This former fortress is situated amid steep hills. This bustling market city acts as the capital city of the Kurunegala District and the North-Western Province. Back in the days, Kurunegala was renowned as the Sinhalese royal capital for nearly 50 years in the early 14th century. It later served as the main junction between Kandy, Puttalam, Colombo, and many other major parts of Sri Lanka. It has a great railway and road conditions with the rest of the country. Nestled 115 meters above sea level, this contemporary town is encompassed by lush rubber estates and coconut plantations. It is also famous for producing spices, rice, and cocoa.
Named after a popular town; Elephant Rock, where the word "Kurune" meant elephant's tusks and gala stands for rock, Kurunegala was initially called as Hasthishaila-pura. It was a Sanskrit-derived name known as "the city of elephant rock." Eight significant large stones are found surrounding the area within the city. Embedded in the earth, these rocks are named after six animals, one of which includes Elephant Rock or Ethagala, the largest rock in the city. Some of the other attractions include the silver monastery, also known as Ridi Vihara; named after silver ore that was discovered in the 2nd century. Visitors can also take a short trip to the archaeological cities nearby namely, Dambadeniya, Parakrampura, and Yapahuwa.
Things to do in Kurunegala
1. Samadhi Meditation Buddha:
This massive Buddha statue located at the town's entrance is one of the main attractions of the region. Although the structure are not immediately visually pleasing, the site offers some of the most scenic views of the town's landscape.
2. Kurunegala Point:
Situated by the Kurunegala Lake, the lake is also known as Kurunegala tank and Rantalia Lake. Visitors can enjoy walking by the lake or sitting and soaking in pleasant views. There are plenty of restaurants and bars by the lake offering great sunset views.
3. Animal Rocks:
Explore the beauty of the animal-shaped rocks in Kurunegala. These rocks don't seem to have any similarities to the animals, but after a while, if one looks longer, they would be able to form silhouettes of different animal kinds.
4. Ridi Vihara:
Nestled amidst caves and the forest, Ridi Vihara is a renowned Buddhist site. Featuring ancient architecture, Ridi Vihara attracts both locals and visitors to stop by and seek blessings.
5. Welagedara Cricket Stadium:
Although not the biggest stadium as the other parts in Sri Lanka, it is still a place that reverberates the country's love towards sports. The stadium hosts bigger matches as well. Visitors would have to purchase tickets in advance for these games.
6. In and Out:
A bakery and restaurant; In and Out is a modern eatery just 30 meters from the Kurunegala bus stop. This place offers an array of Sri Lankan and western delicacies. The famous rice and curry is a must-try here.
7. Padeniya Raja Maha Vihara:
A beautiful temple site offering medieval architecture features 28 carved pillars. The temple also boasts a remarkable door famous for being one of the largest doors in the country. There is the main temple, a library, a preaching hall, and a house featured on this site.
8. Munneswaram Temple:
A site devoted to Lord Shiva, Munneswaram Temple is one of the major sanctuaries in the country. Also known to be home to a medieval sculpture of the southern Indian king Hindu Pandya, the temple acts as a pilgrimage site during the full moon (mostly during February and August).
Yapahuwa features a massive lion staircase leading to the Buddha temple with a tooth relic. Half-way up the hillside, this once fortress site is found in ruins.