This post is about getting from Kandy to Dambulla to visit the Dambulla Cave Temples, the experience of visiting and the entrance fees. Dambulla is also a gateway for onward travel to Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Jaffna, or Sri Lanka’s East Coast. Most people spend a few days in Kandy in Central Sri Lanka before travelling on to Dambulla and beyond. The Distance from Dambulla to Kandy is 72Km.
Kandy, high in the hills of Sri Lanka is a good place to start if you want to visit the historic sites in this part of Sri Lanka. We spent 5 days in Kandy, enjoyed the relatively cooler climate of the hills and were never short of something to do. Have a look at this post about how we happily spent our days in Kandy without breaking the bank. If you’d like to see where we stayed in Kandy, you need this post and if you’d like to check out our favourite things to do in Kandy, click here.
Getting Around Sri Lanka
Trains, buses, taxis, organised tours, tuk tuks and hired driver guides are plentiful and easy to arrange in Sri Lanka. Most Sri Lankans speak brilliant English, you shouldn’t have any difficulties.
Your choice of transportation will depend on how much time and money you want to spend. We’ve been to Sri Lanka several times and used all the options I mentioned, over the years, all have been great. A multi-day tour with a driver is a good option, you can arrange these from the southern beaches and your agent will book a hotel for you in Kandy.
On our last trip we were time rich and cash poor, we didn’t want to pay for drivers or tours so we got around the island using public transport. The buses and trains are so cheap they’re almost free and great fun to catch, we think they’re the best way to really connect with this amazing country. You miss so much riding in an air conditioned mini bus.
Getting to Dambulla From Kandy by Bus
Dambulla is 72Km north of Kandy. This time we chose the public bus. The bus to Dambulla leaves from Kandy Central bus station, adjacent to Kandy Central train station. There are several different buses that will get you there, running at least every half hour. Express buses will take about an hour and a half to two hours, slower buses take the same route but stop more often. There is a super express bus which passes Dambulla, but you may have to buy a seat to the end of the line, making it more expensive. The super express will save you half an hour depending on traffic. You’ll pay around a dollar or under per person. The express bus stopped right outside the Dambulla entrance and picked us back up on the other side of the road. We had seats on the way there, on the return journey the bus was packed, we had to stand for a while, the super friendly Sri Lankans squashed up to make room for the children.
Why Visit Dambulla?
Dambulla is a large, well-preserved ancient cave temple complex built into the top of a hill. Yes, you have to walk up! There are hundreds of steps but it really isn’t a particularly taxing climb, the children managed just fine. The views are great from the top and there are monkeys and trinket stalls to keep you amused as you walk.
Be sure to buy your admission ticket for Dambulla Cave Temples at the bottom of the steps, there is nothing to stop you walking up the hill without a ticket, but you can’t buy one at the top. They’ll send you back down. It’s a good job my husband is super fit, he went back for tickets for all of us.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll find the huge golden Buddha in the picture and a rather bizarre museum alongside a working temple complex.
Dambulla is large UNESCO heritage site and well worth your time. The ancient Buddha statues in the caves themselves are quite breathtaking and stretch back as far in time as the 1st century. Admission is steep at 1,500 Rs/person, admission fees for foreigners in Sri Lanka are high generally. Check prices, they seem to go up pretty frequently.
Accommodation in Dambulla
The beautiful Paradise Resort and Spa ( click through for prices) is an eco resort and spa near Dambulla and Sigiriya. We have stayed here and written a full review (read here). This is my favourite of all the resorts we have tried in Sri Lanka, but it’s not a low budget option.
Hotels in Dambulla meet all price points. Some recommended options include: