Situated in the lower central hills of Sri Lanka, Badulla is the capital city of the Uva Province and the District of Badulla. The scenic route to Badulla is via a ten hour long train ride with “Podi Manike” or “Udarata Manike”. If you’re someone who is travelling for pleasure and wants to soak in the beauty of the hill country, then the train ride is definitely for you! Think the view from Kadugannawa to Peradeniya is amazing? Well then, you‘re in for a treat! The view keeps getting better and better as the engine slowly tugs the ensuing carriages up into the cold misty mountains passing the famous Demodera Station.
The Demodera Station is a spectacle on its own! Popularly known as the “Demodara Loop”, it is considered to be the only loop in the world that has a railway station located exactly over a tunnel on a spiral loop! When the railway line was extended to Badulla by the Ceylon Government Railway, the engineers found that the elevation between the hills at Demodara was too steep. At the time, the maximum inclination allowed by the CGR was one foot per every 44 feet. Local folklore recalls that one of the engineers, Devapura Jayasena Wimalasurendra, who saw the supervisor of a local tea estate undo the Turban around his head and used this observation as the inspiration for his unorthodox railroad design. The loop is around 900 meters long while the tunnel at the end is 320 meters in length.
Badulla is around 230 km away from Colombo on the eastern slopes of the central highlands of Sri Lanka. To drive to Badulla from Colombo you have to pass through, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Bandarawella. From Kandy, you can take the Raja Mawatha passing the famous reservoirs to Badulla. And from Galle, you can get to Badulla via Matara, Embilipitiay and Ella.
The mighty King Ravana, who ruled the country in the 18th century BC is said to have had a palace in Badulla where he kept his harem. Situated in the middle of Badulla is an ancient Buddhist temple known as the Muthiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya. When Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the 3rd time upon the invitation extended by the Naga King Maniakkika, the Deva King Indika who reigned over the Namunukula Mountain range also invited the Buddha to Badulla. It is said that the Buddha preached his sermons on the sacred grounds of the Muthiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya, and King Indika built a stupa enshrining “Kesha Dathu” (hair) and “Mukthaka Dathu” (drops of sweat that turned in to pearls) of the Buddha. Over the centuries gone by, the temple has been extended and renovated by the many kings who ruled over these lands.
The Bogoda Raja Maha Viharaya, is also situated in Badulla. This Viharaya is most famous for its Wooden Bridge built in the Kandyan Era. The popular Bogoda Bridge was built over 400 years ago, across the Gallanda Oya, a tributary of the Mahaweli River and is the oldest surviving wooden bridge in Sri Lanka. What makes the Bogoda Bridge special is the fact that it was built without using a single iron nail! The bridge falls on an ancient pilgrim’s path connecting the Kingdom of Kandy to the Uva province. Another unique feature of the bridge is its roof clad in flat tiles of the Kandyan Period. No one knows why the bridge was built with a roof, but, it is believed that the bridge functioned as a resting place, or Ambalama, in addition to helping travelers to cross the river. The bridge is located 13 kilometers south of Badulla, near the town of Hali-ela. From Badulla you can proceed to Hali-ella and turn to Ketawala Road and continue to the temple. You have to descend down a flight of steep steps from the main road to reach the bridge.
Near the Bogoda bridge is an ancient cave temple with an image house built using a natural rock cave. The current building belongs to the Kandyan Era, but the original structure dates back to the time of King Vattagamini Abaya of the 1st Century BC. On the far side of the building is a flight of steps that lead to a large rock cave. King Vattagamini Abaya, better known as King Valagama is said to have used this cave as a hiding place when his capital Anuradhapura was invaded by an army from South Indian. On one side of the cave is a damp tunnel believed to be part of a secret tunnel complex used by the King as an escape route. Historical scriptures indicate that the tunnels connect the Dowa Raja Maha Viharaya on the main Badulla – Bandarawela road and the Rawana Raja Maha Viharaya situated in the vicinity of Ravana Ella. Today, the caves are inhabited by Bats!
The 64 meter high Duhninda waterfall is probably the most famous waterfall in Sri Lanka. Located about 5 kilometers north of Badulla, Dunhinda falls is a major tourist attraction that has been featured in many songs and works of literature. The entrance to the pathway that leads to the waterfall is about two kilometers away from Badulla, on the Badulla – Mahiyangana main road. The entrance is hard to miss as it is quite prominent with a shopping arcade that sells sweets, soft drinks, and an assortment of knick knacks. The long and winding footpath that takes you to the waterfall is rather narrow and quite steep at certain places. The trek is arduous but there are resting places and stalls that sell refreshments along the way. Along this foot path you can see another small waterfall called Kuda Dunhinda at a distance. The two kilometer trek seems to go on forever! But, after about an hour of trudging along the foot path you hear the roar of the waterfall where you feel revitalized and exuberant and after a few minutes you finally reach the viewing platform!
The waterfall is a breathtaking sight! Water gushes over the rocky ledge and falls to the pool below as a cloud of water spray engulfs the falling body of water at the foot of the fall. This misty spray of water is what gave this majestic waterfall the name “Dunhinda”.