North Central Province
Dating back to the fourth century BC, Anuradhapura was the first civilization to be built in Sri Lanka and remained the spiritual and secular capital of the island for well over a millennium. At its height, the city was dotted with monasteries and was home to over ten thousand monks, and the colossal dagobas were the second largest man-made structures in the world at the time of their construction, beaten only by the pyramids of Egypt. This World Heritage Site is home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest tree: the Sri Maha Bodhi, which is said to be a sapling from the tree under which Buddha sat and attained enlightenment.
Despite its high importance in the history of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura lies a little away from the main tourist trail and so is not frequented by as many visitors as the ancient ruins in the Cultural Triangle, and hotel options in this area are limited compared to other towns. However it can easily reached from Dambulla (approx. 1 hours) or Sigiriya (1 ½ hours) as well.
ANURADHAPURA – the capital of Sri Lanka from the 05th Century B.C. to the end of the 10th Century A.D. was the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. The city’s greatest treasures are its dagobas constructed of bricks and are hemispherical in shape. The most notable of these dagobas are the Ruvanveliseya dating back to the 2nd Century B.C. and is 300 feet in diameter, the Jetawanarama is 370 feet and one of the largest structure in the ancient world. Thuparama Dagoba is enshrined with the collarbone of the Buddha. The city’s most renowned relic is the sacred Bo Tree, which is said to have grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha gained Enlightenment. It was planted 2250 years ago and is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world.
Other key monuments inside this ancient city are the Moonstone, Samadhi Buddha Statue, Twin Ponds, Lowamahapaya and Abhayagiriya.
Anuradhapura is a “UNESCO World Heritage Site”.
Wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders (especially women), since some of the ruins of the Ancient City are sacred. Light cotton clothes will help as it gets warmer during the day time. Wearing a pair of socks during visit to religious places where shoes need to be taken off can be a life saver too!
Just half an hour from Anuradhapura, Mihintale is called the “Cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka”- it was here that the Buddhist doctrine was first preached by the monk ‘Mahinda’, son of Asoka, Emperor of India, to King Devanampiyatissa more than 2000 years ago. Mihintale – ‘the hill of Mahinda’ is approached by a magnificent, wide, ancient stone stairway of 1,840 steps. Some of the monuments found here are the oldest in the country and the large number of Brahmi inscriptions dates from the 3rd century B.C.
Kantaka Cetiya, Ambastala Dagoba, Maha Thupa, At Vehera, Alms Hall, Girihandu Seya, Indikatu Seya, Old Hospital and Kaludiya Pokuna are some of the interesting sites at Mihintale.
Wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders (especially women), since some of the ruins of the Ancient City are sacred. Recommend to visit either during morning hours or late afternoon to beat the heat.
Archaeologists now believe that the old Issurumuniya Temple is the Dakkina Meghagiri Viharaya, where ceremonies for the Rain God were performed. There is an Uttara Meghagiri Viharaya in ruins now, on the northern side of the Abhayagiriya Temple. The Elephant sculpture, the small pond, the black rock formations and the beautiful sculpture of the Man & Horse, identified as Agni (lightning) and Parjannya (Rain God) at the site, are proof to recognize this Temple as the center where ceremonies for the Rain God were held.
The small site museum at the Temple has the famous sculpture of Issurumuniya Lovers and other sculpture found at the site including the piece of Royal Family sculpture.
Undoubtedly, the most magnificent undamaged ancient image in the island. This 5th Century statue, ascribed to King Dhatusena, is 46 feet high, standing in an image house of which remains could be seen. It is situated 32 miles (51 kilometers) south-east of Anuradhapura via the great tank of Kalawewa.
This is the most beautiful rock-cut standing Buddha Statue in the Island, if not the entire world.
Kala Wewa is one of the largest reservoirs in Sri Lanka. Built by King Datusena during his reign of 459-479, this reservoir has been supplying water to the fertile land of Anuradhapura since ancient times and continues to do so today. The reservoir capacity of Kala Wewa is 10,000 acres and the total water catchment area is about 841.75km. The sluice gates are impressive and rise above the dam.
The large tree canopy provides shade and creates the perfect backdrop for an enjoyable experience. The environment is so charming that you can hear the sound of water moving, the sound of the wind, and the sound of birds. The traditional rowing boats used for fishing are lined up on the embankment. Fishermen carrying fish, farmers working in the fields as well as children cycling in the evening add to the beautiful scenery.
Kalawewa is just 15 min from Avukana Statue.
The Wilpattu National Park is both the largest and the oldest National Park in Sri Lanka. The Park is 508 square miles (131.694 hectares) in extent and was declared as a National Park in 1938. It gained popularity due to the high prevalence of Sri Lankan Leopards and is still regarded as one of the best places to go to spot a leopard in its natural habitat. It is also home to a diverse range of wildlife which includes the highly threatened Sri Lankan Sloth Bear as well as the Sri Lankan Elephant.
Another special feature in this Park is the large number of Villus (lakes) where you can watch wild life and many species of birds. Spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Wild Buffalo, Mongoose, Crocodile and Peacocks are also found here.
Half a day or a full day safari can be arranged as per your interest in wild life observation.
Cycle through the archeological sites of the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura with a local guide who has spent much of his time in this part of the island. Ride alongside scenic paddy fields, hidden villages and cleverly thought-out irrigation systems which have withstood the test of time. Pedal around some of the most architecturally stunning structures including Abayagiri Dagoba, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Along the way stop at the Elephant Pond to enjoy a scenic picnic overlooking the pond. After the picnic, guests have the option of continuing the ride. You will also visit the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, a branch of the historical Sri Maha Bodhi in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment.
Bicycles, helmets and refreshment will be provided.
Wear clothes that cover your knees and shoulders, since some of the ruins of the Ancient City are sacred. Light cotton clothes will help as it gets warmer during the day time. It will approximately take 3-4 hours depending on your cycling skills as well as time spent at monuments.
The monastic ruins at Ritigala are steeped in ancient history and mythology. One of the more popular beliefs is that Lord Hanuman accidentally dropped a chunk of medicinal herbs that he was carrying back from the Himalayan Mountain to Sri Lanka, to help Lord Rama’s brother, Prince Lakshman, who was wounded during a battle. This story accounts for the pocket of vegetation of healing herbs and plants at the strange mini-plateau at the summit of Ritigala, distinct from the dry-zone flora of the lower slopes and surrounding plains.
Walk through the Ritigala forest monastery that spreads across 700 acres of land. Home to forest monks who lived a simple way of life removed from the material world back in the day, Ritigala has since been abandoned. Shaded by a thick canopy of jungle and stone pathways built into existing rocks, Ritigala is unlike any other experience. The incline to the peak of the mountain is gradual and is surrounded by sites of ruins of structures that were once used by the monks.
Steady footwear advisable as a bit of rocky, uneven pathways are involved.