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Whilst Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming a beach destination in its own right, visiting this culturally rich country and not exploring the interior in some way would almost be a crime. Whether it’s day tour to Kandy, a 3-day mini-tour to the cultural triangle towards the north of the island or a complex itinerary incorporating all of the main cultural sites, you simply must experience some of the interior.

 

The so-called Cultural Triangle, stretching north from the Sinhalese capital Kandy in the centre of the island, incorporates a number of great ancient sites including Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and the village of Habarana. Visiting these sites can easily be done over a few days and using Habarana or Sigirya as a base is the best way to experience the area as a number of excellent quality yet authentic hotels can be found here.   

 

The medieval capital Polonnaruwa contains an incredible number of intricate rock sculptures. Perhaps the most famous is Gal Vihara, where three figures of the Buddha have been carved out a cliff-face of granite including a 14-metre carving of a reclining Buddha. Just to the west of Polonnaruwa you will find the awe-inspiring and somewhat magical rock outcrop known as Sigiriya. Towering 180m above the forest below, and featuring a number of gardens, elegant pavilions and a pool at the summit, the sheer size and dominance of Sigiriya Rock is breathtaking in itself. The caves at Dambulla are located at the crossroads of the Cultural Triangle and should be given equal attention to the sites mentioned above.  The most impressive cave temple in Sri Lanka, located under a vast overhanging rock, is a popular attraction for both locals and tourists and houses many intricately painted sculptures. 

 

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Anuradhapura

 

 

Anuradhapura

Possibly the greatest monastic city of the ancient world, Anuradhapura was at its height, home to thousands of monks at numerous monasteries scattered across the city. These days, the many visitors (locals and tourists) tend to seek out the Dagobas (large dome constructions built to house ancient relics of Buddha) that are synonymous with the city, as well as ancient cave temples and the sacred Bodhi Tree believed to have grown from a branch of the Bodhi Tree where Buddha found enlightenment.

Sri Lankan Curry At Polonnawura

 

Sri Lankan Curry At Polonnawura

For a really authentic dining experience, try Jaga Food in Polonnawura. Located in a tranquil setting by the river, and accessed via a dirt track (ideally by a tuk-tuk!), this small family run-restaurant specialises in fabulous Sri Lankan curries and serves up a delicious range of vegetarian, meat and fish curries of varying strength, amazing rotties and mouthwatering desserts.

 
Bring Your Hiking Boots!

 

Bring Your Hiking Boots!

Climbing this majestic rock is not for the faint-hearted, but definitely worth the effort when you reach the summit. The small tracks, with precarious looking handrails, wind their way up the steep sides of this ancient rock so it possibly isn’t the best choice for those that are either unsteady on their feet or are not great with heights. But once you are at the top, the views are truly mesmerizing and the features such as the gardens, pool and elegant pavilions leave you a little bemused as to how they actually appeared there such a long time ago.

 
Elephants At Minneriya National Park

 

 

Elephants At Minneriya National Park

Indian elephants are synonymous with Sri Lanka and it if you would like to experience their sheer numbers in their natural habitat, a late afternoon safari in Minneriya National Park is a great way to see these magnificent creatures without compromising their majesty or safety. Often taken out in small groups in traditional 4x4 safari vehicles, you will go out and search for the enormous herds in addition to many other species including monkeys, deer and possibly even leopard.

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