Sri Lanka, Kurunegala: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Kurunegala is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of the North Western Province and the Kurunegala District. It is located 116 km from Colombo and 60 km from Kandy. It was an ancient royal capital for 50 years, from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century. It is surrounded by vast coconut plantations and neatly placed rubber estates. The city holds many temples, monuments and monasteries that are left from the ancient days. The city was once home to the four ancient kingdoms such as Panduwasnuwara, Kurunegala, Yapauwa and Dambadeniya. There is a lake in the middle of the city and huge rocks in the background. The largest of these rocks is the dark rock, Etagala or known as ‘Elephant Rock’ of about 325 m, having a sitting Buddha statue on top of it. The city features a tropical rainforest climate and the city is tropical and hot throughout the year. Therefore, it can be visited anytime.
The city is located around 116 km from Colombo and it is easily accessible by train, bus or a private vehicle. Buses can be taken from the Pettah Bus Stand at Colombo or buses can be taken from the cities of Anuradhapura and Negombo. The city is well connected to various places in the country by road. There are also trains to Kurunegala by using the Northern Railway Line. The city lies on the route from Kandy to the Puttalam and Colombo to Anuradhapura. There are eight daily trains running between Colombo and Kurunegala, and four daily trains between Colombo and Anuradhapura that pass through Kurungala. The railway station of Kurunegala is around 2 km from the town centre. From the airport, it is easier to hire a taxi from the airport to get to Kurunegala. The nearest airport to Kurunegala is the Bhadarnayake International Airport.
Most Sri Lankans travel around the towns by tuk tuk also known as three wheelers. Negotiating the price beforehand is recommended. Travelling by bus is also an affordable way to get around and locals might be asked for help for directions.
Places to Visit
The Rocks of Kurunegala
They are spreaded wide at the background of the city. Elephant Rock stands 325 meters tall. According to the legend, Kurunegala once experienced severe drought when the elephants threatened the town’s water supply, hence they were magically turned into stone. These unique rocks are considered to be significant geological feature of the Wayamba province. There are seven of these unique rocks which are Ibba-gala (Tortoise Rock), Ada-gala (Eel Rock), Elu-gala (Goat Rock), Kuruminiya-gala (Beetle Rock), Wandura-gala (Monkey Rock), Yakdessa-gala (Witch Rock) and Goni-gala (Sack Rock).
Kurunegala Lake is a large man made lake that is located at the outskirts of the town of Kurunegala on the Kurunegala – Dambulla Road. The lake was built by ancient kings. It is surrounded by rocky hills and patches of green. The tank is also used as a water supply source to the city.
Kurunegala Clock Tower
The Clock Tower was constructed in the memory of soldiers who fought in the First World War. It was built in 1922 and the tower is also used as a memorial for the soldiers who died in the Second World War. It is located at the centre of the town and it is a known tourist attraction. There is also the central market and Kurunegala court of law located at the vicinity of the Clock Tower.
After climbing the stairs, there is the ancient rock cave temple of Kele Dambulla. According to a legend, the rock temple was named after King Walagamba and is locally known as Kele DAmbulla. It is also believed that this site has served as a security frontier during ancient times. There is also a dagoba standing next to the table and after the dagoba, there is a rock carving or Siri Pathula.
Ras Vehera Sesuruwa Buddha Statue
It is a massive Buddha statue which is etched in to the face of a rock. It is known as Ras Veheral but it is also referred to as Sesuruwa. The statue measures a height of 39 feet and 3 inches. It is belieced that the statue embodies the phrase freedom from fear which also known as Abhaya Mudra. The statue has not been done and there are certain elements about the statue that has not been completed.
It is one of the oldest capitals of Sri Lanka. It is believed that it was the capital of the kind Panduvasdeva, who succeeded Vijaya, the first king of Sri Lanka. There are several archaeological remains in Panduwasnuwara that dates back to the 12th century. During the rule of King Parakramabahu I, Panduwasnuwara was a stepping stone to his capital of Polonnaruwa. Some of the existing remains are the oldest temple, ruins of the royal palace and a Bodhigara.
Where to Stay
Kandyan Reach Hotel
The hotel boasts a restaurant, bar and free Wi-Fi. There is an outdoor pool and a spa centre at the hotel. Guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Free private parking is available on site. Certain unites have a seating area. Certain rooms feature views of the mountains or pool. Rooms come with a private bathroom. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The hotel also offers car hire. It is located 63 km away from Bandaranaike International Airport. Address: No 344-350, Kandy Road, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
The guest house features free Wi-Fi. The guest house also offers pet-friendly accommodation in Kurunegala. Free private parking is available on site. Rooms come with a private bathroom. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The guest house is easily accessible by car or bus. Address: No 12, Sama Mawatha, Wilgoda Road, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
Bravo City Hotels
The hotel features air conditioned rooms and free private parking. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Rooms come with a flat screen TV. Every room is equipped with a private bathroom. The hotel also features free Wi-Fi. There is a shared lounge at the property. Address: No 250, Colombo Road, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
The bed and breakfast offers a restaurant. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. Free Wi-Fi access is available in the public areas of the property. Rooms come with air conditioning, a flat screen satellite TV and work desk. There is also an electric kettle and tea/coffee maker. Private bathroom comes with a shower, a hairdryer and free toiletries. There are barbecue facilities and a terrace at the hotel. The property offers free parking. Guests can enjoy refreshing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at the bar. Address: 604, Malkaduwawa, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
Littlemore Bungalow offers a relaxing stay in a luxurious villa. The property is surrounded by tropical greenery and the property features an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant and free Wi-Fi throughout the property. Rooms come with a flat screen TV, air conditioning and a seating area. Private bathrooms come with a shower, a bathrobe and free toiletries. Guests can enjoy the garden view from all rooms. Other facilities like tour desk and luggage storage are offered. Guests can enjoy a variety of Sri Lankan and Western dishes at the restaurant. Address: Pellandeniya, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
Free private parking is available on site. The accommodation comes with a balcony, a dining area and a seating area with a flat screen TV. There is a shared bathroom with a shower in every unit. Address: No 10, Rukmal Place, Uyandana, Kurunegala, Sri Lanka.
Excursions and Day Trips
It is located 30 km south west of Kurunegala. It is currently a tourist attraction and it was once an ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka. It is the six ponds of 13th century that were part of the palace buildings which has only few remains left. Dambadeniya was the royal capital during 13th century, where the remains of royal palace, temple of tooth relic, gardens and ponds have been excavated.
Arankele is located 24 km north of Kurunegala. Its main tourist attraction is a 6th century cave hermitage up a forested hillside which was used for meditation. It provided an austere abode for a group of monks. These monks made Arankele their home seeking isolation and seclusion from the rest of the world. The ruins of Arankele are honoured as an ancient forest monastery. What is special about these buildings is the surrounding water troughs which are said to have kept the interior of the building cool.
It is located about 20 km away from the ancient kingdom of Kurungala. The temple of Ridi Vihawaya is located in a small village called Ridi Gama. It is believed that the temple was built by King Dutugemunu in the memory of the treasure that it held within it, a silver ore mine. This Buddhist temple site contains rock cave hermitages and an image house with Kandyan paintings of the 18th century. There has been multiple discoveries in the area including some Buddha statues and an ivory laid door frame. There is also an artificial lake at the foothills of Ridi Vihariya that also attracts travellers.