Centered on a monastery, statue house (Vihara Mandiraya), and museum, the Gangaramaya complex is a venerated place that, despite its busy surroundings, feels intensely spiritual. Visitors come to explore the courtyards, admire the ornamentation inside the statue house, and visit the lake pavilion. Other attractions include the museum—its rooms piled with curios and gifts donated by worshippers—a bo tree draped in prayer flags, and flights of steps lined with Buddha statues.
To experience the Gangaramaya temple complex, book a Colombo city tour—most include stops at the main complex or the Seema Malaka. Choices include private half- and full-day tours by car, guided walks, daytime or evening tuk-tuk or cycling trips, and tours that also include afternoon tea or shopping time elsewhere in the city. While you can visit Gangaramaya Temple independently, tours have the benefit of guides to explain Buddhist religious life and ensure you see the temple highlights.
Things to Know Before You Go
Gangaramaya Temple will appeal to those interested in Sri Lankan culture, religion, history, or daily life.
Be ready to remove your shoes to enter. Take off your socks, too, as some floors are wet. You can wash your feet upon leaving.
Cover your shoulders and legs: Knee-length skirts, shorts, and sleeveless tops aren’t permitted.
Take a few rupees for the small temple and museum entrance fees.
Allow about an hour to visit, as there’s a lot to see.
How to Get There
The main temple stands on Sri Jinarathana Road in Colombo, about three minutes’ walk from the Seema Malaka. The nearest bus stop is Gangaramaya, on Sir James Peiris Mawatha street. Otherwise, the easiest way to reach the complex is by cab or tuk-tuk.
When to Get There
Gangaramaya Temple is open daily from 6am to 10pm, and its museum is open from 6am to 6pm. To experience the complex at its most atmospheric, visit during morning, midday, and evening prayer times, or in mid-February when the complex is festooned with flags for the annual full-moon-day celebrations.
Be Aware of the Temple Elephant
Visitors should note that the Gangaramaya Temple houses an elephant, which is shackled by its feet, near the entrance, a not uncommon practice in Southeast Asia. Activists are working to highlight this issue and free these visibly unhappy animals, who are used to encourage visitors to donate money to the temples.