The tropical lowlands to the north of Sri Lanka contain several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and, because they are close together, these can easily be combined in one superb (and triangular) cultural tour. The first point of call on any tour should be Sri Lanka's most famous landmark, the extraordinary and UNESCO-protected Sigiriya rock fortress. This remarkable rock citadel which dates back to the fifth century is also known as Lion Rock because of the huge stone-carved lion's feet at its base. While in the area, also visit the nearby cave temple of Dambulla. This unique temple complex is actually
built into the rockface and houses ancient frescoes and a huge reclining figure of the Buddha, also carved out of the rock. Then tick off the other two points on Cultural Triangle holidays with visits to the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. These once great (and still tongue-twisting) cities have been reclaimed from the jungle by archaeologists, and are fascinating to wander around on foot or by bicycle, accompanied by an incredibly knowledgeable guide to bring it all even more vividly to life.
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What you can find in the Cultural Triangle that you won't find anywhere else?
The first point of call will likely be the extraordinary and UNESCO protected Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Two huge stone-carved lion's feet at its base are all that remain of a vast lion carving that once stretched up the entire cliff face to scare visitors heading to reach the palace on the top. Experience some trepidation for yourself as you test your head for heights and climb the 1,200 steps to the top, admiring the stunning views and impressive frescoes as you go. When you do reach the top, stop to celebrate your achievements and take in the surrounding jungle which stretches as far as the eye can see.
While in the area, also visit the nearby cave temple of Dambulla. This unique temple complex is actually built into the rockface and houses ancient frescoes and a huge reclining figure of the Buddha, also carved out of the rock.
The other two triangle tips are Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura was once the greatest monastic city of the ancient world. The scale of the site means there is plenty to explore and lots of space to escape the crowds with our expert guides. Comparatively, the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa is compact, but houses wonderful examples of Sinhalese artistry, particularly in the large Buddha effigy carved into a boulder outside the Gal Vihara monument.
Though not technically considered part of the cultural triangle, wildlife enthusiasts should aim to also include a visit to Minneriya National Park. Home to thriving herds of wild elephants, monkeys, birds, crocodiles, and (if you're very lucky) leopards and sloth bears, this is a wildlife lovers paradise - particularly during the summer months, when large numbers of elephant congregate around water sources in the park. We can arrange morning or afternoon safaris which will offer the opportunity to spot these magnificent wild animals in their natural habitat while also contributing crucial funding to the conservation work carried out in the park.