The Cultural Triangle is situated in the heart of Sri Lanka and it is surrounded by a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The main points of the Cultural Triangle are: Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy, and what makes this area so special is that you truly get the essence of Sri Lanka.
One of the most iconic structures in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya is a 5th-century rock fortress that was built by the infamous King Kashyapa. The history of the fortress is incredibly interesting and is reason enough to visit; in order to ascend the throne, Kashyapa killed his father and usurped his brother, the rightful heir. Sigiriya is also an architectural phenomenon and is a structure far beyond its time. Kashyapa brought a flair of extravagance to the fortress unseen before; beautiful frescos dotted the stone walls, one wall was well polished to act as a mirror, elaborate gardens, and a large harem of women. Nonetheless, he was consumed with the fear of his demise, which is why Sigiriya was so heavily fortified, and you can learn more about it when you visit.
This is perfect for the more adventurous; Pidurangala is a mountain that overlooks Sigiriya. Before Kashyapa’s reign, Sigiriya was a monastery in the 3rd century, so after his arrival, the monks were moved to Pidurangala. As compensation, when the monks moved, King Kashyapa built a small temple for them and on your hike, you will encounter a Buddha statue that was built during that time. Unlike Sigiriya, Pidurangala is far more rugged and is overrun by the jungle, making it a far more exciting hike, and in some ways, the view from here is much prettier as you will be able to see Sigiriya and its surrounding vistas.
Dambulla is famous for being home to the country’s largest cave temple complex. The temple dates back to the 1st century BC making it one of the oldest functioning temples; it consists of five caves around which the temple was built. Within the temple, there are about 150 statues of the Buddha as well as an innumerable amount of rock paintings on the walls of the caves, all of which were commissioned by different kings. The temple is perched atop a rocky mountain and overlooks the beautiful plains of the central province.
Elephants are a hallmark of Sri Lanka, and a trip to the island would be incomplete without seeing them. Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks are among the best places to spot elephants and the world’s largest gathering of Asian elephants occurs within these parks. The gathering happens during the dry months from July – September, as the elephants are forced to come out of the shrubs and into the open plains for water. This is one of the most incredible sights you will ever see because you will only be a few feet away from about 200 – 400 elephants– definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
As you can see the Cultural Triangle is a microcosm of all the best aspects of Sri Lanka. It is a must on your trip to Sri Lanka, especially if you’re pressed for time. Stay at Jetwing Lake; located approximately 20 minutes to the above places, making it the perfect base for your travels around within the triangle.