Right in the centre of Sri Lanka is a triangle of three cities that will make for a perfect excursion. Each of these cities holds exciting ancient ruins and monumental religious temples. The triangle is home to five of Sri Lanka’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you can find among the most exciting places to visit in the Cultural Triangle.

Where to Go and What to See


This capital city of the North Central Province beholds some of the most beautiful architecture you can find in Sri Lanka. As one of the ancient cities in Sri Lanka settled circa 900 B.C., Anuradhapura is famous for its preserved ruins from when it was capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata, right after Tambapanni and Upatissa.

The Citadel

Once the secular centre of the city, the Citadel features many of the palaces from when this city ruled the kingdom. You can also take on the view of the old city walls or check the many offerings at the local citadel resort.


Once an enormous building, the 1,600 stone pillars that remain are all that’s left of the wondrous palace that once stood here. The nine-story monastery once housed a thousand monks and was covered in precious stones and tiles.

Bodhi Tree Temple

The second most sacred temple in all of Sri Lanka, has reason to be one of the most famous. The sacred Bodhi tree is said to be a snipping from the original tree that the Buddha found enlightenment under. It has been maintained and guarded for over 200 years, making it the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world.


Located in the middle of Sri Lanka is Kandy, the island nation’s cultural capital. Set deep within a steep green valley, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers lush countryside, a bustling city and distinctive sights.

The Temple of the Tooth

Sitting right above the Bodhi Tree Temple, as the first most sacred temple in Sri Lanka is The Temple of the tooth which houses a tooth relic of the Lord Buddha. Unfortunately, you are not able to view the tooth itself, however, you are able to view the casket that it is placed in twice a day.

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage

Holding 70 semi-tame roaming elephants, the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is especially worth the trip if you are bringing children along. You can watch the giant creatures from afar or for a more up close and personal experience, watch during feeding time and bathing time when all of the elephants are taken to the nearby river.


The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s Kingdoms is the city of Polonnaruwa. Sitting in the North Central Province, you will be amazed by the intact wonders to be viewed.

The Royal Palace

Although you won’t find a palace like Buckingham Palace or Versailles here, you will find the once grand residence of King Parakramabahu. At its peak, the Polonnaruwa Royal Palace would have been imposing, as high as seven storeys. The grand stairs and rubble walls are a glimpse into the fortress that once stood.

Alahana Pirivena Complex

Another enjoyable ancient ruin site is the Alahana Pirivena Complex, with its ancient Buddhist temples. You can see the raised platform where Buddhist monks would lead the scripture-reading and other ceremonies. The monastery is associated with royal cremation grounds and holds the ashes of the elite monks and royalty.

Travel Tips

When visiting this area, it is advisable to receive vaccinations for Hepatitis A & B, Tetanus, Typhus and Japanese Encephalitis. You may want to consult with your local doctor or embassy for more information.

When visiting the temples, many respectful customs are required. You should always remove your shoes and wear modest attire. Do not turn your back directly to a Buddhist statue. Also, never touch or pat the top of the head of Buddhist monks, including practicing children in the temples.

Most of the country is rainy, therefore you may want to be in advisement before you set off on any adventures. Prepare for the precipitation that may occur.

Feeling inspired to explore Sri Lanka’s great history? We don’t blame you. There are so many areas to see and take in and the Cultural Triangle is easy to get stuck in your head. When travelling, don’t let any unexpected problems take you by surprise. Consider Cover-More when you buy travel insurance so you can focus on the fun and forget about the rest.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Shankar s