A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the north central part of the Island was the first capital (5th century BC - 9th century AD), the centre of the island's Buddhist civilization and undoubtedly the grandest city of ancient Sri Lanka. In antiquity and the interest, it is the equal of any ancient 'buried city' in the world. The oldest historically documented tree on earth (over 2,200 years old) - The Sri Maha Bodhi, brought as a sapling of the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, and the island's oldest Buddhist shrines - some dating back to the 3rd century BC.
There are impressive white 'dagabas' (relic chambers) and monuments embellished with handsome stone carvings or sculpture, pleasure gardens, beautifully executed stone baths and ponds and a superb irrigation system of reservoirs and canals are the main attractions of Anuradhapura.
Specific places to visit are - the Brazen Palace (2nd century B.C.), with 1600 significant stone columns are the remains of a magnificent multi - storied residence for monks - an engineering marvel at the time, Ruwanweliseya (2nd century B.C) the most famous of all the dagoba's, originally depicted the perfect water-bubble shape that modern restoration has not been able to accurately reproduce, Samadhi Buddha (3rd century B.C.) regarded as the finest rock sculpture in the island - depicting the Buddha in a state of deep meditation, lsurumuniya rock temple (3rd century B.C.) known for its rock carving of the "Lovers", Kuttam Pokuna, twin ponds (3rd century B.C.) which were used by monks of this glorious era as a bathing pool.
Thuparama (3rd century B.C.), the oldest dagoba in the island - enshrines the right collarbone of Buddha, Ratnaprasada with the best preserved Guard Stone, Mahasena's Palace with its renowned Moonstone, Abayagiri and Jetevanarama - a huge dagoba said to the largest brick built structure in the world.
Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, rose to fame as the capital after the decline of Anuradhapura. Its period of greatness was from the 10th - 12th centuries AD. The entire landscape of the region is punctuated by huge man-made reservoirs, veritable inland seas the most famous of which is the Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama, larger in size than the Colombo harbor.
The monuments of this medieval city are relatively well preserved and give clear evidence of the glory of Sri Lanka's past. See the Royal Palace complex, the Quadrangle with its concentration of ancient heritage and the spectacular Gal Vihare complex of four massive images of the Buddha, cut from a single slab of granite - a highlight of ancient Sri Lankan rock carving.