Anuradhapura is a unique and one of the few ancient cities in the world where you can observe the buildup of a civilization, right from the birth till the extreme prosperity, spanned over 1300 years. Anuradhapura, being the first political and religious capital of a non-valley agricultural civilization located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, holds extensive archaeological and architectural evidences of a rich and astonishingly advanced irrigation system. Founded in 380 BC by king Pandukhabaya, Anuradhapura has been a sacred city since the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, during the ruling of King Tissa, which initiated epic architectural wonders, including remarkable dagobas, soaring brick towers and buildings, ancient pools and temples, built around the cutting from the fig tree (the sacred fig tree of Bodhgaya, India, under which Siddharta attained spiritual enlightenment and supreme wisdom) of Buddha, brought there in the 3rd century BC, and the tooth relic of Siddharta presented by Ashoka emperor. The Chola Emperor Rajaraja invaded Sri Lanka and abandoned the city of Anuradhapura to move the capital to Polannaruwa which was later captured by Sri Lankan rulers and continued to use as the capital. Hidden away in the dense jungle for many years, the city and all attractions are now accessible once again for visitors.
Polonnaruwa was a political and cultural capital (AD 1017- AD 2036) of Sri Lanka; the city is, well preserved for the tourists. The cultural and technological developments that Polonnaruwa achieved have been Impeccable and stunning and some archeologists indicate it to be an era of centralized technological revolution that took place long before electricity was invented in the world. Chola Emperor Rajaraja invaded former capital Anuradhapura and moved the capital to Polonnarurwa (AD 1017- AD 2036) which was later captured by Sri Lankan ruler King Wijayabahu. The pinnacle of Polonnaruwa occurred during the ruling of King Parakramabahu I who created a fabulous triple-walled garden city with modern like palaces, roads, pools, storeybuildings, temples and hospitals which attest to the knowledge and awareness of applied science and in particular, hydro engineering of the Sinhalese civilization. In particular, building of the mammoth parakramasamudra reservoir to cater all water needs of the city, self-filtering pools, gigantic rock temple named Gal vihara and splendid monuments are among the attracts. In the present, Polannaruwa has been a foremost agricultural city providing rice to Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is a monumental and imaginative ancient palace, fortress built on the lofty rock of Sigiriya, in the central Matale District, by parricidal King Kassapa who moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya fearing an attack from his brother Moggallana. Sigiriya, which is believed to be the 8th Wonder of the World, consists of archeological and architectural features that have mystified and stunned modern scientists and archeologists. A gateway decorated with galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a giant lion, constructed of bricks and plaster, on a plateau about halfway up the side of the rock provides access to the palace site on the summit of the rock. One foremost aesthetic aspect located on the gateway path is the Frescoes, which would have covered most of the western face of the rock (perhaps, as John Still suggested, the largest picture of the world) and found within the Cobra Hood Cave, which are comparable to creations of Ajanta, India. The other major aspect located on the gateway path is the Mirror Wall which was originally constructed of highly polished white plaster to make the image of the King visible to himself when he walked alongside and later was used by the visitors, dating from the 8th century, to write poems about Sigiriya. Superiorly engineered and mind boggling hydraulic systems, which are still functional during the rainy season, constructed to supply water to all parts of the site (including the palace located at the summit of the rock) and gardens with water-retaining structures are some of the other attractive features of this site.
The kingdom of Yapahuwa rose to sovereignty after the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa collapsed due to south Indian invasions. In AD 1272, the beautiful rock fortress and the surrounding buildings built by King Buwanekabahu I, on a 90 m high rock, with moats filled with water, are architecturally and archeologically of high importance. The staircase, decorated with guard-stones and lion statues, which leads to the tooth relic temple located halfway up the rock, is one of the featured pieces. Once you reach the summit of the rock, you will be greeted with a panoramic view of the area and a detail view of the doorway that led you up to the summit. Due to further invasions, in 1284, the city was abandoned.
Dambulla is a city located in the Matale District, Central Province with the major attraction being the best preserved and largest Ancient Cave Temple Complex in Sri Lanka.
Cave Temple Complex: When fleeing from an invasion from South India King Valagambahu (during Anuradhapura kingdom, around 1 century BC) took refuge in the caves and after regaining his sovereignty he made them into a magnificent rock temple complex. Later King NissankaMalla (During Polonnaruwa Kingdom) had interiors gilded. The complex consist of five caves featuring 153 statues of Buddha, 3 statues of Sri Lankan Kings, 4 statues of gods and goddesses and with later inclusions of 2 Hindu gods all highlighting Sri Lankan Sculpture and Art of Anuradhapura and Pollonnaruwaepochs Largely.