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The Dambulla Caves: Sri Lanka

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Updated: 12th February 2016

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, and is one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO attractions.

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.

Dambulla Caves

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.

Dambulla Caves

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…

Dambulla Caves Opening Times

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.

Read more: Sri Lanka travel guide

13 replies
  1. Rising Adventure says:

    Namaste Dan,

    Greeting from Nepal!

    Going through this blog, I really found it very informative and encouraging to visit Dambulla cave of Srilanka. The pictures seem very attractive as well. Hope to see more blogs like this.
    Thank you

  2. Shishira and Navneeth says:

    The trek to the Dambulla temple was very scenic too! 😍We enjoyed our visit here! You kind of start missing Sri Lanka more and more when you look back at all the photographs. Don’t you? 🙂

  3. tubegalore says:

    A surprising temple. First you just see some White House’s close to the rocks but when you go in, it’s really beautiful. Make sure you are dressed modestly and cover shoulders and knees.

  4. Lily Jones says:

    I have visited Sri Lanka a couple of times and didn’t get the chance to travel around Dambulla cave temple due to limited days. The picture you have shared arouses my curiosity to go to this place.

  5. Amber Hill says:

    Hey Dan, Thanks for this info. Good to know! We are heading to Sigiriya from Kandy (with two kids). Thinking of catching the bus from Kandy to Dambulla and then see how we feel as to whether we do another bus or tuk tuk the rest of the way. I have no comprehension of what the train station is like! Would there be somewhere for us to leave our bags whilst we explore the caves before moving on?? Many thanks, Amber

    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hey Amber. From what I remember there was a storage space at the station, but I also think at the bottom of the caves, where you buy the tickets, the office staff there would likely look after your bags I’d imagine, though perhaps they get more visitors now than when I visited. Either way, I’m sure someone somewhere could store them, as I’d imagine a lot of people do that before heading on to Sigiriya. Have an awesome time!

  6. Nicole says:

    I wondered what exactly happened in that pic, but it turned out really cool. The amount of places I need to re-visit the more I learn on my camera is getting out of hand!

  7. Nicole says:

    I did Dambulla and Siguriya together also! The Dambulla Caves were impressive, awesome that you could get some decent exposures with a tripod in there!

    • danflyingsolo says:

      Man I miss Sri Lanka! I didn’t realise how cool they were until I grabbed the long exposures and look backed… Kinda love the one where I am half in it because I got shouted at to turn it off haha. :D

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