Mihintale is a small town about 12km east of Anuradhapura, in the Sri Lanka North Central Province. It contains numerous historical and religious sites centered around a granite outcrop about 1km south of the town. It is one of the most revered places for Sri Lankan Buddhists as it is believed to be the site where Buddhism first came to the island sometime in the 4th century BC.
Sri Lankan history has it that Mahinda, son of the Indian King Asoka and a fully enlightened Buddhist monk, met King Devanampiyatissa on this hill and dissuaded him from continuing his deer hunt. The Sri Lankan King was subsequently converted to Buddhism and the country remains predominantly Buddhist to this day.
Mihintale is best accessed from Anuradhapura. It is a short bus trip or tuk tuks can be hired. Allow a half day.
The main area is accessed via an easily traversed staircase. There is a car park about half way up the hill for tuk tuks to stop or it is an easy walk from the town.
The large Stupa easily visible on your left on the way up the hill.
The site where Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa is below the Maha Stupa and marked by a Dagoba surrounded by ancient pillars.
The rocky outcrop adjacent to the Aradhana Gala where Mahinda is supposed to have used his psychic powers to fly to Sri Lanka in order to meet King Devanampiyatissa. The steep climb is now made easier with railing and some concrete walkways.
About 10 minutes walk down the other side of the hill is a small precipitous cave where Mahinda apparently liked to reside.
Take the back track out of the Maha Stupa to return via the Et Vihara and Naga Pond. The Et Vihara is the part of the ancient monastery that once occupied the area. This is a steeper climb but presents an amazing vista including the Maha Stupa.
The Naga Pond is a natural catchment that was developed to provide water to the monastery. It was piped to the Lion Fountain and the Refectory near the car park area. Access it either from the main track to the Maha Stupa or via the back track. If coming from the Et Vihara or the Maha Stupa back track take the level track along the rock outcrop instead of the stairs leading straight down the hill.
There is a small museum (no charge) on the way with some nice artifacts. Very small.
There are a number of ruins including an ancient stupa on the top of the Et Vihara hill, the large Kantaka Cetiya on the hill north west of the Maha Dagoba, the Refectory near the car park and the Hospital close to the town and museum.