Sri Lanka Things to Do Tips by josephescu
Sri Lanka Things to Do: 514 reviews and 791 photos
Peradeniya is a town on the outskirts of Kandy, on the main road to Colombo, famous for its botanical gardens, considered to be one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Asia.
The origins of the Botanic Gardens dates as far back as 1371 when a Kandyan king moved the court here and ordered a pleasure garden to be built on a location surrounded by the river Mahaweli on three sides and connected to the opposite bank by a suspension bridge. British conquest set ground work for a Botanical Garden in 1821 and plants from Kew Garden at Slave island, Colombo and from the Kalutara Garden in Kalutara were moved up until 1843.
During world war II, Lord Mountbatten, the supreme commander of the allied forces in the South Asia used the gardens as the headquarters of the South East Asia Command
The garden itself is an example of the wealth and beauty of the tropics with over hundred varieties of immense size palm trees bordering large avenues, 300 varieties of Orchids, spices and medicinal plants, wondrous arches of glossy foliage, lovely fernery and orchid houses with rare blossoms and spice trees in groves make it a rich botanical heritage.
-the Classical Avenue of Palms and Sausage Tree Avenue.
-One tree with a significant history is the Cannon ball Tree planted by King George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary in 1901.
-Giant Jawan fig tree
Directions: half an hour by bus from Kandy
I could not have passed through Sri Lanka and skip what may seem to some quite silly and touristy, but which felt very touchy to me….i.e. baby turtle hatchery.
The village of Kosgoda a few km north of Galle on the road to Colombo seems to specialise in the “business” of hatching baby turtles to be released in the sea at the expense of tourists.
There are many such businesses and/or organisations in the village, some of them are listed in the LP. I came across the “Sea Turtle Farm” or "Sea Turtle Hatchery" near the Saw Mills, at the end of a small track at the 74km marker in a quiet spot right in the beach.
The whole “operation” lasted about 90 minutes, and I was the only tourist, probably because of a rainy afternoon. Enthusiastic boys showed me around the water tanks containing the turtles, babies as well as old and rare, decoloured ones. It followed some friendly chat and a cup of tea with the manager of the establishment; I was told tsunami stories and shown pictures with previous visitors who made donations for the turtles; it appears that “many turtles were just released the night before”, so they were not planning to release any more tonight. With some extra-tea and some further small talk with me showing no intention to leave, they however let me 2 babies and we went on the beach just before sunset.
The baby turtles were so little, but once on sand they were desperately crawling to get to the immense sea in front of them, as the sun was crossing the horizon. A whole turtle life’s waiting in front…or death….it is believed turtles return the same place some day they entered the sea….. hope they’ll have something to return to…
ticket costs 1000 Rs.
Directions: village on the Colombo - Galle road
Phone: 071 5133212
Galle, where the church is greater than the dagoba
A sizeable town by SriLankan standards (nearly 100.000 inhab.), Galle is the one of the oldest and most famous trading ports in the Indian Ocean. Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through Galle port. The "modern" history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under Lourenço de Almeida was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, so the Portuguese took it by force.
In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as "sun", "moon" and "star". After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they preserved the Fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative centre of Galle.
Today the historic Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in south and southeast Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and south Asian traditions, being UNESCO enlisted. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and The Amangalla, a historic building now turned boutique hotel.
Directions: 120 km south of Colombo
Other Contact: http://www.lankalibrary.com/geo/
fishermen village, Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
Situated on the Indian Ocean in the dry zone of Sri Lanka's South-East coast, Arugam Bay is a world class surfing destination. It’s basically a simple laid back strip of beach accommodation.
From April to October it has one of the best surfing waves in the world. During the low season (Nov – April) things get very quiet, but with very few tourists, it’s one of the best places to unwind, eat seafood and enjoy the riches of simple life doing eveything by the sea.
Many of the buildings in the village were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. Due to its popularity among tourists the area has managed a slow recovery by private initiatives only.
There is excellent elephant viewing nearby as well as two types of monkeys wandering around the area. The nearby (4 km) Muslim village of Pottuvil is the center of commerce and transportation while tourist accommodations lie along the beach to the south of Pottuvil. Arugam Bay is also the gateway and only access to the Yala East National Park.
Don’t forget to walk to the small fishermen’s village south of Arugam for out of time picturesque scenes and friendly chat with the locals.
Directions: jump in a bus to Monaragala, then change in Siyambulanduwa. From there, 3 hours by bus to Pottuvil, accompanied by military after night fall.
tea plantation, Nuwara Eliya
Located at nearly 2000m altidude, Nuwara Eliya is the summer retreat of the island, the Sinhalese version of Sinaia in Romania: nice colonial villas maintaining their old English-style lawns and gardens, family walks in fresh air, horseriding, fishing and cricket across large parks.
Most backpackers use the town as base for visits to Horton Plains National Park and the World's End, a sheer precipice with a 1050 m drop, and for the scenic Baker Falls.
We instead used it to stroll around vast tea plantations, overwhelmed by the surreal green leafes, to look for Tamil tea pickers and watch them at work and last but not least to have a nice cup of tea in the collonial mansion of the former owner and pretend we stepped back in time.
sunrise at Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka
Located in the central highlands of the island, surrounded by largely forested hills with no mountain of comparable size nearby, Adam's Peak is 2,243 metres high and is known for the Sri Pada, or "sacred footprint", a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, which in Buddhist tradition held to be the last footprint of Buddha on earth, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Muslim (and Christian) tradition that of Adam.
Access to the mountain is generally provided by a bus that travels between Sripada and the nearby town of Maskeliya, to the northeast.
The mountain is an important pilgrimage site, especially for Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims walk up the mountain, following a variety of routes up thousands of steps. The journey takes several hours at least. The peak pilgrimage season is in April, and the goal is to be on top of the mountain at sunrise, when the distinctive shape of the mountain casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding plain and can be seen to move quickly downward as the sun rises.
Climbing at night can be a remarkable experience, with the lights of the path leading up and into the stars overhead. There are rest stops along the way.
A shrine to Saman, a Buddhist "deity" (People who have done yeoman service to regions are deified by Sri Lankan Buddhists) charged with protecting the mountain top, can be found near the footprint.
This mountain played a role in Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction novel The Fountains of Paradise.
This mountain also produces a very high grade white tea, known as Sri Pada White Tea. This white tea is especially rare and only 30 kilograms are made on a weekly basis because only the best fresh shoots are selected and then withered and sun dried.
Dambulla caves, Sri Lanka
Dambulla is the largest, best preserved and most impressive cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. In an area with over 80 documented caves, some being still used by the monks as meditation locations, Dambulla temple is composed of 5 caves converted into shrine rooms, built at the base of a 150m high rock over the surrounding plains. Access is along the gentle slope of the Dambulla Rock, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding flat lands, which includes the rock fortress Sigiriya, 19kms away. Families of friendly monkeys make the climb even more interesting.
Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are images of the Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas and scenes from Buddha’s life including the temptation by demon Mara and Buddha's first sermon. In addition, the caves house several hundreds statues of Buddha as well as of some srilankan kings and, not at all surprising, some Hindu Vishnu and Ganesh. These statues and paintings are representative of many epochs of Sinhala sculpture and art. The Buddha statues are in varying sizes and attitudes - the largest is 15 metres long. One cave has over 1,500 paintings of Buddha covering the ceiling.
Since it's founding in the 1 century BC by King Valagamba, many improvements and additions have been carried out to the sculptures and paintings over the years. Hindu statues are believed to be of the 12 century AD and the latest paintings are of the late 18-century. The temple is a perfect location to view evolution of the ancient Sri Lankan arts.
Entrance to the caves has been embellished in 1938 with arched colonnades and gabled entrances.
go up through a lion's mouth, speaker of thruth
Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and ruins of a castle situated in central Sri Lanka. It is a popular tourist destination and also popular for the ancient paintings (frescos) very similar to the paintings in Ajanta Caves of India.
It was built during the reign of King Kasyapa, a patricidal king who, afraid of reprisals led by his half – brother, chose to move the seat of power from Anuradhapura to this 500m rock. It was Kasyapa and his master-builders who were responsible for the complex plan which made Sigiriya the glorious capital it was for 17 years (477 – 495 AD). The frescoes of the "heavenly maidens" halfway up the rock in a sheltered gallery. The "mirror wall", which records the poetic outpourings of early visitors to the rock and the colossal plan of the royal palace, water gardens and fortifications, is entirely fascinating.
Following Kasyapa's death, the rock turned again into a monastery complex up to about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. The ruins were discovered in 1907 a British explorer.
Some further interpretations have the site as the work of a Buddhist community, with no military function at all. This site may have been important in the competition between the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions in ancient Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is used as the location of many of the events in the science-fiction novel The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke, although Clarke changed the name to Yakkagala in the book.
Gal Vihara Buddha, Polonnaruwa
With Anuradhapura sacked and abandoned in 1017 AD, the Chola kings chosed the relatively safer Polonnaruwa as their capital, and remained as such for the next 300 years.
Although nearly 1000 years old, it is much younger than Anuradhapura and generally in better repair, hence easier to appreciate by the novice tourists in search of history.
Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the Sri Lanka, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the early kingdoms. The Golden Age of Polonnaruwa was during Parakramabahu's reign, when huge buildings were erected, adorned by beautiful parks and, as a crowning achievement, a 2500 hectare water tank. The following king virtually bankrupted the kingdom in his attempts to match his predecessor’s achievements. By the early 13th century, Polonnaruwa was beginning to prove as susceptible to Indian invasions as Anuradhapura and eventually it too was abandoned.
Rediscovered and susequently looted by the Portuguese in the early years of the colonial era, Polonnaruwa became UNESCO world heritage site since 1982
Directions: at least a FULL day from dawn to dusk, and considering monuments are scattered around a large park area, better hire a bike.
The Ruwanveli Saya Stupa in Anuradhapura
One of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization, home to some of the largest & most impressive structures of the ancient world, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Founded in the 4th century BC, it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²).
Anuradhapura is said to be the capital of the Rakshasa King Ravana in the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to legend, it was burnt down by Lord Hanuman before the epic war. A popular legend among the Hindus says that a layer of ash is still to be found anywhere that you dig in Anuradhapura.
With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began, when vast monastery complexes and some of the tallest buildings in the ancient world were built. The city's popularity grew both as a ritual centre and as the administrative centre, a large population was attracted to the city for permanent settlement.
Anuradhapura attained its highest magnificence about the commencement of the Christian era. In its prime it ranked beside Nineveh and Babylon in its colossal proportions—its four walls, enclosing an area of over 600 kmp —in the number of its inhabitants, and the splendour of its shrines and public edifices. The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world, situated in the dry zone of the country the administration built many tanks to irrigate the land. Most of these tanks still survive. To date, it is believed that some of these tanks are the oldest surviving reservoirs in the world today.
Capital since the 5th century, the city suffered much during the earlier South Indian invasions, which made the kingdom economically poor. As a result of one last invasion, Anuradhapura was sacked and finally abandoned by AD 1017, with the governing capital shifted more inland, to the relative safety of Polonnaruwa.
It was not until the 19th century, 1000 years later, that the jungle was cleared away, the ruins laid bare, and some measure of prosperity brought back to the surrounding country by the restoration of hundreds of village tanks by the British.
The ruins consist of three classes of buildings, dagobas, monastic buildings, and pokunas. The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of masonry, varying from a few feet to over 1100 ft (340 m) in circumference, and as high as 120m. Some of them contain enough masonry to build a middle sized town. Remains of the monastic buildings are to be found in every direction in the shape of raised stone platforms, foundations and stone pillars. The most famous is the Brazen Palace erected by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC. The pokunas are bathing-tanks or tanks for the supply of drinking water, which are scattered everywhere through the jungle. The city also contains a sacred Bodi-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.
Directions: Allow at least a FULL day from dawn to dusk, and considering monuments are scattered around a large park area, better hire a bike.
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