The Ancient City of Kings

Anuradhapura, one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capitals, is a city steeped in history and spirituality. Located in the North Central Province, Anuradhapura is renowned for its well-preserved ruins of ancient civilization, including stupas, monasteries, and royal palaces. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura offers a fascinating glimpse into Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage and its significance in Buddhist history.

Things to Do

Visit the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

  • Sacred Fig Tree: The Sri Maha Bodhi Tree is considered one of the oldest living trees in the world with a known planting date. It is a sacred fig tree grown from a cutting of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.
  • Pilgrimage Site: The site is a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from around the world. Visitors can participate in religious ceremonies and offer prayers under the sacred tree.

Explore the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

  • Iconic Stupa: The Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is one of the most significant stupas in Sri Lanka, built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BC. The stupa is renowned for its massive size and striking white dome.

  • Spiritual Atmosphere: The stupa is a place of worship and meditation. Visitors can walk around the stupa, observing the rituals and offerings made by devotees.


Visit the Jetavanaramaya Stupa

  • Historical Monument: The Jetavanaramaya Stupa is one of the tallest and largest stupas in the world. Built by King Mahasena in the 3rd century AD, it stands as a testament to ancient engineering and architectural prowess.
  • Archaeological Site: Explore the surrounding ruins, which include monastic buildings, ancient sculptures, and stone inscriptions.

Discover the Abhayagiri Monastery

  • Ancient Monastic Complex: The Abhayagiri Monastery was one of the largest and most influential monastic complexes in ancient Sri Lanka. The complex includes the Abhayagiri Stupa, which is among the tallest stupas in the world.
  • Cultural Heritage: Wander through the ruins of the monastery, which feature intricate carvings, stone statues, and remnants of ancient buildings.

Visit the Thuparamaya Stupa

  • Oldest Stupa: The Thuparamaya Stupa is considered the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka, built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC. The stupa enshrines a relic of Buddha, making it an important pilgrimage site.
  • Architectural Significance: The stupa is notable for its unique bell-shaped design and its significance in the history of Buddhist architecture.


Explore the Isurumuniya Temple

  • Rock Temple: The Isurumuniya Temple is a rock temple known for its beautiful carvings and sculptures. The temple’s most famous sculpture is the “Isurumuniya Lovers,” a depiction of a couple in an intimate embrace.
  • Peaceful Surroundings: The temple is located near a lotus pond, creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere for meditation and reflection.

Visit the Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds)

  • Ancient Baths: The Kuttam Pokuna, or Twin Ponds, are ancient bathing pools that showcase the advanced hydraulic engineering skills of the Anuradhapura civilization. The pools were used by monks for ritual baths.
  • Architectural Beauty: The ponds are beautifully designed, with intricate stone carvings and well-preserved structures.

Discover the Mihintale Hill

  • Birthplace of Buddhism: Mihintale is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is believed to be the site where Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka, introduced Buddhism to King Devanampiya Tissa.

  • Pilgrimage Site: Climb the steps to the top of Mihintale Hill to visit ancient stupas, shrines, and caves. The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.


Explore the Samadhi Buddha Statue

  • Iconic Statue: The Samadhi Buddha Statue is a famous statue depicting Buddha in a state of deep meditation. The statue, carved out of granite, is considered a masterpiece of ancient Sri Lankan art.
  • Spiritual Significance: The statue is a place of worship and contemplation for Buddhists. Visitors can meditate and offer prayers at the site.

Visit the Ratnaprasada

  • Ancient Monastery: The Ratnaprasada, also known as the Gem Palace, was an ancient monastery in Anuradhapura. The ruins include the remnants of a large building with beautifully carved stone pillars.
  • Historical Artifacts: Explore the site to see ancient inscriptions, stone sculptures, and other historical artifacts.

Discover the Lovamahapaya

  • Brazen Palace: The Lovamahapaya, also known as the Brazen Palace, was an ancient building with a roof covered in bronze tiles. The structure was originally a nine-story building used as a monastery.
  • Architectural Ruins: The ruins include 1,600 stone pillars arranged in rows, showcasing the grandeur of the original structure.

Visit the Lankarama Stupa

  • Ancient Stupa: The Lankarama Stupa is an ancient stupa built by King Valagamba in the 1st century BC. The stupa is surrounded by a circular courtyard and stone pillars.
  • Peaceful Setting: The site offers a peaceful setting for meditation and reflection, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Explore the Archaeological Museum

  • Cultural Artifacts: The Archaeological Museum in Anuradhapura houses a collection of artifacts from the ancient city, including pottery, sculptures, coins, and inscriptions.
  • Educational Displays: The museum provides valuable insights into the history and culture of Anuradhapura, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Visit the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Garden

  • Sacred Garden: The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Garden is a beautifully landscaped garden surrounding the sacred Bodhi tree. The garden features a variety of plants, flowers, and statues, creating a serene and spiritual atmosphere.
  • Pilgrimage Pathways: Walk along the pathways and explore the various shrines and statues within the garden.

Discover the Eth Pokuna (Elephant Pond)

  • Largest Man-Made Pond: The Eth Pokuna is one of the largest man-made ponds in ancient Sri Lanka, used for water storage and irrigation. The pond is an impressive example of ancient hydraulic engineering.

  • Scenic Surroundings: The pond is surrounded by lush greenery, making it a peaceful spot for a leisurely walk.

Visit the Naka Vihara

  • Ancient Ruins: The Naka Vihara is an ancient stupa located in Anuradhapura. The site includes the remnants of the stupa, stone pillars, and other archaeological features.
  • Historical Significance: The stupa is believed to have been built during the Anuradhapura period and offers insights into the architectural styles of the time.

Explore the Ritigala Monastery

  • Ancient Monastic Complex: The Ritigala Monastery, located near Anuradhapura, is an ancient monastic complex set amidst the Ritigala Mountain. The site includes the ruins of meditation platforms, stone pathways, and rock inscriptions.
  • Nature and History: The monastery is surrounded by dense forests and offers a tranquil setting for exploration and reflection.

Visit the Ranmasu Uyana (Royal Gardens)

  • Ancient Pleasure Gardens: The Ranmasu Uyana, or Royal Gardens, is an ancient park used by the kings of Anuradhapura for relaxation and recreation. The gardens include ponds, fountains, and stone carvings.
  • Archaeological Features: Explore the various features of the gardens, including the stone throne and the famous Sakwala Chakraya, an ancient star map.

Discover the Sandakada Pahana (Moonstone)

  • Intricate Carvings: The Sandakada Pahana, or Moonstone, is a beautifully carved stone slab found at the entrance of ancient buildings in Anuradhapura. The moonstone features intricate carvings depicting animals and floral patterns.

  • Cultural Symbolism: The moonstone is a symbol of the spiritual journey in Buddhism, representing the cycle of life and rebirth.

Explore the Anuradhapura Tank

  • Ancient Reservoir: The Anuradhapura Tank, also known as the Nuwara Wewa, is an ancient reservoir used for irrigation. The tank is an impressive example of ancient water management and engineering.
  • Scenic Views: Enjoy a leisurely walk along the tank’s banks, taking in the scenic views and observing the local wildlife.

Practical Tips for Visiting Anuradhapura

  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Anuradhapura is during the dry season, from April to September, when the weather is most favorable for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
  • Transportation: Anuradhapura is accessible by road and rail. The city is well-connected to major cities like Colombo and Kandy.
  • Accommodation: Anuradhapura offers a range of accommodation options, from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels. Staying near the ancient city provides easy access to the historical sites.


Anuradhapura is a destination that offers a perfect blend of history, spirituality, and culture. Whether you’re exploring ancient stupas, visiting sacred temples, or wandering through archaeological ruins, Anuradhapura promises a memorable and enriching travel experience. Plan your visit to this ancient city of kings and discover the many treasures of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage.