Ancient City of Anuradhapura is located at the capital city of the North Central Province and is regarded as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Its extensive network of historic Buddhist temples, monasteries, and places of worship, which spans more than 40 square kilometers, has made it a sacred location for Buddhists all over the world.

The city was established in the fourth century BC, and Abundant in 993 as a result of extensive Tamil invesians. Fortunately, a lot of these old ruins still exist, so you can tour much of this old kingdom even today.

Anuradhapura is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. It is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, located around 205 kilometers north of Colombo. This city is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka known as the Ancient City of Anuradhapura.


History of Anuradhapura

  • Pandukabhaya, the first king of the Sinhalese Kingdom, built the capital in Anuradhapura in 377 BC and governed the whole country from there, despite the existence of small independent states in the country.
  • During the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa in the third century BC, Buddhism was brought to the island, and Anuradhapura quickly gained attention. Here, he constructed the Thuparama, the first stupa in the nation.
  • In addition, King Tissa organized the planting of the sacred Bo sapling that Princess Sangamitta, the daughter of Indian Emperor Asoka, had given to the kingdom. It is now regarded as the oldest living tree in the world and is known as the respected Sri Maha Bodhi.
  • This historic capital city was often overrun by Indian troops, but King Dutugemunu successfully recaptured it and turned it into the pinnacle of the nation’s prosperity and culture in the second century BC.
  • King Dutugamunu began a huge construction project in Anuradhapura during his rule that resulted in many of the great monuments that can still be seen today, foremost among them the Ruwanweliseya stupa.
  • King Mahasena is credited with developing a vibrant agricultural community in Anuradhapura by constructing 16 irrigation tanks. The king  also constructed Sri Lanka’s largest stupa, the Jethavanaramaya, which stands 400 feet tall and is one of the oldest brick constructions in the ancient world.
  • From the fourth century BC until the eleventh century AD, Anuradhapura was the center of governance. Even though there were occasional invasions by Indian forces during this time, it remained the as the stronghold until King Vjayabahu declared Polonnaruwa as the capital in 1070.

Top 10 Attractions to visit in Ancient City of Anuradhapura

  1. Abhayagiri Dagoba
  2. Ruvanwelisaya Dagoba
  3. Sri Maha Bodhi
  4. Jetavanarama Dagoba
  5. Isurumuniya Vihara
  6. Thuparama Dagoba
  7. Kuttam Pokuna
  8. Mirisavatiya Dagoba
  9. Samadhi Buddha
  10. Lowamahapaya

Sri Maha Bodhi

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, which is situated in Anuradhapura, is thought to be the world’s oldest tree and dates all the way back to the third century BC. Since it is a seedling of the tree under which Lord Buddha obtained enlightenment in Buddha Gaya, India, the sacred bo tree represents Buddhism as the nation’s official religion.

In good faith, Indian Emperor Asoka made the decision to present a seedling of the sacred tree to the monarch of Sri Lanka, Devanampiyatissa. Sangamittha Thera, the emperor’s daughter, ultimately brought it and planted it in the Royal Gardens of Anuradhapura. Devout Buddhists still make yearly pilgrimages to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya to pay respect and carry ous rituals for luck and blessings.

Sri Maha Bodhi

Jethawanarama Dagoba

The Jetavanarama dagoba is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest stupas. The dagaba was initially erected to a height of 400 feet (120 meters), making it the world’s third biggest monument at the time. The Frist and second structures were the largest Egyptian pyramids erected two thousand years before the Jetawanarama dagoba built.

King Mahasen, who reigned from 277 to 304 AD, built this temple and the king was well-liked by the locals because he erected several water cisterns.


Samadhi Buddha Statue

The Samadhi Statue is a statue that can be seen at Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura’s Mahamevnwa Park. The Buddha is seen with his hands in the Dhyana Mudra. This statue is among the most prevalent examples of Buddhist sculpture since this pose is well-known across the Buddhist world. The granite monument, probably dates from the 4th century AD is 8 feet tall and has intricate carvings.

  • The statue was partially damaged when it was discovered in the nineteenth century. For fact, at that time, it had lost its nose. Fortunately, you no longer notice this.
Samadhi statue

Kuttam pokuna

In the local Sinhala language, Kuttam Pokuna refers to the Twin Ponds. These ponds, which are one of the few remaining examples of ancient Sri Lankan inventiveness, were allegedly constructed during the reign of King Aggabodhi. This pond’s main objective was to provide water for the monks who remained at the Abayagiriaya Aramaic Complex.

The sizes of those two ponds vary. There are stairs leading to the bottom in both ponds. Next to a bigger pond that draws water from a Makara’s mouth is another sculpture of a five-headed snake.

Kuttam Pokuna

Abhayagiri Vihara

For approximately 600 years, Abhayagiri Vihra was the greatest monastery in Sri Lanka. It was founded in 88 BC by King Vattagamini and  housed 5000 monks on its grounds of almost 500 acres. Abhayagiri Vihara was the most powerful institution in the kingdom after the king at the time. 

King Gajabahu is credited with creating the Abhayagiri Dagaba. Despite being somewhat smaller than the Jetavana dagaba, it was the second-largest stupa in the world, standing at a height of 370 feet (115m). It is considered as one of the eight important Buddhist sanctuaries in sri Lanka.

Abhayagiri Vihara

Other Points of Interest Close to Ancient City of Anuradhapura


Buddhist temple Isurumuniya is located adjacent to Tisa Wewa. This was a structure of a monastery complex that was constructed in the third century BC. Isurumiuniya is well-known for its stone sculptures of the “Isurumuniya Lovers,” “Horseman,” “Elephant Pond,” and “Royal family.” The statues of lovers are the ones that are most well-known. The sculptures of the lovers are thought to be those of Prince Saliya, who abandoned his kingdom for the ‘low caste’ Chandala maiden Asokamala.

Avukana Buddha Statue

This standing figure of the Buddha was deftly cut out of a large rock face and is situated in the hamlet of Avukana in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province. The standing Buddha sculpture is 42 feet tall (including the base) and was created during the reign of King Dhatusena. The body and robe have been painstakingly carved to the finest detail.

How to get to Anuradhapura from Colombo

Train travel from Colombo to Anuradhapura is simple. It requires around five hours. Anuradhapura’s historic center is home to the main station. The center and the new section of town are accessible via tuk-tuk from there. Taking a bus is yet another option to go from Colombo to Anuradhapura.

What to wear when visiting Anuradhapura

When visiting Anuradhapura, be mindful to dress modestly. Consider that the majority of it is a sacred space where people are praying. Take something with you to cover your shoulders when you enter sacred places. Every time you go to a temple, you have to take your shoes off. Bring a hat and sunglasses with you as well.

When to visit Anuradhapura

Sri Lanka has two distinct monsoon seasons. There are less possibilities of rain and lovely bright days from December to March, making these months ideal for travel, but they will also be busier and more expensive than normal. You may just visit whenever you want if the rain doesn’t disturb you too much.

Entrance Ticket Price to the Ancient City of Anuradhapura

similar to all other significant historical, cultural, and religious locations The cost of traveling to Anuradhapura is actually fairly high. A day’s access to the whole site costs $30 USD. 

Guided tours that also go to Anuradhapura

Sri Lanka is easy to explore on your own. However, if you don’t have time to research and organize your trip, or if you simply prefer to leave the painstaking planning to the pros, you’ll be glad to hear that there are some outstanding guided tours. Ancient Sri Lanka is a 7 day guided tour organised by Ceylon Hunt that will take you a detailed tour around UNESCO Heritage sites in Sri Lanka including Ancient City of Anuradhapura.

Image courtesy of Andy Nobes, David Stanley, Hafiz Issadeen, Arian Zwegers, imke.sta  via creative commons licenses. some rights reserved.

We hope you enjoyed this blog on Ancient City of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka! If you have any questions, please send us a message or leave a comment below so that we can respond!