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Sri Lanka Heritage Sites

  • Widely known all over the globe for its exquisite locations and wonderful history, Sri Lanka is also popular thanks to its culture. Numerous Buddhist holy places and art are attracting millions of tourists, something that clearly shows the ancient appeal that the region has. While the cultural landscape in Sri Lanka is diverse, borrowing elements from south India, Oceania, and Southeast Asia, the religious landscape ranges from devoutly Buddhist to rural Hindu.
  • Sri Lanka’s documented history within religious scripture dates back more than a thousand years. What makes Sri Lanka different and unique is the fact that many of the ancient traditions and festivals are still celebrated, especially by the Tamil and Sinhalese people, alongside many other minorities.
  • A standout feature in the Sri Lankan culture is definitely the architecture. Thanks to the numerous influences, the location boosts a multitude of architectural forms as well as stiles. As expected, Buddhism is a major influence from an architectural standpoint, especially since it was instilled in the region since the 3rd century BC. During the 19th century, European and Christian cultural influences molded Buddhism as Sri Lankan culture into its present status. At its core, architecture in Sri Lanka was designed by the local people as the main way of expressing themselves and showcase their identity.
  • Arts and crafts in Sri Lanka are also inspired by the Buddhist culture which has been created by absorbing numerous other regional and national traditions. Many people in Sri Lanka still focus on performing traditional crafts, such as clay pottery, a memory of the old days in Sri Lanka. There are numerous historical vestiges scattered all over Sri Lanka that display the uniqueness of the culture and at the same time express the natural feelings of people in this region.
  • Sri Lanka’s cultural appeal is enriched by the performing arts. Dancing in Sri Lanka is particularly famous because it combines multiple ideas and identities from the local culture. An excellent example in this regard is the Kandyan dance. Dancing music such as baila is still encountered all over the island, most of the time near the historical and religious sites.
  • You cannot talk about Sri Lanka without saying something about its spices and tea culture. The people here like to include spices in their food, and because of that visiting the country is an extraordinary experience on its own. Food is cooked with a lower chili content than many places in India but there are numerous spices original to this region.
  • In Sri Lanka, you can find multiple World Heritage sites protected by UNESCO as well as other authorities. These monuments are a national treasure.
  • There are 8 major sites that one should visit in Sri Lanka. Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the temple of the Sacred Tooth is located in Kandy and it houses a tooth from Buddha. The temple has a daily ritual that has been instated for centuries and which is still repeated each day.
  • Some have called Sigiriya the eighth wonder of the world. The ancient castle dates from the 5th century AD and functions as an active tourist spot. This location still possesses a moat system in place that still retains water.
  • In Anuradhapura, you can check out the remnants of the older Sri Lankan civilization, Buddhist or otherwise. The ancient capital is one of the oldest continuously habited cities in the world.
  • The Ruwanwelisaya’s stupa, built in the 2nd century BC, is said to contain a relic of the Buddha himself. It’s whiteness glimmers beautifully in the sun. The Kaunghmudaw Pagoda in Sagaing, Myanmar, famous in its own right, was actually modeled after this stupa.
  • Polonnaruwa is another main cultural site in Sri Lanka and the thing that makes it very appealing is the fact that the ancient city is magnificently preserved, a testament of the discipline and care that the ancient kings who built the city. Many iconic sculptures and Buddhist temples lay within, a telling example of the urbaneness of ancient Buddhism, a religion people tend to associate with recluses.
  • The Cave Temple Dambulla is another important site in the region, and as the name states, the whole temple is located under a very large rock tower and is surrounded by plains. You can find more than 80 caves in the area, and the whole region is said to have a major significance. The importance of this Cave Temple comes from the fact that many considered it a place of retreat and admiration, with hundreds of statues depicting Buddha and goddesses being found here.
  • The cultural landscape in Sri Lanka is diverse and highly interesting. The sites and monuments discussed above will be explored more thoroughly in separate pages.


The major cultural and natural landscape heritage sites in Sri Lanka are;