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Attractions

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Adam’s Peak

It is believed that Lord Buddha during his third visit to Sri Lanka placed his   footprint on the summit of this sacred mountain. So, the name Sri Pada the   sacred footprint. This mountain is also known as Samantakuta, Sumanakuta,   Samanalakanda, Samanela, Samangira, Medumhelaya etc. The Christians call the   mountain Adam’s Peak, derived from the Portuguese Pico de Adam (Peak of Adam).   It is 7,360 feet in height and is the forth highest mountain in the country and   has several approaches, the main ones being through the Hatton town and   Ratnapura District. Annually, during December April, devotees climb the mountain   to pay obeisance.

Adams_Peak01

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Ambalangoda

Ambalangoda is a seaside town that during colonial times was much frequented by   European residents, who appreciated the good accommodation, food, and bathing   facilities. Today Ambalangoda retains its charm, the beautifully situated   resthouse still stands (and there is an old Dutch church beside it), the fish   remains excellent, and the sandy beach to the north of the town provides good   bathing. There is also an interesting rocky islet – a sanctuary for seabirds -   offshore of the town centre.
However, Ambalangoda is most famous for its mask carvers, whose workshops and   sales outlets are concentrated at the northern end of the town. Those who wish   to purchase Sri Lanka’s masks should be aware that quality varies. Modern masks   painted in garish colours are made to cater to the tourist trade. Those   decorated in natural dyes are more traditional. Best of all, seek genuine   antique masks.

At the southern perimeter of the town there is a turn-off to the ancient   Ambalangoda Maha Vihare,  also known as Sunandaramaya, with its superb example of thorana, or   archway, and rare mural of dancing girls.

Ammbalangoda

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Anuradhapura

Sri Lanka’s Premier ancient city Anuradhapura,situated in the dry zone,was the first Sinhalese capital of Sri Lanka.Its distance from Colombo is 206Km.

The awe some Ruwanweliseya,Abhayagiriya,Jethawanaramaya and Thuparamaya Dagobas are still venerated by Buddhists and these massive works along the large wevas (lakes)reveal the past glory of the city.The sacred Bo Tree (Sri Maha Bodhi)-considered the world’s oldest recorded surviving tree,the seated Samadhi statue of the meditating Buddha,Kuttam Pokuna(Twin Ponds),Manu temples and Isurumuniya are some of the attractions in Anuradhapura.There is an abundance of evidence of architecture dating to the third century B.C and earlier.

Eight Main Places(Athamasthana)

There are 8 main places of worship of known as Athamasthana.They are

Sri Maha Bodhiya

Ruwanveliseya

Thuparama

Lovamahapaya

Abhayagiriya

Jethawanaramaya

Mirisavetiya

Lankaramaya

Anuradhapura

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Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura, the main   city of the North-Central province 128 miles away from Colombo, is the first   capital of ancient Ceylon, initially found by Prince Wijaya and his crew. The   city boasts a history of 1500 years of royalty, starting from 05th Century BC   till 10th Century AD, during the period, where 123 kings are said to have been   in rule. The inception of the city is accredited to three legends, of which the   accepted is that a General of Prince Wijaya named Anuradha inaugurated the   initial establishment of the city in a village scale, which grew and expanded   its boundaries with time. Thus, the city was given the name Anuradhapura, to   commemorate his act. Another legend depicts that ninety kings ruled the city,   baptizing the city as Anu-raja-pura, meaning the city of ninety kings. The final   legend applies beliefs in Astrology and auspicious times, as the foundation of   the city is said to have been laid at the Anura auspicious time, leading the   city to be named Anuradhapura. The first recorded king of Anuradhapura is King   Pandukhabhaya who was also the first Sinhalese King. He is said to have   restructured the former Anuradhagama and re–established it near Kadamba Nadee   (present Malvatu Oya), completing it with amenities such as reservoirs, houses   for citizens, hospitals, stupas, dwellings for priests and cemeteries etc.
The most noteworthy event in the history of Anuradhapura was the   establishment of Budhhism in Ceylon, as Arihath Mahinda Thero and seven monks   who accompanied him to Ceylon were met by King Devenampiyathissa during his   hunting expedition in a full moon lit night in the month of June (Poson).   Buddhism was acknowledged by the king himself and he took initiative to spread   the religion among his people who were believers of non-existing gods, who said   to have lived in the forests and caves. This great step taken in cultivating a   civilization in the country was further endorsed by the arrival of Sanghamittha   Thero, the sister of Arihath Mahinda Thero, who brought a sapling of the Bo tree   that sheltered Lord Buddha during his enlightenment. This sapling was planted in   Anuradhapura and the king was nominated as its rightful caretaker.
Mahavihara                     Mahavihara was the most important Vihara   of Sri Lanka. It was founded in the 4th century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. The   only remains of the magnificent buildings of the ancient monastery are the stone   pillars that are scattered all over the large area.
Sri maha bodhiya                     Sri Maha bodhi, the oldest   historical tree of the world. is found within the precincts of the Mahavihara.   It is also the most sacred place in Sri Lanka and is found on the highest   terrace, surrounded by a number of other Bodhi trees. The visitors can go only   up to the middle terrace, as it is looked after very well observing all the   traditions handed down from generation to generation. The Sri Maha Bodhi   Viharaya is found on the lower terrace and adjacent to the terrace of the Sacred   Bodhi Tree. These are enclosed by a parepet wall.

Ruwanweliseya                     Ruwanweliseya renovated during the last   century, was originally built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd Century BC. This was   also known as the Mahaseya, and is the most celebrated stupa in Sri Lanka. The   remains of the ancient buildings and architecture include the statues of King   Dutugemunu, his mother Vihara Maha Devi, stone pillars’ moon stones and many   more.LovamahapayaLovamahapaya also known as the Brazen Palace, too was also   constructed by king Dutugemunu. The formation was the assembly hall of the   Mahavihara. The only remains of this massive hall are 1600 stone pillars   standing in 40 rows.
Thuparamaya                     Thuparamaya was the   first stupa built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced by Arahath Mahinda   Thero. In the 07th Century BC it was in ruins and after it was restored, a   WATADAGE was added. The concentric stone pillars standing right round the stupa   are the remains of the old Watadage.

                    Jetawanaramaya                     Jetavanaramaya, built by Mahasena (275   – 301), is the highest Stupa in the world and the third highest building of the   ancient world. The monastery of this ancient stupa is no more. The excavations   and conservations of this monastety and its stupa are now being done under the   Sri Lanka – Unesco Cultural Triangle Project by the Central Cultural Fund under   the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
Abhayagiriya                     Abhayagiriya was founded in 89 BC by   King Vatte Gamini Abhaya. Soon it became the seat of the heterodox, Mahayana   doctrines, and a rival to the orthodox Mahavihara. Fa – Hsein (411-413) says   that there were 5000 monks in residence at Abhayagiriya in this time. He   describes the Stupa, the Buddha image and the tooth relic in procession. The   monastery and its ancillary buildings are no more. Only the stupa remains in   ruins. This monastery too is being excavated and conserved under the Sri Lanka   UNESCO cultural Triangle Project.
                    Daladage                     Daladage is the site where the ancient Tooth   Relic Temple was found. The Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka in the   region of Sirimeghavanna (301 – 308). The king housed it in the DHAVIMAKAKKA   VIHARA that had been built by King Devanampiyatissa (307 BC – 267 BC).   Thereafter this came to be known by the name Daladage which has been identified   by an inscription in situ by Mahinda (956 -972). The tall stone columns are the   only remains of it.

Raja Maliga                     This was the site of the ancient Palace built   by King Vijayabahu (1055 -1110).It was an unpretentious building and the king   resided in it for a few months. After he shifted the capital to Polonnaruwa this   might have been the Royal Palace whenever he visited the ancient capital. This   has been conserved and the guard stones at the entrance to the main building are   excellent.

Kuttampokuna                     Kuttam Pokuna or the Twin Ponds are a fine   example of the landscape architecture in this ancient city. This is a massive   stone structure with flights of steps on all four sides, leading to the   water.

Samadhi Buddha Image   This is one of the finest pieces of   Sinhalese art. In the sculpture the Buddha is depicted in the state of mind   explained in Pali by the term NIRODHA- SAMPATHTHI extinction of feeling and   perception. It is a state in which all consciousness and mental activities are   temporarily suspended. Therefore the explanations like “the Buddha in   meditation” are not correct.

Tapowanaya                     Thapowanaya has a group of fourteen structures   to the west of the city. These are now generally referred to by the name the   Western Monasteries. This was the monastery where the forest monks lived. Some   of these monks observed a rigid rule according to which they wore only those   robes which are made of rags from corpses. These monks led a simple and ascetic   life.

Mirisawetiya Stupa                     This was built by King Dutugamunu in   gratitude for his victory over the Tamil invaders led by Elara. The King’s spear   along with the Buddha’s relic is enshrined in this stupa. The extensive ruins   around the stupa indicate some of the magnificent buildings of the ancient   monastery which had been at this site. The stupa is now being restored.

                    Dakkhina Vihara                     Dakkhina Vihara was found by Uttiya,   a minister of Vattagamini Abhaya (BC 89-77), its stupa has been well conserved.   This was built over the cremation site of King Dutugemunu. The Viharaya was   endowed with a monastery, a refectory and other buildings necessary for a   temple. Today only the remains of some of them are found.

Isurumuniya                     Isurumuniya has been identified as the   ancient Megha Giri Viharaya where rain making ceremonies were carried out, some   of the sculptures of this temple are the most beautiful works of art in   Anuradhapura. The sculptures of a man and a horse and that of the lovers have   been widely discussed by scholars.

Vessagiriya                     It was a monastery founded in the 03rd   Century BC. The remains of the ancient monastery are scattered over an extensive   area. This was considered a suitable dwelling place for the ascetic monks. The   caves in this site were converted to dwellings for the priests. This is another   fine example of landscaped architecture. According to the inscriptions available   at the site, this site has now been identified as the lsurumuni Vihara of the   Chronicles. As a result, Vessagiriya is yet to be identified.

Tholuwila                     Tholuwila is the present name of the city where   the remains of an ancient monastery was found. The seated Buddha statue   discovered here is now in the Colombo National Museum. This is considered as one   of the greatest works of art. The site of this ancient monastery has been   disturbed by works of modern civilization. The remains of the image house and   many other buildings are scattered here and there.

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Aukana

Aukana                     the 1500-year-old Buddha colossus, carved   out of living rock, this almost freestanding statue reaches high and beautiful   13 meters above its lotus decorated plinth, which has been separately sculptured   and placed under the feet of the image. With the rays of the rising sun falling   on the statue, the serenity of the exquisitely carved face and the gracefully   carved robe is indeed a marvel of art of a by gone era.

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Batik Factory

Over the past several decades the Indonesian art of batik making has become   firmly established in Sri Lanka. Indeed, it is now the most visible of the   island’s crafts. Galleries and factories, large and small, have sprung up in   many tourist areas. For instance, rows of small stalls selling batiks can be   found all along Hikkaduwa’s Galle Road strip. Mahawewa, on the other hand, is   famous for its batik factories.
Batiks incorporate fascinating motifs and colours, some traditional others   highly contemporary and individual, but they all display a vigorousness of   design unique to the island. The material created by the batik-makers is used to   produce distinctive dresses, shirts, sarongs and beachwear ideal for tropical   climes. Many tourists at seaside resorts such as Hikkaduwa wear batik clothes   throughout their holiday. Apart from clothes, batik wall hangings of beaches and   sunsets are popular as a reminder of a visit to Sri Lanka.

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Batticaloa

Batticaloa, better known simply as Batti, is the regional centre of Sri Lanka’s   southeast coastal area. The Portuguese were the first to erect a fort here in   1572. The Dutch claimed it in 1638, handed it over to the Kandyans in 1643, but   reoccupied and modified it in 1665. In 1795 it was surrendered to the British,   and it still stands today by the banks of the Batticaloa Lagoon. Although the   interior is now an administrative office, the exterior is still in good   condition with unbroken square walls, a bastion in each corner, and a moat that   still holds water.

However, Batticaloa’s most celebrated attraction is not its fort but its singing   fish. Between April and September, in particular on moonlit nights, strange   sounds emanate from the waters of the lagoon. They have been described by some   as being like the tuning up of a string orchestra, while others say they are   more akin to musical chords or the vibrations of a wine-glass, when its rim is   rubbed by a wet finger. To experience these sounds clearly it is best to take a   boat into the middle of the lagoon, thrust a pole into the shallow, muddy   bottom, and hold it to one’s ear. The source of these sounds has been the   subject of much controversy. Some believe that they are caused by species of   mollusc living in the lagoon, while others maintain that topsail catfish, which   congregate in great numbers in the lagoon during the April-September period, are   the cause. Still others suggest that the sounds are created by tidal water flowing through holes in rocks at the bottom of the lagoon.

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Belihuloya

You find Belihuloya on the way to Badulla from Colombo.   Famous for it’s colonial times rest house and Natuaral Beauty Belihuloya is a   great stop over on your way to National Parks of Udawalawe and Yala as well as   Hortan Plains and bandarawela.

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Bentota

Bentota is 62km from Colombo and begins on the southern side of the Bentota   River, which is also the border between the Western and Southern Provinces. In   Sinhala, it is Bentara, and the river is the Ben Ganga. If you drive down to   Bentota for the day, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you cross over the river   by the road bridge. Why? Because the suburbs seem to slip away and the heavy   concentration of houses and traffic along the Galle Road from Colombo thins out.   At last you know you are beside the seaside.
Bentota is halfway between   Colombo and Galle. The mouth of the river, which forms a long lagoon, is used   for jet-skiing and banana-raft riding.
When the British built the railway   along the coast (in 1877- 1890) beaches were not valued as a resource as they   are today. The locals used them only for domestic purposes or for parking their   handmade, palm wood, fishing boats. Foreigners, with their delicate complexions,   shunned the sun and the closest they would get to the beach would be a shaded   verandah for a sundowner. The British saw no reason to preserve the tranquillity   beside the sea and so they laid the railway line along the beach’s   edge.
That’s why hotels in Bentota today have to share the shore with the   rail track, with the thunder of the occasional train from dawn to late evening   competing with the splash of waves. By road, you cross the railway line that   runs between Alutgama and Bentota stations, just before crossing the river. The   railway line and the river are markers to watch for as they indicate that   Bentota is beginning. Blink, and you’ve driven through it.
There is no   real town at all, just a few shops given over to tourist knickknacks, the   man-made lake awaiting its development as a tourist attraction, a couple of   monstrous wayside park-and- eat joints, and then the road and the railway line   meet again, and you have left Bentota and are driving through Induruwa with   glimpses of the beach beyond palm groves. Go to Bentota for the day by   the right train (Number 40 from Colombo Fort station at 0900, arrives Bentota at   1027) and you can alight at Bentota railway station. This has a single platform   (with a guest house adjoining it) and a footbridge over the rail-way line to a   picnic area beside the beach. There are two open-sided pavilions there for   anyone to enjoy a party free of charge, and a shower and toilet facility.
The   rest of the beach is walled off from the road by hotel premises.
On   Sundays and holidays, locals enjoy the hotels’ lunch buffets, pools, and bars on   a pay-for-the-day basis. Otherwise the beach is usually very sparsely populated   as visitors loll in the hotel gardens or splash about in the hotel pools. The   more energetic might stroll along the magnificent strand of golden sand   that stretches for five kilometres from the river mouth in the north, where   Alutgama swelters on the opposite bank of the lagoon, to the deserted sands   beyond Induruwa. When Bentota’s potential for tourism was first   recognised in the 1970s, a National Tourist resort was created there, embracing   the beach frontage land for a structured 100-acre complex. The early commercial   architecture of Geoffrey Bawa is in evidence as he created a shopping arcade (it   still seems to be looking for customers), and a toy town square complete with   bank, post office, police station, resort authority bungalow, and the railway   station. Hotels sprung up on the shore, mostly built under Bawa’s   influence with a preponderance of white avails and angular concrete frames,   although the stark architecture has become softened over the years with   luxuriant frangipani trees and a patina of age wrought by the sea’s breezes. The   stolidity of its buildings helps to create Bentota’s aura of respectability. It   seems to be a staid, middle level resort, with none of the hustle and hankypanky   associated with its southern neighbour, Hikkaduwa, or skimpy beaches of Kalutara   to its north. It has the best beach of them all. You can swim happily off   Bentota’s beach, and there is a life guard hut alongside the picnic area. Red   flags are flown when the sea is considered too rough. Non swimmers should beware   of going too far out as the beach shelves rapidly and strong currents swirl.

Some 20 years ago, when tourism was in its youth, the beach used to be   thronged with independent travellers who walked there from their inland guest   houses. Beach vendors offered bananas, jelly nuts (thambili) to drink, sun hats   and even cool drinks. Now you must bring your own.

Tourists on all   inclusive packages who pack the Bentota hotels don’t have as much fun as the   independent day trippers who explore the place. A river trip is easy to arrange,   either in a local catamaran rowed energetically by its young owner, or by   outboard motor launch to explore the byways of this magnificent river.

A   whole day river cruise could include a visit to a village hideaway for a special   rice and curry lunch, and even a local wedding ceremony performance. Crocodiles   are rare now but there are plenty of water monitors and river birds. It is   delightfully relaxing to cruise along the river, detached from the rest of   Sri
Lanka, wallowing in one’s own -wonder at the magnificence of the riverine   scenery.

Inland village life has changed for the best over the years, as   residents find employment in the tourist industry to supplement their incomes   from fishing and farming. Many smart guest houses and mini-hotels have sprung   up, sometimes with sponsorship from tourist partners, others as an independent   venture for guests who want a home-stay atmosphere instead of the buffets and   bingo of the package-tourist resorts.

Miss Bentota and drive off the   Galle Road at Alutgama inland through Dharga Town and you’ll discover Brief   Garden. It was a 23-acre rubber estate before its transformation by Bevis Bawa   (brother of Geoffrey) into an elaborate -whimsical fantasy combining European   classicism with a lavish tropical layout.
While the area’s history has been   overwhelmed, there are temples -with long pedigrees. The historic Galapatha Raja   Maha Vihare (royal patronage temple) built from 600 to 900 years ago. It   contains stone inscriptions, stone carvings, pillars, ponds and troughs from the   medieval period. The Wanawasa Temple
is an ancient forest   hermitage.

Bentota is not just for the meditative. There is action too.   The Club Intersport, which is part of the Bentota Beach Hotel complex, has all   kinds of water sports facilities available for the day visitor. There is a gym,   a swimming pool, and squash and tennis courts. The hotel itself is popular for   tourists coming to Get married on all-inclusive wedding/honeymoon packages. Its   rooms have views of the sea or the magnificent lagoon where, close to the river   mouth, the Ceysands Hotel enjoys the pretense of being on an island. Access to   this popular resort is only by hotel ferry from a private jetty off a road   behind the Alutgama Police Station.

You can arrange to have scuba diving   lessons at the water sports centre of the Lihiniya Beach Hotel, a popular venue   for locals having an enjoyable day out. The adjoining Serendib Hotel, built   parallel to the horizon and with access through a meandering tropical garden   straight on to Bentota’s famous strand
of sand, has long been a favourite of   foreign tourists, many of whom become enthusiastic repeaters. With its simple   lines, free of clutter, it has a beguiling charm.

More upmarket, and   just beyond Bentota’s railway border, is Saman Villas with luxuriously furnished   mini-villas and a swimming pool breathtakingly perched atop a cliff. Further   south, on the headland at the other end of this section of the curving beach,   astride the Galle Road at a prominent corner, stands the Induruwa Beach Hotel.   Its atmosphere is over whelmingly holiday; it is the archetypical beach resort:   few frills
and lots of fun.

Bentota is the home of the Bentota Aida   Group, the enterprise of a local man, universally known as Aida, who started   working life making jewellery. He is now chairman of a group that includes Aida   Ayurveda and Holistic Health Resorts, specialising in natural rejuvenation   therapy. One is on the bank of the Bentota River, and the other is a seaside   ayurveda hotel by the 67km post on the Galle Road at Induruwa.

Opposite   Aida’s Induniwa Hotel, is the Gimanhala Restaurant, which excels in food that is   ‘simply Sri Lankan’ served speedily with a smile. For international cuisine in   pavilions overlooking the river, try Aida’s Restaurant, which is behind Aida’s   Gem & Jewellery emporium in Bentota. The restaurant is linked by a gallery   to the brand new extension of Aida’s Bentota Hotel. This has bright, comfortable   rooms in a lush, tropical setting right by the river.

Don’t be surprised   to see an elephant lumbering along the Galle Road carrying its lunch of leaves   under its trunk. Elephant rides are popular on the beach and horse riding is   another pastime that’s beginning to catch on. Rural crafts can be seen too. On   the river bank there is a coir (coconut fibre) yard. Look up at the right time   of the year and you will see agile men bounding along ropes linking the tops of   coconut trees to tap toddy. This is the sap of the coconut flower that makes an   effervescent beverage, like nature’s
champagne. Distilled, it becomes Sri   Lanka’s equivalent of France’s cognac, pure coconut arrack.

There are   spice gardens by the Galle Road at Bentota, and thatched wayside kiosks where   you can buy a king coconut to drink.

Gaudily-painted carved masks (from   the devil dancer’s wardrobe) make unusual souvenirs. Old and reproduction   furniture can be bought from the selection of period pieces in the vast showroom   of De Silva Antiques. If it’s too big to carry on the plane, the company will   have it shipped to your home.

There is a daily train that stops at   Bentota (at 1350) on its way from Galle to Colombo, where it is supposed to   arrive at 1730. Or there are plenty of minibuses that can be hired from the   journey back to Colombo if you miss the train (expect to pay around Rs3,000). Or   perhaps you’ll stay for another day. Some tourists do; they like Bentota so much   they buy a house there and never so home!                  

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Beruwala

Beruwala, known by the exotic name Barberyn in earlier times, is considered to   be where Arab traders established the first Moorish settlement on the island   around the 9th century AD. Even today Beruwala’s population features a large   segment of Sri Lanka Moors, many of whom are gem dealers. Beruwala was once a   small port that boasted a considerable coastal trade in locally produced coir   and rope, which was shipped to Colombo and Galle. Indeed, the Sinhala meaning of   Beruwala is the spot where the sail was lowered. Today, however, it is a   thriving fishing village.

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