Anuradhapura is one of the oldest and historically significant cities in the whole of Sri Lanka. It is here that the island’s first major kingdom first took root, and its legacy is plainly visible even today. There’s a litany of sacred sites all over Anuradhapura – from ancient monasteries to towering stupas.
Now, while there are many locations to visit in Anuradhapura, your best bet would be the Atamasthana – the eight sacred places. To start off with, you have the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. This is a sacred fig tree that was grown out of a sapling from the original tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The tree is actually the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world having had a continuous collection of guardians for over 2000 years!
From here, you can head to some of the famous stupas found in the sacred city. The Thuparamaya might be the smallest of the bunch, but it is also the very first major stupa to be built in the country. The Ruvanvalisaya on the other hand, it is one of the most renowned and popular stupas found on the island. Every day you’ll find hundreds of devotees flocking to this site to pay their respects. You’ll want to visit the Ruvanvalisaya during the night if possible as the structure is lit up with lights making for quite the spectacular scene. In between the Sri Maha Bodhi tree and the Ruvanvalisaya, you’ll find the Brazen Palace that was once thought to have accommodated over 1000 monks.
If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visits to the Jetawanaramaya and Abayagiri. These are two of the largest stupas you’ll find in Sri Lanka and in fact, in the whole of South Asia. However, large crowds don’t gather around this location as they do around Ruvanvelisaya. This frees you to take in the unique architecture and breathe in the tranquil atmosphere of the sacred city at your own pace. You can finish off your trip by visiting the Lankaramaya and Mirisavatiya, bot of which are spectacular stupas in their own right.