Key Places - Sri Lanka - Classic
Negombo - Udawalawe - Belihuloya - Galle
Polonnaruwa is the second oldest of Sri Lanka's ancient kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country under a local ruler. Vijayabahu’s victory and relocation of his kingdom to Polonnaruwa was strategically significant, but another King: Parakramabahu I stands out for his contribution not only to Polonnaruwa but to the whole of Sri Lanka. His reign is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa. Parakramabahu I is quoted as saying “Let not even a drop of rain water go to the sea without benefiting man". During his reign irrigation systems were constructed that still supply the water for paddy cultivation today, during the intense dry season in the east of Sri Lanka. The greatest of these systems is the Parakrama Samudra: the ‘Sea of Parakrama’. It is so wide that standing at its edge one cannot see the far side. Encircling the main city it serves as both a defensive moat and the lifeline of the people in times of peace. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu's reign.
Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological sites in the country, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also famous for its population of endemic old world monkeys: Toque Mocaques. The monkeys have lived in the ruins for centuries.
Historically, Polonnaruwa had a year round tropical climate but in recent years the rainfall and cooler temperatures have increased. Although this is enjoyable for tourists, it is not so good for the paddy farmers can suffer when there is too much rain.
Jutting out of the landscape of Sri Lanka's heartland is the towering rock of Sigiriya aloft which sit the ruins of the Kingdom of Kassapa. Stairways clinging to fresco adorned sheer rock wall lead the visitor past natural caves and water gardens, toward the summit palace. Now a World Heritage site Sigirya was abandoned in the 14th C and rediscovered by British explorer John Still in the early 1900s. Whilst widely believed to be the fortress of King Kassapa in ad 477-95 some archaeolgists believe Sigiriya was religious site and the ruins are the remains of Buddhist monastery.
The Sri Lankan capital Colombo has a long been an east-west trading port with successive colonial invaders taking control prior to independence, from Portuguese and Dutch to British. The city reflects this blend of influences. Stretching along 50km of the western coastline, the Galle Road is Colombo's central navigation route connecting a wide variety of neighbourhoods. Fort, as its name suggests, is an area created in the 19th C surrounded by sea and moats. Colonial buildings and modern architecture mingle in this central city hub. Pettah is one of the oldest districts where communities of different faith co-exist and the streets overflow with markets, street vendors and bargain hunters. You can visit the Dutch Period Museum, featuring colonial artefacts. The Cinnamon Gardens are Colombo's most exclusive area with grand embassy buildings, museums and galleries.
Kandy, the ancient hill country capital of Sri Lanka remained a defiant Sinhalese stronghold resisting invasion long after other areas of the country had been defeated. The town is built around an artificial lake created in 1807 by the last Sinhalese ruler. With cool mountain breezes and deep blue skies (when the mists clear), the buzzing markets, colourful streets and cultural landmarks create a vibrant jewel in the mountains. Sites of interest include the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the World Buddhism Museum and Ceylon Tea Museum.
"We had a fabulous time. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, with such wonderful people - not least our Guide and Drivers - and the tour enabled us to see..."