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Discovering Dambulla

From majestic ancient Buddhist temples to lively food markets to a world-class cricket stadium and nature reserves, Dambulla is an interesting town to visit. The town surrounded by mountains, lakes, and valleys is ideal for a Sri Lanka family tour.  

Dambulla is often highlighted only for the Dambulla Cave Temple. It is truly a masterpiece as one of the most well preserved sacred Buddhist temples in the world. However, people often forget that Dambulla has some more to offer travellers and it is one of the most authentic Lankan cities in the country. Many people choose to simply stopover at the Dambulla Cave Temple but take our word and spend your day here or find accommodation here to travel with ease to other parts of the Central Province.

How to travel to Dambulla

By Bus 

You can get on a bus from the Colombo Fort bus station and get a direct bus to Dambulla. The ride will take up to 3.5 hours. This is the cheapest option to travel.  

By Train 

You can reach Dambulla by hopping on the train from the Colombo Fort station to Habarana. From there you need to take a cab or tuk-tuk to reach Dambulla. The complete trip will take up to two hours. 

Vehicle hire 

If you hire a vehicle with a driver, you can reach Dambulla from Colombo in 2.5 hours. This will be the most comfortable way to travel but the cost will be high.  

By Air 

Cinnamon Air operates flights to Sigiriya airport. You will have to catch a cab from there to Dambulla. The journey will only take a half-hour but the prices are steep.   

Where to stay in Dambulla

Amaya Lake 

The modern and eco-friendly Amaya Lake offers plush cottage style accommodation. This is a high-end hotel with private terraces equipped with a pool and lounge area. You can dine at the Samara restaurant and the Lake Bar shakes up some great cocktails.  

Heritance Kandalama  

One of the most celebrated hotels in the country, Heritance Kandalama overlooks the serene Kandalama Reservoir. Designed by the renowned Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, it’s a luxurious hotel boasting of a unique dining experience, pool, spa, gymnasium, and plenty of more facilities.  

Dream Village 

If you are looking for clean, spacious, and budget-friendly accommodation try the Dream Village. It is located within a short distance from the Cave Temple and the cricket stadium.

Where to dine in Dambulla

Traditional Food Sales Centre 

This is an excellent place to enjoy traditional local food. You can try local favourits such as coconut pittu, string hoppers, and pol rotti. For dessert try kavum (oil cakes), narang kavum and wash it down with some ginger plain tea. Prices are reasonable and it’s a great place to try traditional food.  

Bentota Bake House 

This is where you can local bakery-style items or ‘short-eats’ as referred locally. They also serve rice and curry, string hoppers, and other local dishes.  

Mango Mango 

This is a café- restaurant that serves good coffee and yummy cake. They have some nice western dishes on the menu and it’s a great place to enjoy mash, banger, and pancakes. There is a set- menu dinner, which is great value for money.  

Best time to visit Dambulla

You can expect classic tropical weather in Dambulla. It’s a year-round destination with warm weather during most months. August to October are the wettest months. 

Things to do in Dambulla

Rangiri Dambullu Viharaya (Dambulla Cave Temple) 

The Dambulla Cave Temple is the main highlight of the city. It is an ancient temple that dates back to the first century BC. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved ancient temples in the world. There is a steep walk to reach the temple. Consisting of five caves it is home to more than 150 Buddha statues, ancient murals depicting Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhist culture in Lanka. It is said that King Valagamba who took refuge in the cave during the war, converted the caves into a Buddhist Temple. At the entrance to the temple, wild monkeys will greet you. Make sure not to carry food, drinks or flowers in your hands unless you want to attract the monkeys! You need to purchase a ticket to enter the temple.  

Make sure to wear modest clothes when entering the temple. You need to remove footwear before going in and during the afternoon it gets extremely hot so a pair of socks will be a lifesaver! The best time to visit the temple is in the morning or evening when it’s not sunny. When the weather is too hot, it’s not possible to enjoy your time there.   

Golden Temple, Dambulla 

A short walk from the Dambulla Cave Temple will take you to the Golden Temple. It’s impossible to miss it since there is a massive golden Buddha statue sitting on top of the Buddha museum. There is a golden colour stupa in the temple and a small museum with a few artifacts.  

Jathika Namal Uyana (Namal Ironwood Forest) 

The ironwood forest is a massive plot of forest, which consists mostly of ironwood trees, which is the national tree of Sri Lanka. The forest is of ecological value and it dates back to the 10th century AD.  

Rose Quartz Mountain 

The Rose Quartz Mountain is situated inside the Jathika Namal Uyana. This is the biggest rose quartz mountain range in Asia and is approximately five hundred years old. The entire mountain is a light shade of pink and you can carry chunks of rose quartz from the ground to get a closer look.  

Ritigala Nature Reserve 

If you enjoy off the beaten paths then Ritigala Nature Reserve is for you. There are ruins of an ancient monastery here but merely 10 percent is leftover.  

Watch a cricket match 

The Rangiri Dambulu Cricket stadium hosts local and international matches. If you are a fan, don’t miss a chance to watch a match in this world-class cricket stadium. Sri Lankans love everything about cricket. You will notice this if you get into a conversation about sports with locals. 

Adventure Lanka offer licensed guides on all their tours.