The town of Dambulla, located in central Sri Lanka, is part of the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka, and is famous for its cave temples. Known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the cave temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest of its kind in the island. It is situated in a rock that towers 160 metres over the surrounding plains, which entails a steep 20 minute walk to the summit. The walk is worth it though – the view from up there is simply stunning, and you can even see the Sigiriya fortress. The Dambulla caves have been a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists for over 22 centuries, and been occupied continuously to this day.
Although there are more than 80 caves in the vicinity, the crème de la crème of the cave complex is located in five sanctuaries, which contain over 150 breathtaking Buddhist statues of various sizes and ages. Of the five caves, the 50m long Maharaja Vihara or the ‘Temple of the Great Kings’ is the most spectacular. Another cave, the Devaraja Viharava, houses a 14m long reclining Buddha statue carved out of solid rock. There are also pieces of Sinhala art and stunning ancient murals that depict the life and time of Lord Buddha, as well as magnificent battle scenes. With several intrinsic frescoes and inscriptions that carpet the rock walls and ceilings, the temple is the largest antique painted surface in the world!
The Dambulla Caves are best visited early morning or at the end of the day for scenic views and to avoid scorching hot rocks, since you have to walk around the caves without your shoes. We recommend staying at the luxurious Amaya Lake, Green Paradise and Heritance Kandalama hotels for those looking for beautiful and serene accommodation in Dambulla. Other noteworthy locations nearby include Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Ritigala and Minneriya.