In Sri Lanka, ancient sites include Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Panduwasnuwara and Yapahuwa. All these places contain the remains of a great civilisation that grew through the centuries under the influence of Buddhism, a gentle faith still preserved in Sri Lanka in its purest form. Vast man-made lakes, large parks, shrines, temples and monasteries speak eloquently of the grandeur of the past and bear testimony to a cultured and imaginative people. The regions in the following guide are used for convenience only and have no administrative significance.
Colombo is a lively and exciting city where part of the joy is just wandering and watching life unfold on the streets. To the north of the city is the Fort District – so named because both the Dutch and the Portuguese built forts here. This is the main commercial district where many businesses are located. Amidst the modern buildings, this area also has a distinct colonial feel, with the famous clock tower, the president's residence and a smattering of colonial-era buildings, which hark back to the days of the British Empire. Near to here is the Pettah Bazaar District with a jumble of goods for sale: vegetables, meats, precious metal, jewellery, gemstones and all manner of flotsam and jetsam that makes up an Asian market. There are a number of Buddhist and Hindu temples in this area and also the Jumi-ul Alfar Jumma Mosque, which are all worth a visit. To the south of the city is Galle Face Green, a seafront where people from the city come to relax and play cricket, fly kites or just wander. More cerebral pursuits include the National Museum, which helps to put the country’s history into perspective, and the National Art Gallery. The best beaches are to the south of the city, with the closest being at Mt Lavina 10km (6 miles) away.
The Colombo National Museum
Established in 1877, this is Colombo’s oldest museum, and has a vast collection of antiques and objects from all over the island. Wherever you are travelling to on the island, this will be a good place to get an idea of the local cultural heritage. Adjacent to the National Museum is the Natural History Museum which has a number of representations of the flora and fauna of Sri Lanka.
The most exclusive area of Colombo, this is a district of large houses set on shady streets, lined with jacaranda and frangipani. Home to many of the city’s most exclusive and trendy bars, shops and restaurants. A stroll round Cinnamon Gardens is a pleasant way to spend a few hours in the city. In the middle of Cinnamon Gardens is Viharamahdevi Park, the city's largest open space.
Located on the waters of Beira Lake, adjacent to the so-called Slave Island, this Buddhist Temple dates back over 2,000 years. It is reached by crossing a wooden bridge. There is a holy bo tree under which the Lord Buddha is reputed to have preached. There are many historic Buddha images and frescoes.
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