Anuradhapura is the ruins of one of the oldest city in Sri Lanka, well preserved, and ancient. The restoration and maintenance level of which can be compared with that of the ancient city of Hampi. After a two day visit to Jaffna I traveled to Anuradhapura to learn about this ancient city.
Journey to Anuradhapura
There are direct trains from Jaffna, and Colombo. I took the 13:45 train from Jaffna, reached Anuradhapura at 16:30. The train I traveled was a Chinese made air conditioned train, often shaky while at full speed. The first class seat for LKR 500 was nice, a blessing after riding the party bus from Colombo to Jaffna that had played music the whole night, and disturbed my sleep.
The New Town
The New Town of Anuradhapura is small, that have a business area with large hotels, nice eateries, resorts, and residences. The town had nice green cover, but hot. You can walk from one end of this small town to the other within an hour. The streets are small, with one big avenue where all the city’s best restaurants are located. There are two bus stands, if you are going down South, you got to take the old bus stand. Anuradhapura has a weekend market that attracts young people. There are many small fish markets that operate late in the evening.
Liyana Holiday Resort
Liyana is a small property that is next to a SOS Children’s Village. The resort is near the ancient city. The manager is a nice lady that can speak English. The property There is a sit out area where people can dine, and have a chat. The property has a lawn in the middle. The best part is that the staff go an extra mile to help you out. They will arrange for a tuk tuk if you are going to tour the ancient city, and Mihintale which is 10 kilometers from here. My favorite part is the nice breakfast of eggs, a sweet bread roll, tea, and watermelon juice.
My favorite restaurants in Anuradhapura:
Casserole Restaurant: I have been here twice for two different times for dinner. The restaurant is in the same building as a supermarket, an ice cream shop, and a food court. They make Chinese, Indian, and Sri Lankan food.
Sreedevi Restaurant: Ask the locals, and they will recommend you this restaurant. So I went there after the tour of the ancient city. But like I said Casserole is my favorite. It was 4 in evening by the time I went for my lunch, there was not much food in the buffet. Besides the food is more expensive than other restaurants and is not recommended for those on a budget.
White House: Another recommended eatery, which was a two minute walk from my accommodation. Tasty and delicious. I went there primarily to try their egg hoppers and I was not disappointed.
The Ancient City
This is the main attraction at Anuradhapura. This ancient city is bigger than the new town, one cannot finish the tour by walk. I started my tour by walk at 9:30 AM, I was tired by 1:30 PM. By then, I had covered only half of the city, so I hired a tuk tuk to finish the tour. The tuk tuk driver doubled up as a tour guide who showed me places I would not otherwise see. The ancient city has many entrances, and every entrance has a ticket counter, and a counter to sign up for bike tour. The best part is there are homes inside the city and people living in there.
Entrance fee: $25 for tourists, you pay half of that if you are from India. You will have to show your passport to avail this ‘privilege’. Many tourists skip the visit of ancient cities due to the high foreigner pricing. They go to the hills, tea estates in Central Sri Lanka, or the umpteen number of beaches instead. If you love history, the visit is worth it, and the entrance fees are an inescapable part.
Tuk tuk fee: Exploring on foot is tiresome. I picked the hottest day during the hottest month to explore it. Bad idea, if you are carrying little water. There is an expensive option of hiring tuk tuks. They charge you up to 4000 LKR for the entire tour. My tuk tuk charged me 200 LKR for half the tour. There are bike shops that rents out bikes which is equally as expensive as the tuk tuks.
I did not visit this place, but this is recommended if you are staying for a longer duration at Anuradhapura. One of the holiest places in Sri Lanka, it is a half an hour bus ride from Anuradhapura. It is smaller than Anuradhapura, and you can explore the whole ancient town within half a day.
Entrance fee: $10 for the entrance.