Anuradhapura was once the ancient monastic capital of Ceylon from 5th -10th Century and a place of former glory and political ruling. Ancient monuments, ruins and dagobas house Buddhist relics, and rock carvings belie the holy relevance it still has today, particularly around the Sacred Bodhi Tree shrine. To the East, Polonnaruwa was the second ancient capital from 10th- 12th Century, and is incredulously well preserved. The complex includes Gal Vihara’s four Buddha’s impressively carved into one rock face, and one reclining Buddha, as well as The King’s Palace which includes carved elephants in its Audience Hall.
Many visitors will choose to visit the outstanding rock fortress of Sigiriya before or after Polonnaruwa and it is easy to see why on approach. This breathtaking and dramatic natural rock structure juts impossibly out of the surrounding plains and stands 200 metres high. It was King Kashyapa I who decided to build a fortified palace on the rock’s summit, which can be reached by a challenging but rewarding ascent that gives astonishing panoramic views.
The extraordinary cave temple of Dambulla is the largest cave monastery on the island and was originally used as a refuge for King Valagambahu in 1st century. Consisting of a complex of Buddhist image houses, a colourful frescoed rock ceiling dating as far back as 2,000 years and Buddha statues deftly carved from rock, it is another world heritage site of immense importance.
The cultural triangle is an excellent addition to any Sri Lanka wildlife safari.