Mirissa Beach

Mirissa Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. The small, crescent-shaped golden-sanded beach is a secluded tropical paradise that is most conducive to utmost relaxation.

To maintain the secluded atmosphere of the place, all guest houses are set back behind the palm trees fringing the island. Nothing here will disturb your quiet contemplation of the most stunning sunsets that you will ever see in Sri Lanka.

Surely, Marco Polo must have been thinking of Mirissa beach when he described Sri Lanka as “undoubtedly the finest island in the world.”

Kandy

Kandy is one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful cities, the last capital of the ancient Sri Lankan kings.

This hill city lies 465 meters above sea level. Here, you can find the Royal Palace, where King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha resided until the British came and overthrew him in 1815.

Today, the Royal Palace is known as the National Museum of Kandy. Within this same complex can be found the Temple of the Tooth, one of Buddhism’s most venerated temples, for it holds the tooth relic of Buddha himself.

It was part of Sri Lanka’s ancient tradition that whoever held the tooth relic in his possession also had claim to the Sri Lankan throne.

There are many other shrines and temples in Kandy. The area is also full of frescoes, stone and wood carvings, and rare paintings.

By virtue of all the history and culture that Kandy holds, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Galle Fort

Galle Fort today is an open-air museum of historical Sri Lankan architecture.

This enclosure, built originally by the Portuguese on Sri Lanka’s southeast coast in 1588, was fortified by the Dutch in 1649. Some of the old buildings found within it are the now-ruined Franciscan chapel, built even before the fort itself, in 1541; the Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1640; the elite Amangalla hotel (now the New Oriental Hotel), from 1684; the clock tower, from 1707; the All Saints Anglican Church, from 1871; and the Meera Mosque, from 1904.

It is also the site of the Galle Fort lighthouse, the old Dutch government house, the National Maritime Museum, and the Great Warehouse, which was built in 1669 to store ship equipment, spices, and so forth.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Not far from the cities of Colombo and Kandy is the Dambulla Cave Temple, one of the largest and best-preserved cave temples in the world.

The area holds 80 known caves, but only three of these hold the main attractions.

In the first cave, the Cave of the Divine King, you will find a 14-meter statue of a reclining Buddha, which was carved directly from the cave rock.

In the second cave, the Cave of the Great Kings – the largest of the three caves – you will find 56 statues of Buddha, the gods Vishnu and Saman, and kings Vattagamani Abhaya and Nissanka Malla. From a crack in the ceiling drips water that is said to have healing powers.

The third cave, called the Great New Monastery, holds 50 Buddha statues and one statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura, the sacred ancient city, was Sri Lanka’s first capital. It holds a treasure trove of ancient palaces and monasteries, for which it has gained the honor of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the most famous places to visit in Anuradhapura is the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, which was grown from a cutting taken from the tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment.

Other attractions in Anuradhapura are the snowy white Ruwanweliseya Dagoba and its wall of elephant carvings. This is considered Anuradhapura’s greatest dagoba. It is so white, it can be painful to the eyes if you look at it in bright sunlight.

The Thuparama Dagoba is Sri Lanka’s oldest dagoba.

The Jetavanarama Dagoba is a mighty brick structure that contains enough bricks to build a 3-meter-high wall that runs continuously from London to Edinburgh.

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