Nalanda Gedige

The Ancient Cities

This South Indian style temple consists of an entrance hall connected to a taller shikara (holy image sanctuary), with a courtyard for circumambulations. There is no sign of Hindu gods, however, and the temple is said to have been used by Buddhists. It's one of the earliest stone buildings in Sri Lanka.

The temple’s richly decorated stone-block walls, reassembled from ruins in 1975, are thought to have been fashioned during the 8th to 11th centuries. The plinth bears some tantric carvings with sexual poses – the only such sculptures in Sri Lanka – but before you get excited, the carvings are weather-beaten and it’s difficult to see much in the way of action.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Ancient Cities attractions

1. Euphoria Spice & Herbal

5.27 MILES

Offers very detailed tours of its spice garden and has a shop selling all kinds of creams, potions and lotions that are said to help everything from…

2. Heritage Spice & Herbs Garden

5.32 MILES

With an attractive, shady garden, this spice specialist runs informative tours and has a cafe for snacks and drinks. Around 15km north of Matale.

3. Aluvihara

11.96 MILES

Set in the foothills 3km north of Matale, surrounded by giant boulders, this monastery is a low-key, but intriguing, site. There's a charming series of…

4. Matale Heritage Centre

12.41 MILES

This crafts centre draws on the rich traditions of the area, producing quality batik and embroidery, which visitors can see being made on site. The future…

5. Museum of Wall Paintings

12.64 MILES

The English-language displays here are a good primer on Sri Lankan wall art – from cave paintings to 18th-century frescoes – but the poor reproductions…

6. Golden Temple

12.75 MILES

At the foot of the cave temples hill stands this modern temple, a kitschy structure and Buddhist museum completed in 2000 using Japanese donations. On top…

7. Cave Temples

12.82 MILES

The beautiful Royal Rock Temple complex sits about 160m above the road in the southern part of Dambulla. Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely…

8. Cave I (Devaraja Viharaya)

12.84 MILES

The first cave, the Temple of the King of the Gods, has a 15m-long reclining Buddha. Ananda, the Buddha’s loyal disciple, and other seated Buddhas are…