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Dambulla

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Practical information about Dambulla

  • Viewpoint
  • Park and garden
  • Caves
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Archaeological Site
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Unesco World Heritage
  • Essential
4 / 5 - 3 reviews
How to get there
2 hours by bus from Kandy or 4.5 hours from Colombo
When to go
Ideal in June, July, August Possible the rest of the year, apart from October and November
Minimum stay
Half a day

Reviews of Dambulla

Romain Beuvart Travel writer
89 travel articles

Dambulla is a small, sleepy village known for its UNESCO world heritage site: the Golden Temple and its Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Both of these are necessary stops on a trip to Sri Lanka.

My suggestion:
If you have come from Kandy, ask the intercity bus to drop you off at the temple, as if you don't it will leave you at the bus terminal, where you will have to hire a tuk-tuk to get you there and back. If you have any bags, you can leave them at the restaurant
Summary:

Dambulla is situated at the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. It has become a pilgrimage hotspot after troglodyte caves, housing more than 150 statues of Buddha, were rediscovered in the region. The main site, consisting of 5 caves, is on a hill 160m high overlooking the region. At its foot you will find the Golden Temple and its state of Buddha at a height of 30m. There you are able to visit a museum dedicated to Buddhism before climbing the stairs leading to the sanctuary, but don't forget to take an entry ticket if you want to get in.

The climb isn't too long, you just have to ignore the walking merchants if you are really not interested in what they have to offer, however they do have bottles of water if you need one. You will be welcomed at the top by monkeys and the view of the surrounding area from the top makes up for the effort you spent getting there. As it was out of season, it was very quiet and pleasant.

The name of the site being 'Reclining Buddha', it makes reference to the largest statue on the site: a 15m-long Buddha lying on his side. As well as statues, one of the caves contains a small chedi, and they are all very colourfully painted. The largest is 150m long. Take note that you will have to remove your shoes before entering. You are allowed to wear socks, which might be advisable as the interior of the caves are not very clean (mouse droppings, for example).

Dambulla is, for me, an unmissable place, but don't make the same mistake as I did: it isn't really necessary to spend the night there. Instead, continue on your way that same afternoon, as the visit will only take a morning. This gives you time to go and discover for yourself some other destinations, for example the Sigiriya Rock. 

David Debrincat Travel writer
459 travel articles

148km from Colombo and 72km from Kandy, Dambulla is at the centre of the Cultural Triangle and has many magnificent caves awarded with UNESCO world heritage status.

My suggestion:
I advise you visit Dambulla early in the morning or at the end of an afternoon. The site is overrun by tourists the rest of the day.
Summary:

The Cultural Triangle is a must-see on any trip to Sri Lanka. A stop in Dambulla is almost obligatory as it is at the heart of this triangle and had some magnificent caves.

At the entrance, an immense golden Buddha dominates the site. Correct attire is mandatory - so no shorts. After 15 minutes of walking to get to the top of the hill, I entered the first of five caves on the site. They are home to hundreds of statues of Buddha and sumptuous wall frescos. Dambulla is striking in its beauty. On the other hand, the town does not have the same charm as the caves. I recommend that you choose accommodation 25km further away, in the calm of the Sigiriya countryside.

Paul Engel Travel writer
49 travel articles

In the past, Dambulla was only ever a simple hermitage, but today it is one of the most sacred locations in the country. Its troglodyte temples are named as UNESCO world heritage sites and attract pilgrims from all over the country.

My suggestion:
It is not necessary to stay in Dambulla. You can easily visit the town from Sigiriya.
Summary:

Although it is visited less than the other religious sites in the country, Dambulla nevertheless is an important place to go if you want to traverse Sri Lanka by discovering its history.

I went to the Golden Temples of Dambulla towards the end of the afternoon after having spent the day in Sigiriya. I was surprised by the the artificial nature of the entrance to the site and its enormous golden Buddha. On the road leading to the caves, I was often interrupted by beggars or street vendors who can sometimes be a little insistent. As well as the entry fee, you must pay a deposit for your shoes, although fortunately I had thought to bring along a backpack.

The inside of the caves appeared at once austere and impressive to me. I had to ask myself how man could possibly create such caves. You will see many representations of Buddha in the caves. The most impressive of them all is the Reclining Buddha of Maha Alut Viharaya. Find out more about my experience by reading my travel journal.

Tours and travel ideas Dambulla