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Anuradhapura Tourism And Travel Guide
25.5° C / 77.8° F
April to September
2 to 3 Days
Sigiriya Airport, Dambulla (79 kms)
Anuradhapura Railway Station (206.8 kms)
Anuradhapura was originally established by a follower of Prince Vijaya, the originator of the Sinhala race and then was titled the capital by King Pandukabhaya around 380 BC. It continued to be the capital for the following 600 years, but with the reducing wilderness, the situation led to conflicts and invasions over acquiring the riches and ruling the kingdom, thereby driving it to its fall and isolating the citadel.
A must see tourist attraction, Anuradhapura is one of the most significant cities of the historic era of Sri Lanka, which has carried its legacy from the mid 5th century BC to 11th century AD. In terms of tourism in Anuradhapura, the city is renowned as a world heritage site by UNESCO, rife with restored monuments, refurbished structures, well-maintained historical sites and ruins, with ongoing excavations for archeological purposes.
This ancient city is encompassed by three artificial lakes, namely the Tissa Wewa reservoir & the Basawakkulama Wewa to the west, the Nuwara Wewa reservoir to the east and two directions of Anuradhapura defined by the River Malwatu Oya that also flows through the city. The following travel guide will tell you all you need to know when visiting Anuradhapura.
How to Reach
From India, there are nearly 19-21 flights to Sri Lanka, which arrive at the Colombo International Airport. And since Anuradhapura doesn’t have an airport, one needs to travel by alternate means to reach there from Colombo.
With no direct flights to Anuradhapura, the nearest airport is at Sigiriya, Dambulla which is 79 km from the center of Anuradhapura and has flights operating daily from Colombo with a duration of 30 minutes, 4 times a day.
There are two options of traveling to Anuradhapura, by riding an A/c train or a local train. The first train leaves Colombo Fort Station as early as 5.45 am and reaches Anuradhapura by 9.15 in the morning. Given the air-con facility, a nice pantry service and plush seats, the journey would cost about LKR 1000.
To take a journey by road to Anuradhapura, you can catch a bus from the Colombo CBT to Puttalam for LKR 65-90. It will take roughly 3.45 hours to reach there, where you can then hire a taxi for your onward journey to Anuradhapura for LKR 2,300-2,800, with scope for negotiation. Puttalam is the closest bus terminal to Anuradhapura.
There are buses and tuk-tuks to help you get around in Anuradhapura’s new town; while to explore the old part of Anuradhapura, you can cover it all on foot in less than ½ hour or hire a bicycle.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
With dry and warm weather, Anuradhapura’s fairly pleasant to visit in the months of April-September. The average temperature here varies little and May-July is considered the warmest period. Rainfall’s a bare minimum from June to August and the best time to visit the city would be in July, followed by August and then January.
The humidity levels and oscillating temperatures make the weather in Anuradhapura warm with the average day temperature being 35.3°C, with only 3-9 days of rainfall per month. This is the least frequented time of the year, in terms of Tourism.
The mid-year climate in Anuradhapura is pleasant and rainfall is limited to 1-2 days in each month. The best period to visit Anuradhapura is hence June-August, with warm temperature. It would be wise to make advanced reservations for travel arrangements and hotels.
Despite the wind speed and humidity levels, the temperature during fall fluctuates between 34.3°C and 30°C, with the frequency of rain or snowfall being 4 to 14 days a month. This makes September-November the dullest season for tourism.
Winters witness an average temperature of 32.6°C at maximum in Anuradhapura, with rain or snowfall occurring between 5 to 14 days in a month. This makes December-February the second best time in a year to visit the city.
Things To Do
Anuradhapura is rife with ancient ruins along with gigantic Dagobas with a blend of European architecture and Sri Lankan heritage to boast of. Housing some of the most wondrous monuments and structures with magnificent engineering and architectures, Anuradhapura is rich with historically styled pools and crafty brick towers.
Wildlife Jeep Safari:
Sri Lanka has some of the most beautiful and popular National Parks and a wildlife safari at Wilpatthu National Park is no less of an adventure so to speak. There are a number of natural lagoons that cover the landscape of the park and house over 30 varieties of mammals, namely the sloth bear, elephants, spotted deer, sambar, wild buffalos and of course, the leopards.
Approximately 7 km from the entrance of the Wilpatthu National Park, you can enjoy nature camping or you can also explore Habarana to experience the Elephant Corridor, a natural camping experience with delicious meals and modern day facilities.
Anuradhapura’s beautiful shoreline with its virgin greenery attracts tourists in hoards and can you keep you captivated with its evergreen forestry and mesmerizing sandy beaches for long. Explore a boat ride or take up a cruise to go around witnessing the city’s natural beauty.
Hot Air Balloon Ride:
A ride aboard a hot air balloon early in the morning, with the rising sun, is a heavenly experience you wouldn’t want to miss. Managed by licensed pilots, enjoy the country’s tropical sanctuary with scenic views of the rivers, lush greens, Rocky Mountains and cultural sites on a Hot Air Balloon, which is best taken in the months of November through April.
Where To Eat
Anuradhapura has a variety of eateries in the new town, with local delicacies available at pocket-friendly prices with small bistros offering rolls and pastries that are delicious and economically priced as well. There are local stores and small street shops as well which have a variety of snacks, fresh fruits and lunch meals that are specifically available between 11 am to 2 pm. Be cautious of the local spices though!
The Nuwara Wewa Guesthouse is popular for its multi-cultural cuisines, where visitors can eat at the restaurant. There are a lot of other guest houses with good food, Hotel Shalini being one, known for its delicious rice and curry. A small grocery store, Cargills Food City, has a lot of western food items, fresh produce and meat, along with all the essential ingredients you may require to cook your own meals.
Mango Mango is yet another restaurant you can visit, with an air-conditioned seating arrangement and good food with large meal portions at good prices. The butter chicken, chicken korma and a cheese dosa are known to be good here.
Alcohol consumption in public is prohibited in Sri Lanka, and hence you’ll find isolated bars, including westernised guesthouses with a full bar, serving Carlsberg or Lion as the popular beer brands.
Where To Shop
Anuradhapura’s Old Town has several street vendors for souvenir shopping, as does Mihintale, offering a variety of imitation artefacts, engraved wooden figurines, postcards, jewellery, masks and more. With most hawkers running behind you, tempting you with their wares, there will be a few who would have genuine ancient artefacts to offer.
Be careful in buying such items, as according to the Sri Lankan laws, items older than a 100 years are not allowed to be shipped outside the country, leading to not only the loss of iconic ancient heritage, their damage & destruction but also ruining the country’s archeological accomplishments.
The New Town of Anuradhapura has a number of photo studios, food stalls, pharmacies and sari shops amidst others, where you can buy an assortment of things.