Unique ways to explore Sri Lanka’s cultural sites

Unique ways to explore Sri Lanka’s cultural sites

Exploring the Cultural Triangle is a must for anyone visiting Sri Lanka. This region boasts a wealth of historic sites that showcase the island’s rich cultural legacy, many of which are recognized by UNESCO World Heritage.

However, given the significance and staggering beauty of these sites, this region is often busy with tourists. Take advantage of these unique activities from Sri Lanka specialists Red Dot to see the best of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle without the crowds.

See Sigiriya from Pidurangala

    Sigiriya Rock Fortress is Sri Lanka’s most revered cultural attraction. Dating back to the 5th century, this UNESCO-recognised relic sits atop a towering rock soaring straight up out of the surrounding plains. Climbing the carved paths and steps to the top and surveying the views from the summit is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Sri Lanka.

    If you’ve climbed the rock before or you prefer unique experiences away from the tourist trail, see Sigiriya from the summit of neighbouring Pidurangala Rock. Pidurangala also has historic significance and you can explore the caves of this old monastery on the way to the top.

    Anuradhapura by bike or tuk tuk

    Discover the origins of civilization in Sri Lanka with a visit to Anuradhapura to see the relics of the island’s first city. Advanced engineering, towering religious monuments and an ancient sacred Bo tree are the highlights of what remains, as is the stunning lakeside location.

    The citadel complex is vast, so it’s time-consuming and tiring to explore on foot. Explore every inch of ancient Anuradhapura by bike or sit back and relax in a tuk tuk, Sri Lanka’s traditional motorised transport.

    Meet the monkeys of Polonnaruwa

    From ancient Anuradhapura and the secluded Sigiriya Fortress, Sri Lanka’s monarchy chose Polonnaruwa as the next royal capital.

    Polonnaruwa acted as the seat of Sri Lankan rule throughout the medieval period and soon grew into a large complex with spectacular royal quarters and religious monuments including ginormous Buddha statues, Hindu sculptures and a striking stupa with East Asian influences.

    The current ruler of Polonnaruwa is now the monkey population that’s showcased in the Disney documentary Monkey Kingdom. You can meet the monkeys of Polonnaruwa on an early morning tour of the complex led by an expert naturalist.

    Morning meditation at Mihintale

    Considered to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Mihintale is one of the most important cultural sites in the island – and yet is often overlooked by those who stick to the tourist trail. Crowned by a bright white Buddha statue, Mihintale is an important pilgrimage site for Sri Lankan Buddhists, especially during the annual Poson Poya celebration that’s held each summer.

    One of the most powerful ways to experience this sacred site is with a morning meditation with a monk. Draw in the blessings of nature as the sun rises into the sky then explore the site with your expert guide who will provide valuable insight into Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage.

    Roaming the forest to Ritigala

    For an experience even further away from the traditional tourist trail, look no further than Ritigala.

    A short drive from Anuradhapura and Mihintale, Ritigala Forest conceals the remnants of an ancient monastery. This place is rarely visited, so the space is extraordinarily peaceful. Expect to hear nothing but the sound of birdsong and the rustle of the tree canopy in the wind. Various ruined buildings can be found, joined together by ancient paved pathways that provide direction through the trees. With each step you take, you’re following the footsteps of the ancient Buddhist monks who built and maintained this remote religious retreat.