6 Must-See Landmarks That Define Sri Lanka’s Rich Cultural Heritage

A gold Buddha statue under a cloudy sky during daytime surrounded by pagodas

Posted by on 18 Apr 2024

Sri Lanka is rich in natural wonders, such as beautiful beaches and rolling mountains in hill stations. It’s also home to a trove of historic, cultural, and religious treasures that hundreds of thousands of people flock to each year.

From ancient temples and walled cities to high viewpoints in the mountains, your holiday is incomplete without visiting at least one of these famous landmarks in Sri Lanka.

Here are six must-see landmarks that tell the illustrious and incredibly diverse story of the island known as the Teardrop of India.

6 Must-visit Culturally-rich Landmarks in Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya, also known as the Lion Rock, is one of the most popular landmarks in Sri Lanka. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a massive granite rock fortress that looks as though it’s rising from the lush forests of Northern Matale. While many people hike Sigiriya itself, others opt to climb the nearby Pidurangala Rock, from which the view of Sigiriya is absolutely stunning.

Legend has it that this archaeological site was where King Kashyapa built his palace in the 5th century. To decorate his palace, he painted colourful, vibrant frescoes on its walls depicting beautiful women believed to be inspired by his hundreds of concubines. You can still see these beautiful frescoes around Sigiriya’s ruins today.

Sri Dalada Maligawa

Sri Dalada Maligawa is a popular Buddhist temple in the city and old kingdom of Kandy. This temple is very important in Sri Lanka as it is home to an ancient relic of the tooth of Buddha. Not only is this tooth considered to be one of the most important relics in Buddhism, but it was also owned by Sinhalese kings and whoever ruled the land.

Although many people flock to this revered temple, visitors can’t actually see the tooth of Buddha, also known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The relic is carefully stored within six gold caskets of different sizes nested inside one another to keep it safe.

That said, the temple complex is still a terrific place to visit and a sight to behold, with plenty of smaller shrines and a gorgeous view of Kandy Lake. When visiting the temples, remember to wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and legs.

Adam’s Peak

Adam’s Peak is one of the most popular hiking trails in all of Sri Lanka. The four-mile, 5,200-step hike can last a couple of hours, but the view when you get to the top is more than worth it.

Not only is it a summit that gives you panoramic views of the country’s rolling hills and misty mountains, but it also has a religious significance. Buddhists believe that this mountain peak is where Buddha left his sacred footprint before he went to paradise.

Meanwhile, Certain Christian and Islamic beliefs suggest that the imprint found atop Adam's Peak is attributed to Adam, symbolizing his descent to Earth following expulsion from paradise, thus earning the peak its name. So, this peak isn’t just a regular hike for adventure seekers; it’s a pilgrimage for those seeking a spiritual experience.

Dambulla Cave Temple (or the Golden Temple)

The Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, is a complex that boasts not one but five ancient cave shrines. This well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest Buddhist temple complexes in Asia, covering over 2,000 square metres.

Inside these cave temples are over 150 statues of gods and goddesses, as well as plenty of intricate murals and paintings telling the story of Siddhartha Gautama. Today, the cave temples are home to Buddhist monks who keep with the traditions and rituals of the faith.

One of the most popular attractions in the complex is the entrance. It has a huge, colourful intricately carved gate welcoming you to the complex. From there, you’ll also see a grand golden Buddha statue up above.

Galle Fort

The coastal towns by the shores of the Indian Ocean in the South of the country make it one of the best regions to visit in Sri Lanka. While you’re there, you don’t want to miss the chance to visit the historic Galle Fort.

This walled city was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese before it was further developed by the Dutch a century later. Entering this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a quaint European town with its charming cobblestone streets and flea markets.

At the same time, you’ll see plenty of South Asian flair everywhere, making it a multi-ethnic city. Some must-sees within the fortified town include the Galle Lighthouse, the Clock Tower, and the National Museum of Galle.

Lipton’s Seat

If you’re heading to the hill station of Haputale, don’t forget to make a pit stop at Lipton’s Seat. This stunning viewpoint is believed to be where tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to stand and admire his empire of tea estates dotted all over the lush plains and valleys of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country.

To get to this viewpoint, pay a visit to the Dambatenne Tea Factory—a historic plantation also built by Sir Lipton in the late 19th century. You can go on a tour and take a sip of the aromatic teas Sri Lanka is renowned for.

From there, hike up to the lookout through the paved road until you get to the top and are greeted by the panoramic views of the area. It’s best to hike early in the morning, as the late morning can bring thick mist and fog, which can obstruct the view.

Visit Fascinating Sri Lanka Landmarks on Your Next Holiday

Any traveller who wants to experience and immerse themselves in the rich Sri Lankan culture and heritage should pay a visit to the many historic landmarks Sri Lanka has to offer.

There is so much to see and uncover in this island country through its well-preserved temples, fortresses and natural wonders.

Want to explore more popular landmarks around the world? Check out Entire Travel Group’s Holiday Packages for unique destinations and remarkable experiences!

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