Located 205 km north of Colombo, Anuradhapura is one of the most important historical sites in Sri Lanka. A great day trip from the capital city of Colombo, this ancient city is rich in relics and stupas.
The ancient city was home to a 5,000-strong monastery, one of the largest in the world. Its ruins are still visible today.
One of the main attractions in Anuradhapura is Ruwanwelisaya, one of the largest stupas in the world. Its design was inspired by a bubble floating on water.
It has a dome that symbolizes the vastness of doctrine, four facets representing the Four Noble Truths and concentric rings that symbolise the Noble Eightfold Middle Path. It also features a large crystal at the top that represents enlightenment.
The gleaming white monument is surrounded by rows of carved elephants and layers of exposed brick that provide both support and decoration to the structure. The site also features several smaller ruins and freestanding pillars.
One of the oldest Buddhist dagobas in Sri Lanka is Thuparamaya, which was constructed around 3rd century BC. The stupa is believed to hold the right collarbone of Buddha and is a significant pilgrimage site for Buddhists from all over the world.
The Thuparamaya dagaba is situated in the sacred area of Mahamewna Park and is renowned for being the first stupa to be built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced. Its aesthetically built bell-shaped structure is considered to be one of the most beautiful dagabas in the country.
Located atop a hill overlooking the central plains of Anuradhapura, the Lovamahapaya or the ‘Brazen Palace’ of Sri Lanka was once the tallest building in the island. Known for its bronze roof tiles, it’s still considered one of the most impressive structures that remain today.
Originally built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 2nd century BC, it was expanded and restored during the reign of King Dutugemunu. It’s a spectacular sight that attracts visitors from all over the world every day!
4. Abhayagiri Monastery
Abhayagiri Monastery is the second largest monastery complex in Sri Lanka. It was built by King Vattagamini Abaya (104 BC - 77 BC).
The property extends up to about 200 hectares. It contains a massive stupa, two famous bathing pools, a Buddhist shrine, and one of the most beautiful moonstones in the country.
It also has a museum established in memory of Fa-Hsien, a Chinese monk who toured Sri Lanka during the 5th century. It houses archaeological treasures such as gold and gem-studded ornaments and jewellery, coins belonging to the ancient era, metal objects, moulds and crucibles used in their manufacture, ceramics, pottery, glass, tiles, sculptures etc.
5. Samadhi Vihara
Anuradhapura is the perfect destination to explore the hidden secrets of Sri Lanka's ancient culture. Discover millennia-old ruins, Buddhist temples, palaces, gardens, lakes and other remarkable architecture.
If you're looking for a tranquil spot to meditate, head to the Samadhi Vihara where a 7-foot statue of the Buddha is depicted in a cross-legged meditating position. It is believed to have been created around the 5th century BC.
6. Maha Bodhi Tree
Located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree is said to have sprouted from a cutting brought from the sacred tree in India under which Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) achieved enlightenment. Today, it stands as a symbol of the country’s Buddhist faith and a spiritual place where pilgrims draw inspiration.
If you’re a fan of Buddhism, you should definitely visit Anuradhapura. It is home to a number of relics, stupas and rocky hills that evoke an aura of serenity.
7. Tissa Wewa
One of the most iconic sites in Anuradhapura is the Tissa Wewa, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. Designed by Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, it was built to increase the water supply to his capital city of Anuradhapura and provide a welcome shot of much-needed precipitation to the surrounding paddy fields.
Today, the Tissa Wewa continues to function as a useful and enjoyable feature in the lives of those who call the temple town home. A visit to this quaint lake can be a pleasant surprise after a long day of sightseeing, especially if you stay at the The Sanctuary At Tissawewa in the historical district.
Located 205 km north of Colombo, Anuradhapura is a world heritage site that showcases remnants from the island’s age-old civilization. This ancient city was the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Its ruins are still as fascinating today as they were centuries ago, and there’s so much to see that it’s hard to know where to start! But there are a few things that you should definitely include in your itinerary.