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Dambulla Tourism And Travel Guide
21.5° C / 70.8° F
January to May
1 to 2 Days
Sigiriya Airport (15 kms)
Habarana (25 kms)
Believed to have been inhabited from 7th-3rd century BC, Dambulla’s popular for its rich cultural and ancient heritage, primarily the paintings, statues and monuments in its cave temples, dating back to the 1st century BC, most of which got refurbished in the 11th, 12th, and 18th centuries AD. Dambulla was a sanctuary for King Valagamba, through his 14 years exile from the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, when the Buddhist monks kept him safe. Once the King returned, he built a magnificent rock temple in Dambulla as an expression of his gratitude for the monks.
Tourism in Dambulla is mostly popular for its cave temple complex, the wholesale market of vegetables and fruits in the city center, the rock-cut temple and the Golden temple. With an interesting ensemble of architectural designs and construction, most of the city’s attractions speak volumes about its rich heritage and the way these sites remain well-preserved even after centuries of their establishment.
Ancient civilizations as old as 2700 years have been known to have existed in Dambulla, with agriculture as their means of sustenance. Known as Dhamallai then, the city was led by Kings Rajendra Chola & King Raja Raja Chola during their respective reigns in the 10th and 11th centuries. The local languages in Dambulla are Sinhalese, Tamil and English, with most shop keepers and drivers fluent in English to serve tourism. Here’s a travel guide to help you find your way in Dambulla.
How to Reach
Dambulla is located about 113 km from Colombo and the first point of arrival is at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, which is roughly 35 km from Colombo.
The nearest airport to Dambulla is the Sigiriya Airport, which is 15 km away. Cinnamon Air, a local airline operates 4 flights between Colombo & Sigiriya every day. The journey further from Sigiriya can be made in a taxi. This may be the fastest way to reach Dambulla, but it is also an expensive one!
There’s a train that leaves from Colombo Fort Station to Habarana, the closest railway station to Dambulla. The train ride is about an hour and a few minutes long and priced at LKR 270 at the max. Sri Lanka Railways has trains operating thrice a day on the Colombo- Trincomalee and Colombo- Batticaloa routes to have you reach Habarana. From Habarana, you can hire a taxi to take you to Dambulla, which is just 25 minutes from there.
A road trip by a taxi that will take about 2.5hours/150 km from Colombo to Dambulla or a bus ride from Colombo Fort Bus Terminal, Route #48 to Dambulla will have you there in about 4 hours.
Dambulla is best covered in Tuk Tuks, simply because they are spacious. You can also hire cabs for the entire day to drive around the city and neighboring areas. Then there are self-driven vehicles as well.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
The best time to be in Dambulla is in July, August and January, making May to October the ideal time to travel there.
March through May is quite warm in Dambulla and the average high temperature is 32°C, fluctuating to 34°C maximum. Spring season witnesses nearly 4 to 10 days of rainfall each month and hence slow down incoming tourist traffic.
The mid of the year in Dambulla is typically warm and dry, with the least amount of rainfall between June & August. With the average temperature fluctuating between 33°C in the day and 14°C in the night, April is usually the hottest month. It is the best time to visit Dambulla then.
September through November experiences pleasant weather, when the average temperature stays more or less consistent between 33°C and 29°C. Rains keep the area wet 4-14 days a month, with October being the wettest month.
If you love the warm weather, winter’s another ideal time for you besides summer, when the temperature is 32.2°C and rainfall happen between 5 to 12 days a month.
Things To Do
White Water Rafting:
Enjoy the adrenaline rush as you go over some minor and some major rapids of the gorgeous Kelani river at Kitugala, with both beginners’ and expert rafting experiences. The rafting activities begin at 9 am after a brief guided session and continues for about 1½ hours, after which you can take a jungle trek to the rock pools and then enjoy canoeing.
Hot Air Balloon Rides:
When in Sri Lanka, don’t miss out on viewing the wondrous sights of this beautiful island aboard a Hot Air Balloon, which begins at Kandalama, Dambulla. Flying high above the lush green forestry, you’ll witness the water buffalos in paddy fields, elephants roaming without care and monkeys prancing around from tree to tree!
One of the most beautiful outdoor experiences to enjoy in Dambulla is to enjoy a jungle safari either at the Minneriya National Park or at Gilitale, where you’ll witness a number of animals, different bird species and reptiles in the untouched and peaceful comforts of nature and its wondrous offerings.
Sri Lanka has a number of stadiums for cricket matches and only one of International repute, which is Dambulla’s Rangiri International Cricket Stadium. With a seating capacity of nearly 30,000 people, you can look forward to an interesting match amidst the enthusiastic cricket fans, making the ambiance quite festive.
Your trip to Dambulla is incomplete without a heavenly spa experience at the Six Senses-Hotel Kandalam. With a gorgeous view of the mountains, the place has an assortment of wellness therapies and spa offerings that include all kinds of de-tox, holistic healing and oriental massages, which may be a bit deep for your pocket, but the end result’s sure to leave you relaxed, refreshed and peacefully content!
Where To Eat
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.
Where To Shop
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!