The Cultural Triangle



Cultural Triangle
Cultural Triangle

The Cultural Triangle has a wealth of attractions, including five UNESCO World Heritage sites. The ruins of Anuradhapura and Polannaruwa, along with the town of Kandy form the triumvirate of unmissable sights that lend the region its name. Beyond these cultural hotspots lie other fascinating ruins and some superb national parks.

Located in Sri Lanka’s northern plains, Anuradhapura and Polannaruwa are bastions of Sinhalese traditions as well as architectural marvels. All that remains of these great cities today are captivating ruins that provide an insight into Sinhalese culture and inform visitors about the history of Buddhism. In fact, Mihintale, not far from Anuradhapura, is said to be where Mahinda introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

The Cultural Triangle has, however, much more to offer visitors who venture beyond these sights. The nymph frescoes at the spectacular Sigiriya Rock, and the murals in the Dambulla Cave Temples are excellent examples of Sri Lankan art, while tourists gape at the sheer size of the standing Buddha sculptures at Aukana and Sasseruwa. There are also the tranquil, abandoned monastery ruins of Ritigala and Arankele for those who want to escape the crowds.

Aside from the cultural sights, this diverse region also boasts a wealth of natural attractions. Visitors can intersperse their sightseeing with trips to Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks, where “the Gathering” the elephants takes place each year during the dry season. The parks also have a wide variety of bird life.

The Cultural Triangle is well established on the tourist trail and visitors are catered for with comfortable and atmospheric hotels, a host of transport options and tour operators offering a variety of interesting outdoor activities such as hot-air ballooning and cycling.

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EXPLORING THE CULTURAL TRIANGLE

The Cultural Triangle sees more visitors than most areas of Sri Lanka as it is home to numerous sights of historical interest, ranging from staggering ruins of great Sinhalese capitols and Buddhist monasteries to remarkable cave temples carved out of granite outcrops. Centrally located Habarana and Sigiriya are excellent tourist destinations in their own right, along with being good bases for day trips to Polannaruwa and Anuradhapura. Smaller and less-visited attractions towards the south of the region, such as the temple at Aluvihare or the Nalanda Gedige, can also be comfortably accessed but trips will need to be planned in advance. The region’s national parks are ideally positioned to break up an itinerary of historical sites. more

Getting Around

Visitors to the Cultural Triangle often hire a car and driver, which makes getting around easier and less time consuming. Trains run from Colombo to both Anuradhrapura and Polannaruwa and bus services in the region are regular and reliable. Habarana is a key point for changing buses. Bear in mind, however, that some of the north-bound buses can be extremely crowded and travelling in them can be difficult. Dambulla, Habarana and Sigiriya are ideal bases for day trips to surroundings areas. To visit and sights located further afield, tourists without a car often choose to arrange tours through guesthouses or hotels, or hire a three-wheeler. The ruins at Anuradhapura and Polannaruwa are best explored on bicycle and these can be hired from nearby guesthouses. A jeep and driver are needed for park safaris, which can be arranged through hotels or at the entrance to the parks.



The Cultural Triangle

Matale


Matale is a busy town that does not have many attractions of its town, but serves as an entry point to Sri Lanka’s ancient cities. Tourists en route from Kandy to Dambulla often make.....


Aluvihare


Comprising a series of caves carved out of rock, the Aluvihare monastery complex is an atmospheric site. It marks the spot where the Tripitakaya – the Theravada Buddhist.....


Nalanda Gedige


Named after the famous Buddhist university in northern India, Nalanda Gedige is a unique structure built in the south Indian architectural style. Despite looking like a Hindu.....


Ridi Viharya


The little- visited Ridi Vihare, or Silver Temple, was founded by King Dutugemunu on the spot where a vein of silver ore was discovered. The temple complex comprises rock-out.....




Dambulla


A small town situated in the heart of the Cultural Triangle, Dambulla lies at a junction of the Kandy-to-Anuradhapura and Colombo-to-Trincomalee roads. There are several.....


Popham Arboretum


Founded in 1963 by British tea planter and dendrologist Sam Popham, this is the only dry-zone arboretum in Sri Lanka. When Popham bought this abandoned piece of land, it.....


Jathika Namal Uyana


Seldom visited by tourists, Jathika Namal Uyana, in Ulpathgama, is worth a visit for those who enjoy walking and wildlife-watching. Covering an area of over 105 ha, it is said to be.....


Sigiriya Rock


Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, the ancient citadel of Sigiriya sits atop a giant granite rock rising 200 m above the surrounding countryside. There are.....




Polonnaruwa


The well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa are often considered the highlight of the Cultural Triangle. The city was the centerpiece of the Sinhalese kingdom.....


Habarana


A small, laid-back village, Habarana sits on an important route that connects the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. It is a major transport junction, with roads leading.....


Minneriya National Park


Along with the Kaudulla National Park towards the north and Wasgomuwa National Park in the south, Minneriya forms part of the elephant corridor that connects the protected.....


Kaudulla National Park


Established in 2002, Kaudulla is also part of the elephant corridor. Like Minneriya, it has a tank as its centerpiece, which attracts a large numbers of elephants during the dry.....




Hurulu Eco Park


Part of the Hurulu Biosphere Reserve, Hurulu Eco Park opened to visitors in 2008. Hurulu is often suggested as an alternative when Minneriya and Kaudulla are too wet for any.....


Ritigala


A forest monastery complex now protected within the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve, Ritigala is an enigmatic archaeological site. In the 9th century, the jungle-covered, monastic.....


Anuradhapura


Founded in the 4th century BC, Anuradhapura was one of Sri Lanka’s greatest centres of political and religious power. The ancient city is home to temples, immense.....


Mihintale


The sacred hill of Mihintale is where Mahida, son of the Indian king Asoka, converted King Devanambiya Tissa to Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. It is said that King Tissa was.....