Explorations of Mulkirigala start with a steep climb up the steps to the four terraces that house the cave temples. Once there, visitors tour the caves as they wish to view their brightly painted Buddha statues and frescoes. Other sights include a Bo tree and small dagobas—some said to contain relics of the Buddha—and the magnificent views from the summit out over the lush countryside.
Mulkirigala’s location in Sri Lanka’s far south—away from the main tourist trail—means it only usually features on longer multi-day tours that go beyond the island’s heartlands. Other options for seeing the rock include tours from the nearby town of Tangalle: choose a scenic tour that includes a visit, or pass the rock on a trip to Bundala National Park just along the coast.
Things to know before you go
- The Mulkirigala Rock Monastery is perfect for nature, history, and culture enthusiasts.
- Be prepared to climb 533 steps to the rock top.
- Watch for the wild monkeys: they may steal any snacks you have.
- Bring sunscreen and bottled water.
- Visitors are required to dress respectfully, with their knees and shoulders covered.
- Mulkirigala is not wheelchair- or stroller-accessible.
How to get there
Mulkirigala lies just off the B627, 10 miles (17 kilometers) northwest of Tangalle. The easiest ways to visit are by private tour or self-drive car. Alternatively, catch a bus to Beliata or Weeraketiya from Tangalle bus station, and change at either onto a bus bound for Mulkirigala, which will drop you at a junction about a 15-minute walk away.
When to get there
Mulkirigala is open daily from 6am-6pm and never crowded, but it’s advisable to visit early or in the late afternoon to avoid the midday heat and any tour groups. If you’re here later, don’t miss the sunset views from the summit—they’re to die for.
Tips for Visiting the Mulkirigala Rock Monastery
Out of all Mulkirigala’s caves, the most beautiful are on the third terrace, and include the “Cobra Cave,” so-named for the snake painted on its rear door. If you want to visit the summit, the most spectacular panoramas are had from a hidden rock ledge—found down a path tucked behind the dagoba.