Dambulla Cave Temples | Sri Lanka

                                     Dambulla was the third stop on my trip around Sri Lanka and the furthest North that we went.

We caught the bus from Polonnarawu, this took around two hours and was my first experience of buses in Sri Lanka. Let's just say it was rather intense! We'd decided to get a tuk tuk to the bus station rather than the nearest bus stop as this is where the bus started and we'd have more chance of getting a seat. We did get a seat but it soon got very packed and although I was thankful for my seat it was still very squishy so I'm very glad I wasn't standing up. As the journey went on I'm not even sure how they kept fitting more people on! The bus was also a bit of a party bus the bus driver had music blaring and flashing buddhas all around his seat. It was quite entertaining but the music got a bit too much after about half an hour. But on the plus side the bus journey wasn't very long and no where near as hot and sweaty as I'd imagined. The bus cost 100 rupees. We were going to get the train but this seemed more complicated and the bus ran pretty regularly and was very cheap.

When we got off the bus in Dambulla we were greeted by lots of tuk tuk drivers telling us they'd take us to our accommodation. We were going to get a tuk tuk but then one driver kindly told us that we could walk to our guesthouse and pointed us in the right direction. I do kind of wish that we'd paid for a tuk tuk, the walk wasn't that long but it was on a dirt track and it was very hot and I was extremely tired making my bag feel ten times heavier. I did make it, I managed to lose my travel pillow on the way but thankfully a car driving down the dirt track found it and gave it back to me. I guess it's not that hard to figure out who the bright pink pillow belongs to when there's two girls walking with massive rucksacks on and no other tourists in sight.

Day One

Our day began quite the same we headed into the main town which was around a ten minute walk from our guest house. We soon discovered that this walk was rather creepy at night when it was pitch black. We had to resort to using our phones as a torch, I also got bitten by something and boy did it hurt. I still have no idea what it was but it flew into me, I think I'd rather not know; it definitely wasn't a mosquito.

After eating lunch in town we headed back to our guesthouse where our host kindly offered to drive us to the cave temples. We went in the late afternoon to avoid it being too hot. I always try and do things in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat, I'm rather bad at dealing with the heat so I'd rather enjoy sightseeing when I don't want to curl up in a heap in the shade.

We were dropped in the car park for the cave temples, you then walk through a rather strange area which reminded a little of a theme park. There weren't any rides but it was all very brightly coloured. Make sure you buy your ticket from the ticket office here or you may get to the top to find you have to walk all the way back down again.

                                                                                   The walk to the caves takes about 15 minutes and isn't too demanding. It's quite easy to stop if for a rest if you wish and various points of the walk are in the shade. You should also be aware of the monkeys. Avoid eating (and drinking) anything around them as they will steal it.

You have to pay 25 rupees for shoe storage, there isn't particularly a choice on this but it's not a lot of money. Make sure your money doesn't blow away though as it's very windy! Just after the shoe storage area you'll go through an arch way area where you show your ticket. Just before you reach this there's an area on your left where you can get some really nice photos of the views, such as the two picture below. When we were there not many people stopped to use this area for pictures so it's worth stopping before or after your visit. Also, the views from the temple area isn't quite a good because there is a fence blocking some of it.

After taking some pictures we headed to the caves. We decided to start at the furthest away cave as we'd read that the first one was the best. After seeing all of them I would partially agree but I preferred some of the other caves. Whilst each is fairly similar there are enough differences between the temple caves for each to be as interesting as the last.

Each caves is home to various buddhas and wall drawings. Although, I didn't actually see that many temples while I was in Sri Lanka I think the cave temples were my favourite. And also the prettiest. I've included some photos from the temples for you to have a look at but not too many as I don't want to ruin the caves for you!

We probably spent no more than an hour looking at the caves. You could do them in more or less time depending on how long you want to look at each one. There were a number of tour groups, if you wanted to know about the history of the caves then this may be something to consider. However, I was happy to just look and have a quick google afterwards. We got a tuk tuk back to the town centre, I'm afraid I didn't make a note of this price.

Where to eat:

There's a main street in Dambulla where all of the main shops and food seems to be (and also a few banks). We didn't spend that much time exploring the actual town so there may have been more streets but everything we wanted and needed was along this street. This was also the street that the dirt track from our guesthouse led to. There was a supermarket (Food City) as soon as you got the main street. This had snacks and water as well as lots of other things. Very good for stocking up especially for simple toiletries. While I don't have any pictures of the food I thought it was worth telling you about the places.

Benthota Bake House: We had curry and rice for 130 rupees. This place was quite strange. It was a bakery/food shop and then had a restaurant. We realised this was quite common in Sri Lanka. The restaurant had quite a few locals but also a lot of tourists. Our host had told us about it so maybe lots of tourists are also told. In all honesty, it was cheap but not that great. The food was average and the service was bad. We had to keep asking for a menu and only got to order food when a local man decided to order for us because we were being ignored. I'm still not quite sure why we were being ignored as other tourists seem to order just fine.

Mango Mango: This was an air conditioned restaurant and thus full of tourists. Definitely not somewhere to go if you want to discover local cuisine. We were a bit fed up of curry and rice so tried it out. We ate here twice. The first time I had black bean chicken with rice, the second noodles and a veggie toasted sandwich. The food was pretty good and the sandwich was really good considering we were in Asia. I found bread/ sandwiches sometimes a little strange in Asia so was pleasantly surprised. This was more pricy but still reasonable. There was wifi and large TVs. They also served cakes (which were also pretty good!).

My Burger: Slightly strange name if you ask me. This restaurant had quite a mixture of food options. There was traditional curry but this seemed to only be an option at lunchtime and burgers and even some Arabic food. The lassi's here were pretty good.

Where to stay:

Our guesthouse was called Roberts Inn. It was around a ten minute walk to the main street. Our room cost 4000 rupees for three nights. This price was between two of us. Our room had two beds, however, I wouldn't say there were doubles. I had to sleep at an angle as the bed was too short and Kate who's pretty short struggled a bit too. If you were a couple and sharing a bed then it may be very tight but I'm not sure if this was just our room so they could fit in two beds. That was the only really negative. Our hosts were lovely, Robert's youngest daughter had her birthday while we were there and we were invited to the party there were having. They also took us to Dambulla Cave temples free of charge and dropped us at the bus the following day. They offered various paid tours to sights around Dambulla at fairly reasonable prices. 


  • Stay in a guesthouse, the families are often very friendly and will cook you dinner if you don't want to head out (for an additional cost of course)
  • You can visit both the Cave Temples and Sigiriya Rock from Dambulla 
  • Entry to the caves is now free. The only cost is the shoe storage (25 rupees) and any donations you wish to make 
  • There are people selling souvenirs on the way up to the caves, I purchased a lovely wall hanging for 400 rupees. Don't be afraid to barter but also remember to be reasonable. 

Have you visited Dambulla? What were your thoughts on the town and the sights?


1 comment

  1. Great guide, love the photos! If I visit Sri Lanka I'll have to check this place out :)


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