After the fall of the great city of Polonnaruwa, the Kandyan kings fled to a succession of inaccessible crags, bearing with them the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. One of them was Yapahuwa, a huge, yet little-visited rock fortress a little way off the Kurunegala-Anuradhapura road which is one of the great architectural sites of the island. This early-13th century stronghold, developed by King Bhuvanekabahu I, is reminiscent of Sigiriya: a massive granite outcrop, set in a shady location, rises 100m above the plains below and is home to ruins of a palace and temple (which housed the famous tooth relic for 11 years).
After Yapahuwa was abandoned, Buddhist monks took it over and they still remain there today. Highlights of the site include the steep steps, elaborately adorned by statues of lions in an unusual design, modern temple complex and the breath-taking views from the top. Yapahuwa is worthy of a visit as it is relatively quick to see, interesting and beautiful. Although not as significant as sites such as Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya, it does have a special individual charm and is a fantastic pit-stop between Kandy and the Cultural Triangle.