Discovering Sri Lanka’s ancient city: 20 Places to visit in Anuradhapura

 In Hotels, Places To Visit, Sri Lanka, Temple, Travel, Travel Journal

Imagine visiting a city of ancient scriptures, when you explore the places to visit in Anuradhapura you will dive into a realm of culture and ancient history. Anuradhapura is a city where all the mythological characters are worshipped and every corner of it has a history of its own. So what is the hold-up? Get your Sri Lanka itinerary booked today!

Sri Lanka is a country of great South Asian heritage where you enjoy cultural tapestry woven with influences of Buddism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. 

Along with housing some of the ancient cities, this country’s geography includes lush greenery, tea plantations in the central highlands, a variety of flora and fauna to explore, and many more. 

Srilanka is a paradise for nature and history enthusiasts, as the country offers lush jungles, misty mountains, pristine beaches, cities like Anuradhapura are declared UNESCO World Heritage, etc. Every village in this city has a story of its own, the lanes of Sri Lanka want to take you on an unforgettable journey of ancient lifestyle, culture, and societal norms. 

And then comes the city that served as a major location in the history of the country. From housing several monasteries to hosting a variety of cultural events, Anuradhapura is one of the prominent gems of the heritage of Sri Lanka.

10 Interesting Facts About Anuradhapura

Buddhist Heritage


Anuradhapura is a city of great significance in Buddhism, with many monasteries, stupas, and temples scattered throughout its landscape. Anuradhapura is considered a sacred site for Buddhists globally. It is also a city of Spiritual enlightenment for people and every year it gets visitors from all across the world who visit to reestablish their spiritual connection in this city.

Sri Maha Bodhi

Anuradhapura is home to Sri Maha Bodhi, an ancient fig tree whithat believed to be the descendant of the great Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. This tree is considered as one of the oldest living tree trees and one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka documented in history. 

Ancient Capital


Anuradhapura has attained its status because of its importance in documented Sri Lankan history. This city has served as the capital of Sri Lanka for over a thousand years. From around the 4th century BCE to the 11th century CE this city had a significant role in the development of the country which also makes it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Historical Significance

The city offers a wealth of attractions that narrate stories of ancient times. This city boasts impressive historical monuments such as the Ruwanwelisaya stupa, Jetavthe Anaramaya monastery, Abhayagiri complex, and many more. Other than being home to a plethora of historical sites there are many places to visit in Anuradhapura that will take you on a voyage of amazement. 

Irrigation system


Anuradhapura is also renowned for its irrigation system, being a part of the dry region of Sri Lanka this city has an advanced irrigation system. Having both ancient and modern irrigation systems makes cultivation possible even in regions that are known for their vegetation.

City of Cultural Fusion

Anuradhapura has cultural exchanges with various civilizations including Indian and Southeast Asian Mediterranean influences. This has led to the blend of ideas, beliefs, cultural practices, art, architecture, and traditions within the communities. You can explore the cultural fusion in the cuisines available, inscriptions, archeological remains, sculptures, and many more. 

Being a Trade hub


Anuradhapura was a city of major trade hub in ancient times, this city connected Srilanka with trading partners across the Indian Ocean. This trading through the chase made the city flourish with raw spices, gems, pear, ls, and other commodities. 

Influence on Buddhism

This city being the centre of Buddhist belief in the region has served its role in the spread of Buddhism across Asia. This creates monarch institutions that attract pilgrims, monks and s, and even scholars from neighbouring countries.

UNESCO World Heritage Site


Anuradhapura is reserved as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as this city has preserved its ancient ruins, religious sites, historic stories, mythological significance, and cultural heritage for future generations.

History of its Decline and Rediscovery

The city being the oldest has witnessed both rise and downfall throughout history. The decline of Anuradhapura’s political and economic centre began during the 10th century due to invasions and internal conflicts. Again during the 19th and 20th centuries, the historical and political significance of the city was discovered and restored. 

What is the Best time to visit Anuradhapura


The best time to visit Anuradhapura is during the dry months when the skies are clear and heavy rainfall is not expected. With September, you can enjoy the places to visit in Anuradha properly. During these months the temperature is mild with sunny days and low humidity. 

These months are the ideal time to visit the ancient ruins, temples, and other historical sites in the city. There are also many outdoor activities that you can enjoy when it is not muddy and cloudy. The months from May to September are the peak tourist season of Sri Lanka which makes facilities, accommodation, and transportation options readily available. 

But it is also important to understand that Sri Lanka can be hot during some months of the year. The days from June to August can be hot so make sure to have proper preparation if you’re visiting in these months. Also, you can plan your trip during the early morning or late afternoon to avoid heat and make the most of your trip. 

How To Reach Anuradhapura?


There are multiple transportation options to reach Anuradhapura, but firstly you have to land in Sri Lanka.

By air:– The closest international airport to the city of AnuradhapuraAirport Colombo Airport (Bandaranaike International Airport), from here you can take a domestic flight to Anuradhapura airport, which is at a distance of about 7 Km from the city centre. 

By train:– Anuradhapura is also well connected with some of the major cities of the country such as Colombo, Kandy, and Jaffna. You can also enjoy the scenic view on your train journey to the ancient city. 

By bus:- Anuradhapura has a central bus station with multiple bus services to and from various parts of Sri Lanka. It is one of the most famous modes of transportation among tourists. You can take a bus from Colombo, Kandy, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee to reach Anuradhapura.

By private vehicle:– If you want to stop on the way and explore the beauty of the attraction that comes your way. So you can hire a taxi or a private vehicle to enjoy the beauty of this city up close. Private vehicles are available in all the major cities of the country such as Colombo, Kandy, etc. 

Things to do in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka


Anuradhapura offers a plethora of activities to delve into its rich history, culture, and natural splendour. Whether you are here for a normal visit or on a special occasion Sri Lanka will not disappoint you. There are a lot of honeymoon places in Sri Lanka that you can explore with your partner. 

Here are some top-notch Things to do in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka

Embark on a Journey through Ancient Ruins

One of the top things to do in Anuradhapura is to wander through the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, such as the Ruwanwelisaya stupa, Jetavanaramaya monastery, Abhayagiri complex, and Thuparamaya stupa. These sites beautifully showcase the city’s historical and architectural grandeur.


Pay Reverence at Sacred Sites

Make a pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist sites like the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, believed to be a descendant of the original Bodhi tree where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Also, don’t miss exploring the Isurumuniya rock temple and Samadhi Buddha statue.

Dive into Archaeological Museums

Another thing to do in Anuradhapura is to delve into the treasures of history by visiting the Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum and other smaller museums scattered across the city. Learn about archaeological discoveries, ancient artifacts, and the cultural heritage of this region.

Indulge in Local Flavors

Treat your taste buds with authentic Sri Lankan cuisine at local eateries. Try mouthwatering dishes like rice and curry,hoppers, kottu roti, and delectable seafood specialties that will tantalize your palate.

Embark on a Bike or Tuk-Tuk Adventure

Another top things to do in Anuradhapura is to explore Anuradhapura’s charms by renting a bicycle or hiring a tuk-tuk to meander through monasteries, temples, ancient ponds, and scattered ruins that adorn this ancient city. You can also enjoy the nightlife of Sri Lanka while exploring these attractions.

Top 10 Tourist places in Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is filled with cultural treasures, every end of the city has something to offer. This city is a treasure trove for people interested in exploring the pages of history.

Some of the top attractions in Sri Lanka are

  • Abhayagiri Monastery

This place is one of the best places to visit in Anuradhapura as it is a prominent center of Buddhist learning and practices. This monastery was built in the 2nd Century BCE and is made covering a vast area of 200 hectares. This monastery has excellent architecture and is huge enough to hold meditation halls, stupas and monastic buildings.

  • Shri Maha Bodhi Tree

The Shri Maha Bodhi Tree receives pilgrims from all over the world every year. Thai street is one of the oldest historically authenticated trees which is documented to be planted in 288 BCE. This sacred fig tree is highly revered in Buddhism due to its connection with the original bodhi tree. 

  • Jetavanaramaya Monastery

This monastery is of historical significance as it has a massive brick stupa believed to be constructed by King Mahasena in the 3rd Century CE. The stupa is also another major tourist attraction which was considered one of the tallest structures of that time, as it stood at the height of approximately 400 feet or 122 metres. 

  • Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is a colossal structure and another best place to visit in Anuradhapura which stands at a height of 103 metres (338 feet). This stupa has a circumference of 290 metres and is a place that you absolutely can’t miss. According to historical records, this stupa was constructed by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BCE, signifying the country’s rich Buddhist heritage. 

  • Isurumuniya Rock Temple

This temple is one of the oldest temples in Sri Lanka, dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. The temple is known for its famous “ Lover’s Seat” carving that depicts a couple sitting in an embrace. 

    • Thuparamaya Stupa

    This stupa is believed to be the first stupa to be built in Sri Lanka dating back to the 3rd Century BCE during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa. One of the most interesting things about the stupa is one of its ancient relics which is believed to be the collarbone of Lord Buddha. The architectural style of the stupa represents the early construction style of India characterised by the hemispherical dome atop a square structure. 

    • Anuradhapura Archeological museum

    This is the place for curious minds, the museum houses a vast collection of ancient structures, artefacts, pottery, coins, inscriptions, and many more. It offers insights to the city’s rich archeological heritage as each item provides valuable insights on the daily life, customs, beliefs and artistic achievements of the inhabitants of ancient Anuradhapura. 

    • Mihintale

    Mihintale is a sacred mountain peak that has been associated with the spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by Mahindra. Mahindra was the son of emperor Ashoka, who ruled India during the 3rd Century BCE. The name of this peak is also derived from the work of Mahindra’s hill. There are also a lot of tourist attractions near this hill, so if you are visiting this place then you should visit a lot of nearby sites too.

    • Kuttam Pokuna

    This place is also known as Twins ponds which is a water garden made during the Anuradhapura period. The twin ponds are notable for their symmetrical design, advanced hydraulic engineering, and aesthetic beauty.

    • Samadhi Statue

    This is an elegant Lord Buddha statue depicting the posture of meditation located very close to the Isurumuniya temple. This place gives off a serene vibe, you will feel relaxed, calm and composed here. This is also one of the best places to visit in Anuradhapura.

Top 5 Places to Go Shopping at Anuradhapura


Some of the top places to go Shopping in Sri Lanka city Anuradhapura are 

  • The Old Town Market

The Old Town Market or the Pola is a bustling market of Anuradhapura where you can get the chance to get close to the local culture. You will find a wide variety of fruit products, vegetables, spices, traditional Sri Lankan snacks, and many more. It is one the best places to visit in Anuradhapura if you want to experience the vibrant atmosphere of a traditional Sri Lankan market. 

  • The New Town Market

Another place where you can shop till your heart’s content, you will find this place bustling with busy locals. This place is mainly famous for clothing, accessories, household items, and electronics. You can also find fresh produce, seafood, and local handicrafts here. If you like getting immersed in the local lifetstyle then you can experience it up close here in this market.

  • Minhitale Sunday Market

If you visit Minhitale on Sundays don’t miss this market, it is one the best experiences you can get. The market bustles with eye-catching things to buy. If you are looking for something that will represent your trip to Sri Lanka then you will find it here in this local market. It is a lively market that offers a mix of traditional and modern items.

  • Nuwara Wewa Market

Near the Nuwara Wewa reservoir, this market is known for its agricultural products, fresh fish, seafood, and local specialties. You can find vendors selling a wide range of food items, spices, and traditional Sri Lankan snacks.

  • Keells Super

If you are looking for a place that offers a modern shopping experience Keells Super is a well-known supermarket chain where you can buy groceries, beverages, snacks, toiletries, and many more. 

Top 5 Places to Explore the Natural Beauty of Anuradhapura


Some of the top places to explore the natural beauty of Anuradhapura are – 

  • Nuwarawewa Reservoir

In the heart of Anuradhapura lies the Nuwarawewa Reservoir, a vast water body not just serving as a crucial water source but also offers a picturesque setting perfect for picnics, birdwatching, and catching breathtaking sunset views. Here, visitors can unwind by the tranquil waters, stroll along the banks, or partake in boating activities for added fun.

  • Tissa Wewa Reservoir 

Moving on to the Tissa Wewa Reservoir, another enchanting water expanse in Anuradhapura awaits nature enthusiasts amidst its serene surroundings enveloped by lush greenery. This reservoir attracts nature lovers, photographers, and anyone in search of peaceful moments within nature’s embrace.

  • Ranmasu Uyana

Venturing into Ranmasu Uyana reveals an ancient garden complex boasting a serene lake, blossoming trees, and beautifully landscaped areas providing an idyllic setting for walks, meditation sessions, and soaking up the natural beauty. The area is also teeming with diverse bird species and wildlife for visitors to admire.

  • Abhayagiri Monastery

Not far from the Abhayagiri Monastery lies Eth Pokuna (Elephant Pond), an ancient reservoir renowned for its architectural elegance and natural charm. A peaceful haven where guests can marvel at the calm waters glistening amidst verdant surroundings.

  • Nuwara Kalawiya Forest Reserve

For those craving a rendezvous with biodiversity on the outskirts of Anuradhapura stands the Nuwara Kalawiya Forest Reserve. This protected area is famed for its rich variety of flora and fauna inviting visitors to traverse forest trails, spot wildlife up close, and revel in the splendor of a thriving natural ecosystem.

Where to Stay in Anuradhapura: Top 10 Hotels to Stay in Anuradhapura


Looking for a place to stay in Anuradhapura? Well, here are the 10 best hotels in Sri Lanka city Anuradhapura along with their amenities that you might find interesting

  • Ulagalla by Uga Escapes: This spot offers private villas with plunge pools, spa services, fine dining restaurants, nature walks, cycling tours, gym facilities, Wi-Fi access, and concierge services.
  • Heritage Hotel Anuradhapura: Enjoy comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant serving local and international cuisine, a bar area, Wi-Fi connectivity, a tour desk service, and even an airport shuttle.
  • The Lakeside at Nuwarawewa: Features lake-view rooms, a swimming pool on-site, a restaurant and bar combo, and gardens to stroll through or relax in on the terrace. Also available are Wi-Fi access points for connectivity on the go along with bicycle rentals and tour desk assistance plus an airport shuttle.
  • Palm Garden Village Hotel: Stay in spacious rooms with access to a swimming pool area alongside dining at the hotel’s restaurant or unwinding at the bar or garden space. Additional amenities include spa services for relaxation seekers as well as Wi-Fi connectivity; there’s also tour desk assistance provided along with bicycle rentals and an airport shuttle service.
  • Rajarata Hotel: Offering clean rooms and serving up Sri Lankan dishes at its restaurant plus having a cozy bar area surrounded by garden views. You can stay connected with their Wi-Fi services while receiving support from their tour desk team; there’s also 24-hour front desk assistance available along with an airport shuttle service.
  • Hotel Alakamanda: Find comfort in their cozy rooms complemented by the swimming pool area while dining at the restaurant or enjoying drinks at the bar or garden terrace space.

Unwind further with their spa services available on-site coupled with Wi-Fi access points for connectivity needs including tour desk support and an airport shuttle facility.

  • Mansarovar Hotel Anuradhapura: Modern room accommodations await you here while dining options include Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine served up at their restaurant.

Enjoy drinks at the bar or take in garden views from the terrace area accompanied by Wi-Fi coverage across the premises offering tour desk assistance as well as an airport shuttle service.

  • Oyster Lake Hotel: Featuring lake-view rooms for scenic stays complemented by swimming facilities onsite plus dining options ranging from their restaurant to grabbing drinks at the bar amidst garden settings – perfect for unwinding on terraces provided alongside spa services offered too! 

Stay connected through available Wi-Fi spots while getting help from their tour desk personnel including utilizing their convenient airport shuttle service.

  • Hotel Shalini: Cozy up in comfortable rooms followed by local dish delights served in-house while enjoying serene garden views either outdoors or from terraces within reach of available Wi-Fi connections providing convenience throughout your stay; get help planning activities via their tour desk team round-the-clock front-desk support is also accessible alongside an airport shuttle service ready when you are!
  • The Sanctuary at Tissawewa: Experience eco-friendly cottages surrounded by lush greenery paired with dining options offered onsite including beverages served up fresh!

Take leisurely strolls through gardens relaxing on terraces after indulging yourself using provided spa services before connecting online using available Wi-Fi hotspots keeping you informed about tours arranged conveniently via dedicated desks assisting guests – not forgetting bicycle rentals arranged easily upon request ensuring smooth travels back home thanks again due diligence shown towards providing efficient transport arrangements like timely shuttles awaiting passengers eagerly!

What are the top activities in Anuradhapura?

Some of the top activities in Anuradhapura are Visiting ancient ruins, Knowing about the history of the city, Exploring the cultural significance of the city, Exploring the historical monuments and many more.

What are the top hotels in Anuradhapura?

Some of the top hotels in Anuradhapura are Ulagalla by Uga Escapes, Hotel Heritage, Hotel Alakamanda, Mansarovar Hotel.

How can I commute within Anuradhapura?

Within Anuradhapura you can commute through various transport options such as public buses, tuk-tuks, hired vehicles, taxis and many more.

When is the best time to visit Anuradhapura?

The best time to visit Anuradhapura is during the dry months, from May to September.

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