"On your bike!" Anuradhapura by mafi_moya
Anuradhapura Travel Guide: 94 reviews and 269 photos
Anuradhapura is possibly my favourite city in Sri Lanka. It's an ancient capital (at times it seems like every city in the country used to be the capital!) and as such it's home to an incredible number of temples and palaces hidden in the trees. For a historian or anyone interested in religion or architecture, it's an unmissable trip.
But for me, as much as I enjoyed wandering round the awesome temples, the chief highlight was the spacious layout, laid-back small town vibe and the friendliness of the people - a welcome that nowhere in the south even comes close to matching. Located in the northern 'dry zone' Anuradhapura is surprisingly green and attractive. There are enormous man-made water tanks (reservoirs) that ensure water is available, although on my last visit they weren't needed as there were floods - I thought this was supposed to be the dry zone!
The town itself is pleasant but has little of note other than the welcoming people. The historic sites are a short way out of town, spread around acres of woodland and fields. It makes for a great walk but they're quite spread out and by far the best way is to hire a bike, easily done from numerous shops in town. In fact Anuradhapura seems almost purpose-built for the bicycle, with wooded lanes and wide roads and not much traffic. My last trip was over Christmas and I had a wonderful Christmas Day biking round the temples. Personally I prefer temples in small doses - a whole day of them gets a bit much - but with a bike ride through the woods in between this was a really good and relaxing day. At night there's not much to do but I had a great Christmas dinner by one of the tanks, with a few bottles of arrack, a Muslim, a Tamil, a Buddhist and a Catholic. As I said, the best thing is the people...
Anuradhapura is part of the cultural triangle and often ignored by tourists in favour of Polonnaruwa. In my view that's a big mistake - if you don't want to do both then Anuradhapura is far and away the most enjoyable.
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