10 Things to Do in North Central Province That You Shouldn't Miss

August 7, 2017 Esmeralda Fenner

Discover the best top things to do in North Central Province, Sri Lanka including Gal Vihara, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa Vatadage, Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba, Lankathilaka Image House, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla Cave Temple, Ritigala Forest Monastery, Minneriya National Park, Polonnaruwa Archaeological Ruins.
Restaurants in North Central Province

1. Gal Vihara

Polonnaruwa, Polonnaruwa 51000, Sri Lanka 94777835266
Excellent
71%
Good
22%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
1%
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4.5 based on 649 reviews

Gal Vihara

Reviewed By Honisoiquimalypense - Derby, United Kingdom

This set of Buddhas was held up to be the best examples of rock carving by the ancient Sinhalese on the island - and I can honestly say - THEY ARE!! There are 4 buddha statues carved out of the granite rock face (in he 12th century) - and from left to right are (from left to right) the "seated image, "the Vidyhadhara Guha", the 'standing image" and the "reclining image". Size ranges from just over 4 feet for the Vidyhadhara Guha" to over 46 ft long for the "reclining buddha".
The carving of the buddhas and the surrounding rock ( in places) is very intricate. what gets you when you see the whole vista is the sheer size of it and the fact that it has remained in such good shape. To this end they have now erected a roof over it. I laso kiled the fact the in "internal" structure of the granite "flows" through the statues.
It is just plain lovely!!!!!!!

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka +94 77 783 5266
Excellent
66%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
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1%
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4.5 based on 1 reviews

Mihintale

Reviewed By Marco M - Trieste, Italy

Very interesting place, even if it's overshadowed by more wellknown and visited Anuradhapura, Pollonaruwa and Sighiriya. The ascent is vey rewarding, Panorama from the rock is very nice. Pay attention to the monkeys, they are agressive and potentially dangerous. Hide food and drinks as they will try to stole it.

3. Polonnaruwa Vatadage

Sacred City, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Excellent
65%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 250 reviews

Polonnaruwa Vatadage

Reviewed By Barnsey44 - Melbourne

This is another interesting ruin at Polonnaruwa. We had to remove our shoes to enter and cover our shoulders and knees. Our guide explained the ruins and the history of this place. Well worth getting a guide.

4. Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka +94 71 442 9375
Excellent
55%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 774 reviews

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba

At 300 feet, it is the third biggest stupa in Anuradhapura.

Reviewed By AnilAggarwal - Kurukshetra, India

It is one of archaeological treasure in Anuradhapura. It is a hemispherical stupa built by King Dutugemunu in 140 BC, tallest monument like Egypt pyramids.Its height is 103 meters & circumference is 290 meters.Renovated in early 19th century. At night its view is stunning due to illumination.Its white dome shines like a pearl. Most venerated among ancient stupas.
You have to be properly dressed & to remove shoes.
Place is having a feeling of divine energy. Stupa have relics.
Same ticket is for whole Anuradhapura sites.

5. Lankathilaka Image House

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Excellent
57%
Good
37%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
0%
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4.5 based on 131 reviews

Lankathilaka Image House

Reviewed By Titus D - Sri Lanka

Lankathileke Image House is a must see master piece protected even by UNESCO. It is a mesmerizing piece of art, rock and brick architecture.This former library is now is an extensive set of ruins but nonetheless very impressive.
This site is quite impressive both on the outside and the inside.
How can you not be visiting when you see this place. Gigantic Buddha is made by bricks which is a magnificent sight to see and ponder. It makes a doubt in you as to how did they ever made this? It will take you back in time as you walk the grounds of this place.
I really loved the place and its full of archaeological ruins which made me wonder how the kings would have built these beautiful buildings centuries ago. I was lucky enough to see this after a downpour so the reflection of the Lord Buddha was breathtaking.
It was a lovely place to escape the heat and was a highlight of the complex.
Tour groups seem to arrive for about 5 seconds, snap away and then leave, which misses the point of appreciating the sheer size of the place.
King Parakramabahu whose statue is found at the bund of Parakramasamudraya who made it in 1500s the including frescoes. We were shown that behind the standing Buddah there is a passage from one side to the other capturing the air flow and keeping it lovely and cool. The intricate carvings are found on the walls inside and out are amazing.
This is so big. You won’t be able to take a photo if you don’t have a wide angle lens with you. It is amazing to hear the story behind this. Lankathilaka was one of the places that impressed me most in Polonnaruwa. The place towered over me with its incredibly high walls and a colossal statue of Buddha, the effect that is stressed by the narrowness of the building. The bars-reliefs on the outer walls are interesting to explore, though some are placed quite high and require binoculars or a good zoom on a camera to be properly seen.
Lankathileke Image House is a very nice location to visit. Apparently there is a bat cave behind the main imagery but they wouldn't let us enter and there was a security guard outside to prevent this.
What is remaining today gives an idea to how it would have been centuries ago. It is a grand structure which has sheltered a unique standing Buddha image of great height. Image of at least one guardian deity is still visible at the entrance.
Most of the wall paintings are faded and you'd be hard-pressed to see them clearly, especially in the interior where the lighting is sparse but still worth a visit.
Lankathileke Image House testifies a glory of ancient Buddhist architecture. A must visit for people with penchant for history, ruins of a magnificent Buddist temple built about 1000 years ago.
Overall, Lankathileke Image House is a very tranquil and atmospheric place which is a relief after the crowded central parts of Polonnaruwa complex.
With no shoes allowed on the religious sites, it can be uncomfortable to walk barefoot on the very hot sand and stones paths. It is best to wear socks. Make sure you go with someone who knows Polonnaruwa to understand these places. I recommend you to visit Lankathileke Image House.

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Excellent
54%
Good
36%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
Terrible
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4.5 based on 1 reviews

Polonnaruwa

Reviewed By newnhamites - uk

We would highly recommend Polonnarawu (people staying at our guest house who visited both Polonnarawu and Anaradhapura found the latter disappointing in comparison). Entry is not cheap - 25$ per person – but it is an impressive site, with well-preserved monuments and good landscaping. It is a generally peaceful site, with a prevailing air of calm and respect. The one exception was the completely inappropriate loud music blaring from the refreshments area half way round. We spent around four hours there which enabled us to visit all the temples and monuments. We spent a further 30 mins in the museum adjoining the ticket office.
Practicalities:
Polonnarawu covers a large area, so walking the whole site, which covers a large area, might be a challenge - particularly in the 30 degrees heat. We had hired a driver for the day so he came with us into the site (entry is free for locals) and dropped us off at each of the main areas to wander around at leisure – the car a/c in between stops was very welcome! Another option is to hire a bike outside the site, which a number of people did ( depending on where you hire bikes from the downside is that you may have to cycle for a stretch on the main road – contending with all the usual crazy Sri Lankan traffic- either at the start of the tour or end). Socks are recommended when entering the temples as it can be very hot underfoot. About half way round there are toilets – those for foreigners were clean & in a reasonably good condition. There were also the aforementioned refreshment stalls. There are similar facilities (albeit less clean toilets) just before the exit.

7. Dambulla Cave Temple

Jaffna Hwy, Habarana 50150, Sri Lanka +94 77 373 5457
Excellent
59%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
2%
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Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 185 reviews

Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Cave Temple is located 24 km (30 min) from Sigiriya in central Sri Lanka. Built in about 80BC It is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Inside are 153 Buddha statues in various reposes, three statues of ancient kings, and four other statues including those of Vishnu and Ganesh. The ceiling and walls have been repainted over the centuries contain a juxtapose of imagery including those of royal life.

Reviewed By chrisheatons

It's a 15 minute uphill hike from the ticket office and you have to leave shoes outside and cover your shoulders/knees as a mark of respect.
There are 5 caves with various buddha statues in them - some big, some fairly small.
It's impressive but beyond the statues there's not a lot in the way of information about them, so bring a decent guide book.
You also probably won't be there all that long but it's a worthwhile diversionary break on the road between the cultural triangle and kandy.

8. Ritigala Forest Monastery

Sri Lanka
Excellent
55%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
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4.5 based on 238 reviews

Ritigala Forest Monastery

Reviewed By Seevali D

A group of 18 of us visited Ritigala Ruins with “Flamingo Lanka Travels” on 10th December 2017. This was my third visit to this fascinating mystical ruins. These Ruins, open to the public, is within the ‘Strict Natural Reserve’ that encompasses the larger Ritigala Mountain. We purchased our tickets at the entrance. The cost of a ticket is Rs 20 for locals (including residents) and Rs 500 for foreigners.
The tour began with our tour leader visiting the Department of Archaeology site office to seek the services of a guide from the Department. Starting from the Department offices we walked the first 100 metres of difficult terrain climbing up to “Banda Pokuna” (Built Pond). The guide sat us down here and gave an introduction to the ruins and indicated on a map of the places we were to visit. The ruins had been a monastery of a sect of Buddhist monks practicing extreme austerity wearing only robes made out of rags. Theirs was a life of meditation, seeking the ultimate truth, coming down from their caves only to accept food brought by visitors. There had been a great deal of support for these monks from the ancient kings who built up this monastery for their use.
This Reservoir had been built in the 4th century bc and has a circumference of around 370 metres. The inner surface is made up of steps using cleanly cut uniform stones (of about neatly cut 1000 x 30 x 15mm). The top of the bund too is paved with similarly cut stones. It is thought that the Reservoir had been used by devotees who visited the temple.
To get to the ruins we walked along the bund and across the stream that flows into this man made Reservoir. The walk across the stream is somewhat difficult as there are no built up steps. However after we crossed the river and walked uphill we came to a neatly laid path, about 1.5 metre wide, constructed using cleanly cut interlocking four sided rectangular stone slabs lined with kerbs on either side demonstrating excellent craftsmanship. Even though our visit was around noon (between 1000 and 1300 hrs), the light along the path was soft and diffused from the overhanging branches of large trees. The air itself was quite cool and comfortable. The meandering stone paved path leads you to the many ruins scattered over an area of about 120 acres.
Three circular platforms (roundabouts) called ‘Gimanhala’ built at locations along the way had been to provide rest to devotees while walking along the hilly pathway. The guide took us off the main path to the ruins of a hospital (Janthagara) for monks with a sunken bath complete with grinding stones for preparing herbal medicines and a hearth that had been used to boil water and preparation of herbal concoctions. We saw the ruins of a number of twin buildings with raised platforms enclosed within a courtyard, built atop a large boulder or rock foundation, joined with a stone bridge (Padhanagara). One of these twin buildings is larger than the other and believed to have had a roof while the other was open. There are also walking paths for meditation as well as the ruins of a library. Bridges with stone slabs provide for crossing water streams. Photos are attached with limited explanation. Photos nor a description such as this can never do justice to what you see, feel and experience at the location.
The guide showed us some stone slabs that had been drilled at a spacing of about 15 cm apart. He explained that this had been the method used to split the rock. The holes had been filled with a chemical or stuffed with material that would expand within the holes to split the rock. The stones then were smoothed out using chisels or similar tools.
Unlike at other Buddhist places of worship, there are no Buddha statues nor any decorations in any of the buildings demonstrating the beliefs and austerity of the monks who inhabited this monastery. The only item with decorations was a urinal, perhaps demonstrating the aversion to decoration.
The guide recounted a number of interesting legends related to these Mountains. This description is already too elaborate for me to recite these legends. The visitor is encouraged to read about these at various internet forums as these depict the history and beliefs of the local people.
It is a somewhat tiring walk. Wear a pair of shoes with a good grip. If you feel you are not up to go through the whole distance of about 3 km, you can stop in the shady undergrowth and sit on one of many stone structures. Even if you see part of the forest and the ruins it is well worth your while!

9. Minneriya National Park

Habarana-Polonnaruwa Road, Habarana 50150, Sri Lanka +94 11 2 888585
Excellent
58%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is a national park in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The area was designated as a national park on 12 August 1997, having been originally declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The reason for declaring the area as protected is to protect the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The tank is of historical importance, having been built by King Mahasen in third century AD. The park is a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population dwelling in Forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts. The park earned revenue of Rs. 10.7 millions in the six months ending in August 2009. Along with Kaudulla and Girithale, Minneriya forms one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Sri Lanka. The park is situated 182 kilometres (113 mi) from Colombo. Web: http://minneriya.national.park.ww.lk

Reviewed By niceguy1966 - London, England

We had a great 3 hours in the park. We saw so many elephants we were actually getting bored of them! I'm estimating 3 herds of around 30 or 40 elephants per herd.

10. Polonnaruwa Archaeological Ruins

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka +94 27 3 287800
Excellent
60%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
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4.5 based on 378 reviews

Polonnaruwa Archaeological Ruins

Reviewed By Craig T - San Rafael, California

We spent well over 3 hours here and could have stayed longer, but we had to drive 2 hours to our next destination. This was a huge city over 1000 years ago and there is a lot here to see. The best were the three Buddha statues at the end, one seated, one standing, one sleeping, all carved out of the living rock. Don't miss this place!

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