UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka


Ancient City of Polonnruwa
Date of Inscription: 1982
-UNESCO List

Polonnaruwa was established as the capital of Sri Lanka after invasion of Anuradhapura in 993. Under the rule of King Parakramabahu, the second capital became a magnificent walled city. Fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and hallowed by shrines and sacred places the city is such a wondrous site. With 12th century vast reservoir known as Prarakrama Samudra, Lotus Bath, Audience Hall, Vatadage shrine and Buddhist statues, all set in the forest park surrounded by moats.

Polonnaruwa became a cosmic Hindu city due to Indian influence with large number of Hindu shrines, lakes and moats established around the city however it was in harmony with the buildings constructed by the Buddhist community.

The visitors of Polonnaruwa will be awestruck by the ruins that have survived millennia. Some of the highlights of the place are the 14 m Buddha statue carved out of living rock at Gal Vihara. On the side of this reclining Buddha stands a 7 m Buddha statue in a rare pose with crossed arms, while on the other side is smaller statue of Buddha sitting in a deep meditation, and another sculpture is set into a cave cut in the rock wall.


Ancient City of Sigiriya
Date of Inscription: 1982
-UNESCO List


Sigiriya or the Lion Rock, built in the 5th century by the parricidal King Kassapa I lies on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 370 m high. A series of moats, ramparts and amazingly engineered water gardens spread out on two sides of the rock, with the remains of a pair of giant stone lion paws guarding the flight of stairs leading the summit which was once occupied by a royal palace.

The Asia’s best preserved city of the first millennium, showing complex urban planning around the base of the rock and sheer audacity in the palace suspended on the summit.


Golden Temple of Dambulla
Date of Inscription: 1991
-UNESCO List


Dambulla is a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries; the 1st century BC cave temple is a large cave monastery consisting of series of ancient temples built under an overhanging rock ledge on top of the hills.

It is the largest best-preserved cave temple complex of the country with walls and ceilings covered in mainly 18th century Buddhist murals. This complex of 5 shrines includes pre-Christian rock inscriptions, 157 statues of Buddha and vividly coloured frescoes, making Dambulla cave temple as the largest antique painted surface in the world.

Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
Date of Inscription: 1988
- UNESCO List
Galle Fort, a remarkable preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site built entirely within walls and ramparts, which includes the bastions, churches, old mosques and houses that offers a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s more recent past. An imposing 17th century fort founded by the Portuguese and subsequently occupied by the Dutch and British colony. Set on a peninsula in the south of the island.

The 90 acre Dutch Fort was acknowledged as an archeological reserve by the UN since 1969. A best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South East Asia, showing combination of European architectural style and South Asian tradition.

Sacred City of Anuradhapura
Date of Inscription: 1982
-UNESCO List
Anuradhapura, the pre-Christian capital is a stately metropolis of striking monuments, parks and irrigation lakes. This sacred city was established around a cutting from Buddha’s fig tree which was brought by Sanghamitta (founder of an order of Buddhist nuns) in the 3rd century BC.

Anuradhapura was ranked after Egypt’s Pyramid as the world most massive ancient monuments. The 2,200 year old Sacred Bo Tree, the Royal Twin Baths and Isurumuniya Lovers are some the attractions in the sacred city.

Sacred City of Kandy
Date of Inscription: 1988
-UNESCO List
A picturesque hill capital, Kandy was the last stronghold against the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial domination until 1815. Set in the midst of mountain ranges, lake, river, tea plantation and spice garden.

This sacred Buddhist site is popularly known as city of Senkadagalapura, the last capital of the Sinahala kings whose patronage allowed the Sinhala culture to prosper for more than 2,500 years, a sanctuary of medieval culture, arts, crafts and life-styles with heritage sites in and around the city.

The magnificent 16th- 19th century Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Sacred Tooth enshrines Sri Lanka’s most important relic of Buddha. The temple was a part of a complex of buildings which includes the King’s Palace and the Queen’s Palace. Some of the other sites in the area are the impressive shrines dedicated to the guardian deities: Natha, Vishnu and Pathini.

There are numerous temples around the hills of Kandy which features distinctive architecture, murals and carving of the late medieval period, including the hilltop Lankatilleke and Gadaladeniya.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Date of Inscription: 1988
- UNESCO List
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is situated on the south west of Sri Lanka possibly the least disturbed tropical rainforest and holds the most number of endemic species of flora and fauna. Above 60% of the trees are endemic and considered to be rare. It serves as a refuge to more than 50% of the country’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies as well as a home to a great number of bio-diversity.

The area ha a narrow strip of undulating terrain consisting of a series of ridges and valleys. An evergreen forest with scrublands, with a very high endemism, 95% of the bird species in the area are endemic to Sri Lanka. Threatened mammals such as leopard and Indian elephants, purple faced langur also resides in the forest.

Sinharaja region has referred to be the home of a legendary lion of Sri Lanka. It is the last extensive primary lowland tropical rain forest of the country, the reserved remained untouched until 1968, when the government issued a directive to extract timber for the plywood sawmill and chip wood complex established at Kosgama. At present there are 6,500 to 7,000 ha of unlogged forest.


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