Updated: 12th February 2016
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So, you’re thinking of going to Sri Lanka. Guess what? Half the world seems to be thinking the same right now so get there pronto and savour the magic… The Dambulla Caves is just one of many sights to behold here.
One of the most impressive and, one of the eight UNESCO attractions this small island offers up are the incredible Dambulla Caves. To be honest, I don’t think I truly appreciated their beauty until after visiting and looking back at the photos. The details and artwork here are super impressive.
What are the Dambulla Caves?
Sitting on top of a 160-metre high rock, these five caves cut in have been a pilgrim’s destination for centuries. Given the discovery of human skeletons dating back around 3000 years in the local area, it is assumed these caves were homes to pre-historic locals.
There are five caves inside, each with a different interior and statues – though many people on a quick glance would assume they are pretty similar. The monastery dates back to the first century (BC) when it is believed the caves were converted. It has been added to over the years and been home to many different religions. The caves you can visit today were restored and re-painted as they stand now by the Kingdom of Kandy in the 18th century.
Each of the five caves varies in purpose, interest and decoration and although I didn’t get a guide whilst I was there, the history I did catch from the tailwind of a small group was pretty interesting so, it might be worth making the investment.
Dambulla Cave Tips
The ticket office is at the bottom of the hill. So, if you get to the top and you have no ticket you need to come right back down.
The climb could be tough if you are not an overly active person, especially in the midday heat.
Keep an eye out for Monkeys which can sometimes be seen dotted around the temple. As with most of these poor guys who have been toyed with by humans, they have learnt that stealing stuff usually leads to food so keep an eye on your shit.
The Golden Temple with the huge buddha at the bottom also has a museum which you can check out.
Grab a torch which you might get told to put away, but will allow you to see how impressive the decoration is. I somehow managed to get a few tripod shots which helped me to capture the detail on the walls and ceiling.
Need to know
Dambulla Caves Opening Times: Officially, the cave temples are open from 7am-7pm but I arrived around lunch time and the ticket office was ‘taking a break’ – so, get used to ‘Sri Lanka’ time
How much to visit the Dambulla caves? The ticket costs 1500 LKR (About £7/$10) however reports from friends who visited a few weeks ago was it was free entry though no one knows why…
Where to stay: Dambulla is often skipped for the more famous Sigiriya, and whilst there are accommodation options around the cave I personally would recommend staying in Sigiriya and combining the two activities. I stayed at the Hotel Sigiriya which has an awesome pool view of the famous rock.
How to get to Dambulla? From Sigiriya, you could grab a taxi or a tuk-tuk. Otherwise, you can walk to the main road and jump on the local bus which will deposit you at the Dambulla bus terminus for mere pennies and countless entertainment. About a 10/15 minute walk from there down the road you will hit the base of the temple complex.