Jaffna to Anuradhapura Sri Lanka

How to Go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

Our next stop after Jaffna was the heart of the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.  The ancient city of Anuradhapura was the first kingdom of Sri Lanka and dates to the 4th century BC.  And that’s where we were heading.  It was the start of our cultural experiences in Sri Lanka, but our first task was to get there.  And, as ever there are several options for this journey.  Here’s our guide on how to go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura.  It includes the bus, train, and taxi offerings, as well as details on our journey to Anuradhapura from Jaffna.



Train Icon

The Easiest Way to Get to Anuradhapura

The easiest way to go to Anuradhapura from Jaffna is to take the train. Book early for the best availability and prices.

Where is Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Jaffna, in the north-central plain of Sri Lanka.  Anuradhapura is the capital city of the North Central Province and is 205 kilometers (127 miles) to the north of the current capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo.

Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s center of Theravada Buddhism and it contains the ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization.  It’s been on the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982, as the Sacred City of Anuradhapura.

How to Go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura – Transport Options

In this guide on how to go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura, we’ll cover the easiest way to go to Anuradhapura from Jaffna, and the cheapest way to get to Anuradhapura from Jaffna.  There are essentially 3 different ways to go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura.

How to get to Anuradhapura from Jaffna

You can take a bus from Jaffna to Anuradhapura, you can take the train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura or you can take a taxi to Anuradhapura from Jaffna. 

Train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

It goes without saying now that if there’s a train for a route we will be taking it.  And I do think that the train is the best way to go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura.  It’s a direct train so you do not need to change.  If you haven’t already bought your tickets, you’ll want to do so online ASAP, or go to the Jaffna Railway station and buy them.

Jaffna Railway Station

The train to Anuradhapura from Jaffna takes about 3 hours and 40 minutes, but there is a faster one that takes just under 3 hours, it depends on the time of day of the train.

There are multiple trains each day from Jaffna to Anuradhapura.  Some of the trains have first-class carriages, some have second-class carriages and there are also third-class reserved carriages.  You’ll also be able to buy unreserved seat tickets up until about an hour before the train leaves, but I don’t recommend that. 

Third Class Train Jaffna to Anuradhapura

(Read about our journey from Colombo to Galle to understand why).  Always, always, book a reserved seat.  It’s not expensive, and you’ll be glad you did.

Train Ticket Office Jaffna

At holiday times, reserved seats are REALLY popular, so as soon as you know your dates you’ll want to book your  Sri Lanka train tickets.

You can easily book your train tickets in Sri Lanka with either 12goAsia here or with Bookaway.  I’ve used both and recommend them both. And I’ve never had any problems with either of them, in any country that we’ve used them.

The first train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura is at 5:57 am, there’s a train at 13:07, then 13:31, one at 19:35, and the last train of the day at 21:51.  There are not always first or second-class seats on all the trains, so you’re best looking at the full day options.  You can do that here.

Powered by 12Go system

Bus from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

There are several buses each day that run the route from Jaffna to Anuradhapura, these are buses normally going from Jaffna to Colombo.  Buses from Jaffna to Anuradhapura leave from Pangkangkulam Junction (it’s sometimes written as Pungankulam) and they take just about 4 hours. 

You can also book tickets for these buses online via busseat.lk  There are a variety of buses available, from semi-luxury to super-luxury.  You’ll get to select your seats too.  You can also use credit cards to pay.  There are a variety of different stops where you can get on and the same at the endpoint, simply select where you want to get off.

Check availability and prices, and book seats on buses from Jaffna to Anuradhapura here.

Taxi from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

Taking a private taxi to Anuradhapura from Jaffna will take about 3.5 hours.  You can check a price with Pickme on the app, but expect the cost to be above what Pickme quotes you (as they’re unlikely to find someone to bring all the way back to Jaffna.)

The best way of getting a taxi in Jaffna is to ask at your hotel.  They’ll find the most reliable people for you.  It might be necessary to pay some of the money upfront so that your driver can purchase gas for the vehicle.

Our Journey from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

Our seats this time, were in second class reserved, with ceiling fans.  Not quite the luxury of the observation car that we had on the way from Colombo to Jaffna, but comfortable enough all the same.

Second Class Train from Jaffna

We picked up short eats from the vendor on the train – some of the best Sri Lankan food around.

Short Eats on the Train to Anuradhapura

Then we made a quick stop at the Elephant Pass station. 

Elephant Pass Railway Station

Elephant Pass is the causeway that links the peninsular Jaffna is on with the rest of the country.  There was very fierce fighting here between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan army during the Sri Lankan Civil War.

If you get a chance to stop here for a while (we didn’t), there’s an interesting memorial, one to a 26-year-old Corporal who used grenades to stop an armor-plated bulldozer (he died in the effort)

The quickest way to get from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

The quickest way to go to Anuradhapura from Jaffna is to take the train.  It’s also the most comfortable.  Pick a first-class A/C cabin or a second-class reserved seat and you’ll be fine.  But please DO PREBOOK, otherwise, you’ll likely end up standing in an unreserved seat carriage.

You can book train tickets from Jaffna to Anuradhapura here.

The easiest way to go to Anuradhapura from Jaffna

The easiest way to get from Jaffna to Anuradhapura is to take the train.  The train station in Jaffna is right in the center of the city and the Anuradhapura New Station is central there as well.

The cheapest way to go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

The cheapest way to get to Anuradhapura from Jaffna is to take the train – reserve your seats here.

Travel Tips for Exploring Sri Lanka

Final Words on How to Go from Jaffna to Anuradhapura

Whether you decide to take the bus, a taxi, or our recommendation, the train, traveling from Jaffna to Anuradhapura, is an easy journey to take and interesting countryside to be passing through.  Of course, you’ll likely have gone through it on your way to Jaffna, so perhaps try a different class of ticket on the train (like we did) for your journey up here.

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