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Sri Lanka – Cultural Triangle, Elephants and More Kandy

The Cultural Triangle is filled with archeological wonders and ruins of the lost cities are now sacred UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Anuradhapura – the first capital of 4th century which is still alive with enormous dagobas (stupas) and places of worship including the Sri Maha Boddhi Tree.

Between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, very worthwhile to visit:
Mihintale – where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka in 3rd century. A marvellous hike to a wonderful view and Ritigala Nature Reserve– explore an ancient monastic hospital on a mountain where Hanoman dropped Himalayan plants and herbs on his flight to Lanka in the Ramayana.

Polonnaruwa – the second capital with its colossal Buddha statues.

Click for: Silent Walks in Sri LankaAnuradhapura, Mihintale and Ritigala, Nilambe

Sigiriya- Lions’ Rock


Rock of Sigiriya – translated as Lion’s Rock.  This fascinating site is thought to have once been a Mahayana Buddhist monastery dedicated to Avalokitesvara and Tara. There is also the story of King Kasyapa, son of a concubine. One story tells of Kasyapa murdering his own father to take the crown from his half brother. Kasyapa then fled Anuradhapura and created his palace at the summit of Sigiriya Rock. Surrounded by a crocodile infested moat, King Kasyapa created immense water and boulder gardens. Climbing up the 200m to the summit is done gradually by a series of steps and walkways where you can view impressive frescoes. The story of King Kaysapa continues with his suicide as his brother attempted to regain the crown. An amazing place in space- see photos and more stories of this former palace in the sky:

Dambulla, less than an hour drive south of Sigiriya, with its cave temples filled with Buddhas and beautiful paintings is an easier climb and another magical place in early morning or late afternoon light looking out to the silence of the expansive plains below.


Entrance fees are required to visit these ancient sites and payable in Sri Lankan Rupees.
Check to see about Joint-Tickets which include multiple sites with one price.

Nearby Dambulla is the stunning Kandalama Lake – lovely for walks and bicycling.

Accomodations can be found for all budgets close to each site and it is best to stay in one place as a base for day trips


Little Paradise -a charming family guesthouse

Upscale near Anuradhapura:    or find on Booking com

a great base offering a great view of the rock in a jungly setting and close to Polonnaruwa and Minneriya National Park.

Hotel Sigiriya: very comfortable and reasonable, lovely staff including an onsite naturalist:

 and Kandalama Lake
Less than an hour drive south of Sigiriya is beautiful Kandalama Lake.
A few hours drive from Colombo or approx 70km drive north of Kandy.

Train from Colombo can take you direct to Anuradhapura or on to Habarana which is closer to Sigiriya and Dambulla.

Kandalama Lake area:
Amaya Lake Resort:

Homestay Option near Dambulla:

The Green Edge:   a peaceful small inn with 3  comfortable and well appointed guestrooms. A few more rooms are in process by a delightful owner and host, Mr. Udana, who has a great sense to detail and hospitality. Udana and his staff cook up a great curry!


Minneriya National Park – a Paradise for Elephants and Elephant Lovers!
conveniently located between Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa is a must for elephant enthusiasts! While the West Coast and Kandy is in official rainy season- the area of the cultural triangle in dry season, July-October is the best time to view hundreds of elephants in the wild.


Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Located between Colombo and Kandy (approx 80km from Colombo- and 40km from Kandy), Pinnawela is the government showcase for elephants. Established in 1975 to protect orphaned elephants, there are now 85 elephants at Pinnawela with several bred and born there. Crowds of visitors come daily and twice each day the elephants are brought down in a procession to enjoy two hours of bathing in the river. It is quite a sight and I found the elephants to look healthy and certainly happy to frolic and play freely in the river! You can sit having your tea or lunch watching all the fun.

Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
A short drive outside of Kandy on the way from/to Pinnawela are these beautiful gardens opposite the manicured University of Peredeniya.  The Mahaweli Ganga River which source is the sacred mountain, Sri Pada  ( Adam’s Peak), loops around these beautiful grounds.

Accomodations in Kandy:

Sweet Cinnamon Kandy: a short drive from town in a peaceful setting is this charming accomodation.
5 guestrooms in one house managed by a lovely family and staff. Perfect for a family or friends retreat.

Within the grounds is another house called The Clove Garden offering more of a budget option.
Check on or Agoda.
Or email  direct:

Sanatha Suwaya:  a new up and coming community and wellness center just outside of Kandy offering meditation, yoga, ayurveda cooking and other activities as well as accomodations.
Follow the news on:

A branch organization of Bhante Sujatha, a Sri Lankan monk who founded Blue Lotus Temple in Illinois, USA.

Buddhist Publication Society has a great bookshop to visit along the lake in Kandy.   A worthwhile guidebook is: Sacred Island A Buddhist Pilgrim’s Guide to Sri Lanka by Ven. S Dhammika

Travel to KandyDrive or Train
If Kandy is yout first stop after Colombo, options are a few hours drive stopping at Pinnawalla Elephant Orphanage, or enjoy the Train from Colombo Fort Station to Kandy.

Train Travel onward into Tea Country:
A ticket for a just few dollars can get you a seat in the 1st class observation car.
However if you do not like riding backwards, this may not be for you.
The observation car is the last carriage of the government train with seats looking out to the large rear-end picture window.

More Info on Travel Travel in Sri Lanka:

Click: More Links for Tea Country and the South Coast- Tanggalle and Galle Fort

Click: Back to Sri Lanka Main Page

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