Mihintale Sri Lanka – If you’re traveling to Sri Lanka, you’re most probably going to visit Anuradhapura, the holy city of Sri Lanka, at some point during your trip, and when you do, consider devoting at least half a day to also explore the unique historical site of Mihintale, which is about 15 kilometers east of Anuradhapura. You won’t be disappointed! 🙂
How to get to Mihintale
I went to Mihintale on a motorcycle so it took me about 15-20 minutes to drive from Anuradhapura. If you’re not planning to rent one, you can rent a tuk-tuk to take you there. The local bus would be another cheaper option to go there and you can take it from the new Anuradhapura bus station. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes and costs only 30 rupees (about 15 cents)!
Mihintale Sri Lanka – At The Historical Site
The historical site tour starts here. As you can see in the picture above, you will have to climb many steps (a total of 1840!) to get to the top. So make sure to drink enough water before the hike. You’ll also find many small shops selling drinks and fruit at the foot of the stairs.
What is so special about the Mihintale site, you ask? It’s a historical site that is full of meaning and symbolism because the legend goes that Buddhism came to Sri Lanka through Mihintale. Apparently, the emissaries of Emperor Ashoka came straight from India to meet Devanampiya Tissa (king and founder of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura) in Mihintale. The place has become a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka since then and many pilgrims visit Mihintale every day. Let me walk you through it!
Mihintale Sri Lanka – The Kanthaka Dagoba
Let’s not go up the hill straight ahead, and take the stairs instead. You will see them on your right at the beginning of the trail. It will take you to the Kanthaka dagoba that you see above. FYI, dagobas are Buddhist religious buildings that can also be called stupas. They usually contain relics of Buddha or Bodhisattva.
The Kanthaka dagoba was built in the second century BC, making it one of the oldest buildings on the site! As you can see, its structure is still sturdy. This dagoba is 40 meters in diameter and 12 meters high. Even the decorative sculptures are still relatively in good condition.
It really feels like you’re traveling in time, doesn’t it? 🙂
Before you leave this side of the site, make sure to visit the cellars behind the dagoba.
They will lead you to a rock where you can enjoy a splendid panoramic view of Mihintale. You can see the Maha Seya stupa there, which is at the top of the hill.
The rest of the site
After visiting the Kanthaka dagoba, go down the stairs and go back to the main trail. At some point, you will be asked to pay an entrance fee of 500 rupees (about $2.80). You’ll also meet guides who will offer you their services. I didn’t really think I needed one so I visited the rest of the site alone.
You will be greeted by monkeys (toque macaques to be precise, see picture above) who look cute but who won’t hesitate to steal food from your backpack! So close all your bags and be careful. 😉 It is in Mihintale that I discovered another species of monkeys that are a little bigger and have a black face. I later learned that they were gray langurs. You can see them in the picture below.
A few hundred steps later, you will finally get to the top of the site.
If you’re not wearing something that covers your knees, you can rent a sarong for 50 rupees (around 30 cents). You will also need to remove your shoes and walk barefoot. It was a very hot day when I visited the site so walking barefoot wasn’t always easy because the ground was too hot. So if you’re wearing socks, keep them on.
No need for me to mention all the places you have to see, I’ll let you follow your adventurous inner voice! Anyway, don’t miss out on the big Buddha statue that you will see on your left as you enter the site.
There is also the big Mahaseya stupa, you simply can’t miss it. 🙂
Finally, there is the great rock of Mihintale called Aradhana Gala. The legend goes that the Buddhist monk Mahinda came from the sky and landed on this rock to meet King Devanampiya Tissa. This rock is, therefore, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, to say the least.
Feel free to climb to the top of the rock but hold on to the ramp because the steps have become quite smooth and slippery with the passage of countless pilgrims. Your efforts will be rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view of the whole region, not to mention the honor of having walked in the footsteps of the ancient king of Anuradhapura and the Buddhist monk Mahinda.
This is where our visit to the beautiful site of Mihintale ends. Did you like it? I hope that you’ll find it useful and that it will help you organize your next trip to Sri Lanka. If you have questions about Mihintale or would like to share some tips on trip planning, feel free to do so in the comment section below.
See you around!