Once an ancient royal capital in Sri Lanka during the 13th century, Kurunegala is now a bustling market town located almost 3 hours away from Colombo, with interesting folklore with regard to the city’s uniquely shaped rocky outcrops. Coupled with deep religious tradition, Kurunegala may be an overlooked entity to many a traveller when planning a travel itinerary to the Paradise Island. It is certainly a place that should not be excluded, due to the many natural wonders it holds and the historical significance of the city.

Top Reason to Visit

The town of Kurunegala has become a major crossroad town to many, as it serves to be in the middle of the main routes to Kandy, Anuradhapura and Puttalam. Although just glanced by many a traveller passing by on the way to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka (the major archaeological sites of ancient Sri Lanka), Kurunegala also has its fair share of historical significance since it served as an ancient capital for 50 years during the 13th century and is surrounded by intriguing rocky outcrops that are believed to have been formed by witchcraft. Thus, taking the top reason to visit the city.

While You’re There

Kurunegala’s rocks:

In ancient times Kurunegala experienced quite a severe drought, which was further aggravated by the animals that used the few water resources as their watering holes. This led to a witch voluntarily attempting to alleviate the problem by transforming the animals, which frequented the water resources, into stone. Thus the city’s valuable water resource was preserved. It is believed that the surrounding rocky outcrops aptly named the Elephant Rock (Etha Gala), Tortoise Rock (Ibba Gala), Eel Rock (Anda Gala), Goat Rock (Elu Gala), Beetle Rock (Kuruminya Gala) and Monkey Rock (Wandura Gala) were the animals that frequented the water resources that were subsequently turned into stone. Visiting these uniquely shaped rocks are always a treat, as it allows one to understand the deeply embedded Buddhist culture of the area, since some Buddhist temples and statues are present on the top of the rocks, overlooking the city.

A mesmerizing view:

Due to the town’s relatively low geographical terrain, the surrounding rocky outcrops, especially the Elephant Rock, is known for some sublime views of the Kurunegala town. A visit to the top of the rock in the early morning or late evening is considered to be some of the few places in the North Western Province of the country, where one can experience unhindered views of majestic sunrises and sunsets.

An ancient capital reimagined:

During the 13th century, Kurunegala proved to be a citadel for kings of the Dambadeniya Kingdom. Being the capital of the kingdom, Kurunegala was a centre for Sri Lankan culture and religion that boasted of many palaces and monasteries in and around the city. Moreover, it is also confirmed that the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha was housed in a special palace called the ‘Wijayasundararamaya’, which is still observable even today. A visit to this ancient capital would definitely satisfy the history lover attempting to understand the unique kingdoms that existed in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Another significant monument that is quite unique to the town is the clock tower that serves as a memorial to the soldiers that sacrificed their lives in the two World Wars.

Deep religious traditions:

Even before being the official capital of Sri Lanka in the 13th century, Kurunegala was a centre for great religious temples built by the ancient kings that go all the way back to the 1st century BC. Although many of them are quite far away from the town area, temples such as the Ridi Viharaya (Silver Temple), Dewagiri Viharaya, the Kabbella Lena Cave Temple and the Arankele Forest Monastery have caught the eye of many travellers, both local and foreign, due to the unique stories they hold of ancient Sri Lanka.

Take a chill pill:

Kurunegala also serves to be a great spot to just relax and enjoy the scenic beauty and nature all around. The Kurunegala Lake is one such place that has become a popular recreational area for locals and tourists, to just admire the natural surroundings with the backdrop of the Elephant Rock. With its cycling tracks and walking tracks, along with many street vendors selling some lip smacking street food, the Kurunegala Lake also serves to be a multipurpose park for individuals looking to engage in some invigorating activities. Stroll, run or cycle and bask in the great atmosphere of a bustling town.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about the city is relatively easy since there are ample transportation options, such as busses and tuk-tuks. However, make sure you research the distance since the tuk-tuks generally do not have meters and could overcharge.

Weather: Kurunegala is almost always hot and humid throughout the year, with an average temperature of around 29°C. However, the month of January and February have proven to be quite stable in terms of weather, with temperatures dropping to around 27°C.

Money: Credit and debit cards would prove to be somewhat worthless, since many shops do not accept it. Therefore, it is best to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s.

Clothing: Apart from the religious places of worship, be clad in comfortable clothing since it can get quite hot.

Safety: Kurunegala has a safe and friendly neighbourhood, but it still would not hurt to be careful of your personal belongings.

Meals and refreshments: There are several dining options in Kurunegala town, apart from your accommodation provider, so this would not be a problem for you.

In conclusion, Kurunegala may be known to many as a crossroad city that happens to be situated along the main routes leading towards the Cultural Triangle, however, its unique rocky outcrops that are shrouded in interesting folklore and its status as a former capital of ancient Sri Lanka, coupled with being of great religious significance, Kurunegala is a great place that has all the makings for a worthwhile visit.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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