The ruins of Anuradhapura are one of South Asia’s most evocative sights. The sprawling complex contains a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: enormous dagobas (brick stupas), ancient pools and crumbling temples, built during Anuradhapura’s thousand years of rule over Sri Lanka. Today, several of the sites remain in use as holy places and temples; frequent ceremonies give Anuradhapura a vibrancy that’s a sharp contrast to the museum-like ambience at Polonnaruwa.
Current-day Anuradhapura is a pleasant albeit sprawling city; a small town that feels more like a large village. There’s loads of good budget accommodation, easy bike hire and a relaxed pace, making it a good place to spend an extra day.