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5 Things To Do With Your Family In Anuradhapura

For a family that enjoys immersing themselves in a country’s history, culture and religion, Anuradhapura is a great place to explore. Dive into the ancient heart of Sri Lanka, admire ancient stupas and stroll through remnants from a bygone era. Situated in the central province, Anuradhapura is in the ancient heart of Sri Lanka and it is often regarded as the holiest city for Buddhists.

1. Mihintale

Just 13km from Anuradhapura, Mihintale is a peak where King Devanampiya Tissa first met the Buddhist monk Mahinda- the Indian Emperor Ashoka’s son- and this meeting inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Today, there is a large temple complex on top of the mountain and offers some fantastic views as it is surrounded by green jungle. If you get the chance, you should try and visit Mihintale during Poson Poya. With a full moon illuminating the area and the blissful chants of Buddhist prayers, you can immerse yourself in the local culture.

2. Ruwanwelisaya

Ruwanwelisaya is one of the most breathtaking Buddhist temples you will see in Sri Lanka. Built by King Dutugemunu c. 140 BC, the stupa is 180ft in height and with a circumference of 951ft, making it hard to imagine that such a colossal structure was built so long ago and still remains. Unfortunately, Dutugemunu did not live long enough to see the completed temple, but before he died, his brother had covered the dome in a white cloth and constructed the upper part with bamboo which was painted gold to show the king what his temple would look like for the years to come.

3. Sri Maha Bodhi

This temple is right next to Ruwanwelisya and it is dedicated to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, one of the oldest trees in the world. Emperor Ashoka sent his daughter with a sapling of the original bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. Today, the tree is surrounded by a gold fence and statues and many Buddhists from all over the world come to pay their respects.

4. Ritigala Forest Monastery

The Ritigala Forest Monastery is a great day trip from Anuradhapura, and your kids are guaranteed to love it. Ritigala is an ancient Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Sri Lanka. To get to the ruins you need to somewhat hike through the forest, but there is a clear path made out of granite steps. There is a lot of myth and legend associated with Ritigala since there are some species of plants that can only be found in this mountain range and some parts of India. A popular myth stems from the epic Ramayana where Hanuman was looking for three herbs from the Himalayas to cure Rama’s brother, however, worried that he didn’t have enough time to search for the specific herbs he uprooted a whole mountain range, and one of these mountains fell as he was flying over Sri Lanka!

5. Minneriya National Park

A visit to the Minneriya National Park is definitely a must when you’re in the area. Roughly 1.5-2 hours away from Anuradhapura, the park is the best place to see the largest gathering of wild elephants in the world. The best time to visit is during the dry season- between April and October- and this is because most of the water in the tank has dried up, forcing elephants to leave the thick jungles, and come into the open plains. Your kids, in particular, will love this excursion, as the gentle giants will be only a few feet away; grazing and lounging in their natural habitat, a truly magical experience.

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