Yapahuwa was one of the ephemeral capitals of medieval Sri Lanka. The citadel of Yapahuwa lying midway between Kurunagala and Anuradhapura was built around a huge granite rock rising abruptly almost a hundred meters above the surrounding lowlands.

In 1272, King Bhuvenakabahu transferred the capital from Polonnaruwa to Yapahuwa in the face of Dravidian invasions from South India, bringing the Sacred Tooth Relic with him. Following the death of King Bhuvenakabahu in 1284, the Pandyans of South India invaded Sri Lanka once again, and succeeded in capturing Sacred Tooth Relic. Following its capture, Yapahuwa was largely abandoned and inhabited by Buddhist monks and religious ascetics.
The rock fortress complex of Yapahuwa is situated in the Wayamba province of Sri Lanka. About 4 km southeast of the town and railway station of Maho, midway between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura.

The original name of this Buddhist Heritage site is Yapawwa though now often called as Yapahuwa which is a kind of distortion of its genuine etymological sense.
Yapahuwa served as the capital of Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 13th century (1273–1284). Built on a huge, 90 meter high rock boulder in the style of the Sigiriya rock fortress, Yapahuwa was a palace and military stronghold against foreign invaders.

The palace and fortress were built by King Buvanekabahu I (1272–1284) in the year 1273. Many traces of ancient battle defences can still be seen, while an ornamental stairway, is its biggest showpiece. On top of the rock are the remains of a stupa, a Bodhi tree enclosure, and a rock shelter/cave used by Buddhist monks, indicating that earlier this site was used as a Buddhist monastery, like many boulders and hills in the area. There are several caves at the base of the rock. In one of them there is a shrine with Buddha images. One cave has a Brahmi script inscription. At the southern base of the rock there is a fortification with two moats and ramparts. In this enclosure there are the remains of a number of buildings including a Buddhist shrine. There is also a Buddhist temple called Yapawwa Rajamaha Vihara built during the Kandyan period.

The Tooth Relic was brought from Dambadeniya and kept in the Tooth Temple built for the purpose at the top of the third staircase. The relics were carried away from the temple here to South India by the Pandyas, and then recovered in 1288 by Parakkramabahu III (1287–1293), who temporarily placed them in safety at Polonnaruwa.

Recommended review time for sightseeing: 1 h

Sightseeings nearby
Tourist reviews about Yapahuwa

Well worth a visit
saffronro... [TA], , London, United Kingdom

Once the capital of ancient Sri Lanka, albeit briefly, Yapahuwa is definitely worth a visit.

The ruins are not as well preserved as other sites in Sri Lanka, but what is left is now protected.

The climb to the top is steep and strenuous, but the views from the top are well worth the climb.

Danielle8... [TA], , Halifax, Canada

This rock fortress seems off the beaten path but its really interesting. Much smaller then Sigiriya. Some ruins around bottom of stairs. Stairs are steep, be careful. Lots of monkeys running around too. The old temple of the tooth ruins are found at the top. Great views from the top. I recommend visiting if in the area.

Loved it!
NerineJ [TA], , Singapore, Singapore

Unlike Sigiriya, this palace was built at the foot of the rock, protected by a moats and semi-circular walls. The stone staircase is impressive and visiting the museum is worthwhile.

Not much else left to do or see bar the steps!
Softlandi... [TA], , Bangkok

Hundreds of steps actually, which each landing area proving a panoramic view of the surrounding country side. The steps are a bit uneven and steep but with a series of good landing areas. A quarter way up you get two see the two lions which form the backdrop to one of the local currency notes. The steps and some sections of the perimeter walls are all that remain of this citadel and third capital city but I sort of liked it - even though I did not go as far as the summit. Nice place for a brief stop on the road from Anuradhapura to Colombo!

All in one journey
Amila S [TA], , Kurunegala, Sri Lanka

It doesn't matter if you are a nature lover, hiker, historical place explorer, sight seeker, yapahuwa is ideal place for all of them. Yapahuwa is a relic mountain situated about 40 km away from kurunegala town and is onthe way to Anuradhapura via kurunegala, as it consist of a steep slope you need to have much effort to climb up the rock, once you clime up the rock the view is amazing .

Worth a visit
Nancy R [TA], , Steyning

Very interesting but the steps are very steep and the handrain is low. It is a long climb to the top but worth it.

A bit of a hike, but well worth the effort
jrandsk [TA], , Balmain, Australia

Sometimes referred to as The Citadel, this takes some getting to but is worth the trip. Climbing up to it requires some effort (particularly in the constant heat and humidity) and many of the steps are quite narrow or cut into rock. This is not for the traveller afraid of heights, nor the one with mobility difficulties, but if you can manage it you will be rewarded with the most amazing views of the total area. The features about one third of the way up are really quite impressive and the view from here is pretty good, so if you can't manage the rest just do the first set of quite steep stairs up to the main landing. There isn't much to see at the top in terms of historical interest, but as mentioned, the view is extraordinary.

A forgotten gem
goalgent [TA], , Gent

This is certainly an off the beaten track attraction. It's a dramatic stairway that takes you up to the ruins of a palace. The very steep climb is certainly worth it. You get rewarded with a magnificent wide view of the beautiful landscape and of course the platform and stairway in itself are beautiful too. As not many people go here you can take lots of great pictures. Don't skip this attraction, but don't tell everyone as that would spoil the beauty of this wonderful place.

Stunning place not swarmed with tourists
Finzi_uk [TA], , Oxford, England

Yapahuwa offers incredible views over surrounding countryside, with an ascent that's quite demanding (particularly when it's hot). There were only a few people around when I visited at c.10am, and the area is very rural. It is definitely well worth a visit.

The climb is steep, and there are handrails in only a few places so you must be careful. After the first three staircases, there is a path to follow up to the top of the fortress. Make sure to take plenty of water and something to give you shade from the sun.

There's a Buddhist shrine and a small museum to visit near the base (plus sitting-style toilets). Watch out for monkeys!

Srilankan Heritage and one of the very important historical land mark
Prasad V [TA], , Ratmalana, Sri Lanka

Visited the Rock Fortress several times and still thinking go back again. The panoramic view at the top of the fortress is unforgettable and the mild wind makes feel very comfortable after a bit tired climbing to the top.

The Climbing steps are bit over angled at the beginning but once you start its all right. Be careful on your steps when you descending at the last phase of rock steps. For my age its interesting .

Select a morning or evening to visit the place , then you will be bit comfort with the hot climate in area. Carry a small bag / back pack with a small water bottle, and few snacks and do not forget your camera, shades and a cap/hat. Pls do not let any litter there and its a very clean and restricted zone for plastic and polythene.

Now the roads are ok and hope its a must see place for all srilnkans and all visitors to Sri Lanka, specially who visit Anuradhapura.

vertige s'abstenir
Calou58ar... [TA], , Arlon, Belgium

Nous avons visité ce site dès notre arrivée au Sri Lanka , ce qui n'est pas forcément la meilleure des choses à faire.En effet , le site est perché au sommet d'une volée d'escalier pas facile à monter mais encore plus difficile à descendre dans c'est abrupt. Mais la montée faut le coup avec un panorama superbe et des ruines intéressantes dont le fameux lion que l'on retrouve sur certains billets de banque . L'endroit est sympa car il n'y a pour ainsi dire personne . Le ticket d'entrée vous donne droit à une bouteille d'eau qui est la bienvenue. Au pied , jolie petite grotte très colorée avec toutes ces statues .

Must visited place........
Malith D [TA], , Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

Visited several times with my family and friends...though it feel hard to climb the rock....u can feel much better once climbed to the top. the surrounding environment with full of ancient ruins of a palace..feel proud as a local traveler...

Can reach from train to maho and another few KM way from the town..local bus service too available. Highly recommend to any type of visitors...

Stunning views
500Chris5... [TA], , Wellington, New Zealand

I had no expectations of this attraction so I was delighted with the experience. Its a stiff climb up to the caves so you need to be reasonably fit. But well worthwhile - the views are stunning, the monkeys fun and the mixture of landscape from the rock faces to the jungle paths makes it a rewarding experience. Not as crowded as some of the other religious sites we visited.

If you have time
gsrs [TA], , usa

Little remains here.The three stage staircase leads up to a platform where once stood the temple for the tooth relic. Carvings include dancing girls, drummers and other performers. Statues on the staircases include lions and elephants. There are many macaque monkeys flitting about.

Datanet [TA], , Colombo

This is an amazing place to visit. it's a well worth visit for anyone who is planning to visit Dambulla. Yapahuwa is situated between Kurunagala and Dambulla in the North-Western province of Sri Lanka. It is advisable to visit the museum first to get an overall understanding of the fortress and its history. The details carved on a hard granite surface is unbelievable. The similarity between some of the carvings including the famous Yapahuwa Lion, and the carvings found in the ancient East Asia, shows a close link between Sri Lanka and East Asia during that time. Though the steps are carved, the climb is steep. The steps are narrow making it compulsory for the climber to climb sideways. Nearby is a cave where the monks used to meditate. Notice the techniques used by them to prevent water coming in during the rainy season

Yapahuwa, preparation to visit Sigiriya Rock
carlos f [TA], , Suzhou, China

It is not one of the Ancient Cities attractions but it is worth to visit. It is on the way from Colombo to Anuradhapura so is not a great deviation. It is a solid monolithic rock of a little more of 100 meters tall covered by nice vegetation, sometimes like a small jungle. At the middle of the climbing there are the rest of what was to be a fortress which are very nice and you can take good picture. You climb thru stairs made of stone not difficult but the steps are higher than normal. From there there are no more stairs and you have to climb by you own means. Not very difficult but you need to take care. Also from this point you will be able to see dozens of monkeys which are very peaceful and friendly, at least to me and my daughter. Once you get to the top you will find a structure which looks like an old Stupa(Dagoba in Sri Lanka). Then you are able to admire the beautiful landscape; rice fields, small lakes, small villages, etc. Nice pictures can be taken.

Marc1560 [TA], , Punta Prima, Spain

If you are staying the the Ayurveda Kuren Maho you have to see this (only 5 min from hotel). A lot of stairs but a very nice view

What an amazing Place - A must see for all!
Ayanthi S [TA], , Colombo, Sri Lanka

This place may not always be on most tourist trips and map but this is a place that you need to visit. Being one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka there is so much history and interesting influences from many part of the world when building this fortress. Best to get a local guide if you don’t have your own guide travelling with you. Very little in terms of facilities for bathrooms, rest areas or restaurants so take your own food and water. The food stalls are mainly with local fruits and drinks which you can also try out. If you have a fear of heights and issues with vertigo this is not the place to go. The ancient stairs to climb it are really tough and the kings built it in a way so that any enemies who may come to steal the sacred tooth relic could not getaway easily down the stairs and they have done a pretty good job of it! Excellent for bird watching especially in the morning, there is a pair of resident Shaheen Falcons that give great views. Try not to shout and make a lot of noise. It’s a great place to experience the sights and sounds of history and nature and this is best experienced in silence. Try to read up about the place before you go so that you can appreciate the places and monuments when you see them. Great for butterfly and dragonfly’s as well.

Little known must visit
1LifeStan... [TA], , Colombo

Yapahuwa is in the Kurunegala District and off the beaten track. However, it is well worth the visit. Such a tranquil area. Read the history about the place and be informed before you visit. A tour guide who was there said that it was one of the places where the Buddha's Tooth Relic was enshrined and the steps to the summit were made tall and narrow to prevent anyone for stealing it and running away with it. At least one person dies from falling down the stairs each year, so take great care when descending. The last bit does not have steps and one has to use the trees to hold on to the the roots have made the steps.

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