In the geographical heart of Sri Lanka is a bustling town with a captivating collection of millennia-old temples in rock caves.
From a boisterous food market to majestic Buddhist temples and an international cricket stadium, Dambulla is an interesting place to visit when touring Sri Lanka. Dambulla sits at the northern tip of the Central Province surrounded by hills, lakes and valleys. Visit this sacred pilgrimage site, internationally famous for Sri Lanka’s most impressive complex of ancient cave temples.
The town itself stretches along a hectic commercial street lined with guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and shops. Select from a variety of fruits and vegetables at Dambulla Market. Wander between the stalls to witness the chaotic activity and watch as wholesalers cart large quantities of produce to and from delivery trucks.
Continue south to the cave and temple complex. At the entrance stands the Golden Temple, a modern building with traditional styling crowned by a shiny 98-foot-tall (30-meter) Buddha statue. Browse the art collection at the adjacent Dambulla Museum. This ranges from cave art to 18th-century murals.
A hillside trail leads from behind the Golden Temple to the Dambulla Cave Temple, a group of five rock-cut temples that date back over 22 centuries. Spot more than 150 statues, including a reclining Buddha, depictions of Hindu gods and images of Sri Lankan kings. Admire well-preserved frescoes, covering an area of 23,000 square feet (2,100 square meters). Enjoy views over the surrounding countryside and spot the rock fortress of Sigiriya.
Catch a rickshaw to attractions a short drive from the town center. See plants, shrubs and trees native to Sri Lanka’s dry zone at Popham’s Arboretum. Hike amid an ironwood forest and in the shadow of rose quartz mountains at Jathika Namal Uyana. Watch a cricket match at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium.
Dambulla is about 110 miles (180 kilometers) northeast of Colombo and accessible via public buses. It forms part of the Cultural Triangle, a region of ancient towns, monuments and ruins strung out between Anuradhapura, Kandy and Polonnaruwa. Use the easygoing hilltop town of Kandy as a base for daytrips to Dambulla.