Things to do in Dambulla
1. Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla Cave Temple is unarguably the most famous tourist attraction in Dambulla. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temple is home to the best-preserved cave complex in Sri Lanka.
The cavern temple network has been recorded to include 80 caverns, with the main features of the cave temple being split among five caves that visitors are permitted to explore. It is in these caves that you will find murals and sculptures depicting the Lord Buddha and his teachings. The murals are projected to occupy a total area of 2100 square meters. The Cave Temple is also considered one of the best elements of the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka.
2. Rural village visits around Dambulla
The best way to discover authentic Sri Lankan culture is by paying a visit to one of the rural villages. Villages around Sigiriya still hold on to the old ways of life. Arranged visits include lunch at villagers’ homes, traditional cooking classes, slash and burn cultivation visits, canoe rides in a reservoir, bullock cart rides, trekking, and bird-watching experiences. It is a good way to relax and enjoy a different culture at your own pace.
3. Hiking the Rose Quartz Mountain (Jathika Namal Uyana) from Dambulla
Located 15 km from Dambulla, the Rose Quartz Mountain is the largest rose quartz deposit in all of South Asia. Here mining is prohibited by the Sri Lankan government as the quartz range lies inside a nature reserve. Around the tiny mountain range is the national ironwood forest (Jathika Namal Uyana). It is the largest man-made forest in South Asia. Ruins of a third-century Buddhist monastery are scattered inside this ironwood forest. In ancient times, dangerous convicts had sought refuge at the monastery and the resident monks had ordered them to plant ironwood trees as penitence for their crimes. As time went by the monastery was abandoned but the ironwood thrived.
4. Visiting Popham’s Arboretum from Dambulla
An arboretum is a place where trees are grown for study and display. Popham’s arboretum is the only dry zone arboretum in Sri Lanka. Mr. Sam Popham who was an enthusiast founded the arboretum in 1963. Today it is managed by the tree society of Sri Lanka. It is a relaxing place with many footpaths and a collection of semi-evergreen monsoon dry forest trees. The forest makes a superb bird-watching site. The highlight of the arboretum is its night walk in which you can see the slender loris, one of the rarest creatures on earth.
5. Visiting Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Burial site
Ibbankatuwa megalithic burial site is one of 180 pre-historic sites excavated in Sri Lanka. The site comprises 42 sets of tombs created by unshaped stone slabs. There are more than 400 burials excavated at the site. Both skeletons and cremated remains were found at the site. Grave goods including clay pots, iron, copper, gold, beads, necklaces, and Indian gemstones were also found.
6. Bullock cart riding at Dambulla
Bull-driven carts were once the preferred way to travel between Sri Lankan villages. Bullock cart racing is a rare sport nowadays but not unheard of in rural areas. If you fancy a ride, there are many bullock carts around the Sigiriya area.
7. Visit Dambulla Museum of Wall Paintings
Dambulla museum of wall paintings is one of the best museums in Sri Lanka. If you are interested in ancient Sri Lankan art, this is a must-visit place. The small number of mural copies manage to capture the history of Sri Lankan art from pre-historic cave paintings to modern classical art. It’s not a large museum but a visit is a good way to understand how Sri Lankan art evolved through the ages.
8. Watch a Cricket match at Dambulla International Cricket Grounds
Watching a cricket match with the local crowd is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss.