Visiting the Gems of Central Sri Lanka: Dambulla & Sigiriya

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After a morning of exploring ancient temples and wandering through the stunning museum of Kandy, I took two-IMG_7183hour long bus journey to the town of Dambulla. Located at a distance of about 72 kms away from Kandy, Dambulla is a town in the central province of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is famous for the UNESCO Heritage Site, the Dambulla Cave Temple. Dambulla is a major stoppage on the way to Sigiriya.

The small town was less busy and crowded with tourists as compared to Kandy. It was the 30th of December and the town was lit up and ready to welcome the New Year in all its glory. My plan was to visit the Dambulla Cave Temple that evening and start an early morning hike to the Sigiriya palace, the next day.

Dambulla Cave Temple:

The temple is easily visible, the moment one enters the town. The massive statues of Buddha adorned on top of the temple is just impossible to miss. The Buddha statue helps navigate the hikers and other tourists. The temple is a pilgrimage site for 22 centuries and the cave monastery with its five sanctuaries is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The main caves are situated about 160m above the actual temple and require a decent amount of hiking using the stairs next to the main temple. There are 80 documented caves within the compound, but only 5 of them are major attractions. Inside those 5 caves, there are more than 153 statues of Lord Buddha in varying shapes and sized. Hindu Gods like Ganesha and Vishnu have their respective statues too.  All the five caves are situated next to each other and so it doesn’t take too much time to explore all of them. The second and the third caves are the biggest ones along with the highest number of statues. The temple is not only unique (with all those statues) but has a lot of religious value to the locals too.

After spending a long day exploring temples and moving from one city to another, I treated myself by booking a hotel room and spent the evening sipping on local beer and chatting with some fellow travellers. The first thing I did the following morning took an early bus to Sigiriya for my upcoming trek. The date was 31st December- the last day of the year and I wanted to spend it doing what I love most, trekking.

Sigiriya Rock Trekking:

There are two ways to reach Sigiriya from Dambulla. Sigiriya is located about 17kms from the town of Dambulla and local buses are available on a regular basis. The journey takes up to 30 minutes and costs less than 50 rupees. The bus drops you at the main gate which requires a further 20-minute walk to the main ticket counter. Another way (more comfortable)to get to Sigiriya is to take a tuk-tuk from Dambulla, which costs 2000 Rupees. Your hotel or hostel can help you book a tuk-tuk at your preferred timing. Tuk-tuks usually wait for you to finish the trek so that you can catch a ride back to Dambulla within the given amount.

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress located right in the middle of nowhere.It is easily visible from a distance because it’s pretty much the only rock in the area, not to mention its colossal size. Towering at the height of 660 ft., the Sigiriya fortress is another UNESCO Heritage Site. The fortress was selected by King Kashyap who had the brilliant idea to build his palace on top of the huge rock, back in the 5th Century.

For SAARC Country tourists, a ticket to the Sigiriya Fortress costs 15$(if you happen to be carrying your passport along as proof) while the regular rate is 30$.  The trek consists of a lot of stairs and was exhausting but the view from the top made me feel like it was all worth it. It was the last day of 2016 and here I was, standing on top of a huge rock, thinking about my year-long adventures and the journeys I had been to. I was happy that I was ending my year by doing what I love the most.

I took the bus back to Colombo on the same day, as I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in the capital.5 hours of tedious bus journey later, I was back in Colombo. I felt physically drained but the thought of all the places I had just been to, made me think that it was worth the sacrifice and exhaustion.

I get asked a certain question quite a lot- why do I like to travel alone? One of the main reasons for doing so is because of moments like these. In the last two days, I had spent more than 13 hours travelling by local buses; I find I had visited three cities and been on three different hikes. The day I find someone who matches up to my craziness, will be the day I find my perfect travel buddy.

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