AnuradhapuraUNESCO World Heritage listed city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.
- Anuradhapura is the most ancient city of Sri Lanka. It is where Buddhism began in the country as well as where the first kingdom was located. It is known for its ancient features such as ruins of palaces and temples. It is also home to the eight sacred places of Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura Airportaddress: Airport Rd
- Millennium Airlines - Regular flights from Bandaranaike and Ratmalana Colombo airports
- FitsAir - Charter flights from Colombo-Ratmalana
- Helitours - Charter flights from Colombo-Ratmalana
Buses travel along A9 highway, you can find buses from/to Colombo in Bastian Mawatha Terminal in Fort (five hours, every half hour, until 08:30) for a non-air-conditioned public bus, costs around Rs. 350, Kandy (three hours, every hour two or more, until 18:30), Dambulla (hourly, until 18:30), Trincomalee (3½ hours, morning) and other destinations from the bus station in the Anuradhapura New Town.
There are also two train stations in and around Anuradhapura, which can take you to/from Colombo (4½ hours, four each day), a first class seat cost around Rs 500. To Kandy (change at Polgahawela).
Train service also runs to Anuradhapura from Matara (8½ hours, early morning), Galle (7 hours, morning). Two stations being in and near Anuradhapura.
It is possible to get to Anuradhapura on the A9 highway from Kandy 166 km. The drive from Colombo is approximately 4 hours by private vehicle. Other closer cities include Puttalam and, somewhat further, Negombo.
A USD30 ticket covers admission to all the sites of Anuradhapura itself, and admission is included in the Cultural Triangle ticket (USD50). South Asian nationals receive substantial discounts of USD15 on entrance fees, Therefore, if you have a South Asian passport, make sure to carry it with you on your visits. Tickets can be purchased at the Archaeology Museum or at the entrance. Alternatively, most tuk-tuk drivers can get you in without paying the ticket but it is not recommended. Some of them offer to take you in and tour you around for a price lesser than the price of the ticket. Decide for yourself between supporting local economy and your budget or supporting maintenance of historical monuments. This old town' is quite large, so get a tuk-tuk if you want to cover all the sights in one day. Alternatively, some hotels in Anuradhapura can provide you with a bicycle, allowing you to roam around on your own. The old town is open for visiting until 17:00.
Bodhi Tree TempleThe second most sacred place in Sri Lanka, after the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth) in Kandy and also part of the eight sacred places in Sri Lanka. The Bodhi Tree is allegedly a cutting from the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and has been continuously guarded for over 2,000 years, making it the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. The temple complex is surrounded by walls, and is quite busy with monks and worshipers. Due to terrorist activities in the 1980s, it is not possible to drive up to the temple, and one must go through a metal detector before entering the complex. Bags will be checked, and it is advisable to leave luggage at the hotel, as it will not be allowed near the site. Shoes can be left near the entrance. It is polite to leave a tip.
RuwanwelisayaThe oldest and most voluminous stupa at Anuradhapura, has been fully restored, painted white, and is a centre of worship. Walk from the Sri Maha Bodhiya, past the Brazen Palace (an ancient palace that once supported a bronze roof) to the stupa. There are several image houses at the stupa, as well as four smaller stupas in the four corners of the complex. Please be respectful of the worshippers at the site. This is also one of the eight sacred places of Sri Lanka.
Abhayagiri Vihāraaddress: Watawandana RdA monastery site of Theravada Buddhism
Archaeolgy Museumaddress: Thuparama MawathaShowcases many of the artifacts found at the site, from jewellery and gems to coins and pottery. The museum is more focused on religious and elite objects, although some commoner artifacts are also shown.
- The Folk Museum: Showcases the archaeology of Anuradhapura from a more folk perspective.
Jetavana or Jetavanaramayaaddress: B341 Watawandana RoadLarge stupa (Buddhist worship structure. Also known as "Dagoba"), undergoing restoration work. Part of the Jetavana Monastery. At ~120 m (400 ft) tall, this was the third tallest structure in the ancient world (after the Great Pyramids at Giza), and the largest in Sri Lanka. It is also one of the eight sacred places of Sri Lanka
- The Citadel: This was the secular centre of the city. The Gedige and other palaces can be found here, as well as the old city walls.
- The Moonstone: Moonstones, to be found throughout Anuradhapura, were at the entrances to monasteries, and represented the movement from the secular to the sacred worlds, by following the path to enlightenment, as carved into the moonstone. This moonstone is of particular note, for its size and impressive decoration.
- The Western Monasteries: These monasteries represent a different take on worshiping the Buddha than can be found in the main part of the ancient city. Whereas many monasteries were opulent and richly adorned, the Western Monasteries sought a more orthodox existence, without any sort of decoration within the monastery, save for urinal stones. Urinal stones were often very richly adorned, and the symbolism here need not be explicitly stated.
LovamahapayaThe 1,600 stone pillars that we see today are what are left of an enormous building. Also called the Brazen Palace, this nine-storey monastery was once home to a thousand monks, whose duties included tending the sacred Bo tree, which grew right next to the building. King Dutugemunu (the palace founder) saw to it that the roof of Lovamahapaya was covered in bronze tiles, and that its walls were decorated with silver and precious stones.
- Isurumuniya Buddhist temple (Isirumuni Raja Maha Viharaya) situated near to the Tissa Wewa (Tisa Tank). There are four carvings of special interest in this Vihara. They are the Isurumuniya Lovers, Elephant Pond and The Royal Family.
There are guided city tours offered by bicycle or on foot through AirBnB Experiences
There are numerous shops in the Anuradhapura New Town. Apart from food markets, there are photo shops, sari shops, and several others. Essentials can be purchased from Cargills Food City or at one of several pharmacies. Zam Zams has a wide assortment of products, from DVD-R discs to tupperware, and is a good place to look for anything you may have forgotten.
The Nuwara Wewa Guesthouse has quite nice, though somewhat westernised meals. Non-guests can eat at the restaurant. There are numerous other similar guest houses, and the Tissa Wewa guesthouse gets good reviews.Also try at Hotel Shalini for tasty rice & curry.
Cargills Food City is a small grocery store which carries many Western products, as well as fresh produce and meat. You can get all the essentials for preparing your own meals here.
Non-alcoholic drinks are abundant. Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, and Elephant soft drinks are sold at small shops everywhere, and water, juice, and other drinks can also be purchased at these. It is advisable to not drink unfiltered tap water, so it is a good idea to buy bottled water from small shops, or to buy large bottles from Cargills if you will be staying for a while.
There are numerous guest houses Anuradhapura new town, and many more budget accommodations. Prices at hostels start from Rs 1,500 to 2,000 per person for a night.
If you don't have and idea of where you'll be staying, any tuk-tuk driver will be happy to offer you rooms that he or his brother is renting, usually offering very basic comfort at a reasonable price (A price negotiation is necessary). Usually he'll take you to see the room for free before committing to rent one.
- The Nuwara Wewa Guest House is quite nice, with a pool and excellent views of the Nuwara Wewa, which is a large irrigation tank and resembles a lake. There is also an on-site restaurant, and the rates are reasonable.
phone: +94 25-2223262address: Wasaladantha MawathaIt is near Nuwara Wewa, and is very close to ancient sites and outdoor wonders. 39 standard and deluxe rooms are available, with modern facilities. Facilities include an in-house restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and meditation facility. Excursions to tourist sites can be arranged.
phone: +94 25-2222364address: 596/40, stage 01In the heart of the town, surrounded by a well maintained garden. It has 16 clean spacious rooms with a/c, hot water, satellite t/v and telephone facilities. Internet/email facilities are free of charge.
phone: +94 25 2222425, +94 25 2224305address: 41/388, Harischandra MawathaThe terrace restaurant which is in a unique British colonial-style building serves authentic and delicious Sri Lankan rice & curry, high quality Western as well as Chinese food. Price range: Rs 350 - 850. Opening hours: 06:00-11:00, 13:00-15:00, 18:00-23:30.
It is also polite to circumambulate to the right; that is, walk to the left around the object so that your right hand, considered to be the clean hand, is constantly facing the object.
Women's shoulders should also be covered when exploring Buddhist sites, and respectful clothing should be worn. Sri Lanka is a very polite society, so please dress appropriately. One is also not supposed to turn their back towards a representation of the Buddha.
It is generally fine to take pictures, but be careful not to take any pictures of people in front of images of the Buddha.
Also, be careful not to become a snakebite victim. Avoid high brush without proper clothing, and don't stick your hand into dark or dim holes (including stone and masonry). If bitten, seek prompt medical attention regardless of whether there is pain and swelling.
There are numerous places from which to place an international phone call. Look for the "IDD" sign. There is a post office in Anuradhapura, as well.
However, pre-paid GSM mobile connections are almost free and charges are dirt cheap in Sri Lanka. It is more advisable to bring in a compatible handset and buy a new connection. It provides you instant access to IDD calls and high speed internet.
- Tissawewa: this large artificial water reservoir, was originally constructed in ancient times, but fell into disuse. It was rebuilt for irrigation purposes in the nineteenth century.
- Mihintale: Located approximately 10 km (6.25 miles) to the east of Anuradhapura, Mihintale is a large rock outcrop, approximately 305 m (1000 ft.) high. Get there by bus in ~30 minutes and be careful not to miss the last bus back to Anuradhapura. When arrived to Mihintale ask for directions to reach the starting point of the climb by foot, as it's close to where the bus will leave you. There are two stupas, a rock shelter with inscriptions, a temple with a large Buddha image, and an ancient hospital. There is an excellent view of the surrounding area from the top (Rs 500 admission), and it is possible to see the three largest stupas of Anuradhapura emerging from the forest to the west. The general landscape is quite flat, with large rock outcrops and small mountains dotting the landscape. The parking lot is at the bottom of the mountain, and a large number of stairs must be climbed to reach the top, where the archaeological sites are located. Shoes and hats must be left at the top. You will be offered guidance at (starting) prices of Rs 700.
- Ritigala: It is about 40 km (25 mi) to the southeast of Anuradhapura, on the Anuradhapura to Habarana Road. Ritigala is a small mountain approximately 765 m (2,514 ft) in height. The top of the mountain is a strict nature reserve, due to the unique climate associated with the gain in altitude. However, the mountain was the site of a series of orthodox forest ministries. There is a parking lot at the base of the mountain, and the visitor can walk up the Meditational Pathways to the various levels and Meditational Platforms. The walk is quite beautiful through a unique, forested environment. The visitor is awarded several nice views, especially from when the pathways cross a ravine. This is an excellent site to visit off the beaten path, as it is much quieter and less visited than Anuradhapura. It is quite likely that you will be the only foreigners visiting the site, should you choose to do so. However, don't expect the opulence seen at Anuradhapura. The orthodox monks did not believe in accumulating material wealth, but the forest environment is a perfect setting for the rock structures and long, winding paths.
There are numerous other small towns and villages in the area around Anuradhapura, and it is possible to come across modern-day monasteries and temples, as well. It is worth exploring the area, as there are some beautiful and picturesque areas around Anuradhapura.