cultural places in Sri Lanka

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The top 7 cultural places in Sri Lanka

The best way to learn about Sri Lanka‘s rich past is to embark on a culture triangle tour of Sri Lanka. This post lists the top 7 cultural places in Sri Lanka to see when on a cultural tour of Sri Lanka.

The top seven cultural places in Sri Lanka for cultural tours

One of the world’s oldest cultures is found in Sri Lanka. Most notably, despite invasions by South India and Europe, Sri Lankan culture has persisted for thousands of years. The Yaksas and Nagas were a tribe of people that lived in Sri Lanka during the Stone Age and are thought to be the ancestors of Sri Lankan culture. A tiny group of these people’s descendants still reside in parts of Sri Lanka; they are referred to as the “Vedda community” in popular culture.
Subsequently, Sri Lanka’s prehistoric people mixed with many cultures to create a distinct culture with numerous distinctive features. As a result, Sri Lanka has emerged as the birthplace and cradle of one of the world’s main civilizations.
Travellers from all over the world are drawn to Sri Lanka by its rich cultural legacy and the more than six UNESCO world heritage sites. Numerous cultures and traditions enrich Sri Lankan culture. Numerous locations on the island, including churches and temples, discuss the same thing.
The tourism sector in Sri Lanka includes cultural tourism, which transports travellers beyond palm-fringed beaches, the enchanted healing properties of Ayurveda, verdant highlands, and the height of extravagance. Travellers visiting Sri Lanka on a cultural trip can experience some of the world’s oldest cultural sites, a wide variety of artistic mediums, and real food trails.
Here is a list of 10 cultural places in Sri Lanka that are evidence of the country’s breathtaking architecture and rich cultural legacy, perfect for those who are culture vultures and would like to visit a few of the country’s cultural landmarks.

The top 7 cultural places in Sri Lanka

  • The Anuradhapura
  • Polonnaruwa
  • Colombo
  • Sigiriya
  • Dambulla
  • Kandy
  • The town of Nuwara Eliya

Which five Sri Lankan cultural trips are the best?

1. Seeing the Gangarama temple and Wovendaal Church on a sightseeing tour of Colombo
2. A two-day cultural trip to Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Pollannaruwa
3. A two-day cultural trip to Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy
4. Three-day cultural tour: Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy
5. Galle: A one-day cultural tour of Sri Lanka

Five substitute locations for cultural excursions in Sri Lanka

1. Journey to Adams Peak
2. Cultural visit to the temple at Pidurangala Cave
3. Cultural visit to the statue of Aukana Buddha
4. Visit to the Temple of Kataragama
5. Temple of Seetha Amman on a cultural trip

Anuradhapura: The northernmost point of the triangle of culture

The journey from the airport to the cultural city of Anuradhapura takes five hours.
Anuradhapura, the oldest city on the island and one of the most popular cultural places in Sri Lanka, founded in the third century BC, is the northernmost point of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Since Anuradhapura is home to hundreds of temples, palaces, stone sculptures, and other priceless sites, most Sri Lankan culture trips include a stop there. The nation’s first monarch, Walagambahu, founded the city in the dry region of the central province of Sri Lanka.
Up until the tenth century AD, Anuradhapura served as the capital of Sri Lanka, serving as the seat of government for more than a hundred kings. The South Indian invasions caused the Sri Lankan kings to mostly ignore the city. On the other hand, it was a well-planned metropolis with lakes, parks, palaces, temples, and a road system that thrived for over a millennium.
Historians claim that the city was designed with the king’s palace and temples located in the centre of the inner city. Following agricultural areas with rice fields and vegetable plots, public housing made up the immediate outer layer. The lakes and jungle constituted the largest outside circle.
What’s special: The most popular places to visit in Anuradhapura are Jetawanarama dagoba, Ruwanweli dagoba, Abhayagiriya, and Sri Maha bodhi (ficus religiosa).
For a cultural stroll around the city: In addition to the locations listed above, this ancient city is home to a great deal of other dilapidated monuments. Anuradhapura is one of the greatest historical places to learn about Sri Lankan culture and heritage because of its abundance of other historical monuments, including Buddha statues, stone sculptures, Dagobas (a type of stupa found in Buddhist temples), museums, and many more. The most popular sites in Anuradhapura are Ruwanweli Seya, Isurumuniya, Thuparama, Jetawanarama, Abhayagiriya, Samadhi Buddha, and Twin Pond. An enriching experience of Anuradhapura’s rich historical past can be had by taking a stroll through the archaeological museum.
Food in Sri Lanka: Although Anuradhapura has a rich cultural legacy, a historical trip to the region shouldn’t be limited to visiting the archaeological sites; instead, you can also try the authentic Sri Lankan food that Anuradhapura has to offer.

Reaching out to Anuradhapura

  • By Air: From large towns like Colombo and Kandy, Anuradhapura is easily accessible by air. The historical location of Anuradhapura is easily accessible from the domestic airport of Colombo. Flights to Anuradhapura depart from Colombo every day.
  • By Train: The most common method of transportation from Colombo to Anuradhapura is by train. A railway line connects Anuradhapura with Colombo, and a few express trains run between the two cities every day. Train travel is affordable, practical, and time-efficient.
  • By car: The majority of international visitors who reserve package trips—that is, cultural tours of Sri Lanka—travel to Anuradhapura by car. because a car, van, or coach is given for them to use while travelling. But travelling by bus can be incredibly inconvenient. Public bus travel is inexpensive, but it wastes time.

Cultural places in Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa

This cultural trip in Sri Lanka will cover 230 km in total.
From the airport, the journey to the cultural centre of Polonnaruwa takes five hours.
One of the best locations to discover Sri Lankan culture and tradition is Polonnaruwa, the country’s second-oldest capital. Three significant monarchs, Nissankamalla, Vijayabahu the Great, and King Parakramabahu, ruled over Polonnaruwa, which dates back to the tenth century AD.
Because of the blending of Buddhist and Hindu civilizations, the city takes pride in having a unique culture. In addition, a great deal of progress was made in the fields of literature, agriculture, water management, culture, and religion under Parakramabahu’s rule. Numerous significant literary works by regional experts, like Dipawamsa and Thupawamsa, were produced during this time. During this time, numerous significant irrigation projects, such as Parakaramasamudra, were completed.
What’s special: The most visited tourist destinations in Polonnaruwa include Parakrama Samudra, Parakrama Palace, Gal Viharaya, Ruwanweli Dagoba, and Alahana Pirivena Complex.
Take a cultural tour of the city: The Polonnaruwa Archaeological Site is home to numerous ancient buildings, including audience halls, palaces, and temples. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Three significant kings—Nakamalla, Parakramabahu, and Vijayabahu the Great—had aided in the growth of the city.
Among the other significant landmarks in Polonnaruwa that are not inside the ancient city are the Parakramabahu statue, Parakramasamudra, and the Polonnaruwa history museum.
Because of Polonnaruwa’s historical and cultural significance, it is typically included in Sri Lanka cultural tours. While some people use cars to get between landmarks, cycling through the city is one of the most popular ways to explore it.
Food Polonnaruwa: Despite not being well-known for its own culinary traditions, Polonnaruwa is an island that produces a significant number of fruits and vegetables. Few culinary classes are offered in Polonnaruwa, and those that are are tailored mostly for visitors from overseas.

How to get there

The most effective method of travelling from Colombo to Polonnaruwa and throughout Sri Lanka is by road. Direct buses go from all of the island’s major cities to Polonnaruwa, which is accessible to all major cities, including Colombo, Kandy, and Matara.
Other locations where you can learn about Sri Lankan culture and tradition
Yapahauwa: Although most tourists are unaware of it, Yapahuwa is another ancient city in Sri Lanka. As a result, there is not much tourist traffic going to Yapahuwa. For a brief while in the 13th century, Yapahuwa served as the capital of Sri Lanka before being abandoned as a result of invasions by South Indians. Yapahuwa was surrounded by a ring of walls and ditches and had once been a fortification like Sigiriya.
Kala wewa: In the height of its glory, the ancient city of Anuradhapura drew its water supply from this reservoir. The lake continues to be one of the most significant water resources and holds a significant amount of precipitation throughout the monsoon. The largest irrigation project that dates back to the Anuradhapura era was Kalawewa. During King Dhatusena’s rule in the fifth century AD, Kalawewa was constructed.
Sandungira Raja Maha Vihara: Based on historical accounts, this ancient temple was constructed during the Anuradhapura period (4th century BC-11th century AD) under the supervision of King Saddatissa. The majority of visitors to Sandungira Temple are locals and devotees; most Sri Lankan culture excursions designed for foreign visitors do not include a visit to this shrine.
Ancient Ayurvedic hospital: Within the Anuradhapura archaeological site, remnants of an ancient Ayurvedic hospital were found. The Ayurvedic hospital was falsely claimed to have existed between 898 and 914 AD. The monks who resided in the Thuparama temple complex were served by the hospital.


About 30 kilometres to the south of Colombo International Airport is the city of Colombo.
The flight from the airport to Colombo takes one hour.
The commercial and multicultural metropolis of Sri Lanka, Colombo, has been greatly impacted by a wide range of cultures and religions. Back in the sixth century AD, international traders travelled to Colombo, and several ships from Greece, Mesopotamia, the Arab world, China, India, and many other nations docked at the harbour to sell their wares and gather supplies needed for the journey.
Portuguese, Dutch, and British influence was also quite prominent in Colombo. From 1505 until 1948, when Sri Lanka was under colonial rule, Colombo served as the country’s principal port and commercial hub. A portion of those colonial rulers’ identities can be found in the palaces, parks, monuments, artefacts, literary works, festivals, customs, and more that they left behind.
Currently, Colombo is a cosmopolitan city that is home to numerous ethnic and religious communities.
What’s special: The most popular tourist destinations in Colombo include the Kaiman Gate, Parliament, Wolvendaal Church, Old Fort, and Gangarama Temple.
The greatest way to see the city of Colombo and get a taste of its culture is to take a walking tour. Most historical tours of Sri Lanka typically start and end in Colombo, where visitors see sites including the town hall, Parliament, Viharamahadevi, Gangarama temple, and Fort. Colombo is home to several museums, galleries, cultural centres, theatres, and different types of restaurants, making it one of the greatest locations for Sri Lankan cultural history.

How to get there

  • Via Air: There are excellent flight connections between Colombo International Airport and all major global locations. Air travel to all of Sri Lanka’s major cities is convenient because to the domestic airport at Ratmalana, which is located close to the city centre.
  • By Ship: The largest harbour in Sri Lanka, Colombo welcomes hundreds of cruise ships each year.

Cultural places in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya rock fortress

This cultural tour of Sri Lanka will cover 177 kilometres.
The four-hour journey from the airport to the Sigiriya cultural site
Don’t miss Sigiriya, one of the most well-known cultural places in Sri Lanka and iconic tourist destination in Sri Lanka. It is a must-see on every cultural tour of the country and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In terms of history and legacy, Sigiriya’s magnificence outweighs that of all the other tourist destinations in the cultural triangle.
Sigiriya, as its name implies, is a naturally occurring rock hidden 160 miles from Colombo. Reaching 500 metres above sea level, the rock is elevated. And one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world today is his enormous granite rock.
Encircled by walls and moats, Sigiriya Rock Fort is one of the world’s oldest landscaped gardens, dating back to the fifth century AD. A sophisticated water management system complete with underground drains, fountains, and swimming pools is bequeathed to the Fort of Sigiriya.
In the fifth century AD, King Kashyapa constructed the impenetrable stronghold of Sigiriya Rock Fortress to protect himself from the fury of his half-brother Moggalana. For eighteen years, the monarch resided in the fort until Moggalana and his army returned and killed him in combat.
The Sigiriya rock fortification is home to the well-known Sigiriya fresco murals. It is estimated that the fresco paintings featuring female characters date back to the fort’s construction approximately 1500 years. It was estimated that 500 of these figurines had been painted on the rock fort’s exterior. But over the years, the majority have faded, leaving only a small pocket of frescoes with 28 figures. The remaining paintings, however, are closely guarded and managed by the archaeological department. The paintings’ original colours are still vibrant, and the figures are in excellent condition.
What’s special: Among the significant palaces in Sigiriya are the Octagonal Pond, Fresco Pocket, Pleasure Garden, Miniature Water Garden, and Terraced Garden with Swimming Pool. Though they are securely secured, tourists are not permitted to flash in front of the fresco paintings for fear of damaging them.
When taking a stroll around Sigiriya, keep in mind that the monument is significant not only as a historical and cultural landmark but also for demonstrating the sophisticated engineering skills of the ancients. The rock stronghold of Sigiriya suggests that ancient engineers had a solid understanding of hydraulic principle and trigonometry.
For elderly folks, those with back issues, and those with knee ailments, climbing Sigiriya rock can be an intimidating undertaking. Everyone who comes expects to climb to the top of the rock. The reward for all of the hard work is the amazing view of the surrounding area from the summit. At the same time, there are numerous ruins visible on top of the rock, including a granite throng, a swimming pool, and the remains of other dwellings. King Kshayapa is thought to have resided in a palace perched atop a rock.

How to get there:

  • By Road: The most common route to get to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is by car. Sigiriya and Dambulla, a large adjacent city, are well connected. When using public transportation, all visitors need first go to Dambulla City and then board a bus that is headed towards Sigiriya.
  • By Air: Getting to Sigiriya Rock by air is another feasible alternative. Daily direct flights are available from Colombo to Sigiriya for travellers who want to cut down on their trip time.

Cultural places in Sri Lanka Dambulla cave temple

There are 160 kilometres to travel on this cultural tour of Sri Lanka.
The journey from the airport to Dambulla takes four hours.

In Sri Lanka, going to Buddhist temples is a very significant part of culture. The finest venue to experience Sri Lankan culture and traditions is at a temple. This chapter is devoted to the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple, one of the island’s cultural hotspots.
Because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dambulla is well-known worldwide. One of the earliest cave temples in the world is the golden cave temple in Dambulla, which dates to the first century BC. A renowned tourist destination, Dambulla is featured in most Sri Lankan culture tours. The two popular destinations in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, Sigiriya and Dambulla, are included in all cultural tours of the Sri Lanka.
The temples of Dambulla are home to countless Buddha sculptures, god figures, statues of rulers, and murals that show different scenes from the life of the Buddha. One of the must-see cultural places in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is Dambulla, due to its flawless fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism in its culture and legacy.
Numerous Buddha statues are hidden in the golden cave temple of Dambulla. The caverns have wall and ceiling paintings covering hundreds of square metres, all of which depict different scenes from the life of the Buddha. The statues and paintings date back to the time when Sri Lankan rulers ruled. The temple is a prime illustration of the creative prowess of Sri Lanka’s traditional craftspeople.
What makes it unique: Situated on the western side of Dambulla Rock, the temple is tucked away from the bustling town of Dambulla. The five natural caverns housing the Buddha statues and paintings provide excellent shelter from the sun’s rays and rainfall. But over the past few decades, humidity buildup has led to some deterioration to the paintings.
For a stroll around the Dambulla Cave Temple: Compared to Sigiriya, the hike in Dambulla is considerably easier. In Sigiriya, there are 120 steps to climb, and they are uneven in height and narrow. That being said, the steps at Dambulla are very modern, and the trek to the temple takes only ten minutes or so.

How to get there:

  • By Road: The most common method of travelling to the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple is by car. There are direct buses from major cities like Kandy, Jaffna, and Colombo to Dambulla, which is well-connected to the entire island.
  • By Air: Getting to the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple by air is another practical option. For travellers who want to cut down on journey time, direct flights are offered daily from Colombo to Dambulla.

This cultural trip of Sri Lanka has a 115 km distance to cover.
The journey from the airport to Kandy takes three hours.

Founded by the Kandyan King in the early 13th century, Kandy is a big metropolis with a great degree of cultural diversity. The British army later attacked it and occupied the historic capital for almost 150 years. Due to the influx of people from various ethnic backgrounds into the city over the past few centuries, the population has significantly grown and has turned into a melting pot of cultures. The majority of the migrants settled along Kandy Lake’s edge.
Travellers can explore colonial structures, visit an oriental market, and wander past temples, churches, and mosques in Kandy, among other activities, to keep themselves occupied. Some of the best sites in all of Sri Lanka to purchase traditional handicrafts, tea, and spices manufactured by local craftsmen may be found in the numerous shops scattered along the main road. You can purchase items like spices and tea, as well as wooden figurines, handwoven garments, jewellery, and stones.
In Kandy, there are lots of locations to sample regional cuisine. There is a large selection of traditional foods at some of the food outlets, such “Gami Kade,” or the village boutique in the Gannoruwa Agriculture Research Centre. This project is supported by Sri Lanka’s Department of Agriculture in an effort to increase awareness of the healthful indigenous cuisine options among tourists. The eatery is situated next to the Gannoruwa bridge, just outside of Kandy. Affordably priced local cuisine variety, including thosai, samosa, wade, kos wade, helapa, hoppers, fruit juice, and string hoppers, are offered here.
There are many eateries dotted across the central city that serve scrumptious international and local cuisine. Many tarp-covered stalls in the central market sell clothing, electronics, and culinary items classified as less healthful fast food, such as samosas, egg rolls, fish rolls, and fish buns.

The island’s mountainous interior, which was transferred from the king of Sri Lanka to the representatives of the British East India Company, is frequently referred to as the country’s cultural hub.
The most terrifying Buddhist temple on the island is located in Kandy. It’s called the teeth Relic Temple and is home to the left eye teeth Buddha. Temple history dates back to the last kingdom in Sri Lanka, Kandy, which was established by King Vikrama Bahu 3 (1267–1301 AD) and served as the country’s capital until 1815 AD.
The Sri Lankan mountains rise to a height of 2524 metres above sea level and are nested in the centre of the island. Kandy is a stunning city encircled by tea plantations and hazy hills. The Udawattakele sanctuary and the city itself both boast substantial amounts of greenery. One of Kandy’s most notable features is the lake, which both enhances the city’s attractiveness and shields it from flooding. During a boat tour at Kandy Lake, you can see a variety of bird species in addition to creatures like tortoises and monitors.
Given its significance as a cultural hub, Kandy is a stop on the majority of Sri Lankan culture tours. Aside from its rich cultural legacy, Kandy is among the most attractive cities with a plethora of significant tourist attractions inside its boundaries.
What’s special: Among the most well-known tourist destinations in Kandy are the Buddhist International Museum, the Tea Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Kandyan Cultural Show.
Some more locations to visit in Kandy that tell volumes about the city’s rich culture and tradition are Natha devala, Pattini temple, Kandy lake, tooth relic temple museum, Udawattakele sanctuary, Kandyan cultural display, and Royal Botanical Garden. Other religious sites in Kandy include Rankoth Viharaya, Gadaladeniya Temple, and Embekke Temple; nevertheless, these temples are a short distance from the city.

How to get there

  • By Air: From Colombo and other major towns, Kandy is easily accessible by domestic plains. A few flights depart everyday on a regular basis from Colombo to Kandy via sea plane.
  • By Rail: The upcountry railway route connects Kandy with itself quite well. A British East Indian company set out the railway track, which is still in good working order today. Train travel is regarded as one of the best options for getting from Colombo to Kandy because it is affordable and convenient.
  • By Road: Because Kandy is situated in the centre of the island, it serves as the focal point of Sri Lanka’s road system. Kandy has excellent contemporary road connections with every part of the island.

Eliya Nuwara

173 kilometres will be covered on this cultural trip of Sri Lanka.
The journey from the airport to Nuwara Eliya, a cultural city, takes four hours.

The ideal place to start your urban experience is Nuwara Eliya. Early in the 18th century, Governor Edward Barns developed this melting pot of cultures. Over the course of several centuries, migrants from all over the island have settled on the banks of Gregory Lake and made Nuwara Eliya their destination. The current population of Nuwara Eliya is made up of Muslims, Sinhalese, and members of numerous other ethnic minority groups.
Tea plantations and verdant mountains encircle Nuwara Eliya. Natural beauty abounds in Nuwara Eliya, which is home to verdant mountains, gushing waterfalls, rivers, tea plantations, vegetable plots, and forested areas. As a result, Nuwara Eliya is well-known as a destination for nature lovers.
A popular vacation destination during British control, Nuwara Eliya was created by a British governor who was drawn to the affluent British planters by the area’s healing climate. The lowest recorded temperature on the island occurs in Nuwara Eliya, where it can occasionally drop as low as -2C after sunset.
Nuwara Eliya’s history dates back around 7000 years, and the city is prominently featured in the Ramayana narrative. In Hinduism, Nuwara Eliya holds great significance as the dwelling location of King Ravana. Hindu mythology states that Kin Ravana kidnapped Queen Seetha, the Rama’s wife, and imprisoned her in Nuwara Eliya.
What’s unique: The most visited tourist destinations in Nuwara Eliya are Seetha Amman Temple, Ashok Vatika, and Hanuman Temple.
For a cultural stroll through the city: Nuwara Eliya is more well-liked for natural vacations than for cultural tours. Nonetheless, Nuwara Eliya draws a lot of Indian tourists who come to Sri Lanka to visit locations like the Seeth Amman Temple and Asok Vatika that are referenced in the Ramayana.

How to get there

  • By Air: From major cities like Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, domestic sea aircraft service is offered to Nuwara Eliya.
  • By Train: The best method of transportation from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya is thought to be by train. One of the world’s most picturesque train rides is the one that runs from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.
  • By car: Nuwara Eliya is easily accessible by car and has connections to the majority of Sri Lanka’s major cities.

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