Dambulla Cave Temple and the Pollonaruwa Ruins

Dambulla was one of my favourite historical sights in Sri Lanka. An ancient temple, carved inside a raised rock with an impressive collection of colourful Buddha statues and more frescoes and paintings. When first approaching the temple, you’ll see a large golden Buddhist temple and would be forgiven for thinking this is the cave temple. In fact, Dambulla is a rather more subdued white-faced temple concealed behind the facade of the Golden Temple and the Golden Temple Museum. (The museum has a few nice paintings but doesn’t necessarily need a specific visit). Once again, as with all Buddhist temples, care must be taken to adhere to the appropriate dress codes and there is a shoe rack just before entry into the temple grounds, where for a slightly overpriced cost, your shoes will be watched over tentatively – or you could leave your Louboutins behind and needn’t bother with that.

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We then proceeded to the Pollonaruwa ancient ruins, a city that was the 2nd ancient capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of the original ancient capital of Anuradhapura (we didn’t make it there on our 7 day trip but if you travel to Sri Lanka for longer, this would be a historically-rich and culturally significant place to visit. At Pollonaruwa, the ruins that remained are scattered around and you need a vehicle ideally to move between them. There is also a museum which is well laid out and informative and this one would be worth a stop. We visited 3 or 4 key ruins, as we were utterly exhausted after Sigiriya and Dambulla. It was reminiscent of the ancient Southern Indian city of Hampi or Pompeii for a European analogy. These sights are not to be missed but I would recommend avoiding doing all 3 in one day unless you have a specific preference for achy joints and car sickness…. We must have spent nearly 6 hours in the car that day, not to mention 2 climbs and the early start and time permitting, would have paced out these trips over 2 days.

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