Sri Lanka's cultural traingle

Updated: May 9, 2018

Here's everything you need to know about the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka!

The majestic Lord Buddha statue at the cave temple in Dambulla

The cultural heart or the core of Sri Lanka is usually described as the Cultural Triangle. Within this triangle lie the most historically significant and culturally important monuments of Sri Lanka. A trip to Sri Lanka is incomplete without a visit to some of the beautiful places here!

The cities that constitute the cultural triangle are Kandy, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. And in the cultural triangle lie 5 of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka.


The city of Kandy, located in the Central Province, is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the capital of the Central Province. Situated smack dab in the middle of rubber plantations and tea estats, Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka. It also has the distinction of being the last capital of the ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka. Kandy is often reffered to as the Holy City of Kandy because it contains the Temple of the Tooth, which is regarded as one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Buddhism. To read more about the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy and all you need to know to plan you trip there, please read this blog post. Apart from the Temple of the Tooth relic, there are some beautiful sites to see in Kandy- the royal palace, Kandy lake, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya, Bahirawakanda Temple to name a few. The city is a beautiful mix of modernity and culture and it is worthwhile taking some time to explore the city on foot!

The Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy

Located about 75 km north of Kandy, the city of Dambulla is home to the Cave Temple also known as Golden Temple which is another very sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka. Inhabited centuries ago by Buddhist monks, this set of 5 cave "temples" on a hill contains a number of beautiful and well-preserved statues and paintings of Lord Buddha. There is a large Golden Buddha statue overlooking the caves on the way up the hill, which is perhaps where the name Golden Temple comes from. To know more about the Cave Temple of Dambulla and all you need to know to plan you trip there, please read this blog post.

Golden Temple, Dambulla
Statues and paintings in the cave temples

Sigiriya once served as the ancient capital of Sri Lanka (during King Kasyapa's reign from 477 AD to 495 AD). There is a lot of history associated with the rock fortress of Sigiriya. But history aside, the 200m tall Sigiriya rock fortress is awe-inspiring and one of the best preserved examples of well-planned ancient cities, offering beautiful 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside! It is also perhaps the most recognizable and most visited monument in Sri Lanka and an absolute must-visit place for every travel enthusiast worth his salt. To know more about Sigiriya and everything you need to plan your trip there, please read this blog post.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The sacred city of Anuradhapura was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982. It is believed to have been built around the 'enlightenment tree' branch ( the tree under which Lord Buddha received enlightenment) that was brought here in the 3rd century BC. Anuradhapura served as one of capitals of the ancient Sri Lankan kingdom and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities of the world. and as such there are quite a few beautiful dagobas and stupas in the city. The main sites to visit include - Mihintale, Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba, Mahabodhi temple and Jethawanaramaya Stupa.


Another beautiful city steeped in history, Polonnaruwa was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982 and is home to ruins dating back to the 12 century AD. From brahmin temples from the Chola reign to larger than life statues of Lord Buddha to magificent pagodas, Polonnaruwa is an ancient beautifully planned city best discovered on a bicycle!

To read more about Polonnaruwa and how to plan a trip there please read this blog post.

The Royal Palace ruins at Polonnaruwa
Related blog posts

List of Sri Lanka's UNESCO world heritage sites

A guide to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

A guide to Kandy's Tooth temple

Plan a trip to Dambulla's Cave Temples

Cycling through the ancient city of Polonnaruwa

Our 8 day Sri Lankan itninerary

The ideal 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary

Top 10 things you absolutely MUST do in Sri Lanka

Train Guide to Sri Lanka

We'd love to help you out with your Sri Lanka itineraries. Let us know your questions in the comments below and we'll do out best to answer them.

Happy trip-planning and bon voyage!

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