Buddhas in caves
Dambulla, Sri Lanka

At 7am we were off in a tuk tuk to Negombo bus station.

The journey to Dambulla requires two different busses.

The first, a large mini van to Kurunegala. We waiting for just over half an hour before the bus was full enough to leave. The journey to Kurunegala took just over 2 hours. Through towns and pretty green trees. It was unexpectedly not too bad! And cost £1.

Kurunegala was a much larger town, next to a large hill with a Buddha statue perched on top. The bus station was chaotic!

So many buses coming and going. Each stand was for a particular destination. But the bus I wanted wasn’t terminating in Dambulla, so that didn’t help. I knew I needed a number 15. But there were several different number 15 busses!

Eventually some helpful people pointed us in the right direction. This bus cost 40p for the 2 hour journey.

This bus was a lot more like what I had expected – cramped, crowded and with hawkers coming on regularly – mostly selling Bombay mix and lottery tickets!

The scenery this time was much more rural – through some forest, rice fields, palm tree covered hills and small villages.

Once we reached Dambulla – you can tell where you are as every shop has their address on their sign – I wasn’t sure exactly where to get out.

Handily some guys outside spotted the sole white person on the bus and banged on the window shouting at me to get off! A short tuk tuk drive later (50p) and we arrived at a small guesthouse – some rooms in a seperate building behind a family house! It was brand new and a nice room for £10 a night. We were the only ones staying!

It was 1pm by the time we had quickly showered and changed into some temple appropriate clothes and headed off in the direction of the cave temples.


None of the restaurants seemed open, but we managed to find a small cafe which had ‘short eats’ for sale – so we bought a selection for £1.

Had a couple of dahl-filled crunchy discs, a couple of fish curry roti squares and a couple of vegetable roti triangles between us. Really tasty!

With the temples in sight, suddenly without warning it started to pour down with torrential rain. Luckily we were right next to a bus stop (with a small roof!) which provided some shelter. But confused every bus as it went by and stopped for us!

We didn’t have to wait too long for it to calm down, but we still got soaked walking the final 50m to the temple area.

At the entrance, large golden stupa. Behind that was a large pagoda style building, a large golden Buddha on top and a random circus style face with open mouth on the front. How odd. It’s all brand new and looks a bit silly.

We spent a while looking for the ticket booth. Hidden around a corner. And also spent a while under the front entrance avoiding the new sudden spurt of rain. The entrance fee of £7.20 is fairly expensive.

The climb up to the caves is around 350 steps, plus some sloping sheets of rock – which after the rain were rather slippy. The views were nice – could see across to Sigiriya rock (going there tomorrow!) and across to some other hills and lots of greenery!

There were quite a few monkeys dotted around, thankfully they mostly left us along. Still not a fan. It’s funny how quickly the weather turns here. By the time we were at the top of the rock, it was sunny and a (mostly) blue sky.

You aren’t allowed any shoes inside, so there is a man outside who looks after them for 12p. The rock face has a long white covered-corridor across the front of it, which provides the entrance to the caves. There are five caves.

Three of them were really small – barely fitting 3 or 4 people. One was larger and one was really large (50m long). Inside each was crammed full of Buddha statues along the walls. The roofs and walls were intricately painted with colourful Buddhas. I really liked them!!


There were hardly any other people around, so we pretty much had a caves to ourselves. Lovely! After the fourth, we were at the end. Odd because I was sure there were supposed to be five. So we backtracked and found that in the excitement of seeing temple flags and the view across the rock, we had missed the first! There were seated Buddhas, reclining Buddhas and a couple of stupas! The usual temple classics.


I almost missed Dambulla off my list of places of visit as, from what I had read, it was more of a side show to the large Sigiriya Rock. But I really enjoyed them!

I will see how Sigiriya compares tomorrow.

A five minute walk, in the other direction from where we are staying is the wholesale produce market. Here, produce from all over the area is brought into one place before being taken off to markets across the country – mostly Colombo. Trucks were being loaded high with bags of everything – aubergine, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, okra, mangos, bananas, coconut, chilis and even dried fish!

It was fun to watch the organised chaos, but all the time dodging the moving lorries as they battled through the jammed aisles. Apparently the market is open until 3am. And in typical fashion, as soon as we left the market, it started to rain.

Luckily only a short walk away Dinner, was again Sri Lankan curry with rice. This time, very very spicy. Two different lentil dishes – one really tasty, the other was ok – with a round green vegetable I do not know. A salad, which unfortunately they covered in raw onion, so I could not eat. A shoot-type green vegetable, which I’m sure the only way to eat was to scrape the insides out, otherwise it was very woody. Was nice. So far no food has been disappointing! Tonight’s was £2.70 for 2 people.

Lots of Mosquitos tonight! So covered in deet. And walking along the ‘pavements’ (read sand, with large puddles and occasional drain type holes) I managed to trip into a puddle. Great.



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