Anuradhapura, the vast capital that endured for nearly a millennium from around 377BC, remains a sacred city because it was Buddhism’s initial home on the island. The famous ‘Tooth Relic’ - a canine of the Buddha retrieved from his funeral pyre - reputedly came first to what is now Mihintale, where a small but charming temple was built around a sunken water pool hollowed out of a dark, boulder-strewn hillock.
Today, Anuradhapura retains great appeal for both tourists and pilgrims. It’s the sheer scale of the dagobas which impresses most. Sri Lanka is dotted with these typically bell-shaped and whitewashed memorial stupas but the most impressive are found here, among them the world’s largest, Abhayagiri Dagoba.