Declared a world heritage city by UNESCO, the sacred city of Anuradapura is considered Sri Lanka’s first known kingdom and the Island’s capital for many centuries. Now in picturesque yet fascinating ruins – huge bell-shaped stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces, age-old drinking-water reservoirs, wild life, art and architecture – this ancient sacred city is a draw for Buddhist pilgrims and visitors. Glorious monuments of its heyday survive to tell a story past…amid the stillness of cold stony silence, the austere umbrage of trees, and the tranquility of the sheltering sky. See the world’s oldest Bo tree – Sri Maha Bodi – under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, the tallest Dagabas and remains depicting Buddhism.

Interests

  • Heritage
  • Landscape
  • Wildlife

Highlights

  • Huge Bell-Shaped Stupas
  • World’s Oldest Tree Sri Maha Bodi
  • Art and Architecture

Places to Stay

Forest Rock Garden

Style: Resort

Forest Rock Garden Hotel is the first Sri Lankan hotel constructed entirely atop stone boulders and cement pillars, depicting the country's rich cultural heritage and proximity to nature.

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Hotel Alakamanda

Style: Boutique

Hotel Alakamanda is a boutique hotel located just outside the ancient city of Anuradhapura, making it an ideal starting point for discovering the town’s cultural and religious attractions.

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Palm Garden Village

Style: Resort

Set on the edge of an ancient irrigation system, this beautifully created space is set in the midst of one of Sri-Lanka's oldest cities, Anuradhapura.

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Ulagalla Resort

Style: Resort

Set 3.5 hrs from Katunayake International Airport, this meticulously restored former chieftain mansion ('walawwa'), was opened in 2010 and is a luxurious retreat amidst 58-acres of lush woodlands, paddy fields and the Ulagalla reservoir in Anuradhapura.

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Activities in Anuradhapura

2-3h-Village Tour, Harbarana from Anuradhapura

Experience rural Sri Lankan life during your visit to Habarana, lasting around three hours. Explore the local forest and bush by bullock cart and on foot, followed by a scenic canoe ride on a picturesque lake where you can see farmers working in the fields. After, have authentic lunch at a charming village house for an authentic experience. Your English speaking guide will also point out birds and local flora.

1h-Dambulla Rock Cave Temple from Anuradhapura

The Dambulla rock caves are the largest, best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, dating back to the 1st century B.C., converted into residential quarters for monks, thus becoming a Buddhist temple. Be amazed by 5 caves (converted into shrine rooms) under a vast overhanging rock, containing images of the Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses. One of the most important centres of Buddhist pilgrimage in Sri Lanka, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day visit to Sigiriya from Anuradhapura

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Sigiriya dates back over 5,000yrs to the Mesolithic period. Sigiriya (Lions Rock), lies on the steep slopes and summit of a granite peak standing 180m high (‘Lion’s Rock’- dominating the jungle on all sides). In the 5th century AD, King Kassapa I left Anuradhapura for Sigiriya to build a palace and city modelled on the mythical abode of ‘Kuvera’- God of Wealth. Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress..identified uniquely by its shape, recognizable from great distances. See the Sigiriya Rock Paintings or Frescoes of Sigiri Damsels, locally called ‘Sigiri Apsaras’, painted on the western rock face cavity, 100m above the rock base. See the Mirror Wall here, covered in graffiti from the 7th-10th centuries.

Day visit to Sigiriya from Anuradhapura

Day visit to Polonnaruwa from Anuradhapura

Polonnaruwa..the Medieval Capital of Sri Lanka, was the second capital of the country after the destruction of the ancient city of Anuradhapura in 993 (from 10th-12th century AD). Observe ancient Sri Lankan architecture from the 12th Century..see Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas and the monumental ruins of the garden city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. Visit the ruins of the King’s Council Chamber, the Royal Citadel, the Kumara Pokuna, the Royal Pavilion, the Vatadage Relic House, Kiri Vehera and Gal Vihare; see Art, Architecture and Sculpture at Gal Viharaya,Thuparamaya Image House and Lankatilaka Image House.

Anuradhapura Wilpattu Safari

Wilpattu National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest wildlife parks. Enjoy a jeep safari over varying natural habitats with the possibility of spotting animals such as Elephants and Leopards. See unusual species of birds like Asian Open-bills, Whistling Teals, Eurasian Spoonbills, Kingfishers and Water Monitors. If you are lucky you might even spot a Mugger Crocodile. See colorful Butterflies like Great Eggfly, Glad-eye Bush-brown, Blue Mormon and Crimson Rose flitting.

City Highlights of Anuradhapura

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura is a sacred city with an over 1,000yr old illustrious history..once the ancient Sri Lankan capital. Explore this secret city portraying an amazing picture of Sri Lanka’s ancient civilization. An important Buddhist pilgrimage centre, it has some of the largest Dagaba

Ritigala

Ritigala is an ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain..the ruins and rock inscriptions of the monastery date back to 1st century BCE. It is located only 43kms away from Anuradhapura’s ancient monastic city. Visit the and learn of ancient practices of medicine here at Ritigala. Ritigala, meaning ‘Safety-rock’ or ‘Dreadful Rock’, has 70 caves and this mountain of mystery is said to have the most rare medicinal herbs and plants from the Himalayas on its summit. There are several peaks in the range and the highest peak is the Ritigala.

Mihintale

Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura..a pilgrimage site and the site of several religious monuments. Visit the and learn of ancient practices of medicine at the monastic hospital complex here in Mihintale..lying at the foot of the mountain, where a medical bath (or stone canoe in which patients were immersed bathed in medicinal oil) a stone inscription and urns from that ancient period have been found. The sacred mountain of Mihintale is considered the ‘cradle of Buddhism’; the ruins of this ancient hospital..perhaps the oldest in the world..with its layout restored, can be seen at the sites’ entrance.

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