Eco Culture Tours
Sri Lanka Map

Ancient Island

Sri Lanka has a long and proud heritage, with its historical records dating to over 2,500 years. It’s a country filled with ancient ruins, customs and rituals which dominate daily life and a strong link between the past and the present. Wherever you travel in Sri Lanka you will be met with signs of the ancient past, its colonial influence or its present dynamism living alongside each other in perfect harmony.

Our tours are designed to give you an insight to the cultural diversity and rich ancient heritage found in this beautiful island. Among the key historical sites you will visit are:

one of Sri Lanka's UNESCO world heritage sites, and a dramatic and historical location. This was the rock citadel of an ancient King, Kassapa, and is considered one of the wonders of the world. Walk through its water gardens, and then up the steep steps - either hewn out of the rock or on circular iron staircases - past the famous mirror wall with its frescoes – and then to the spectacular views at the summit.

It was built in 5th century AD by king, Kasyapa, as a fortress-palace. Legend says that King Kasyapa murdered his father, Dhatusena, and claimed the thrown for himself. However, Kasyapa was not the direct heir (his mother was one of Dhatusena’s concubines) and he feared that his half-brother, Prince Moggallana, would return from exile in India and rightfully claim his crown. Moggallana did return to find Sigiriya in its full-glory and Kasyapa’s army waiting for him. Despite building an impenetrable stronghold, Kasyapa was defeated. Abandoned by his army, Kasyapa killed himself and left his half-brother to reign from his castle paradise.

Visitors are all drawn to the main attraction – the Sigiriya frescoes, ancient paintings of maidens that date back to the 5th century. Although only a few remain today, ancient graffiti inscribed on the walls suggests that the entire western face of the Sigirya rock was once covered with these beautiful frescoes. Walk up the brick steps at the Lions Paw, two giant paws of a roaring Lion figure which once stood guarding the main entrance to the royal courts. Lose yourself in the mythology and legends of a kingdom past, as you explore this ancient palace. (Read more...)

A World Heritage city and the capital of ancient Sri Lanka from around 1070, the city of Polonnaruwa is nevertheless a magnificently preserved city with rich archaeological monuments and natural beauty. Located in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, Polonnaruwa has both its ancient city, an adjoining “old town” as well as a “new town” located about 6km away. The archaeological sites are in a compact layout, within easy distance of each other, and tours are easily arranged either on foot or more popularly explored on cycles.

Polonnaruwa’s glorious age was during the reign of King Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. It was his vision that was turned into reality as Polonnaruwa became a hub of construction – palaces and royal courts, administrative buildings, extensive parks and water gardens which were feats of engineering. But he is best known in Sri Lanka, and across South Asia, for the building of the massive Parakrama Samudraya (literally, the Parakrama Sea), a 2,500 ha irrigation water reservoir or tank.

Among the most noteworthy buildings in ancient Polonnaruwa was the Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I, which is said to have had seven stories and 3m-thick walls. Although the Palace itself is in ruins, the frieze of elephants in the main Audience Hall and the many carvings and moonstones along the entry ways to the palace buildings are worth exploring.

There are many places of Buddhist worship in this ancient city. The “Polonnaruwa Quadrangle” houses many of these, including the Vatadage with its central dagoba and four Buddha statues, the Thuparama gedige (a hollow temple with thick walls) with images of the Buddha in the inner chamber, the Hatadage and many small shrines. There are also shrines to the Hindu God Shiva scattered close to the Quadrangle.(Read more...)

This ancient royal city withstood the onslaught of three European forces: the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, over a period of two centuries. And to this day, the inhabitants of this city and its environs claim the proud heritage of being “kandyan”. This city is also home to the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha which is enshrined at the Dalanda Maligawa, the Temple of the Tooth, dating back to the 16th century. The Kandyan culture is distinctly different from the island’s coastal areas, with distinctive differences seen in the family names, traditional rituals, cuisine, and even the way in which the traditional sari is draped. Kandy was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.

Explore this city, the Temple of the Tooth, its distinctive cultural and art forms and the beauty of this small city built around a palace, a temple and a lake. Another popular site in Kandy is the Royal Botanical Gardens, located just outside the city of Kandy, in Peradeniya. Originally a garden built for the Queen and Court ladies of the Kandyan royalty, the gardens were developed during the British period into one of Asia’s foremost botanical gardens. (Read more...)