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Dambulla’s Rich History

Why is the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex so famous and why is it among the

The Dambulla Cave Temple Complex

What are the function times of the cave complex and is there an entry fee?

Here’s an intensive list of the 10

1. Dambulla Cave Temples Exploration

2. Drop by the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium

3. Discover the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

4. Go Cycling around the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

5. Safari in Minneriya National Park

6. Visit the Popham’s Arboretum

7. Experience a Traditional Sri Lankan Culinary Scene

8. Visit the Dambulla Royal Rock Temple Museum

9. Explore the Surrounding Countryside

10. Attend a Local Festival or Event

If you want to explore Dambulla in a different way than other tourist destinations, here are a few handpicked

1. Visit a Local Village

3. Take a Bullock Cart Ride

5. Explore Namal Uyana (Ironwood Forest)

7. Participate in a Meditation Retreat

9. Go Birdwatching in Kandalama Lake

Unveiling Top 10 Things To Do In Dambulla, A Srilankan Delight

Planning a trip to Sri Lanka this winter? Where do you plan to go? Kandy? Colombo or Sigiriya? These are some of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka, without a doubt, but what if we unveil an unexplored and offbeat place to visit in Sri Lanka, that has been a historical, cultural, and spiritual nexus of Sri Lanka? 

The place is called “Dambulla”, holding a central position in the central province of Sri Lanka, Dambulla has been a hub of spirituality, culture, and religious beliefs. Today we will explore the top things to do in Dambulla.

Famed and revered for its Cave Temple Complex, Dambulla is a popular tourist attraction that attracts thousands of tourists every year. From visiting the cave temples to discovering several other Dambulla attractions, we will cover it all. 

Dambulla’s Rich History

With a vast and rich historical significance, dating back over two millennia, The city of Dambulla has played a salient role in Sri Lanka’s story. Signs of habitation and human settlements in Dambulla have been spotted since the prehistoric period, as per the archaeological surveys and findings. 

Evidence stating that Dambulla thrived even during the Iron Age. But, the top things to do in Dambulla, revolve around the Dambulla Cave Temples, which gained importance since the Anuradhapura period.

With all said and done, let’s get to the interesting part now. We will not become your Dambulla Travel Guide and take you through the nooks and crannies of Dambulla, as we explore the best things to do in Dambulla city.

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Why is the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex so famous and why is it among the best places to visit in Dambulla?

We have answered these questions for you, keep scrolling down.

The Dambulla Cave Temple Complex

The Dambulla cave temples, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, hold a place among the largest and best-preserved cave temple complexes in the country. Built in 80 BC, this cave complex is a must-visit on a Sri Lankan trip.

This temple complex is made up of five caves that are bejewelled with ancient murals and are home to several Buddha statues. It gained international recognition and importance in the year 1991 after being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also among the top Buddhist Temples in Sri Lanka.

If not the only, but one of the most important Dambulla Attractions, this cave complex is a haven of spirituality, art, culture, and religion. 

What are the function times of the cave complex and is there an entry fee?

The Dambulla Cave Complex functions from 7:00 AM- 7:00 PM Everyday and it has an entry fee of 590/- INR. Let’s hurry! 

The ticket counter closes at 5:00 PM, so we can’t miss out on our excursion. This is one of the major things to do in Dambulla. Now, let’s enter the caves.

Cave 1: Devaraja Lena (Cave of the Divine King)

The smallest of the five caves, the Devaraja Lena, or the Cave of the Divine King is the oldest.  Here you can see a large, 14-meter-long, reclining Buddha statue. 

This cave gives you glimpses of the rest of the caves and sets the mood, with its tranquil surroundings and intricate frescoes showing numerous scenes from Gautam Buddha’s life. Isn’t starting your trip with so much serenity and spirituality, the best thing to do in Dambulla?

Cave 2: Maharaja Lena (Cave of the Great Kings)

The second cave, Maharaja Lena or the ‘Cave of the Great Kings’ is the largest and most magnificent. 

Tourists find this cave to be the most impressive one. Witnessing the 16 standing and 40 seated Buddha statues is among the most interesting things to do in Dambulla Sri Lanka

Another major feature of this cave is the paintings of the two Sri Lankan kings Vattagamini Abhaya and Nissanka Malla, who have played an important role in the conservation and upkeep of the cave. 

The walls and ceilings are laced with elaborate murals, Buddhist motifs, and stories, creating a surreal atmosphere.

Cave 3: Maha Alut Viharaya (Great New Monastery)

Constructed in the 18th century during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha, The Maha Alut Viharaya or the Great New Monastery is home to a large golden-colored seated Buddha statue embellished with vivid murals. 

The third cave in the series clearly shows the progression of Buddhist Art in the later years. 

Let’s explore the remaining caves and move to the other things to do in Dambulla.

Caves  4 and 5

Caves 4 and 5, are smaller in comparison to the rest of the five. However, they can’t be underestimated based on their size. These caves house many other unique murals and Buddhist statues, which add to the overall grandiosity of the cave temple.

Recognized for its ancient cave temples, Dambulla offers an array of activities and attractions catering to diverse interests. 

Here’s an intensive list of the 10 best things to do in Dambulla:


1. Dambulla Cave Temples Exploration

Being the primary attraction and a UNESCO Heritage site, you must begin your Dambulla excursion from here. The complex is a holy abode of five caves with over 150 Buddha statues and beautiful wall paintings exhibiting scenes from the life of Buddha. 

The Dambulla Caves create an ideal setting, for Buddhist history enthusiasts and art lovers. These caves are the perfect place for meditation and delving into calmness and peace. 

The perfect blend of art, culture, and spirituality. The huge reclining Buddha relic is a clear example of master craftsmanship, the other statues, murals, and frescos, painted in vibrant hues are a testament to the rich art and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. 

Tips for visiting Dambulla Caves

  • The Dambulla Cave Temple Complex is a highly revered and sacred place, therefore be responsible tourists and avoid scribbling and damaging the cave rocks, it is a punishable offence and probably among the worst things to do in Dambulla.
  • As it is a religious place, dress appropriately and wear modest clothes. 
  • There is an entry fee of INR 590/- for adults, half the price for kids aged between 5 to 12 years and there is free entry for kids younger than that, so make sure you carry some cash. 
  • The caves are open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, however, the ticket counter closes by 6:00 PM.

Is there anything else to explore near the Dambulla Cave Temple Complex?

Right adjacent to the caves is the Dambulla Museum, after your cave expedition, do check out the museum, where you can find artefacts and antiques from as old as the 18th century.

2. Drop by the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium

Next up on our list of things to do in Dambulla is dropping at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium. 

It is a sports lover’s paradise! Situated near the Dambulla Reservoir, the Dambulla Cricket Stadium has hosted multitudes of international cricket matches. But be mindful and maintain the cleanliness and decorum of the place.

Do you know what’s the most interesting fact about Dambulla Cricket Stadium?

It is one of the fastest-built cricket stadiums and was built only in 167 days.


3. Discover the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Situated at a short distance from Dambulla, is the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Another feather in Sri Lanka’s hat, this fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is among the most important archeological sites in Sri Lanka. 

This marvellous site is said to be the famous mythological king Ravana’s palace. Visiting this site is like taking a Ramayana tour in Sri Lanka

Imagine a fortress built entirely out of rocks, constructed with unmatched craftsmanship on a massive height of 220 meters from the ground, it will boggle your mind! It is certainly one of the most offbeat things to do in Dambulla.

This ancient rock fortress is one of the extremely popular Dambulla Attractions. Local and international tourists visit this site to experience the panoramic views from the summit and admire the breathtaking and intricate workmanship of ancient times. 

The Sigiriya Rock Fortress includes a palace, citadel, and numerous gardens. The most striking feature of the rock fortress is the Lion Gate; a large gateway shaped like a lion. The lion’s paws form the steps leading up to the palace.

Travel Tips for visiting Sigiriya Rock Fortress:

  • Be prepared for a challenging hike of 1,200 steps.
  • Stay hydrated and carry water, as the hike can be strenuous.
  • Wear comfortable clothes that cover your body well, and don’t forget to apply sunscreen, as you won’t find many shaded areas.
  • The best time to visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress is from December to April. It is a dry season and the weather conditions are perfect for a trek to the fort.
  • Don’t forget to bring your shades and a hat. 
  • The operating time of the fortress is from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
  • There is an entry fee, which varies according to one’s nationality, pre-book your tickets to avoid any last-minute rush.

4. Go Cycling around the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Another among the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka is Polonnaruwa, an ancient city, which was once among the three capitals of Sri Lanka. 

Polonnaruwa is famed for its temples, stupas, boulevards, and mischievous monkeys. This vast expanse of ancient archeological ruins is best explored on a bicycle, it is among the best things to do in Dambulla. 

Tourists can hire bikes at a nominal charge of as low as 350/- INR and enjoy a refreshing and historic getaway. Here you can also find some of the most famous and ancient temples in Sri Lanka.


5. Safari in Minneriya National Park

Safaris in Minneriya National Park is an exciting experience that provides the opportunity to see the amazing wildlife of Sri Lanka in its natural habitat. One of the best national parks in Sri Lanka; Minneriya will not disappoint you.

Minneriya National Park is famous for its large herds of Asian elephants, especially in the dry season when the elephants congregate around Minneriya reservoir. 

Here are some of the highlights of a safari in Minneriya National Park:

Gatherings of the Elephants

Minneriya National Park is well-known for “The Gathering”, which is held every year from July to September. During this period, hundreds of elephants make their way to Minneriya reservoir for drinking, bathing, and socializing. 

This is one of the largest Asian elephant gatherings in the world, and it’s a sight to behold. Safaris during the gathering period offers a unique opportunity to see elephants in their natural habitat, certainly among the best things to do in Dambulla.

In addition to elephants, Minneriya National Park is home to a variety of other wildlife. 

During your safari, you may come across leopards, although they are rarely seen. 

The park is a bird watcher’s paradise, with more than 150 species of birds. Some of the birds include painted storks, pelicans, kingfishers, and many more. 

Other mammals found in the park include sambar deer and toque macaques as well as spotted deer. 

Reptiles can be found in the park, including monitor lizards and a variety of snake species. For animal lovers, taking this safari is one of the best things to do in Dambulla.

The Safari Experience

Minneriya safaris are usually conducted in open-top jeeps, which gives you an uninterrupted view of the animals and landscape. 

The best time to go on a safari is in the early morning or late afternoon when the animals are most active. The lighting is also perfect for taking photos.

If you want to witness this amazing spectacle then the best time to visit Dambulla is August for you, that’s the time when you might spot the elephant gatherings, if you’re lucky. 

Guided safaris: One of the most important aspects of a Minneriya safari is being accompanied by a knowledgeable naturalist or guide.

The naturalist or guide can help you identify different species of animals, give you information about their behavior, and provide you with information about the ecology and conservation of the park. 

Their expertise adds to the overall safari experience and keeps you safe during your safari. 

If you’re planning a safari, here are some tips to help you make the most of it: 

  • Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable clothes, a hat, and sunscreen, especially during the day when the sun’s intensity can be high. 
  • Bring binoculars: Although you won’t be in close contact with wildlife, you can still get a good look at it from a distance with binoculars. 
  • Follow park rules: Stick to the park’s rules and listen to what your guide tells you. 
  • Bring your camera: A good zoom lens camera is a must-have for capturing all the amazing wildlife and scenery.

6. Visit the Popham’s Arboretum

Popham’s arboretum, located in the Dambulla area of Sri Lanka, is a botanical garden dedicated to the preservation of Sri Lanka’s native trees. 

It was founded in the middle of the 20th century by the British expat, Francis Popham, and is a haven for nature lovers and bird watchers. It is also a great place to learn about the island’s native flora and the best place to visit in Dambulla for botany enthusiasts.

7. Experience a Traditional Sri Lankan Culinary Scene

Many places in Dambulla serve authentic Sri Lankan food. You can go to a local eatery or guesthouse and try Sri Lankan rice and curry dishes, as well as Hoppers, Kottu Roti, and String Hoppers. 

You can also take cooking classes in Dambulla to learn how to prepare Sri Lankan food on your own. 


8. Visit the Dambulla Royal Rock Temple Museum

The Royal Rock Temple Museum is situated close to the Dambulla Caves Temples and offers visitors more insight into the history of the caves and their surroundings. 

The museum features a variety of artefacts, sculptures, and exhibits that explain the importance of the caves.

9. Explore the Surrounding Countryside

The countryside around Dambulla is lush and picturesque, with numerous opportunities for hiking and nature walks, an amazing thing to do in Dambulla

Consider taking a guided tour to explore the local villages, farmlands, and scenic viewpoints. This is a great way to experience the rural charm of Sri Lanka and meet the local people.


10. Attend a Local Festival or Event

Dambulla is home to a variety of annual events, and various festivals in Sri Lanka are celebrated here.

Some of the most well-known festivals and events in Dambulla include:

  • Esala perahera festival, where the Tooth Relic of the Buddha is celebrated. 
  • Kandy perahera celebration, which includes a grand elephant procession and traditional dancers, as well as the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year celebrations.
  •  Other popular festivals in Dambulla are the Vesak festival and Poson Poya festivals, as well as Deepavali festivals. 

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If you want to explore Dambulla in a different way than other tourist destinations, here are a few handpicked unique things to do in Dambulla:


1. Visit a Local Village

Visiting a local village in the vicinity of Dambulla is one of the most authentic things to do in Dambulla if you want to learn about traditional farming techniques, meet the local villagers, and get a feel for the way of life in Sri Lanka. 

Some of the tours offer the opportunity to take part in daily activities such as crop harvesting, cow milking, or learning traditional handicrafts.

2. Explore the Forest Of Kaludiya Pokuna and the Ancient Ruins

Exploring Kaludiya Pokuna is one of the top things to do in Dambulla, one of the lesser-known archaeological sites and forest reserves in the vicinity of Dambulla. 

This area is home to ancient monastic ruins and is surrounded by a lush forest, providing a unique mix of history and natural beauty. 

Take a stroll along the forest trails, explore the ruins, and soak up the serenity of this hidden jewel.


3. Take a Bullock Cart Ride

Take a ride in a bullock cart through the countryside and see how traditional ways of transportation are used in Sri Lanka. Enjoy the scenery and chat with the locals. Isn’t forming new bonds with the warm and welcoming Sinhalese people among the best things to do in Dambulla?

4. Visit a Spice Garden

Dambulla is home to some of the world’s largest spice gardens, where visitors can learn about how spices are grown and used in Sri Lanka. 

Some of the spice gardens in Dambulla are dedicated to the cultivation and processing of spices such as cinnamon and cardamom as well as cloves. 

On a guided tour, visitors can get up close and personal with the plants and learn about the processing of spices. 

In some spice gardens, visitors can also experience cooking demonstrations or buy fresh spices. For people seeking offbeat things to do in Dambulla city, visiting the spice gardens is a must.


5. Explore Namal Uyana (Ironwood Forest)

Namal Uyana near Dambulla is Sri Lanka’s biggest ironwood forest and is home to the world’s largest collection of rose quartz mountains. 

Explore the paths, visit the stupa of an ancient Buddhist temple, and take in the breathtaking views from the rose quartz mountain. Imagine stepping on a mountain made out of the crystal of love; the best thing to do in Dambulla for lovers and couples.

6. Try a Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment

Ayurveda is a form of Ayurvedic medicine widely practised in Sri Lanka. Taking Ayurveda treatments and Ayurvedic massages are the best things to do in Dambulla, Sri Lanka, as this place is an ayurveda haven. 

Ayurvedic Massages in Dambulla are a great way to relax and rejuvenate. Most Ayurveda Massages and treatments in Dambulla use natural herbs and natural oils. This reflects the rich botanical heritage of Dambulla.


7. Participate in a Meditation Retreat

There is no better place than the hub of Buddhist Monasteries and Meditation Centers to go on meditation retreats to learn Buddhist meditation techniques and experience inner peace. 

This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to immerse yourself in the spiritual world of Sri Lanka and to learn more about Buddhist teachings. To enjoy all the other things to do in Dambulla fully, take a break and have a relaxing meditation retreat.

8. Visit the Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric burial site

Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric Burial Site is one of Sri Lanka’s most important archaeological sites. 

It dates back to the beginning of the Iron Age, between 700 and 400 BCE.

Explore the clusters of burial chambers, and learn about the site’s history through informational plaques, with the help of a Dambulla travel guide.


9. Go Birdwatching in Kandalama Lake

Near Dambulla, Kandalama Lake is a popular birdwatching spot. Birdwatchers can take a boat ride or stroll along the edge of the lake to observe egrets, herons, kingfishers, and many other species of birds. Definitely topping the list of things to do in Dambulla.

10. Attend a Local Cultural Show

One of the best ways to experience local Sri Lankan cultural shows is to go to a cultural show in the town of Dambulla where you can see traditional dance, traditional drumming, and traditional fire performances.

These were just a handful of unique things to do in Dambulla. The place is full of surprises and is ever-evolving.

What’s the best time to visit Dambulla?

The climate of Dambulla is tropical, with both dry and rainy weather, depending on the time of year. The best time of year to visit this exotic destination is between December and April. 

This time of year is the most suitable for visiting Dambulla, as it has less rain, low humidity, and clear skies. This is the best time to enjoy all the amazing things to do in Dambulla, as the weather will be great.

How to reach Dambulla?

Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Dambulla is one of the most important travel destinations in Sri Lanka. There are several ways to travel to Dambulla:

By Air: Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) is Sri Lanka’s international airport, this is where international travelers are likely to land, they can take a taxi to Dambulla via Colombo.

Dambulla does not have a domestic airport. The nearest airport to Dambulla is, are the small airstrip at Sigiriya (for charter flights) and the reservoir airport at Polgolla (for scheduled commercial flights) in Kandy.

By Road: Tourists can opt for a private car, a local bus or a taxi. Dambulla is well connected to Colombo by road and it takes around 3-5 hours by car and 4-6 hours by Bus. From Colombo, you can take a bus from Pettah Central Bus Station.

By Rail: There are no direct trains to Dambulla from Colombo and Kandy, but passengers can take a train to Habarana and Polonnaranwa, and then proceed to Dambulla via taxi or bus. 

It entirely depends upon an individual how they want to travel and what is their travel budget, their geographical location, and the experience they want to have. Therefore, How to reach Dambulla? Can’t have the same answer for everyone.

Sri Lanka is a heritage country on its own, and exploring each hidden jewel in this treasure trove is an exciting experience. If you want to explore more of Dambulla and uncover even more fascinating things to do in Dambulla, then do plan a visit soon.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Q:Is it worth visiting Dambulla?

Q:How old is Dambulla Temple?

Q:How far is Sigiriya from Dambulla?

Q:What are the best places to visit in Dambulla?

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