Why Stay in Habarana for Visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle: Pros and Cons

When I was researching where to stay for visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle I found it hard to decide between the towns of Dambulla, Sigiriya and Habarana as a place to use as a base.

I already knew we had to decide between visiting Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to see the ruins of the ancient capitals and after a little research, Anuradhapura was unceremoniously dropped from our itinerary. That meant we didn’t need to bother about staying in or close to Anuradhapura.

In the end I decided on Habarana as the place to base ourselves for visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle and here I’m going to tell you why I chose this town and why it was and wasn’t a good choice.

why stay in habarana

Why I decided to stay in Habarana for Cultural Triangle visits

The things we were interested in doing in and around Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle were:

Oh, and all these things we planned to do under our own steam; no organised tours. So it was essential that we have a base relatively central to all these places and with good transport connections.

Habarana is a nothing town but it is slap bang in the middle of all the above places, plus it is an important transport crossroads making it easy and convenient to reach all these places, mostly by public transport.

This was the main reason I decided we’d stay in Habarana. This and the fact that once I’d figured the trains out, it was easier to get to here than to any of the other places from Colombo, our starting point.

When I started reading blogs about other travellers’ experiences with Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, my theory was backed up by the fact that many other backpackers had chosen to stay in Habarana and by the fact that there was an abundance of accommodation in Habarana. It seemed the logical choice.

Was Habarana the right choice as a Cultural Triangle base?

Well yes and no.

Let’s start with yes:

  • It was in fact easy-peasy to get to Habarana from Colombo by train.
  • It was indeed right in the middle of all the ancient cities and attractions we wanted to visit and proved a doddle to get to everywhere we wanted.
  • It was less touristy than the towns where the sights are located and was therefore a more authentic Sri Lankan experience.

And no:

Well the only reason it might not have been a great choice was because it was bloody boring!

Authentic Sri Lankan town it might be but guess what: the Sri Lankans don’t do anything! Now I don’t need a dozen shops all selling those ridiculous clown-pants (which tourists wear to fit in but don’t realise that actually the locals wouldn’t be seen dead in) but a shop of some kind might be nice to look around. I wouldn’t mind a decent restaurant either. Thankfully there was the odd kottu hut so at least we got to experience the local cuisine and didn’t starve.

Like many Sri Lankan towns, Habarana isn’t very pleasant. It is a crossroads to two very busy main roads (the Dambulla road and the Polonnaruwa road) with dirty buses thundering up and down and with no decent pavement.

Other places to stay for visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

When you are choosing where to base yourself for visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle you should consider the following:

Sigiriya is much more pleasant with a nice vibe but there’s just one main street with a few tourist-geared restaurants. There’s not really a local population so everything in Sigiriya is packed up and put away when the last tour coach has left the rock for the day.

Sigiriya is about as centrally located as Habarana for visiting the Cultural Triangle but without the great transport links so you’re likely to find yourself forking out for more tuk tuks.

Polonnaruwa has a wide range of accommodation but other than the ruins of the ancient city there’s nothing else to see in the town.

Polonnaruwa is out of the way at one corner of the triangle so if you use it as a base for visiting other parts of the Cultural Triangle your travel time to each location will be more (thus increasing your chances of death by public bus in Sri Lanka).

Dambulla has more action as a town than Habarana but is still plagued by heavy vehicles thundering through and belching out fumes.

At least you would find a few shops here and a market.

It’s not centrally located within the Cultural Triangle (in fact it’s not even officially in the Cultural Triangle) but it does have very good transport options.

If you have already decided to use Habarana as your base for visiting Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle read here about places to eat and drink and here about accommodation.

Oh, and do let me know how you got on…

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About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

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