ANURADHAPURA & POLONNARUWA
Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first capital, flourishing as a center of international trade for 1,400 years, before falling to Tamil forces in the 11th century. Polonnaruwa then rose to power as the island’s second great capital city. The ruins of both ancient cities are fascinating to explore on foot or by bicycle.
KANDY & ANURADHAPURA
The Thuparama Dagoba in the ancient city Anuradhapura is the island’s oldest dagoba (a shrine housing a relic of the Buddha)—it is said to contain his right collarbone. Dagobas containing the Buddha’s teeth are especially popular in Sri Lanka and Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth Relic is a fine example—the chaotic veneration of these dental remnants truly must be seen to be believed.
HORTON PLAINS & YALA NATIONAL PARKS
From as early as 200 BC, Sri Lankans have purposefully set aside land where nature and wildlife could flourish. From high-altitude Horton Plains National Park, rich with rare flora and fauna and wonderful hiking opportunities, to low-lying Yala National Park, famous for its wild leopard sightings, Sri Lanka’s National Parks and nature preserves are world class.
COLOMBO & GALLE
Colombo is dotted with an intriguing jumble of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial buildings. The port city of Galle, on the other hand, has preserved almost exclusively its Dutch colonial period. The intact Galle Fort and its charming collection of European lanes, homes, shops and churches are like stepping into another world.
MINNERIYA & GAL OYA NATIONAL PARKS
To glimpse elephants in their natural habitat, pay a visit to Minneriya National Park, home to Sri Lanka’s densest population of wild elephants. Or, for an even more unusual sight, venture to the Gal Oya National Park, one of the rare places to see elephants swimming between islands, using their trunks as natural snorkels.