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Updated by Joanna James on Oct 04, 2023
Headline for Religious Sites in Dambulla, Sri Lanka - Explore the Dambulla area like never before!
Joanna James Joanna James
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Religious Sites in Dambulla, Sri Lanka - Explore the Dambulla area like never before!

Home to the Dambulla Cave Temple and one of the key cities in the Matale District. Dambulla is also a significant distribution point for the nation's wholesale markets and a city with major cultural and religious significance. 


Dambulla Cave Temple

You will find this magnificent temple high above a rock, overlooking the lush greenery of Dambulla. This incredible rock temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved ancient temples in Sri Lanka. It is also the biggest and best-preserved cave and temple complex on the island. The complex includes five caves adorned with over 150 exquisite Buddha statues and images. There are also depictions of Sinhalese kings and deities. Dambulla Rock Temple is perhaps the best and most significant tourist attraction in the city. The elaborate cave paintings and peaceful Buddha statues invoke a sense of spirituality and calm in the heart and mind. Make sure to dress appropriately by covering both arms and knees.


Pidurangala Raja Maha Viharaya 

If you plan on climbing the Pidurangala rock, take some time to visit this ancient temple. The history of this temple is believed to date back to the 2 or 1st Century BCE.  The site was originally a Buddhist monastery but became prominent during the reign of King Kashyapa (473 - 495 CE) with many stone inscriptions in the Brahmi script retelling its history.
According to the Mahavamsa,  Prince Kashyapa committed parricide and regicide by killing his father, King Dhatusena. After this, he escaped to Sigiriya to avoid capture by his half-brother and rightful heir, Mugalan. Sigiriya, before Kashyapa was a meditative sanctuary for Buddhist monks. Once Kashyapa took hold of Sigiriya, he requested the resident monks to relocate to Pidurangala. After which, he built a temple, and became a frequent visitor to the site. This temple has five main sections, the ancient stupa, Image House, Chapter House, Bodhi Tree, Preaching Hall, and Sangharama (Monks Residence Building). Those who visit the temple will also be able to see ancient inscriptions and caves inhabited by monks.


Kaludiya Pokuna Forest 

Meaning Black Water Pond, this is one of the best hiking trips you can make while you are in the Dambulla/Sigiriya area. An hour's hike will take you to the summit of a hill offering amazing vistas of the tranquil pond and of what remains of an ancient Buddhist meditation sanctuary dating back to the 2nd century BCE. Apart from the eponymous pond, you can encounter ruins of temples, caves and foundations of the monastery amid a dense forest. Many hotels in Dambulla, Sri Lanka like those at Amaya Lake Dambulla will offer fantastic accommodation when visiting Dambulla.


Buddhist Museum & Museum of Wall Painting

As you enter the Dambulla rock temple, you'll be welcomed by a breathtaking sight - a massive golden statue of the Buddha. This is also the entrance of the Dambulla Museum. This remarkable sculpture is believed to be the biggest statue of the Buddha in Asia represented in the Dhyan Chakra mudra. The museum located here is open to all visitors free of charge. Lovers of art and spirituality will certainly find this small museum a remarkable place.


Jathika Namal Uyana 

Although technically not a religious site, this is among the best places to visit while in Dambulla. You can find Southeast Asia's largest pink quartz mountain range and the biggest ironwood woodland in Sri Lanka. The Ironwood forest came to be in the 8th century CE and served as a haven for meditating Buddhist Monks. Spread over 260 acres, there are 102 specimens of plants and rare medicinal herbs to be found here. There is also a 1000-year-old waterfall flowing down in 3 separate directions!