Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka : Places to Visit

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Have you heard of the cultural triangle Sri Lanka? It’s a must-visit destination in Sri Lanka, filled with fascinating ancient ruins and historical sites. Now known as the Cultural Triangle Sri Lanka, the northern plains of Sri Lanka were traditionally referred to as Rajarata, or “The King’s Land”. This triangle served as the crucible of early Sinhalese civilization. Centred on the great cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, whose grandiose monuments still serve as potent reminders of the golden age of Sinhalese civilization.

I ended up spending 3 days touring the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka & my total expense was 70 USD. Here’s a cultural triangle Sri Lanka map for you to get an idea of the location.


How to Reach the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka:

If you have enough time, you can explore all the cities that fall under the triangle. But, if you want to explore quickly, choose a base city and do day trips. I chose Dambulla as my base city as it’s well-connected to Kandy via bus, and I found an excellent stay located just about a km from the Bus Stand and only 3 Km from Dambulla caves.

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When is the best time to visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka?

The best season to visit the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is the dry months of January to March. Even then try and visit early in the morning to avoid the scorching heat. Monsoons can be a dampener on your plans as they are unpredictable. And the raising temperature of the summer months will make the experience uncomfortable.


Dambulla boasts of being the largest town in the Matale district of Sri Lanka. Dotted with a host of local eateries in the centre and a few retreats/resorts on the outskirts. You can catch an Aircon bus numbered- 41/42/43 for an LKR 300, entry to the caves is free.

I found a quaint place run by a lovely family just about 1 km from the bus stop. It was about 3 km from Dambulla Golden Temple (Dambulla Caves). I would highly suggest this place, for the sheer hospitality of the family. All it took was a sudden heavy shower, an exchange of smiles and a mutual love for dogs. They were kind enough to invite me in and as all mothers do, she fed me well. Book the Sujatha Tourist Inn if you are looking for a budget stay in Dambulla. Find the list of all the recommended budget stays in Sri Lanka on my blog.

Dambulla cave temple is a sacred pilgrimage site. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the best-preserved temples with over 150 statues of Buddha. Dating back to the 1st century BCE, these are by far the best-preserved caves in Sri Lanka. These temples have been remodelled and repainted by kings that reign over the years & yet are surprisingly similar. Spread across 5 caves, the largest in cave 2 which has a life-size statue of Buddha.


A place I would ask everyone to visit! For many, it is just a destroyed kingdom, but for me, it was close to an architectural marvel.  Many also skip this due to the enormously high fee. Lucky for me it is half the cost for all SAARC nations; make sure to carry your passport along as proof. Entry cost- USD 15 (after discount).

It is an ancient fortress built 1600 years ago by King Kashyap. After killing his father he declared the fortress as the new capital (Anuradhapura being the old capital). It is a 2 km long walk to reach the ticket counter, the walkway is covered by trees on one side and a water canal on the other. After which is the real work a good 1200 steps/300 ft/60 storey climb to the sky palace – rightly named. Even though very little remains on the top, everything about the sky palace would leave you pondering as to how they made such a palace without using any modern tools or technologies. Right from the water gardens, mirror wall, murals and the lion formation – where it derives its name from.

To get here from Dambulla I hopped on a passing bus which dropped me somewhere on the main road, about a 1 km walk from Sigiriya’s entrance. One can take a tuk-tuk as well – LKR 800 is a good bargain.


Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. It served as the capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to the 13th century AD. The city is home to a number of ancient ruins and temples, including the Royal Palace, the Gal Vihara (a group of statues of Buddha), and the Shiva Temple. Which makes it an important site to visit in the cultural triangle Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa is easily accessible from Dambulla by bus or tuk-tuk and can be best explored on a bicycle. It is an important historical site and a must-visit for anyone interested in Sri Lankan history and culture. However, as mentioned earlier, it can get quite hot in Polonnaruwa, so it’s important to plan your visit accordingly and stay hydrated.

If this excites you do read this extremely detailed guide to Polonnaruwa.

Wondering what more to do on your Sri Lanka trip? Check out my travel guide to Sri Lanka to answer your questions!

Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is a fascinating region that is full of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa to the stunning Sigiriya fortress and the sacred caves of Dambulla, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this region. The best time to visit is during the dry months of January to March, but be sure to plan your visit accordingly to avoid the scorching heat. With its friendly people, delicious food, and rich cultural heritage, Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring the wonders of this beautiful country.