The Seven Wonders of Sri Lanka
Declared the most beautiful island of its size, by Marco Polo, Sri Lanka offers a large variety of attractions. Starting with its perfect sandy beaches and ending with the extraordinary wildlife, Sri Lanka is one of those places that have it all. UNESCOâ€™s decision to include seven of the islandâ€™s attractions on its World Heritage List is proof of Sri Lankaâ€™s beauties. Here are the seven wonders of Sri Lanka:
Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Sacred Temple of the Tooth)
Famous for housing one of the most worshiped Buddhist relics, the tooth of Buddha, Sri Dalada Maligawa is located in the fortified city of Kandy. Ever since ancient times Buddhaâ€™s tooth has been desired by the Islandâ€™s leaders, as it was believed that whoever held the relic governed over the lands, so the Sacred Temple of the Tooth was always heavily defended.
Thousands of Buddhists from all around the world visit the temple every year, and because of its religious importance, Sri Dalada Maligawa and the whole of Kandy were added to UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage List.
Dambulla Cave Temple
There are many cave temples built in Sri Lanka, but Dambulla is the largest and definitely the most impressive. Legend says the temple dates back to the 1st century BC, when the exiled King Valagambahu converted the caves into a temple and used it as refuge from the invading Indians.
Built at the base of a 150 meters high cliff, Dambulla is composed of five caves, filled with religious shrines, paintings and sculptures. Located about 150 km east of the capital Colombo, Dambulla Cave Temple is a must-see attraction.
The ruins of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa prove that Sri Lankaâ€™s first rulers were very wise and organized. It is regarded as one of the best planned archeological sites in Sri Lanka and the world, and its beauty is acknowledged by everyone who sets eyes on it.
The small town built close to the ancient city, where tourists find hotels, boutiques and everything they might need, the beautiful natural surroundings and the hospitality of the locals, make this one of the most popular destinations on the island.
Many consider Sigiriya, or Lionâ€™s Rock, the eighth wonder of the world. Inhabited since the 5th century BC, Lionâ€™s Rock was first a mountain monastery, but after King Kasyapaâ€™s rise to power, it was transformed into a fortress and a pleasure palace. It was to serve as a safe haven in case his exiled brother was ever to return and claim is rightful place on Sri Lankaâ€™s throne, but in the end he ended up killing himself.
After his demise Sigiriya was again converted into a mountain monastery and many of the beautiful frescoes covering an entire wall were erased, to ensure the monks wouldnâ€™t be distracted during their meditation. However the wonderful gardens leading up to Sigiriya and the ruins of the upper palace remain to this day.
Galle Fort was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List for its historical and cultural value. It is one of the best preserved 17th century colonial forts in the world, and substantial renovations inside the fort are strictly forbidden.
Galle Fort withstood the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami that damaged Galle town.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Only 21 km from east to west and 7 km from north to south, Sinharaja rain-forest is of significant importance to Sri Lanka and the entire world. Not the best place to look for elephants or other popular exotic animals, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is home to a variety of endemic species, including trees, plants, birds, insects and mammals.
Translated as Kingdom of the Lion, Sinharaja was saved from commercial lodging by its inaccessibility, and now it has the title of World Biosphere Reserve.
Like Polurannawa, this is one of the oldest cities in Sri Lanka, and one of its ancient capitals. It was a prosperous settlement until the invasions of the Southern Indians that drained it of its wealth, and was sacked by invading Chola in the year 1017. Anuradhapura was abandoned for nearly a thousand years, until the jungle was cleared off in the 19th century, and now it is famous as one of the most well preserved ruins of the Lankan civilization.
Anuradhapura is a sacred site for Buddhists everywhere and it is surrounded by monasteries for an area of over 16 square miles.