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Dambulla Cave Temple - The Hidden Gem of Sri Lanka
Written by Duvvuru Anvesh on May 22, 2021 Share on

Dambulla Cave Temples, Sri Lanka – A Hidden Gem

Dambulla Cave Temples of Sri Lanka, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is situated in central Sri Lanka. It is literally a hidden gem considering that the temples are under an overhanging rock. It is the largest temple group in Sri Lanka, which date back to 1st century B.C. making it Dambulla Cave Temples of the oldest temples. The Dambulla Cave Temples are also recognised as a world heritage site with outstanding universal value by UNESCO. Although, there are 80 documented caves in and around, only 5 of them are open for tourists. But these 5 caves make up for the rest with a lot of paintings and statues of Buddha. The temples are primarily Buddhist with a myriad of paintings and murals depicting Buddha and his life story. Read on to know more about the the hidden gem, Dambulla Cave Temples.

So, What is there in these caves?

These caves are known for their intricate murals and paintings ( along with scriptures) that depict the life of buddha and his teachings. These caves are collectively spread over an area of 23,000 sq.ft; also housing tributes to King Valagamba, King Nissankamalla and also Ananda, an ardent Buddha’s disciple. Out of 80 documented caves, tourists can access only 5 of them. Out of these 5, 2 caves are fairly recent and are an extension of other caves. The other three are also the biggest and magnificent of the lot. These five caves have now been converted into shrine rooms to make up the temple. They were built on the base of a 150 metres rock during the 1st century BC, which makes it all the more impressive.


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A small history lesson about the caves

Being recognised as a World Heritage sight by UNESCO, these caves do have a rich history and a story to tell. These mountains were initially inhabited by buddhist monks in the third century BC. These monks then developed these caves. They created detailed paintings on the roof and the walls (They also made a drip line along the caves to keep it dry). These caves were considered an important monastery even before it was conquered by King Valagamba. The king initially had sought refuge here. He then converted these caves into a temple as token of thanks after he won back his capital. After this, the successors of the kingdom started adding more statutes and more art to the caves. It quickly became an important religious site, and still stands to be one.

Also Read: Historical Places in Sri Lanka: The Top 10 List For Your Next Trip

Dambulla Cave Temple - The Hidden Gem of Sri Lanka
Image Source: Pixabay

And a little geography too

The Dambulla caves, Sri Lanka are situated in the central region, in the area of Sigiriya. It is around 148 KMs to the east of Colombo, and 72Kms north of Kandy. The rock on which the temple is situated stands at about 160m from sea level. These temples are accessed along the Dambulla rock. The slope on this rock offers a good view of the flat lands around it. One can also spot the Sigiriya Fort from here. The largest of the caves, known as Cave of the Great King, stands about 52m in width, 23m in depth and 7m in height. Due to dim light, and practically no harmful factors, the statues and the paintings retain their colour and shape safely.

Also Read: 10 Most Instagrammable places in Sri Lanka

Image Source: Pixabay

A bit of trivia

  • The interiors of the caves are completely filled with paintings and murals including the roof. They all depict the Buddha, his life, and his teachings.
  • There is a giant metal bowl inside one of the caves that was used to collect the dripping rain water. But it’s been centuries, and the bowl has never dried up even when there were droughts in the area.
  • The three of the biggest caves are know as The Cave of the Divine King, The Cave of the Great kings and The Great New Monastery.
    • The Cave of the Divine King, also known as Devaraja Lena. This cave is dominated by a 14 meter statue of the Buddha sculpted out of rock. At the feet, his favourite disciple, Ananda is sculpted. And at the head, Indian Deity Lord Vishnu can be found.
    • The Cave of the Great King, also known as Maharaja Lena have about 40 seated and 16 standing statues of Buddha along with those of Vishnu and Saman. This is the cave which has the bowl, and the water is believed to have healing powers.
    • The Great New Monastery, also known as Maha Aut Vihara, has some beautiful ceiling and wall paintings in Kandy style during King Kirti Sri Rajasinha’s rule. This cave also houses the statue of the king.
Dambulla Cave Temple - The Hidden Gem of Sri Lanka
Image Source: Pixabay

When is the best time to visit?

Sri Lanka being a tropical island, it’s pretty much same throughout the year. The Dambulla Cave temple site is generally open from 7AM to 7PM. The tourists generally prefer to come here during the morning to avoid the afternoon sun. But if you do, go during the afternoon you will be able to experience a beautiful sunsets over the flat lands from the mountains.

Also Read: Get wet in Srilanka’s North Eastern Monsoon in November

How to reach the caves

The Dambulla Caves are located roughly about 20 kilometers from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. You can either choose to travel by a cab from Sigiriya. There are ample number of cabs available to hire, and they are no doubt the choice for a comfortable and a smooth ride. But if you choose to cut down costs, you can take a bus from Sigiriya to Dambulla bus stand. The caves are a 10 minute from the bus stand.

Entrance Fee

Priced at LKR 1500 ( Sri Lankan Rupee), which roughly translates to 8.5USD for adults. Children of age 5-12 can get the ticket at half price, and children below 5 years can get in for free. It’s preferable to buy the tickets in cash. Alternatively, you can choose to go here as a part of a day tour.

Dambulla Cave Temple - The Hidden Gem of Sri Lanka
Image Source: Pixabay

Something to remember before you go

  1. The tickets for the caves are available at the base of the hill. Don’t forget to grab one, because you will have to come back all the way down the hill to buy them. Unless you fancy a cardio workout, please keep this in mind.
  2. There are around 300 stairs to climb. So carry a water bottle, especially if you are going during afternoons.
  3. You may want to carry some snacks if you are traveling in the morning, as it may take about 3-4 hours to get out again.
  4. That being said, the caves are known to have monkeys loitering around. With your best interests at heart, don’t entice them with food or any such. They are mischievous, and may end up taking your loose clothing or accessories.
  5. Like mentioned, the temple is of outmost importance in the buddhist circles. Be sure to dress appropriately. You are not supposed to wearing shorts or exposing your shoulders. You can also buy a body wrap at the entrance if required.

Also Read: The Do’s and Don’ts guide for your Srilanka vacation

There are plenty of places to stay and visit near the Dambulla Caves if you like to tour more. We’d also be glad to help out plan your trips. Check out our Sri Lanka Travel Packages at PickYourTrail. We help you curate packages based on your requirements. Reach out to us at or check our mobile app! Happy exploring!

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