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Anuradhapura is a city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

Get in

It is possible to get to Anuradhapura on the A9 highway from Kandy. The drive is approximately five hours. Buses travel along this highway, as well.

Get around

Tuk tuks and buses are abundant. The New Town is relatively small, and can be walked from one end to another in half an hour. The Old Town (archaeological site) is quite large, and you can get around by tuk tuk.


The ancient city of Anuradhapura was first settled ca. 900 B.C., and served off and on as the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom until ca. 1100 A.D., when the capital moved further south. The city was quite large in its heyday, and so there is a lot of archaeology to see. A $20 USD ticket will get you day admission to all the sites of Anuradhapura, and admission is included in the Cultural Triangle ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the Archaeology Museum.

Note: It is respectful, and indeed necessary, to remove shoes and hats when walking around sites of Buddhist veneration. The ground, especially the sand, can get quite hot, so step lightly and seek shade if you must. It is also polite to circumambulate to the right; that is, walk to the left around the object so that your right hand, considered to be the clean hand, is constantly facing the object. Women's shoulders should also be covered when exploring Buddhist sites, and respecful clothing should be worn. Sri Lanka is a very polite society, so please dress appropriately. One is also not supposed to turn their back towards a representation of the Buddha. It is generally fine to take pictures, but be careful not to take any pictures of people infront of images of the Buddha.

Worth seeing:

The Sri Maha Bodhiya: The Sri Maha Bodhiya, or Bodhi Tree Temple, is the second most sacred place in Sri Lanka, after the Sri Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, in Kandy. The Bodhi Tree is allegedly a cutting from the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and has been continuously guarded for over 2000 years, making it the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. The temple complex is surrounded by walls, and is quite busy with monks and worshippers. Due to terrorist activities in the 1980s, it is not possible to drive up to the temple, and one must go through a metal detector before entering the complex. Bags will be checked, and it is advisable to leave luggage at the hotel, as it will not be allowed near the site. Shoes can be left near the entrance. It is polite to leave a tip.

Ruwanwelisaya: the oldest and most volumous stupa at Anuradhapura, has been fully restored, painted white, and is currently a centre of worship. Walk from the Sri Maha Bodhiya, past the Brazen Palace (an ancient palace that once supported a bronze roof) to the stupa. There are several image houses at the stupa, as well as four smaller stupas in the four corners of the complex. Please be respectful of the worshippers at the site.

The Archaeolgy Museum: Showcases many of the artifacts found at the site, from jewellery and gems to coinage and pottery. The museum is more focused on religious and elite objects, although some commoner artifacts are also shown.

The Folk Museum: Showcases the archaeology of Anuradhapura from a more folk perspective.

Jetavana: Large stupa (Buddhist worship structure. Also known as "Dagoba"), currently undergoing restoration work. At ~120m (400ft.) tall, this was the third tallest structure in the ancient world (after the Great Pyramids at Giza), and the largest in Sri Lanka.

The Citadel: This was the secular centre of the city. The Gedige and other palaces can be found here, as well as the old city walls.

The Moonstone: Moonstones, to be found throughout Anuradhapura, were at the entrances to monasteries, and represented the movement from the secular to the sacred worlds, by following the path to enlightenment, as carved into the moonstone. This moonstone is of particular note, for its size and impressive decoration.

The Western Monasteries: These monasteries represent a different take on worshipping the Buddha than can be found in the main part of the ancient city. Whereas many monasteries were opulant and richly adorned, the Western Monasteries sought a more orthodox existence, without any sort of decoration within the monastery, save for urinal stones. Urinal stones were often very richly adorned, and the symbolism here need not be explicitly stated.






Get out

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