Best of Anuradhapura

Top itineraries and travel advice in and around Anuradhapura
The ancient city of Anuradhapura has long impressed travelers with its collection of stupas, ruined monasteries, and crumbling temples that evoke a bygone age. King Pandukabhaya made Anuradhapura the capital of Sri Lanka in the 4th century BCE, and successive rulers added to the city’s grandeur. It flourished for over 1,300 years until its sack by the Cholas in 1017 and subsequent abandonment. Today this sprawling UNESCO World Heritage site lies near a modern city of the some name that has extensive lodging options for overnight visitors. 

A guided visit over one or even two days gives insight into Anuradhapura’s remarkable past. You’ll explore the site’s many highlights, including the 2,000-year-old Abhayagiri Monastery, which is surrounded by the thick encroaching forest. At the hemispherical Jetavanarama Dagoba—one of the tallest structures of the ancient world—you can visit the site where the some of the earliest followers of Buddhism introduced the religion to Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura also shelters Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred bodhi tree that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year.
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Combine ancient wonders with relaxing beach time as you explore Sri Lanka as a family
Map of Family Fun in Sri Lanka: Ancient Cities, Tropical Beaches & Exotic Wildlife - 10 Days
Family Fun in Sri Lanka: Ancient Cities, Tropical Beaches & Exotic Wildlife - 10 Days

See Sri Lanka's wonders from coast to coast on this 10-day tour that includes ancient sites, Indian Ocean beaches, and plenty of hands-on fun. Start in Anuradhapura to explore the ancient Citadel of Yapahuwa, and then it's off to the white-sand beaches of Pasikudah for snorkeling, dolphin-watching, and a family movie night under the stars. Visit the temples of UNESCO-listed Kandy, see brightly-colored birds and butterflies in Hanthana, and end with a tuk-tuk ride through the bustling streets of Colombo.

Take a trip on one of the world's most beautiful train journeys
Map of Discover Nature & Culture in Sri Lanka - 14 Days
Discover Nature & Culture in Sri Lanka - 14 Days

Journey through the heart of Sri Lanka on this 14-day loop around the island. Start your trip in the capital city of Colombo, then move on to Adam's Peak for an unforgettable early morning hike with sunrise views from the summit of the sacred mountain. Continue to Nuwara Eliya, where you'll learn about tea production, then take an epic train ride to Kandy. Travel back in time to the historical sites of Sigiriya, Dambulla, Mihintale, and Anuradhapura, stop to see elephants in Minneriya National Park, and end up on the beautiful sandy beaches of Kalpitiya, where the trip finishes.

Sunset over the beaches of Weligama
Map of Sri Lanka Family Vacation: Safaris, Temples & Beaches - 14 Days
Sri Lanka Family Vacation: Safaris, Temples & Beaches - 14 Days

Plenty keeps the little ones entertained on this two-week, family-friendly adventure through Sri Lanka. Tour the temples and shrines of the Cultural Triangle by tuk-tuk, take a scenic train journey high into the tea fields of the Hill Country, and head out on safari in the savannah-like wilds of Yala National Park. After ticking off the highlights, wind down with plenty of playtime on the tropical beaches of Weligama.

A statue of Shiva at Trincomalee's Koneswaram Temple
Map of Ancient Cultures of Northern & Central Sri Lanka - 10 Days
Ancient Cultures of Northern & Central Sri Lanka - 10 Days

This 10-day itinerary takes you off the beaten path to discover Sri Lanka's remarkable cultural and spiritual diversity. Traveling from the little-visited northern shores to the remote forests of the southeast, you'll seek enlightenment under the branches of Anuradhapura's sacred Bodhi tree, tour the colorful Hindu temples of Jaffna, admire the beachfront statues of Trincomalee, and learn about life in a Vedda village—home to the island's last indigenous forest-dwelling tribe.

Swim in two waterfalls in the Sri Lanka countryside toward the end of the trip
Map of Sri Lanka Culture & Nature Tour  - 11 Days
Sri Lanka Culture & Nature Tour - 11 Days

This 11-day tour covers a wide selection of Sri Lanka's best highlights. Starting in Colombo, you'll head north to visit a range of UNESCO-listed ancient cities with palaces, temples, and historic treasures, including the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Continue the journey through the picturesque Hill Country mingling cultural activities with hiking, biking, and swimming in waterfalls. Finish the adventure with a well-deserved beach day on the south coast overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka's Sigiriya rock fortress
Map of Nature & Serenity in Sri Lanka - 13 Days
Nature & Serenity in Sri Lanka - 13 Days

Crisscross Sri Lanka on this 13-day adventure, hitting historic landmarks, highland wonders, and golden beaches. First up is a tour of a historic tea plantation followed by a hike in a national park and then a trip to the cultural hub of Kandy. Relax on east coast beaches for a few days, then tour some ancient cities before ending the trip with wildlife safaris in search of the elusive Sri Lankan leopard.

A tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya
Map of Highlights of Sri Lanka - 14 Days
Highlights of Sri Lanka - 14 Days

National parks, ancient fortresses, gorgeous beaches, and one of the oldest cities in the world: this varied itinerary takes you far and wide to Sri Lanka's most fascinating sights. You'll explore a quiet island and spot dolphins on boat tours, hike to viewpoints for sweeping views over tea plantations, look for leopards during a Jeep safari, and learn about Buddhist principles during guided tours. Whether you're interested in cultural history, colorful wildlife, or the process behind the production of Ceylon tea, this two-week highlights tour has plenty to offer.

Traditional fishing stilt aparatus of Koggala Beach, Sri Lanka
Map of Sri Lanka Winter Holiday Adventure - 15 Days
Sri Lanka Winter Holiday Adventure - 15 Days

Eschew the frigid winter for the sun-kissed beaches and verdant mountains of Sri Lanka. Over 15 adventure-filled days, you'll experience the highlights and natural beauty of this mystical gem of the Indian Ocean, from its highland tea plantations to its gilded southern shores. In between, you'll tour ancient cities, enjoy jungle safaris, explore cave temples, swim at romantic waterfalls, go whale watching, and much more.

Other popular travel destinations in Sri Lanka
Kandy · Sigiriya · Colombo · Negombo · Ella · Nuwara Eliya · Yala National Park · Galle · Udawalawe · Tangalle · Wilpattu · Dambulla · Bentota · Pasikudah · Mirissa · Habarana