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Updated by Joanna James on Sep 13, 2018
Headline for Top 10 things to do in Dambulla - explore the sites around the old city
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 10 things to do in Dambulla - explore the sites around the old city

Dambulla has several places of interest - from ancient caves and palaces, to national parks and forests, here's a few that you should try on your next trip.

1

Cave Temple

High above the south of Dambulla, upon a massive rock, is the beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex. 5 Ancient caves, the largest and most well preserved cave complex in the country, contain around a 150 beautiful statues and paintings of Buddha, some of the oldest Buddhist representations in Sri Lanka.

2

Golden Buddha

At the base of the cave temples is a modern temple, and Buddhist museum. On top of the museum building, is a golden Buddha statue, that's worth seeing, if only for the Instagram opportunities it affords.

3

Sigiriya Rock

Fortified by two moats and several ramparts, the centre of the compound is dominated by a large rock column, where a luxurious palace once stood, along with pavilions, gardens and an intricate water garden. Only the foundation stones remain of the palace, but there's still so much to see here. Including the beautiful 'Asparas', a mural of semi-naked women, decked with flowers and jewellery, painted across the rock's surface.

4

Explore Pidurangala

Located about 2kms from the Sigiriya rock, is the Pidurangala rock. Less impressive and harder to climb than Sigiriya, it is often overlooked by tourist as just another rocky mountain. Like Sigiriya, Pidurangala is a solid rock, of which the outcrops and overgrown wildness, provide an idea of what the ancient Sigiriya rock might have looked like before it was turned into a royal stronghold. According to several accounts, Buddhist monks have live on Pidurangala for centuries, however, it was only after King Kasyapa moved some monks living around Sigiriya to a monastery located on Pidurangala, that it became more prominent.

5

Ride an elephant

Elephant rides are extremely popular among both locals and tourists, and are available near the Sigiriya Lake. The elephant rides can be of varying lengths, depending on what you opt for, and usually include a quick dip in the Lake, which after wandering around under the hot sun, both elephant and rider will thoroughly welcome.

6

Hot Air Balloon rides

There's nothing like watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon to make your trip memorable. Keep an eye out for elephants, water buffaloes and even monkeys, swinging across the tree tops. Most hot air balloon rides take off from Kandalama village, near the Heritance Kandalama. After an exciting flight over the jungle, you'll land near a small village where you will be greeted, and depending on the tour operator, served breakfast as well, before being driven back to your hotel in Sigiriya

7

Elephant gathering at Minneriya Park

A short drive from Dambulla is the Minneriya National Park, famous for the ehards of wild elephants that migrate through every year. Between the months of July and September, when the water is low, large groups of elephants gather near the Minneriya Lake. It is known that between three to seven hundred wild elephants come here to drink, feed, socialise and bathe.

8

Rose Quartz Mountain Range

Known locally as the 'Jathika Namal Uyana', it is the largest ironwood forest in Sri Lanka, and the largest pink quartz mountain in Asia. According to archaeological findings, the pink quartz here dates back over 550 millions of years. Visitors can climb to the top of the mountain for a better view of the pink quartz.

9

Popham's Arboretum

If you're interested in the flora in this area, head over to Popham's Arboretum where you'll find an amazing collection of trees and wildlife, endemic to the area. Covering 36-acres, this sanctuary is not only home to a wide selection of tropical trees, but also several bird species, and mammals.

10

Fly over Sigiriya

If you don't have time to explore everything, book yourself an air taxi and fly over Sigiriya and Pidurangala. The view is spectacular, and you get a real sense of the grandeur that the palace and surrounding gardens of Sigiriya must have had during its peak.

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