Dambulla Cave Temple, also known as Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 148 kilometers east of Colombo and 72 kilometers north of Kandy. The Dambulla cave temple Complex was carved from a rock that towers 160 meters above the neighboring lowlands, making it the Sri Lanka’s largest and finest preserved cave temple complex.  Approximately eighty caves have been discovered and documented in the area of the. The main attractions of the Golden Temple of Dambulla are divided into five caverns, each of which houses statues and paintings of Lord Buddha and his life. There are also 153 Buddha statues, three monuments of Sri Lankan monarchs, and four statues of gods and goddesses at the site. The murals cover a total of 2,100 square meters.


History of the Golden Temple of Dambulla

The Golden Temple of Dambulla, which dates from the third and second centuries B.C.E., is currently used as a monastery and is Sri Lanka’s best-preserved ancient monument. In the first century B.C.E., King Valagambahu is claimed to have converted the Dambulla caves into a monastery. King Valagamba sought refuge in the city’s caves during his fourteen-year exile from the Anuradapura throne. At the time, Buddhist monks hiding in Dambulla caves shielded the exiled king from his enemies. As an expression of gratitude to the monks, when King Valagamba rose to the throne of the Anuradapura kingdom in the first century B.C.E., he commissioned the construction of a spectacular rock temple at Dambulla. The caves had developed to become a well-known religious destination in Sri Lanka.

The Structure of the Dambulla cave temple

The Golden Cave Temple of Dambulla, consists of five caves carved into a giant overhanging rock, each with its own drip line to keep the inside dry. Following the curves of the rock, the ceilings were meticulously painted with pictures of the Lord Buddha and Bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses.

  1. Devaraja Viharaya 
  2. Maharaja Viharaya
  3. Aluth Viharaya 
  4. Western Temple
  5. Second Aluth Viharaya 
golden temple of dambulla

Cave 1 : Devaraja Viharaya

The first cave, Devaraja lena, or “Cave of the Divine King,” features a Brahmi inscription over the cave’s entrance that tells the narrative of the monastery’s establishment. A fourteen-meter statue of the Buddha graces the cave, which was sculpted out of the rock.

Cave 2 : Maharaja Viharaya

The second cave, maharaja lena, or cave of great kings, houses the statues of King Vattagamani and King Nissanka Malla, as well as sixteen standing and forty seated Buddha statues. According to a stone inscription outside the monastery door, King Vattagamani praised the monastery in the first century B.C.E., and King Nissanka Malla gilded fifty sculptures in the twelfth century.

Cave 3 : Aluth Viharaya

The third cave, Maha Alut Vihara, “Great New Monastery,” has ceiling and wall paintings in the typical Kandy style which is believed to be decorated during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782), In addition to the fifty Buddha statues, a statue of the king Kirti Sri Rajasinha stands in the cave.

Cave 4 : Western Temple

The Forth Cave, Paccima Viharaya (Western Cave) is one of Dambulla’s smallest caverns, although it is crowded with Buddha images and has a dagoba in the center. The wall paintings also feature Buddhas, as well as decorative checkered patterns and florals.

Cave 5 : Second Aluth Viharaya

The fifth cave, Devana Aluth Viharaya (Second New Temple) is the smallest and newest cave, with a 10-metre reclining Buddha with murals of Vishnu, Kataragama, and the local deity, Bandara. Most statues in Dambulla are made of solid rock, but these are made of brick and plaster.

08 Jun 2010, Dambulla, Sri Lanka --- Dambulla cave temple, Cave II Maharaja Viharaya, the most spectacular of the caves. Dambulla, Sri Lanka.  --- Image by © Oliver Strewe/Corbis

Dambulla Cave Temple Entrance Fee

Entrance Fee to Dambulla Cave Temple is 1500 Sri Lankan Rupees, which is approximately USD 7.70. Prices will be cut in half. Children from 5 to 12 years old must purchase a ticket, children under the age of 5 are admitted free of charge. Please make your payment in cash.

Dambulla Cave Temple opening hours

Visitors can see the Golden Cave Temple of Dambulle from 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. in the evening. However, keep in mind that the ticket office shuts at 5:00 p.m. Be sure to arrive with enough time to receive your ticket.

What you Should wear when visiting Golden Temple of Dambulla

Since that Dambulla Cave Temple is a site of devotion, please dress modestly. You’ll be requested to take off your shoes and stow them by the rock. However, always remember to wear socks as the rock’s surface can get extremely warm during the day.

How to get to the Golden Temple of Dambulla

Since Dambulla is a well-connected city, traveling there is not too difficult. As  There is no train station in Dambulla, the only mode of transportation is via road. The city has a large bus station, and buses frequently pass through it on their way to other well-known destinations. Regular buses travel to Dambulla from Colombo, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, and Polonnaruwa. The bus ride to the city is not difficult at all. If taking the bus isn’t your thing, you can choose to rent a car and drive, but make sure your temporary driving permit is in order first. Contrary to western nations However, driving in Southeast Asia could make you afraid to use the roads; if that’s the case, The distance between Colombo and Dambulla is 158 kilometers. and the recommended method of transportation is a bus or a private driver. Dambulla is around three and a half hours away from Colombo.

From Sigiriya, you can either take a tuk-tuk or you can take a bus to Dambulla. If you’re taking the bus, make sure it’s heading towards Colombo Fort. It takes approximately 25 minutes to travel to Dambulla town, and then it is a short hike up to the Dambulla Cave Temple.

dambulla cave temple

Top 10 things to do in Dambulla

  • Dambulla Cave Temple
  • Dambulla Buddist Museum
  • Sigiriya Rock
  • Minneriya National Park
  • Pidurangala Rock
  • Dambulla Dedicated Economic Centre
  • Kalu Diya Pokuna
  • Rose Quartz Mountain, 
  • Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Tombs (burial tombs of a people living 2500 years ago)
  • Menikdena Archaeological Reserve, an ancient Buddhist temple.

The best hotel to stay in Dambulla

Heritance Kandalama

If you are visiting Dambulla and are interested in architecture, don’t miss a one-night stay at the Heritage Kandalama. It is a magnificent five-star eco friendly hotel designed by the world renowned Geffory Bava. Heritance Kandalma is Sri Lanka’s first top Eco conceptual hotel, and one of just a handful in Asia.


Golden Temple of Dambulla in Sri Lanka is a must-see for art and architectural enthusiasts. Apart from the cave temple, there are various things to do in Dambulla. The location is worth seeing mainly for the amazing sculptures and paintings that can be found in this small town. If you’re considering a vacation to Sri Lanka, don’t forget to see this incredible location, which is rich in local history and culture.

Image courtesy of TravelingOtterS J Pinkney, Jon Gudorf PhotographyAnkur Panchbudhe, Amila Tennakoon. via creative commons licenses. some rights reserved.

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