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Updated by Joanna James on May 02, 2024
Headline for Top 7 places to visit in Kurunegala - A journey to the history and culture of the island
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 7 places to visit in Kurunegala - A journey to the history and culture of the island

Kurunegala is a significant historical and religious site in Sri Lanka. Here are some of the more fascinating places you must check out while you're there.


Visit Wijaya sundararamaya

This is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Kurunegala. Wijaya Sundararamaya was the temple in which the tooth relic belonging to Buddha was kept hidden. The temple was built during the reign of the Dambadeniya kingdom, in 1233 AD. You can still see the old wooden staircase leading to the old shrine where the sacred tooth relic was kept. Now, there is a new shrine built in the temple area. The temple is a testament to the history and heritage of the island. Most hotels in Kurunegala the likes of Birds Park offer tours to the temple.


Kabella Lena Cave Temple

This is another important and striking religious site in Kurunegala. You have to go down the Puttalam Road and the cave temple is in the town of Wariyapola. The cave was built around 104 BC. There are large boulders covering the temple and you have to climb a narrow staircase to get to the top. Once you get to the top, there is a natural water fountain. Inside the cave, there is a Buddha statue which is one of the largest reclining statues in Sri Lanka. On the inner walls of the cave, there are frescos of Buddhist paintings. You are not allowed to take photos of the frescos and statues.


Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

The rock fortress of Yapahuwa is another significant historical landmark. Yapahuwa was the third kingdom in Sri Lanka. King Buwanekabahu shifted the kingdom from Polonnaruwa and build the fortress in 1272. What's fascinating about the rock fortress is that it is built in a fashion that made it difficult for invaders to reach the kingdom. The staircase leading to the top is built in a very steep angle that halfway through you have to use your hands as well. The sacred tooth relic was hidden in Yapahuwa for a while and the king was protecting it from the South Indian invaders.


Arankele Forest Monastery

This is a popular attraction among locals as well as tourists. If you're looking for a moment of quietude and peace away from the busy bustle of the city, the monastery is the perfect site. This is one of the best forest hermitages on the island. The monastery is named after Arahat Malyadeva, a hero who sought refuge in here. The hermitage was built in the 8th century. Currently, there are around 18 monks learning new and old meditation methods. This will be the perfect getaway to relax your mind.


Panavitiya Ambalama

'Ambalama' means resting house in Sinhalese. Travellers used the foot as their mode of transportation and would rest in the ambalma. What makes the Panavitiya amblama special is the intricate carvings found on the ceiling. Travellers used to gather and share information and stories about the travels in the ambalama. Most travellers who came here were pilgrims who visited places of worship such as the Katharagama Devayala and Adams Peak.


Ridi Viharaya

This temple is built 20km away from the city centre of Kurunegala. 'Ridi' is translated into Silver and the temple is named such because of King Dutugemunu's silver ore he found just before building the temple. This is a significant temple which belongs to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.


Devagiri Viharaya

This is one of the more important and oldest temples in Sri Lanka. If you are interested in the history of the island, this is a place you must visit. The temple was visited by many traders who came from the harbour at Chillaw. It was a port where goods were traded. The temple was built in the 3rd Century and the dagoba was made by the traders later on.