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Yapahuwa – One of the Spectacular Kingdoms of Ancient Sri Lanka

Welcome to the Yapahuwa Kingdom


Yapahuwa (Yapawwa) Citadel is an archaeological value, located midway between Anuradhapura and Kurunegala, Mahawa Divisional Secretariat.  It was the capital of Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 13 century. It was home to the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Today it is one of the most unique and valuable sites with the Buddhist Temple, royal palace, and rock fortress.

Before King Buvanekabahu, they used the Yapahuwa site as a military outpost. You can still see the traces of ancient defenses.  The ornamental stairway is the biggest showpiece of the Yapahuwa site. The ruins are on top of the rock, like a stupa, rock cave, ponds, and Bodhi tree, provide evidence as it was a Buddhist monastery. Also, you can see the remains of several buildings like a Buddhist shrine.

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History of the Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa was served as the capital of Sri Lanka from the year 1273 to 1284. The kingdom has built on a massive rock-like Sigiriya rock fortress. According to our guide, the royal palace and rock fortress were built by King Buvanekabahu in 1273.

Sri Lankans abandoned the Yapahuwa rock fortress after the attack came from Pandyan. Then it was inhabited by religious ascetics and Buddhist monks.

It is the original name of this Heritage site. But now, it is called Yapahuwa. The Bodhivamsa mention that during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century B.C, they named Yapahuwa as Sundara Giri Pavuva.

Genaral Subha has converted Yapahuwa in to a fortress. During this period, it was called as Subhavala and Subhagiripura. In the Dalada Pujavaliya it is known as Ayo Parvata.

Yapahuwa Map

 Yapahuwa Map

The Yapahuwa rock fortress complex is situated in the North-Western Province, Sri Lanka, midway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura and 147 km away from Colombo.

We chose a van to go our journey. Also, if you like you, can visit here by train. It will be easy for you because Maho Railway Station is situated 4km away from Yapahuwa. In addition to that, bus service is available from the station. We visited here at about 07:30 am. That day is a holiday. But in the morning, there is no large crowd of peoples. We had our breakfast in the car park. There is a vast area for parking vehicles. Also, there is a facility for you to stay leisurely at the car park by sitting on small benches. Also, toilet facilities are close to the car park.

Yapahuwa Entrance

On the way to the rock fortress premises, we saw a nice blend of nature and civilization. We walked with the pleasant of the natural environment. We saw the rock as far away.

Yapahuwa Rock

We highly advise you to wear appropriate cloth with a hat and footwear when you visit Yapahuwa. Because you will face to the sunshine is scorching.  We had not to face any problems because we went there in the morning.

Top Attractions

Yapahuwa Rajamaha Viharaya

Yapahuwa Rajamaha Viharaya

We walked along with a calm environment to go to Rajamaha Viharaya. It is a Buddhist place, built during the Kandyan period. There is an attractive environment. After worshiping Rajamaha Viharaya, we started to visit the Yapahuwa kingdom. Yapahuwa is one of the best locations for wedding photography as well as the pre shoots sessions.  When we go there, some wedding couples came to take their photos.

Yapahuwa Rajamaha Viharaya

On the way to the Top

We started our journey while watching the surrounding area. There are several caves at the base of the rock. One of them there is a shrine with Buddha images. There is a Brahmi script inscription in one cave.

Surrounding Area

Yapahuwa is a combination of a variety of features of archaeological importance. You can see that the west end of the Southern part of the rock connects to the other side. Its looks like a horseshoe. There are no historic buildings in the outer city. You can see bricks everywhere in the outer city.

Assembly Hall

You can see that there is a foundation of the square building near the closest steps of the stairway. It is named Assembly Hall. However, there is no evidence to prove it.

There are three flights of steps that have connected to enter the building. You can see the stone pillars inside the building, close to the walls. But we could not see the middle piles. Also, there is a foundation of the buildings with a square-shaped platform. It is known as the king’s palace.


The Yapahuwa Museum locates to the right of the premises. That is one of the most important exhibits building in Sri Lanka.

Stone Stairway (Stairway to Palace)

Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

The stone stairway is the biggest showpiece at Yapahuwa. The stairway is in three stages. The stairway had connected up to the Tooth Relic Temple.

The bottom part has made cement steps. However, the top stages of the stairway are a marvelous exhibition of talented craftsmanship. You can see that there is a high degree of excellence of sculptures has contained in this stairway. Also, you can see that there are sculptured figures of a dwarf, a female dancer, and a graceful figure of a female, and lion faces on both sides of the flight of steps. You can see the sculptured dwarfs and a mythical lion called gajasimha on the second half of this flight of steps.

Surrounding Area

You have to climb twenty-four steps to enter the first tier. There is a broad landing after fourteen steps. You should climb sixty-five steps to get into the second tier from the first tier. The stairway has been made smaller and smaller in size when reaching the top.  We can identify the square platform as the Temple of the Tooth. Also, when you reach the top, you can see the beautiful doorway and steps.

Image of Tunnel

The singular Chinese-looking Yapahuwa stone Lion has sculptured when you climb to the top. We can see that lion’s image on Rs. 10 notes.

Yapahuwa Lion

There is a large stone doorway at the top of the stairs. Also, that stone doorway has bounded by big walls and two exquisitely carved windows. During an excavation in 1850, one window has found in fragments. Another window, called the Sivumenduru Kavuluwa, is preserved at the National Museum in Colombo.

Sivumenduru Kavuluwa

On the way to the top, you can see breathtaking natural beauty in the surrounding area.

Surrounding Area

Temple of the Tooth Relic

You will meet the foundation of the Temple of the Tooth Relic after the doorway. Also, you can see that various foundations of buildings, ponds, a stupa retaining walls, stone steps as well. The evidence of the building is still visible.

Temple of the Tooth Relic

Alongside the palace, the Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth locates to keep the Sacred Tooth Relic. The structure of this temple is the same as Dravidian architecture.

When King Buvanekabahu made Yapahuwa as his capital, he also moved the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha from Dambadeniya to Yapahuwa. King Buvanekabahu has built this temple of the tooth to protect this Sacred Tooth Relic.

Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

The Yapahuwa fortress is 4m in height and 22m in width. Available ruins show the square-shaped structures of the fortress. This well-planned citadel, consisting of stone slabs on both sides and is built using the style of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Also, you can see that there are two sluices made of stone, built to take away the collected water to the nearby drain.

Caves at Yapahuwa

Caves at Yapahuwa

There are 40 caves have identified at Yapahuwa. There are 25 of them with drip-ledges.  It still contains statues of the Buddha and paintings of the Kandyan period.

Cave Temple

There are fascinating artworks and some Brahmi inscriptions in the cave temple. Other than that, you can find some wooden Buddha images and a single bronze image. Some of that art is similar to India’s ancient Buddhist sites like Ajanta and Alchi.

On the way to Yapahuwa Rock

On the way to Yapahuwa Rock

You can access the summit of the Yapahuwa rock lies is accessible from the left of the temple of tooth relic. This way is a somewhat rough path. But the breathtaking view of the surrounding area and beautiful architecture make a pleasant and enchanting climb. You can see the picturesque view of the surrounding area with hills, jungles, reservoirs when you go up to the top of the rock.

Surrounding Area

The stone stair ware is very narrow. The Historian said that narrowness is one of a form of defense. So be careful when you climb to the top.

Pond and Dagaba- Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock

On the way to the top, you can see that there is a small cave with the remains of a small dagaba. Also, in the peak is a natural water tank and two more small dagaba, and the ruins of other structures. I am sure you will feel a combination of modern civilization and the impression of being one with the past on the top of Yapahuwa rock.

Surrounding Area - Top of the Rock

It is not hard to reach the top, because there are stairs carved from stone. You can take a better understanding of the way a fortress design at the Yapahuwa. On top of the rock, you can see the vast area close to Yapahuwa. Furthermore, you can on your camera and take a panoramic view of the Yapahuwa Kingdom.

Surrounding Area - Top of the Rock
Surrounding Area - Top of the Rock


There is another historic site called Pinwewa situated two miles from the Yapahuwa site. That is one of the burial sites locally known as gal sohana kanatta or stone graveyard. In here, there are more than 40 chambered tombs with stone slabs.

Yapahuwa Hotels

If you prefer to find Yapahuwa Hotels, you can use booking websites to find the best hotels as you wish.


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