Namal Uyana forest in Sri Lanka

Namal Uyana forest in Sri Lanka

Some 8km off the Dambulla to Anuradhapura road, around 15km from the cave temples, the Jathika Namal Uyana, or Namal Uyana Conservation Forest is a remarkable natural phenomenon, preserving not just the largest extant forest of the indigenous na tree, or ironwood, in Sri Lanka but also a 550-millionyear- old range of rose quartz hills, the biggest such deposit in South Asia, which rises lunar-like from the verdant woodland. The ‘na’ is Sri Lanka’s national tree, often planted close to Buddhist temples where its fragrant, four-petalled white flowers are a popular offering during puja. The forest, legend states, was planted by Devanampiya Tissa , and later became a monastic retreat – various monastic remains are dotted around the site.
From the entrance, a path leads for about 1km though the forest, at its prettiest from April to June when the na trees are in bloom, to a ranger’s hut, the ruins of a moss-covered dagoba, surrounded by a low wall decorated with pink-quartz stones, and a few other hard-todecipher ruins. From here another trail climbs gently up the hillside (ask a ranger the way), the forest increasingly giving way to quartz outcrops; you’ll pass a tiny waterfall, where the rock is stained almost black by the flowing water. It’s about a ten-minute hike across the pinky-grey rockface above the tree canopy to the pleasantly breezy summit of the first low mountain, surmounted by a small pink fibreglass Buddha, from where there are magnificent views across to Dambulla.

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