Welcome to The Ancient Cities


For more than a century archaeologists have been slowly stripping the many layers of history from this overgrown landscape. The rock fortress at Sigiriya, the monumental dagobas (stupas) of Anuradhapura and the refined carvings of Polonnaruwa are but a few of the sites now ranking as national treasures. Home to four Unesco World Heritage Sites, this ‘Cultural Triangle’ is a heaven for amateur archaeologists and historians.

Besides the amazing ruins, save time for the national parks, which teem with elephants and outstanding birdlife, and try to visit at least one off-the-beaten-track temple site.


Top experiences in The Ancient Cities

Travel guides

Starting at $32.49

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The Ancient Cities activities

$90 Cultural & Theme Tours

Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Dambulla Cave Temple Full-Day Tour

Your adventure begins with the convenience of pickup service from your local hotel, 30 to 60 minutes prior to the departure time. At 8am, travel in comfort to Sigiriya in an air-conditioned, luxury vehicle. Learn how this ancient rock fortress was built by King Kasyapa to be the capital and house the royal palace from your English-speaking driver/guide. Hear how it was transformed into a Buddhist monastery in the 14th century. Then, go to the Royal Gardens with its beautiful landscaping and water features. Climb up to see the famed Mirror Wall and the 6th century rock art. Journey to the Boulder Gardens and Terraced Gardens. See the exquisite frescoes that are approximately 1600 years old. Admire the Sigiriya Frescoes that depict the king's harem on the face of the rocks. Then, it is time to go to the summit of the fortress at Sky Palace.Enjoy an hour of free time. You can have lunch (own expense) or explore on your own. Following the break, meet your guide to go to the Dambulla Cave Temples.Upon arriving at the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex, you will go directly to the Cave of the Divine King Devaraja Lena. View the 46ft. (14m) statue of Buddha made out of rock. Read the first century inscription at the entry of the cave telling of its origins. Continue over to the Cave of the Great Kings, the largest of the five caves. There you will see 40-seated statues of Buddha, cave paintings on the ceiling, and more. The ceiling and wall paintings found in the Great New Monastery date back to the 1700s and provide you with a unique insight into the Buddhist Revivalist period. See a statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha and 50 statues of Buddha. Return to your hotel provided at the end of the tour, at approximately 5pm.

$30 Tours & Sightseeing

Full-Day Kandy Highlights Tour

After pickup at 8am see the spice garden followed by Kandy Royal Botanical Garden in Peradeniya. It is started in 1374 as a garden of the kings of Kandy, 147 acres in extent with more than 4,000 species of rare and endemic trees and plants as well as flora from the tropical world. You do not want to miss the Orchid House that has more than 300 varieties of exquisite orchid from the rare indigenous Foxtail and Vesak orchids. You can also see great lawn, spice garden, double coconut palms, cacti, bamboo and more. In the afternoon, visit to the Temple of Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). The Temple of Tooth Relic is the World Heritage Site that houses the sacred Tooth relic of Buddha. The golden roofed temple is visited by both locals and tourists bearing flowers and incense daily throughout the day and night. It is a genuine place of worship. The original dated from the 16th Century, though most of present buildings and Patthiripuwa (Octagon) were built in the early 19th century. You could see Kandyan Moonstone, Makara Thorana, Udamale, Sanctuary, Audience Hall, Sri Dalada Maligawa Museum and International Buddhist Museum. You can also observe Poojas (offerings) the ancient traditions of drumming and sacred chanting in honor of the Tooth Relic performed several times every day. The most colorful Asela Perhara is held in July and August every year. The last stop is Gem Museum, wood crafting and Kandyan cultural show. After the tour is concluded, you will be transferred back to your hotel in Kandy.

$30 Outdoor Activities

Private Tour: Udawalawe National Park Safari

Meet up at the gate of Udawalawa National Park in Udawalawa and start this safari adventure. Udawalawe is undoubtedly one of the best places in Sri Lanka to see wild Asian Elephants throughout the year. Usually you will have better chance to spot herds of elephants if you choose morning departure. There are about 500 elephants in the park and they often roam in herds of up to 100. Udawalawe National Park is unique in terms of consistency in numbers of elephants roaming the park. If you choose afternoon departure, you will have great photographic opportunities of capturing the mesmerizing sunset with your camera. You may spot other animals in the park including water buffalo, wild boar, spotted deer, sambur deer, jackal, samber, black-naped hare, mongooses, bandicoots, foxes, the endemic toque macaque and gray langers. If you are lucky you might be able to see a leopard and other smaller cats, such as fishing cat and jungle cat. When the tour ends, you will be taken back to the departure point. Please Advise which safari would you like to go on when you making the booking for Half Day Safari.SKU:  LK50010100

$48 Cultural & Theme Tours

Full-Day Private Sigiriya and Dambulla from Kandy

Your adventure begins with the convenience of pickup service from your local hotel, 30 to 60 minutes prior to the departure time. At 8am, travel in comfort to Sigiriya in an air-conditioned, luxury vehicle. Learn how this ancient rock fortress was built by King Kasyapa to be the capital and house the royal palace from your English-speaking driver/guide. Hear how it was transformed into a Buddhist monastery in the 14th century. Then, go to the Royal Gardens with its beautiful landscaping and water features. Climb up to see the famed Mirror Wall and the 6th century rock art. Journey to the Boulder Gardens and Terraced Gardens. See the exquisite frescoes that are approximately 1600 years old. Admire the Sigiriya Frescoes that depict the king's harem on the face of the rocks. Then, it is time to go to the summit of the fortress at Sky Palace. Enjoy an hour of free time. We offer rice & curry for lunch at a family run local restaurant. Following the break, meet your guide to go to the Dambulla Cave Temples. Upon arriving at the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex, you will go directly to the Cave of the Divine King Devaraja Lena. View the 46ft. (14m) statue of Buddha made out of rock. Read the first century inscription at the entry of the cave telling of its origins. Continue over to the Cave of the Great Kings, the largest of the five caves. There, you will see 40-seated statues of Buddha, cave paintings on the ceiling, and more. The ceiling and wall paintings found in the Great New Monastery date back to the 1700s and provide you with a unique insight into the Buddhist Revivalist period. See a statue of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha and 50 statues of Buddha. Return to your hotel provided at the end of the tour, at approximately 5pm.

$60 Private & Custom Tours

Kandy Private Tour by Car: Tea Plantation, Botanical Garden

Get picked up from your hotel in Kandy at 7am and travel by an air-conditioned car to Giragama, approximately 40 minutes away. On arrival at Giragama, you will visit a tea plantation 1,673 feet (510 meters) above sea level. Tea was first planted in Sri Lanka in 1824 at the Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, when a few plants were brought from China. Your will spend an hour exploring the the plantation and factory before leaving climbing back into your vehicle and heading to Peradeniya, approximately 30 minutes awayThe Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya is renowned for its variety of orchids. Spend 45 minutes strolling around the gardens, which have more than 4,000 species of plants, including of spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. The next stop on the tour is a gem lapidary and wood-carving center. Some of Sri Lanka's most sought-after items are precious and semi-precious gemstones such as moonstones, cat’s eyes, tourmalines, garnets, blue sapphires and red rubies. You will see all of these and more at the gem museum and gem outlet. At 12:30pm the tour breaks for a one-hour lunch at Oak Ray Regency Restaurant before heading to Bahirawakanda temple, whose 80-foot (24-meter) high Buddha statue can be seen from everywhere in Kandy city. The temple was built on the Bahirawa Kanda or Gnome Mountain, which is the subject of many legends about the sacrifice of beautiful virgins.Continue to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a 17th-century temple within the Royal Palace grounds which is believed to house the left upper canine of the Lord Buddha himself. Every day this precious relic attracts white-clad pilgrims bearing lotus blossoms and frangipani. After an hour at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, enjoy the scenic views of Bogambara Lake as you drive to Kandy center for a 45-minute cultural show. The vibrant show tells the story of Sri Lanka's culture and history through traditional dance and costumes. At  6:30pm, You will be dropped off at your hotel, where the tour ends.

$60 Day Trips & Excursions

Private Day Trip: Nuwara Eliya from Kandy by Train

Start your tour at 7:30am from your hotel in Kandy, where you will be picked up by your chauffeur. Ensure that you bring a packed breakfast with you if you are unable to have your meal at the hotel.  Your chauffeur will transport you nearby to the Kandy or Peradeniya railway station at approximately 8am (station chosen is subject to ticket availability). Your train will leave between 8:30am-8:45am. Your guide will assist you to get onto the train for your train journey. Your train journey takes you on a scenic ride through some of the most beautiful highland countryside areas in Sri Lanka. Watch the brilliant greens carpets of the tea plantations. See the picturesque villages with misty mountain backdrops pass by. Peer through drizzle and mist to look at the magical landscapes of Hill Country. Enjoy the amazing sights of intimidating mountains, deep and dark woodlands, and magnificent waterfalls as they go by your windows. Total travel time on the train is expected to be between 3-3.5 hours. You will reach Nanu Oya at 12:15pm. Your guide will meet you at the Nanu Oya station, which has been serving Nuwara Eliya for over a century. After you stretch your legs a little, your guide will transfer you to Nuwara Eliya. Enjoy the thrilling half hour drive up the winding road. Enjoy walking through the streets with their pretty little cottages, quaint villas and beautiful mansions. Thereafter at approximately 1:30pm, you will be having lunch at a place of your choice. Afterwards, your guide will show you the most important sights, dependent on the time constraints. You will get to see Lake Gregory. You will also be going to the timeless old post office and can send a beautiful postcard home if you like, or even buy a few as souvenirs. Thereafter proceed back to Kandy by approximately 3pm. En-route visit the Ramboda Falls and Blue Field Tea Factory where you would see how the world’s famous “Ceylon Tea” is manufactured. Expected travel time is 1-1.5 hours. In 1824 a tea plant was brought to Ceylon by the British from China and was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial purposes. James Taylor was a British citizen who introduced commercial tea plantation in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). He arrived to Sri Lanka in 1852 and settled down in Loolecondera estate in Kandy. Today even people who have never heard of Sri Lanka are familiar with Ceylon tea, which is known for its quality. Later that evening leave from the tea factory by approximately 5pm and return back to the hotel completing your excursion by 7:30pm

The Ancient Cities in detail