ANURADHAPURA TOURISM | TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT & TRAVEL GUIDE TO ANURADHAPURA
Heritage | Pilgrimage
#6 of 10 Places to visit in Sri Lanka
Ideal Trip Duration: 1-2 Days
Nearest City to Anuradhapura: Anuradhapura, Colombo (202 Kms)
Best Time to Visit Anuradhapura: June to September & December to February
Peak Season: June to September
At a distance of 66 km from Dambulla, 75 km from Sigiriya, 106 km from Trincomalee, 107 km from Polonnaruwa, 139 km from Kandy, 194 km from Jaffna and 202 km from Colombo, Anuradhapura is an ancient city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province and also the capital of Anuradhapura district. It is the most popular heritage place in Sri Lanka and among the must include destinations in Sri Lanka Tour Packages.
Located on the banks of Malvathu River, Anuradhapura is the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka. The city was the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. Famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization, Anuradhapura is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The city is also home to one of the largest and most sacred Bodhi trees in Sri Lanka, believed to be a descendant of the original Bodhi tree where Buddha got enlightenment.
Anuradhapura was first established by Anuradha, a follower of Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala race. Later in 377 BC, King Pandukabhaya made it his capital and developed it into a prosperous city. It was the royal capital for 119 successive Singhalese Kings and lasted for about 1500 years. Anuradhapura came into prominence after Buddhism was introduced to the island in the 3rd Century BC during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa.
Anuradhapura continued to be the seat of power from the 4th Century BC to 11th Century AD. During this period, there were intermittent invasions by armies from India, but it remained the stronghold of the King of Lanka until King Vjayabahu I declared Polonnaruwa was the capital city in 1070. Later, the city was abandoned and overrun by the jungle until it was rediscovered by the British in the 19th century and subsequently became a Buddhist pilgrimage center. Currently, the city is the headquarters of the archaeological survey of Sri Lanka.
The historic city of Anuradhapura is an essential stop on any Sri Lanka Tour. The vast network of ancient Buddhist temples, monasteries, and places of worship which cover over 40 sq. km has made it a sacred site to Buddhists around the world. Mirisaveti, Ruwanwelisaya, Abhayagiri, Jetavanarama, Thuparama, and Lankarama are the popular monasteries in Anuradhapura. Apart from these, the most popular tourist attractions in Anuradhapura are the sacred Maha Bodhi tree, Lovamahapaya or Brazen Palace, Archeological Museum, Isurumuniya Vihara, Rathnaprasada, Royal Palace and many more.
Vesak and Poson Festival are the popular festivals celebrated in Anuradhapura. Also known as Poson Poya Day, Poson Festival is celebrated to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the third century BC, thus it is of great historical and religious significance. It is the second most important festival for Buddhists right after the Vesak. Many choose to climb the many steps to the top of the Mihintale rock in Mihintale, which is popular as the main center and landmark in Anuradhapura during the festival.
Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo is the nearest international airport which is about 171 km from Anuradhapura. It has well flight connectivity with India and other parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the United States. Anuradhapura Railway Station has regular trains from Colombo, Vavuniya, and Galle. Anuradhapura is well connected by bus with Colombo, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, and Kandy.
Anuradhapura has tons of great accommodation choices. The choice of hotels and guesthouses in Anuradhapura is a real treat and there is truly something to suit everyone from budget backpacker to mid-range seekers and those who enjoy a touch of luxury.
Anuradhapura is a perfect holiday destination for visitors almost all year-round. However, June to September and December - February are the best seasons to visit Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. During these months, the weather is dry and comfortable for day trips. Tourists keep off from Anuradhapura in March when the weather is too hot and humid and also avoid visiting Anuradhapura from October to November when it rains significantly.
Foreign visitors need to buy an entry ticket of USD. 25 (Paid in LKR only) at the Archaeological Museum to visit all the historical sites in Anuradhapura except Maha Bodhi & Isurumuniya as they have a separate entry fee. It will be half the cost for the nationals of SAARC countries.