Anuradhapura is the capital of the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, and one of the major cities in the country. Anuradhapura was one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka during the Kings’ era. So the city has a rich historical background and it is popular for its well-preserved ruins of palaces, dagobas, and many more historical artifacts. So you will never run out of things to see in Anuradhapura. This is The Sri Lankan Guideline’s pick of top 10 places to visit in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka.

Sinhala Buddhists, who make up the majority of Sri Lanka’s population, consider Anuradhapura as a sacred city, as there are numerous religiously significant places of worship within the region. Tourists, both local as well as foreign, flock to the beautiful heritage city of Anuradhapura all year long, to see the wonders of the ancient times that have remained intact to this date.

Out of all the places to visit in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, here are our top 10 picks:

1. Ruwanveli Maha Seya

  • Entrance: Free

Ruwanweli Seya is one of the best places to visit in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Also known as Maha Stupa, Ruwanweli Seya dagoba stands at 338 ft, in the heart of the Anuradhapura city. Built by the hero king Dutugemunu, the stupa is 951 ft in diameter, and it was made entirely out of bricks. After years of renovation, this giant, beautiful structure is adorned and worshipped by local Buddhists to this date.

Note: Weekends and the day of a full moon tends to be the most crowded. Early mornings and night time are the best times for visiting this place to avoid the scorching sun.

2. Sri Maha Bodhiya

  • Entrance: Free

Sri Maha Bodhiya, also known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, is an ancient fig tree located in the Mahamevna Gardens, Anuradhapura. It is believed this tree was sprouted from a cutting from the Bodh Gaya of India, where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. So, Sri Maha Bodhiya is considered one of the authentic, living links to Lord Buddha. Even though the tree is sacred mostly to Buddhists, people of many religions often visit this place to get blessings and to pray.

Note: You can visit Sri Maha Bodhiya any time of the day, but we’d recommend you get there early in the morning to catch a peaceful and mesmerizing sunrise over the city of Anuradhapura. Also, since this is considered a sacred place of worship, non-revealing and light coloured attire is recommended, as is the tradition in Sri Lanka.

3. Samadhi Buddha Statue

  • Entrance: Free

The Samadhi Buddha Statue resides inside Mahamevna Gardens, Anuradhapura, where the Sri Maha Bodhi is also located. Carved from dolomite marble, the statue is 7 feet tall, and it depicts Lord Buddha in Dhyana Mudra which is believed to be the position Lord Buddha was maintaining when He attained enlightenment. The statue is believed to have been made in the 4th century and although it is bare granite now, the statue is said to have been gilded with precious gems back then. Samadhi Buddha Statue is considered one of the best works depicting Lord Buddha to have survived until now.

Note: Mahamevna Gardens, or Samadhi Statue in particular, is a great place to meditate, or to have a peaceful moment.

4. Mihintale

  • Entrance: Rs.500/= (approx. USD3)

Mihintale is a rocky hill located about half an hour (12km) away from the center of Anuradhapura city. This rock is believed to be the place where the birth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka took place, when the ruler at the time, King Devanampiyathissa, met the Buddhist delegation led by Mahinda thera. There are a series of stone steps to get to the top, and you’ll be able to see a 360° view of the surrounding greenery.

The temple grounds also houses a majestic statue of Lord Buddha and a magnificent stupa. The entrance ticket covers these areas as well.

Note: Again, this is a place of worship, so you would need to wear non-revealing clothes. You’ll also need to remove your footwear before entering the temple grounds.

5. Thuparama

  • Entrance: Free

Thuparama is the first stupa ever to be built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced to the country. Built around 3rd century BCE during King Devanampiyathissa’s era, Thuparamaya is said to contain the right collar bone of Lord Buddha. Thuparama has gone under a lot of renovation until today which has even changed the shape of the stupa completely, from paddy heap shape to the current bell shape. However, that has not affected the significance of this particular structure nor the thousands of devotees that visit the place.

6. Abhayagiri Vihara

  • Entrance: Free

The Abhayagiri Vihara in Anuradhapura is the second largest stupa in Sri Lanka. Built by King Walagamba in 2nd century BCE, this giant stupa is constructed entirely out of bricks. It is also believed that the Abhayagiri stupa was built to cover the footprint of Lord Buddha.

7. Jethavanaramaya

  • Entrance: Free

Standing at a staggering height of 122 metres, Jethavanaya or Jethavanaramaya, Anuradhapura, is the third largest stupa in Sri Lanka. Legends say that this spectacular stupa contains a piece of Lord Buddha’s robe within its structure. Jethavanaya comes with a rich historical significance over two factions of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada. Jethavanaya stupa was built by King Mahasen of Anuradhapura, and was the tallest stupa in the world at the time.

8. Isurumuniya

  • Entrance: Rs. 200/= (USD 1++)

Isurumuniya is a rock temple located close to Tissa Wewa in Anuradhapura. This temple is famous for perfectly preserved stone carvings, out of which the Isurumuniya Lovers is the most popular carving. Other carvings are The Royal Family, Elephant Pond, and the Horseman.

Note: The temple is open at 7.30am – 6.30pm daily. Also remember to wear white or light-coloured, non-revealing clothing since it is a place of worship.

9. Moonstone (Sandakada Pahana)

  • Entrance: Can be found almost everywhere in Anuradhapura

Moonstone, or also known as Sandakada Pahana, is a unique, ancient feature of Sinhalese architecture. Moonstone is a semi-circular slab of stone elaborately and elegantly carved and placed at entrances and at the bottoms of staircases. Historians say that the carvings on Moonstone resemble the Saṃsāra cycle in Buddhism. You can find these wonderful moonstones in almost any of the places to visit in Anuradhapura.

10. Sigiriya

Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, is a fortress and a pleasure palace built on top of a rocky plateau. Standing at 370 meters tall, this magnificent creation is famous among locals and foreigners alike, as the eighth wonder of the world. See our mini guide to Sigiriya Sri Lanka for all you need to know.

Most of the top places to visit in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, are located very close by together, like a cluster. So you can easily walk from place to place, or simply hail a Tuk Tuk to go from one place to another. Check out our guide to know all about hailing Tuk rides in Sri Lanka, here.

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