Kataragama, Sri Lanka: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Kataragama is a pilgrimirage town which is considered sacred to Buddhist, Hindu and Indigenous Vedda people of Sri Lanka. It is also visited by people from South India. The town is located in the Monaragala District of Uva Province. It is located 228 from the capital city Colombo and 18 km from Tissamaharama. During the ancient days, Kataragama was a small village but nowadays, it is a fast developing town. It is one of the 16 principal places of Buddhist pilgrimage to be visited. The months of July and August are the festival times where thousands of pilgrims practise self-moritification in fulfilment of vows to the Gods. Devotees fast, meditate, pray, bathe in the Menik Ganga and then worship at the Maha Devale before facing their ordeal. They do the famous “fire walking” which means the believers walk on a bed of burning, live coal. Kataragama has also become a tourist destination because of its closeness to Yala National Park.
Kataragama is located 18 km away from Tissamaharama and it is easily accessible by bus from all major cities of Sri Lanka. From Colombo, the journey takes around 10 hours; from Kandy, it takes around 8 hours; from Matara, it takes around 4 hours; from Nuwara Eliya, it takes around 5 hours and from Wellawaya, it takes around two hours.
Places to Visit
Maha Devale is an important temple complex for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is also known as Kataragama Temple. The temple complex is dedicated to Kataragama deviyo. It has been considered hallowed ground since almost three hundred years before the birth of Christ, and it one of the sixteen places said to have been consecrated by Gautama Buddha as he meditated. It contains the Lance of Skanda which is the 6 faced, 12 armed Hindu God of War, who is supposed to have rested on top of Kataragama mountain after defeating an army of demons. Followers make offerings in this shrine daily at 4.30 am, 10.30 am and 6.30 pm.
The Kiri Vehera is standing in close proximity to Maha Devala was built by the King Mahasena. According to the legend, the King met Lord Buddha and listen to Buddha’s discourse and as a token of gratitude, the degoba was built on theat exact spot where it now stands. It is 95 ft in height with a circumference of 280 ft.
Ul-Khizr is a mosque containing Muslim saints from Kyrgyzstan India. The tomb is visited by tourists for its beauty with colored tile work and wooden lintels.
This archaeological Museum contains collection of Hindu and Buddhist religious figures and statues, as well as huge fibreglass replicas o statues from around Sri Lanka. Admission to the museum is Rs 650. Opening hours: 8.30 am – 4.30 pm from Tuesday to Sunday.
Where to Stay
Wild Trails – Yala, Tented Safari Camp
The property is located in the buffer zone of Yala National Park. The guest house offers luxury tents with a private bathroom. An experienced ranger and naturalist are available for guests. It is located a 35 minute drive from Kataragama. Each tent comes with a desk, a seating area and private bathroom with shower, toilet and free toiletries. Rechargeable bedside lamps and free water bottles are provided. There is a 24 hour front desk, barbecue facilities and a terrace at the property. Address: Yala National Park Buffer Zone, Kataragama, Sri Lanka.
The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool and a restaurant. Free Wi-Fi access is available. Rooms come with a cable TV, a seating area and a balcony. Private bathroom also comes with a shower. Guests can enjoy mountain view and garden view from the rooms. There is a 24 hour front desk, a garden and barbecue facilities at the property. Free private parking is available. The hotel is located a 30 minute drive to Yala National Park and it located 42 km away from the Lunugamvehera National Park. Address: Depot Road, Kataragama, Sri Lanka.
Katharagama Safari Hotel
This hotel is located 16 km from Tissamaharama. Katharagama Safari Hotel features a restaurant and free Wi-Fi. Rooms come with air conditioning, a TV with cable channels, kettle and a private bathroom. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The hotel is located 21 km away from Yala National Park. Address: Gadolwadiya Road, Mylagama, Kataragama, Sri Lanka.
This hotel features a restaurant. Free Wi-Fi access is available in the public areas of the property. Rooms come with a seating area with sofa and work desk. There is also a dining table. Guests can enjoy city and garden view from the rooms. There is a garden, barbecue facilities and a shared kitchen at the property. Free private parking is available on site. Address: 121 Pussadewa Mw, Kataragama, Sri Lanka.
Day Trips and Excursions
Tissamaharama is a rural town located in Hambantota District, Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The town has a rich history, many archaeological ruins, nearby Yala National Park and Kataragama with its colourful festivals and temples. The town mainly serves as a starting point for visits to Yala National Park and Kataragama. The history of the town dates back to the 3rdcentury B.C. when it used to be the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom of Ruhuna. The town was earlier known by the name Mahagama and the town of Mahagama was founded by King Devanam Piya Tissa. The town gained its popularity under the reign of King Kavantissa.The town contains many tourist attractions such as Tissa Wewa Reservoir, Tissa Maha Dagoba, Yatala Dagoba, and Santagiri Dagoba.
Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It extends over two provinces of Hambantota District of Southern Province and Monaragala District of Uva Province. The gateway to Yala National Park is Tissamaharama. The entrance of the park is located 8 km away from Kataragama and it can be easily accessed from the town.The park consists of five blocks and two of them are open to the public. The blocks have their individual names. The park covers 979 square kilometres. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 and it is one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka with Wilpattu National Park. Yala became a national park in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is also an important park for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds. The park is located in the dry semi-arid climatic region and the area receives rain mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala National Park is also one of the 70 important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka because it harbours 215 species including six endemic species. The number of mammals from the park is 44 and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the worlds.
Lunugamvehera National Park
The Lunugamvehera National Park was established for protection as a corridor for elephant migration from the Yala National Park to Uda Walawe National Park’s Western region. The park covers an extent of 23,499 hectares. The park was established in 1995, but opened to the public in 2005. The park is located in the Moneragala District of the Uva Province and it extends to Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Kataragama, Buttala and to the Hambantota District in the South. The park is rich in biodiversity and it is home to a large number of wild elephants and wild buffaloes. It is also home to other species of animals such as Fishing Cat, Grey Mongoose, Bear, Wild Boar, Spotted Deer and Mouse Deer. The park also has a variety of tree and plant species.