Located around 4 - 6 hours north east of Colombo, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, known as Anuradhapura, is a trove of archaeological monuments that date back as early as the 3rd century BC. Consisting of mainly ‘Dagobas’ (brick stupas) that tell the story of how the kings of old united the country under the religion of Buddhism, the sacred city of Anuradhapura can be considered as the starting point of modern day Sri Lankan civilization.

Top Reason to Visit

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura possesses towering ancient stupas such as the Jetavanarama Dagoba, the Abhayagiri Dagoba and the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba that are only surpassed by the pyramids of Giza. Couple that with the presence of the oldest planted tree in the world in the form of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, these priceless monuments is the top reason you should visit the sacred city in Sri Lanka.

While You're There

In the beginning…:

The beginning of contemporary Sri Lankan culture can, arguably, be traced back to the period of the Anuradhapura Kingdom that thrived from the 3rd century BC up until the 11th century AC. After Emperor Ashoka’s daughter brought the sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree that Lord Buddha meditated under to Sri Lanka, King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura embraced the religion and introduced it to the masses. The momentous occasion was marked with the planting of the sapling at the current location of the Maha Viharaya, which still exists today. Witnessing the oldest tree planted by man is always a treat to see, especially when pilgrims perform their rituals.

Stupas that rival the great pyramids:

Anuradhapura is home to stupas that have its origins thousands of years in the past. The stupas such as the Ruwanweliseya, the Jetavanarama Stupa and the Abhayagiri Stupa, shrouded in the lush green jungles are prominent monuments as it towers many metres up from the jungle floor. It has been confirmed that the ancient monuments were some of the tallest structures in the world, only being surpassed by the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Strolling around the stupas’ complexes would make you wonder how, in a time of minor scientific advancement, such a feat could be accomplished.

Solving the puzzle:

Although the presence of the stupas tell an interesting story of an ancient kingdom, it does not tell everything. These gaps are filled in by other historic complexes like the Citadel, which houses the Dalada Maligawa that once contained the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha and also the remains of the Palace of King Vijayabahu I. Moreover, the Archaeological Museum serves as another bridge to providing a comprehensive tale of the beginning and end of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Understanding the entire tale of the ancient kingdom may be quite difficult due to the many monuments and museums scattered around the town, however, a day or two of exploration is definitely worth your time.

Ancient kingdom with a rustic backdrop:

The ancient kingdom is also home to some great wildlife and sceneries, which accentuates the ancient kingdom’s charm. Moreover, the abundance of wildlife in the form of some playful monkeys are present making it a wildlife haven. You could engage with the primates in a playful manner, however, do be careful as they could get aggressive and are known to steal personal belongings if left unattended.

Insider Advice

Travel: The city's commercial district is quite compact, but the rest of the town is too spread out to investigate on foot. The best way to explore the town is by renting out bicycles that can be arranged by the accommodation provider (LKR 400 - LKR 500).

Weather: The weather here does not necessarily change from its hot and humid climate, however, the months of April and September are considered to be the times in which the place experiences the best weather for travelling.

Money: It is important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s as credit and debit are not widely accepted.

Clothing: Due to the town’s deep intertwinement with Buddhism, it is best to be clad accordingly, as it would be frowned upon by the local people.

Safety: Anuradhapura is very safe and is a friendly neighbourhood, however, it is quite isolated due to the scattering of the population across a large area. Just make sure you travel with a friend or in groups during the day time so as to ensure a higher level of safety.

Meals and refreshments: There are a few local eateries scattered across the town, if you are in search of something more local.

In conclusion, it is often thanks to this sacred city that Sri Lanka is considered to be a mecca for the traveler, yearning to understand the unique culture of the Paradise Island.

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