12 Must visit Caves of Sri Lanka

by | Apr 12, 2023

While Sri Lanka is mostly renowned for its scenic beaches and serene hill country, there are many more hidden treasures to cater to the discerned traveler within us all. The incredibly diverse landscape of this beautiful country is lined up with a variety of caves and caverns that exist deep below the surface, many of which date back to thousands of years ago, and are indeed worth a visit during your caving tour in Sri Lanka.

Tip: Obtain a local professional guide and make sure the local weather conditions are favorable before you embark on your adventure. Also, be sure to carry the necessary types of equipment for this caving tour.

1. Dambulla Cave Temple

Perched on top of a rock, 600 feet high and over 2000 feet in length, the Dambulla Cave Temple is a globally acclaimed cave complex that houses images and rock paintings of Lord Buddha. Also known as the ‘Rangiri Dambulu Viharaya’, the complex is located at an altitude of 1118 feet above sea level and dates back to the 2nd Century BC, when Anuradhapura kingdom ruled.

Dambulla Cave Temple

2. Matale Aluvihara Cave Temple

This attraction is known for its historical and cultural significance to Buddhism as this is where Buddhist monks first wrote the Tripitakas, a collection of sacred scriptures which had previously been passed down exclusively through word of mouth. The caves are located about 30kms north from Kandy, along the Matale road. Visitors can see the Buddha paintings and frescoes used to decorate the large caves of the temple. A large collection of steep stairs will lead to the caves.

Tracing back to the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC, this temple later became a gallery of antiques including Buddha statues and other artifacts gifted by neighboring Buddhist countries such as China, Japan, Siam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Aluvihara Rock Temple in Matale

3. Batadomba Lena Cave Temple – Kuruvita

Holding the testimony of occupancy from the era of 8000 years BCE, the Batadombo Lena Cave Temple has an area of approximately 15x18x24m, and is also referred to as the Diva Guhava archaeological site. Located in the Sabaragamuwa Province, 8km from the town of Kuruwita, these caves are easily accessible from Ratnapura route to Ella. The evidence unearthed by a Cambridge University Professor included the Balangoda Man as well as stone accessories defined as spearheads and beautifully shaped perforated pebbles that were made from ostrich eggshell fragments.

4. Ravana Cave – Ella

Amongst the most popular of the cave collection in Sri Lanka is the Ravana Caves, about 2km from Ella town – lying about 1370m above sea level, the cave covers a width of about 50 feet, a length of 150 feet and a height of 60 feet. According to the epic Ramayana Legend, it is said that King Rawana used this cave to protect Princess Sita. The tunnels also served as a secret path for transportation through the mountains. Due to its strong connection with the country’s history, the Ravana Caves are amongst the most popular attractions for those touring Ella, Sri Lanka.

Andirilena cave

5. Beli Lena Caves – Kitulgala

The Belilena Caves are a collection of large caves that store hidden archeological treasures that date back to approximately 12,000 years. Some of these include skeletal remains of the Homo Sapiens Balangodanise. The cave is along the route of Kitulgala and can be reached by driving a distance of approximately 80kms from Colombo.

Belilena Cave

6. Fa Hien cave Temple – Kalutara

Named after the legend Faxian, a Chinese Buddhist monk who visited sacred Buddhist sites including Sri Lanka, during the 5th Century AD. Also known as the Pahiyangala Cave, this attraction is considered to be an archeological and paleontological gold mine due to the evidence of human occupation from almost 33,000 years ago, as well as some skeletal human remains from the late Pleistocene era. Located in the isolated village of Yatagampitiya, the caves can be accessed from the Kalutara district, about 5kms from Bulathsinhala town. An important, offbeat prehistoric place in Sri Lanka, this cave is the earliest prehistoric settlement in Asia, with the largest naturally composed rock in all of Asia.

Belilena Cave in Sri Lanka

7. Waulapane cave – Udawalawa

Waulapane Cave has some unique species of wildlife such as bats, amphibians, reptiles and freshwater fish. Also known as the Limestone Cave or the Cave of Bats, this attraction is immediately recognizable due to its massive, 300-meter drop and the presence of speleothems.

As you approach the center, you will see a brilliant creation of nature – an underground waterfall and a stream that runs through the cave. This is the only internal waterfall in Sri Lanka, and with a height of 60 feet, it is estimated to be the 2nd highest interior waterfall in the world. Just about 278 meters above sea level, this cave visit can be combined with a trip to the Udawalawe National Park. The limestone cave is over 400m long and will expose guests to a world of ancient fossils enclosed within cavern walls.

8. Bogoda Cave – Bdulla

Constructed in the Badulla district during the 1st Century by King Walagambahu, the Bogoda Cave is a Temple documented by a brahmin scripture. During the Kandyan period, this temple was refurbished and decorated with beautiful paintings with dwellers’ art in the image house. A staircase guides visitors to a platform on the right side of the temple, where an old tunnel had been built as an escape route for the King, from his opponents.

Bogoda Cave in Sri Lanka

9. Andirilena Cave – Udagama

About 30km from Galle, close to the town of Udagama, Andirilena Cave has an entry that is only 4 feet high, but is very spacious inside. Two main tunnels divide the main cave, and these tunnels are linked with more caves inside, which you must explore during your visit. After a distance of 500m these two main tunnels join back together.

10. Pannila Calcareous Cave – Rakwana

Beside a stunning waterfall cascade is the Pannila Calcareous – consisting of two caves. Expect a challenging climb within the cave as there is a stream flowing into the main cave, which directs visitors to smaller caves that in turn leads to the second main cave. Over the years, this cave system has become home to a variety of insect and animal species such as fish, reptiles, bats, birds and butterflies. The prehistory of these caves is believed to be about 500 million years old, and some of the smaller caves contain ancient stalagmites and stalactites. Located close to the town of Rakwana, this cave exploration can be combined with a visit to Sinharaja Forest Reserve, or can be accessed from Ratnapura.

11. Sthreepura Cave – Kiriwanagama

About 16km from Welimada, visit the Sthreepura Cave in Kiriwanagama during your stay in Sri Lanka’s gorgeous hill country. A sequel of three caves is found here – and legend has it that King Ravana had used this cave to hide Princess Sita. Entering this cave indeed seems like a timeless dimension, believed to extend to about 1km in distance.

12. Mahalenama Cave

Close to Kumana and Lahugala National Parks is the Mahalenama Cave – an ancient Buddhist monastery. The Vedda community believes that a short animal in the shape of a human is living in this area, and the species is known as the Nittevo or the Rahu Valaha. Controversies exist with regard to the identification of this folk, but most refer to them as the ape-man featuring a height of one meter, very hairy body, dagger claws and great strength.

Mahalenama Cave

Get in touch with our team at Blue Lanka Tours to get a carefully curated package for a caving tour in Sri Lanka, including the above treasury of caves. Or you can simply add a few of your most preferred caves to any other tour itinerary in Sri Lanka.