1. Bodhi Tree
Located at the ancient site of Anuradhapura, this sacred fig tree is said to have grown from a sapling of the Bodhi Tree that Buddha was sitting under when he became enlightened. This holy spot has long been a pilgrimage site for Sri Lankans and is now becoming a place of spiritual interest for visitors too.
2. Dewatagaha Mosque
One of the oldest mosques in Sri Lanka, this prayer place for worshippers of Islam has stood in Colombo for hundreds of years. The striking domes and minarets stand out in the Colombo skyline and provide a spiritual epicentre for Sri Lanka’s Muslims.
3. Temple of the Tooth
This Buddhist temple, located in Kandy, is named for the holy relic (said to be Buddha’s tooth) that is housed inside. It's a World Heritage site that has survived bombings and the ravages of time - visit here to see worshippers deep in prayer under the elaborate golden roof.
4. Dambulla Cave Temple
This well-preserved series of cave temples is brimming with paintings and statues that date all the way back to the 1st century. With colourful depictions of Buddha, Sri Lankan kings and various Hindu gods and goddesses, this is one of the most elaborate cave complexes in Asia.
5. Adam’s Peak
Sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims, Adam’s Peak is arguably Sri Lanka’s most popular pilgrimage spot. Surrounded by wildlife reserves, the walking trail leading to the mountain is a stunning walk regardless of religious persuasion. Watching a stirring sunrise from the holy summit is nothing short of magnificent.
6. Polonnaruwa Ruins
These impressive ruins of an ancient kingdom are home to massive palaces, huge statues, imposing temples and an artificial lake. Although historically and culturally important, witnessing orange-robed monks praying at Gal Vihara (a Buddhist rock temple) is a spiritual moment you won’t soon forget.
7. Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock)
This magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site was once a mountain monastery many centuries ago. The rock inscriptions, paintings and ancient ‘graffiti’ show insight into the lives of the monks who lived within the caves and grottoes before King Kasyapa took to the throne and established a capital there.
The ancient ruins of Anuradhapura are a significant holy place for Sri Lanka Buddhists. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, there are many monasteries surrounding this area of supreme veneration.
9. Munneswaram Temple
This elaborate Hindu temple complex is known for its vibrant festivals in celebration of Navaratri and Sivaratri. During this time, the complex is filled with the buzz of devotees who come to attend daily pujas and bathe in the nearby holy river.
If you choose to climb the thousand or so steps to the top of Mihintale’s hill, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views and a deeper understanding of Buddhism, as this is the site where Buddhism is said to have originated in Sri Lanka.