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Reviving Ancient History!

The sprawling monuments of archeological splendor along with ruins of temples and massive stupa of different sizes make your trip to Anuradhapura an unforgettable one. During times when western cultures were at their infancy, Sri Lanka’s first ancient capital was thriving with magnificent architecture, advanced irrigation systems, rich arts, and profound culture. Anuradhapura had retained as the country’s political and religious capital from the 3rd century for more than a millennium.

Current day Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with some of the most evocative ancient ruins in South Asia. The city moves at relaxed pace with budget accommodation and easy bike rentals. It’s a place that is ideal for a Sri Lanka family tour.

Travelling to Anuradhapura

Bus ride

You need to take two buses to go from Colombo to Anuradhapura since it stops in the Puttlam town where you need to transfer. The cost is dirt-cheap though. 


There is a direct train that goes from Colombo to Anuradhapura. If you are on a tight budget and prefer public transport, then choose the train. The ride takes up to 3.5 hours.  

Private car/taxi

You can take an Uber or PickMe (a local taxi service like Uber) from Colombo to Anuradhapura. The cost is high but it will be a comfortable journey.  You can also hire a private car with a driver for the complete tour, which is convenient if you can afford it.  

Travelling to Anuradhapura is not difficult, we know of a tourist couple that hired a tuk-tuk and rode it themselves from Colombo. So your options are endless!

Accommodation in Anuradhapura

Rajarata Hotel

If you are looking for a four-star hotel that’s affordable then this is your place. The hotel boasts of a swimming pool, barbeque facilities and offers stylish rooms.  

Lion Rest

This is the best choice for those looking for budget accommodation in Anuradhapura. Located close to the train station, this is a simple, clean, and stylish accommodation. They offer double, triple, or family rooms with attached bathrooms. Free Wi-Fi and bike rentals are available. They only take cash payments.  

Heritage Hotel

Located close to the archeological complex in Anuradhapura, staying here will give you easy access to all the main monuments. It’s a four-star hotel with free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, balcony rooms, an on-site restaurant in a central location. Card payments are accepted here.

Things to see in Anuradhapura

There is an entrance fee to enter the archeological complex. Cycling is one of the best ways to get around. You can go early in the morning and take a lunch break and return in the late afternoon.  

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is one of the main highlights of Anuradhapura. A sapling from the sacred Bodhi tree from which Buddha attained enlightenment was planted here in the 3rd century BC. There is gold scaffolding built around the sacred tree and Buddhists all over the world come here for blessings.  

Ruwanweliseya Stupa

Ruwanweliseya Stupa is the most revered Buddhist monument in Anuradhapura next to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. King Dutugemunu built the Ruwanweliseya Stupa in 140 BC. Two quarts of Buddha’s relics are preserved inside the Stupa and it is the biggest collection of Buddha’s relics in the world. The Stupa and it’s surrounding is considered to be one of the most sacred monuments by Buddhists around the world.  


Thuparamaya is the first Buddhist temple to be built in Sri Lanka. The stupa was constructed in the 3rd century BC. This is the oldest Buddhist temple in the country.

Abhayagiri Stupa

Built by King Walagamba this is the second-largest Stupa in Sri Lanka. It had been built as a monastery for young learning Buddhism.

The Moonstone

This is the largest moonstone in Sri Lanka as well as the best preserved. The moonstone can be seen within a short ride from the Abhayagiri Stupa. 

Isurumuniya Viharaya

The Isurumuniya Temple is carved into a rock and has some of the most noteworthy artistry in Anuradhapura. It is home to famous carvings such as the Isurumuni Pem Yuawala (Isurumuniya lovers), Elephant pond, and Royal family. Built by King Devanampiyatissa, this too has been a monastery for student monks.


Built by King Mahasena, the Jethavanaramaya stupa had been one of the tallest structures in ancient times. It stands at a height of 300 feet and is a significant stupa during that era.

Twin Ponds

Kuttam Pokuna or twin ponds are two ponds made in the 9th century BC. The irrigation technology used in these is far beyond its time. The ponds were built as source water for the palaces and temples.

Mirisawetiya Stupa

King Dutugemunu also built Mirisawetiya Stupa. The Mirisawetiya Stupa is quieter and less crowded than the above but it is as magnificent.

Samadhi Buddha Statue

The Samadhi Buddha statue depicts Buddha in a position of meditation. It is one of the most sacred sites in Anuradhapura.

Apart from the above sites, there are so many other monuments to see. Given below are some of them, 

  1. Maghul Uyana
  2. Rathna Prasadaya
  3. Naka Vihara
  4. Kiribath Vehera
  5. Kuttam Pokuna
  6. Samadhi Statue
  7. Mahamevuna Park
  8. Toluwila Statue

The best way to explore

On foot

It would be too ambitious to plan on getting around on foot in the scorching sun and heat. So, it’s a big NO!


Cycling is a practical, affordable, and fun way to get around. You can move at your own pace and it helps you to get a better experience of the location.

By Tuk-tuk

You will find ample tuk-tuk drivers offering tour packages. But make sure you are doing it for a fair charge. Discuss the rate for the complete tour including the time for waiting before you start.

By Car

An air-conditioned car would be the most comfortable and practical option. However, the cost is more but if you can afford it, then go for it!

Top tips for sightseeing in Anuradhapura

  1. Make sure to wear comfortable cotton clothes since it’s usually sizzling hot. Remember to carry a shawl or sarong to cover your legs and arms when entering temples.
  2. Wear comfortable footwear
  3. Keep hydrated and carry small snacks to help you power through the day
  4. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat would be useful
  5. Mosquito repellent will come in handy
  6. A guided tour will help you understand the value of most of the sites. Although there are a lot of stupas, all of them have unique stories. Learning about the monuments will help you appreciate their value more. 


Adventure Lanka offer licensed guides on all their tours.