Serendip, the arab name for Sri Lanka, means full of surprises and this island is certainly that, as every corner you turn reveals something new. A glimpse through Sri Lanka’s heritage reveals ancient civilisations that were well ahead of their time and a heady mix of cultural influences shaping a modern Sri Lankan culture that has Buddhism at its core. It is little wonder that Sri Lanka has no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites waiting to be explored. Heritage The heritage of Sri Lanka falls into two distinct aspects; the ancient civilisation dating back to hundreds of years BC and then the colonial heritage which has a more recent history, from the 10th to the 20th Centuries. The Cultural Triangle area in central Sri Lanka is home to three ancient cities which were all the country’s capital at different times between 377BC and the 1400s – Sigiriya, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Having also played an important role in the history of Buddhism on the island, whether you stay in the Cultural Triangle for a day or a week, the rewards are immense. Explore the key places in the Cultural Triangle on our Highlights of Sri Lanka tour or the longer Best of Sri Lanka tour. Colombo and Galle became important ports, trading with Arab and Chinese traders. The Portuguese colonised Sri Lanka in the 1500s, before the Dutch East India Company took over in the 1650s. The British were then in control from the early 1800s until Sri Lanka obtained independence in 1948. Influences from these colonisers can still be found throughout the island, such as the Portuguese traditions of lace-making, the coastal fortified towns built by the Dutch and the British-style bungalows and landscaped gardens found in Tea Country. For a taste of colonial times stay at Amangalla in Galle, Jetwing St Andrews in Nuwara Eliya, Mahaweli Reach in Kandy or Regency at the Galle Face in Colombo. Enjoy a touring holiday discovering the Colonial Heritage of Sri Lanka. CultureExperiencing the fascinating cultural aspects of Sri Lanka provides one of the most rewarding reasons to visit this country. From arts, crafts, architecture through music, dance, food and drink to sport, Sri Lanka’s culture is distinctive and inviting.Religion: Sri Lanka is filled with Buddhist temples, brightly painted Hindu Kovils, mosques and churches which all add to the spiritual vibrancy of Sri Lankan life. Buddhism is the major religion in Sri Lanka, with important Buddhist sanctuaries including Adam’s Peak (at the top of Sri Pada Mountain) in Hill Country, the Temple of the Tooth (home to one of Lord Buddha’s teeth) in Kandy, and Anuradhapura, Mihintale and Dambulla Cave Temples in the Cultural Triangle.Architecture: Geoffrey Bawa is Sri Lanka’s most prolific and influential architect, having designed many buildings which blend with their national environment and interconnect outside spaces with the inside. We offer a tour of Geoffrey Bawa’s work which includes visits to hotels designed by Bawa including Heritance Kandalama, Jetwing Lighthouse, Club Villa and Heritance Ahungalla. Arts and Crafts: Among the most historic forms of Sri Lankan art are the rock paintings found at Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Cave Temples, both in the Cultural Triangle, and at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. Villages and town boast their own skilled artisans who create and sell jewellery, lace, paintings and masks. Music and Dance: Sri Lankan music has been influenced by Buddhism, colonisation and Indian culture, incorporating instruments brought by the Portuguese. A highlight of the Kandy Esala Perahera Festival (July/August) are Kandyan dancers who incorporate elements of Hinduism and Buddhism in their dance, performing wearing elaborate costumes.Culinary delights: Sri Lankan rice and curry features on every menu, always delicately flavoured with spices such as saffron, chillies, cinnamon and cloves. As Sri Lanka has a vast coastline, fish plays a major part in Sri Lankan cuisine, whilst multi-cultural influences bring an array of mouth-watering dishes. Find out more about Sri Lankan cuisine.Ceylon Tea: Tea was first planted in Sri Lanka in 1824 at the Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya (near Kandy), going on to become a vital money-earner for Sri Lanka today as the country produces over 260 million kilos of tea annually. Discover more about the history of tea by visiting Tea Country – immerse yourself in the tea experience by staying at Ceylon Tea Trails or Jetwing Warwick Gardens.Cricket: Cricket is Sri Lanka’s national sport and is played on any spare patch of level ground. It is often possible to watch local and international matches being played (at grounds in Galle, Colombo and Kandy) or take part yourself in a beach game with the locals. It is common for businesses to close when international matches featuring the Sri Lankan team are televised.
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