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Attractions and Places to Visit

National Museum

Established by Sir William Henry in 1877, the National Museum is an important tourist attraction in Colombo which houses the regalia of Sri Lanka. The largest museum in the country, the National Museum showcases some interesting artefacts and pieces of literature, which take you through the history of this port city.

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Viharamahadevi Mawatha, Akuressa, Sri Lanka

A heritage park that also happens to be the oldest one in Colombo, this blooming garden was developed when Sri Lanka was a British colony. Originally named Victoria Park, it was later renamed to Viharamahadev Park. This public park has many different varieties of trees which look extremely beautiful when they bloom during the spring season. They also offer many photo opportunities.

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Cinnamon Garden

Once home to cinnamon trees spread over vast acreage, the Cinnamon Gardens now showcase important buildings like the National Museum, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Town Hall of Colombo and the Independence Hall. It also has a lot of educational institutions and diplomat offices and residences.

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Independence Memorial Hall

Sri Lanka got its independence from Britain in 1948, and this huge stone building surrounded by a peaceful garden is a monument to that. In front of it is a statue of Sri Lankas first president, “The Father of the Nation”. Today this hall is used for religious events and the annual national day celebration. For us the place was a nice escape from the noise and crowds of Colombos streets, as there was hardly anyone there.

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Gangaramaya Temple

The Buddhist temple Gangaramaya consists of several buildings, and is a bustling temple complex filled with an enormous amount of things. Some of which are frankly pretty strange and a little scary.  It includes for instance a library, a museum and a display hall of gifts received from devotees and well-wishers over the years. The temple has a LOT of buddhas, in stone, white plastic and gold. I don`t think I have ever seen so many buddhas in one place!

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Beira Lake

It is close to the Gangaramaya Temple, in the heart of Colombo, is a huge lake – Beira Lake. In the middle of the lake is a small island containing the Simamalaka Shrine, which was built from donations made of a Muslim sponsor. The lake connects with other lakes through narrow canals and ends up in the Indian sea. In the colonial era the lake and its canals were used for transporting goods within the city, and it still has its Portugese name Beira. A really nice and peaceful place to sit and have a sightseeing break, with a crazy green colored water! We were tempted to go with one of the duck paddle boats that were for rent, but we backed out

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Galle Face Green

This is a nice green park in the middle of Colombo that lies beside the ocean.It is the perfect place to escape all the hustle and bustle of the city in order to take a peaceful stroll in the calmer and beautiful surroundings.

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Kandy Lake, Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka

The lake was created by the last king of the Kandyan Empire and is artificial. It is also the focal point of the city. In the local lingo it is called Kiri Muhuda and has an island in the centre as well. The end close to the temple of the tooth is very busy, but the far end is quiet and lovely for a walk in the evening. You can also get boats at the jetty and enjoy a boat ride. It is forbidden to swim in the lake as it is considered sacred. It is also a great place to view the Perahera from.

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Kandy Esala Perahera

This is the festival where the golden casket that contains Buddha’s tooth is paraded in a colourful and lively pageant. It is usually in the month of July or August based on when the festive date comes in the local calendar. The final night procession is a spectacular event replete with elephants, drummers and dancers. If you are looking for an impressive cultural experience in Sri Lanka you won’t find one better than this spectacular event.

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Royal Palace

 The Palace of Kandy also houses the National Museum which has relics from both the Kandy Dynasty and the British Colonial times. In fact the Temple of the Golden Tooth actually is part of this complex. The monarch was considered its guardian and protector. The museum also exhibits the history of the Dutch invasions and the final pact with the British.

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Temple of the Golden Tooth

A major attraction in Kandy, Sri Dalada Maligawa, as it is known locally, has a tooth relic of the Lord Buddha. The tooth is put on public display once every six years. The temple dates back to the 16th century and yes, the 1998 attack on the temple did see considerable damage done to the octagon, but repairs have been made. The tooth is housed in a casket called a Chedi which is made out of solid gold.

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Royal Botanical Garden

The Gardens are located about five km from the city centre to the west. They are the largest botanical gardens in the country. The location is more popularly known as Peradeniya and they are definitely worth a visit, even if you are not too much into horticulture. It is historically interesting to note that the Commander of the allied forces during World War II in Southeast Asia was Lord Earl Mountbatten who had his headquarters in these very gardens.

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Ceylon Tea Museum

About 5km from Kandy city is the Hantane Tea Factory where the Ceylon Tea Museum is located. Hantane is where the initial successful tea cultivation took place after the failure of coffee cultivation. The building in existence today is a modern version of the old one and was built in 1925. As you enter the tea factory, you will get a typical feel of a large, light and airy atmosphere. The ground floor demonstrates the process of tea manufacturing while the upper floors (previously used to whither freshly plucked tea) hold a library, some exhibits, a restaurant and an audio-visual presentation area.

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Knuckles Range

The Knuckles Range is a mountain range, one of the loveliest Kandy tourist attractions, and can be accessed easily from Kandy. This range is as massive as 18512 hectares and is a trekker’s paradise because it consists of panoramic grasslands, rugged mountain peaks, calm rivers, and cascading waterfalls. The name given to the mountain range is because of its shape: a series of recumbent folds that look like knuckles of a clenched fist when seen from several angles. Early british evaluators gave the mountains this name but the Sinhalese often refer to them as Dumbara Kanduvetiya – translated as mist-laden mountain range. Almost always enveloped in thick layers of cloud, the Knuckles Range is also known for its unique variety of flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else.

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Cave Temple

The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka's most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art. From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant. The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka's most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art. From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant.

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Aukana Buddha

Aukana Buddha: According to legend, the magnificent 12m-high standing Aukana Buddha was sculpted during the reign of Dhatusena in the 5th century, though some sources date it to the 12th or 13th century. Aukana means ‘sun-eating’, and dawn – when the first rays light up the huge statue’s finely carved features – is the best time to see it. Note that although the statue is still narrowly joined at the back to the rock face it is cut from, the lotus plinth on which it stands is a separate piece. The Buddha’s pose, ashiva mudra, signifies blessings, while the burst of fire above his head represents the power of total enlightenment. You’ll need a sarong to visit the statue; the ticket office is at the top of the first set of steep steps. A couple of vendors sell drinks near the parking area.

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Dambulla Musem

Re-creations of art from the cave temples, artefacts and detailed English-language explanations are presented in a large building some 500m south of the main caves' parking area. The displays are a good primer on Sri Lankan art – from cave paintings to 18th-century frescoes. Staff are keen to show you around.

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Golden Temple

At the foot of the cave temples hill stands the modern Golden Temple, a kitschy structure completed in 2000 using Japanese donations. On top of the cube-shaped building sits a Buddha image in the dhammachakka mudra (wheel-turning pose) and a huge neon sign.

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Cave I (Devaraja Viharaya)

The first cave, the Temple of the King of the Gods, has a 15m-long reclining Buddha. Ananda, the Buddha’s loyal disciple, and other seated Buddhas are depicted nearby. A statue of Vishnu is held in a small shrine within the cave, but it’s usually closed.

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Cave II (Maharaja Viharaya)

The Temple of the Great King is arguably the most spectacular of the caves. It measures 52m from east to west and 23m from the entrance to the back wall; the highest point of the ceiling is 7m. This cave is named after the two statues of kings it contains. There is a painted wooden statue of Valagamba on the left as you enter, and another statue further inside of Nissanka Malla.

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Cave III (Maha Alut Viharaya)

This cave, the New Great Temple, was said to have been converted from a storeroom in the 18th century by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy, one of the last Kandyan monarchs. It is also filled with Buddha statues, including a beautiful reclining Buddha, and is separated from Cave II by only a masonry wall.

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Cave IV (Pachima Viharaya)

The relatively small Western Cave is not the most westerly cave – that position belongs to Cave V. The central Buddha figure is seated under a makara torana, with its hands in dhyana mudra (a meditative pose in which the hands are cupped). The small dagoba in the centre was broken into by thieves who believed that it contained jewellery belonging to Queen Somawathie.  

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Cave V (Devana Alut Viharaya)

This newer cave was once used as a storehouse, but it’s now called the Second New Temple. It features a reclining Buddha; Hindu deities, including Kataragama (Murugan) and Vishnu, are also present.  

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