- Temple of the Tooth (Kandy)
- Embekka Devale (Kandy)
- Lankatilaka Vihara (Kandy)
- Dambulla Cave Temple (Dambulla)
- Pidurangala Royal Cave Temple (Sigiriya)
- Mihintale (Anuradhapura)
- Buduruwagala (Wellawaya)
- Ridee Viharaya (Ridigama)
There are many beautiful Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Buddhism is a huge part of Sinhalese culture and way of life, which explains why so many temples can be found scattered around the country. Most people who travel there already know about the famous Temple of the Tooth in the sacred city of Kandy.
Indeed, some temples in Sri Lanka are very famous and among the best known tourist attractions in the country. Others are lesser known but equally interesting to visit. Some are absolutely majestic and full of surprises; others are real hidden gems. Some have been built ad hoc; others have been carved in the rock. All of them deserve a mention and all of them are good enough reasons to visit Sri Lanka.
In this post, I highlight the nicest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka and share some tips to make the most of them upon visiting.
TIP: You need to be dressed modestly when visiting temples. Make sure to read my post “What To Wear In Sri Lanka” for more guidance.
Table of Contents
11 Beautiful Temples In Sri Lanka You Absolutely Have To Visit
Temple of the Tooth (Kandy)
Locally known as Sri Dalada Maligawache, the Temple of the Tooth is thought to be one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka and it’s the main reason why tourists and locals alike go to Kandy. This is a very important pilgrimage destination for Buddhists, as it is the place that holds a tooth that is supposed to have belonged to Buddha. This tooth was thought to have a strong political value, as whoever held the relic was meant to become governor of the country.
The temple is located in the heart of of the city, in the Royal Palace complex, where you’ll find also other temples and museums. The tooth relic is guarded in a gold casket – you actually won’t be able to see the tooth, but just the casket that holds it.
The prayer (puja) takes place three times per day – one at dawn, one at midday and one in the evening. That’s when the Temple of the Tooth attracts most local visitors, and those are times you really should avoid if you are not a fan of the crowds.
It costs $10 USD to enter the temple complex. This is one of the most expensive temples in Sri Lanka for travelers, but worth visiting given how important it is for the Buddhist faith.
Make sure to dress modestly for your visit. Both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders, and take off their shoes once inside the temple.
TIP: Make sure to be dressed appropriately upon visiting. Both men and women should cover their legs and shoulders, or else they will be denied entry.
The Nanumura Mangallaya, a ceremony during which the relic is bathed with an herbal preparation of scented water and flowers, takes place on Wednesdays.
Embekka Devale (Kandy)
The Sri Lanka temple of Embekka Devale is located a bit outside of Kandy and makes for a nice day trip out of the city. It’s a lovely small temple where you will find almost no tourists, but lots of locals praying and making their offers – so the atmosphere is very relaxed and pleasant.
The temple was meant to be a three story buildings, but unfortunately throughout time the two upper floors collapsed. It has three main sections. The Sanctum of Garagha is where the statue of god is located. The Dance Hall is dedicated to the wife of the king who ordered the construction of the temple. The third section is the most beautiful one, which is the Drummers Hall, where you can observe beautiful wood carvings.
While I don’t recommend attending the puja at the Temple of the Tooth, I think you can and should do so in Embekka Devale, as it won’t be nearly as crowded and it is a much more local experience.
There is a very small fee for visiting – in the range of $1 USD or so. Make sure to be dressed modestly. You will have to leave your shoes at the entrance.
Lankatilaka Vihara (Kandy)
You can visit Lankatilaka Vihara temple the same day you also visit Embekka Devale. This is one of the most scenic temples in Sri Lanka, in terms of setting. You can walk there from the bottom of the road, but as it often rains in the region you may be better off asking a tuk tuk to take you all the way up.
You can see the temple emerging from the lush vegetation from the road below, as you approach it.
The temple was built in the 14th century and has two main sectors – the Buddha image one and the Temples of the Gods. The Buddha Image house has beautiful walls all covered in paintings that date back to the time during which the temple was being built. At its center, there is a large golden statue of a sitting Buddha.
There is a small fee for visiting, but most of the time there is nobody collecting money or checking tickets. You can enter the temple from two gates – one facing the village and one on the side of the hill (known as the rock) on which it is built. Both of them involve a flight of stairs, but if you approach from the rock the views of the surrounding countryside are incredible.
If you’d rather go on a day trip to all the Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka that are located right outside of Kandy, you can book it here.
Dambulla Cave Temple (Dambulla)
Dambulla Cave Temple is thought to be one of the best preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka. So beautiful and unique it is that it’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a place of pilgrimage that you shouldn’t miss during your trip to Sri Lanka.
Dambulla is located at around 20 minutes drive from Sigiriya, and while the town itself is not really worthy of a mention, the temple is.
Known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, there are over 80 caves in this location, though the biggest attractionis the five caves that are packed with intricate carvings, statues and paintings of Buddha. There are 153 statues and murals which are meant to represent the story of Buddha.
The entry fee to Dambulla is $10 USD. As the site can be visited en route to Sigiriya, you may have your luggage with you. You can leave it in storage at the bookstore at the main gate for a small fee.
Make sure to be dressed modestly or you will be denied entry – both men and women should cover their legs and shoulders. You will also be required to take off your shoes – there is a deposit you can use for a very small fee, or else you can put them in your bag.
I recommend hiring a guide to take you around the temple and share information about its religious and cultural significance.
These are some good guided tours of Dambulla: