gem supreme, of corn flower blue, is the favorite of fashionable women the world over.

CAT'S EYE
The honey yellow and apple green Cat's Eye of lustrous smoothness is extolled for the protection she yields to the wearer.

ALEXANDRITE
If you are a connoisseur of the rarest yields from the mysterious depths of earth you will need to possess an Alexandrite.

STAR RUBY
The scarlet perfection and it's scintillating beauty adopt to the dream come true in gems.

YELLOW SAPPHIRE
Pollen of flowers is her lyrical name is Sinhala. Her delicate yellow makes this description apt.

STAR SAPPHIRE
With her azure heart a-gleam with radiant snowy streaks, the star sapphires sparkle brings her owner good luck.

AMETHYST
Burnished by nature into a high purplish polish, the Amethyst is a beauty among gems.

GARNET
All the world's Garnet's(pyrope) are ordinary after Sri Lanka's Elahera Garnet made it's radiant bow.

From time immemorial Sri Lanka has had a sparkling reputation for highly treasured gems. Nature in her bounty has chosen the bosom of Sri Lanka to enshrine some of her rarest treasures. Blue Sapphires, Cat's Eyes, Alexandrites, Rubies, Star stones found embedded in layer of gravel and sand, in river beds, marshes, fields or accumulated at the foot of hills have made Sri Lanka the renowned island for gems. These precious stones perfected in the laboratory of nature lay hidden of countless ages, their luster undimmed, their value unrecognized.. Perhaps nowhere in the world are so many minerals of the gem variety concentrated in so compact an area in such abundance as in Sri Lanka.

Though Sri Lanka's gem trade dates back in to hoary historical times our gem supplies are almost in exhaustible for the gem bearing pre-Cambrian Stratum forms 9/10ths of Sri Lanka's earth Geologists aver.

The Blue Sapphire is Sri Lanka's Gem Supreme. And Sri Lanka's Blue Sapphires are the finest in the world. Sapphires of the finest quality have what is called the experts 'a corn flower blue' or a royal blue tint. The highly priced of all gems, the Blue Sapphire is second only to the diamond in hardness. The largest known Sapphires in the world weighing 42 pounds was found in the gem gravels of Sri Lanka. The Blue Giant of the Orient weighing nearly 500 carats and the 400 carat Blue Belle of Asia was purchased by a British multi-millionaire was also from Sri Lanka. A perfect corn flower blue 92 carat specimen is now on display at the State Gem Corporation. The world jewelry market demands Blue Sapphires of 5-15 carats. Sri Lanka can supply these in very large quantities.

Sri Lanka's Star Sapphires is the star beauty among Earth's precious stones. The radiant snowy streaks that gleam in her azure heart are perhaps the solidified version of a colourful dream the world has had long ago of the glory of the universe. The 362 carat Star now with the State Gem Corporation is considered the third largest stone of comparable quality and colour in the world. But the most celebrated Sri Lanka's star Sapphire is on permanent display at the Smithsonian museum of Natural History in New York. However, Sri Lanka has not gotten the recognition it deserves as the stone is named (Probably through an oversight) the Star of Bombay. Arthur C. Clarke the famous Space Scientist and Futurologist in his epilogue of Rolof Beny's Island Ceylon comments.......... "and by some distressing impertinence the splendid Star Sapphire which is one of the glories of American Museum of Natural History's gem collection is called the Star of Bombay - not as it should be - the Star of Ceylon."

Moonstone the only gem that is found in situ in Sri Lanka displays a milky bluish sheen similar to that of the moon beams, and hence the name moonstone. Trough some quirk of nature, moonstones are found only in a solitary quarter acre block of land in the village of Meetiyagoda to the South of Sri Lanka. The world's moonstone market is dominated by Sri Lanka.




  Explore Cities


Colombo

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/Colombo.jpgColombo-the capital of Sri Lanka-is the largest city and main port of Sri Lanka. It is also the commercial and financial center of Sri Lanka. A bustling metropolis, the city is an attractive blend of old and new. It has the lazy charm of the bygone era combined with the verve and vivaciousness of a modern city. Colombo is an ideal location to start the Sri Lanka sojourn.

City Travel Guide

The Fort: Originally a fort during the Portuguese and Dutch periods but now a major commercial center of the country and housing major offices, big hotels, some of the better shops, airline offices, banks, main post office, immigration office, travel agents and restaurants. Within Fort are several places of tourist interest, which can be conveniently seen on foot.

Pettah: Adjacent to Fort is Pettah-Colombo's leading bazaar district. It has narrow cobbled streets lined with shops and street stalls that offer the most fantastic bargains and the most unimaginable range of goods varying from bright printed fabrics, suitings, undergarments, children wear, footwear and handbags to electrical goods, semi precious jewellery, watches, rare first edition books, cutlery and other household items. Each criss-crossed lane of Pettah leads to the main street and each has developed its own specialized characteristic. For example, household goods are found on Keyzer Street. Prince Street is famous for glass, mirrors and electrical items. Malwatte Avenue sells English, Sinhala and Tamil music cassettes.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/col1.jpgGalle Face Green: A promenade on the sea face stretching one and a half kilometers, it is a relic of the British era. Laid out in 1859 it was used for horse racing. Today it is the largest open space in Colombo and a famous picnic spot.

Slave Island: On the south of Fort, is a long, narrow island-where the slaves had their night quarters-called Slave Island. Today the spot is surrounded by the remains of the former Beira Lake and is home to many office buildings, hotels and stores.

Mount Lavinia: Mount Lavinia is a beach just 12 km from Colombo. It was a famous beach even during the colonial times. The Governor's House built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland now forms part of the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel.

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara: It is a famous Buddhist temple and is believed to be at the spot where the Buddha preached 2000 years ago. It has an excellent carving of a reclining Buddha, and is the site for an annual perahera (religious procession) in January.

Dehiwala Zoo: It is about 11 acres in extent and has very fine collection of fauna from all over the world. The highlight of the show is the elephant show, which is held every evening.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/col3.jpgNational Museum: Housed in a grand colonial building, the National Museum is the custodian of Sri Lanka's cultural heritage. Among its exhibits are a vast collection of half a million books, more than 4000 archaic palm leaf manuscripts, rock sculptures from the ancient cities, bronze brassware and royal weapons of Sri Lankan kings, fascinating paintings of by gone eras and an excellent collection of antique demon masks. The most interesting among the exhibits are the regalia of the Kandyan Kings dating back to the 17th century.

The Viharamahadevi Park: Located next to the National Museum, it is Colombo's largest park. The park is famous for its flowering trees, water channels and fountains.

Wolvendaal Church: It is Colombo's oldest Dutch church. Its floor tiles are made from tombstones from the Dutch church in the Fort, and were brought here in 1813.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/col2.jpgHindu Temples: There are several Hindu temples, which are called Kovils in Colombo. In the Sea Street in Colombo are several Hindu temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan with their colourful Gopurams (doorways). Other important temples are the Shiva Subramania Swami temple on Slave Island and the Sri Muthumariamman temple.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

 


Anuradhapura

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/Anuradahpura.jpgAnuradhapura is an ancient city, located at a distance of 206 km from Colombo. The city is in northern Sri Lanka and is the capital of North-Central province. Anuradhapura was established in 4th century BC. It was the first capital of Sri Lanka and remained so until 8th century AD. Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. The city is considered very sacred by the Buddhists and is home to the largest dagobas in Sri Lanka. A dagoba is a dome enshrining sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Buddha, or articles used by Him like the alms bowl and other objects of veneration. It is built in different sizes on a pedestal with a spire on top crowned with a pinnacle. The earliest dagobas had a stone umbrella on top of the dome in place of the spire.

Places to See
Sri Maha Bodhi Tree: The right branch of the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya in India under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC by princess Sanghamitta, the daughter of Emperor Asoka. It was planted in Anuradhapura and is venerated to this day by the Buddhists from many countries of the world. This is the oldest recorded tree in the world whose exact age is known.

Thuparma Dagoba: Thuparama is the first dagoba to be built in Anuradhapura during the reign of King Devanmpiyatissa (3rd century BC) enshrining the right collarbone of the Buddha, His alms bowl and other relics.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/anuradhapura.jpgRuvanveli Dagoba: Ruvanveli Dagoba built by King Dutugemunu who ruled the country in the 2nd century BC is a huge dagoba measuring 103 metres in height with a circumference of 287 metres.

Jetavana Dagoba: Jetavana dagoba was built in the 3rd century AD by King Mahasena. It is an enormous brick structure standing in the centre of a large monastic complex measuring 3.2 hectares in extent and is rated as the largest and tallest brick built monument in the world. The structure has been declared a World Heritage Site.

Abhayagiri Dagoba: This Dagoba was built by King Valagam Bahu (1st century B.C.) and it is the Sri Lanka's second highest dagoba. It was at the Abhayagiri complex that the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha brought to Sri Lanka was first housed.

Samadhi Buddha: This 4th Century AD statue of the Buddha in meditative pose is a world famous Buddha statue and acknowledged as a masterpiece.

Isurumuniya: It is a picturesque rock temple built in the 3rd century BC. The beautiful stone sculptures seen at the temple are considered the most beautiful works of art in Anuradhapura.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/anura.jpgMihintale: Thirteen kilometers from Anuradhapura is the sacred mountain of Mihintale, the site of introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the year 247 BC. World's first fauna and flora sanctuary was established at Mihintale in the 3rd century BC. Today the peak of Mihintale, approached by a grand stairway of 1840 granite steps, has many temples, lodgings for monks and several splendid statues of the Buddha. Each June on the full moon there is a pilgrimage commemorating the date when Mahinda first preached the Buddhist doctrine in Sri Lanka and many thousands of pilgrims flock from all over Sri Lanka to meditate on the holy peak.

Awkana: Awkana-located 51 km southeast of Anuradhapura-is famous for 12 metres tall granite statue of Buddha, hewn out of solid rock in the standing posture on a lotus pedestal. The statue was built during the reign of King Dhatusena in the 5th century AD.

Kuttam Pokuna: Kuttam Pokuna or the Twin Ponds-the two breathtakingly beautiful bathing ponds aligned lengthwise-is a manifestation of the artistic achievements in the field of hydraulic engineering in ancient Sri Lanka. They date back to around 8-10th century AD.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

Dambulla

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/dambulla_cave_temple_8.jpgDambulla is a small town located at a distance of 19 km from Sigriya on the Sigriya-Kandy road. Dambulla has over 80 caves in the surrounding and some of them have been used by the monks as meditation locations. Major attraction is the Dambulla Rock Temple consisting of five cave temples dating back to the 1st century BC. The temples contain many statues and paintings. Hindu statues are believed to be of the 12 century AD and the latest paintings are of the late 18-century.



http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/dambulla3.jpgOther places of tourist interest are Iron Wood Forest and Rose Quartz Mountain. The site was declared as a human sanctuary by King Dappula in 10 century AD. Trees believed to have been planted by those who sought sanctuary here, later on turned into a vast plantation of Iron wood forest. Apart from the biodiversity of the site as it contains many other plants, it is also geologically important because of the Rose Quartz mountain range in the garden, which is believed to be over 500 million years old. White, rose and violet colour quartz deposits can be seen here.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 


Galle

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/Galle.jpgGalle-located 116 km to the south of Colombo on the southwest corner of the island-was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. 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. Galle has been declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO

City Travel Guide

Dutch Fort: Built in 1663, the fort still retains the atmosphere and charm of Dutch days. Many old Dutch buildings are still intact inside the fort. The best way to see the fort is by walking around at the time of sunset.

Dutch Museum: The Dutch Museum which is housed in a restored Dutch mansion of the time, contains paintings, prints, documents, furniture and ceramics from the Dutch colonial era.

Koggala: Koggala, near Galle is the hometown of a famous local writer Martin Wickramasinghe. The museum of Folk, Art & Culture built in his honour at his old residence has an excellent display of local folk items. They include the costumes of folk dancers, sports items, household items and furniture and vast arena of the folk life of the early 20th century. Take a boat trip in the lagoon and Kogggala Lake to see many of its small islands, which is a popular destination for bird watching.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/galle01.jpgDutch Reformed Church: Built by a Dutch Army officer at the site of a previous Portuguese church and completed in 1754 the church is situated close to the new entrance to the fort. The church contains record of marriages since 1748 and baptism from 1678. The major highlight of the building is there are no pillars inside the building and the weight of the roof is supported by the walls.

Ahangama / Midigama: Home to a unique type of fishing technique. Silt fishing is a popular fishing method in the area and a very beautiful scenery to watch especially during sunset. Ahangama is also a popular surfing location.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

Kandy

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/kandy.jpgKandy-a major tourist destination-is also known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 m, it is located at a distance of 115 km from Colombo.

Kandy has a rich history. It was originally known as Senkadagala pura after a hermit named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it Mahanuwara meaning the Great City. The name Kandy was derived by the colonial rulers from the word Kanda in Sinhala, meaning a hill. Kandy was the stronghold of the Sinhalese kings, who promoted and protected the local culture until the city fell to the British in 1815.

Today a bustling commercial city, Kandy is famous for the Kandy Perahara-a huge cultural pageant that takes place in the month of July or August. It is one of the most colorful processions of the world. Thousands of drummers and dancers accompanying a parade of ornamented elephants perform in the streets of Kandy. The leading tusker carries the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, while the spectators pay homage to it. The procession moves along the streets for seven consecutive nights and concludes on the day of the August full moon.

City Travel Guide

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/kandy01.jpgThe Temple of Tooth: Also known as Dalda Maligawa, it is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. Here, one of the Buddha's teeth is kept. The temple was built in the 17th century. A golden canopy has been added recently. Daily rituals are performed three times a day-at 4.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m., and 6.30 p.m. respectively.

Gadaladeniya Temple: Built in 1344, the temple is situated on a hilltop at a distance of 15 km from the town. The temple is inspired by Dravidian architecture and gives a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

Peradeniya Gardens: The garden-a paradise for nature lover- was built in 14th century during the reign of king Vikrama Bahu III. The best-known attraction of the garden is the orchid House, which houses more than 300 varieties of exquisite orchids. A spice garden located here gives you a first hand account of the trees and plants used in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/kandy05.jpgEmbekke Temples: This 14th century temple is famous for the intricate wooden carvings dedicated to God Katargama. Almost the entire structures of some wooden buildings are decorated with dancers, musicians, wrestlers, legendary beasts and birds. Nearby are the ruins of an ancient rest house with similar pillars carved in stone.

Lankatilaka Temple: Lankatilaka temple dates back to 14th century. It is built on the summit of a rock called Panhalgala. The temple provides a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding hills, paddy fields and the diverse vegetation around it.

Knuckle Mountains: The Knuckles range is about 90 square miles in extent and is a detached block of the central highlands separated from the main highlands by the the Dumbara Valley. There are 35 peaks rising to more than 3000 feet (915 m) in the Knuckles range. It has a rich variety of flora and fauna.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/kandy06.jpgHanthana Mountains: Hanthana Mountains are spread on the outskirts of Kandy and are a source of many rivulets and streams. They are an ideal destination for the trekkers.

Udawatte Kele: Udawatte Kele is a primeval forest located above the Dalada Maligawa. It is also known as the Forbidden Forest of the Kings of Kandy. It contains a variety of trees such as Talipot trees, cinnamon, olive, rattan cane, betel, bo-trees, kitul palms, jak, mara, betelnut and arecanut.

Hindu Shrines: There are four Hindu shrines dedicated to Gods Vishnu and Natha and Goddess Patthini in Kandy. Three of them are located adjacent to the Temple of Tooth, while the fourth one is towards the town.

Buddhist Temples: There are many Buddhist temples surrounding Kandy. Famous among them are Malwaththa and Asgiri temples located on the shores of the lake.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

Matara

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/matara.jpgSouthern most major town in Sri Lanka and the terminus of the coastal rail line, Matara is located at a distance of 160 km from Sri Lanka. The Nilwala River, which is the lifeline of the region, runs through the town. Matara is famous for its natural beauty-white sandy beaches, lush paddy fields, verdant tea estates, and fragrant spice plantations. The town was earlier under the Portugese and Dutch rule.

City Travel Guide

Matara Fort: Built by the Dutch around 1640, Matara Fort is a fortification of a Portuguese garrison. The old Dutch church is one of the oldest structures in the Fort. There are many other structures of the Dutch and the British era most of which have undergone many changes. The star fort built in a shape of a star was built to provide additional protection to the main fort across the river.

Dondra/Devinuwara: Dondra or Devinuwara 6 km east of Matara is the southern most point of Sri Lanka. A 40m high lighthouse was built in 1890 to provide guidance to the shipping route south of Sri Lanka. The shrine dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu at Devinuwara is a popular local attraction. The annual festival held in July / August is the major event of the temple.

Weligama: About 15 km from Matara towards Galle is a popular resort town of Weligama. The town is famous for its beaches. The rest house at Weligama is one of the oldest rest houses in Sri Lanka. The Aggrabodhi Vihara about 1 km from the rest house towards inland is an ancient temple established in the 3 century BC.

Tangalla:Tangalla, located 48km east of Matara, is one of the most pleasant places in the region for a lazy beach holiday. Facing east, the village center straddles a freshwater lagoon where a small river flows into the sea, with a fishing harbour at its mouth. North of the harbour is the long stretch of white sand known as Medaketiya. To the south, beyond a low headland, is a series of small sandy coves.

Mulgirigala Rock Temple: At Mulgirigala, 16krn north of Tangalla, this cave temple in a monolithic rock contains reclining Buddha figures in smiling repose as well as standing and seated Buddha figures, surrounded by wall paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. A Buddhist shrine crowns the rock.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka


Nuwara Eliya

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/n_eliya.jpgNuwara Eliya-situated in the central mountains at an altitude of over 6000 feets-is the premier hill resort of Sri Lanka. Overlooked by Mt. Piduratalagala, the highest peak of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya's literal meaning is the City Of Light.

Developed by Britishers as an exact replica of the British town, Nuwara Eliya produces some of the country's best tea. With an average temperature of 10 C, Nuwara Eliya provides respite from the hot and humid temperature of the plains. Major tourist attractions are Horton Plains, a National Park where sambhar and leopard are frequent sights and Hakgala Botanical Gardens famous for its collection of roses and the rare fernery. The town is an excellent getaway for trekkers and nature lovers.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 

Polonnurawa

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/polonnaruwa.jpgPolonnurawa-located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo-was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. Used by the Sri Lankan kings as a 'country residence' from the 7th century, Polonnurawa became Sri Lanka's capital in the 11th century AD.

During its time the city was fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and sanctified by many a shrine and sacred place. The city and the surrounding area were watered by a unique irrigational complex known as the Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudra).





Places to See


http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/polonnaruwa-0104-500.jpgParakarma Samudra: Parakarma Samudra is a man made irrigation tank spread over an area of 5940 acres, built by the King Parakramabahu. It is one of the most striking features of Polonnurawa.

Royal Citadel: The Citadel housed the palace and the administrative buildings of King Prakramabahu who ruled in12th century AD and is enclosed by a huge rampart more than a metre thick. It is an impressive building with fine stone carvings. The Royal Bath is outside the rampart with a flight of steps leading to it. The beautiful bath is made of stone with a small pavilion probably used as a changing room.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/POLONNARUWA_GUARD_STONE.jpgGal Vihara: It is a rock cut Buddhist shrine dating back to 12th century AD. It contains magnificent images of Buddha carved out of stone.

Vata-Da-Ge: A circular relic chamber built enclosing a dagoba that had been a popular architectural style in ancient Sri Lanka.

Hatadage: A relic chamber built by King Parakramabahu I to house the sacred Tooth Relic.

Lotus Pond: A stone pond built in the shape of a lotus flower in eight parallel tiers probably to provide seating to the monks while bathing.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

Ratnapura


http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/rathnapura.jpgRatnapura-located at 103 km from Colombo-is the famous gem-mining town of Sri Lanka. In fact the name Ratnapura literally means, the City of Gems. Sri Lanka has the greatest concentration of gems on earth and is ranked among the top five gem-bearing nations. One can find all types of gems in Ratnapura-from familiar to exotic. These include: white, yellow, pink, orange, purple and blue star sapphires, ruby and star ruby, cat's eye, topaz, amethyst, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet, zircon, spinel, alexandrite, citrine, etc., and the exotic ones such as patite, sinhalite, ekanite, enstatite, andalusite, kornerupine, etc., sought by the connoisseur.





City Travel Guide

Apart from the gems other places of tourist interest are:

Maha Saman Devale: A devale is a shrine dedicated to either a god of the Hindu pantheon or a local deity, which is usually situated within a Buddhist vihara or temple. This unique devale, only a short distance from Ratnapura, is dedicated to Saman-the tutelary deity of Adam's Peak.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/ratnapura2.jpgAnnual Fair/Perahara: There is an annual fair and perahera in the month of July-August, which is among the largest to be held in the country. Its main feature is the Maha Baha a giant effigy who like the Roman Janus has two faces-one pink-cheeked and smiling, the other dour and black-visaged.

Sinharaja: The highland forest of Singaraja, located near Ratnapura is a nature lover's delight. It is the last remaining original tract of rainforest on the island.

Ratnapura is also one of the base camps to the pilgrimage trek to Adam's Peak.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka


Sigriya

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/sigiriya.jpgLocated in the north-central province of Sri Lanka, Sigriya-a city, palace and garden complex centering a 200 metre high rock-is unofficially known as the 8th wonder of the world. Literally, the word Sigriya means the Lion Rock. Sigriya is Sri Lanka's most recognizable landmark and has been declared as a World Heritage Site.

Built in the 5 century AD, this magnificent complex of geometrically laid gardens, pools, fountains as well as oldest surviving murals of maidens was palace of the King Kasyapa. The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/city_guide/images/sigiriya1.jpgThe 650 ft monolith was once a rock fortress and a royal citadel from 477 to 495 AD. The most significant feature of the Rock would have been the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden on the summit. All that remains now are the two colossal paws and a mass of brick masonry that surround the ancient limestone steps and the cuts and groves on the rock face give an idea of the size and shape of the lion figure. There are also remains of paintings in some of the caves at the foot of the rock. Of special significance is the painting on the roof of the Cobra Hood Cave. The cave with its unique shape dates back to the pre-Christian era.

http://www.goonabreak.com/gt/discover/images/sigiriya.jpgThe pleasure gardens on the western side of the rock are studded with ponds, fountains and promenades showing a glorious past. The miniature water garden just inside the inner wall of the western precinct consists of water pavilions, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits and watercourses. The largest water garden has a central island surrounded by water and linked to the main precinct by cardinally oriented causeways. The fountain garden is a narrow precinct on two levels. Western half has two long and deep pools, with shallow serpentine streams draining into the pools. These fountains are still active during the rainy season from November to January.

Climbing up the rock you will see the Mirror Wall, a highly polished rock surface that has weathered the times to shine and reflect even today. In a sheltered pocket are the famous frescoes of beautiful maidens, which appear to rise out of the clouds. A climb to the top is rewarded by a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Source: Tourism-Sri Lanka

 



Sri Lanka is famous for its 1,600 km of unspoilt, golden beaches. It's a paradise Island shaped like a tear drop in the Indian Ocean. Formerly known as Ceylon and famous for its wonderful Tea, Sri Lanka is a vibrant country with an incredible history. It's a country of 18 million people; rich in its diversity of culture, race, language and religion.                                 More>>
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