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Sri Lanka safari – wildlife and culture; an intoxicating mix!

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Sri Lanka safari – wildlife and culture; an intoxicating mix!

Few islands in the world are blessed with the wildlife and culture that Sri Lanka has. So, when you are planning a Sri Lanka safari don’t forget to add in visits to some of the stunning cultural sites that Sri Lanka has to offer. Whether it is visiting the ancient citadel of Sigiriya, the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, or the monastic city of Anuradhapura; you can be sure of spectacular historical sites and superb interpretation from your own private guide.

Photo Credit: Lonely Planet

Sri Lanka safari with culture – what places should I include?

Since the most famous Sri Lanka wildlife is the beautiful leopard, many visitors combine a leopard safari in Sri Lanka with a visit to the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka. There are many different versions of the cultural triangle but the BIG 3 are Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla – or at least that is what we think from our own visits. The beauty of this cultural box of delights located in the heart of Sri Lanka is that you can base yourself in one location, for example Sigiriya and then make day trips with your own private driver to the other historic locations, as driving distances are relatively small.

Sri Lanka safari visiting Anuradhapura – incredible ruined city!

Anuradhapura lies at the very heart of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka and delivered a spectacular experience for the visitor with a passion for history and architecture. During its golden period, Anuradhapura was home to thousands of monks and dozens of monasteries. 113 kings successively ruled over this magnificent kingdom and they employed the finest architects and builders to produce exquisite sculptures, beautiful pleasure gardens and of course the spectacular Dogbas.

Sri Lanka wildlife holiday visiting Sigiriya

Surely one of the most evocative and interesting cultural locations in Sri Lanka. The climb up the ‘Lion Rock’ is not for the faint-hearted, with some short steep exposed sections which require the aid of a hand rail. This huge 180M high rock was deliberately carved/shaped into an immense recumbent lion – only the beautifully carved giant paws remain. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and climb the Lion Rock in gentle heat. On the top of the rock, it is mainly ruins and old foundations, but with a good guide you can imagine royal life under the famous King Kassapa. The views of the surrounding dense forest from on top of the rock are spectacular and you can then descend before it gets too busy and walk round the well kept gardens below.

Sri Lanka leopard safari with a visit to Dambulla

Dambulla is the most impressive cave temple in the whole of Sri Lanka and a must for travellers visiting the cultural triangle. There are five separate caves under a huge overhanging rock. The ceilings of the cave are painted with intricate patterns showcasing Buddhist religious images; there are also likenesses of the Buddha, the bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses. Dambulla itself does not have great accommodation options and the traffic is very bad, so consider staying at Sigiriya and visiting on a day trip.

Sri Lanka Hill Country – what are the best places to visit?

The Hill Country in Sri Lanka is a very general name that defines and showcases the more mountainous interior of southern Sri Lanka; a part of the country which has been shaped by Sinhalese Kingdoms and to a certain degree, protected from the foreign invaders, who focused their attention of the lucrative spice trade on the Sri Lanka coast. The town of Kandy is famous for continuing to be an independent royal enclave long after the Portuguese and Dutch had arrived. Many visitors enjoy a leisurely drive or train journey from Colombo to Kandy; which in some ways is the gateway to the lush and hilly interior. The steep final approach to Kandy offers spectacular views and there are now many superb Kandy hotels with mountain views that will get your Sri Lanka wildlife holiday off to a great start.

Kandy Perahera

Surely one of the best festivals in Sri Lanka, if not Asia; but also, a time to book well in advance in order to secure your hotel or wilderness lodge. During the months of July and August visitor numbers swell in preparation for the spectacular festival, which see dozens of decorated elephants, beautifully dressed musical bands, dancers and other performers, parading in front of the sacred ‘Tooth Relic’, which is carried through the streets of Kandy. This ritual has been performed for centuries and has changed remarkably little over the years.

Why you should visit Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka during your visit to the hill country

The mountainous region of Sri Lanka, which is sometimes refers to as ‘Up Country’ is most famous for its huge tea plantations and association with two famous Scottish entrepreneurs, James Taylor and Thomas Lipton, who bought the high quality ‘Ceylon Tea’ to the attention of tea drinkers around the world.

The scenery in Nuwara Eliya is absolutely stunning; with the pyramid shaped Adam’s Peak dominating the sky line. There are some beautiful colonial properties - including former tea factories which have been converted into hotels – to stay in within the town itself, but for the more adventurous who want to live and breathe the hill country, we recommend staying in one of the colonial ere ‘Tea Bungalow’ which have been restored to accommodate tourists.

Planning your bespoke Sri Lanka safari and cultural tour the way you want it!

We are experts in designing tailor-made wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka and including culture, hill country and beach extensions. Take a look at this Sri Lanka safari with cultural triangle extension. Or simply contact us at

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