The earliest inscriptions discovered in the Southern region date back to the 2nd century B.C. Prior to this the Indo-Aryan settlers from Northern India was in full control of the area. Earliest monastery' wherever there was human habitation and in suitable rock caves. These caves are spread into many in the areas and it is a tourist attraction now.
Sigiriya, the spectacular 'Lion rock' fortress, stands majestically overlooking the luscious green jungle surroundings, and is one of Sri Lanka's major attractions. This was built by King Kasyapa, a son of King Dhatusena, by a palace consort. As legend goes, King Dhatusena was overthrown and walled in, alive by Kasyapa in 473 AD. Mogallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen fled to India, vowing revenge.
Kasyapa fearing an invasion built this impregnable fortress at Sigiriya.
When the invasion finally came in 491, Kasyapa rode out to battle in his war elephant.In an attempt to out-flank his half-brother, Kasyapa took a wrong turn, where his elephant got stuck in the mud. His soldiers, thinking Kasyapa was retreating fled abandoning him, and he took his own life.
129 Km away from Colombo and 465 metres above sea level, is Kandy, the charming hill capital, cultural centre of the island and a World Heritage City. Nestling amidst low hills, and looped by the Mahaweli river, Sri Lanka's largest, Kandy is still the home of the arts and crafts, music and dance and song which flourished under the patronage of the Kandyan Kings.
The city was born in the 14th century and became the capital of the Kandyan kingdom in the 16th century.
It was the seat of much of Sri Lanka's culture. The Royal City fell to the British in 1815, when the last Kandyan King, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was captured. For Buddhists, Kandy is the sacred city. The focal point is the Dalada Maligawa also known as the temple of the tooth, where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined. There are many shrines and temples in and around Kandy, where you will see rare paintings, frescoes, wood and stone carvings.
The highlight of the year is the Kandy Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in procession accompanied by exotically costumed drummers, dancers and about 80 - 100 caparisoned elephants during ten glittering nights in July/ August.
The beautiful city, surrounded by hills and valleys, rivers, lakes and cascading waterfalls, boasts of the Royal Botanical gardens at Peradeniya.
Kandy is an exciting place for shopping with souvenirs of wood, copper, silver, brass and bronze. Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery, rush and reed-ware too could be purchased. While in Kandy, an outing to a tea factory as well as a tea plantation should also be made to witness first hand, the process that leads to the creation of the famous 'Ceylon Tea'.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage and breeding ground for wild elephants which is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation on the Maha Oya river. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle. As of 2008, there were 84 elephants.
Anuradhapura, according to legend, was first settled by Anuradha, a follower of Prince Vijaya the founder of the Sinhala race. Later, it was made the Capital by King Pandu kabhaya about 380 BCE.
The history of early Sri Lanka was very carefully recorded and written down by monks. The Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle) records the earlier period of the Sri Lankan, and Chulavamsa (lesser Chronicle), gives an accurate picture of the 'Polonnaruwa' period.
Rajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla (Golden Rock Temple) Located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the centre point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO.
The seaside town of Galle is 116 Km., from Colombo by road or rail, down the southwest coast. Both routes are picturesque, following the coastline closely for much of the way.
Today's town has grown greatly and spreads into the hinterland but the Fort is the slow-beating heart of Galle's history.
The walled city has stood since the early sixteenth century, through the Colonial periods of the Portuguese, Dutch and British and in our present times is proclaimed as an Archaeological Reserve and been identified as a World Heritage site.
Blessed a with salubrious climate, breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery; it's hard to imagine that Nuwara Eliya is only 180 Km from the hot and humid Colombo.
Nuwara Eliya (City of Lights), also known as 'Little' England', was the favourite hill station of the British who tried to create Nuwara Eliya into a typical English Village. The old brick Post office, country house like hill club, with it's hunting pictures, mounted hunting trophies and fish, and it's strict formal dinner attire; the 18 hole golf course, race course etc., all remind you of 'England'.
Uda Walawe lies South of the central hills of the island, and it surrounds the man made reservoir of Uda Walawe, which is part of the park. It is a mixture of abandoned teak plantation, scrub jungle & grassland. The dry season is best to watch the many herds of elephant that roam the park; which is usually between May & September.
Almost the entire park is covered with tall, reedy Pohon grass, which grows all year round, except during the months of June and October.
A Uda Walawe is a superb place to watch elephants. An estimated 500 elephants in herds to up to 100 live here. One of the reasons is the elephant-proof fence that surrounds the perimeter of the park, which keeps the elephants in and the cattle (and humans) out
The northernmost resort on the west coast, and a large fishing town, Negombo has an old world atmosphere of 17th century churches and forts, and is also often called 'little Rome'.
A fine example is St.Mary's church in the town centre.
The little island of 'Duwa' - attached to Negombo by the lagoon bridge - is famed for the country's only Passion Play. This involves the entire village and is staged throughout the Christian Holy Week. The ruins of the old Dutch fort, and a Dutch cemetery and green are near the mouth of the lagoon.
A Fishers' festival is also held here in late July. The catch, which includes shark as well, is not always from the sea and very often includes lobster, crab and prawns from the lagoon.
Sri Lanka's economic centre is a colourful and bustling city. It's an interesting mix of Moor, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences with a history of over 600 years.
The centre is known as 'Fort', but there is little sign of that today. The Fort area today is a collection of marble and glass structures along such venerable buildings such as the Miller's, building and the General Post Office.
Most of the important government buildings are housed here, including the Janadhipahi Mandiraya (President's residence, known as the Queen's House in old times), but the President no longer stays here.
The clock tower in Fort is a familiar landmark, which was a lighthouse 140 years ago.
The Pettah is Colombo's bustling bazaar area. It's many crisscrossing roads mark out sections which specializes in various trades from the latest models of Japanese electrical & electronic items, Swiss watches & Levi's jeans to used computers, sarees, spices and condiments, goldsmiths and jewellers, wholesale traders in rice, sugar, onions and lentils and chilies.
Bentota is 65 km from Colombo and is a popular and fully geared tourist resort. Before the era of mass tourism and the consequent construction of the National Tourist Resort of Bentota, the first foreigners to stumble upon this charming spot, must have been Arab merchant sailors, who also discovered Beruwela in the 11th Century a little further north.
Nilaveli (Pronounced Nilaa-Veli, Tamil translation Open-land of the moon-shine) is a coastal resort town located about 20 km North-West of Trincomalee, Trincomalee District, Sri Lanka. It used to be a popular tourist destination, however due to 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Sri Lankan Civil War tourist numbers have declined.
Arugam Bay is a bay situated on the Indian Ocean in the dry zone of Sri Lanka's southeast coast. The bay is located 320 km due east of Colombo. It is a popular surfing and tourist destination. Many of the buildings were destroyed in the 2004 tsunami. Due to its popularity among tourists, the area has managed a slow recovery by private initiatives only. The main road through town has still not been repaved.
Tangalle (Sinhala ?????? [Tangalla]) is a town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka located in the Hambantota District. It has a mild climate, in comparison to the rest of the district, and sandy beaches Tangalle is a regionally important fishing port and a centre of tourism. In the city centre there is an old Dutch fort which is used as a prison today. The town also serves as a starting point for visits to the rock temple of Mulkirigala.