Cultural hotspots in Sri Lanka

Cultural hotspots in Sri Lanka

Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has a variety of cultural experiences to offer. The most iconic Cultural hotspots in Sri Lanka are mainly located within the Cultural Triangle which comprises the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy. These ancient cities are brimming with a vibrant history dating back a several thousand years

  • The cultural diversity of Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka is among the few countries with a rich and vast cultural heritage, owing to its multi-cultural roots. Sri Lankan culture is a mix of modern as well as traditional elements.

Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is one country where the British, Dutch, Portuguese and Indians have left their mark. It is a multi-religious country which results in a delightful mix of religions, cultures and traditions. Ancient cities, colonial architecture, religious sites, art and monuments are abundant– truly worthy of its title ‘The Paradise Isle’.

Cultural Triangle 

Situated in Central Sri Lanka lies its cultural triangle which covers an area which includes the World Heritage cultural sites of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, the Ancient City of Sigiriya, the Ancient City of Dambulla and the Sacred City of Kandy. These sites are of high universal value and are visited by many pilgrims, clergy, as well as by local and foreign tourists.

Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

The ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were once capitals of the ancient Sinhalese kingdom. The first and most important was Anuradhapura, which was built in 380 BC and was abandoned due to Indian invasions in the 10th century AD.

One of the main attractions in the Cultural Triangle is the sacred Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura. Sri Maha Bodhi is believed to have grown from a branch of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha found enlightenment. This is the most sacred tree in all of Sri Lanka and has been so for thousands of years. Many rituals and offerings are given to the tree in veneration. There are three major dagobas in Anuradhapura, one of which is almost 3000 years old and are each uniquely spectacular. 

Polonnaruwa is the second ancient capital of Sri Lanka but is much smaller than its predecessor. The historical sites in both of these ancient capitals are UNESCO World Heritage Sites


According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, the Sigiriya rock fortress was a large forest selected by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. Halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure; Sīnhāgiri, the Lion Rock.


Apart from the ancient temples at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, The Cultural Triangle is home to the famous Dambulla Cave Temple and some other smaller cave temples. The complex is made up of five Buddhist Temples and a giant golden Buddha.

The Dambulla Cave Temple houses a giant resting Buddha statue surrounded by smaller standing statues and wall paintings depicting the life of Gautama Buddha. It is common for the Buddhist people of Sri Lanka to go on pilgrimage in the Cultural Triangle and foreign visitors can also undertake this pilgrimage to some extent, but they will need to dress accordingly and preferably be accompanied by a local to properly partake in the ritualistic customs.


The southernmost tip of the triangle is the city of Kandy where the Kandyan empire ruled between the 14th and 19th centuries.

It is in Kandy that the Temple of the sacred tooth relic is kept at the Temple of the Tooth– a large temple complex full of sculptures and paintings depicting Gautama Buddha. The Temple of the Tooth and the city of Kandy are the main highlights in one of the most magnificent festivals of Sri Lanka, the Poya Perahera.

Kandy Lake, also known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, is a beautiful artificial lake in the heart of the hill city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, built in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe next to the Temple of the Tooth

Visit Arthur’s Seat during sunrise or sunset for a panoramic view of the lake and the entire city of Kandy.

In addition to the cultural triangle, many other must visit cultural and historical sites can be found in the Capital city of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. It was the capital of the Sinhalese kingdom of Kotte from 1415 to 1565, largely owing to the lagoons, rivers, and swamps that still encircle it and provide a natural defence.

Another must visit site is the famous Galle fort  which is a fortress built during the 1500s.

Spread over a humongous area of 36 acres, the fort is a settlement in itself which showcases the colonial heritage of Galle which is by far the most important tourist attraction in Galle.

Jaffna is a city steeped in history, with a unique culture that has survived much turmoil. 

With a history of more than 2000 years, the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is probably the largest Hindu place of worship in the country. It hosts the popular 25-day festival dedicated to Lord Murugan, a Hindu Deity.

Visit the islands of Delft and Nainativu (Nagadeepa) and the ruins of the Chola Empire to make the most out of Jaffna’s vibrant culture and history and the splendour it has to offer.

End your cultural tour in the quaint  town of Nuwara Eliya, which is mostly famous for its tea production in Sri Lanka. Apart from the tea plantations; Horton Plains National Park, Gregory Lake, and Sita Temple are some of the popular places to see in this town.

Contact us at the Visit Lanka Tours for experienced guidance in tailor made day trips and round trips to experience Sri Lanka, a land like no other, to its fullest. We warmly await your arrival!