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Anuradhapura is one of the three sacred cities of Sri Lanka that form the Golden Triangle. Of all the pre-existing capitals of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura was the most famous and most influential city. When European culture was in its infancy, there was already a developed city that flourished in the arts, the humanities, hydraulic technology, and, of course, Buddhism.
Modern Anuradhapura consists of the Old City and the New City. The old city is a substantial historical park with ancient ruins of city palaces, gardens, Buddhist temples, monasteries and dagobas, and stupas. Hotels, guest houses, shops, and restaurants are primarily located in the new city. Anuradhapura was one of the ancient cultural hub capitals we wanted to visit in Sri Lanka. After Sigiriya and its Lion rock, we needed something exceptional. If you want to visit the Anuradhapura then here you will know all about this. Let’s start our journey!
Anuradhapura is the administrative center of the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and one of the oldest cities on the island of Ceylon. For a long time, Anuradhapura, located in a strategically important place - at the intersection of two-port areas - and hidden in the jungle's depths, was the capital of the state when the city was seriously destroyed by the invaders from South India and abandoned by the inhabitants.
Today, Anuradhapura has mostly been restored and is divided into two parts: the Old City, a non-residential protected area, and the New City, where the entire population of Anuradhapura lives.
The city is located quite far from the coastline, so tourists to Anuradhapura are attracted primarily by the world-famous monuments of culture and history of Sri Lanka, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Essential tips to make the most of your visit to Anuradhapura
As mentioned above, the monuments of the Old City are the main tourist’s attraction. Among them are the so-called dagobas Thumaparama, Ruanveli with the famous stone statues of Buddha, Jetavanarama, considered one of the tallest brick structures in the Ancient World. And this small part of the monuments awaits travelers in the Old City of Anuradhapura.
In New Town, there are many hotels, restaurants, and shops. As we have seen, Anuradhapura has a lot to offer and is an exciting destination, especially if you plan itineraries of 15 or more days to visit Sri Lanka. We recommend experiences that you cannot miss if you visit the country's first capital.
The Isurumuniya Vihara is an ancient temple located in Anuradhapura built around the 2nd century BC during the reign of Devanampiya Tissa. Some local people know this place as the Isurumuniya rock temple built around a big rock. It seems to us that it is one of the best places to see in Anuradhapura.
Inside the museum, located on the side of the rock, different carved stone sculptures are exhibited that in the past adorned the temple, such as the Isurumuni lovers or portraits of the royal family. In front of the rock, we can see two large pools of water, which served as swimming pools for King Dutugamunu, Prince Saliya, or the maiden with whom the king's son, Asokamala, fell in love. We can also see an enormous reclining Buddha inside the museum and different paintings that recount moments in the life of Buddha. You can climb the back of the rock to the top of it to see some excellent views of the complex. We could not verify it, but we have been told that the sunset from the highest part of the rock is breathtaking. The temple is located away from Anuradhapura, so we will have to pay the entrance fee if we want to visit it. Do not worry about the price, as it is very cheap. Socks will come in handy since you have to take off your shoes and the ground is burning.
This tree is one of the most sacred place of Buddhism. It was planted in 288 BC by King Devanampiya Tissa and is the oldest tree planted by man. Construction around it is prohibited, so it is preserved as a tranquil area, ideal for resting. Buddhist pilgrims flock to it at least once a year to worship Sri Maha Bodhi. In addition, on December 8, Bodhi Day is celebrated, and it is a day in which it is widespread for there to be worshipers under the tree worshiping it. According to legend, Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in the Indian town of Bodg-ghaya, so Bodhi trees are cultivated in many Buddhist monasteries. The original tree has been destroyed. Years later, a new one was grown from the sprout of the Anuradhapura tree at the site of the original felled tree at Bodg Haya. Given the history, it is not surprising that in Anuradhapura the temple around the Bodhi Tree is one of the holiest places for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. It is always crowded here. Many pilgrims regularly hold beautiful ceremonies.
Another name is Lavamahapaya. The palace is situated next to the sacred tree and made for monks. This fantastic building is 2000 years old.
The ruins of the Vessagiriya monastery are an area formed by rocks where monks once lived. In fact, up to 500 monks came to inhabit this place. On the rock walls, you can also see old walls. It is a natural place, perfect for taking a walk and learning about Anuradhapura's past.
Near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, it is on mountain peak. Sri Lankans believe it was the meeting place between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa. This meeting gave way to the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
One of the monuments that we liked the most in the entire enclosure was the Ruwanwelisaya stupa. This monumental white stupa rises 103 meters high to show us its entire splendor. The circumference of the stupa is approximately 290 meters. As you can see, the dimensions are considerable. In addition to its architectural beauty, the stupa is considered a holy place for Buddhists. For that reason, it is not surprising that there are always visitors around the stupa. And best of all, it's free. The king's brother, Saddha Tissa, ordered that the top of the stupa be covered with a white cloth to make it appear finished. According to local belief, the king could rest in peace when he saw that the stupa had been completed before he died.
In the 20th century, the Ruwaneli Seya Restoration Society renovated the stupa. Until then, the construction had suffered various damages caused by the passage of time and the continuous invasions that the island had suffered in previous centuries.
Another reason to visit Anuradhapura on your trip to Sri Lanka is the Jaetavanarama Stupa, which was built in the 1st century AD on the orders of King Mahasena of Anuradhapura. Behind this one, an alley surrounded by trees delimits plots in ruins. It isn't easy to guess what could be there. On the other hand, the stupa of Jetavanarama is challenging to avoid. Imposing, from the top of these 122 meters in height leaves us speechless. We, therefore, feel the total weight of history under these millions of bricks.
At this moment, only the sun accompanies our steps around the building, which is still deserted. Utterly uneducated about the meaning of such a construction, we can only admire the ability of men to build wonders. The most surprising thing is that the interior only houses a few Buddha relics despite these dimensions. Do not expect to find secret rooms or other labyrinths. It was nearly 10,000 monks who lived around the time of its peak. We spent a long time enjoying the calm of the place and reinventing history until a class of students came to restore some historical truths.
The Anuradhapura Samadhi Buddha, dating from the 4th century, is considered one of the most essential and beautiful Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. It is located in a somewhat hidden place within the park. It is possible that its location, away from the tourist crowds, gives it a special touch and a particular attraction. The truth is that we liked it a lot and we encourage you to look for it. You will like it for sure! If you have time, a visit to Mahamevnawa Park is also recommended.
The statue is carved from granite, a very resistant material to the passage of time. The height of the statue is estimated to be about 2.5 meters.
Our tuk-tuk driver takes us to see other styles of buildings this time to vary the pleasures. Small stops like in front of the statue of Buddha Samathi from which emerges a reassuring aura and other more unusual ones on the edges of thousand-year-old swimming pools.
It's hard to imagine, but thousands of monks lived here before, and different pools were intended for them. Considering the number, it must have been substantial in size. The best example is the Elephant Ponds. Of a more than Olympic size in appearance, it is today an ideal place to take a break between all these cultural visits. Take shelter under the beneficial shade of a tree and watch the birds and the monkeys evolve as they please.
You can also go to the twin ponds, more touristic but exciting, as its name suggests there are two basins. The architecture, the symmetry, and the color of the water inevitably combine to make this place a very photogenic place. The many souvenir stalls around will confirm my words.
This small town of Anuradhapura is considered the birthplace of Buddhism. According to legend, the fateful meeting took place here on the top of the mountain, from whose reign Buddhism began to spread on the island. To climb to the top of Mihintale to the spectacular white dagoba and the white statue of Buddha, you need to overcome 1840 steps. The ascent consists of several levels. You can get to Mihintale from Anuradhapura by tuk-tuk, bicycle, train, or regular minibusses. Set aside a day to travel.
We have commented on it in other posts, but it never hurts to remember it. We have to wear long pants or cover our knees with a scarf or scarf to enter the temples. We will do the same with the shoulders. If we do not comply with the rules, we will have to stay outside or borrow a sarong to cover ourselves in each temple.
We recommend that the shoes be easy to take off and put on again since there are many temples we will have to be constantly taking off and putting on our shoes. To not get dirty and burn our feet from the heat, we can wear socks. Sandals can also be good for visiting Anuradhapura, although we are not very fond of them if we get an unexpected blow.
Anuradhapura is a perfect place to visit by bike as it has many points of interest, and you can quickly get around on your own by bike. There are bicycle rental companies or in the hotels themselves. They can also provide them to you. It is an especially recommended option for the most athletic or adventurous. If you prefer to do the route more relaxedly, do it by tuk-tuk. In this way, a driver will take you on a tour of the most emblematic places the place. Suppose very resistant materialhapura to make the most of your time. In that case, you should know that the distances to get to know the main points of interest are affordable by bicycle or tuk-tuk. So, these will be the perfect means of transport to see everything in a short time.
This house, located in a beautiful garden, was perfectly integrated into its environment. Many monkeys and birds visited us. Our room was spacious and decorated soberly and elegantly. The common areas with a view of the garden and the lake were ideal for resting during the hottest hours. As for the meals, they were delicious. The team is fully available to help you organize your stay.
Anuradhapura is located 200 kilometers from the capital of the island - Colombo. You can get to the city by train (there are two railway stations here) and by bus in 5 hours or by rented car along the A9 highway in 4 hours.
Buses and tuk-tuks run around the New City, but their need is small - this small area can be easily walked from end to end in half an hour. But the security zone on the other side of the Malvathu-Oya River is extensive in the area - and you can't do without a tuk-tuk here.
The best places to see in Sri Lanka will help you prepare for a trip to an Anuradhapura, which stands out for its cultural heritage, incredible natural landscapes, and friendly people who welcome you with a sincere smile. Known as the Tear of India, Sri Lanka has long remained hidden from the tourist trails, which comes as a huge surprise when you visit.
Traveling on a panoramic train through the mountainous landscapes of the north dotted with tea fields, seeing elephants and leopards in freedom in one of its natural parks, being amazed at the perfection of the features of the Buddha sculptures carved in rock, bathing or surfing in the wild southern beaches, visiting colonial cities or hiking trails are just some of the best things in Visit the Anuradhapura.
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