The sacred city of Anuradhapura is said to be Sri Lanka’s first Buddhist capital, established around a cutting from the ‘tree of enlightenment’, the Buddha’s fig tree. It was an important political and religious capital that flourished for 1300 years, however in 993 it was abandoned after being invaded. The ruins of the capital were hidden amidst dense jungle for many years, but today it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, a fascinating area to explore and a wonderful introduction to Sri Lanka’s ancient Sinhalese civilization. Of all the palaces, monuments and monasteries at Anuradhapura, the colossal dagobas that scatter the landscape seem the most impressive. These are unique to Sri Lanka due to their circular foundations surrounded by a ring of monolithic columns. Anuradhapura combines brilliantly with Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya in the ‘Cultural Triangle’ and is under a five-hour drive from Colombo. It can also be visited en route to Jaffna or Sri Lanka’s idyllic and unspoiled east coast.