Ancient Kingdoms & Cities

Anuradhapura
An ancient city located 206 km from Colombo, Anuradhapura is situated in northern Sri Lanka and is the capital of the North-Central province. Established in the 4th century B.C., the kingdom reigned as the capital of Sri Lanka until the 8th century A.D.Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. This sacred city homes many Dagobas - a dome enshrining sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Lord Buddha, or articles used by him like the alms bowl and other objects of veneration. It is built in different sizes on a pedestal with a spire on top crowned with a pinnacle.

Polonnaruwa
Located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo, this was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. Used by the Sri Lankan kings as a 'country residence' from the 7th century, Polonnurawa became Sri Lanka's capital in the 11th century AD. During its time the city was fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and sanctified by many a shrine and sacred place. The city and the surrounding area were watered by a unique irrigational complex known as the Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudra).

Kandy
The cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy is nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 m and located at a distance of 115 km from Colombo. Originally known as “Senkadagala pura” after a hermit named Senkada who lived there, Kandy is also called “Mahanuwara” which means “ the Great City”. Kandy was the stronghold of the Sinhalese kings, who promoted and protected local culture until the city came under British rule in 1815.

Today a bustling commercial city, Kandy is famous for the Kandy Perahara-a huge cultural pageant that takes place in the month of July or August. It is one of the most colourful processions of the world. Thousands of drummers and dancers accompany a parade of ornamented elephants that perform in the streets of Kandy. The leading tusker carries the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, while the spectators pay homage to it. The procession moves along the streets for seven consecutive nights and concludes on the day of the August full moon.

Galle
Located 116 km to the south of Colombo on the southwest corner of the island, Galle was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Galle has been declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO. According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Certainly, cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 B.C. and the root of the word itself is Hebrew, so Galle may have been the main entrepot for the spice. Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians conducted business through the Galle port.

The "modern" history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under Lourenço de Almeida was driven there by a storm resulted in Galle coming under the influence of the Portuguese for many years. In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as "sun", "moon" and "star". The British then took over the entire country ending the rule of the Dutch in the Fort of Galle.

Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya-situated in the central mountains at an altitude of over 6000 feet is overlooked by Mount. Piduratalagala, the highest peak of Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya's literal meaning is the City Of Light. Developed by British as an exact replica of the British town, Nuwara Eliya produces some of the country's best tea. With an average temperature of 10 C, Nuwara Eliya provides respite from the hot and humid temperature of the plains. Major tourist attractions are Horton Plains, a National Park where samba and leopard are frequent sights and Hakgala Botanical Gardens famous for its collection of roses and rare fernery. The town is an excellent getaway for trekkers and nature lovers.