Ancient Cities Zone


Ancient cities are like the life blood system of Sri Lanka, scattered throughout the country these cities, some are in ruins, some in good shape gives out how the island kingdoms have looked like in the olden days. The ruined cities are giving out important aspects of the development of civilizations. Anuradhapura is 7,179 km² in land mass while Polonnaruwa is 3,293 km², average temperature varies between 30°C -34°C, Wind NW at 4 km/h – 8 km/h, Population: 50,595 – 1,369,899. The zone is economically known for the agriculture and related activities and is done on the two main rain seasons. The people mass is majority of Sinhala Buddhists and has been like that in most of the years in History. Other than for agriculture minor levels of home-based crafts, and self-employment has picked up given the recent times.

Also, tourism plays a major role in the economic backdrop of the zone. The heavy rainfalls in the rain season fills up the tanks in the zone and that saved water becomes the source of water for the rest of the year as like it had happened in many years in the history. Most of the country’s food culture consists of rice and curries which is fresh produce from the region itself. Being a Buddhist dominated zone, all Buddhist festivals are being celebrated as festivals in the zone including Wesak and Poson Poya days.

ancient city zone


The first monarch capital in Sri Lanka, (195 kilometers away from Colombo) which has been in operation from 377 BC to 1017AD succeeded by the Polonnaruwa kingdom. Being a Buddhist kingdom and now in ruins, the city has its huge white pagodas and Buddhist monastery ruins as popular archeological interests, some of which are Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweliseya, Isurumuni Temple.

Anuradhapura also has a number of Lakes; these enormous lakes have once flourished the kingdom since Anuradhapura is in the dry zone. Besides the city itself being a magical attraction, the hydro engineering behind these tanks are magnificent works of engineering too. The city is a part of the cultural triangle, and was also made a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1982. Calm and a quiet city by the day; you can bike across the city to get the best views it has to offer.



Polonnaruwa is the second kingdom of Sri Lanka in succession after Anuradhapura, ancient Polonnaruwa town is preserved and taken for the interest of historians. Mostly Polonnaruwa attractions has the ancient city and the monasteries in ruins. The town was made a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1982, one of the most accredited sights in Polonnaruwa is the “Gal Vihara” and the three Buddha statues carved out of the natural rock.

Galvihara, Thiwanka Image House, quadrangle and the Lankatillake Vihara is among the most popular attractions in the old city in ruins. A guided walk through the ancient city gives on an outlook of how great the city has been in the gone days. In the ancient city, there is another stone carved statue which is failed to be given a name to date, but is staring into the Parakrama Samudraya, the famous lake in Polonnaruwa this is believed to be either a King or a royal.


Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress located in the Matale District in Sri Lanka, the name roughly translates to lion’s rock. This is the fortress built by King Kashyapa as his hiding place and is also home to a number of arts and crafts. Being a UNESCO world heritage site and UNESCO declaring the site as the eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya is a magnifique piece of art.

Even though it is believed that there is further apart history to the well-known chapter about Sigiriya, it is yet to be proven, the fortress is known to have a lion’s head which had collapsed years ago and the only remains are the two lions’ feet through which the entrance to the top floors of the castle ruins are located.

Sigiriya is mostly known for the frescos on the white plastered walls, while a large portion of it is recovered from the ruins, there’s still believed to be a lot to recover. These frescos are women holding flowers and the paint on them are still intact. There are a lot of readings to these images given by historians. Popular deciphers of the images say that these are harem queens of King Kashyapa, there’s another belief that these images means the thunder and rain, the two main ladies carrying flowers are symbols to same.



Dambulla is a city in the central province of Sri Lanka which is boasting of rich sites of the monasteries, archeological sites and tanks. The major popular Sigiriya is a part of these attractions. Apart from Sigiriya, Dambulla also has the Dambulla cave temple which has some very good frescos from the Kandyan era of the country, the cave temple has a total of seven caves built into temple and each cave has a different identity when coming to the cultural identity.

Dambulla also happens to be resident ground of the pre historic men in Sri Lanka which is proven by the found burial grounds named Ibbankatuwa a little off the central town. The town is also the central location for the vegetable distribution of the country and has a central market accessed by many vendors for retailing.

A little drive away from the town can get you to the biggest rose quartz mountain found in Asia which is guarded by a forest of ironwood which also is the national tree of Sri Lanka.



At 30km North from Polonnaruwa is Mandalagiri Vihara, also known as Medirigiriya, a seventh or eighth century Vatadage (a circle shaped image house), almost identical in measurement and construction to that in the ancient Polonnaruwa city’s quadrangle. The circular image house with concentric pillared terraces is located up a flight of granite stops on a hilltop site. The buddha statue has lost its facing and despite its atmospheric location is less impressive than Polonnaruwa.



Ritigala is a 366 acre archeological site located within a 3878 acre strict nature reserve where a substantial variety of wildlife is living is  and quite rich in unusual plants and herbs and thus relates to the epic Ramayana. The forest hermitage complex here was occupied by monks further in the near history and the structures here are found including double platform stone paved lanes, stone bridges, ambulatories, herbal bath and monks’ cells. The Brahmin inscriptions found in the forest monastery carbon dates back to the second century.  Among the distinctive raised stone platforms has a water filtration system which has used charcoal, sand and stone system which dates back to 6th century yet again.



One of the island’s most elegant perfect statues, the Aukana Budhdha, to the west of Kala Wewa Tank, has gained even greater significance to Buddhists since the destruction of the similar yet much larger statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The statue is carved out of a single standing rock, the right hand of the raised towards the right shoulder with the palm spread. The carving is so perfectly symmetrical that when it rains the water drops from the statue’s nose directly drips down to the center of the lotus flower platform the statue stands up on.


Minneriya National Park

Minneriya is another important national park in the country as a collection of wetlands fleeting around 8900ha, and supporting many aquatic birds such as painted stork, spot billed pelicans, open bill storks and grey herons. At the end of the dry season, there is little evidence of the tanks which gets covered in weed. Around September to October an influx of local migration of Elephants takes place in a spectacular wildlife event known as the largest gathering recorded. There’s also a small population of Monkeys, Sambhur, Leopard, Sloth Bear and Mugger Crocodile seen around the park.


Kaudulla National Park

The national park being opened as a step in establishing protection for Elephants in their ancient migration routes is Kaudulla National Park. Minneriya –Giritale Nature reserve to the South and Somawathie flood plains to the east, the 6936ha park acts mainly as the catchment of Kaudulla tank. Its most frequented wild animal is elephants roaming in large herds. The park’s terrain is a mixture of grassland and riverine forest. Among other varieties of animal be seen at the park are, a small population of Leopard and Sloth Bear,  but the park supports a wide and a vibrant community of birds and butterflies.


Eco Park Habarana (Hurulu Forest Reserve)

Designed basically as a biosphere reserve in 1977 Hurulu Reserve is a protected sanctuary near Ritigala strict nature reserve. Part of the reserve is offered as an eco park for the jeeps to ride out on safaris. The Indian Star Tortoise, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Leopard and Rusty-spotted Cat are among the  species of the forest reserve. Mainly the translocation of elephants happens through the eco park and thus makes the count of elephants are very less. There’s a growing count of leopard in here but still at a primary level.


Village Tour

This part of the island is known for the village tours, which involves re-living the traditional village experience. By either escorting through a bullock cart, a tractor or tuk tuks the guest is first taken to the village where they will learn about the village headman’s house and then the traditional kitchen. After which a traditional cooking demonstration is given to them. The lunch is served with earthy village type of mud thatched kitchen. Some village tours then call for a ferry ride in the nearby lake before the whole experience is wrapped.

Cycling tour in Sigiriya

The mountain cycling tours around the Sigiriya Rock Fortress shadow and the adjoining village takes you roughly about 2 hours to complete. Filled with the natural and cultural angle of living, these villages gives you the breeze and the waterways of the village of Sigiriya at its best and transforms you to an explorer in an escapade . The tour takes you through the village from Sigiriya to Pidurangala through the village, and will stop for a boiled corn kernel and a tea or a herbal drink along the way.

Bird Watching trails in Sigiriya

Sigiriya Sanctuary being protected under the UNESCO world heritage site certification, gives out much wider canopy forest to various types of migratory and endemic birds to nest and visit. Guided bird watching trails start at dawn and is a generally a walking tour around the reserve spotting different types of birds, a visitor is given a bird spot list o be checked along the way. Among the birds that are easily spotted in the trail are, Barred Button Quail, Lesser Whistling Duck, Wooly Neck Stork, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Orange Breasted Green Pigeon and Barbet.

Hot Air Ballooning expedition

Fly over the green lands, jungles and see for yourself the true beauty of the island in a panoramic aerial setting. The cultural triangle is known for its amazing sights of Wildlife, culturalscapes and nature, see them more just flying over, in a hot air balloon ride. After the ride, your pilot will offer you a drink and the villagers will be happy to welcome you in the ground. Either take the morning sunrise balloon ride or the evening sunset balloon ride, both are offering breathtaking landscapes in their own ways.

Accommodation choices for Ancient cities Zone

We’ve selected a range of accommodation options when you visit the Ancient cities. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities, and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

Suggested itineraries featuring Ancient cities Zone

These sample itineraries will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in the Ancient cities zone, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.


Contact our Travel Consultants to start planning your tailor-made holiday of your dream vacation to tropical Sri Lanka.

Call one of our specialists on : +94 112712100

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