Dambulla, Sri Lanka: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Dambulla is a large town, located in the Matale District, Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is located 148 km from the capital, Colombo and 72 km away from Kandy. It is the centre of vegetable distribution in the country. It belongs to the Cultural Triangle which was declared by UNESCO. It is also 19 km away from Sigiriya. The town is surrounded by more than 80 caves and some of these caves are frequently used by the monks as a meditation place. Dambulla is home to major tourist attractions such as the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka. The caves in Dambulla are supposed to be established before 1st century BC as one of the largest monasteries in Sri Lanka. King Valagamba stayed in the caves in his 14 year long exile from the Anuradhapura Kingdom. The Buddhist monks in the caves at that time provided protection to King Valagamba. After 14 years, King Valagamba returned to the throne and he converted the caves into a temple as a gratitude to the monks. During many years, several new additions have been carried out to the caves. In addition, the militant nationalist movement by monks against the British in 1848 was started within Dambulla cave complex. The climate of Dambulla is a classical tropical weather. It has less rainfall in the summer season. Generally, during the months of January, February, March, April and May, the weather is pleasant. There is heavy rainfall during the months of June, July, August, September, October, November and December.
There are several ways to get to Dambulla such as by air, by water, by train and by road. Firstly, there are flights available to Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayaka, from where travellers can travel to Dambulla by bus or a car. Secondly, Sri Lanka has three deep water ports located at Galle, Colombo and Trincomalee. Kankesanturai is another harbour in Sri Lanka. From these locations, visitors can travel to Dambulla via taxi, bus or a car. Thirdly, Dambulla is around 45 km from Gal Oya junction on the Eastern Railway Line and also at the same distance from Matale on the Main Line. Visitors can take the train and travel to Dambulla by bus or a car afterwards. Lastly, Dambulla’s network of roads is well-connected to all the major Sri Lankan cities. Therefore, it is easy to reach Dambulla by road. From Colombo or Kandy, hiring a private car to reach Dambulla might be a good option. There are also well trained drivers available for hire in Colombo. They have complete knowledge of the cultural sites and local history of Sri Lanka. By bus, travelling to Dambulla will take around 4 hours and travellers can take the bus from Central Bus Stand.
The best and the most convenient way to get around is by a tuk tuk for a transportation option. They are also called three wheelers and around town, they cost between Rs 100 to 150. Negotiating the price beforehand is advised.
Places to Visit
Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla has more than 80 caves and the central attraction of this city is the Dambulla Cave Temple. The temple includes five cave temples and they have roots to the first century B.C. as it was used by King Valagamba in his years of exile. The temple is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites and it is the biggest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The five separate paintings contain about 150 Buddha statues and paintings. The images were created here over 2000 years ago and over the centuries, new art was added. The towers in the café are 160 m long. From the caves, Sigiriya is clearly visible. The first cave of Dambulla Cave Complex is called ‘Devaraja Viharaya’ or ‘Cave of the Divine King’. It houses a 14 m long Buddha statue. The cave was carved out of solid rock. The second cave is also the largest cave of Dambulla Cave Complex. It is called ‘Maharaja Lena’ or ‘Cave of the Great Kings’. The third cave is called ‘Maha Alut Vihara’ or ‘Great New Monastery’ which houses 50 statues of Buddha along with a statue of a king. There are paintings on ceiling and walls which are in Kandyan style. They were made during the rule of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha who was the famous Buddhist revivalist. Lastly, the fourth and fifth caves are smaller than the first three caves. Opening hours: 7:30 am – 12:30 pm & 1 – 6 pm.
The museum presents re-creations of art from the cave temples, artefacts and detailed explanations in English language. It is located 500 m south of the main caves’ parking area. Entrance is Rs 250 for adults. Opening hours: 7:30 am – 4:30 pm.
Rose Quartz Mountain
The Rose Quartz Mountain is approximately 500 million years old and it is a mountain range. It is one of the main attractions of Dambulla. This is the highest mountain range in the entire South Asia and it is also famous for trekking. The mountain is made of rose quartz. White rose and violet color quartz deposits can be seen here.
Iron Wood Forest
The forest was considered to be a human sanctuary and according to a legend, it was made by King Dappula who was the 10th Century AD ruler. It is recognized as Jathika Namal Uyana and it offers trekking through the deep jungle. This jungle is covered by the Sri Lankan national tree, the Naa. It is also ecologically important.
Dambulla Heritage Resthouse Café
It is a cafe-restaurant that serves cappuccino and meals like pot-roasted chicken and lake fish. It also offers a good selection of wine. Main dishes change between RS 600-1000. Address: Kandy Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
It is popular among the local crowd. The restaurant serves Sri Lankan meals and snacks. Main dishes change between Rs 70-250. Address: Anuradhapura Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
It is located in the town centre and this local chain offers good short eats, rice and curry. Main dishes start from Rs 300. Opening hours: 8 am – 8 pm. Address: Anuradhapura Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Where to Stay
Nature Tourist Inn
The guest house offers pet friendly accommodation in Dambulla. Free parking is available on site. Certain rooms come with a seating area and have views of the garden or city. Rooms come with a private bathroom equipped with a bath or shower. The guest house features free Wi-Fi throughout the property. Address: 44 Mile Port, Kandy Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Sevonrich Holiday Resort
The resort offers a barbecue and views of the garden. It is located 300 metres from Dambulla Cave Temple. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free parking is available on site. Some rooms come with a seating area. Rooms come with a bathroom fitted with a bath or shower. The resort features free Wi-Fi throughout the property. There is a 24 hour front desk at the resort. Address: No: 151, 2nd Lane, Jayamawatha, Yapagama, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
The Green Edge
The bed and breakfast is located 2.2 km from Dambulla Cave Temple. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. Rooms come with a private bathroom. There is a shared lounge at the property. The bed and breakfast offers bike and car hire. Address: 8 Ela Road, Pahalawewa, Batuyaya, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Dambulla Rock Arch
This bed and breakfast is located 3.1 km from Dambulla Cave Temple. It features free breakfast and Wi-Fi. The rooms come with a garden view, air conditioning and an en suite bathroom. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property and free private parking is available on site. Address: 696/4, Anuradhapura Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
The hotel features a garden with barbecue facilities. Free bike rental and private parking is available. The hotel is located 2.5 km from Dambulla Cave Temple. Rooms come with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a seating area, a flat screen TV with satellite channels and private bathroom. There is a restaurant that serves Eastern and Western cuisine. Address: 601/1, Anuradhapura Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Golden Rainbow Guest House
The guest house features free Wi-Fi throughout the property. It is located 100 m away from Dambulla Cave Temple. Free private parking is available on site. Some rooms come with a seating area and have views of the mountains or garden. Each room comes with a private bathroom and TV. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The property also offers bike and car hire. Address: Temple Junction, Priwana Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
J C Village
The hotel is 1.4 km away from Dambulla Cave Temple. It features an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant and Wi-Fi access in its public areas. Rooms come with air conditioning, an outdoor seating area, an electric kettle and a minibar. Guests can enjoy mountain, garden and pool views from the terrace. Guests can also get assistance with laundry, car rental and room service. Address: No. 175, Kapuwatta, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Rangiri Dambulla Resort
It is located 1.7 km from Dambulla Cave Temple. The resort features an outdoor pool and views of garden. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free Wi-Fi is available. Free private parking is available on site. Rooms come with a flat screen TV. Some rooms come with a seating area. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. Address: Pohoran Wewa, Kurunegala Road, Dambulla, Sri Lanka.
Day Trips and Excursions
It is an ancient rock fortress. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres high. The locals refer Sigiriya as the Eighth Wonder of the World. This ancient palace and fortress complex is Sri Lanka’s one of the most popular attractions. It is located in the heart of the island between towns of Dambulla and Habarane. The rock plateau of Sigiriya is formed from magma of an extinct volcano. The fortress complex is surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, vast gardens, ponds, canals, alleys and fountains. Since 3rd century BC, Sigirya served as a monastery. Later in 5th century, a royal residence was constructed here by king Kasyapa. After the death of the king, it turned into a Buddhist monastery and it was abandoned later on. The main entrance of Sigiriya is on the north side and it was designed in the form of a huge stone lion which gives the name of the rock plateau. The term Sigiriya originated from the word Sihagri which means Lion Rock. The palace and fortress complex has been declared a World Heritage Site in 1982. It is located 14 km away from Dambulla. Buses can be taken from the Dambulla Bus Station to Sigiriya.
Anuradhapura is a ruined city that is located 71 km away from Dambulla. It is one of eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is rich in Buddhist culture. There are plenty of sights that are worth to visit in Anuradhapura such as Sri Maha Bodhi which is the sacred tree, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya and many more. There are buses to Anuradhapura from Dambulla which an air conditioned small bus costs around 190 LKR and a regular bus costs around 130 LKR.