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I grew up on the glaciated plains of central Canada, land as flat as a pancake, and vividly recall my first visit to the mountains as a child, that being a trip to the Banff. I was fascinated by the Rockies, have loved mountains ever since and go out of my way to visit them whenever possible.
The coastal regions of Sri Lanka are fairly flat. Given that and the relatively small size of the island, I was surprised to see what impressive peaks (over 2500 m high) are situated at its center. These mountains, lush and green, are known as the Hill Country and a visit here is mandatory for anyone traveling to the island. The temperature stays cool year round (people who live here actually own …
The Sinhalese name for this city is Maha Nuvara (Senkadagalapura), impossible for the British to pronounce so they just called it Kandy. Located in the forested foothills of the central mountains, about 1500 feet above sea level, Kandy is appealing to Sri Lankans as well as to visitors. The weather is cooler and less humid than on the coast, especially at night. Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the gateway to the Hill Country and Cultural Triangle, so there’s lots to see and do. It’s easily accessible by road and train from Colombo, offering scenic journeys through coconut and rubber plantations and rice paddies. I’ve visited Kandy four times and enjoyed each visit.
Like Polonnaruwa …
The eastern most point visited when touring Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is Polonnaruwa. The ruins in this ancient capitol are the best preserved and most varied in Ceylon and it’s well worth the effort to visit them. The city’s historic sites can be visited in one day, although it gets quite hot in the afternoon so be sure to bring your water bottle. Polonnaruwa is another UNESCO World Heritage site.
A Brief history of Polonnaruwa
King Aggabodhi IV (7th century) was the first Sri Lankan monarch who began to develop Polonnaruwa. He built it as a “vacation residence” for royalty, an alternative to the historic royal home in Anuradhapura. King …
“You absolutely must go to Sigiriya!”, Arthur C. Clarke insisted during my first visit to Sri Lanka. “There are other countries with beautiful weather and beaches, but there’s only one Sigiriya.” I think Arthur loved this place more than any other in his adopted homeland — with perhaps the exception of his favorite beaches and diving spots — to the point where he featured it as one of the two peaks central to his book, “The Fountains of Paradise” (the other being Adam’s Peak, also in Sri Lanka and to be discussed in a future post). In his office Arthur had large aerial photos of both Sigiriya (showing …
Dambulla is known for its Cave Temples which predate Christ. Legend has it that a Sri Lankan King, driven out of Anuradhapura, found a hiding place and refuge within these caves. When this king regained his throne he decreed the caves should be a shrine and began fashioning them into the temple complex you can visit today. Subsequent kings progressively added to the shrine, including Buddha carvings and gilding the caves’ interior; the last additions were the interior paintings finished around 200 years ago, including over 1500 Buddha images. As with most of the other ancient sites around Sri Lanka, Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most tourists who stop at Dambulla do so while traveling from …
A great opportunity available to any traveler to Ceylon is the chance to explore the country’s rich history and extensive archeology. This post will be the first of several describing my visits to the ancient sites in Sri Lanka and highlights the oldest of these, Anuradhapura (it’s pronounced just like its spelled). The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose prehistory dates back to at least 1000 B.C.
Anuradhapura is one of the points of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, the others being the cities of Kandy and Polonnaruwa (which I’ll discuss in future blogs). For over 1500 years Anuradhapurna’s palaces were home to a string of almost 125 kings ranging from around 400 B.C. to 1200 A.D. The city’s development and rise to prominence coincided with the arrival of Buddhism …
One of the highlights of any trip to Sri Lanka is a visit to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. Pinnawala is small town just north of Kegalle, east of Colombo (just over half way on the road to Kandy). Its a great place to stop if you’re traveling from Colombo to the central Hill Country or to the Cultural Triangle further north. Its also an excellent day-trip destination from Colombo if you have limited time (eg. cruise ship stop) because the journey and visit to the orphanage will give you a much better understanding of Sri Lanka than a short stay in Colombo would.
Much of my time in Colombo was spent at the home of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Arthur’s contributions to science, science fiction, space and space travel are well known, and if you want to learn more about these I recommend you visit the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation website and watch its short video biography of Arthur. Probably the most important achievement of Arthur’s life was his landmark description in 1945 of the concept of a series of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit (now known as the Clarke orbit) that provided the fundamental concept to the global boom that has revolutionized telecommunications and shrunk the size of our planet. Arthur was always a dreamer, and he never thought that in his lifetime any …