In heritage terms, the Cultural Triangle is the most important region of Sri Lanka. It embraces three ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnoruwa, all within easy distance of each other but all very different, and easily combined.
A sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site for an incredible 22 centuries, Dambulla is the best preserved ancient cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, with five sanctuaries, 2100 square metres of religious murals and 157 Buddhist statues.
Dating from 477, the ancient city of Sigiriya occupies the base, slopes and summit of a huge granite rock 370 metres high. Visitors climb to the summit by stairs and walkways – en route passing colourful original frescoes – from where there are fabulous views across the surrounding forests.
Polonnaruwa, the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993, comprises Brahmanic monuments erected by the Cholas and the ruins of a fabulous garden city built in the 12th Century, all spread over a very large acreage.
All three sites can be visited from one base over the course of three days.