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Anuradhapura

Practical information on Anuradhapura

  • Encounters with locals
  • Park and garden
  • Countryside
  • Lake
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Archaeological Site
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Unesco World Heritage
  • Essential
5 / 5 - 3 reviews
How to get there
5 hours by bus from Colombo
When to go
From January through April
Minimum stay
One day

Reviews of Anuradhapura

Romain Beuvart Seasoned Traveller
89 written opinions

Anuradhapura is the old capital of Sri Lanka, and today a holy city acknowledged as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982.

My suggestion:
If you have already passed by Polonnaruwa and have had your fill of old stone, you can always avoid paying the high fee to visit the historic park. There are many free sites, you just have to find them
My review

Another mythical city in the Sri Lankan Cultural Triangleis the well-respected Anuradhapura. You will find worshipers coming to leave their offerings and prayers in the majority of the temples and giant stupas that are scattered across the valley. When I was in Sri Lanka with my Buddhist wife, the best moment for me during the visit to Anuradhapura was the Temple of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This temple is one of the most sacred in the world for Buddhists, thanks to the Bodhi Tree (a type of fig tree), which is a direct descendent of the original tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment. The tree is more than 2,000 years old and, suffice to say, there are always people gathered around it.

I was particularly impressed by the enormous white Ruwanwelisaya stupa - it is 103m high and has a circumference of 290m! Unfortunately I could not stay long because of the stifling heat: I burnt my feet a little as you must remove your shoes in the holy areas. Take some socks (they help a little with the heat)

Don't neglect the Temple of Isurumuniya, situated at the foot of a rock with its stupa built on top. There are many unique sculptures and there are elephants carved into the pools. This temple can be visited, and paid for, independently from the Anuradhapura historical site.

If you like contact with the local population, I hope you stumble across a tuk-tuk driver like ours - he invited us to eat with him and his family during his lunch break! It was a fantastic experience!

Among the places I was disappointed not to be able to visit is the royal garden of Ranmasu Uyana. Our tuk-tuk driver took us in through the back entrance, at the foot of the Thissa Wewa artificial reservoir. From there, the garden did not look that interesting to us, so we didn't go. However, we were able to watch the farmers planting rice by hand nearby.

David Debrincat Seasoned Traveller
459 written opinions

205km north of Colombo, Anuradhapura is the largest city of the beautiful Cultural Triangle. If the new town does not charm you, you should not miss the splendours of the ancient city.

My suggestion:
The site is too spread out to cover it on foot and the placement of the ruins is too badly-signposted to go there by bike. I advise you therefore to visit on a tuk-tuk.
My review

Not only is Anuradhapura a UNESCO heritage site, but it is also a holy city in Buddhism. Its indescribable beauty is one of the jewels of the tourism of Sri Lanka. With Polonnaruwa and Kandy, Anuradhapura is the third gem in the Cultural Triangle.

Upon arriving here I first discovered the new town. There I found hotels, restaurants, shops... nothing special to report. Here I negotiated my tuk-tuk for visits of the ancient city. It is so spread out and the sites are so badly signposted that the tuk-tuk is without a doubt the best method of transport in Anuradhapura. It is best to begin early in the morning to avoid the crowds. There is also so much to see and discover that you really need several days to do the whole tour. Among the more holy sites, I advise you visit the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree as it is the oldest tree in the world. There is also the unmissable Mahasena Temple and the superb pools of Kuttam Pokuna. There are so many things to discover, but I will leave you in the care of your guide who will show you the heart of this holy place in Sri Lanka.

Emeline Mainy Seasoned Traveller
13 written opinions

In the countryside, around 200 kilometres north of Colombo, Anuradhapurawas the capital of Sri Lankauntil the eleventh century. The modern city faces the ancient city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My suggestion:
Devote a whole day to visiting the archaeological site which will plunge you into the heart of the life of Sri Lanka. Set off early to take advantage of the morning 'coolness' (from 7 am). Watch out for the light-fingered monkeys!
My review

I fell in love with Anurhadapura when I was travelling in Sri Lanka. I felt as if I'd been transported back to the past and was overtaken by the power of the place, which is all the stronger because it is still a place of worship for many pilgrims who flock there to carry out their religious customs. Particularly on Saturday and Sunday, you will see many Sri Lankans on family days out, all dressed in white (the colour of the Buddha), as well as a few sacred cows lost in the twists and turns of of these majestic ruins which extend over a dozen or so kilometres and that nobody dares approach.

The most practical way to visit the place is by bike, stopping to visit the amazing temples, palaces and dagobas. Dagoba is the Sri Lankan word for a stupa, which, custom dictates, should be walked around barefoot and clockwise from left to right. Don't forget to remove your shoes before approaching the Bodhi Tree, the sacred tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, and watch the pilgrims to see what to do and what not to do, after you've enjoyed a lovely fresh mango bought from one of the many sellers who walk around the site (don't forget your Swiss Army knife!).

Tours and travel ideas Anuradhapura