The Dambulla Cave Temple, officially called Jumbukola Vihara, is the largest and best-preserved temple cave complex in Sri Lanka. It is one of the eight UNESCO attractions that Sri Lanka has to offer. To be honest, before we went to the Dambulla caves, we weren’t that excited. If you’ve traveled for months through Asia like us and you’ve seen many temples, it feels like ‘just another pretty sacred place’. But, the Dambulla Cave Temple is something different. The details and artwork here are super impressive, and the paintings on the walls and ceiling are so detailed and beautiful! Absolutely worth a visit if you are in Sigiriya or Dambulla.
How to get to Dambulla Cave Temple
The Dambulla Cave Temple site is located just a little bit outside of the city of Dambulla. If you stay in Sigiriya you can get a Tuk Tuk to bring you there. We rented a scooter for 2000 rupee so we had the freedom the drive around in Sigiriya and Dambulla.
The entrance fee for the Dambulla Cave Temple is 1500 rupee per person. Be aware that the ticket office is at the bottom of the hill. So, if you get to the top and you don’t have a ticket you need to come right back down.
The opening times are from 7AM – 7PM.
What to expect at Dambulla Cave Temple
Sitting on top of a 160 meter high rock, the Dambulla Cave Temple consists of 5 caves with Buddha statues, each with a different interior and statues. Beautiful wall and ceiling paintings make these caves very unique. This is some of Sri Lanka’s most important and evocative religious art. At the bottom of the Dambulla Cave Temple is The Golden Temple which is a huge Buddha and also has a museum which you can check out.
It is assumed these caves were homes to pre-historic locals dating back around 3000 years, because there were human skeletons discovered in the local area. The caves were restored and re-painted as they’re part of the Kingdom of Kandy since the 18th century.
The view from the top of the rock is beautiful. Facing West, you can watch a beautiful sunset here. It’s actually the best place to watch the sunset in Dambulla! It takes 364 steps and around 15-20 minutes depending on your pace. It is advisable to go in the morning or afternoon considering the heat during midday. Before you enter the caves, you have to take off your shoes and cover your knees and shoulders. You can rent a sarong at the entrance, but better is to be prepared before your visit.
Overall this is something you can’t miss when you’re in the Sigiriya or Dambulla area. It’s a perfect morning or afternoon activity and even if you’ve already seen loads of temples or caves like us, this is a very unique one! And when you’re interested in history and art this is a definitely a must do. Take the time to really absorb the wall and ceiling paintings, and if you like photography you can make some really nice long exposure shots here!
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