Besides its natural vistas and azure seas, Sri Lanka is a treasure trove for history buffs—especially with its many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We let you onto the top museums, heritage sites and ruins to see, and history walks to participate in.
Adam’s Peak in Central Highlands
This UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises of several sites including the Horton Plains, the Knuckles Range and Adam’s Peak. The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka are home to some endangered flora and fauna species, most notably the endemic Sri Lankan leopard. However, for history buffs, the protected area of most relevance is the Adam’s Peak. It is the highest point of the range at 2,243 metres above sea level, where, it is believed, there is a large footprint of Lord Buddha.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in Colombo is the perfect place to satiate your thirst for knowledge. As soon as you set foot inside the Italian-style mansion housing the museum, you’ll see antiques and artefacts from all over Ceylon. There are a more than 100,000 items on display here, and a vast collection of rare historical books chronicling the country’s history and cultural journey.
An abode of temples, churches and lush sceneries, Galle is bestowed with unimaginable beauty and cultural wealth. The Seenigama Temple and the Galle Lighthouse are obvious tourist havens, but lovers of history must find their way to the ancient Galle Fort. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1588 by the Portuguese and was a trader’s port. When the Dutch took over Sri Lanka in 1640, they added most of what we see today to the fort.
Dutch Period Museum
Spend a day exploring the prestigious Dutch Period Museum, which was the residence of the Dutch governor in the 17th century. Eventually, it became a Catholic seminary, only to be used by the military as a hospital later. Before it was converted into a museum in 1977, it was also a police station and then, a post office. Today, it houses Dutch furniture and other colonial artefacts.
Colombo City Walks With Mark Forbes
The most striking thing about Colombo is its beautiful mix of modern life and colonial heritage. Go for a heritage walk around the city with Mark Forbes, a resident of Dutch, German and British lineage. The 2.5 hours walk commences at the Dutch Hospital and takes you through the historical fort and Pettah Market.
Polonnaruwa Cycling Tour
Start early on a bicycle and spend the day exploring the ruins of Polonnaruwa. This is perhaps the best way to see the Quadrangle—Menik Vihara, Rankot Vihara, Alahana Pirivena, Jetavana monasteries, and other ancient sites. These ruins include clusters of important religious buildings, famous Buddha statues and shrines. The cycle tour will take around three to four hours to cover the entire town. Do take the time to savour the stunning scenery along the way.
This ancient fortress, built on top of a rock, overlooks lush forests and is popular for its manicured gardens. The palace ruins have earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and the huge sculpted lion paws at the entrance are dramatic, to say the least. To unravel Sigriya’s mysteries and secrets, you’ll need to climb up a flight of vertigo-inducing stairs. The glowing frescos, Pidurangula rock, the flat-topped summit, and a graffiti-inscribed wall are all well-worth your time, history buff or not.
Arcade, Independence Square
Dating back to 1885, Arcade is a quaint shopping complex that was once the Jawatta Lunatic Asylum. Whether you are in the mood for some shopping or not, history beckons you here. Its high ceilings, glass atria and wooden staircases have been thoughtfully resorted to retaining its heritage value.