The sprawling ancient city of Anuradhapura is full of dreamy stepped pools and bell-shaped stupas, or dagobas (some as large as 60 metres high and 340 metres in circumference), many of them gleaming white, while others have faded to overgrown, sun-baked brick. It was first founded in the sixth century BC in fertile, undulating countryside irrigated by numerous tanks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Buddhism's holiest places - partly because of the 2200-year-old Sri Maha Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the Indian tree beneath which Buddha found Enlightenment - it also features in the Hindu Ramayana. The once-walled, planned city, with its palaces, monasteries and cemeteries, was the capital for 1300 years from 377BC. The Archaeological Museum is excellent and worth a visit.
Features in the following itineraries
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.Bill Bryson