Historically recorded as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Mihintale is commonly believed by Sri Lankans to be the meeting place of the Buddhist monk Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka of India, and King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC. Mahinda preached the doctrine of Lord Buddha to the King and his people on the full moon day in June (Poson), which remains a special holiday in Sri Lanka and also led to all Poya (full moon) days becoming holy days for Sri Lankan Buddhists – tourists should note that meat and alcohol are not served in the island on Poya days. This meeting was the beginning of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, which quickly became a core part of Sinhalese culture, something that is evident in all the island’s ancient cultural sites, such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla Cave Temple.
Mihintale is now a key pilgrimage site for Sri Lankan Buddhists, and is home to several majestic religious monuments including a magnificent 40ft stupa which dates back to the 1st century BC. After a short and non-strenuous climb of 15-20 minutes, you can explore Mihintale’s ancient ruins at your leisure – it remains relatively non-touristy compared to some of the other sites in this area. We recommend doing the climb in the early morning or the late afternoon – it is a beautiful place to see at sunset. You must dress respectfully (with your elbows and knees covered) and may be required to remove your shoes at certain points.