Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple
Photo by Carlo Sarion.

The Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple is an important Buddhist shrine and monastery.

Dambulla has been a sacred place since the 3rd century BCE and is an active site of pilgrimage. The temple consists of five separate caves that were hewn from a big rock. On the inside, the caves are decorated with well-preserved paintings and statues from the 15th-18th centuries.

Community Perspective: It takes a lot of stairs to climb and not to be distracted by the lingering monkeys or the shiny new temple that has been built next to it. The vivid color of its statues and mural paintings stand out.

Map of Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple

Load map

Community Reviews

Write a review

Michael Turtle

Australia - 23-Jan-16 -

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple by Michael Turtle

This site was such a surprise - in a completely positive way. I didn't know too much about it beforehand and didn't expect the caves of statues to be so beautiful and inspiring. The design is wonderful and it's such an interesting bit of Buddhist history.

The climb up to the caves can be a little steep at points and there are some quite violent monkeys along the way. But once you're at the top you can easily spend an hour or two looking at everything and exploring the different caves. There's a peaceful atmosphere up the top to rest and let it all sink in.

Read more from Michael Turtle here.

Frederik Dawson

Netherlands - 07-Feb-14 -

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple by Frederik Dawson

After reviewed Ellora, Ajanta and Elephanta Caves, I felt oblige to write a review on Dambulla, another World Heritage listed cave temple in South Asia, which maybe the most unique in the whole group in many senses. The first thing I saw at Dambulla was the new multi-stories temple of Dambulla and the gigantic but ugly big golden Buddha on the top of the building. I did not understand as Sri Lanka had many beautiful Buddha images, but at Dambulla which should be one of the most important place to Sri Lankan art did such a disappointing thing. And I not surprised as nobody seemed to care the new temple and directly walked to the hill behind where the real Dambulla located.

As in the morning I visited Sigiriya and was very tired from climbing, when I saw that I had to climb the hill again I felt very discouraged at first but decided to keep going. Along the way I saw many monkeys and the views were quite stunning, I even saw Sigiriya from here. To my relief the temple was not on the top of the hill but located in the lower shelf. I felt that Dambulla landscape has many similarities with Ajanta, but much smaller and greener. When I reached the caves I saw a nice row of white porticos and verandas built in European Style as gates to the caves with lovely lilies ponds. I saw all five caves of Dambulla, the most outstanding feature of the caves were the vivid color of statues and mural paintings. The paintings were really stunning almost like ancient wallpaper. The numerous Buddha statues were equally impressive with many rock-hewn and wooden images. The colorful of Dambulla made me able to imagine how Ajanta should be when in its zenith as well as other caves in Ellora.

Although the caves were great, I did not felt Dambulla to be the best site in Sri Lanka, the mural paintings at Sigiriya was much more interesting to me with more artistic and free from holy theme. But it was a great place to study Buddhist iconography in Sri Lanka better than Anuradhapura and in the same league with Gal Vihara of Polonnaruwa. Also in my opinion Dambulla was a prototype of many cave temples in Southeast Asia especially in Thailand and Laos which Sri Lankan Buddhist monastic school still hold strong influence, so visiting Dambulla was not just a local art study but also Southeast Asia art history study.

Sanchita Jindal

India - 17-Aug-10 -

Sanchita Jindal, New Delhi, India

Been to Dambulla Rock Temple/ Golden Temple on 31st July 2010. Besides the unbelievable craftsmanship, the temple has so much serenity, calmness and peace that as soon as I entered the temple inside where reclining Buddha is, I said "WOW" to myself. Enjoyed the climb to the temple as the surrounding is lush gorgeous green with Sigiriya at a distance. Inside the temple, the series of statues of Buddha, each one carved beautifully and the painting on the ceiling is stunningly breathtaking. Went to Sigiriya also where you have to climb 1222 steps however, nothing to beat Rock temple. It would be good if somebody can direct at the entrance only that foreigners have to buy ticket, it would have saved climbing two times up to quite a distance, however enjoyed this too as the weather was very good with slight rains.A memorable experience. I am impressed by the upkeep of the temple- absolutely clean.

Rob Wilson

UK - 16-Jul-08 -

Sri Lanka must be the easiest country in the world to tick off all the WHSs! The temples of Dambulla are lovely and a work of exceptional craftsmanship. They are a must see for anyone in the area.

It is just a shame that the temples are not included on the cultural triange ticket.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 17-Aug-96 -

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple by Els Slots

Lots of stairs lead up to the temple. Except for the seemingly endless walk up there, the groups of monkeys are also still in my memory. They are certainly not shy and it is not recommended to eat something with some of them around: you lose it in a second ...

Dambulla is one of the numerous attractions of Sri Lanka, but not the most impressive one (neighbouring Sigiriya is the no. 1 contender for that).

dr Bernard De SilvaMD

USA - 01-May-05 -

I visit Dambulla,very often,sometimes twice per year.

Always see something more beautiful,and more rewarding.

The climb is easy,if taken in stride,done early morning and late afternoon.

But it is also fun to do it ,in the hot sun,maybe use a hat or umbrella or enjoy the glorious sweat.

It can stir the imagination,of how many centuries the people here,looked from the great rock and what they saw and thought.

Only a tiny fraction is reflected in the visible ,tangible evidence they left.

We have to reconstruct the rest ,from the adjoining areas,and the clues left there.

This makes the story more complete,and leave a lot for the imagination to complete.

The charge for the cutural triangle,is affordable,and when compared with any museum in the world,can anything offer this variety,quality and quantity ,all at the same time.

Most visitors spend only a day or two.

But to rally grasp it,appreciate the value,it takes much more and often a week,in the open air museum of the historical places of Sri Lanka,is not sufficient.

but we have to the best,with the time and resources available to us.

After travelling all over the world,I have yet to come across any place more beautiful and more rewarding

Tim Edmund

USA - 01-May-05 -

The climb (long, but not arduous) was exciting due to the monkeys playing beside the paths. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous, with views of Sigiriya in the distance. The cave temples are stunning examples of Buddhist art. The caves are virtually a chronological history of ancient Sri Lankan art, beginning with the first cave which dates to the 1st or 2nd century BCE. The successive caves go through the next many centuries up to about the 15th or 16th century. The paintings and statuary are among the most beautiful in the world of this type. The ceiling painting are so detailed that they appear to be fine cloth billowing overhead. There is a rock cistern that catches water dripping from the ceiling, but it never fills up or overflows. Fascinating experience.

Site Info

Full Name
Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple
Unesco ID
Sri Lanka
1 6
Religious structure - Buddhist

Site History

1991 Inscribed


The site has 1 locations

Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple


Community Members have visited.

A. Mehmet Haksever AC Adrian Turtschi Afshin Iranpour Alberto Rodriguez Gutierrez Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alexfangel Alfons and Riki Verstraeten Ali Zingstra Allison Vies Ammon Watkins Andrea & Uwe Zimmermann Antlane Anuradha Goyal Arnaugir Artur Anuszewski Aspasia Atila Ege Bamse Bazikoln Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero Bin Bob Parda Bodil Ankerly Boroka Szamosi C82wc1 Carlo Medina Carlo Sarion Carstenhansen Chen Taotao Chris Law Christravelblog ClaireWhiteley Cmtcosta Corinne Vail DannyB Dennis Nicklaus DennisNL87 Dimitar Krastev Disnsam Djpatten Donald M Parrish Jr Donnico Dutchbirder Dutchnick ELVAN YURDUSEN Eleonora Els Slots Eric PK Erik Jelinek Errol Neo Eva Kisgyorgy FGKJR1492X Fan Yibo Fedemarch92 Ferdimerkx Frederik Dawson Frediehung Ge zhang Geert Luiken George Evangelou GerhardM Gernot Gillian Taylor Gisella Glenn Nightingale Grzegorz Andruszkiewicz Haining Guan Hanming Harald T. Harry Mitsidis Hazcraig16 Henryjiao18 Houqian Howe Siang Tan Hrishikesh Htupaz Hyoga Iain Jackson Ingatastic Inomusay Ivan Rucek J Mitchell Jacob Otten Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jaroslav Klement Jason and Corrinna Jaynew Jeanne OGrady Jeffrey Chai Ran Jezza JobStopar Joel on the Road JoeriNortier John Westray John booth Jonathanfr Jonathanliao Jos Schmitz Joshuakirbens Josie Borst Joyce van Soest Judith Tanner JudyWalsh Julie July Junwang111 Juropa KB1 Kalattime Karin Heyl Kbecq Kjlauer Knogles Knomadc Knut Krijn Kristin Kurt Lauer Leontine Helleman Lichia Lizzy Loic Pedras Loratodorova Lorenzo Mejino Ludvan Luis Filipe Gaspar Lukasz Palczewski MMM Malgorzata Kopczynska Maltishah100 Marcel staron Mariam Mariska Marlies van Wolfswinkel Marta Lempert Martin Funkhauser Martina Rúčková Martinacurra88 Matthewsharris Małgosia Łupicka Michael Ayers Michael Novins Michael Turtle Michael anak Kenyalang Mikael Bjork Mikek Mikita M Mikko Milan Jirasek Monica Tasciotti Morodhi N273235s NCosta Nan Nanvano NataliaS Nihal Ege Nmocosta Nmocosta79 Nomad99 NonDuality Nongbulinqing Nushsamy PJ PabloNorte Palka25 Patrik Paul Hilder Paul Schofield Peter Lööv Philipp Leu Philipp Peterer Piotrurbanski Plutomu Priyaranjan Mohapatra Ralf Rotheimer Randi Thomsen Rebeccafward Red Reza Richardleesa Rickard Alfredsson Rob Wilson Rocky Rodinia Roman Bruehwiler Roman Koeln SHIHE HUANG Saxondean Sazanami Seethebee Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver Simmot2019Z Sisa_p Sneijder55 Socon Solivagant Stanimir Stanislaw Warwas Stephanv Stephanvermeulen Stephen Brooker Stephen S. Kamin Strogan Sutul Suzanne Svein Elias Szucs Tamas Tevity ThoOlb Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt TimAllen Timothy C Easton Toffee64 Tonioto Tony0001 Travelure Trevni Truls Brekke Uwagner Vanessa Buechler Vernon Prieto Vlad Lesnikov Voyager WHS Lux Walter H. Waxwing Westwards Wojciech Fedoruk Wuzefelix YAO WEI YY Yuri Samozvanov Zach Zhang xiaozhong Zos M Zoë Sheng Zsuzsanna Forray