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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Ambuluwawa Tower, Sri Lanka

Testing your Boundaries.

After spending a few days surfing in Hiriketiya, the next town to explore was Kandy, to find the Ambuluwawa Temple, also known as 'Gori Jana Seya' by the locals, or more suitably referred to as, Panic Tower!

I had read a little about the history of the temple and was intrigued by this unique piece of architecture. The Tower is located 85 km from Colombo and one hour from Kandy, on the edge of the Ambululwawa Reserve. I had been forewarned that finding it was not easy and with the tower sitting at 3500m above sea level the experience is not for the fainthearted.

This multi-religious center includes a Buddhist Stupa, a Hindu Kovil, a Muslim Mosque, and a Christian Church. It's known that Ambuluwawa Temple is evocative of a Buddhist 'stupa' with its height at a whopping 48 meters.

The Temple dates back to the 13th century during the reign of King Buwanekabahu IV. Ambuluwawa Peak was the center of the Gampola Kingdom during his reign, although there was nothing with historical or archaeological value found there. Many consider this the first multi-religious sanctuary in Sri Lanka. Thus, it is a symbol of unity and harmony for the country.

After surviving 2 hours traveling in the scorching temperatures and heckling cunning tuk-tuk drivers, then came the trauma of riding on the frenzied public bus, before being somewhat groped while getting off at the stop, or what appears to be a corner for Sri Lankan prostitutes, ladies of the night, or day. They begin heckling me as I try to organize a driver to take me halfway up the mountain. I simply remained friendly but I would love to have known what it was about me that made them all begin to screech with laughter when seeing me.

The tuk-tuk drivers are in a very good position to charge what they like to take you up the mountain but you should expect to pay only around $5 - $10, which sees them waiting for you at the tower and returning you down to the town on Gampola again.

When you arrive at the religious site and see the tower for the first time it takes your breath away, and the thought of climbing to the very top makes the jitters begin to kick in. No matter how many photos of the tower I have seen, nothing compares to being there, and the sheer size of it comes to life when you're standing right under it.

Admittedly the tower looked old and a little decrepit, without signs of any precious maintenance. The outer stairs and handrails had large pieces of cement missing and no guard rails were present to stop you from taking a plunge down this mountainous tower and you could imagine, all this makes for a little initial hesitation.

Entry to the religious center is only 500 Lkr for visitors and 50 Lkr for locals, which is around $5 and this is so cheap for the experience you get at the tower. But be warned, on your arrival you will be greeted by many hungry monkeys ready to pounce on you in search of any food you may have on you and no, they are not shy by any means.

As you ascend the stairs, the width decreases and it takes on a spiral shape. The stairs begin inside the tower, ending on the outside of the tower. There are no signs, no arrows, or directions, just go in and start climbing.

Scaling the tower is a medium workout and the first half has safe and intact handrails to hold onto. The second half is a little different with the fear of hanging onto the old broken rails on the outside of the tower when scaling to the top.

The higher you go the narrower the steps become until they are a tiny 60 cm at the top. Your heart would sink when you could see someone coming down and you knew they would have to pass leaving you either pushed up against the tower or leaning over the edge to make space for one to pass.

A magnificent place to take some great photos, especially if you can climb in the morning mist. Seems the best shots are from the good old selfie sticks, and with so many wanting to stop for a kiss on the narrowest part of the climb.

I laugh when I see the photos on Instagram of those elegantly waving from the top of the tower, and then at my pics looking white as a ghost and hanging on for dear life!

Holding on tight to the tower  as I make the climb. old cement rails  and seeing the height of the tower to climb.
Tower of terror !

Reaching the top is well worth the climb if you can keep going and overcome the fear, try not to look up or down, but when you finally arrive you have an incredible 360-degree view overlooking the amazing mountain, forests, and rivers.

To the north is the Knuckles Mountain Ranges, the south is Adams Peak, the east is Piduruthalagal Mountain, and to the west is Bible Rock.

The view of the old Sri Lankan tower for to very top by a selfie stick. See the temple grounds and the Greenery below.

When arriving at the top of the tower I was speechless, it was a combination of the magnificent views and the absolute fear of the height of the tower. I felt exhilarated to have made it but within a few minutes up there, I felt very ready to begin the journey back down and for the safety of being on the ground again.

Visiting this religious site in my view highly recommended and well worth the eventful journey to Gampola.

I highly recommend visiting the Ambuluwawa Tower on a weekday, when it's quiet and the area is much more majestic and peaceful when there are not many people around.

Ambululawa temple has always been the perfect harmony and unity among the Sri Lankans from the beginning.

"Never set limits, go after your dreams, and don't be afraid to push the boundaries".

When Visiting Kandy there are many wonderful places to explore from Temples and cultural shows to many culinary and traditional experiences.


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