The northern plains of Sri Lanka traditionally referred to as Rajarata, or “The King’s Land”, now known as the Cultural 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.
If you have a lot of time in hand and wish to travel slow, you can stay at each one of the cities that fall under the triangle. But, if you do not want to spend too much time exploring the triangle, I would suggest choose a base and then take day trips to other locations.
After much thinking, I chose Dambula to be my base city. Reason being- it is very well connected to Kandy, there were regular bus services to visit other parts of the triangle and I found a stay located just about a km from the Bus Stand and only 3 Km from Dambula caves.
Dambula boasts of being the largest town in Matale district of Sri Lanka, dotted with a host of local eateries in the center and a few retreats/resorts in the outskirts. You can catch an Air con 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 and 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, exchange of smile and the mutual love for dogs. They were kind enough to invite me to have food with the family and like all mothers do, she fed me fine.
Dambulla cave temple is a sacred pilgrimage site, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the best preserved temple with over 150 statues of Buddha. Having said that, it failed to impress me and can be skipped unless you have half a day to spare and wish to do everything on the Sri Lanka checklist.
A place I would I 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, luckily enough it is half the cost for all SAARC nations; make sure to carry your passport along as proof. Entry costed- USD 15 (after discount).
It is an ancient fortress built 1600 years ago by King Kashyap. After he killed his father and fled. It was declared as the new capital (Anuradhapura being the old capital) by him. Located in the heart of Sri Lanka it is a 2 km long walk to reach the ticket counter, the walk way is covered by trees on one side and a water canal on the other. Post which is the real work a good 1200 steps/300 ft/60 storey climb to the sky palace – rightly named.
Despite the fact that 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 nor technologies. Right from the water gardens, mirror wall, murals and the lion formation – where it derives its name from.
I hopped on a passing bus which dropped me somewhere on the main road, about 1 km walk from Sigiriya’s entrance. One can take a tuk tuk as well – LKR 800 is a good bargain.
The remains of Polonnaruwa, the island’s second capital, are more compact but equally absorbing. Easily accessible from Dambulla both by bus and tuk tuk, best toured on a cycle. I could not spend much time here owing to the scorching heat.
Days spend: 2 nights 3 days
Total spend: USD 70
Have you been to the cultural triangle of sri lanka? Tell me how was your experience, also feel free to ask questions if any.