Photos by Dave Stamboulis
A country steeped in faith and spiritual history, Sri Lanka is home to a host of edifying locations and places of transcendental inspiration.
Magnificent structures, some used, some abandoned, are scattered about the cities and mountains like great deities surveying their worshippers. Whether religious or not, visiting these culturally significant sites makes for an incredible experience and regularly provokes a feeling of peace and a sense of enlightenment even in the most hardened of cynics.
Take a look below at five of the most inspiring destinations that should not be missed during your holidays to Sri Lanka.
A mountain peak near Anuradhapura that is reportedly the place where Mahinda, the monk attributed with bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka, preached Buddhist doctrine to the king and his people. Pilgrimages are made to the mountain every year, and the site is known as one of the most significant spiritual places in the country. The hills that make up Mihintale are also home to a ruined hospital and the beautiful Kantaka Cetiya stupa – a structure beautifully decorated with sculptures and carvings.
The stunning shrine within this temple, adorned with turrets and a golden roof, holds what is claimed to be a tooth of the great Buddha. Located in Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the final capital of the era of the kings, shrine plays host to regular Buddhist worship and weekly ceremonies where water scented with flowers is passed among those gathered there, in order to heal them.
An ancient palace surrounded by gardens once sat atop this gigantic rock formation, built by King Kasyapa between 477 and 495 AD. It was abandoned after his death, then used as a monastery for some years, but the incredible structure still remains, and provides a stunning sight against the landscape of the Matale District. It is also called The Lion Rock after a huge sculpture of a lion that Kasyapa built at a gateway to his palace, which stands guard to this day.
Some of the most famous images of Buddha can be found carved into this cliff face near Polonnaruwa. Once part of a monastery, these three huge and beautiful figures were created in the 12th century, and each is purported to depict a different stage in Buddha’s life.
Dambulla Cave Temple
Places of worship in Sri Lanka are often strikingly beautiful, but this temple is one of the most stunning of its kind. Made up of a network of five different caves within a towering rock around 47 miles north of Kandy, the inner walls are emblazoned with intricate carvings depicting famous stories from the life of Buddha, and the temple itself is filled with sculptures of kings, gods and goddesses.