When you look on the map of Sri Lanka, you will see that Dambulla is a crossing point of main roads from four directions: Colombo, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Kandy. From this place you can easily reach all the main attractions of the Cultural Triangle, hence it makes Dambulla the ideal place to stay when you don’t want to pack your suitcase every day to stay in another place.
Dambulla is the national distribution point for vegetables, which are being brought here from all over the country; It is the wholesale market for the entire country. A series of huge market halls, situated on the main road to Kandy, will give you an impression of the scale of this business.
The main attraction of the town is the Golden Temple, situated about two kilometers south of Dambulla on the main road to Kandy. A huge golden Buddha statue arises high above everything. It marks the entrance of the Rock or Cave Temple.
Thanks to the generous King Valagamba during the 1st Century BC, who found refuge in the caves in Dambula and had been protected for almost 15 years by the monks, visitors can now enjoy the beauty and serenity of this extraordinary cave temple. It is considered as the largest cave temple in Sri Lanka and contains 157 statues, of which 150 of the Buddha, 4 statues of Hindu Gods and 3 of Sri Lankan kings. The entire cave complex consists of 80 caves, of which 5 containing the statues and the wall paintings. The Cave Temple is of an outstanding beauty and should make part of your tour when visiting the Cultural Triangle. The Cave Temple is one of the five UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Cultural Triangle.
The story of King Valagamba
When the Anuradhapura kingdom was attacked by troops from southern India the king had to flee. In his carriage he left Anuradhapura, accompanied by the queen. However, the enemy was faster than the heavy loaded carriage, so the queen offered to leave the carriage, being taken by the enemy. She was abducted and brought to India. The king managed to escape and found refuge all over the island in caves and temples. He ended up in the cave temple of Dambulla where he found refuge, protected by the monks, for 15 years. In the meantime, he managed to organize a new army, strong enough to conquer the enemy. After he regained the throne he wanted to express his appreciation to the monks in Dambulla by having the cave temple decorated with frescoes and Buddha statues. Finally the queen also returned from captivity in India and the king took up his duties to rebuild and develop his neglected kingdom.
Dambulla as a starting point for excursions
Apart from the Golden Temple, Dambulla in itself has not so much to offer to tourists; it is not really an attractive town, but there are numerous accommodation providers, of which many homestays and guesthouses. For an attractive price you will be able to find some nice accommodation and as mentioned earlier, Dambulla is a good starting point to explore the cultural Triangle.
Whenever you have decided to make Dambulla the base for exploring the Cultural Triangle, you can make day excursions to the various places of interest:
Sigiriya Rock, the 1600 years old excavation of the Kasyapa rule with the palace on top of the Rock (see description Sigirya). The best time to visit the rock is early morning or late afternoon. It is only 28 kilometers from Dambulla.
Pidurangala Cave and Rock Temple
Polonnaruwa, the second capital of the Buddhist Kingdom, after Anuradhapura was defeated by the enemy from Southern India.
Anuradhapura, the oldest and longest lasting kingdom in Sri Lanka with a wide variety of ancient ruins and dagoba’s.
Mihintale, close to Anuradhapura, the mountain where Mahinda, the son of the South Indian king met the king of Anuradhapura and converted him to Buddhism, being the first Buddhist person in Sri Lanka.
Habarana, a place half way between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, a starting point for safari’s to Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks and to make elephant rides and buffalo cart drawn rides through the area.
The pink (rose) quarts mountain, where therose quartz can be found in abundance.
A little bit further away, but still possible to reach is the Wilpittu National Park, famous for its leopards.
A trip to Ritigala is worthwhile because of its unique eco-system and biodiversity. In this area you can find some indigenous tribes and the ruins of an ancient monastery. Rigitale is situated between Anuradhapura and Habarana.