Situated on the outskirts of Kurunegala, Midway between Kurunagala and Anuradhapura is the Citadel of Yapahuwa. King Buvanekabahu transferred the capital from Anuradhapura to Yapahuwa in 1272 and built the palace and military stronghold to save the sacred tooth relic from Dravidian invasions of South India.
This palace and military stronghold was built on a huge, 90 meter high rock boulder to the similar style to Sigiriya rock fortress. In the ruins of Yapahuwa you can still see the traces of the ancient battle defences.
Yapahuwa is most famous for the Stone sculpture of Yapahuwa Lion; the only one of its kind in the country and the ornamental stairway, these ruins are almost Cambodian in style. The steps on the main stairway are considerably narrow, which you will have to climb in a sideways manner. According to historians this was a form of a defense, where the narrowness of the steps limits the ascending or descending speed.
On top of the rock, the remains of a stupa, a Bodhi tree, and a rock shelter/cave used by Buddhist monks is visible. Most recent archaeological excavations in Yapahuwa indicate that Buvenekabahu’s hill top kingdom had close diplomatic ties with China. During early excavations, several Chinese ceramics were found. They are now known to be among the finest specimens discovered in the island.
If you’re brave enough you can continue to the Yapahuwa summit through a rough path leading from the temple. Even though it is not recommended for the fainthearted, the final destination is worth the effort.
Also don’t forget to pop in to the new museum filled with collection of antiquities which were found in and around Yapahuwa. Also artefacts found onsite proving once successful ties between china and Sri Lanka.
If you are driving or on hired vehicle, yapahuwa is located just outskirts of Kurunegala and midway on the Anuradhapura Kurunagala road.
For the backpackers and more adventurous souls out there the trains are also available, you can hop off at the Maho station and use the bus service that shuttles back and forth to Yapahuwa or if exploratory enough, trek through the scenic countryside.