World Heritage Sites

Sri Lanka is honoured to have more than its share of properties recognised by UNESCO as world heritage sites. With Peak Wilderness Sanctuary (PWS), Horton Plains National Park (HPNP), Knuckles Range (KR) (2006) and the Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara (2006) proposed as further additions to the list, the can hardly be a small island to match the miracle of Sri Lanka.

The following links take you to the UNESCO site for a detailed analysis of the decision to accept the various sites, and reporting on their progress under the World Heritage Convention:

Cultural World Heritage Sites

Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country. Today the ancient city remains one of the best planned Archaeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom's first rulers. Commanding the Mahaveli river crossing, it was strategically important after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Unagalwehera is situatuated nearby in the north central highlands.

Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is a poplar ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in central Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sirigiya is between Polonnurawa and Dambulla.

Dambulla is situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, 72 km north of Kandy. Ibbankatuwa prehistoric burial site near Dhambulla cave temple complexes is the latest archaeological site of significant historical importance. 2700 year old human skeletons were found giving evidence of civilisations in this area long before arrival of Buddhism.

See the pages on Yala and Galle

Anuradhapura was capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th century BC until the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia, and was the capital for 113 kings. It was then hidden in the jungle until rediscovered in the 19th century.  Monasteries covering a large area today surround the ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world.  It is situated in the north-central part of the island.

See the pages on Kandy and Nuwara Eliya

  • Natural World Heritage Site
  • Sinharaja “Kingdom of the Lion”) Forest Reserve is only 21km by 7km, but has been designated a Biosphere Reserve. The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. It is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.  Sinharaja is in the southwest - 70km inland from Bentota, but access can be difficult.


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