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One of the most amazing sites in Sri Lanka is the Gal Vihara, which is located within the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I thought the Gal Vihara was unusual and interesting enough to warrant a more detailed blog. During my last visit I spent a full hour here, studying and photographing details of the carvings and just watching people.
This has long been a site of Buddhist worship and teaching. Gal Vihara (meaning ‘Rock Temple’) is an amazing collection of beautifully sculpted Buddha images carved from a massive granite boulder. The scope of the carvings and their beautiful detail never cease to amaze me. Hard to imagine the time it …
Sri Lanka is home to several exquisite and fascinating historic sites, one of which is the medieval city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There’s a river not that far from the ruins, but this toque monkey was innovative, deciding instead of having to scamper a mile or more for a drink, she would simply drink from water trapped in rounded stone holes (probably where logs had been inserted centuries ago).
Simple, but effective and thirst-quenching.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance the slideshow)
A traditional stop when driving the road from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya is to see St. Clair’s Falls, one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. It was misty and cool in the mountains here at nearly a mile above sea level, as it often is.
The cascade of the Kotmale Oya river through the St. Clair tea plantation (from which the falls derive their name) is a pretty sight. I’d previously visited these falls about 20 years earlier and recalled a lot more water literally filling the river and pouring rather than trickling down the mountain. I asked my driver whether the water was so low because of dry weather? No that was not the case — apparently the flow …
Despite being a small nation, there’s a lot of beautiful scenery to enjoy in Sri Lanka, from lovely palm-fringed beaches, to charming small villages, to ancient cities. As far as scenery to enjoy while on a road trip, I don’t think there’s anything more appealing than a drive through the tea country of the mountains.
The following images are a short gallery taken from my back seat window while traveling from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya, the latter city in the heart of the country’s tea-growing region. The roads are curvy and progress is slow, but I suppose that’s a metaphor for life in Ceylon.
Here are some of the scenes spotted along the way:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance …
The medieval ruins of Polonnaruwa are located in east-central Sri Lanka.
During my last trip to Sri Lanka I revisited Polonnaruwa as I’d only been there on one prior occasion. During that prior visit, Polonnaruwa was at the fringes of the front in the country’s lingering Civil War, and not considered safe, so we didn’t stay any longer than necessary to visit the highlights of the ruined city.
This trip was done at a more relaxed pace. We spent two nights in the Polonnaruwa at a charming small hotel adjacent to the ruins, got to celebrate Sri Lankan New Year with the hotel owners, staff and guests, and I had a leisurely day to explore the ruins.
Polonnaruwa is part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, …
High in the mountains of central Sri Lanka you’ll find vast plantations of tea. Interspersed among these are tea centers, wherein you can stop, sample some of the local tea and purchase some to take with you. Some of these stops include a free tour of a tea production factory; here you can see how the tea leaves are dried, fermented, roasted, crushed and prepared for market.
Near the city of Nuwara Eliya we stopped at St. Clair’s Tea Center, which is only a tea shop with no adjoining factory tour. St. Clair’s was founded in the 19th century by James Ryan, who was among the first in the region to begin growing and experimenting with tea. The plantation is named …
When I last visited Nuwara Eliya, situated high in the mountains of Sri Lanka’s tea country, I made a point of seeing some of the local sights. One of the my friends and traveling companions, a devout Catholic, wanted to visit St. Xavier’s Catholic Church, which I’m glad we did because it is quite lovely.
The church’s construction was begun in 1838, and it was completed over a 10 year period. It’s still a lovely building, a brown color with colonial architecture, so it fits in well with the overall appearance of the town.
The interior of the church is bright and cheery, and has some interesting mementos of the Saint it’s named for.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge and right arrow to …
Columbo’s Fort District is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Developed extensively during the British Colonial era, a visit to many areas in the Fort seems like stepping back a century or more. Many of its hotels, shops and offices date to this period. To this day it remains the city’s center of business and is home to the Bank of Ceylon headquarters and Ceylon Stock Exchange.
The Fort District was built around Colombo’s fine harbor and it is here you will find the Maritime Museum, lighthouse, and Naval barracks. The area is also site of the country’s Presidential residency and some branches of the country’s government offices. The area is not exclusively a slice of old England. For example, the Old Dutch …