The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura
I think it’s a fairly common fantasy of travellers to spend a week at a sunny destination such as exotic and mysterious Sri Lanka and think you could see yourself living there. It’s quite another to actually know when you arrive that you’ll be a resident for two years, possibly four.
When we were informed that Sri Lanka would be our next posting, I must admit, I knew very little about it, apart from the tsunami disaster of 2004. We landed in 2009, when the 25 year civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamil inhabitants was just coming to an end. This transition, together with it being a bruised and battered third world country, sparked much apprehension in what would lie ahead for my family.
Sri Lanka was an amazing and intriguing place to share with family, and to raise our children in. There is so much to teach children about its history and culture.
In these series I will share with you some of the amazing places to see and stay in this country that we recently called home.
Pit Stops on the Journey to Anuradhapura
As you might imagine, there aren’t any Shell Stations or Drive-thrus on the way to the Cultural Triangle. Most tour companies or drivers you hire will make pit stops along the way so that you can take a restroom break. In some cases, these stops are planned around a particular establishment that might afford the driver a cup of tea, on the house, for having delivered tourists. I found this harmless but if you can’t be bothered, you can inform them before you strike out on the road. One particular type of stop that is quite interesting, are the spice gardens. The tours are informative, but in certain gardens you will be expected to exit the shop, at which point the sales pitch starts.
Anuradhapura-Ancient Ruins of a Capital City
Anuradhapura is home to ancient ruins of what was once a bustling capital city. It is the sacred site of the Bodhi Tree where a cutting from Buddha’s fig tree was planted after being smuggled into Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BC. It is now a World Heritage site. One can wander through palace ruins, ancient reservoirs, and visit many temples in the area. During the war, it was not a recommended area for tourists, but it is now safe to do so.
At the time we visited, there was not a lot of development going on in terms of newer hotels and it seemed to me, but I could be wrong, that they weren’t yet accustomed to a lot of foreign visitors. The hotels were basic and clean, but air conditioning was not widely available. Catering to mostly Sri Lankan visitors, the meals were very spicy. This of course, may have changed since then, but it’s difficult to feed kids who aren’t accustomed to these flavours. When we toured the surrounding area the second time, we elected to plan our itinerary and travel time in such a way that it afforded us the choice of a larger hotel listed below.
TIP: Take plenty of snacks for children as many remote hotels do not offer a selection of child-friendly meals when it’s a buffet-style situation. We found that often the food was far too spicy for our kids and we were happy we had some portable items on hand to supplement with fruit.
Things to Do near Anuradhapura
This historic site will take you the the better part of a day to explore and there are also nearby temples to visit. We usually made this our only stop for the day so that we could travel back to the hotel and rest up for the following day of exploring the Dambulla Caves and Rock Fortress of Sigiriya.
Where to Stay near Anuradhapura-Heritance Kandalama Hotel
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of looking out of the balcony of your guest room and seeing jungle all around you and elephants roaming in the distance.
Heritance Kandalama Hotel is built on the side of the rock and simply blends into nature. Long sinewy vines hanging from the roof. Monkeys playing on your balcony while peering in. Phenomenal.