The golden Buddha statue, and the temple complex, a marvel from the Wonderful Ancient City of Dambulla!
The golden Buddha statue, and the temple complex, a marvel from the Wonderful Ancient City of Dambulla!

Simply, Dambulla is one of the most wonderful scenic cities in Sri Lanka, which lies in the North of the district of Matale, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.  And indeed, it is one of the must-visits on this beautiful island. Why do we say so? You might be surely having this doubt. To be specific, we say so owing to a number of reasons. Dambulla is a spectacular city with verdant surroundings and a pleasant climate. It is a significant milestone in the history of Sri Lanka. Dambulla houses many cultural and religious attractions.  Going beyond, it is a splendid city that offers you several things to do and to soothe yourself. So, isn’t it worth visiting? It really is!

Yet, need to know more about Dambulla beforehand? Nothing to worry about! You are at the right place. Continue reading, and you will surely realize the delight of this wonderful ancient city of Sri Lanka.

Where is Dambulla?

Its exact location is 148 km north-east from Colombo, 43 km north from Matale, and 72 km north from Kandy. Moreover, Dambulla is a significant junction where the Colombo – Trincomalee Road and the Kandy – Anuradhapura Road intersect and then separate to their destinations. In addition, Dambulla has a well-extended bus station which acts as the center for busses to Kandy, Kurunegala, Habarana, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya.

Why Should You Visit this Splendid City during Your Next Vacation?

Dambulla city provides a more positive impact as it is a real Sri Lankan city. The main roads are busy and there are lots of different restaurants in the city. Similarly, visitors can enjoy their holidays in numerous ways at Dambulla. Moreover, Dambulla town is surrounded by a number of hills, lakes, and valleys. Thus, if you are planning to visit this charming city of Dambulla, of course, you have ample opportunities to enjoy a number of significant destinations at Dambulla. Therefore, we suggest that visiting the splendid city is a must during your next vacation.

Things to do in Dambulla

So, by now, you clearly know that Dambulla houses a number of significant cultural and religious attractions. Apart from visiting them, you have many other things to do in this splendid city as well. The following list will help you choose what’s best for you!

  1. Visiting Dambulla Cave Temple
  2. A Hike at the Sigiriya World Heritage Site
  3. Going on an elephant safari
  4. Hiking Pidurangala
  5. Paying a visit to Dambulla International Cricket Stadium
  6. Visiting Popham’s Arboretum
  7. Visiting Jathika Namal Uyana

Of course, we surely know that you are excited to know more about them, in order to choose the best. Keep calm! We are ready to help your decision. Continue reading!

1. Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla Cave Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple located in the heart of Dambulla. To be specific, you can find it on the main route, 68 km away from Kandy, and 2 km away from the entrance to the Rock Temple by the main road to the town of Dambulla.

In brief, this temple is one of the most wonderful cultural and religious attractions on this island, that amazes many. Its caves, paintings, and historical monuments, and structures indeed make it more special and significant. Moreover, the temple itself is constructed 160m above the surrounding plains. Thus, it provides magnificent views of the city.

The main section of the temple consists of five caves that you can visit. And the noteworthy factor is that this temple is considered the best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Besides, you can see a number of Buddha statues and antiquity paintings inside these caves. However, these caves hold with them delightful historical values, and the history of the first cave building goes back to the first century BC.

Development of Caves in to a Temple

King Walagamba of the Anuradhapura Era, turned the caves into a temple in the first century BC. At the time, he was expelled from Anuradhapura and found refugee status from South Indian attackers. He spent 15 years concealed inside the caves until he regained his capital. Finally, as a way of appreciation, he built the temples with the caves where he used to hide inside. However, after King Walagamba, the heirs of Kings contributed their wealth to the maintenance and repairs of this temple.

Declaring the Temple as a World Heritage

Due to its past, archeological and cultural significance, the site was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site Area in the year of 1991. Further, this temple has been in use for over 22 years and still has a sense of benevolence and piety. Visitors can walk up the stairs to the temple, and the view from the top of the rock is as exciting as the golden interior of the temple. Moreover, the cave itself stretches to about 170 feet with a diameter of about 75 feet and a height of about 20 feet in front, receding down to the ground. After all, the Dambulla cave temple is one of the most remarkable places in Sri Lanka that exhibits the value of traditional arts and crafts, and the culture of Sri Lanka.

2. Sigiriya

In brief, Sigiriya is famous as the eighth wonder of the world owing to its awe-inspiring cultural and archeological values. Further, this ancient palace and fort are of considerable historical importance and attract thousands of tourists every year. The palace is located on a large plateau 370 meters above sea level between Dambulla and Habarana. The Sigiriya plateau, made up of the magma of an extinct volcano, is 200 meters higher than the surrounding forests.

Its vision amazes the viewers with its unique harmony between nature and the human imagination. Moreover, the fort complex includes the remains of a ruined palace and is surrounded by forts, large gardens, ponds, canals, lakes, and fountains. The water technology of this fortress is still functioning, and they are indeed real marvels of ancient Sri Lankan engineering.

The rock plateau of Sigiriya served as a monastery from the 3rd century BC. In the second half of the 5th century, King Kasyapa decided to build a royal residence here. The western wall of Sigiriya is almost entirely covered with murals and was created during the reign of Kasyapa. Out of them, eighteen murals remain to this day. Moreover, the murals depict some figures of women with bare chests and they are considered to be portraits of Kasyapa’s wives and concubines or of a priest performing religious rites. Despite the unknown identities of the women depicted in the murals, these unique ancient paintings celebrate the female beauty and have incredible historical significance.

However, this is just a glimpse of the grandeur of this cultural trove. Read our article on Sigiriya World Heritage Site for a more detailed exploration.

3. Elephant Safaris

Excited to witness the thrill and the fun of an elephant ride? If so, there is no other land like Sri Lanka for you. In addition, when considering this island, Dambulla is the most ideal to make your dream a reality, since there are three national parks that are popular for elephant safaris, in the vicinity of Dambulla. They are all at the same price and the packages start at around LKR 13,000 per two heads.

You can see the gigantic Sri Lankan elephants in all three of these national parks all through the year. Yet, there are occasions when it’s better to visit one of them. The following briefs will enlighten you with regard.

Minneriya National Park 

Minneriya National Park is the most famous park to visit. This national park is massive and the perfect time to visit it is between July and September. It’s normal to see huge crowds of elephants during this period, especially around the Minneriya tank on that premises.

Kaudulla National Park 

Kaudulla National Park is another park very similar to Minneriya. The best season to visit Kaudulla is between the months of October and November.  If you visit during that period, you will easily catch the sights of large gatherings of elephants in this park.

Wasgamuwa National Park

Wasgamuwa National Park is the least visited in the region and also the farthest away. There is, though, an opportunity to see the leopards here. Elephant gatherings are popular between November and May.

4. Pidurangala

Pidurangala is a magnificent rock famous as an archeological site, which stands a few kilometers north of Sigiriya. When considering its past, there is a belief that King Kashyapa moved to a new settlement on the Pidurangala Rock with the monks living around Sigiriya, when he was constructing the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the 5th century. Hence, it is owing to this incident that the archeological values have come up around this site. There is a massive Buddha statue about halfway up the rock, partly rebuilt from the brick. Moreover, at the base of the rock, there is the  Pidurangala Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya.

Pidurangala rock sits at a height of around 200 m. Further, it is an ideal destination for hiking, and the top of this wonderful rock offers great views, particularly of Sigiriya along with the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. However, the hiking to Pidurangala is more difficult than the Sigiriya Rock. Thus, it is better to ignore the hike if someone is with low physical health. The walk to Pidurangala rock could take roughly 30 to 40 minutes in general. Further, the best is to hike Pidurangala to observe the delight of the astounding views of the sunrise or sunset. However, because of the presence of several loose rocks and snakes, caution should be taken on the way up the rock.

5. Dambulla International Cricket Stadium 

Dambulla International Cricket Stadium is one of Sri Lanka’s finest cricket stadiums. It is also the first International cricket spot in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The stadium stands overlooking the Dambulla Tank and the Dambulla Rock. It was formed in 2000 that the site of the cricket ground was leased from the Temple of the Rangiri Dambulla.

The Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium was constructed in 167 days. The first game played there was between Sri Lanka and England in March 2001. The BCCSL (Cricket Control Board in Sri Lanka) and its then-president, Thilanga Sumathipala, provided funding for its building. The stadium was built to hold one-day international matches during the year.

Dambulla expects to receive fewer rainfalls compared to other areas. Further, it is a 30,000-seat stadium that spreads across 60 acres. Thus, Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium is believed to be a year-round cricket stadium with good facilities.

6. Popham’s Arboretum

Popham’s Arboretum is the only intact Arboretum in the dry zone in Sri Lanka and is located in Dambulla. Further, the popular British planter, F.H. Sam Popham established it. The Arboretum is made up of trees and shrubs that are conserved and planted for studies and researches. Hence, this place is famous among university students as well as school students for research purposes.

Popham’s Arboretum contains the trees of Ebony, Burutha, Tamarind, Helamba, Palu, and Weera. Moreover, this ecological wonder is also home to rabbits, wild boar, porcupine, mouse deer, black-naped hare, rock squirrels, and the rare (endemic) slender loris. The attraction of the visit to the Arboretum is its ‘Night Safari’ or ‘Night Walk’ through the wilderness on the path of the uncommon slender loris. Visitors can also take a bath in the stream or spend camp nights in the jungle. So, if you are an enthusiastic nature lover, then a tour of this man-made jungle is something that you should never want to skip.

You can get there, from Sigiriya. If so, you have to take the Sigiriya Road and go ahead Kimbissa before you enter Inamaluwa. From Inamaluwa, you have to take Kandy Road to Dambulla. From Dambulla, you can take Kandalama Road, and then you have to drive approximately 1 km to Popham’s Arboretum. Its entry fee is LKR 1,500.00.

7. Jathika Namal Uyana

Jathika Namal Uyana is the biggest ironwood and pink quartz forest in South Asia and it is in Galkiriyagama. It rests between the cities of Dambulla and Sigiriya. The rose quartz mountain contains more than 972 hectares and was officially open as a National Forest Reserve on 8th May 2005. Further, it is well known for its medicinal powers. In addition, it is also famous as the largest fossil site in Sri Lanka. Moreover, it is an archeological reserve with remains of ancient monasteries and palaces and abundant wildlife.

You can easily get there from Sigiriya. What you have to do is to take the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya Route. Thereafter, you have to go ahead Kimbissa, Inamaluwa, Dambulla, and Madatugama, and finally, you will reach Galkiriyagama. From there, you have to take the Madatugama – Pubbogama – Andiyagala route and follow this path for about 7 km to reach Jathika Namal Uyana.

The Bottom Line

Of course, one might spot Dambulla as a city with commercial air. Yet, let us highlight the fact that it is simply one of the charming ancient cities in Sri Lanka with iconic attractions. Stepping into its countryside will surely prove us right. Moreover, visiting the marvels of this splendid city will certainly leave you gape in wonder. So, if you ever arrive in Sri Lanka, never forget to visit this splendid city. It will indeed be a decision that you never hesitate. Happy and Safe Travelling!