Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

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dambulla
Photos: Christina Pfeiffer

When visiting Sri Lanka, it’s difficult not to be impressed by Dambulla Cave Temple or the Golden Temple of Dambulla. Over the centuries, the caves of Dambulla have been a sanctuary for monks and a refuge for royalty. It’s one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka that is worth spending a few hours exploring.

dambulla cave temple
A painted statue at Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla Cave Temple has impressive wall paintings and statues.

Why should I visit Dambulla Cave Temple?

The cave monastery is a well-preserved cave-temple complex of five caves, each with beautiful and extensive Buddhist mural paintings on the walls and ceilings.

Dambulla’s caves are historic and truly impressive. Besides the ancient cave paintings, there are 157 statues.

Dambulla Cave Temple
Visiting the caves is one of the main things to do in Dambulla Cave Temple.
golden temple painting and Buddhist statues
This Golden Temple painting is exquisite and the Buddhist statues are priceless.

The five caves house a treasure trove of religious art. It’s mind-boggling to think that the first of these statues and drawings were created over 2000 years ago.

According to the history books, the ruler of Anuradhapura took refuge in these caves during a war. After regaining his throne, the king decided to pay homage to his place of refuge and turned them into rock temples.

It is evident from the different artistic styles that subsequent rulers continued to maintain these caves. They are from different periods.

Where is Dambula Cave Temple?

Dambulla Cave Temple is in southern Dambulla in Sri Lanka, about 20km from Sigiriya (which is another famous landmark).

Don’t miss Cave I (Devaraja Viharaya), also known as the Temple of the King of the Gods and its impressive giant reclining Buddha.

Dambulla Cave Temple reclining Buddha
Impressive reclining Buddha at Dambulla Caves.

Cave II (Maharaja Viharaya) or the Temple of the Great King is big and spectacular. There are two statues of kings, Hindu deities and a Buddha statue under an archway decorated with dragons.

dambulla rock temple
Dambula Caves is full of surprises.

Cave III (Maha Alut Viharaya) is called the New Great Temple and was converted from a storeroom in the 18th century by the King of Kandy.

Discover Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a magnet for travellers who love history and nature.

The Dambulla Cave Temple is a popular stop on most Sri Lanka itineraries.

Find out more about travelling around Sri Lanka by road and don’t miss these amazing places to visit in Anuradhapura.

Other stops for your Sri Lanka tour include Polonnaruwa, Galle and Sirigaya.

Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

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Christina Pfeiffer
I'm a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia, when I'm not on the road. I've lived in three continents and my career as a travel journalist has take be to all seven continents. Since 2003, I have contributed travel stories to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. I have won many travel writing awards and I'm a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

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