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How To Reach Anuradhapura
Located 205 km north of Colombo in the North Central Region, Anuradhapura is one of the oldest capitals in the country, popular for its well-maintained ancient ruins from Sri Lanka’s age-old civilization. One of the 8 world heritage sites in the country, Anuradhapura has been lived in uninterruptedly and was the core of Theravada Buddhism for many epochs.
A popular belief purports that Anuradhapura was the Sinhalese capital from 4th century BC until the beginning of the 11th century CE, during which it also stood as the most established and robust epicenter for politics and urbanization in South Asia. This ancient city which is regarded significantly in the Buddhist Community is encompassed with an area of over 16 sq. miles of monasteries.
Anuradhapura is serviced by highways and railways, with the Northern railway line connecting it to Colombo, Jaffna and Kankesanthurai. Being centrally located in the country, Anuradhapura connects to a number of major Sri Lankan cities directly by road, namely Puttalam, Dambulla, Trincomalee, Vavuinya, Matale, Kurunegala, Jaffna and Kandy.
There are flights from most metros in India to Sri Lanka that arrive at the Bandaranaike International Airport, also known as Colombo International or Katunayake Airport. With almost 19 flights out of New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai, you can book a flight out from India daily. Anuradhapura does not have an airport, so there are no direct flights from India to reach there. On arrival at Colombo, you can take a flight to the nearest airport to Anuradhapura, which is Sigiriya, Dambulla, about 79 km from mid of Anuradhapura.
There are about 4 flights that operate daily between Colombo and Sigiriya by Cinnamon Air and Sri Lankan Airlines. All of a 30-minute flight, there’s a 10.00 am flight and then a 2 pm flight by each carrier.
There are roughly half a dozen trains operational on the Colombo-Anuradhapura Route and it is best to board the train from Colombo Fort Station. The first train out of Colombo Fort Station leaves at 5.45 am and arrives in Anuradhapura at 9.15 am. The approximate train fare is LKR 1000, which is ideally booked in advance, since it’s an air-conditioned train with comfortable seating, making it the fastest and best way to reach Anuradhapura.
If you’d like to experience the rail services as the locals do, then riding aboard a non -A/c train is wise, although these trains may run late at times. You will not only enjoy the scenic views along the route but also witness the local hawkers selling peanuts, corn on the cob, hot snacks and green mangoes through the journey. A 2nd class ticket to Anuradhapura would cost you about LKR 750.
A bus ride from Colombo to Anuradhapura is comparatively cheaper than taking a flight, and the best way to reach Anuradhapura in about 5 hours or by car/taxi in 4 hours. With a bus station in New Town of Anuradhapura, you can travel via the A9 highway from Kandy, which is 166 km away, with Puttalam, another close city to Anuradhapura and a little further ahead would be Negombo.
There’s a bus from Colombo Central Bus Terminal, Olcott Mawatha, which will drive you to Puttalam in 3 hours and 45 min with an hourly frequency. From Puttalam, you travel by cab to Anuradhapura, which will have you reach there in about 1 hour 24 minutes. The bus journey’s likely to cost LKR 65-90, while the cab may cost you LKR 2,300-2,800.
Getting around in Anuradhapura is enjoyable both in buses and Tuk Tuks, which you’ll find in plenty. While the old town is large in area, tuk-tuks would be convenient. The new town being comparatively smaller, can be covered on foot in nearly ½ hour from one end to another!