Dambulla Cave Temple
Located north of Kandy, Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Dambulla was derived from the words Damba meaning rock and Ulla meaning fountain. The Dambulla temple complex comprises five caves which have been converted into shrine rooms, images of the Buddha, and over 1,500 ceiling murals. The caves are at the base of a 150m high rock built by King Valagambahu who took refuge in it when exiled from Anuradhapura in the 1st century BC. When he reclaimed the capital he turned these caves into a rock temple as a thank-you offering. Over the centuries that followed further improvements were made including one by King Nissankamalla who gilded the inside of the temple, earning it the name Ran Giri (Golden Rock) and added 70 statues of the Buddha in the 12th century.
This temple is by far the most impressive of the many cave temples found in Sri Lanka and is considered the best preserved and the largest in the island. Access is along the gentle slope of the Dambulla rock and offers panoramic views of the surrounding flat lands, including the rock fortress Sigiriya, 19km away.