Tuesday, 7 August 2012 3:00 PM
If you're looking for an exotic solo adventure travel destination that will immerse you in a completely different way of life and allow you to visit numerous sites of historical and cultural importance, Sri Lanka is an excellent choice.
The island nation is home to some fascinating relics, particularly those dating from the foundation of Buddhism in the country. To make sure you see the main attractions and have some likeminded travelling companions, consider booking a tour - like those on offer from Explore Worldwide - that will show you the highlights of Sri Lanka. Trips with the company start from £899 without flights.
Here is a bit of information about the famous sights you can visit while in the nation.
Anuradhapura is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and was the country's first capital. The sacred city was founded in the 5th century BC and thrived for over 1,000 years before being abandoned. It is one of the most important sites for the Buddhist religion, as it is home to the Bodhi tree, which grew from a cutting taken from the fig tree of Buddha in the 3rd century. Remarkably, you can still see this tree today.
Other notable sights in Anuradhapura are its dagobas - or temples - which were built in distinctive dome shapes. Thuparma is one temple worth visiting, as it houses a relic of Lord Buddha.
Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka's second capital city, with the majority of its buildings constructed between the late 11th and 13th centuries, following the invasion of Anuradhapura. The site is worthy of a full day's exploration as there is so much to see here, although one of the most striking attractions is the Gal Vihara, where you'll find several statues depicting Lord Buddha in various poses.
The quadrangle in the centre of the city is still surrounded by 12 impressive buildings, giving you an indication of how the settlement must have looked in its heyday. Polonnaruwa is also known for the reservoir that was constructed in the 12th century to provide a water supply to the inhabitants here.
Kandy is another former capital - and the last major city constructed by Sri Lanka's kings before the island was invaded by the British. The most famous monument here is the Temple of the Tooth, which is where the tooth of Lord Buddha is enshrined. The temple is surrounded by a moat, while four shrines stand nearby, each one dedicated to a guardian deity. Some of the buildings in the Royal Palace complex, which is located near the temple, have been converted into museums - including the Archaeological and National museums.
Golden Temple of Dambulla
A visit to Dambulla really is like stepping back in time, as these ancient cave temples have been an important Buddhist pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries. The location is renowned for its beautiful rock paintings and more than 80 caves in the area have been inhabited by Buddhist monks over the years, some as long ago as the 1st century BC.
In addition to its stunning murals, the temples here are home to more than 157 images of Buddha, all of varying sizes and designs. As the caves are some 100 m above the plains below, you'll have a wonderful vantage point from where to observe the surrounding area, including views over the amazing rock temple of Sigiriya, which sits at the top of a nearby granite peak.