History and Culture of Sri Lanka

With a history running back well over 3,000 years, Sri Lanka is blessed with a material history that can be seen in the innumerable cities, shrines and temples which still exist. These attractions, several UNESCO World Heritage sights, can be included into your tour depending on your interests and priorities.

Qualified guides will show you around these attractions, giving you an insight into the sophisticated cultures that existed across the island in the previous millenniums.

The most famous is Anuradhapura, one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world and also one of Buddhists' most sacred sites. Capital of Sri Lanka between the 4th to the 11th centuries AD the monuments are testament to its power and size during its heyday.

For the more energetic then a visit to the hill fortress of Sigiriya (see map) is a must. A steep climb up metal staircases takes you to the palace on its flat top, offering great views out over the surrounding countryside and the ruins of the once vibrant surrounding city. There are also the ruins at Polonnaruwa with their complicated irrigation networks and the more recent buildings of the Kingdom of Kandy all stand witness to the magnificence of Sri Lanka's past.

In Kandy you can visit the Temple of the Tooth, bathing in the sacred waters and looking at the golden shrine that contains a tooth of the Buddha. The complex around the shrine is a meandering complex of building, courtyards and ponds, full of the devout completing their rituals as they visit this sacred place.

The more recent past can be seen in the Portuguese, and then Dutch, fortress at Galle, its huge walls and towers still complete. Started in 1588 and then taken over and added to by the Dutch from 1649 it was the centre for the colonial powers who make great wealth from the rich soils that grew exotic crops and spices to import back to Europe. Inside the walls the architecture has hardly changed, merchants houses with cool verandas still line the quiet streets. The walls saved the buildings from the 2004 Tsunami that caused such damage along this coast.

Safaris visiting this attraction

13 days
From £1870
East Coast Sri Lanka

Our East Coast Sri Lanka holiday is perfect for those travelling during the UK summer, taking advantage of the wonderfully deserted eastern beaches. Explore the Cultural Triangle and Minneriya National Park and relax on lesser visited east coast sands

14 days
From £2447
An Insider's Sri Lanka

Our Insider’s Sri Lanka holiday showcases the country’s lesser-known gems, taking you to out-of-the-way places where you can rub shoulders with the locals. Embark on immersive adventures including wildlife spotting in Uda Walawe Park

13 days
From £1769
Sri Lanka: Beyond the Ordinary

Our Sri Lanka: Beyond the Ordinary holiday will take you off the well-travelled path to a lesser-known side of this multifaceted country.


History and Culture of Sri Lanka