From Ancient Dagobas to Rooftop Bars
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, two important sites of Sri Lanka’s glorious architectural heritage, were both once thriving capital cities of ancient Ceylon. The most striking architectural elements of these picturesque ancient ruins are the massive bell-shaped stupas, or dagobas. Buried deep within these sacred monuments under tons of construction material is a relic of the Buddha. Standing alone above the trees and colored bronze in the setting sun, the giant dagoba of Polonnaruwa has a commanding view over the landscape.
Travelers to Sri Lanka, especially those interested in engineering and architecture, should not miss Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle to explore the use of ancient water tanks. They are still considered marvels of craftsmanship and delicate engineering with slow gradients carrying much needed water across arid plains. Without the construction of the tanks, agriculture and successful civilization could not have been possible. These tanks and canals are some of the finest examples of hydraulic design in Asia. British engineers working in Sri Lanka in the 1830’s where amazed at the level of precision and efficiency of this medieval canal network even after 1500 years.
Portuguese and Dutch colonial influences have left their own architectural stamp on Sri Lanka such as the old Galle Fort. Today, walking along the ramparts of this colonial fort is a humbling experience having survived 500 years of history. These fortifications more recently and most notably helped spare the city of Galle from the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami. Other European colonial forts of notice include Jaffna and Colombo.
Your travelers can also witness the architectural legacy of the British. There are excellent examples of neo-classical buildings in Colombo’s old city center, faux Tudor style homes in the tea country at Nuwara Eliya and Lord Mountbatten’s headquarters during WWII that occupied the beautiful and grand Hotel Suisse in Kandy. Many of these old colonial buildings have been lovingly restored and lend a nostalgic charm to their environs.
Sri Lanka’s most renowned architect was the late Geoffrey Bawa. Influential throughout Asia, Bawa is credited with defining the term “tropical modernism.” His designs can be seen all around the country, particularly in schools, homes and hotels, such as the luxurious Indian Ocean resort, the Jetwing Lighthouse in Galle.
Sri Lanka is changing and this can be seen in Colombo, once a low-rise city that now has a skyline of high rise buildings that look over the city and out to the unchanging and beautiful dark blue of the Indian Ocean. For more information about tours to Sri Lanka, please leave your contact information in the form below.