1.Peradeniya Botanical Garden
As Sri Lanka’s largest garden an elegant and spacious 147-acres (60-hectares) plenty of time is needed to stroll Peradeniya’s imposing Avenue of Royal Palms.
There are some 4,000 different species of plants at Peradeniya Gardens. The 10,000 or so trees, which are the stars, are mature, lofty giants, many of them tropical timber trees. Highlights of the collection include the Giant Bamboo of Burma, capable of growing to 40 meters height (130 feet) with a 25-centimetre (10-inch) stem diameter. And it can grow by a rapid 30 centimeters a day (12 inches).
Absolutely sensational is the century old giant Javan fig tree, its tentacle like roots spread across the enormous area of about 1,800 square meters (19,375 square feet) a massive central trunk beneath the tree’s vast canopy ‘umbrella’.
The Cannonball tree is also intriguing, with its cannonball-like fruit hanging off the trunk and large open, waxy pink-white flowers. So is the Double Coconut Palm, one of 200 types of palms displayed at Peradeniya – originating from the Seychelles, this tree produces the largest seed known. Its fruits take five years to mature.
The gardens showcase all of Sri Lanka’s flora and representative species from around the tropical world. Luminaries as varied as Queen Elizabeth II , Marshal Tito and Yuri Gugarin have planted trees to mark their visits to the garden.
2.Hakgala Botanical Garden
Hakgala Botanic Gardens, about 28 hectares in extent, lie under the shadow of the Hakgala Rock. The Botanic Gardens are locally reputed for their collection, the rose garden, Magnificent trees, indoor plants, flowers. The climate of the Gardens is subtropical, cool and fresh.
There are over 10,000 species of flora planted here and during the Spring season in Nuwara Eliya thousands of visitors come to see the blooms here. Number of annual visitors is around 500,000. The garden is famous for number of species of Orchids and Roses are planted there.
3.Henarathgoda Botanical Garden
Henarathgoda Botanical Gardens where the first rubber tree planted in Sri Lanka is still present located close to Gampaha Town. Most notable is the Para rubber tree – Hevea brasiliensis. Here at Henarathgoda, in 1876, the first seedlings ever planted in Asia grew and flourished.
This garden is home to trees from every corner of the tropical world – especially from Brazil.
4.Mirijjawila Botanical Garden
A botanical garden is being established in Mirijjawila in the Hambantota district. This is the first botanical garden to be established in the dry zone in Sri Lanka.
It has an extent of 300 acres. The objective of establishing this botanical garden is for the conservation of dwindling trees and shrubs in the dry zone, popularizing of unpopular trees, conservation of medicinal herbs, promotion of tourism and providing botanical knowledge to the younger generation.
The Garden will comprise ornamental flower cultivation, commercial flower cultivation and facilities to undertake studies on trees. Already planting of various trees and floral varieties has been commenced. Construction of infrastructure facilities is also nearing completion.
It will also provide opportunities for Eco-tourism and economic development in this area and to model dry zone landscape improvement. In the longer term, within the first 3-5 years, the garden will feature those plants that are lesser known and under utilized in the dry zone promote the herbal industry; and provide education and training on botany and floriculture in the dry zone.
This garden being established in a dry landscape would provide much relief and peace of mind to the visitors.
This Botanical Garden is located on the Colombo-Kataragama main road. It has the Mattala International Airport on its left side and the Hambantota Harbour on its right side, and therefore it becomes a center point for the tourists.
Shopping in Sri Lanka can take many forms haggling with a handicraft-seller while sunbathing on the beach choosing fruit from the traditional village store, ‘the kade’ while side-stepping sacks of rice or checking out the bargain-priced latest international fashions (Sri Lanka is a major garment exporter) while enjoying the ambiance of a luxurious shopping center in Colombo.
And there’s much in between. Visit a handicraft shop and familiarize yourself with traditional designs such as makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan, elephant and lotus which are most evident in brasswork (boxes, trays, lanterns, vases) and silverware (ornately carved and filigree jewellery, tea-sets) that make excellent souvenirs. In addition, ritual masks, lacquer ware, batik and hand loom textiles, lace, and wood carvings are popular.
Last but certainly not least, Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world’s gem producing countries – blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat’s eye, garnets, moonstones, aquamarines and topazes being just a dazzling handful. What’s more, Sri Lanka naturally has a tradition in jewellery-making, so you can bring your gems to life.
Sri Lanka is filled with romantic landscapes, governed by rising mountains, lush forests, ocean like tanks and gushing waterfalls, that it was considered the lost paradise by many a globe trotters, who fell upon the country. The golden beaches of the country had been praised for their picture postcard views since eternity. The dusk and dawn and many human activities connected to these times of the day creates a vibrant picture along the coasts of Sri Lanka.
The central highlands of the island are filled with pictures of stirring mountains carpeted with lush green tea gardens, roaring waterfalls mingling with the clouds and landscapes shimmering in sunlight and disappearing under the rising mist. Traveling towards the top of the country to the North Central Valley of the Kings, mountains covered with lush tropical forests disappears under the glare of the sun giving way to acres of light green carpets of paddy dotted with towering ancient white stupas and fed with oceans like reservoirs locally known as wewa. Giant statues of Lord Buddha rises above the forest line while ancient palaces stand abandoned to the forest, waiting for a master, who long departed from life.
Traveling further north the landscape changes drastically, North of Sri Lanka is a world apart from the rest of country. Colorful Hindu temples replace the white pagodas while sari clad damsels roam the streets on bicycles.
On the western coasts of the country is Colombo, a capital city of the island, which displays a rich colonial heritage. A potpourri of races, religions and cultures, Colombo parades the best and worst the country has to offer.
Believed to have been built in reminiscence of Alakamandawa, the legendary palace of Kuvera, the treasurer of the gods and a mythical king of Lanka, Sigiriya is a palace and a pleasure garden built atop a 200 meter rock in the Fifth century AC by King Kashyapa.
Having seized the power after killing his father through a coup, Price Kashyapa, the son of King Dathusena born to a non-royal consort, chose to establish his kingdom in Sigiriya, away from Anuradhapura, the seat of power at the moment. Fearing military threats by Price Moggallana, the rightful heir to the throne, King Kashyapa, chose to build his castle on a strategically beneficial position, on the top of 200 meter tall Sihagiriya.
The grounds around the rock had long being the premises for Buddhist monasteries but the new king established himself on Sigiriya in the most fashionable manner. His castle on the top of the rock was a unique creation consists of landscaped gardens with ponds and wall murals. The palace complex includes a an upper palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the mirror wall and a wall filled with frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls, and gardens that extend to hundreds of metres out from the base of the rock.
It is considered one of the best urban planning sites of the first millennium as the plan includes concepts of symmetry and asymmetry, combining man-made structures and natural forms of the surroundings. On the west side of the rock is a park for the royals, laid out on a symmetrical plan, containing reservoirs and ponds, including sophisticated surface and subsurface hydraulic systems, which are in working condition even today.
Yet the most famed and beautiful is the frescoes of Sigiriya, which according to archaeologists would have covered the whole western face of the rock fortress, creating a large picture gallery, 140 meters long and 40 meters wide. It is believed to have contained 500 images of beautiful damsels, which had won the admiration of many who visited Sigiriya, after it lost its master. Eighteen years after the palace was built Kashyapa lost his throne and life to his royal sibling Moggallana, who chose to rule from Anuradhapura.
Yet the beautiful ladies of the Sigiriya were admired by many who climbed the steeps of Sigiriya and their admiration was noted in poems on the mirror wall of Sigiriya, initially built as a mirrored wall. Made of porcelain, the wall is now partially covered with verses scribbled by visitors to the rock as back 8th century AC. People of all walks had written on varying subjects such as love, irony, and experiences of all sorts but mainly their admiration for the damsels of Sigiriya.
The painting belong to the Anuradhapura period contains sketchy lines unlike other paintings of the same period while the artist have employed the technique of sweeping strokes, using more pressure on one side, giving the effect of a deeper colour tone towards the edge. The true identity of the ladies in these paintings still has not been confirmed. Some believe them to be the wives of the king while some depict them as women taking part in religious observances.
Their close resemblance to some of the paintings in the Ajanta caves in India had always been celebrated although the subject matter and techniques of Ajanta and Sigiriya are vastly different. Ajanta frescoes belong to the tempera medium while Sigiriya is of true frescoes medium, with limited colours. Yet Ajanta frescoes in cave 2, belonging to the 5th -6th century AC Mahayana phase are similar to the Sigiriya frescoes, sparking assumptions that Sigiriya too could have been a Mahayana monastery instead of a royal palace. The frescoes are believed to be of Tara, a female bodhisattva in Mahayana.