Dambulla is a town situated 148 km (92 mi) north-east of Colombo. Due to its location at a major junction, it is the centre of vegetable distribution in the country. We elected to stay in Dambulla to check out Sigiriya and Pidurangala. The city has the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Getting to Dambulla wasn’t too difficult. You can take a bus from Kandy from the Kandy bus station (next to the train station). There will be one AC bus (we only saw one and it said Dambulla on the front). It departs whenever it is full of passengers and its 400 LKR/$2USD and takes about 2 hours. When you reach Dambulla, you just ask to get off the bus whenever you are close to your accommodations. In this guide to Dambulla, you’ll find some insight into our lodging, things to do in the area and restaurant recommendations.
In order to hike both Sigiriya and Pidurangala, we stayed in Dambulla for two nights. We chose to stay at Dambulla Shan Inn which was 5,400 LKR/$30USD for 2 nights. The room was basic and everything that we needed and the host/owner was extremely nice, friendly and helpful. Breakfast was nice to start the day with food in our bellies. The owner also helped organize our tuk-tuk (her father who was very nice and picked us up at 4:45am) for a sunrise hike to Pidurangala and then drove us to Sigiriya. They also organized for the bus to pick us up when we were heading back to Kandy.
The main reasoning for visiting Dambulla was so that we could see and climb both Sigiriya and Pidurangala, which were both beautiful and well worth the hikes.
Sigiriya – It is also known as Lion Rock. The entrance fee for foreigners is 5400 LKR / $30USD per person which is definitely pricey if you’re on a backpackers budget. However, if you are in Sri Lanka and in the area it is almost a “must do” and worth doing given the historical importance of the site. It is slightly challenging given the sheer amount of steps (1,200 to get to the Lion Rock fortress), but definitely worth it. Michelle did well at overcoming her fear of heights for the climb!
Pidurangala Rock – This is the massive rock facing Sigiriya. The entrance fee is more reasonable at 500 LKR/$3 USD per person. We left our homestay at 4:45am in order to hike this for sunrise and it was about a 45 minute tuk-tuk ride from our guesthouse in Dambulla. The hike isn’t very difficult except for the very last part to get up to the top. It is definitely a cool view from the top. We also had a few four legged friends join us for the early morning hike up which we loved!
Dambulla Cave Temple – This temple is also a major attraction in the area and the entrance fee is 1,500 LKR/$8USD. We chose not to visit since we had spent our money on Sigiriya and Pidurangala but we have heard this temple is pretty cool as well so check it out if you can.
If you’re traveling anywhere in South Asia, TripAdvisor is without a doubt the best place to check out the reviews. Dan’s TripAdvisor page has a more robust amount of reviews and pictures of our meal. Here are the places we checked out in Dambulla and our two cents:
We had a lovely lunch and dinner at Golden Palace Restaurant and Athula Restaurant. At both restaurants, local families cooked home-cookedSri Lankan meals for us and they were both so delicious. Our meals were fairly cheap considering the amount of food we received. They both cost around 700 LKR/$~4USD per person.
Unfortunately, we don’t know of any volunteer opportunities in the Dambulla area. If you do, we would love to feature it on our page. Reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram (@jetsetforgood).