3 Architectural Treasures of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a magical and diverse country. While most people visit Sri Lanka for the beaches and myriad of water and adventure sports available, it’s highly recommended that you keep a few days in your itinerary to discover some of architectural treasures – the remains of vast cities and ambitious feats of early engineering.
The Sacred City of Anuradhapura
In Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, there is one site that stands out head and shoulders above the rest – the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. The city was once a vast royal capital and was home to 117 successive monarchs. It was the greatest monastic city in the world, and home to magnificent palaces, thousands of exceptional sculptures and impressive early engineering such as a complete network of underground channels that provided the whole city with water. The city was mysteriously abandoned and forgotten by everyone except for a few monks for almost 1000 years when it was rediscovered deep in the jungle. Visitors can now explore the forgotten city’s colossal palaces, temples and shrines that rival the pyramids of Giza in size.
The immense Galle Fort was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and remains the best found example of European architecture combined with Asian culture, and the best preserved sea fort in all of southern Asia. The ramparts and stone walls, which stand as solidly today as they did hundreds of years ago, shelter magnificent Old Dutch colonial villas and churches. Most of these buildings that line the narrow streets within, which have been so well preserved, are now shops, cafés and galleries that you can visit. The sheer vastness of the ramparts is something that you need to experience, and from them, you’ll have the most breath-taking views of the surrounding port and the ocean.
Visit the Galle Fort with a Sri Lanka Tour
Last, but by no means least is Sigiriya; one of Sri Lanka‘s most valuable historical monuments. The ancient palace and fortress complex is one of the most frequently visited sites by tourists. The impressive palace sits almost 400 metres above sea-level on a massive rock plateau which was once a volcano. Jutting out of the surrounding forest like an altar, the complex looks unreachable, but a massive stone entrance in the shape of a lion is concealed from view.
The lion is where Sigiriya gets its name, which translates to Lion Rock. The entire western wall is donned with frescoes celebrating the female form and the importance of women in traditional ceremonies. One of the most impressive features of the palace is the ‘mirror wall’, polished so that the king could see his reflection. The mirror wall is painted with extensive inscriptions and poems that date back to the 8th century.
More impressive still are the gardens. The gardens have a complex hydraulic system, consisting of lakes, canals, locks, dams, fountains and a system of surface and underground pumps. In the rainy season, this intricate system circulates water through the entire complex, and fills a series of fountains which date back to the fifth century – possibly the oldest on earth.
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