The city of Dambulla in Sri Lanka is just 5 hours from the bustling Colombo. Located in the Matale District, Central Province, Dambulla is famous because it houses the Dambulla Cave Temple – the largest, best-preserved, cave-temple complex in the country. Also known as Golden Rock Temple, this World Heritage Site comprises of a cave monastery and five sanctuaries.
There are more than 80 documents caves within the 2000 feet of the temple’s premises, but there are five main complexes that have paintings and sculptures of Lord Buddha including the beautiful 45-foot sleeping Buddha statue. Though tourists mostly visit the city just to see these caves, there are other beautiful sights around the city like the Rose Quartz Mountain, Iron Wood Forest and the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium which was built in just 167 days. Most travellers combine a visit to Dambulla with a visit to Sigiriya’s ancient rock fortress. This 660-foot column of rock is in the middle of a thick green tropical forest and is called the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Everything in Dambulla is reasonably priced, including the delicious authentic Sri Lankan food that is made with generous amounts of herbs and spices.
A town located in Matale, Sri Lanka’s Central Province, about 148 km northeast of Colombo, Dambulla is a hub for vegetable distribution in the country. A treasure trove of ancient monuments that attracts visitors from all across the globe, Dambulla also houses one of the largest rose quartz mountains in South Asia and an International Cricket Stadium.
With a variety of historical cave temples that are known to be amongst the best-preserved ruins, most of these complex’s date back to the 7th century BC, resplendent with murals and sculptures that were included over a period of time and signify the momentous architecture and flow of spiritual figurines, ranging from Lord Buddha to Lord Vishnu to Lord Ganesh. And just at a little distance from Dambulla is a pre-historic burial site called The Ibbankatuwa with over 2700-year-old human remains which depict curious evidence of settlement before the impact of the Indian Continent. Here are some of the best and easier ways to reach Dambulla.
Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport serves the entire country and is 35 km from Colombo City, and about 113 km from Dambulla. With the airport connected to some cities of India, namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Madurai, you can book your flights on Sri Lankan Airlines, Air India, Indigo, Spicejet, and Jet Airways.
On arrival in Sri Lanka, you can travel by bus or taxi to Dambulla, in terms of pocket-friendly travel options. You can also travel by air, from Colombo to Sigiriya airport, which is about 15 km/22 mins. from Dambulla. Local airline-Cinnamon Air operates flights daily to Sigiriya and will have you there in 30 minutes. Whilst this is the fastest way to reach Dambulla, it is also steep.
One of the best ways to reach Dambulla is to take a train from Colombo Fort Station to Habarana and from there travel by cab to Dambulla. The train line (Colombo-Trincomalee) will take about 1 hour and 11 minutes to reach Habarana and cost you anything between LKR 80-270. The onward journey from Habarana by taxi will be 25 minutes or so for LKR 650-800.
If you want to explore a road trip, hire a taxi from Colombo to Dambulla which will take roughly 2 ½ hours and cover approx. 150 km distance, costing you about LKR 14000-17,800.
Before you catch a bus to go to Dambulla, you should know that there are two types of bus operators in Sri Lanka: the Sri Lanka Transport Board (SLTB or CTB) and the Private Operators. The CTB is government operated and is painted in red, while the private buses are usually white with colored stripes. With 4 fare categories to choose from – Normal, semi-luxury, luxury & super-luxury, the normal bus service is non-air conditioned with basic seating and less legroom, filled nearly to the brim. The fare is minimal comparatively but more than the fare of a 3rd class reservation on a train.
Most buses in the long-distance segment begin at the Colombo Private Terminal while most CTB buses operate from the Colombo Fort Terminal. For a journey of less than a 100 km, the usual bus fare is less than LKR 400. The journey by bus from Colombo’s Bastian Mawatha Terminal will have you in Dambulla in approx. 4 hours. Route nos. 48, 48-2, 48-3 are the best to travel in and the buses operate every 30 minutes to an hour. The bus fare is less than LKR 300.
With over 68,000 people living in Dambulla, most of the populace here’s Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamilians, Indian Tamilians, and Moors, with a majority being Theravada Buddhists and then Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. Sri Lankan people are very warm in their hospitality; and their traditions, religion and social skills are predominantly influenced by their religious beliefs & rituals. Although attuned to the Western culture, they don traditional wear during all local festivals and celebrations.
Dambulla has a tropical climate abundant with rainfall, which is heavy from April through January and the temperature is more or less consistent between 30°C-34°C at a maximum and 15°C-17°C on the lower side, for the most part of the year. Dambulla’s characterized mostly by two seasons: summer and monsoons. Tourisms at its peak in July, followed by August and then January in Dambulla, while March is the least visited month. The best time to visit Dambulla is between May through October when the weather is great.
With a combination of temperature and humidity levels, months of March to May are usually warm, when the maximum temperature fluctuates between 34°C and 32°C, following a similar pattern in the subsequent months. Rainfall occurs mostly between 4-10 days in a month, making spring the slowest season for tourism in Dambulla.
Mid-year in Dambulla is dry and witnesses high temperatures, with 0-3 days of rainfall from June to August. With an average temperature of 33°C on the high and minimum of 14°C, April’s the warmest month in the year, which makes summers the best time to visit Dambulla. You can expect a huge surge in the lodging and hotel tariffs.
The fall season in Dambulla witnesses’ temperatures oscillating between 33°C-29°C, which is rather pleasant, keeping the wind and humidity levels in mind. Rains or snowfall are significantly higher during this period with 4-14 days of wet period in a month. October receives the most rainfall in the year. Fall season slows down the incoming tourist traffic during this time, unless there is a cricket match scheduled in the town.
Dambulla’s perfect for warm weather enthusiasts with an average high temperature of 32.2°C and 28.4°C. Rains drench the town, for 5-12 days in a month on an average, making it the second busiest time in the year to visit the city.
Amaya Lake Kandalama
Contemporary and eco-friendly Amaya Lake provides stylish cottage accommodation at a steal of a price. Suites boast private terraces complete with pool and separate lounge area. Samara Restaurant dishes up a modern Sri Lankan affair whilst cocktails can be enjoyed at Lake Bar. Don't miss the spa!
Stunning, modern architectural hotel overlooking Kandalama Reservoir. Sultry rooms enjoy mod-cons, whirlpool baths and private balconies. Boasting a Six Senses Spa, unique cave dining experiences and plenty of on-site activities: wellness enthusiasts, couples and families alike will love it.
Lake Lodge Boutique Hotel
A charming B&B well placed for sightseeing in the Cultural Triangle, overlooking a Kandalama Lake. Simple airy rooms with large balconies and panoramic views of the hills, a swimming pool and leafy terrace. A great spot for enjoying Sri Lanka's abundant wildlife
Only 5 hours from the appealing capital city of Colombo, Dambulla’s located in the Matale District, in the Central province of Sri Lanka. Renowned for the Cave Temple, one of the largest and well-maintained complexes in Sri Lanka, Dambulla houses nearly 80 caves, some of which were considered sacred for meditation purposes. Few other significant tourist attractions include 5 caves, adorned with paintings and statues, making the city a must-see for archeological enthusiasts and travelers looking for peaceful scenery and tranquil atmosphere. Beside visiting the popular and star attractions, some other things to do in the beautiful city of Dambulla are stated below.
White Water Rafting
The River Rafting experience in the beautiful Kelani River in Kitugala is a must for all adventurers and a perfect day activity when in Dambulla. From the moment you arrive here, the scenic atmosphere will keep you mesmerized and the rafting journey will cover about 5 km in the river with the inclusion of 4 minor and 5 major rapids, having you go up and down like a roller coaster, leaving you joyfully wet and on an adrenaline high long after the experience is over!
Hot Air Balloon Ride
One of the most popular outdoor activities in Dambulla that attracts most travellers is the Hot Air Balloon Ride at the Kandalama Lake, from where you take-off for an hour of captivating aerial view of lush greenery, cultural heritage sites, wildlife and many other beautiful landscapes of the city.
A fun and informative way of becoming one with Sri Lanka’s natural beauty is to enjoy a nature safari to Minneriya or Gilitale National Parks, which will give you a chance to witness the ecological habitat and glorious wonders of Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna. Say hello to magnificent herds of elephants and perhaps ride one of them, greet nearly 150 species of resident & migratory birds at the park and just revel in the adventurous yet rejuvenating experience of a wildlife expedition!
Atop the Heritance Hotel Kandalam is the Six Senses Spa in Dambulla which offers a breath-taking view of the lake and the mountains and has a lovely selection of therapies using natural ingredients that are sourced locally and aim for a holistic healing experience. With an assortment of oriental, detox, deep tissue, holistic & energizing massages, these therapies may be a bit steep, but the refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed aura of body, mind & spirit will make it worth every dime spent!
Enjoy a cricket match with an enthusiastic crowd and in the midst of a festive ambiance, unlike the dull and demure atmosphere of most English cricket grounds! A one-day match or 20-20 cricket matches mostly happen in Sri Lanka’s chief test match venues, of which Dambulla’s Rangiri Stadium is the only international venue. 30,000 seat strong, the stadium is located on a 60-acre leased site.
Private Village Tour with Lunch
Explore the simple yet busy life of the locals in one of Dambulla’s villages. In the company of an experienced guide, visit the village in a tuk-tuk and be introduced to the local customs of the village, meet them & get to know more about their lives, their work and the social activities they engage in. Enjoy riding a bullock cart, or take a boat ride in the lake. Become familiar with different agricultural techniques at a farm and finish the tour with a live cook-out session with a scrumptious traditional Sri Lankan lunch.
The most convenient way of getting around in Dambulla is via Tuk Tuks, which are easily available for hire everywhere, with a wider and longer space for legroom and luggage as well. Then there are cabs to take you on a city-hopping spree. With local cab operators like Lion cabs, Taxi Sri Lanka and Taxi Dambulla, you can reserve a cab on call.
There are some companies that provide chauffeur driven vehicles or self-driven cars, for multi-city travels, with experienced drivers, and you can use the operators like Sri Lanka rent-a-car or Dambulla car rentals for hire
Of all the amazing things to do when on a holiday, is eating. And Dambulla doesn’t shy away from offering you some melt-in-the-mouth dishes that range between varieties of quick bites to authentic specialties to Global cuisine. Here are some of the popular choices to explore in Dambulla.
A known joint both locally and amongst visitors, Rithu Restaurant, Inamaluwa serves some of the most delicious curries you’d like, in addition, to prompt service and a warm host. Their offerings include a vegetarian-friendly, gluten-free and vegan menu in addition to an amazing line up of seafood, local cuisine and fast food. The prices here are pretty reasonable given the top food quality and welcoming ambiance. Enroute to Anuradhapura, is the Bentota Bake House where you can indulge in some of the best-baked delights. The chicken kottu, the hoppers with curry & coconut sambal are a must try here.
Sakura, Ambepussa (Trincomalee Highway) has a lovely atmosphere and an extravagant range of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. Apt for all kinds of foodies, the eatery specializes both in local as well as Asian fares. One of the chicest restaurants in Dambulla is the Café Kachchan, located in the classy Hotel Heritance, Kandalama with an amazing lake view and rich dining experience.
The distinct scenic beauty and the virgin attractions in Sri Lanka will never tire you of your desire to explore more! The next best thing to enjoy is the local crafts here, and shop to your heart’s content at the Sigiriya Crafts Complex, Sigiriya Road-Dambulla. The place opens for business at 8 am every day and stays functional till 8 pm. You can look forward to some of the most beautiful and unique handcrafted as well as artistic offerings by Sri Lanka’s best artisans, with an assortment of art, sculptures, souvenirs and home décor items. Moderately priced, the artefacts here are worth a shopping spree!
Apart from the natural beauty of Sri Lanka, another significant attraction is its fresh produce, and the best way to enjoy that is to shop at the Dambulla Produce Market. Here you’ll witness locals selling different varieties of fruits and vegetables, haggling for a good price, in addition to letting you into their world of rich traditions and daily customs. Don’t leave without tasting the wholesome and sweet bananas here!
Tucked in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, the humble town of Dambulla is a treasure trove of historical monuments that are definitely worth a visit. Of all the places to visit in Dambulla, the amazing Dambulla cave temple complex must be first on your list.
Dambulla is an important shrine in the Buddhist religion in Sri Lanka, remarkable for its association with the long-standing and wide-spread tradition of living Buddhist ritual practices and pilgrimage for more than two millennia.