Dambulla is an ancient city with a modern pulse. Situated in the middle of the island of Sri Lanka, it is a little hard to get to – but the nearby attractions make it equally hard to leave. The Tea Museum for example provides more than light refreshment, giving you an interesting glimpse into the thriving Sri Lankan tea industry.
The bounty of Sri Lanka in general and Dambulla in particular is nature itself. Makassar plays host to two of Sri Lanka’s greatest natural treasures – the Iron Wood Forest, situated deep in the jungle, and the 500-million-year-old Rose Quartz Mountain Range, which shimmers bright-red and purple in the sun. When the sun sets, though, everyone goes to sleep. Dambulla may have a pulse, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it after dark. So it’s a good job the days are so fulfilling.
Dambulla’s Top 10
10. Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium Indulge in the Sri Lankan passion for cricket.
5. Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden Dating back to the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, it is regarded as the most beautiful garden in Sri Lanka.
9. Udawattakele Royal Forest Sanctuary Monkeys call this patch of rainforest and wetland home; visitors call it a marvellous hiking ground.
4. The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage The sanctuary houses over 70 elephants. Watch and say ‘Aaah’ as they feed, bathe and wander around.
8. Nuwara Eliya Its cooler climate and colonial architecture have earned this city the nickname ‘Little England’.
3. The Temple of the Tooth Housing one of the teeth of Buddha, this is one of the most visually stunning and historically important temples in Sri Lanka.
7. Knuckles Mountain Range The forest and mountain trails provide some of the best trekking Sri Lanka has to offer.
2. Sigiriya Known as the Lion’s Rock, this ancient rock fortress and palace has been listed as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
6. Minneriya National Park Most famous for being a feeding ground for elephants and home to an impressive array of native birds.
1. Golden Cave Temple This intricate complex of caves and carvings is well deserving of its World Heritage status.
- Dambulla Cave Temple – A World Heritage Site that dates back to the 2nd century.
- Pohoya Geya – Before Gongalegoda Banda led the 1848 battle against the colonial rule. He was first crowned here in Dambulla.
- Aluvihara Rock Temple – Interesting depiction of the Buddhist hell.
- Ibbankatuwa Prehistoric Burial Site – The latest archaeological site that shows evidence that civilisations existed in the area long before Buddhism.
- Golden Cave Temple – A gigantic seated golden Buddha will greet you as you climb up to the complexes.
Dambulla Art & Culture
- Duruthu – It happens during the full moon in January. It commemorates the first visit of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
- Deepavali – A Hindu festival known as the Festival of Lights. Thousands of oil lamps are lit, which happens late in October or early in November.
- National Museum – The oldest museum in the country, it contains Sinhalese artworks.
- Golden Temple Buddhist Museum – You can see copies of cave paintings and various Buddha statues here in Dambulla.
- National Art Gallery – It mostly contains portraits but also has an assortment of artworks done by Sinhalese artists.
- Mlesna Tea Centre – A visit will surely stuff your bag with gorgeously crafted porcelain cups and pots.
- Aida – You can get stunning gemstones at this hotel in Dambulla.
- Laksala – Has an assortment of reasonably priced handicrafts and souvenirs.
- Vendors in Dambulla Temples – You can get intricately crafted wooden items and handicrafts here.
- New Sunflower – The shop ships anywhere in the world. You can even get customized batiks and local crafts.
Gay & Lesbian Dambulla
- Amaya Lake Hotel – It has two bars: One is an open-air bar and the other is a pool bar.
- Samara Restaurant – The open-air restaurant serves international cuisine and a Sri Lankan buffet.
- Wewe Kade Restaurant – This rustic place has a wonderful ambience and serves delectable vegetarian meals in Dambulla.
- Clancey’s – Chill with your friends while chugging down a mug of beer in this Irish pub.
- The Bavarian – A German pub located in Colombo that offers great food and cocktails.
- Sigiriya Wewa – A reservoir built by King Kashyapa I is a good place to ride elephants and go bird watching.
- Jathika Namal Uyana – The forest is rich with iron wood trees and is the habitat of many wild animals.
- Rose Quartz Mountain Range – The view of the mountain looks like pink gemstones. The sight is definitely breathtaking. Different coloured quartz deposits can also be seen here.
- Amaya Lake – Truly a nature's sanctuary and a relaxing place for the whole family.
- Kaludiya Ikuna Archaeological Site – Hodgepodge of history, nature and religion.
- Watch cricket at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium; astonishingly, it was made in only 167 days.
- Trekking in the treacherous mountains of the Gangula Camp Site will surely be an adventure.
- Get ready to spike some balls at Heritance Kandelama as volleyball is the country’s national sport.
- Be an adrenaline junkie and try spelunking at Bawa's Kandalama.
- Running in Dambulla Oya Family Park would surely be a workout in Dambulla.
It’s been over 2,500 years since Buddha visited Sri Lanka, but they still celebrate it every year in January at Duruthu Perahera.
February’s Independence Day is filled with all the pomp and grandeur you would expect from patriotic Sri Lankans.
Sri Lankan Buddhists and Hindus both celebrate their new year in April. Also coinciding with the annual harvest, it’s safe to say the feasts of Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival are quite the party.
Floating lanterns mark May’s Vesak Festival, the most vibrant Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka.
Vel Festival sees an enormous procession marching through the Sri Lankan capital in may, complete with multicoloured umbrellas, dancers, snakes and elephants.
When To Go
December to March is the dry season, bringing a heap of tourists as European visitors seek to escape winter.
The Buddhist festivals of July and August make these months exciting times to visit.
Avoid the wet season when unreliable electricity and dilapidated roads make travelling a little uncomfortable.
Tuk-tuks are a great way to get around – as long as you’re travelling light.
Driving is quite difficult due to rugged terrain and unreliable roads. If renting a vehicle, make sure it is suited to the roads.
If you split the cost with others, hiring a driver is a good option. They know the best routes and are renowned for being courteous.
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