Located on a granite spur in the heart of the Cultural Triangle, the richly painted rock temples of Dambulla are the best preserved of their kind in Sri Lanka.
They date back to the 1st century BC. and full of colorful Buddha statues and murals.
Built as an act of gratitude by a Sinhalese king forced to hide from the Tamils who invaded Anuradhapura and chased him from his throne.
The truth is that the Golden Temple of Dambulla is an essential visit that has a bad start.
You may wonder why
The fault lies with the first image of this famous place of worship, a huge golden Buddha which, for Western taste, is rather a sculpture in bad taste and without any interest.
Things change radically when we begin to climb the gentle slope that leads to the caves of the Golden Temple of Dambulla.
First of all, because we will climb among shady rocks or steps surrounded by vegetation, macaques and cheerful Sri Lankans dressed in white visiting this famous place.
It is a pleasure to see how children have fun with their parents on the climb to the Golden Temple.
The temples of the cave are positioned under a large overhang of rock with dividing walls built to separate the cave into individual temples.
Over the years and until the twentieth century, the site has been embellished, renewed and repainted several times by various kings, but the style and appearance of the art are surprisingly consistent.
It is not surprising to also find the famous “Kandian dancers” who often meet with Buddhist authorities and monks to participate in some offerings or “pooya”.
In fact, it is a short excursion that you can combine with the Minneriya Safari or even with the famous Sigiriya Rock.
Once at the top, it doesn’t take more than half an hour to visit these five caves that make up the Golden Temple of Dambulla.
Do not forget that it is one of the essential visits to be made during your trip to Sri Lanka.
It is also a site declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Today the main attractions of Dambulla are spread over five separate cave temples.
Narrow Cave 1 is home to a 15 meter long reclining Buddha carved out of solid rock with beautifully painted feet and delicate traces of the gilded gilding that once would have covered much of the sculpture.
The largest and most impressive of the caves is Cave 2 with over 150 life-size statues and Buddha images, and fabulous murals covering the ceiling and walls depicting historical and religious events.
The nearby Cave 3 also contains a good part of interesting frescoes.
although the strong point of this particular temple is the solid rock where the Buddha meditates.
The relatively small Cave 4 is notable for the dagoba in the center while Cave 5 is the smallest of the group with brick and plaster Buddha statues.
Helpful Tip: When you visit the cave temple complex, start at the end (Cave 5) in reverse order so you can see the different caves in order of magnificence, ending with the most impressive.
Anyway, our final recommendation is to do this early in the morning due to the temperature.
As in all sacred places in Sri Lanka, it is mandatory to visit barefoot.
For this reason it is highly recommended to wear socks to protect the feet from high temperatures and for hygienic reasons.
During the entire circuit in Sri Lanka, we also recommend using good sunscreen and drinking water to stay hydrated. Especially if you travel with children or older people.