10 Best Pilgrimage Sites in Sri Lanka (2021)

Hill Station | Pilgrimage

At a distance of 72 km from Nuwara Eliya, 92 km from Sigiriya, 110 km from Dambulla, 116 km from Colombo, 129 km from Ella, 137 km from Polonnaruwa, 140 km from Anuradhapura, 183 km from Trincomalee, 223 km from Galle, 245 km from Mirissa, and 321 km from Jaffna, Kandy is a scenic city located in central Sri Lanka. It is the capital of the Central Province of Sri Lanka and among the must-include places in Sri Lanka Tour Packages.

Set on a high plateau in the midst of the thick tropical forests and the tea plantations is the city of Kandy, the second-largest city in Sri Lanka. More popularly known as the hill capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy is known for its spirituality and laid-back charm due to which the colonial town is frequented by tourists as well as Buddhists, especially of the Theravada School. The well-planned town of Kandy added value to its legacy and never changed its roots for the sake of development. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in the year 1988.

The city and the region have been known by many different names and versions of those names. Some scholars suggest that the original name of Kandy was Katubulu Nuwara. However, the more popular historical name is Senkadagala or Senkadagalapura, officially Senkadagala Siriwardhana Maha Nuwara, generally shortened to 'Maha Nuwara'. The name Kandy is derived from an Anglicized version of the Sinhala Kanda Uda Rata, meaning the land on the mountain ...

Historical & Heritage | Pilgrimage

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 ...

Beach | Pilgrimage

At a distance of 100 km from Sigiriya, 106 km from Anuradhapura, 108 km from Dambulla, 133 km from Polonnaruwa, 182 km from Kandy, 236 km from Jaffna and 269 km from Colombo, Trincomalee is a charming coastal town on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. It is the administrative headquarters of the Trincomalee district and among the must include destinations in Sri Lanka trip.

Sitting prettily on a remarkable natural harbour, the charming town of Trincomalee with oodles of history and interesting sites is a great escape from the touristy south. The port town is built on a peninsula of the same name, which divides its inner and outer harbours. The town got its historic Tamil name Thirukonamalai from Koneswaram Temple situated on the Swami Rock. Trincomalee is an anglicized form of the old Tamil word 'Thiru-kona-malai', meaning 'Lord of the Sacred Hill'. Trincomalee has been one of the main centers of Sri Lankan Tamil language speaking culture on the island for over two millennia.

Trincomalee known as Gokanna, Gokarna or Siri Gonamala, has a recorded history of more than 2500 years, beginning with the civilian settlement associated with the Koneswaram temple in the pre-modern era. One of the oldest cities in Asia, it has served as a major maritime seaport in the international trading history of the island with South East Asia. In the ancient world, it was successively the capital of eastern kingdoms of the Vanni ...

Adventure / Trekking | Pilgrimage

At a distance of 71 km from Nuwara Eliya, Adam's Peak is a conical mountain located in the Sri Pada Wilderness Sanctuary, which is one of the largest sanctuaries in Sri Lanka. It is one of Sri Lanka's most striking natural landmarks and among the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in Sri Lanka.

Also known as Sri Pada and Samanala Kanda, Adam's Peak is standing at 2,243 m (7,359 feet) tall in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Trekking up the mountain is extremely popular with both tourists and locals, who are allured by its mystery as well as the enchanting beauty they are rewarded with at the top. The mountain is also known for the spectacular sight of thousands of beautiful butterflies gracing the area annually.

The mountain has accumulated a number of legends centered around the curious depression at its summit, the Sri Pada or Sacred Footprint. The original Buddhist story claims that this is the footprint of the Buddha himself, made at the request of the local god Saman. Hindus believed that the footprint belongs to Shiva while Muslims claimed that the footprint to be that of Adam. Many centuries later, the colonial Portuguese attempted to rescue the footprint for the Christian faith, claiming that it belonged to St. Thomas. Despite all these rival claims, Adam's Peak remains an essentially Buddhist place of worship since the Polonnaruwa period.

The ascent of Adam's Peak is traditionally made by night, allowing visitors to reach the top in time for ...

Historical & Heritage | Pilgrimage

At a distance of 3 km from Dambulla Bus Station, 17 km from Sigiriya and 73 km from Kandy, Dambulla Cave Temples is an ancient cave temple complex situated at Dambulla in Sri Lanka. It is one of the popular places of pilgrimage in Sri Lanka and among the must-visit places for heritage lovers as part of Sri Lanka Packages.

Sitting on top of a 160-meter high rock, the Dambulla Cave Temple, also called as Golden Temple of Dambulla, has been a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries and is one of the five UNESCO World Heritage Sites that the tiny island possesses. It is the best-preserved and most extensive cave temple complex of the country comprising of five main caves, each possessing numerous statues of Lord Buddha, some figures of kings and statues of Lord Vishnu along with Rock Paintings of vivid colours and shapes from around 2nd Century BC (Anuradhapura era) and continued up to the Kandyan era of the 18th Century. Dambulla is also a part of the 'Cultural Triangle' of Sri Lanka along with the town of Sigiriya and the city of Kandy.

The caves of Dambulla were occupied in very early times by Buddhist hermits. The Dambulla Rock Temple had first been constructed during the reign of King Vattagamini Abaya. During a South Indian invasion, the king sought refuge here for 15 years. After regaining the kingdom of Anuradhapura, to show his gratefulness for his safe place, he converted those caves into Buddhist Temples by constructing walled partitions under the rock overhang ...


At a distance of 14 km from Anuradhapura, Mihintale is a Buddhist pilgrimage site and religious complex situated near Anuradhapura. It is one of the popular pilgrimage places in Anuradhapura and among the must-visit places as part of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle Tour.

Mihintale is revered as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. According to legend, it was at Mihintale that the Indian Buddhist monk Mahinda Thera met and converted King Devanampiya Tissa to Buddhism in 247 BC. Mahinda was the son of the great Mauryan emperor Asoka, sent by his father to bring the word of the Buddha's teachings to Sri Lanka. Mihintale, literally Mahinda's Mountain, eventually became the cradle of Buddhism and Sinhalese culture.

With the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Mihintale Mountain began to serve as a residential area for the venerable monks headed by Arahath Mahinda Mahathera. But soon, with the royal patronage, the sanctuary housed a multitude of monastic buildings, stupas, uposathgharas, and bodhigharas to serve the monks. Sixty-eight cave dwellings provided the monks' shade and shelter. With the growth of the community of monks and the pious laymen, King Sena II (853-887 AC) had built a hospital at the base of the mountain. Thankfully the ruins of some of these buildings can still be seen today, making Mihintale the perfect day trip from Anuradhapura.

The great stairway is another feature of Mihintale that is situated on the eastern side of the slope in 4 sections. ...

Historical & Heritage | Pilgrimage

At a distance of 44 km from Trincomalee, Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple situated at Seruwawila in the Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka. It is counted amongst the holiest Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and one of the top places to visit near Trincomalee.

Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara was built during the reign of King Kavantissa (2nd century BC). It is believed that three viharas existed at this particular spot that was built during the periods of three former Buddhas named Kakusandha, Koṇagamana, and Kassapa with their relics enshrined. Gautama Buddha had personally visited this place and offered eight handfuls of 'sapu' flowers, then wished that the temple which constructing in the future should be named as Mangala viharaya. The stupa containing the Lalata Dathun Wahanse (sacred forehead bone) of Lord Buddha and is among the sixteen holiest Buddhist shrines (Solosmasthana) in Sri Lanka.

Over the years, the stupa fell into ruins under the pressure of the Tamil invasions from the north. But there is evidence in the literature that this area was under the purview of the Kandyan territory during the 17th century and the existence of this stupa. It was only in 1922 that the dagoba was re-discovered by Dambagasare Sumedhankara Thero and he restored the stupa with the approval and supervision of the Department of Archaeology using remains of ancient structures around the stupa to conjecture the conservation work. The conservation ...


At a distance of 17 km from Kataragama, 22 km from Yala and 28 km from Tissamaharama, Sithulpawwa is an ancient Buddhist monastery located deep within the natural habitats of the Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Located on Tissamaharama-Yodhakandiya road, it is one of the popular pilgrimage places to visit near Yala.

Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is believed to have been built in the 2nd century BC by King Kavantissa. With a history of over 2200 years, this rock temple is considered to be one of the supreme 2nd-century sites of Buddhist scholarship. Sithulpawwa is known as a location where thousands of Arhaths lived at one time.

The monastery straddles a collection of rocky outcrops and caves deep in the heart of Yala National Park. There are said to be hundreds of caves and shelters within and around the complex that have housed monks (for centuries) who came to the site to further their education as well as to meditate. Surrounded by only the sounds of the wilderness and temple chants, a journey to Sithulpawwa is a peaceful escape that is fitting for its original name 'Chiththala Pabbatha', which means the hill of the quiet mind.

The temple is located atop a rock (400 feet high) hence one must climb a flight of stairs to get to the summit where the brilliance of the dagoba, rock caves and the view can be witnessed. Paintings of the Anuradhapura era and the ruins of stone Buddha images, Bodhisattva images, Image Houses, Circular Relic Houses are spread throughout ...


At a distance of 20 km from Tissamaharama and 38 km from Yala, Kataragama is a sacred town in Sri Lanka. It is one of the most significant pilgrimages in Sri Lanka and is regarded as one of the best places to visit in Yala.

This small town is famous for Kataragama temple, a temple complex dedicated to Buddhist guardian deity Kataragama deviyo and Hindu War God Murugan. It is one of the few religious sites in Sri Lanka that is venerated by the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and the Vedda people. For most of the past millennia, it was a jungle shrine very difficult to access but today it is accessible by an all-weather road. The shrines and the nearby Kiri Vehera are managed by Buddhists while the shrines dedicated to Teyvanai and Shiva are managed by Hindus and the mosque by Muslims.

According to Hindus and some Buddhist texts, the main shrine is dedicated to Kartikeya. Kartikeya, also known as Kumara, Skanda, Saravanabhava, Murugan, Visakha or Mahasena, is the chief of warriors of celestial Gods. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Buddhists also worshiped Kartikeya as Kumara devio or Skanda-Kumara since at least the 4th century, if not earlier. Skanda-Kumara was known as one of the guardian deities until the 14th century, invoked to protect the island. During the 11th and 12th century CE, the worship of Skanda-Kumara was documented even among the royal family.

Dates back to 2nd century BC, the sanctum sanctorum of the main Kataragama temple dedicated to Lord Murugan does ...


At a distance of 30 km from Galge, 32 km from Kotiyagala, 56 km from Kumana and 87 km from Yala, Maha Siyambalawa Devalaya in Kebiliththa also popularly known as Maha Kebiliththa Devalaya is a small shrine deep inside the block IV of the Yala National Park. It is one of the most sacred pilgrimage places in Sri Lanka.

Kebiliththa is said to be the spiritual residence of God Skanda, believed to be a site of great divine power. Kebiliththa or Kabiliththa is considered a very sacred place among both Buddhists and Hindus. Although the historic shrine of Ruhunu Kataragama Maha Devalaya and the Kiri Vehera attract thousands of devotees, the belief that the divinity prefers to spend his time at the more tranquil environs of Kebiliththa attracts die-hard devotees to this jungle tree shrine.

This devalaya has no fixed buildings but few statues around a small Tamarind (Siyambala) tree. This Tamarind Tree is about 9 feet high but quite old. This tree is said to be an offshoot of the original tamarind tree which has stopped growing after a few years. After the original tree died, the deity Kataragama has selected another tamarind tree located little away from the devalaya. At the back of the tamarind tree and on the surface of the bark is a sketch of Lord Kataragama as a deity with six faces and twelve arms in a state of deep meditation. An ancient Bodhi Tree also exists near this devalaya and a large number of ruins consisting of rock pillars too can be seen spread around the ...

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