Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and to celebrate the beginning of the festive season, we’re bringing you the “Mercury Holidays’ 12 Destinations Advent Calendar” – every day we’ll be taking a look at a top destination and what makes it the perfect place to visit with family, friends or enjoy a little you time.
So, let’s take a look behind door 8 and see what today’s destination is…
Sri Lanka and Mercury Holidays’ Escorted Tours
Described as the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’, Sri Lanka is a haven for those looking to explore a world far from their own. From the incredible sights in Dambulla such as Sigiriya Lion Rock and Gal Vihare, to the capital city of Colombo with its rich history and culture; a trip to this destination truly is an experience of a lifetime.
Advent Calendar Fact: Sri Lanka was first colonised by the Portuguese in 1505, then the Dutch in 1658 and then the British in 1796. Sri Lanka finally obtained full independence in 1948.
Situated in the Matale District, Dambulla is home to a range of incredible culture and historic sites; including the largest preserved Cave Temple Complex and Sigiriya rock fortress. Rising above the plains of Dambulla, the Cave Temple Complex (also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla), is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site with five incredible caves. The three largest caves are named Devaraja Lena or Cave of the Divine King, Maharaja Lena or Cave of the Great Kings, and Maha Alut Vihara or Great New Monastery. Considered one of the most stunning spiritual sanctuaries in the world, this ancient Buddhist pilgrimage is a must-see when visiting Dambulla.
The Dambulla Caves date back to the 1st Century B.C and it’s believed that King Valagamba of Anuradhapura who was revolted against and overthrown by South Indians, sought refuge in these caves during his exile. After regaining his power 15 years later, he transformed the site and built temples as thanks to gods which saw subsequent additions from his successors. The stunning gilding of the caves and the inclusion of 70 Buddha statues came about in 1190 A.D. by Nissanks Malla of Polonnaruwa.
Advent Calendar Fact: The walls of the caves depict stories of Buddha’s first ever sermon and the temptation by demon Mara.
Located just 16km from the centre of Dambulla is the awe-inspiring Sigiriya Lion Rock, another UNESCO World Heritage Site gem, this incredible fortress and temple complex is atop an impressively high volcanic plateau 370 metres above sea level. Often called the eighth Wonder of the World by locals, Sigiriya Lion Rock has to be seen to be believed as the main entrance appears to be in the shape of a lion’s paws – hence the name.
The complex has served as a monastery on and off since the 3rd Century B.C. and is surrounded by gorgeous landscaped gardens with water and boulder features. The western wall of this incredible place is covered in frescoes dating back to the reign of Kasyapa and include depictions of his wives and priestesses performing religious rituals.
The palace and fortress complex have been deemed one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning, water engineering, horticulture and arts; resulting in its addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1982.
Advent Calendar Fact: The unique shape of Sigiriya Rock is unlike anything else in Sri Lanka. Originally a plug for a volcano, Lion Rock is half as old as the Earth, a staggering 2,500 billion years old!
Nicknamed the new ‘mini Dubai’, Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo is a fascinating place to visit during your holiday. From the rich architecture of the Old Parliament Building and Independence Memorial Hall, to awesome shopping spots such as Pettah Floating Market and Laksala – the only state-run souvenir shop in the city; this impressive city is both an intriguing mix of old and new.
One of the oldest and most impressive religious attractions in Colombo is the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple; located just a short walk from Lake Beira, this temple attracts thousands of locals and tourist each year. Combining Chinese, India and Thai-style architecture, the temple is decorated with intricate carvings, wall murals and numerous statues.
If you’re looking to purchase some souvenirs either for yourself or for loved ones back home, then Pettah Floating Market is the perfect choice! Situated on Pettah’s Bastian Mawatha, this market was once a group of dilapidated warehouses and polluted water; making it a danger zone. However, thanks to the efforts of UDA and an architect called Thushari Kariyawasam, the area was transformed into a stunning marketplace lined with wooden walkways. A daily hotspot for both locals and tourists, this extraordinary shopping hub offers everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to clothes, jewellery, electronics and hand-made items.
Advent Calendar Fact: Opening in 2014, Pettah Floating Market is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Fact File:
Geographical size – 25,330 square miles
Population – 21.44 million
Number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – 8
Average temperature – October to February 27 degrees, March to September 29 degrees
Escorted Tour of The Day
Experience a Sri Lanka Tour like no other! Over the course of 9 days and 7 nights, you’ll discover the stunning sights of this amazing country. From the colonial cities of Kandy and Galle, to ancient temples and past civilisations of Dambulla and Sigiriya Rock. You’ll also get to visit the glorious botanical gardens in Peradeniya and take a safari through Yala National Park.
- Marvel at Sigiriya Rock Fortress and Dambulla Rock Temple
- Enjoy a city tour of Kandy and Galle
- Explore the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya
- Learn and explore a tea plantation and factory
- Safari thorough Yala National Park
Make your Escorted Tour to Sri Lanka even more incredible with a Highlights of Kerala extension!
Highlights of Kerala
Whilst enjoying your tour of Sri Lanka, why not pop by the beautiful Indian state of Kerala with our 5-night mini adventure. This 5-night trip includes a tour of Cochin, one of India’s major ports and trading centres as well as an overnight experience on an authentic Keralan Houseboat.