4. From Colombo: Anuradhapura Day Tour
Following hotel pick-up by your driver and guide at 06:00 in the morning from Colombo City area, you'll start for Anuradhapura. On arrival at Anuradhapura your first stop will be the Anuradhapura World Heritage Site and ruins. Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its well-preserved ruins depicting the illustrious ancient Lankan civilization. There are several interesting locations one can visit, namely, the majestic Ruwanweliseya Stupa, one of the largest structures of the ancient world, Brazen Palace with its 1,600 stone columns showing the remnants of a multi-storied residence for monks, Isurumuniya rock carving of ‘The Two Lovers’, the twin ponds used by Buddhist monks as a bathing pool and Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest Dagoba in the country believed to enshrine the collarbone of the Buddha himself and several other dagobas.
Next you'll head to explore Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. The Sacred Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is reckoned as the oldest surviving historical tree in the world. It was brought to Sri Lanka by the Theri Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka and was planted in the Mahameghavana Park in Anuradhapura in 249 BC by King Devanampiyatissa. It is said to be the southern branch of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. Then start for Jethawanaramaya Stupa. The Jethawana stupa, the central ritual monument of the Jethawana monastery, had a diameter of 370 feet. Established in the 3rd century A.D., the monastery was the residence of 3,000 monks. Recent excavations confirm that the foundation of the stupa was 28 feet deep and rested on bedrock. This stupa, the tallest brick structure in the world, was built in keeping with engineering principles which are followed even today.
You'll explore Abhayagiri Dagoba. The Abhayagiri Dagoba is the second biggest brick structure in the world after the Jetavana Dagoba. It was built by King Gajabahu (114-136 AD) and reaches a height of 370 feet (115m). After lunch at local restaurant by your own cost proceed to Moonstone or Sandakada pahana. Sandakada pahana, also known as Moon-stone, is a unique feature of the Sri Lankan Buddhist architecture of ancient Sri Lanka.It is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances. First seen in the latter stage of the Anuradhapura period, the sandakada pahana evolved through the Polonnaruwa, Gampola and Kandy period. Later visit Mihintale. Mihintale hill is the spot where King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura met Mahinda, a Buddhist monk and son of the Indian Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka. Mahinda asked the king a riddle and when the king was able to solve it, Mahinda deemed him to be a worthy disciple and converted him to Buddhism. There are religious monuments all over the hill, and the ruins of a monastery and a hospital. At approximately 20:00, you'll arrive back at your hotel in Colombo where the tour will end.