UNESCO recognized eight sites as the heritage sites in Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura & Polonnaruwa, the two ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, and the Sigiriya which is popular for the rock kingdom and frescoes were designated as the World heritage sites in 1982. In 1988, the Galle and its fortifications, Kandy, Sinharaja Forest Reserve were designated as the UNESCO heritage sites. Later in 1991, Dambulla cave temples were awarded as the World heritage site by UNESCO, and in 2010 Central highlands were designated as heritage site of the country.

Ancient Kingdoms Delegated as Sri Lanka UNESCO sites


As per the existing history of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura is the first ancient capital found in 4th century BC, where the civilization developed further. Agriculture was the key occupation of the kingdom. There were developments in irrigation and architecture. Still there are the ancient temples, stupas, ponds and water reservoirs in this Sri Lanka UNESCO World heritage site. Kuttam Pokuna (Twin ponds) and Kalu Diya Pokuna are the ancient ponds still stay alive by expressing the ancient irrigation and architecture system. Buddhism had influenced the Anuradhapura period. The followings are the must to visit places in Anuradhapura during a visit to World heritage sites Sri Lanka or on a cultural / historical tour to Sri Lanka :

  • Jetavanaramaya Temple
  • Ruwanwelisaya Ruins
  • Abhayagiri Vihara Temple
  • Mihintale
  • Sri Maha Boodhi Temple
  • Isurumuniya Temple
  • Dagoba of Thuparama
  • Samadhi Statue
  • Moonstone
  • Ranmasu Uyana
  • Mirisaveti Stupa


The second ancient capital in the country, Buddhism and Hinduism had influenced the period of Polonnaruwa. Still you can witness ancient Buddhist and Hindu ancient temples in this tour destination. Other than temples, water reservoirs, tanks, royal palaces are places to visit around Polonnaruwa. Birds watching and cycling are popular activities to do in Polonnaruwa on a tour. Here is a list of places to visit in Polonnaruwa which is one of the UNESCO listed World heritage sites Sri Lanka :

  • Royal Palace
  • Vatadage
  • Quadrangle
  • Hatadage
  • Shiva Devale (Hindu Lord Shiva Temple)
  • Rankoth Vehara (Buddhist Temple)
  • Alahana Pirivena
  • Lankatilaka (Buddhist Temple)
  • Gal Vihara (Buddhist Temple)
  • Kaudella National Park
  • Polonnaruwa Tank (Better for Birds Watching)
  • Minneriya National Park


Sigiriya is one of the best World heritage sites Sri Lanka, because of it is a beautifully shaped rock kingdom with ancient frescoes. On the way to Sigiriya summit, tourists can witness the ancient irrigation, architecture work of the ancient Sri Lanka. It is still wonder, how the ancient people had skills to build a luxury kingdom in a rock with the absence of modern tools. Compare to other tourist destinations in the country, this UNESCO heritage site is well maintained by the tourism board and the government of Sri Lanka.

Having a visit to Sigiriya museum tells the history behind the rock kingdom together with notes carved in stones on the way to summit. The natural view from the summit is incredible and mind blowing specially for nature lover. The view covers the greenish areas on surroundings, and cool breeze offers the chill out experience of the Sigiriya rock climbing. Around 3-4 hours walk around and rock climbing to Sigiriya adds different mixture of experience for a holiday to the country. May be due to the multiple holiday experiences Sigiriya shares with the tourists, Sigiriya becomes the most visited Sri Lanka UNESCO sites compare to other UNESCO designated sites in the country.

Author's Bio: 

MarkHein is a traveller, writes about UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka, tourism in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka honeymoon, Wild life safari, beaches and more interesting places of Sri Lanka to visit on a holiday.