Cambodia has Angkor Wat, Myanmar has Bagan, Thailand has Sukhothai and Sri Lanka has Anuradhapura. What do they all have in common? Temples. Lots and lots of temples. One has a bit more than the other, but every city has enough to get you through the day.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization and therefore listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the city where Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. A special city that you must visit when you go to Sri Lanka and like temples.
Driving our own tuktuk, it was easy to get here. We left Colombo around 7.30 am which was a bit to late because we got stuck in Colombo’s traffic. Luckily, as soon as we left Colombo after about an hour, the roads were clear and the drive was easy. About 6 hours later we arrived in Anaradhupura around 2 pm. Not to bad for 215 kilometers in a tuktuk. And we forgot how much fun it is to self drive. Especially other tuktuk drivers can’t believe their eyes when we stop next to them at the traffic lights. We got a lot of thumbs up and giggles.
We got ourselves a room at Ceylan Lodge and really liked the place. At arrival they offered a welcome drink and a nice cold refreshing towel to clean your face. Great way to start the stay at a hotel! The room was quite big, had both aircon and a fan, a nice balcony and a good shower. Another great feature about the hotel is their refreshing swimming pool.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant and has both Western as Sri Lankan dishes. We were really happy with the fresh fruit and quark! Their menu for lunch and diner is quite good as well. Our favorites where the Thai Curry and the Beef Stroganoff.
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As said, Anuradhapura is known for its temples. There are some that can be visited for free, and for some you have to buy a ticket. For the temples that are part of the Eight Great Places of Veneration in Anuradhapura you have to pay the ridiculous amount 3.750 Rupees. We found this to expensive and skipped most of these temples and visited the temples which can be visited for free or for a much cheaper amount.
We think this temple is actually part of one of the Eight Great places in Anuradhapura, because when we drove up there, we were stopped and had to buy the ticket. We decided to give it a try through another road (we drove around the lake) and on this side there was no one stopping us so we could enter for free.
This is the oldest Stupa and is one of the eight places of which are believed to have been visited by Buddha during his three visits to Sri Lanka. With its 103 by 290 meters, this stupa is also one of the world's tallest monuments.
MAHA BODHI TREE
A must visit when going to Anuradhupura is the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi Tree. This tree is the oldest historical by human-planted tree in the world (over 2000 years old) that has grown from a cutting brought from Bodhgaya in India. When entering the religious site you should go barefoot and take of your hat and the shoulders and knees have to be covered. Inside you will find many people dressed in white praying and chanting to the tree which is in the middle of the site. We believe the entrance is free, as nobody asked us for a ticket.
Build around 200 BC by a King this Buddhist temple is build on a rock, and has some nice carvings, you have to pay 200 Rupees p.p. to enter as it is not part of the ticket for the sacred city. You can climb to the top of the rock and go inside, but to be honest if you do not have plenty of time this is a temple to be skipped.
This white bell shaped Dagoba looks a lot like the much bigger Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba, but is a better place to take pictures from without other people as it is not as crowded. Besides this, it is also free to enter. They do appreciate a small donation based.
The Mihintale Temle in our opinion is probably the best temple to vist around Anuradhapura. It is situated around 11 kilometers to the east on a mountain peak and can be easily walked up to. This is the place where Sri Lankan believe a meeting happened between a Buddhist monk and a king which started the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It has some dagoba's, a big buddha statue and a great viewpoint overlooking the surrounding area. An entrance ticket costs 500 Rupees p.p. and is is at best at sunset as the sun will set down behind the Maha Stupa. Do check the secret viewpoint, hidden inside the Mihintale Rock!