The cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka! Mihintale Temple is rather a temple complex of ruins and shrines scattered over a fairly large mountain area connected by some 1840 steps that ultimately lead to the top. Mihintale is a scenic mountain summit near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed to be the place where Buddhism in the country was originated. Currently, a widely-visited pilgrimage site by both foreigns and devout pilgrims, Mihintale has a sequence of religious monuments, stupas, caves, and numerous abandoned structures strung out across wooded hills to show you around. No matter what your faith is, taking a visit up here shall be a worthwhile addition to your Anuradhapura itinerary.
The Mihintale Temple Complex spreads over three vegetated hills in Mihintale contributed by several monuments and attractions of historical and religious significance. The architectural brilliance can be observed in its flights of the stairway, Kanthaka chetiya Vahalkada, Alms Hall, ancient hospital, and Kalu Diya pokuna. There are a total of 1840 stone steps that cover the majority of the trail. Alms House Hall has an area of 114 x 77 with the ruins of stone pillars visible even now. The remains of the stone water supply are another skill of the architects. With a height of 40 feet and a circumference of 425 feet, the Kantaka Chetiya is believed to be one of the earliest Dagbas built in Sri Lanka.
500 meters away from the main arena, there is Kaludiya Pokuna is a monastic complex that encircles a large water pond. Arhat Mahinda Cave is where Arahanth Mahinda dwelled most of the rainy season. Out of the 68 caves that were believed to be offered to the Sangha, 62 of them are there. On the top, the glimpses of the hilly surrounding are an amazing spectacle to behold. There is a yearly festival to take place in July in Mihintale in memory of the meeting of Mahinda and king Devanapiyatissa. Even more religious edifices are there to explore on the premises, but a bit more than walkable distance.
Mihintale goes down in history or at least in the beliefs of Sinhalese Buddhist largely as the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, According to the annals of Sri Lankan lore, long back in 247 BC, the king of Anuradhapura, Devanampiya Tiss was hunting deer on the hills of Mihintale. He was approached by Mahinda, the son of Asoka, the great Indian Indian Buddhist emperor. Upon testing the king's wisdom and wits, Mahinda took him for a worthy disciple. Consequently converted him to the religion. The incident is considered to be the earliest introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
Most probably you would take a visit to Mihintale from Anuradhapura, the main tourist location nearby. Mihintale is located just around 16 Kilometers from Anuradhapura and accessible via A12 High Way that directly goes to Trincomalee. A convenient car ride of 20 minutes shall get you here from your apartment in Anuradhapura. Most likely you would be staying in Anuradhapura, not around Mihintale since it does not have that developed sheltering facility. Plus Anuradhapura is pretty much closer. Taking a tuk-tuk is also suggested for enjoying a much more local way of getting around. From the base, it would take you nearly 30 minutes to traverse the trial.
Remember, the climbing up and visiting each attraction shall be a bit strenuous since several of them are positioned separated from the normal trail. Be mindful to pay a visit when the sun is gentle - early morning or in the evening. Also, remember the site is a sacred one. For that reason be considerate enough to dress up properly.