Seducing travellers from all around the world, Sri Lanka is a magnificently poised island in the balmy Indian Ocean waters famed for its natural beauty and palmed fringes. In addition to this, with more than two thousand years of recorded history, the place has a certain historic charm too as denoted by the ruins and old cities located all over the island. There is a certain magical charm to the place too with the island holding centre stage in many a legends and stories. Some of the popular attractions of this place are listed as follows:
Sigiriya: Located in the Matale district of Central Province Sri Lanka, Sigiriya is a massive rock column that is over 200 metres high. According to ancient Sri Lankan chronicles, the place was used by King Kasyapa during 477- 495 AD as his capital. His palace was built on the top of this rock along with a gateway on a small plateau about halfway up the side of the rock in the form of an enormous lion. It is from this structure that the name of the rock has been derived- Sihagiri, the Lion Rock. Though the place was later abandoned after the death of the king, it was used as a Buddhist monastery till late 14th Century
Yala National Park: Covering a total of 979 square kilometres of which only 141 square kilometres is open for the public, Yala national Park figures among the most visited parks of Sri Lanka. Originally established as a game sanctuary in 1894, the reserve has parklands, jungle, freshwater lakes, beaches and scrublands. It is because of this range of habitats that the place is home to a large number of animal and plant species. Counted among the 70 Important Bird Areas of Sri Lanka, the place has over 44 species of mammals as well as the highest leopard densities in the world.
Adam’s Peak: Containing the sacred ‘Sri Pada’, Adam’s Peak is a 2243 m tall conical mountain standing right in the centre of Sri Lanka. Also known as the butterfly mountain, the place is sacred to all religions. This is because ‘Sri Pada’, a rock formation resembling a footprint is considered sacred in Buddhist tradition to be that of Buddha, in Hindus that of Shiva and in Islam and Christianity, that of Adam. Most often scaled from December to May, the mountain is accessible by only 6 trails. Apart from the dominating and outstanding profile of the mountain, the mountain is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists who walk up to the summit through thousands of steps taking several hours. In fact, many climb the mountain at night as with stars overhead and lights leading up, it is an unforgettable experience.
Pinnawela: Located halfway between the current capital Colombo and the ancient royal residence Kandy in central Sri Lankan hills, Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage was built in 1975 by the Sri Lankan Wildlife Department. Originally built to provide care and protection to orphaned elephants found in jungle, Pinnewela is quite popular among both local as well as foreign tourists. Tourists can interact with the elephant herds while they are playing and bathing at the river bank. Most of the elephants at the orphanage are healthy and are either sold or donated or even retained for future breeding once they attain adulthood. Visiting families can enjoy by observing various aspects of elephant life at this place as well as take rides on them.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve: This biodiversity hotspot of Sri Lanka is a popular National Park of international significance due to its status as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Though the reserve is only21 kms from east to west and 7kms from north to south, yet it is a treasure trove of various endemic species of plants, amphibians, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. Because of the dense vegetation prevalent in the area, the place is not so popular as Yala yet there is no refuting the animal and plant diversity that prevails in the area. With its name translating into ‘Kingdom of Lion’, the place is home to leopards, elephants, as well as the Purple faced langur. This hilly virgin rainforest is a part of Sri Lankan lowland rain forests ecoregion and has been saved from the commercial logging due to the region’s inaccessibility.
Dambulla Cave Temple: Also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, this is also a World Heritage Site located in the central part of Sri Lanka. Said to be the largest and the best preserved cave complex in the country, this cave temple is a major attraction spanning over 5 caves that contain statues and paintings related to Lord Buddha and his life. There are a total of over 153 Buddha statues, 3 that of Sri Lankan kings as well as 4 of Hindu gods and goddesses. The 5 caves have now been converted into shrine rooms and are by far the most impressive of all cave temples found on the island. The three main caves of these five are the Cave of the Divine King, Cave of the Great Kings and the Great New Monastery. Conservation efforts are always in progress at the site to make it more accessible and maintain the integrity of the original temple complex.