List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

The World Heritage List selected by UNESCO of places recognised portion of the world’s heritage, which should be protected, holds eight unique attractions in Sri Lanka. These are the ruins of the ancient area of Anuradhapura, which flourished from the 5th century BC till the 10th century; the ruins of the follower kingdom, Polonnaruwa (9th to 14th century) and the unimaginable Sigiriya Rock, which shifted a citadel in the 5th century.
The whole city of Kandy, with its revered temple, is a World Heritage site, as is the Dambulla caves and temple determining from the 1st century BC. Galle Fort, founded by the Portuguese in 1588. In addition, there are two natural landmarks which are the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Central Highlands. (Horton Plains and the Knuckles Conservation Forest)

1. Sacred City of Anuradhapura (Cultural )

Anuradhapura is a sacred city built in the 4th century B.C. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 under the title of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. The centre of Theravada Buddhism for several centuries. Theravada Buddhism is a part of Buddhism holding on the oldest written Buddhist text as its faith.
Anuradhapura was the first capital city for the Sinhalese personalities from the 4th century B.C. till the beginning of the 11th century A.D. During this time, it remained one of the most steady centres of administrative leadership in South Asia.
This ancient city is recognised as sacred to the Buddhist world. Moreover, the city represents religious significance because it contains a cutting from the ‘tree of enlightenment, the Buddha’s fig tree which, was carried in the 3rd centenary B.C. by Sanghamitta.

2. Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (Cultural )

Polonnaruwa was the next capital of Sri Lanka following the devastation of Anuradhapura in 993. Besides the Brahmanic shrines built by the Cholas, it contains the incredible ruins of the fabulous garden city built by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 under the title of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa.

3. Ancient City of Sigiriya ( Cultural )

Sigiriya is one of the most important ancient shrines of Sri Lanka.It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 under the title of the Ancient City of Sigiriya. Quoted by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World, this old castle and fortress complex has well-known archaeological importance and brings thousands of tourists every year. It is the commonly visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka.
The palace is located in the centre of the island between Dambulla and Habarana. On an extensive rocky plateau 370 meters above sea level. Sigiriya rock hill, formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the nearby forests. Its view astonishes the visitors with the remarkable consistency between nature and social intelligence.

4. Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications ( Cultural )

Galle Fort is one of the most attractive tourist places to visit in Sri Lanka. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 under the title of the Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications. The Portuguese made the Galle fort in the 16th century and then strengthened it by the Dutch in the 17th century. Experience the panoramic view of the sea from the front or walk along the cobblestoned pathway during the Galle Fort area. The fort area is filled with tiny food joints, cafes, shops selling trinkets and bookstores. The Galle fort also gives one of the most breath-taking landscapes of the shade sun.

5. Sacred City of Kandy ( Cultural )

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, which displays a lot of significance to Buddhists worldwide, additionally has tremendous cultural value. The structure is of a novel Kandyan architectural technique with a mixture of the original style applied to build “Dalada Mandira”, the shrines which housed the Sacred Tooth Relic earlier in different kingdoms. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for 1988 under the title of the Sacred City of Kandy.
The temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is placed in the city of Kandy near the ancient Royal Palace, which is found to the North of the temple and the forest park called “Udawaththa Kelaya” to the East. The famous Kandy Lake is likewise known as “Kiri Muhuda” to the South and “Natha & Paththini Devala” to the West. The temple is decorated with elaborate carvings using gold, silver, bronze and ivory.
Kandy is the last place of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Gautama Buddha. The Sacred relic was taken to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala & Prince Dantha from the city of Kalinga in ancient India, while the reign of King Keerthi Sri Meghavarna (Kithsirimevan 301 -328).

6. Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple (Cultural )

Dambulla Cave Temple is located at an altitude of 1118 feet from the sea level rises an extensive rock from the around fields of Dambulla of 600 feet high and over 2000 feet in length. It is the place to the Worlds most acclaimed Cave complex of majestic Buddha Images and Rock Paintings of bright colours and shapes constructed and painted on the Anuradhapura era (2nd Century BC )and stayed up to the Kandyan era of the 18th Century.It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 under the title of the Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple. Sinhalese people describe it as ' Dambulu Gala' ( Dambulla Rock), and the Temple is called the ' Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya' (Golden Rock Dambulla Temple).

7. Sinharaja Forest Reserve ( Natural )

Sinharaja rain forest can be considered as an invaluable bio-diversity hotspot and a tropical evergreen hilly virgin rain forest located in the southwest lowland wet-eco region in Sri Lanka. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988 under the title of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve . This is the biggest and the only natural rainforest settlement in the low country until now. The dense nature covers over 11187 ha passing the borders of three Districts, namely Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. This biosphere reservation is located in between north latitude 6º21´-6º27´ and east longitude 80º21´-80º37´. There are four passageways to pass into this wealth trove. They are Ratnapura – Weddagala route, Ratnapura-Rakwana-Sooriyakanda-Ilumbakanda road, Hiniduma – Neluwa road and Deniyaya-Pallegama road. However, the reserves of this rainforest must belong to Ratnapura District, and the main entry to Sinharaja also opens at Ratnapura.

8. Central Highlands of Sri Lanka (Natural )

Sri Lanka's mountains are located in the south-central belt of the land. The property encompasses the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. Particular montane forests, where the ground rises to 2,500 metres over sea level, provide a fantastic variety of flora and fauna, including numerous jeopardised species such as the western-purple-faced langur, Sri Lankan leopard and the Horton Plains slender loris. Consequently, the region is granted a super biodiversity hotspot, and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010 under the title of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

Ravindu Dilshan Illangakoon is a distinguished co-founder and Head of Content at Sri Lanka Travel Pages, specializing in web development and article writing.
Article by
Ravindu Dilshan Illangakoon
As co-founder and Head of Content at Sri Lanka Travel Pages, I ensure that every blog post we publish is AMAZING.

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