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Do you know Sri Lanka and Nepal have five World Heritage Cities? Let’s explore about these magnificent timeless cities that have preserved their culture, architecture, arts and celebrations for centuries!
As a backpacker, a question that predominantly occupies my mind space is ‘how to make the most of a single leisure trip by covering the maximum momentous spots in the bare minimum spendings? Though I am usually cautious about my finances while travelling, I’ve never managed to be disciplined enough to collect discount coupons and air miles for my future itinerary. Keeping this situation into consideration, I was pondering over my bucket list and Googled a little about the heritage cities near India. To my surprise, I found out that our neighbouring countries Nepal and Sri Lanka collectively have five UNESCO World Heritage Cities, while our dimensionally and economically large India has just one. So while we have discussed so much about our newly declared Heritage City Ahmedabad, let us shift our focus to the age-old cities of Kandy, Galle, and Anuradhapura on the Island country of Sri Lanka and Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in the Himalayan landlocked country of Nepal.
Kandy or Senkadagalapura, the city where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was shot
The very last capital of the Sinhalese kingdom before falling in the hands of Britishers, Kandy was declared as a World Heritage City in 1988 by UNESCO for its rich colonial and Kandy architecture. One of most divine shrines of Buddhism — Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic — is said to have preserved the original tooth of Lord Buddha which is displayed during the Kandy Esala Perahera procession. Located on the Kandy Plateau, the tropical tea plantations, blanketing the hilly slopes, make it a breathtaking scenic experience for nature enthusiasts even during the monsoon. The capital of Central Province is a religious metropolis with Lankatilaka Temple and Gadaladeniya Temple that are equally significant Buddhist sites.
Galle – A metropolis with Asia’s highest number of European Fortresses
Take a train or bus from Colombo and reach this coastal World Heritage City, which is full of Dutch and Portuguese colonial architecture beauty, in merely four hours. The exotic Old Town of Galle, its grandeur fortifications and historic mansions are well preserved with utmost caution even after almost 350 years. The Indian Ocean surrounds the peninsula of Galle from three sides, and the restored hotels, owned by writers, artists, and photographers, provide for a creatively inspirational experience. The pleasure yachts anchored at Sri Lanka’s only natural harbour looks picturesque, confronting the hill of Rumassala.
Anuradhapura – One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world
Founded in the pre-historic ages, the ruins of Anuradhapura was a ceaseless hub for Theravada Buddhism, and has numerous monasteries surrounding more than 41 sq km. Arahat Mahinda, son of the great Buddhist King Ashoka, travelled to Sri Lanka to spread the word of Buddhism on this land, and for numerous decades the religious metropolis dominated Sri Lanka as the capital city. Situated on the banks of Sri Lanka’s second longest river Malvathu, the fertile land of Anuradhapura, studies claim, housed a community that pioneered farming 24,000 years ago. The town of Anuradhapura tends to give the vibes of a close-knit large village, and the landscape looks serenely picturesque with many gigantic bell-shaped Stupas called Dagobas, and temples narrating its thousands of year old rich history. During the stay, backpackers can find an affordable home stay and can rent a bike to go through the town candidly.
Lalitpur, Nepal – A vicinity of more than 1200 Buddhist monuments
Located in the lap of Himalayas, the third-century city of Lalitpur was ruled by Kirat, Licchavis and Mallas dynasty, and is considered to be the city of arts and feasts. Initially ideated as a cluster of 295 Vihars, the whole built-up of Lalitpur was shaped in the form of a Buddhist Dharma-Chakra. The creative hub of the country is a vicinity full of Nepali art and was enlisted in the World Heritage City List of UNESCO in 1979 with other seven monument zones of the Kathmandu Valley. The intricately carved edifices, water conduits, stone spouts, Jaladroni, artistic gateways, Buddhist Vihars, Stupas and Hindu temples make the city looks like an open-air museum. The Patan Durbar Square, with a royal palace that served as the residence of royalty, is a pupil dilating experience.
Bhaktapur – The Curd Capital of Nepal and the home to world’s tallest Shiva statue
The culinary speciality of Bhaktapur, Ju Ju Dhau (curd/yoghurt) is the first thing that any local would recommend you. The exceptional ingredients and the making process of the curd are as unique as the culture of this geography. Since Bhaktapur served as a traditional trade route between Tibet and India, the richness of its architecture and arts proliferated faster than any other neighbouring cities. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is one of the most iconic landmarks of the city. As a plaza right in front of the Royal Palace, the area is a collection of pagoda and shikhara-style temples mainly dedicated to Hindu Gods. There are more than 10 significant festivals celebrated by the locals and the city has been featured in multiple films, including the Italian-French-British Drama of Keanu Reeves — ‘Little Buddha’.
The World Heritage Week, celebrated by UNESCO between November 19 – 25 every year, just got over. If one is making a plan to experience culture and heritage of the subcontinent, the above 5 World Heritage Cities are worth having on the bucket list.
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