After two days of safari in the North, we headed down to the edge of the Hill Country for a cultural day. Following Sereno’s recommendation, we stopped at Anuradhapura for the morning. Although the city warrants a longer visit, we only managed to visit one temple due to our tight schedule.
Isurumuniya was enough to get a glimpse of Sri Lankan temples: with written history dating back to 5,000 years, the temple is a key buddhist pilgrimage stop. It was built in a boulder, and is surrounded by a beautiful lotus pond. It contains four carvings of interests to visit, as well as a historic Bodhi Tree. These are central symbols in Buddhism, as Buddha is said to have found enlightenment under such a the tree.
We were amused to find that we had to take our shoes off before getting into the site, but slightly self conscious as temple visitors are only supposed to wear white, and I only had black and bright red clothes!
We then headed to Sigiriya, the highlight of our trip. The site, a UNESCO World Heritage, is definitely worth a visit, even for those trying to avoid the tourist trail.
The boulder, which Sigiriya is famous for, rises impressively at over 300 metres above the ground, and hides ruins of an ancient castle atop.
The walk up the boulder is impressive, especially for those who suffer from vertigo, and the entrance fee is slightly expensive (USD 30), but visitors are rewarded with incredible views and impressive ruins.
The painted women of Sigiriya are also intriguing to visit: no one knows when or how they were painted on the rock, and estimates vary. Some believe they date back to between 377 BC to 1017 AD.
A visit to Sigiriya is not complete without a quick walk up to Pidurangala Rock, from where you can see the Sigiriya Rock. Although the path to Pidurangala was previously easy to loose, the way to the top of the rock is now well indicated, and does not take more than 15 minutes.
We finished the day at Heritance Kandalama Hotel. For anyone willing to ‘splash the cash” for a few nights in Sri Lanka, I definitely recommend visiting the Kandalama Hotel.
Built by famous Sri Lanka architect Geoffrey Bawa, it is a haven within the jungle. Climbing plants covers the building façade, and monkeys roam around the hotel’s three pools and terraces. They shy away from the crowds, but were very much present for our 6am morning swim.