Located east of the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura, is the town of Mihintale, famous as the site of the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. According to lore, while on a hunting expedition, the Sinhalese King Tissa met a monk named Mahinda who had been sent by the Indian emperor to spread the teachings of Buddhism. After testing the wisdom of the king, the monk converted him to Buddhism, and so followed the rest of the country.
Today, Mihintale is full of ruins and temples devoted to the historic meeting between Tissa and Mahinda. It’s an interesting place for a day visit and easily accessible by car. You can organise transport through your hotel or even a car rental. Sri Lanka has quite a few reputed companies, like Casons Rent a Car for example, which offers excelling packages and sturdy vehicles.
Pack light clothes and good footwear with you because if you really want to experience all that Mihintale has to offer, you will need to climb the gruelling 1840 stone stairs up the mountainside. Don’t let that stop you though, while the path looks alarming, the steps are split by terraces at different levels, each with its own interesting ruin and caves.
Once you reach the main terrace, you’ll be greeted by a large white stupa, flanked by statues of the king and monk. Moreover, this is an active place of worship and visitors are requested to remove shoes from this point. From the main terrace, there are many smaller paths that lead to several sites: one leads to a large seated Buddha statue, another to the caves where Mahinda took shelter, one up to a lookout point and then one to a quaint pond where monkeys come to swim. Whichever route you follow, you’ll definitely find something to hold your interest.
Further up from the main terrace is another stupa with an adjacent temple, and from there more stairs to the final stop; ruins of a small stupa and a fantastic panoramic view over Mihintale, all the way to Anuradhapura, that makes the trek so worth it.
Roland Lefevre is a travel writer who specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+