A long, colourful history that intertwines tales of kings and queens, colonial conquests and hidden palaces in the sky, Sri Lanka has enticed travellers from around the world to dip their toes and experience the wonders of the island.
Whether it’s your first time on the island or you’ve been exploring the vibrant streets in search of hidden gems, travellers must visit the country’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, 2 of which are natural sites and the other six are cultural.
The cultural World Heritage Sites include:
The natural sites include:
While we highly recommend spending as much time as possible in the country to explore the cultural and natural World Heritage Sites during your holiday, time may not always be on your side. Here are our top 3 sites to visit for shorter stays, especially when you need to save time to explore the rest of Sri Lanka’s wonderful treasures.
The essential first stop on any itinerary is a visit to the old town of Galle. Spend a day or a few more exploring the ancient fort that was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch and British. Check out some fun facts about Galle Fort.
The Galle Fort is known to be one of the oldest living forts in the world, where life goes on as normal for locals that have lived here for years. As you explore the cobblestoned streets, you’ll find functioning law offices and courts, schools and places of worship, souvenir stores and restaurants, and an abundance of ancient buildings, museums and more.
Our restaurants are located in the heart of Galle Fort, simply because we fell in love with this charming town, that reminded us of our homes back in Italy. During your tour of Galle, dine in at AQUA Forte for an authentic Italian fine dining experience or head over to AQUA Pizza for a taste of true Neapolitan pizza.
When you’re exploring Galle Fort by foot, here are some key things to do –
Distance from Colombo Airport to Galle Fort: 153 KM / 2 hours 15 minutes
Entrance fees: Free, except for the museums.
Best time to visit – Throughout the day.
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Often referred to as The Palace in the Sky, this ancient castle was built and used under the reign of King Kashyapa in the 5th century AD. Considered as the 8th Wonder of the World for its impressive architecture and advanced hydraulics system comprising of lakes, canals, bridges, fountains and underground water pumps that still supply water to the famed Rock Gardens today.
The Sigiriya Rock Fortress is 200 metres high, where you can climb 1,200 steps to reach the summit – for a breath-taking view that’ll be worth the climb.
As you explore the wonderful gardens of Sigiriya, some key attractions include:
Distance from Colombo Airport to Sigiriya – 146 KM / 3 hours 15 minutes
Entrance fees- USD 30 (*subject to change).
Best time to visit – Early mornings or late afternoons, to avoid the heat during midday.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic or the Sri Dalada Maligawa is the most revered temple in Sri Lanka. Built within the royal palace complex, the temple is most sacred for housing the tooth relic of the Buddha. The city of Kandy has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site mainly because of the temple. Each year in July and August, the tooth relic is taken on a massive traditional and religious parade through the streets of this hill city, known as the Kandy Esala Perahera. Don’t miss this if you’re in the area during this time!
As this is a place of worship, do remember to be appropriately dressed- covering shoulders and knees. Footwear should be left outside the temple prior to entering the premises. Inside the complex, don’t miss out on:
Distance from Colombo Airport to Kandy – 114 KM / 2 hours and 45 minutes
Entrance fees – LKR 1,500 (*subject to change).
Best time to visit – Early mornings or late afternoons. Avoid visiting on full moon (Poya) days.