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North Central Province

Culture & History

Our most recommended North Central Province Culture & History

From Colombo: 4-Day Essence of Sri Lanka Heritage Tour

1. From Colombo: 4-Day Essence of Sri Lanka Heritage Tour

After pickup from your hotel in Colombo, Negombo or Mount Lavinia, drive to Dambulla. Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site then spend overnight in Sigiriya. On day two get an early start and drive to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Polonnaruwa. Take a cycling tour through the well-preserved ancient city to see the beautiful stupas or dagobas, moonstones, parks, buildings and stunning statues. In the afternoon, you will be taken to the 5th-century rock fortress of Sigiriya, regarded as one of the Wonders of World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend overnight in Sigiriya.   On day three after leisurely breakfast, visit an archetypal Sri Lankan village. Experience a bullock cart ride, see traditional cultivation methods, enjoy a boat ride and an authentic Sri Lankan lunch at a village house. After lunch, continue to Kandy, stopping at a wood carving center and a spice garden in Matale. Upon arrival, take a city tour of Kandy including a visit to the temple of the sacred tooth relic, upper lake drive, the market square, and more. Spend overnight in Kandy.     After breakfast on the fourth day, you will depart from Kandy and be driven back to your hotel in Colombo, Negombo or Mount Lavinia, or dropped off at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

From Negombo: Full-Day UNESCO City of Anuradhapura Trip

2. From Negombo: Full-Day UNESCO City of Anuradhapura Trip

Declared by UNESCO as a world heritage city, Anuradhapura is regarded as Sri Lanka’s first known kingdom and the capital of the island for many centuries. Being well known for its cultural and religious value, the city attracts many local and foreign visitors who want to explore the ancient history of Sri Lanka.  See the remains of the Brazen Palace, which was once 9 stories high, and the Sri Maha Bodhi a Bo Tree, which is over 2000 years old and grew from the branch of the very tree beneath which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Visit the ruins of the Ruwanweliseya Dagaba and see the 2nd-century BC shrine, containing the Buddha’s collarbone relic. Explore the Abhayagiriya temple and the Jetawanaramaya dagobas.

From Colombo: Anuradhapura Day Tour

3. 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.

From Kandy: Sigiriya Rock, Village Tour and Minneriya Park

4. From Kandy: Sigiriya Rock, Village Tour and Minneriya Park

Start your tour at 6:30 AM with pickup from your hotel in Kandy. The first stop on your itinerary will be the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. which you will reach at approximately 9:00 AM. Rising from the central plains, the iconic rocky outcrop of Sigiriya is perhaps Sri Lanka's single most dramatic sight. Near-vertical walls soar to a flat-topped summit that contains the ruins of an ancient civilization, where you will discover spellbinding vistas across mist-wrapped forests in the early morning. Climb a series of vertiginous staircases attached to sheer walls to reach the top of the ruins. Pass a series of frescoes and a pair of colossal lion's paws carved into the bedrock. Marvel at the surrounding landscape of lily-pad-covered moats, water gardens, and quiet shrines that surround the site. After visiting the fortress, proceed to a local village in Sigiriya to experience a village tour. Get a chance to go on an oxen cart ride, and experience the world from the view of a local farmer. Afterwards, take a relaxing catamaran safari through a calm lake. Stroll through the golden fields ripe with their harvest of paddy. Watch a traditional cooking demonstration, that teaches you the basics of Sri Lankan cuisine. Delight your taste buds with a home-cooked lunch; made over a wood-fire and served on fragrant lotus leaves placed over woven trays.  After experiencing the village life of Sri Lanka, travel onwards to Minneriya National Park to go on safari. See the famous Sri Lankan elephants, rare bird species, saltwater crocodiles, Indian pythons, and an abundance of flora and fauna. On completion of the jeep safari at approximately 6:00 PM and return to your hotel in Kandy, stopping along the way for dinner, at your own expense.

Sri Lanka: 7-day Island Highlights Tour

5. Sri Lanka: 7-day Island Highlights Tour

Day 1 Meet your driver and proceed to your hotel in Dambulla. See the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple along the way. Dinner and overnight stay in Dambulla. Day 2 After a leisurely breakfast, visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Polonnaruwa historical city. Dinner and overnight stay in Dambulla. Day 3 After a leisurely breakfast, leave for Kandy. Visit a spice garden along the way. After arrival in Kandy, enjoy a sightseeing tour and visit the Tooth Relic Temple and Royal Botanical Garden. Dinner and overnight stay in Kandy. Day 4 After an early morning breakfast, head to the Kandy Railway Station and board the train for Nuwara Eliya. Stop to visit a tea plantation along the way. Dinner and overnight stay in Nuwara Eliya. Day 5 After the breakfast, head for Yala. Visit a waterfall and the Sita Temple along the way. After arriving in Yala, enjoy an afternoon safari. Dinner and overnight stay in Yala. Day 6 After the breakfast, leave for Bentota. Visit Galle Fort, the Madu River estuary, and  the Sea Turtle Conservation Centre along the way. Dinner and overnight stay in Kalutara/Bentota. Day 7 After the breakfast leave for Colombo. Your driver will drop you off at your hotel or the airport after your Colombo sightseeing tour.

Sri Lanka: 7-Day Culture and Heritage Tour

6. Sri Lanka: 7-Day Culture and Heritage Tour

Discover historic ruins and temples on this 7-day trip from Colombo, Mount Lavina, Negombo, or Bandaranaike International airport. Stay overnight in 4-star hotels with complementary breakfast. Watch a cultural show and partake in a woodcarving experience. Day 1: Select to be picked up from at your accommodation in Colombo, Mount Lavina, or Negombo, or be picked up from Bandaranaike International airport. Be greeted by your driver and sit back and relax on the drive to Kandy. Check into your 4-star hotel and relax for the evening. Day 2: Enjoy breakfast the the hotel before embarking on a trip to the see the 500-year-old wood carvings at the temple of Embekke, the Buddhist temple of Lankathilaka, and the ancient temple of Gadaladeniya.  Stop at the temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha and view the large Buddha statue at Bahirawakanda Buddha. Make your way to Kandy lake for a scenic drive along the upper lake. Dive into a cultural show before returning to your hotel for the night. Day 3: Admire the Buddhist and Hindu architecture at the temple ruins of Nalanda Gedige. Travel to a factory in the village of Matale for a live wood carving experience. In the afternoon, visit the well-preserved Dambulla rock cave temple. Drive back to your hotel to rest for the evening. Day 4: Explore the ruins and monuments of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa. Next, head to a UNESCO World Heritage 5th century fortress at Sigiriya. Climb up 1200 steps to the top where a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape awaits you. Go back to your hotel for the evening. Day 5: Journey to Anuradhapura to see an extensive complex of monasteries, temples, buildings, bathing pools, and a complex irrigation system. Uncover the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka at the Minintale mountain peak. Rest at your hotel for the remainder of the evening. Day 6: Make your way to the capital of medieval Sri Lanka in Yapahuwa where you can admire architecture from the 4th Kingdom of Sri Lanka. View an an enormous rock fortress which housed the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha for 11 Years. Afterwards, spend the night at a hotel in Negombo. Day 7: Let your driver take you back to your accommodation in Colombo, Mount Lavina, or Negombo, or be dropped off at the Bandaranaike International airport.

Polonnaruwa: Ancient City Guided Cycling Tour

7. Polonnaruwa: Ancient City Guided Cycling Tour

8:00 You will be taken by TukTuk to tour the ancient Kingdom of Polonnaruwa where you meet your cycling guide. 8:20 Arrive and do a cycling tour of one of the better kept ruins of ancient Ceylon - the UNESCO World Heritage City of Polonnaruwa, which was the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Today you will be cycling about 10km on soft surfaces as you whizz between the ruins. The ancient heart of Sri Lanka 11:30 You will be taken back to your hotel.

From Negombo: Dambulla Caves & Kaudulla National Park Safari

8. From Negombo: Dambulla Caves & Kaudulla National Park Safari

Take in both the culture and history of Sri Lanka as well as the natural beauty of it's wildlife on this full day tour from Negombo. First visit the world heritage site of Dambulla Cave Temples, before enjoying an afternoon on safari spotting elephants, deer, buffalo and assorted birds. Head to Dambulla and visit the Cave Temple, which is a vast isolated rock mass 500 feet high and a mile around the base. In the first cave is a recumbent image of the Buddha 47ft long, cut out of the rock. There are images of deities associated with Buddhism all around. The frescoes on the walls and the ceiling are the oldest here but they were painted over in the Kandy period. In the second cave, the finest and largest of all, there are 150 life-size statues of the Buddha in various postures with a few statues of Gods and Kings. The ceiling is also covered with frescoes, which depict great events in the life of the Buddha and landmarks in the history of the Sinhalese people. Have a break to enjoy lunch. Then explore the Kaudulla National Park on a jeep safari. In the Polonnaruwa District, 6,900 hectares include the Kavudulla Wewa and surrounding jungle area, was opened in September 2002. Kavudulla is home to a large herd of elephants, Sambhur, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Wild Buffalo, a range of reptile species, and a large number of bird species. The elephant population found here far exceeds those found in other parks. 

Colombo: 3-Day Cultural Triangle 5 UNESCO Heritage Site Tour

9. Colombo: 3-Day Cultural Triangle 5 UNESCO Heritage Site Tour

Embark on an exciting 3-day tour of Sri Lanka's holiest area, the Cultural Triangle. See 5 UNESCO-listed sites including Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy. Stay overnight at a hotel in Sigiriya between private-guided sightseeing ventures. Get picked up in Colombo and head to your hotel in Sigiriya via Anuradhapura, the oldest city in Sri Lanka. Imposing Buddhist temples, dagobas, palaces, gardens, and other remarkable structures in the city testify to the grandeur of ancient civilization. Settle in for a good night's sleep at your hotel in Sigiriya. After breakfast at the hotel, leave for Sigiriya rock fortress, home to the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, and then to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Witness massive stone-cut Buddha statues, dagobas, an audience hall, and much more at the cultural museum of Polonnaruwa. Opt to enhance your experience with a wildlife safari at Minneriya National Park. Spot wild elephants, bears, wild boar, deer, buffalo, monkeys, and maybe even a leopard. Stay overnight in Sigiriya. Depart early for Colombo via Kandy, visiting a spice garden en-route. In Matale, spices and herbs are used for Sri Lankan cuisine and medicine. Hear about this history as you explore the site. The Dambulla Golden Temple and Tooth Relic Temple are sure to add another level of sacrosanctity to your experience. Dambulla hosts more than 150 Buddha statues and a large number of ancient murals. The next stop will be Kandy city. Today Kandy is one of Sri Lanka's most important cities because of the presence of the temple of the sacred tooth of the Buddha. This is the most visited Buddhist temple on the island, frequented by thousands of devotees every day. Return to your hotel in Colombo.

Day Trip to UNESCO City Anuradhapura From Colombo

10. Day Trip to UNESCO City Anuradhapura From Colombo

Declared by UNESCO as a world heritage city, Anuradhapura is regarded as Sri Lanka’s first known kingdom and the capital of the island for many centuries. Being well known for cultural and religious value, the city attracts many local and foreign visitors who love to explore the ancient history of Sri Lanka. See the remains of the Brazen Palace, which was once 9 stories high, and the Sri Maha Bodhi a Bo Tree, which is over 2000 years old and grew from the branch of the very tree beneath which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Visit the ruins of the Ruwanweliseya Dagaba. See the 2nd-century shrine containing the Buddha’s collarbone relic, the Abhayagiriya temple, and the Jetawanaramaya dagobas. 

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What people are saying about North Central Province

Lalli (German speaking guide) and Jayasuriya (driver) did a super job. We got to see many places and were able to experience Sri Lankan culture. It was fun, thanks for that.

great day, had a very knowledgable driver, great food and learned a lot about the people and the country.