Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

Last Updated On December 06, 2021

Almost identical to the well-known Sigiriya, Yapahuwa is also a massive rock with fortress located in Mahawa, between Kurunegala and Anuradhapura, Wayamba Province, Sri Lanka. It was built around a giant granite rock that rises about 90 meters from ground level. Although Yapahuwa is a unique location with historical splendor, most visitors aren't famous. However, this fortress is renowned as one of the best archeological sites in the country.

yapahuwa rock fortress

Photo from travelright.srilanka

History of Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa was the country's capital; in the early 13th century. This magnificent rock fortress was built by King Buvanekabahu, son of King Parakramabahu, primarily to protect the Country from Invaders. The fortress housed a King palace, a military fortress, and a Sacred Tooth Relic temple. Monks converted the Fortress into a monastery when it got abandoned.

Best Time to Visit Yapahuwa

The best time to visit Yapahuwa is in the morning when you can see the epic scenery without being exposed to the midday sun.

Yapahuwa Timing and Entry Fees

Yapahuwa rock fortress is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and there is no entry fee for locals and residents while the cost for foreigners is 700LKR(3.5US$).

best time to visit yapahuwa rock fortress

Photo from un_passeport_en_cavale

How to get to Yapahuwa

Yapahuwa is located in the country's northwestern province, off the main Sri Lanka travel route. It takes roughly 2.5 hours to drive from Kandy, and as far as we know, this is the only method to get there. It is best to rent a car with a driver for a more extended time and stay overnight in the neighborhood.

1. From Anuradhapura- travel along the Anuradhapura-Padeniya Highway and the Nikaweratiya-Mahawa Road passing Talawa, Galgamuwa and Ambanpola to reach the Yapahuwa Rock Fortress.

Climbing the Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

The rock fortress does not end at the top of the stairs. A 20-minute hike up a steep, challenging, but the manageable walking path will bring you to the top, where you will have a 360-degree view of the entire region!

Take in the sights and sounds of the green rainforests and the wind rushing along the massive rock. Unfortunately, other than an ancient stupa, there isn't much to see on top of the rock itself.

yapahuwa rock fortress

Photo from thisaru_de_silva

Things to see in Yapahuwa

Intricately carved Yapahuwa staircase, the lion stone sculpture, ruins of a stupa, Buddha statues, and Kandyan era paintings are the site's main highlights. You may still detect early defense mechanisms among the ruins if you look closely.

1. The Stone Staircase of Yapahuwa

The elaborately carved stone staircase can be called the identity of the Yapahuwa rock fortress. It connects to the walkway, leading to where the Tooth Relic Temple once existed. The staircase consists of three segments and the second one is a little hard to ascent. There are handholds and even handrails for your help. Both sides of the third flight consist of incredible sculptures and many rock carvings. After this little bit of challenging climb, you can reach the impressive rock doorway to the temple of tooth. At the top of the rock, the surrounding view is magnificent, and there are some ruins of King's rock palace, a stupa, and a sacred Bo tree.

the stone staircase of yapahuwa

Photo from _v.lak_shith_

2. Tooth Relic Temple at Yapahuwa Rock Fortress

The Tooth Relic Temple has been constructed at the top of the third segment of the staircase. At present, you can only see the ruins of it. The Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha has been there for eleven years. However, the Pandyas captured the relics and carried them away to South India. King Parakkramabahu III recovered it and was placed safely in Polonnaruwa. Now it is placed in Kandy.

tooth relic temple at yapahuwa rock fortress

Photo from Travel with thambhapanni

3. Yapahuwa Rock Fortress Museum 

It is lies at the bottom of Yapahuwa rock. You can see stone sculptures of the god Vishnu and goddess Kali and some coins that demonstrate the trade connection during the Kingdom era with countries such as China here.

yapahuwa rock fortress museum 

Photo from chamile_k

Is Yapahuwa better than Lion Rock (Sigiriya)?

Although Lion Rock and Yapahuwa appear identical, Lion Rock's history is significantly more intact, making it the best choice. However, Yapahuwa has few to no foreign travelers, but Lion Rock is extremely popular. You will have it almost totally to yourself, making it a one-of-a-kind experience that few other travelers will enjoy while visiting Sri Lanka.

is yapahuwa better than lion rock sigiriya

Photo from dani.demel