dambulla golden cave temple
9.0 Km Away from Athenalake The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka’s most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art.
From the caves there are superb views over the surrounding countryside; Sigiriya is clearly visible some 20km distant.
Dambulla is thought to have been a place of worship since the 1st century BC, when King Valagamba (also known as Vattagamani Abhaya), driven out of Anuradhapura, took refuge here. When he regained his throne, he had the interior of the caves carved into magnificent rock temples. Further paintings were made by later kings, including King Nissanka Malla, who had the caves’ interiors gilded, earning the place the name Ran Giri (Golden Rock).
This process of retouching original and creating new artwork continued into the 20th century. Remarkably, the overall impact is breathtakingly coherent.
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Ancent City of Polonnaruwa
65 Km Away from Athenalake
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.
Three Kings dominate the chronicles of the city and the period. The city reached a dazzling but pitifully brief zenith in the 12th century and though ravaged by invasion in the centuries that followed, much evidence remains of the old grandeur and glory.The ruins of the ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudraya (the Sea of Parakrama), built by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign was Polonnaruwa‘s golden age. Within a rectangle of city walls stand palace buildings and clusters of dozens of dagobas, temples and various other religious buildings.A scattering of other historic buildings can be found to the north of the main complex, outside the city walls and close to the main road to Habarana and Dambulla.
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SIGIRIYA HERITAGE CITY
14 Km Away from Athenalake
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 180m high (the ‘Lion’s Rock’, which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site
The ancient city of SIGIRIYA is a premier eco tourism destination in Sri Lanka which was designated a cultural World Heritage Site in 1982. It is also proposed that the site should be named the eighth wonder of the world, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids. Translated as ‘Lion Rock’ into English, the name of the monument indicates the way in which visitors used to begin their final ascent to the top – through the open jaws and throat (‘giriya’) of a lion (‘sinha’). Unfortunately, the only remains of this lion figure are the gigantic paws, sculpted into the side of the rock. The topography of the area is flat except for the massive rock outcrop of the fortress itself (which rises an incredible 600 ft up from the green scrub jungle).
The unusual rock is particularly interesting due to its flat top (nearly an acre in size), that was used in its entirety to build King Kasyapa’s fortress complex, still evident by the presence of the extensive ruins.
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Sacred City of Anuradhapura
67 Km Away from Athenalake
Anuradhapura in the northern centre of Sri Lanka is where a sapling of the Bhodi tree of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was planted. The Sri Maha Bodhiya is the oldest documented tree that is still living. The city also has palaces, monasteries and monuments (all in ruins) that are fascinating to visit
The city of Anuradhapura, the 4th century BC capital of Sri Lanka, was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, and a prominent political and trade center for almost 15 centuries. It is the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and is known today as the Sacred City. The ruins found in Anuradhapura bear testimony to the prominence given to Buddhism and the development of a great agricultural based society.
A tour of the ancient ruins include places of veneration such as gigantic Stupas’ second in size to the Pyramids of Egypt and the Sri Maha Bodhi or the Sacred Bo tree as it is known to the Buddhists. It is said to be the oldest documented tree on earth. Stroll past the ruins of ancient palaces, administrative buildings, A Hospital and ancient bathing tanks with ingenious filtering systems and some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world.
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Minneriya National Park
27 Km Away from Athenalake
Minneriya National Park is a national park in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The area was designated as a national park on 12 August 1997, having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary.
Minneriya national park is located 182 kms away from Colombo, in the North Central Plains of Sri Lanka. The major city closest to Minneriya National Park is Polonnaruwa. The recently renovated, the ancient Minneriya Rainwater Reservoir irrigates a considerable area of the district of Polonnaruwa and is the focal point of the Minneriya National Park. May to October is the best period to visit Minneriya National Park in view of the famous Gathering of the wild elephant herds. The gathering is documented as the largest known meeting place of Asian Elephants in the world. During the dry season of August to September each year, herds up to 300 elephants are seen within a few square kilometers of the vast Minneriya Reservoir. This Elephant Gathering is a thrilling spectacle that would be remembered for rest of the life of all those who were fortunate enough to witness it. 24 species of mammals and over 170 species of birds have been recorded here and out Of the 25 species of reptiles recorded in the park 8 are endemic.
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Pidurangala Rock Temple
16 Km Away from Athenalake
Pidurangala is a massive rock formation located a few kilometers north of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. It has an interesting history closely related to that of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Being less grand and far more difficult to climb it is often overlooked by tourists
Pidurangala is a massive rock formation created by volcanic activity. No less important historically than Sigiriya but, yet, often overlooked by travelers. It has been occupied on and off for the past 2500 years by monks who lived in surrounding caves. Nearing the end of the 5th century A.D., King Kasyapa moved the monks from Sigiriya offering them a much larger and newer temple and monastery. Their presence is made evident by a small temple at the entrance, an amazing reclining Buddha built with ochre bricks (the first I had seen of its kind) and prayer cubicles about halfway up.
Unlike Sigiriya, which you climb using a spiral of stairs, Pidurangala is a much more strenuous climb starting with roughly-built stone steps (prettily covered in moss) leading to unidentified dirt paths to make your way through the forest. The paths stop about halfway up (where the Buddha is) and then the climb becomes considerably more difficult. At different intervals, you need to hoist yourself up (sometimes with the help of someone), around and in between huge boulders to get to the top of Pidurangala Rock.
20 Km Away from Athenalake
The Jathika Namal Uyana in Sri Lanka is the largest ironwood forest and pink quartz mountain in Asia. The Ironwood Tree is endemic to Sri Lanka and the replanted forest is over 260 acres in extent. According to archeological researcher’s findings, the pink quartz in this historical place has a history of more than 550 millions of years. Naamal Uyana is an extremely rare forest replanted with Iron wood trees in the 8th Century AD commenced during the starting from King Devanampiyathissa and ending with king Dappula IV. Namal Uyana had been a sanctuary for Buddhist monks during King Devanampiyatissa’s reign in the 8th century.
The national Namal Uyana in Galkiriyagama which has the largest Rose Quartz mountain in South Asia consists of 972 hectares or more. On May 8, 2005 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will declare open the forest as a National Forest Reserve.
Twelve years ago, Venerable Wanawasi Rahula thera, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk settled in Namal Uyana, an ironwood forest in Sri Lanka’s Dry Zone. He built for himself a little tree-house 40 ft above ground in the branches of a Mora tree, to live and to meditate. This was his home for almost a year, after which he moved into a humble hermitage of cheap wood.
Now firmly established as head monk of the forest hermitage, he acts as guardian of the forest and its environs, a role played by Sri Lanka’s Buddhist monks for over two millennia in the long history of Namal Uyana. Rahula thera believes it was a role he had played in a previous lifetime 800 years ago.
When Rahula thera first came to the forest, he did not realize the extent of its natural and historical treasures. Here you find ruins of an ancient monastery that received the royal patronage of King Devanampiya Tissa (307-267 B.C) and granite foundations of very old buildings strewn on a section of the forest bed.
Hurulu Forest Reserve
20 Km Away from Athenalake
Hurulu forest which is named after the ancient Huruluwewa tank was declared as a forest reserve in 1942. The total area of the Hurulu Forest Reserve is around 25,000 ha. The forest is in the Dry zone of Sri Lanka and spans over the Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura Districts. Part of Hurulu Forest Reserve, an extent of 512 ha., was declared as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1977. A stretch of 1000 ha land in the reserve was declared opened as an eco park in 2007 by the Forest Department.
Hururu Forest Reserve can be reached through Habarana – Trincomalee main road entrance to Hurulu Eco park can be seen on the left in a distance around 100 m past the railway crossing of Habarana.