Framed by eight animal-like rock formations, Kurunegala once served as an ancient royal capital of Sri Lanka. It’s home to sacred Buddhist sites and legacies of the colonial years, set within a landscape surrounded by coconut plantations and rubber estates.
Things to do in Kurunegala
A giant white Buddha statue sits atop Ethagala, or “Elephant Rock”, overlooking the city and is Kurunegala’s most-important Buddhist site. Visit the whitewashed Buddhist shrine of Bauddhaloka Viharaya or the ancient cave temple of Ibbagala Raja Maha Viharaya to see a replica of Buddha’s footprint from Adam’s Peak.
Kurunegala served as the ancient capital of Sri Lanka during the 13th century when the sacred tooth relic of Buddha was brought to the city by King Parakrama Bahu III. Be sure to wander the ruined walls of the former royal palace and the stone entrance that led to where the tooth relic was contained.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Kurunegala is its clock tower, which watches over the bustling central market. It is dedicated to the officers from Wayamba who sacrificed their lives during World War I and II.
Spend an afternoon exploring beautiful Kurunegala Lake, which lies on the road leading to Dambulla. Said to have been built by ancient kings, this man-made reservoir provides an idyllic setting for picnics along its perimeter.
Getting around Kurunegala
Kurunegala is situated around two hours’ drive north-east of Bandaranaike International Airport, the main gateway to Sri Lanka. Buses connect Kurunegala to both Colombo and Kandy, while three-wheel rickshaws are the most convenient means of getting around the city.