The Cultural Triangle
“Rajarata” The Land of Kings as it is known locally. The Cultural Triangle is situated in the North Central province of Sri Lanka. This was the heart of the ancient civilisations of Sri Lanka dating back to the 4th century BC; from here over 20 centuries, the Kings of Sri Lanka fought invaders, built majestic cities and citadels, fostered Buddhism and built some of the greatest irrigations systems and dams of the ancient world.
There are 6 UNESCO world heritage sites within the region and with a significant proportion of these ancient cities still covered by jungle, it is not uncommon for an adventurous traveller trekking through the jungle to come across the ruins of an ancient monastery or other ancient dwelling.
This beautiful part of Sri Lanka is made up primarily of plains. It is the breadbasket of the nation. Its fertile plains are dotted by huge manmade lakes (known locally as tanks) these were built by the ancient Kings of Sri Lanka and still remain in use today.
This area also boasts excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife; the region is particularly famous for excellent bird watching by and on the tanks, and is particularly good for encounters with large herds of Elephants with several of Sri Lanka’s wildlife sanctuaries situated within the region.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage listed) – The ancient city of Anuradhapura was the seat of Kings from 4th century BC to 10thcentury AD. This sprawling city contains many fascinating ruins from palaces to pools. To us the highlights are Jetavanarama and Abhayagiri dagobas these magnificent structures are rivalled in scale in the ancient world by the pyramids at Giza.
The ancient city of Polonnuruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Listed) – With the fall of Anuradhapura under Indian invasion in the 10th century the capital moved to Polonnuruwa. Sri Lanka’s King rule from here for another 300 years till under continuing incursions from invaders the capital finally collapsed. Being younger than Anuradhapura this city is in remarkably good condition and there is a lot to explore the highlight for us are Lankatilaka and Gal Vihara statues don’t miss them.
The rock fortress Sigiriya (UNESCO World Heritage Listed) – The massive rock monolith that towers 370M above the surrounding plains was turned into the palace fortress of the patricidal & paranoid King Kasayapa (477 to 495 AD). This is the single highlight of Sri Lanka’s ancient past. Magnificent water gardens at ground level, the subliminal frescoes of the courts concubines halfway up the rock or the Lions paws that form the entrance to Kasayapa palace on the top of the rock this is a strenuous but must see on your visit to Lanka.
Dambulla Rock Temple (UNESCO World Heritage Listed) – These cave temples dating from the 1nd century BC rise 160M above the town of Dambulla. Maintained and grown over the centuries by many Kings the sculpture and vibrant colour of the Buddha statues in these ancient monasteries are spectacular as is view of the surrounding countryside. Once again a bit of a climb to get the top but well worth the visit if you are in the area.
Ritigala forest monastery – A forest covered 700M rock monolith rising from the plains contains the forested ruins of an ancient monastery dating from the 9thcentury. Not much remains here but ruins, but we like it as being off the beaten path and a place where the ancient ruins amongst the forest and your imagination will allow you to recreate its magnificent past. Ritigala is a strenuous climb.
Ancient city of Yapahuwa – Briefly the capital of Sri Lanka in the last 13th century. These small and well preserved ruins of the palace rising 100M on top of a granite outcrop are off the beaten track and are well worth a short visit if your route allows. The ancient rock cut stairs and magnificently preserved entrance to the palace are wonderful showcase of the skill and art of the ancient Sri Lankans.
Minneriya and Kawdulla National Park – Bordering each these two parks are one of the best places to see wild herds of Elephants in Sri Lanka centred around the Minneriya lake the open plains are a great spot to see the herds as they come for water. During the peak of the dry season (between August and September) a unique event known at the “Gathering” occurs where a super herd of up to 500 elephants congregate on the banks of the Minneriya tank